There are numerous substances that can be involved under the term inorganic elements. Inorganic can be divided into metal and non-metal elements. The essential inorganic poisons of Non-metals include Borate, bromide, chlorate, cyanide, fluoride, iodide, nitrate, nitrite, oxalate, bromate, iodate, sulfide, thiocyanate, etc.

Although, maximum metals occur in the environment in rocks, ores, soil, water, and air stages are usually low and widely detached. Metals have been used during history to make utensils, machinery, and so on, and mining and smelting supplied metals for these uses. The toxicity of metallic poisons may be prejudiced by the chemical nature of the compound. Inhalation of gases can cause acute injuriousness, including rapid death. Metals include Aluminium, antimony, barium, bismuth.

More recently, inorganic poisonous metals have found a number of usages in industry, agriculture, and medicine. These accomplishments have increased contact not only to metal-related occupational workers but also to consumers of the frequent products. The toxicity of metallic poisons may be influenced by the chemical nature of the compound gulped and the route of administration. Inhalation of vapours though can cause acute toxicity, including rapid death.

Significant developments in analytical techniques for measuring metals in biological fluids have been made since the early 1980s, particularly in electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry, inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) and ICP coupled with atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES).

Inorganic Poisons- Metals

1. Aluminium

  • Aluminium is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust.
  • The standard consumption of aluminium from food and beverages is up to 100 mg per day, but its absorption from the gut is relatively poor and depends on the speciation of the element in the diet.
  • Numbers of acute aluminium poisoning are relatively rare in the normal population.
  • Usage of aluminium sulphate as a flocculating agent in domestic water supplies is the major source of the metal in these patients.
  • While working in industries involving Aluminium, it may come in contact and involves inhalation of fine particles or dusts, it may be stored in the lung tissue and filter out very slowly over many months.
  • As a result, plasma and urine aluminium concentrations can remain elevated for several weeks or months.
  • In conditions of acute or chronic occupational contact to aluminium, amount of blood or urine aluminium is an effective method to evaluate the degree of exposure.

2. Antimony

  • Various salts of antimony like tartar emetic, antimony potassium tartrate have a long past of usage as medicines.
  • There compounds are used industrially in the production of lead batteries, semiconductors, paints and ceramics.
  • The fatal dose of antimony in the form of tartar emetic is around 1 g in an adult. 
  • The signs and symptoms of acute antimony poisoning include metallic taste, dysphagia, epigastric pain, violent vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and circulatory collapse.
  • Chronic effects of occupational antimony exposure include ‘antimony spots’ on the skin and pneumoconiosis
  • There is partial information on the absorptions of antimony in blood, urine and tissues in cases of antimony poisoning.

3. Barium 

  • The compounds of barium are widely used as pigments and glazes in industry and in the manufacture of paint and glass. 
  • The insoluble sulphate salt is extensively used as a radiographic contrast medium.
  • Maximum number of insoluble barium salts are relatively non-toxic.
  • Moreover, pneumoconiosis associated to the inhalation of barium dusts has been familiar in the mining industry.
  • The soluble salts of barium, mainly the carbonate and chloride, are tremendously toxic if ingested orally or given intravenously.
  • The fatal dose of barium salts may be as little as 0.8 g. 
  • Signs and symptoms of barium poisoning may show within 1 to 2 hours of ingestion and include abdominal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting. 
  • Severe hypokalaemia may also develop.
  • The main cause of hypokalaemia is cardiac rhythm disturbances, which need close monitoring. 
  • In cases of acute barium poisoning include radiography of the abdomen.
  • In non-fatal cases of barium poisoning, plasma barium concentrations of up to 8mg/L have been stated.

4. Bismuth 

  • It is a heavy metal.
  • It produces toxicity that are associated with lead and mercury.
  • These salts have been used in medicine and in treatment of gastrointestinal for more than 200 years.
  • Inorganic salts of bismuth, being comparatively insoluble in water and poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, causes toxicity. 
  • Lipid-soluble organic compounds, are known to accumulate in the body after extreme dosing and can cause severe neurotoxicity. 
  • Water-soluble compounds are more likely to cause renal damage and acute renal failure. 
  • A number of deaths have been described after acute and chronic overdose with various bismuth medicinal products. 
  • Concentrations of bismuth in blood are generally upto 50 μg/L.

Inorganic Poisons- Non metals

1. Phosphine and phosphides

  • Phosphine is a highly toxic colourless gas. It contains a strong garlic or fishy smell.
  • It’s employed in variety of business processes. It’s also generated by the action of moisture on phosphides. 
  • Aluminium phosphide is employed extensively as a cheap and effective grain fumigant and rodenticide in developing countries.
  • Aluminium phosphide poisoning incorporates a high mortality and also the 1990s saw a dramatic increase within the number of poisoning cases and deaths caused by suicidal ingestion, particularly in India. 
  • Signs and symptoms of poisoning include headache, nausea, vomiting and hypotension, which can attain hepatic and renal disorder.
  • Methaemoglobin formation has also been reported in some cases.

2. Borate 

  • Boric acid has been used for many years as a common household antiseptic for external use.
  • Sodium Borate is still used in cleaning agents, wood preservatives, pesticides and fungicides.
  • Compounds of borate have relatively low toxicity. 
  • Though, a number of cases of acute and chronic borate poisoning have been reported in children and adults.
  • Signs and symptoms of borate are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain. 
  • Patients may develop a universal erythoderma sometimes it can be described as a ‘boiled lobster’ appearance.
  • Some of the symptoms are shown in more severe cases like Seizures, coma and renal dysfunction.

3. Bromide

  • Some of the bromide salts are ammonium, potassium and sodium.
  • They were first introduced into the 19th century and were used extensively as anticonvulsants and sedatives. 
  • Potassium bromide may be found in traditional medicines which is used in the treatment of epilepsy. 
  • Bromates have been used as preservatives and detonators. 
  • Methyl bromide is a colourless gas.
  • It is most commonly used as an insecticidal fumigant for grain stores and soil.
  • It releases bromide ion as a metabolite and associated with accidental poisoning.
  • Absorption of bromide ion takes place from the stomach and small intestines. Their half-life is relatively long. 
  • It may cause complex neurological symptoms and clinical diagnosis can be difficult. 

4. Cyanide 

  • Cyanide poisoning is comparatively rare.
  • It mostly involves suicidal ingestion of cyanide salts. 
  • Hydrogen cyanide could be a highly toxic volatile liquid. 
  • Fumes of chemical compound are given off when cyanide salts are mixed with acids or produced within the stomach following oral ingestion.
  • Although HCN includes a characteristic almond-like odour, up to 50% of the population are unable to smell it. 
  • Surprisingly, it was not a characteristic feature at autopsy of an oversized series of cyanide suicide deaths, although this might are associated with air flow ventilation systems in post-mortem rooms.
  • Soluble salts of cyanide include potassium and sodium cyanide, which are used industrially in electroplating and metal processing, and as laboratory reagents. 
  • Less soluble salts of cyanide include silver and gold cyanide, and mercuric cyanide, which also release HCN on contact with strong acids.
  • As a general rule most cyanide suicide deaths are reported in those individuals, mostly males, who have occupational access to cyanide salts. 
  • HCN may additionally be formed as a combustion product in fires from nitrogen-containing materials such as wool and silk or synthetic polymers like polyurethanes, polyamides and polyamides.

5. Hypochlorites

  • Hypochlorites, like sodium and blanching agent, are used as disinfectants. 
  • Domestic products contain low concentrations, whereas industrial products are much more concentrated.
  • They produce greater toxicity if ingested. 
  • Hypochlorite poisoning produces characteristic symptoms and qualitative tests are generally not used for diagnosis, although they’ll be accustomed confirm diagnosis or within the investigation of fatalities.

6. Sulphide 

  • Many organic and inorganic Sulphide compounds are utilized in industry, but the foremost common reason for Sulphide poisoning is by inhalation of hydrogen sulphide gas, particularly in industrial or waste disposal sites, including sewers. 
  • The gas encompasses a characteristic foul odour of rotten-eggs and encompasses a very low odour threshold (0.03 ppm). 
  • However, very high Sulphide concentrations may cause paralysis of the olfactory nerves. 
  • Hydrogen Sulphide occurs naturally in volcanic gases and hot springs. It is unstable and is metabolised rapidly within the body so it should be difficult to detect in biological samples from cases of suspected poisoning.
  • In cases of suspected acute or chronic exposure to hydrogen Sulphide, blood specimens must be collected as soon as possible due to its rapid metabolism. 
  • It is metabolised into thiosulfate so the measurement of blood or urine thiosulfate concentration could also be the foremost viable approach to the investigation of acute or chronic Sulphide poisoning.


  • Fluorides are mainly excreted in urine. Plasma and urine fluoride levels are associated with fluoride intake and are a biomarker for excess exposure. 
  • Hydrogen cyanide could be highly toxic volatile liquid. Fumes of hydrogen cyanide are given off.
  • Metals form a crucial group of agricultural, household and industrial poisons. 
  • Metals are essential within the diet but are toxic at higher doses. 
  • Iron, copper, magnesium, cobalt, manganese and zinc are often present within the diet at too low a level, at an appropriate level (maintenance), or at too high tier (toxic). 
Categories: Toxicology


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