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- What is thallium?
- What happens to thallium when it enters the environment?
- How might I be exposed to thallium?
- How can thallium affect my health?
- How likely is thallium to cause cancer?
- Is there a medical test to show whether I've been exposed to thallium?
- Has the federal government made recommendations to protect human health?
- Where can I get more information?
How can thallium affect my health?
Exposure to high levels of thallium can result in harmful health effects. A study on workers exposed on the job over several years reported nervous system effects, such as numbness of fingers and toes, from breathing thallium.
Studies in people who ingested large amounts of thallium over a short time have reported vomiting, diarrhea, temporary hair loss, and effects on the nervous system, lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys. It has caused death. It is not known what the effects are from ingesting low levels of thallium over a long time.
Birth defects were not reported in the children of mothers exposed to low levels from eating vegetables and fruits contaminated with thallium. Studies in rats, however, exposed to high levels of thallium, showed adverse developmental effects.
It is not known if breathing or ingesting thallium affects human reproduction. Studies showed that rats that ingested thallium for several weeks had some adverse reproductive effects. Animal data suggest that the male reproductive system may be susceptible to damage by low levels of thallium.
There is no information available on the health effects of skin contact with thallium in people or animals.
How likely is thallium to cause cancer?
The Department of Health and Human Services, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have not classified thallium as to its human carcinogenicity.
No studies are available in people or animals on the carcinogenic effects of breathing, ingesting, or touching thallium.