Ba is a metal
which exists in ores containing a mixture of elements, often combining with
other chemicals to form Ba compounds such as barium sulfate and barium
commercial uses for these compounds?
are used to make paint, bricks, ceramics, glass and rubber. Ba compounds
are also used by the oil and gas industries as a component in drilling mud,
making it easier to drill through rock by keeping the drill bit lubricated.
sulfate is used in medical settings for X-ray studies of the gastrointestinal
present in the environment?
enters the environment through the weathering of rocks and minerals and through
man-made releases. It enters the air during mining, refining, production of
Ba compounds and from burning coal. Ba is generally present in air as
a result of industrial emissions. The length of time that Ba lasts in the
environment depends on the form of Ba released.
barium nitrate and barium hydroxide dissolve readily in water and usually do
not last in these forms for a long time. The resulting Ba combines quickly
with sulfate or carbonate that is naturally found in water and becomes the
longer-lasting forms. Barium sulfate
and barium carbonate, which do not dissolve well in water, can last a long time
in the environment. Fish and other fresh water and marine life can accumulate
Ba has been
found in at least 798 of the approximately 1700 National Priority List sites
(Superfund hazardous waste sites) identified by the Environmental Protection
How are people
exposed to barium?
exposed to low levels of Ba through drinking water, food and beverages.
Food is the primary source of Ba exposure, but when Ba levels are high
in groundwater, drinking water may contribute to Ba intake. The major
dietary sources of Ba are milk, potatoes, and flour, with bread being
considered the largest source. Some cereal products and nuts may also
People can also be
exposed to Ba by breathing contaminated air, by working in a job that
involves Ba production or use or by living or working near waste sites
containing Ba. People can be
exposed to Ba during certain diagnostic medical procedures.
to barium once it enters the body?
humans, the majority of absorbed Ba leaves the body in the stool or in the
urine. Absorbed Ba that does not leave the body is deposited mainly in bone
and teeth. It can be transferred to unborn babies through the placenta.
How harmful is
exposure to barium?
Ba in food and water above background levels for a short period of time may
cause vomiting, diarrhea, difficulties in breathing, changes in blood pressure,
numbness around the face and muscle weakness. Ba has also been found to
cause stomach and intestinal problems and muscular weakness in people. Ingesting
large amounts of Ba can cause changes in heart rhythm, paralysis and
effects of different Ba compounds depend on how well the compound dissolves
in water or in stomach contents. Ba compounds that do not dissolve well,
such as barium sulfate, are generally not harmful. Soluble Ba compounds can
be acutely toxic.
to barium cause cancer?
Department of Health and Human Services, the International Agency for Research
on Cancer and the Environmental Protection Agency have determined that Ba
is not likely to cause cancer in humans following ingestion.
Is there a
medical test to show whether I’ve been exposed to barium?
Ba can be
measured in body tissues and fluids, such as bones, blood, urine and feces, but
these measurements cannot be used to predict the extent of exposure or
potential health effects. These tests are normally done only for cases of
severe Ba poisoning and for medical research, with the results being
reviewed and interpreted by physicians with a background in toxicology and environmental medicine.
What is the
treatment for barium poisoning?
care should be sought in cases of suspected Ba poisoning. Decreased blood
potassium levels are commonly seen in acute cases of Ba toxicity. Hemodialysis is
sometimes used to decrease levels of Ba in the blood and improve clinical
federal government made recommendations to protect public health?
1) The EPA has set a maximum concentration limit (MCL) of two milligrams per liter (mg/L) or 2000 parts per billion (ppb) of Ba in drinking water.
2) The World Health Organization has set a limit of 0.7 mg/L (700 ppb) of Ba.
3) The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs) of 0.5 milligrams of soluble Ba compounds
per cubic meter of workplace air (0.5 mg/m3) for eight-hour shifts and 40 hour work weeks. The OSHA limits for barium sulfate dust are 15 mg/m3 of
total dust and 5 mg/m3 for the respirable fraction of the airborne particulate.
4) The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has set Recommended Exposure Limits (RELs) of 0.5 mg/m3 for soluble Ba
compounds. The NIOSH has set RELs of 10 mg/m3 (total dust) for barium sulfate and five mg/m3 the respirable fraction of the airborne particulates.
What can I do
to prevent exposure to barium?
Food and drinking
water are the greatest potential source for human exposure. However, the amount
of Ba in foods and drinking water is usually too low to cause health
concerns. Distillation or reverse osmosis filtration will remove Ba
from drinking water.