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Environment and Occupational Issues - Copper

Further research is required on to fully characterise the dose-response relationship for copper and reduce uncertainty in the risk management process.

Copper is part of a small group of metallic elements that is essential to human health.  It is widely dispersed in our environment and used in several industrial applications.  The identification of several subgroups at increased risk of toxicity and deficiency and a realization that a significant proportion of our population may have marginal deficiencies has demonstrated the need to fully characterize the potential health risks.  The general population may be exposed to high levels of copper from accidental ingestion of contaminated drinks or accidental or deliberate ingestion of high quantities of copper salts. Occupational exposures account for a significant proportion of overexposures to copper in several industries including copper production and metal plating. There are distinct health effects from both toxicity and deficiency that have manifested from acute and chronic exposures and particularly from individuals with distinct genetic defects in copper metabolism.  The potential for both copper toxicity and deficiency presents an added complexity to the risk assessment process. There is a need to characterize and define the dose response relationship and homeostatic range for copper using the best available toxicity data.  There are also several uncertainties with respect to copper absorption, distribution, transport and excretion that need to be defined in order to produce a Physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic Model.

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Contributors:  Nataliya Karyakina, Valerie Tate

Last Reviewed:  June 22, 2012


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