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Gallium (Ga)

Gallium is a blue-gray metal with a crystalline structure. Gallium is solid at normal room temperatures, but like Mercury, Cesium, and Rubidium, it becomes liquid when slightly warmed. Solid Gallium is quite soft and can be cut with a knife. It is stable in air and water but reacts and dissolves in acids and alkalis.

Applications of Gallium

Liquid gallium is used on porcelain and glass surfaces to form a bright, highly reflective surface. It can be used in the manufacture of mirrors. Gallium is easy to form alloys with most metals and is used to form low melting alloys. Integrated circuits are the most common use for Gallium, with optoelectronic devices (mainly laser diodes and light-emitting diodes) being the second largest use. Gallium has semiconductor properties and can convert electricity into light. It is used in light-emitting diodes (LEDs) on electronic displays and watches. Gallium is still used in some high-temperature thermometers.

Gallium in the environment

Gallium does not exist in pure form in nature. Many ores, such as bauxite and carbon, contain small amounts of Gallium.

Impact of Gallium on human health

Gallium is an element present in the body, but in very small quantities. For example, in a person weighing 70 kg, there is 0.7 mg of Gallium throughout the body. There is no proven biological role for Gallium in the function of the body and probably exists only because of the presence of traces in the natural environment, in water, vegetables, and fruits. Many vitamins and bottled waters are known to contain traces of Gallium in quantities of less than one part per million (1 ppm). Although Gallium has no physical function, Gallium ions can interact with various processes in the body in a manner similar to trivalent iron (Fe3+). When Gallium ions are recruited to replace trivalent iron by bacteria such as Pseudomonas, the ions interfere with respiration and the bacteria die. Gallium nitrate has been used to treat hypercalcemia associated with bone metastases. Gallium can affect osteoclast function.

Pure Gallium is not a toxic substance to humans upon contact. However, it is known that it can leave a mark on the skin. Even the radioactive compound Gallium citrate [67Ga], can be injected into the body and used for diagnostic purposes without harmful effects. Although not harmful in small quantities, Gallium should not be consumed in large doses. Some Gallium compounds can be very dangerous, for example, acute exposure to Gallium (III) chloride can cause throat irritation, difficulty breathing, chest pain and can even cause very serious conditions, such as pulmonary edema and partial paralysis.

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

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

Determination of metals is done by ICP-MS (Inductively Coupled 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 the diagnosis and monitoring of all pathological conditions. 70%-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 from the numerical result of a single analysis. Test results should be interpreted in relation to each individual case and family history, clinical findings, and the results of other laboratory tests and information. Your personal 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 we contact your doctor to get the best possible medical care.

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