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Does manganese inhaled from the shower represent a public health threat?

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. A new analysis based on animal studies suggests that showering in manganese-contaminated water for a decade or more could have permanent effects on the nervous system. The damage may occur even at levels of manganese considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

"If our results are confirmed, they could have profound implications for the nation and the world," said John Spangler, M.D., an associate professor of family medicine. "Nearly 9 million people in the United States are exposed to manganese levels that our study shows may cause toxic effects."

The study is the first to show the potential for permanent brain damage from breathing vaporized manganese during a shower. It was conducted by reviewing the medical literature and calculating, based on animal studies, the amount of manganese people would absorb by showering 10 minutes a day.

Because manganese is monitored in public water supplies, high levels of this naturally occurring metal are especially found in wells and private water supplies.

Spangler and Robert Elsner, Ph.D., published their findings in the current issue of Medical Hypotheses, a forum for ideas in medicine and related biomedical sciences.

The journal publishes "interesting and important theoretical papers that foster the diversity and debate upon which the scientific process thrives."

Everyone is exposed to small levels of manganese, which is found in food and many types of rocks and enters the air, soil and water. But, at higher levels, manganese is toxic to the central nervous system and can cause learning and coordination disabilities, behavioral changes and a condition that is similar to Parkinson's disease.

Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and patients with liver disease are at highest risk from manganese toxicity. Some of these groups have developed manganese poisoning even at f
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Contact: Shannon Koontz
shkoontz@wfubmc.edu
336-716-2415
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
30-Jun-2005


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