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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?
Is there a medical test to show whether I've been exposed to thallium?
There are medical tests available to measure levels of thallium in urine and hair. In addition, thallium can also be measured in blood; however, this is not a good indicator of exposure since thallium only stays in blood a very short time.
These tests require special equipment that is not usually available in most doctor's offices. In addition, these tests cannot determine if adverse health effects will occur from the exposure to thallium.
Has the federal government made recommendations to protect human health?
The EPA requires that discharges or accidental spills into the environment of 1,000 pounds or more of thallium be reported.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set an exposure limit of 0.1 milligrams per cubic meter (0.1 mg/m³) for thallium in workplace air. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has established the same guidelines as OSHA for the workplace.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended that 15 mg/m³ of thallium be considered immediately dangerous to life and health. This is the exposure level of a chemical that is likely to cause permanent health problems or death.
Carcinogenicity: Ability to cause cancer.
Ingesting: Taking food or drink into your body.
Milligram (mg): One thousandth of a gram.
References: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 1992. Toxicological Profile for thallium. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.
Where can I get more information?
ATSDR can tell you where to find occupational and environmental health clinics. Their specialists can recognize, evaluate, and treat illnesses resulting from exposure to hazardous substances. You can also contact your community or state health or environmental quality department if you have any more questions or concerns.
For more information, contact:
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Division of Toxicology
1600 Clifton Road NE, Mailstop F-32
Atlanta, GA 30333
Phone: 1-888-42-ATSDR (1-888-422-8737)
SOURCE: Department of Human and Health Services, Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry
Medically reviewed by Martin E Zipser, MD; American board of Surgery