Toxic metals


Metal ions in toxicology: effects, interactions, interdependencies

A Sigel, H Sigel and R K O Sigel (eds)

Cambridge, UK: RSC Publishing 2010 | 456 pp | 150.00 (HB)

ISBN 9781849730914 

Reviewed by Helen Grant

Toxic metals
In recognition of the fact that organisms are rarely exposed to a single metal, or indeed a single type of toxin, in their environment, the first three chapters of this book deal with useful aspects of the effects of combined exposures to multiple metals, and an assessment of the risks involved in such exposures.

The next section deals with the toxicology of metals on a systems basis, giving information on the interaction of metals with the pulmonary and cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal system and liver, the kidney, the blood and immune systems, the skin and eyes, the nervous system and with reproduction and development.

I am not convinced this approach has given us the most interesting analysis of metal interactions with body systems, and suspect that the book would have been more readable had it been divided into chapters on individual metals and their interactions in the whole body. 

To the expert, the chapters are frustratingly lacking in depth and do not satisfy the quest for detailed knowledge.

The third section begins with a rather disappointing account of the interactions of cadmium with the oestrogen receptor as a mechanism contributing to an endocrine disrupting effect, and does not conclude that the risk of heavy metals acting as oestrogen mimics can be realistically assessed. 

There follows an excellent, well referenced chapter on the genotoxicity of metal ions, which describes the mechanisms proposed for the toxicity of individual metals, the methods used to assess and future perspectives in this research area. This chapter is an excellent source of up-to-date information on this topic.

The last chapter is a useful review of the human risk to cancer from exposure to metals.