Hair may be used to evaluate exposure to barium (Ba). Exogenous contamination has been observed from bath water containing Ba. Elevated levels of hair Ba are often observed as a result of exposure to Ba for diagnostic medical tests.
Ba has not been established to be an essential element. Elevated levels of Ba may interfere with calcium metabolism and potassium retention. Acutely high intakes of soluble Ba salts (nitrates, sulfides, chlorides) can be toxic. Chronic exposure to Ba may be manifested by muscular and myocardial stimulation, tingling in the extremities, and loss of tendon reflexes. Due to its high density, Ba is utilized to absorb radiation and is utilized in concrete shields around nuclear reactors and in plaster to line x-ray rooms. The main use of Ba in medicine is as a contrast medium. Long-term retention of Ba can occur and granuloma of the traverse colon has been reported after diagnostic use of barium sulfate. Crystalline Ba titanate is a ceramic compound which is used in capacitors and transducers. Ba is also used to produce pigments in paints and decorative glass. Soluble Ba compounds are highly toxic and may be used as insecticides. Baaluminates are utilized for water purification, acceleration of concrete solidification, production of synthetic zeolites, and in
the paper and enamel industries.
A confirmatory test for elevated Ba is measurement of blood electrolytes; hypokalemia may be associated with elevated Ba.
Hair may be used for biological monitoring of barium exposure. Exogenous contamination has been observed from bath water containing barium. Elevated levels of hair barium are often observed as a result of exposure to barium for diagnostic medical tests. Elevated levels of barium may interfere with calcium metabolism and displace potassium. Very high retention of barium can result in increased stress hormone levels (eg. catecholamines, and may cause ventricular fibrillation, bronchioconstriction, and swelling of the brain and testis. Chronic ingestion of barium at elevated levels may be manifested by muscular and myocardial stimulation, tingling in the extremities, and loss of tendon reflexes. Undesirable exposure to barium may be associated with contaminated water (DDI Water Analysis), air or soil. barium has been used in rodenticides and insecticides, and is used for medical testing (barium enemas). Mining and refining coal and combustion of coal and oil emit barium. Mine-tailings and masonry products made from such can be a significant source of barium to individuals producing or working with them (e.g. reconstruction, demolition). Arc-welding, metal fabrication, occupational work with fireworks can be associated with abnormal exposure to barium. The main dietary sources of barium are milk, flour, potatoes and some types of nuts. A confirmatory test for elevated barium is measurement of blood electrolytes; hypokalemia may be associated with elevated barium. There are no known chelating agents that are effective for use as a provocation agent for excessive barium retention. Sweat analysis indicates that sauna therapy may increase excretion of barium.
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