Uranium is probably toxic, but there is little direct exposure to it. Radon, however, which comes from the radioactive decay of uranium, is a pollution concern in both air and water, and is probably an active carcinogen (see Chapter 11 for a more complete discussion). The government has become more concerned about radon exposure, and now there are new devices and organizations that will help us assess the levels of this radioactive element at home or at work. Some drinking waters, both city and well, also contain uranium. It is a radioactive element and, like most others, disintegrates eventually into lead. We have about 90 mcg. of uranium in our body. We obtain some in food and water, though it has low absorption and fair elimination. Toxicity, if it occurs, usually affects the kidneys.
For as long as these metals remain in common use by industry, they will continue to accumulate in our bodies. Further research is needed to better understand their effects on human health and well being.
Other New and Problematic Metals
an old treatment for obesity, may be carcinogenic, but this needs further research.
once used to treat skin disorders and now made into beautiful jewelry, is not thought to be very toxic in the body, though there have been a few cases of high exposure causing problems.
may cause allergic pulmonary reactions in platinum workers.
Cesium and Tellurium
may also create some mild and infrequent toxicity.
is a potent carcinogen, and exposure, even small amounts in workers, is a concern.