Talk:Metal toxicity

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The ideas underpinning this article are mysterious to me, although I am sure it is well-intentioned.

  • First: Is the goal to also create articles on "toxic gases", "toxic organic fluorine compounds". To take a leap: are we to anticipate articles on "healthful metals," "bad years", "nice people," "unhealthy activities," "difficult languages" "dangerous automobiles"? Is this type of article the stuff of an encyclopedia? The topic, which is a fine subject for conversation over coffee or perhaps something more intoxicating, seems capricious or arbitrary in scope.
  • Second, the article appears to be original research: someone's ideas of what constitutes "toxic" and what constitutes "metal" (I dont think that the physics definition of metal is adhered to). And the article discusses the mechanisms of toxicity in a simplistic manner that potentially misleads readers or represents an original concept.
  • Third, the article is naive or, possibly, even unscientific. It implies that a metal in solution possesses a toxicity independent of its ligands, which is simplistic and misleading. Also the article makes sweeping statements.
Of course all of us get caught up in our ideas for useful articles (me too), but we rely on each other to maintain quality control. Perhaps, the present article can be transformed into something useful and encyclopedic. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Smokefoot (talkcontribs) 14:41, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
The inherent problem of wikis is that articles are not right from the start: 1) perfect and 2) written by a professional with decades of experience. The term "heavy metal" is used so loosely that it is essentially useless as a scientific term. "Toxic metal" is a better reference specifically to lead, mercury, cadmium and the rest. Different metals have different kinds of toxicity, but when people talk about "heavy metal poisoning", they're referring to a specific subset of heavy metals that have similar toxicity behavior (chronic, accumulating, neurotoxic). --Vuo (talk) 18:28, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
I think this article is fine. Certainly the dose makes the poison, but that doesn't mean that we have to call everything a poison, or that we can't classify certain things as toxic. The idea the scientists don't refer to certain metals as especially toxic is just not true. As far as your points:
  • 1) This certainly provides a useful information service, and the content can certainly be encyclopedic in that it discusses toxicological science. I don't see how the topic is capricious or arbitrary; this requires some explanation.
  • 2) Most of your points could be dismissed if this article was renamed "Metal toxicity".
  • 3) It doesn't imply that to any qualified person -- but for an unqualified person, what does it matter? When I say "you should try not to ingest lead", should I qualify that by saying "unless it is not bonded to its ligand"? Of course not. Metals are nearly always bound to ligands. This is a trivial point.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts. I don't like leaving the original research tag, as this page clearly reflects science. ImpIn | (t - c) 02:46, 27 June 2008 (UTC)
Response: My reading is that Wikipedia is not to source of advice or intended to serve as a user manual. But more specifically, I just cannot figure out a reasonable definition of a "toxic metal." What does it mean to that "barium is toxic"? Are we referring to metallic barium? Or to any compound of barium? The list goes on. I certainly respect the idea that many compounds containing metals (and other elements) can be quite toxic to many organisms under many circumstances. It just seems really, really complicated to define these constraints. I think that well-intentioned but naive editors are using wikipedia to conduct original research to assemble a contrived construct. Thanks for the opportunity to respond and best wishes,--Smokefoot (talk) 03:03, 27 June 2008 (UTC)
Hmm. I'm a little disappointed by your response. What do you think of my #2, renaming to Metal toxicity? What are the issues with that? Clearly this is a subject and discussion among scientists, as the PubMed article I noted below is focused on just this. ImpIn | (t - c) 03:07, 27 June 2008 (UTC)
Well you semi-hit a nerve, maybe one way to write this article would be to assemble a table that indicated that "the following aquated metal ions have significant toxicities for humans...." Two illustrative items come to mind. BaSO4 is routinely fed to people for imaging in their stomachs etc, but a soluble BaCl2 is very toxic. So the global statement on Ba2+ requires qualification. Chromate is carcinogenic, but Cr(III) aqua is apparently somewhat innocuous (indeed, in an somewhat disputed article, Cr(III) is encouraged to address chromium deficiency). What I am striving for is not suppressing knowledge, but encouraging a more careful, even nuanced approach. Otherwise, in a populist sense, those who are polluting our environment with dangerous stuff exploit our imprecise language to their advantage. If you want to remove the tag, that's cool. I'll lay off.--Smokefoot (talk) 04:03, 27 June 2008 (UTC)
Yeah. Of course things are always complicated (especially in chemistry). And, as we've all heard, the dose makes the poison -- but as I said before, that doesn't mean we can't classify things as toxins/poisons. And there seems to be a difference in how we think of toxins as opposed to poisons. Toxins are generally more persistent. We wouldn't include sodium or potassium in this article, even though they can be harmful if you take huge amounts of them. But what do you think about renaming this to Metal toxicity, and then attempting to do a nuanced overview of the possible toxicities of metals? You have a pet peeve about people not having this nuanced understanding; well, the best way to solve that pet peeve is to make the information more accessible. ImpIn | (t - c) 04:15, 27 June 2008 (UTC)

Like Smokefoot, I'm a chemist, and I, too, find the concept of toxic metal nearly useless. My thinking goes along the line of: 1) most elements are metals; 2) most elements are toxic (in one form or another, especially if one includes all oxidation states!); 3) most metals are toxic; 4) whether an element is toxic or not bears no simple relation with whether it is a metal or not. Would we have an article on toxic elements? And importantly, there is no "official" or even an unambiguous definition of what metals count as toxic.

However, I try to step back an think from a different perspective. Maybe not all articles that have metal in the title are "our territory" as chemists. Perhaps others, say toxicologists, find such a concept useful, even if we don't. To try to decide such things, I often resort to the Google Books test. If there are books with toxic metal or a similar phrase in the title, I take it as a sign that someone finds the concept useful enough to write a book about it. And indeed there are a few books, such as Toxic Metal Chemistry in Marine Environments, Environmental Geochemistry of Potentially Toxic Metals, Molecular biology and toxicology of metals, and Concepts on Metal Ion Toxicity. The fact that Darmouth University has a Toxic metals research program also has to mean something. I have to emphasize that these books and this research program don't even use the same definition of metal chemists use (they include arsenic), but there's nothing we can do about that. If they find that these elements that they call toxic metals have some common features that make it convenient to group them from the point of view of toxicology, that's their business.

To conclude, I agree that renaming this article to metal toxicity would be a good move. That way the scope of the article would seem less arbitrary-- "toxic metal" suggests that a metal is either toxic or not, while "metal toxicity" suggests the study of the toxicity of metals, which puts them more along a continuum and makes it easier to think about the nuances. --Itub (talk) 09:21, 3 July 2008 (UTC)

Articles pertaining to the subject[edit]

PMID 16841251 is a recent review of toxic metals in common use, and I have access to it. ImpIn | (t - c) 02:02, 27 June 2008 (UTC)


Shouldn't lithium be mentioned? It is used to treat bi-polar disease. Kidney function is strictly monitored because of known "side-affects" which include renal failure. See and Student7 (talk) 12:36, 23 June 2014 (UTC)

Student7 I just reorganized the article. Yes, lithium should be included. Feel free to make a note with these sources. Blue Rasberry (talk) 15:50, 8 July 2014 (UTC)
I had to read this several times to realize that you meant I should write it! I tried! Thanks. Student7 (talk) 20:44, 9 July 2014 (UTC)

Title and moves[edit]

I was confused about the best title for this article. I think that the title can remain "Metal toxicity", and that this should be the lead article in the category "Category:Toxic effects of metals". This title comes from ICD-10 Chapter XIX: Injury, poisoning and certain other consequences of external causes code T56, "Toxic effect of metals".

I merged and redirected Metal poisoning to here, "Metal toxicity". Furthermore I redirected the categories Category:Toxic metal poisoning, Category:Metal poisoning, and Category:Dietary mineral toxicity to Category:Toxic effects of metals. See Wikipedia:Categories_for_discussion/Log/2014_June_11#Category:Toxic_metal_poisoning and Wikipedia:Categories_for_discussion/Log/2014_July_3#Category:Dietary_mineral_toxicity for related discussions.

I know that there is a difference between toxicity and poisoning, but for now, one article is best because there is not much content for the concepts. Blue Rasberry (talk) 15:48, 8 July 2014 (UTC)

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