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Thallium (Tl), Blood

Thallium is a blue-white metal found in traces in the earth's crust. It was obtained as a by-product from processing other ores in the past. In its pure form, It is odorless and tasteless. It can also be found in other elements such as bromine, chlorine, fluorine, and iodine. Thallium is mainly used in the manufacture of electronic devices. It is also of limited use in the manufacture of specialized glass and in specific medical procedures.

Thallium exposure occurs mainly from food consumption, but it can also occur in the workplace. Inhaling high concentrations of Thalium can lead to disorders of the nervous system, while ingestion leads to vomiting, diarrhea, transient hair loss, and more.

How does Thallium enter the environment?
  • Thallium enters the environment primarily from the combustion and melting of carbon, which is present in small quantities
  • It remains in the air, water, and soil for a long time and does not break down
  • Some Thallium compounds are removed from the atmosphere by rain and snow
  • Plants absorb thallium and enter the food chain
  • Thallium accumulates in fish and shellfish
How is one exposed to Thallium?
  • Eating food contaminated with Thallium is an essential source of exposure for most people
  • Air inhalation in workplaces in industries using Thallium
  • By smoking cigarettes
  • Living near areas with waste containing Thallium
  • Touching and/or eating (children) soil contaminated with Thallium
  • Breathing low Thallium levels in air and water
How can Thallium affect health?

Exposure to high levels of Thalium can lead to serious health issues. A study of workers exposed to Thalium at their workplace for several years reported effects on the nervous system, such as numbness in the fingers and toes.

Studies in people who received large quantities of Thallium in a short period reported vomiting, diarrhea, temporary hair loss, and effects on the nervous system, lungs, heart, liver, and kidneys, and may also cause death. The effects of ingesting low amounts of Thallium for a long time are unknown.

No genetic abnormalities were reported in children whose mothers were exposed to low levels of Thallium from eating infected fruits and vegetables. Studies in rats exposed to high levels of Thallium have shown abnormalities in the development of their offspring.

It is unknown whether inhalation or ingestion of Thallium affects human reproduction. Studies in rats receiving Thallium for several weeks have shown adverse effects on reproduction. There is no information on the health effects of skin contact with Thallium.

Several toxic metals, including Mercury, Lead, Thallium, and Cadmium, are normally or partially excreted in the bile.

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

Thallium levels can be measured in urine and hair, as well as in blood and other biological materials. However, blood measurements are not a good indicator of exposure, as Thalium remains in the blood for a very short time.

We can measure Thallium levels in 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 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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