Iron Poisoning

In my work, I encounter all kinds of interesting cases. One involved iron poisoning, something that certainly a toxicologist could investigate. I often encounter heavy metals, meaning that they have high densities. It is no secret that these chemicals, and their derivatives, pose health hazards to humans who are exposed to them in high concentrations. In this state, we say that these metals are toxic when inhaled, ingested, or otherwise penetrate the skin. In the case I was examining, I was looking at the buildup of the metal in question—iron—in the soft tissues. It is a serious problem in that it can cause organ damage and even death. The current case at hand was mildly severe. That was my conclusion. It is because the manner in which it was absorbed being chronic rather than acute. The patient must have had continual exposure. I was the appointed detective to find out how and why. It usually happens to children and not adults. Kids who exhibit vomiting and diarrhea symptoms are diagnosed with iron poisoning. In this case, the adult had hypertension and renal issues.

Iron is a sore subject with me in that I am mildly anemic. It is a condition associated with iron deficiency, the opposite of my overdose case. As a result, there is a drop in my red blood cell count. I have to take iron supplements. I am careful never to take too many having seen what can happen to the body. I make sure I am fully awake in the morning when I reach for the bottle. Have you ever taken a pill and forget that you have taken it? It happens all the time so be very careful.

A friend of mine who does metal detecting, gold and silver in particular, asked if he could do the gold ring test on me to see if I did in fact have anemia. I knew I did but was curious as to what he had up his sleeve. The theory is that rubbing a gold ring on the outside of your cheek will be an indicator of anemia. A dark line will appear if the answer is yes; no line means no iron deficiency. As a scientist, I sincerely question this old wives’ tale. The black line could be an anomaly or a reaction of the skin to the metal depending upon one’s skin chemistry and if one is wearing cosmetics or some kind of lotion. Some say the line is the transfer of dirt from the ring. It is all hocus pocus to me. He’s got a whole bag of tricks to do with telling if the gold he’s found is real, many of which were from I let him perform the “test” and it was positive, of course. He would never want to admit defeat.

I told him as he left that he should stick to detecting gold and it would be a better usage of his time to find out if it was real.