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Below is a toxic metal article on Iron (Cu). We will be bringing you a new article each week on the rest of the heavy metals - there are about 24 of them now being labelled as such.

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Things You Should Know about Iron (Cu)

By Clifford Woods

History and Origin: The name of this element is a direct translation of the Latin word 'ferrum.' It has been known to men since ancient times and was one of the most important tools in the advent of civilization. In early times, men learned to sharpen it by scraping it with an equally sharp object (like another piece of the same metal).

This ushered the age of hunting through the use of simple weapons like crude knives and spears. Over time, men learned how to extract and even shape this metal. They made use of a process known as 'smelting' wherein this metal is heated and is placed in a mold to attain a desired shape before it is cooled to solidify. This method was developed by the Hittites in Mesopotamia back in 2700 BCE.

Toxicity: Toxicity is one of the leading causes of poisoning death in children below six years old. It is an overdose of this element (which is a trace element in the body), that often occurs when children mistake supplements like ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulfate, and ferrous glutamate for candy.

This element is toxic to the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and GI system. Oxidative phosphorylation is disrupted by excess free forms of this element in the enzymatic process. This causes metabolic acidosis or the presence of excessive amounts of acid in the kidney.

As indicated in the Merck Manuals, there are 5 stages of poisoning or toxicity involving this element:

Stages - Time after ingestion - Symptoms

Stage 1 - 6 hours: Irritability, explosive diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, lethargy, hematitis (and if severe) metabolic acidosis, trachycardia, hypotention, trachypnea, and comatose

Stage 2 - 6 to 48 hours: (period of latency) 24 hours of apparent improvement

Stage 3 - 12 to 48 hours: Coagulopathy, seizures, fever, shock, and metabolic acidosis

Stage 4 - 2 to 5 days: Hypoglycemia, liver failure, jaundice, and coagulopathy

Stage 5 - 2 to 5 weeks: Scarring and gastric outlet obstruction

Diagnosis: Because this element is ubiquitous (often observed or encountered), mixed ingestions should be considered in poisoning, especially in children, who often share 'toys'. Doctors usually administer an abdominal x-ray to detect concentrations of this element. This is most effective if the victim has swallowed them whole.

Dissolved or chewed parts, however, might no longer be detectable through this method. Afterwards, electrolytes, serum Fe, and ph are determined. Toxicity is assumed if ingestion is accompanied by: (1) visibility of the element on the x-ray, (2) abdominal pain and vomiting, (3) metabolic acidosis, and (4) serum Fe level greater than 350 ?g/dL (63 ?mol/L). These methods are administered together; since there is no one method that can accurately predict toxicity.

Treatments: If tablets of this element are found in the x-ray, whole bowel irrigation is to be conducted. This is done with 5 to 40 mL/kg/h of polyethylene glycol for children and 1 to 2 L/h for adults. Activated carbon will not be of much use in a case like this because though it absorbs toxins, it is not capable of absorbing this element.

All patients of toxicity involving this element should be hospitalized. Patients with severe toxicity should be treated with deferoxamine - a chelating agent that frees serum Fe. Deferoxamine infusion should be done at a 15 mg/kg/h IV rate of titration, until the patient has hypotention. Patients undergoing this treatment require frequent hydration because both poisoning and deferoxamine can decrease blood pressure.

How to Prevent Toxicity: Adults are usually not subject to much threat of toxicity. Children, on the other hand, especially toddlers, tend to put anything in their mouth. For safety, Fe supplements, especially post natal Fe supplements should be kept in locked cabinets that they cannot reach.

Children's multivitamins contain only a very little amount of this element so overdose from these is quite rare. Overall, keep the child away from any substances that contain this element. If poisoning does occur, rush the patient immediately to the hospital and seek professional help.

Occurrence and Production: Iron (Fe) makes up nearly 5% of the crust of the Earth. The earths' inner and outer cores are chiefly made up of Fe-Ni alloy. This metal is the most abundant element in the planet, and the 5th most abundant in the Earths' crust, it constitutes 35% percent of the planets' total mass.

Most of these minerals that can be found in the Earths' crust are in the form of oxide minerals like magnetite (Fe3O4) and hematite (Fe2o3). Rare meteorites are the main source of metallic forms of this element on the surface of the Earth. The red color of Mars is due to an oxide compound named 'regolith'.

Applications and Uses: This metal accounts for 95% of the world's metal production and is easily the world's most widely used metal. Due to its high strength and low cost, it is crucial in engineering applications; like the manufacture of cars, machine tools, ships. It is elementary in the structural composition of buildings.

In its pure form, this metal is soft, which is why it is often mixed with steel and other alloy elements. In the market, this metal is classified according to purity and the presence of additives. There are different kinds of this metal that are suited for different purposes.

Biological Role: The proteins of this element are abundant in living organisms. The red color of blood is because of hemoglobin, a protein that contains this element. Other examples of similar proteins are catalase and cytochrome (mostly found in higher organisms).

Iron (Fe) is a necessary trace element in living organisms. Insufficient levels of this element in the body causes a decrease in red blood cells that is characterized by weakness and pale color - a condition known as anemia.

This element can be obtained from the diet by eating foods like beans, fish, poultry, lentils, leafy vegetables, and red meat. There are also commercially available supplements in the form of syrups and tablets.

Technical Details: Iron (Fe) is an element with an atomic number of 26. It has a melting point of 1808.15 Kelvin and is classified as a Transition Metal. Its' crystal structure is cubic and it possesses 26 protons, 30 neutrons, and 26 electrons. It has a density of 7.86 g/cm3 at 293 K and is naturally silvery in color.

[The information contained in this article is believed to be reliable. I have taken every precaution to verify its accuracy; I am not a medical professional and make no warranties, representations or guarantees of any kind as to its accuracy. Medical knowledge is in a constant state of change, and what I have written here may be out of date by the time you read it. The information that I have provided here is for informational purposes only and not for use in diagnosing any condition that you may or may not have. Always consult with you doctor before treating yourself.]