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Bismuth (Bi)

Bismuth is a white, crystalline, brittle metal with a pink tint. It is the most diamagnetic metal and has the lowest thermal conductivity of any metal except mercury. Bismuth is stable in oxygen and water, and all bismuth salts form insoluble compounds when found in water.

Bismuth is used to manufacture low-melting fusible alloys, low-toxicity shotgun bullets, and fishing hooks. Some bismuth compounds are used as medications. The industry uses bismuth compounds as catalysts in manufacturing acrylonitrile, the primary starting material for synthetic fibers and tires.

Bismuth in the environment

Bismuth is naturally found in the environment as solid metal and even in the form of crystals in nickel, cobalt, silver, and tin ores. Bismuth is still produced as a by-product when lead and copper are melted.

How can Bismuth affect health?

Bismuth salts are used as medications to treat and prevent traveler's diarrhea, relieve indigestion, and eradicate Helicobacter pylori (as part of a therapeutic regimen).

Its biological half-life is five days, but it can remain in the kidneys for years in patients treated with Bismuth salts. Bismuth and its salts can cause kidney damage, although the extent of these lesions is usually tiny. It is considered the least toxic heavy metal (e.g., Lead or Antimony) and does not accumulate. Severe and sometimes deadly poisoning can result from the injection of large doses into closed cavities and from extensive application to burns (in the form of soluble Bismuth compounds). It is reported that Bismuth should be discontinued when gingivitis occurs, as it may otherwise lead to severe ulcerative stomatitis. Other toxic effects that may occur are vague feelings of physical discomfort, the presence of albumin or other urine proteins, diarrhea, skin reactions, and sometimes severe dermatitis.

Bismuth entry routes to the body: Inhalation, skin contact, and consumption.

Bismuth acute effects

Inhalation: This may cause respiratory irritation, respiratory disorders, metallic taste, and gingivitis. Ingestion: May cause nausea, loss of appetite and weight loss, malaise, albuminuria, diarrhea, skin reactions, stomatitis, headache, fever, insomnia, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, and a black line may form on the gums due to the deposition of Bismuth sulfide. Skin: May irritate. Eyes: May irritate.

Chronic Impacts of Bismuth

Inhalation: May affect liver and kidney function. Ingestion: May affect liver and kidney function. It can cause anemia, the formation of a black gum line (Bismuth line), and ulcerative stomatitis. Skin: This may cause dermatitis. Eyes: No chronic effects.

Pre-existing skin and respiratory disorders are exacerbated by exposure to Bismuth. Bismuth is not considered a carcinogen.

In clinical practice, DMPS effectively mobilizes and excretes bismuth, mercury (organic and inorganic), copper, lead, arsenic, antimony, nickel, tin, tungsten, and gold. Still, it does not affect aluminum or uranium excretion. In most adult patients, mercury is the predominant metal eliminated after using DMPS. DMPS-stimulated metals are mainly excreted by the kidneys and, to a lesser extent, by the liver (bile/stool). Another chelating agent for the mobilization of metals by the body, DMSA, is used in challenge tests and for detoxification from lead, mercury, and other sulfhydryl reactive metals (e.g., arsenic, antimony). Several studies have shown the efficacy of DMSA in increasing renal excretion of lead and mercury and in lowering the blood levels of these metals.

How can one determine if one has been exposed to Bismuth?

We can measure bismuth levels in the blood and most biological materials.

Determination of metals is done by ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry, Inductively Coupled Argon Plasma Mass Spectrometry), a method that enables the simultaneous detection of many metals. Its sensitivity and accuracy are significantly better than conventional atomic absorption, with the ability to measure metals at concentrations up to 1 in 1015 (1 in 1 quadrillion, ppq)!



Important Note

Laboratory test results are the most important parameter for diagnosing and monitoring all pathological conditions. Between 70% and 80% of diagnostic decisions are based on laboratory tests. The correct interpretation of laboratory results allows a doctor to distinguish "healthy" from "diseased."

Laboratory test results should not be interpreted solely based on the numerical result of a single analysis. They should be interpreted in relation to each individual case, family history, clinical findings, and the results of other laboratory tests and information. Your physician should explain the importance of your test results.

At Diagnostiki Athinon, we answer any questions you may have about the test you perform in our laboratory and contact your doctor to ensure you receive the best possible medical care.

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