Manganese Health Risks

Exposure to manganese can go for years without detection due to the slow and subtle recognizable effect it has on the body. The manganese exposure can lead to very serious health conditions, including manganism, manganese poisoning, and has been linked to Parkinson’s disease, parkinsonism, and Wilson’s disease. It is important to be able to recognize signs of manganese poisoning, especially if you work directly with the dangerous chemical. By practicing safe occupational methods you can greatly reduce the risk of developing a manganese health condition, however some people are unknowingly exposed to manganese.

Manganism occurs when prolonged exposure to manganese has resulted in the neurological condition. Similar to Parkinson’s disease, manganism generally occurs people exposed to high levels of manganese in the workplace. Depending on the levels of manganese the affected individual is exposed to it can take years before discovering signs of manganese poisoning or as short as a few months.

Toxic doses of manganese can appear in symptoms such as:

  • Irritability
  • Memory problems
  • Anorexia
  • Muscle tremors
  • Clumsiness
  • Loss of balance
  • Mood changes
  • Stiffness
  • Impotence
  • Headache

Manganese exposure can occur through air, food, water, or soil, though workers at highest risk for manganese exposure are usually at risk for inhaling manganese fumes or dust containing manganese. There are workplace standards that exist to protect workers that are potentially exposed to toxic levels of manganese from becoming at an unnecessary risk of danger. Currently, the workplace standards put into place regarding manganese exist at:

    • OSHA: The legal airborne exposure limit of manganese permissible is 5mg/m3 and cannot be exceeded at any time.

    • ACGIH: The recommended airborne exposure limit of manganese is 5 mg/m3 for dust and compounds and cannot be exceeded at any time. The recommended airborne exposure limit is 1 mg/m3 as manganese for fume averaged over an 8-hour workshift and is 3 mg/m3 for fume as a short-term exposure limit.

Although an essential part of the human body, manganese is extremely toxic to humans at a high level. Workplace standards exist to protect employees from exposure to manganese but employers do not always follow guidelines and safety standards, resulting in irreversible damage to those exposed.

Wilson’s Disease and Manganese
Manganese poisoning causes neurologic symptoms that resemble both parkinsonism and Wilson’s disease. Wilson’s disease is a metabolic disorder and the metabolic abnormality causes a progressive accumulation of copper in the body. As a result an excessive amount of copper in the liver, central nervous system, kidneys, eyes, and other organs result. Diagnosing Wilson’s disease can be difficult due to the lack of any clinical feature that is unique to Wilson’s disease.

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