Zinc is the 24th most abundant element on earth and has wide application from paints to ointments, like denture creams. That's not all! Other than these, cosmetics, wood preservatives, and dyes are other substances that frequently expose us to this metal in one form or the other. Zinc is a mineral that is important for various biological processes of our body, and we get this metallic element in the required amounts through foods high in zinc. However, the mineral is required in very small amounts by the body and hence, excess amounts of this mineral can lead to zinc poisoning, which, if left untreated can lead to serious consequences.
Zinc is a very useful element that finds application in a large number of industrial products. It is mixed with other compounds to make paints, dyes, and rust prevention coatings. Galvanized metals, when heated or burned, also release fumes of zinc. For healthy adults, the recommended intake of zinc ranges between 12 to 15 mg daily. However, if this element is ingested, inhaled, or absorbed in excess amounts, one may suffer from zinc poisoning. Workers in factories, who deal with zinc and alloys of zinc are at maximum risk of suffering from such a poisoning.
Other than that, sometimes, zinc is accidentally leaked to the soil by industries, which are actually supposed to provide for safe disposal of the element. This zinc then reaches into deeper layers of the soil and contaminates the water table. People drinking water from this water table are then subjected to poisoning. Not only human beings, but animals are also at a risk of such a poisoning. It is very common in dogs, as these animals are more prone to accidentally ingesting zinc than human beings.
Some of the common symptoms are:
- Body ache
- Drop in blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Skin rash
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Tingling, pinching, or sharp, stabbing pain in the limbs
- Urine retention
- Joint pain
- Yellow tinge in the eyes and on the skin
- Intestinal problems, like, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and nausea
These symptoms are not exhaustive and an individual who is suffering from this poisoning may show some or all the aforementioned symptoms, or even the ones that are not mentioned in this list, depending on individual case.
If you suspect zinc poisoning in someone, your first preference should be to seek medical help immediately. Till medical assistance arrives, administer plenty of fluids preferably milk to prevent damage to the kidneys. It also helps to know the patient's age and weight, the name of the product that is the source of poisoning. Try to ascertain the strength of the ingredients, the time and amount of the product ingested. All this information is important, as this will help the health care professionals in gauging the level of poisoning and the line of treatment that they should resort to.
Depending on the extent of poisoning, a treatment that medical professionals may resort to, is known as gastric lavage. In this treatment, health care professionals insert a tube through the mouth or nose of the patient and empty the content of the stomach. Antidotes may also be given to reverse the effects of poisoning. If there is severe poisoning and a person is suffering from acute anemia, blood transfusion may be required.
It is not just the industrially manufactured products that may cause zinc poisoning, excess of zinc supplement may also raise the amount of zinc in the body to toxic levels. If there are children in the house, ensure that zinc supplements are out of their reach. Also, keep an eye on what your pets eat or take into their mouth when they are out. This way you can reduce the possibility of this kind of poisoning in your household.