Health effects of manganese

Source: ATSDR

Introduction

Manganese is a naturally occurring substance found in many types of rock. Manganese does not have a special taste or smell. Pure manganese is a silver-colored metal; however, it does not occur in the environment as a pure metal. Rather, it occurs combined with other substances such as oxygen, sulfur, and chlorine. These forms (called compounds) are solids that do not evapo­rate. However, small dust particles of the solid material can become suspended in air. Also, some manganese compounds can dissolve in water, and low levels of these compounds are normally present in lakes, streams, and the ocean. Manganese can change from one compound to another (either by natural processes or by human activity), but it does not break down or disappear in the environment.

Rocks with high levels of manganese compounds are mined and used to produce manganese metal. This manganese metal is mixed with iron to make various types of steel. Some manganese compounds are used in the production of batteries, in dietary supplements, and as ingredients in some ceramics, pesticides, and fertilizers.

Manganese is an essential trace element and is necessary for good health. The human body typically contains small quantities of manganese, and under normal circumstances, the body controls these amounts so that neither too little nor too much is present.

Different forms of manganese are discussed in this profile. These forms are either inorganic manganese or organic manganese. The inorganic manganese includes those forms of the element such as combustion products from cars or trucks, as well as the dusts that are present in steel or battery factories, or those emitted as fume during the use of welding rods. Organic forms of manganese that are discussed are a gasoline additive, two pesticides, and a compound used in hospitals to test if a patient has certain types of cancer. The profile discusses what is known about the amount of these compounds that can be toxic to people and how these compounds can affect people’s health.

Pathways for manganese in the environment

Manganese and manganese compounds exist naturally in the environment as solids in the soil and as small particles in water. Manganese may also be present in small dust-like particles in the air. These manganese-containing particles usually settle out of the air within a few days depend­ing on their size, weight, density, and the weather conditions. Manganese exists naturally in rivers and lakes, and is also naturally present in some underground water. Algae and plankton in the water can consume some manganese and concentrate it within themselves.

In addition to occurring naturally in the environment, manganese can be introduced by human activity. Manganese can be released into the air by industry and by the burning of fossil fuels. More specifically, sources of airborne manganese include iron- and steel-producing plants, power plants, coke ovens, and dust from uncontrolled mining operations. Manganese released from burning a gasoline additive may also be a source of manganese in the air. Manganese from these human-made sources can enter surface water, groundwater, and sewage waters. Small manga­nese particles can also be picked up by water flowing through landfills and soil. The chemical state of manganese and the type of soil determine how fast it moves through the soil and how much is retained in the soil. Maneb and mancozeb, two pesticides that contain manganese, may also add to the amount of manganese in the environment when they are applied to crops or released to the environment from packaging factories. There is information on the amount of maneb and mancozeb released into the environment from facilities that make or use these pesticides. However, the amount of manganese in the environment because of the release and use of these pesticides is not known.

To avoid staining clothes or plumbing fixtures, the EPA recommends that the concentration of manganese in drinking water not be more than 0.05 ppm. FDA has set the same level for bottled water. This concentration is believed to be more than adequate to protect human health. The EPA has also established rules that set limits on the amount of manganese that factories can dump into water. EPA requires factories that use or produce manganese to report how much they dump in the environment. OSHA has set limits of 5 mg/m³ for fume and 0.2 mg/m³ for particulate matter as the average amounts of manganese in workplace air over 8-hour workday (OSHA 1998). Similarly, the ACGIH (American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists) has set a limit of 1 mg/m³ for manganese fume and 0.2 mg/m³ for the average amount of manganese, either elemental or as inorganic compounds, that can be present in the air over an 8-hour workday (ACGIH 1998).

Exposure to manganese

Because manganese is a natural component of the environment, you are always exposed to low levels of it in water, air, soil, and food. In drinking water, levels are usually about 0.004 parts manganese per million parts (ppm) of water. In air, levels are usually about 0.00002 milligrams manganese per cubic meter (mg/m³) of air. Natural levels in soil usually range from 40 to 900 ppm. Manganese is also a normal part of living things, including both plants and animals, so it is present in foods. For nearly all people, food is the main source of manganese, and usual daily intakes range from about 1 to 10 mg/day. The exact amount you take in depends on your diet.

You are most likely to be exposed to higher-than-usual levels of manganese or manganese-containing chemicals if you work in a factory where manganese metal is produced from manganese ores or where manganese compounds are used to make steel or other products. In these factories you would be exposed mainly by breathing in manganese dust. If you live near such a factory you could also be exposed to higher-than-usual levels of manganese dust in the outside air, although the amounts would be much lower than in the factory. You might be exposed to higher-than-usual levels if you live near a coal- or oil-burning factory because manga­nese is released into the air when these fossil fuels are burned. Some areas of the country use a gasoline that has manganese added to it to increase performance. You could also be exposed to higher-than-usual levels of manganese if you live in a major urban area where such gasoline is used, if you have a job in which you make or have contact with that gasoline every day (such as a mechanic), or if you are exposed to a high amount of car exhaust on a daily basis (at bus stops, gas stations, etc.). You can also be exposed to manganese if you use pesticides that contain it. People who deal with such pesticides may be exposed through skin contact, but there have been instances in which workers may have accidentally eaten or inhaled some pesticides. You may also be exposed to manganese by eating foods that contain small, leftover amounts (residues) of these pesticides.

If manganese compounds, either naturally-occurring or from a factory or a hazardous waste site, get into water, you could be exposed to higher-than-usual levels by drinking the water.

Pathways for manganese in the body

Manganese is a necessary nutrient for the human body to function propoerly. Only small amounts are needed for this purpose. Excessive amounts of manganese in the body are toxic and can result in adverse health effects.

Humans are exposed to manganese in the food and water they eat and drink and in the air they breathe. Infants eat manganese that is present in breast milk, soy-based infant formulas, or cow’s milk. The amount of manganese in these sources is generally not a problem, and they provide the manganese that is necessary for normal functioning of the body. If you live near a hazardous waste site, you could possibly eat or drink higher-than usual levels of manganese that are in soil or water or breathe manganese-containing dust particles in the air that come from the waste site. The contribution of these exposure routes to manganese’s toxicity is uncertain; in general, adverse effects in people exposed through these routes have only been reported when environmental manganese levels were quite high. If you get manganese-contaminated soil or water on your skin, very little will enter your body, so this is not of concern. If you swallow manganese in water or in soil, most is excreted in the feces. However, about 3–5% is usually taken up and retained in the body. If you breathe air containing manganese dust, many of the smaller dust particles will be trapped in your lungs. Some of the manganese in these small particles may then dissolve in the lungs and enter the blood. The exact amount that may enter the blood is not known. Larger particles and those that do not dissolve will be coughed up, in a sticky layer of mucus, out of the lungs and into the throat, where they will be swallowed and will enter the stomach.

Manganese is a regular part of the human body; it is a necessary component in order for the body to work properly. The body normally controls the amount of absorbed manganese. For example, if large amounts of manganese are eaten in the diet, the body excretes large amounts in the feces. Therefore, the total amount of manganese in the body tends to stay about the same, even when exposure rates are higher or lower than usual. However, if too much manganese is taken in, the body may not be able to adjust for the added amount.

Health effects of manganese

To protect the public from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals and to find ways to treat people who have been harmed, scientists use many tests.

One way to see if a chemical will hurt people is to learn how the chemical is absorbed, used, and released by the body; for some chemicals, animal testing may be necessary. Animal testing may also be used to identify health effects such as cancer or birth defects. Without laboratory animals, scientists would lose a basic method to get information needed to make wise decisions to protect public health. Scientists have the responsibility to treat research animals with care and compassion. Laws today protect the welfare of research animals, and scientists must comply with strict animal care guidelines.

Manganese is an essential nutrient, and eating a small amount of it each day is important to stay healthy. Manganese is present in many foods, including grains and cereals, and is found in high concentra­tions in many foods, such as tea. The amount of manganese in typical western diets (about 1–10 mg manganese per day) appears to be enough to meet daily needs. Human diets with too little manganese can lead to slowed blood clotting, skin problems, changes in hair color, lowered cholesterol levels, and other alterations in metabolism. In animals, eating too little manganese can interfere with normal growth, bone formation, and reproduction.

Too much manganese may also cause serious illness. Most manganese compounds seem to cause the same effects, although it is unknown whether exposure to different manganese compounds results in slight differences in adverse effects. Manganese miners or steel workers exposed to high levels of manganese dust in air may have mental and emotional disturbances, and their body movements may become slow and clumsy. This combination of symptoms is a disease called ‘manganism.’ Workers do not usually develop symptoms of manganism unless they have been exposed to manganese for many months or years. Manganism occurs because too much manganese injures a part of the brain that helps control body movements. Some of the symptoms of manganism may improve upon certain medical treatments, but the improvements are usually temporary, and the brain injury is permanent. Manganism has been reported most often in miners. It has only been reported a few times in other workers exposed to the metal, such as steel workers. The symptoms most commonly observed in occupational workers (other than miners) include difficulty in the following motor skills: holding one’s hand steady, perform­ing fast hand movements, and maintaining balance when tested. These symptoms are not as severe as those related to manganism, indicating that the effects caused by manganese over-exposure are related to the level of exposure.

Most people who inhale manganese are involved in jobs where they are exposed to the metal. There is a possibility that people can be exposed to manganese in the air if they live near a plant that uses manganese, or if they live in a high traffic area and the automobiles burn manganese in the gasoline. A recent study showed that people who inhaled manganese from the air and who had high levels of manganese in their blood showed signs of neurological problems that were similar to those reported in occupationally-exposed persons. The neurological problems were most significant in the people aged 50 years and older.

It is not certain whether eating or drinking too much manganese can cause symptoms of manganism. In one report, people who drank water containing high concentrations of manganese developed a number of symptoms that were similar to those seen in manganese miners and steel workers. However, it is not clear whether these effects were caused by the manganese alone; other effects were noted, suggesting that other compounds may have been involved. In another report, people who drank water with above-average levels of manganese seemed to have a slightly higher frequency of symptoms such as weakness, stiff muscles, and trembling hands. However, these symptoms are not specific for manganism and might have been caused by other factors. Another study discovered that people who ate food with high concentrations of manganese, while also eating a diet low in magnesium, suffered nerve disease. Another study in adults over 40 years old who drank water with high manganese levels for at least 10 years reported no changes in behavior and no symptoms, that commonly occur in people exposed to excess levels of manganese. Two studies reported that children who drank water and who ate food with higher-than-usual levels of manganese did more poorly in school and on specific tests that measure coordination than children who had not eaten above-average amounts of manganese. However, these studies included several limitations; it is not clear whether the adverse effects in the children were caused only by eating too much manganese.

Studies in animals have shown that very high levels of manganese in food or water can cause changes in the brain. This information suggests that high levels of manganese in food or water might cause changes in the function of the nervous system. However, people exposed to manganese concentrations typically found in food, water, or air have little cause for concern.

Breathing too much manganese dust over a short or long time can cause irritation of the lungs. Sometimes this makes breathing difficult, and it can also increase the chances of getting a lung infection, such as pneumonia. However, this can happen from breathing in many kinds of dust particles and not just those that contain manganese.

A common effect in men who are exposed to high levels (levels seen in some occupational studies) of manganese dust in the air over a long time is impotence. Studies in animals show that too much manganese may also injure the testes. Much less is known about the effects of too much manganese on women’s ability to reproduce. Studies in animals suggest that too much manganese can negatively affect a female’s ability to reproduce.

No studies have been done to determine whether breathing manganese dust causes cancer in humans. Some studies in animals show that eating large amounts of manganese might increase the chances of getting cancer. However, only a few animals in these studies developed cancer, and it was difficult to tell whether the tumors were really caused by the excess manganese. Thus, there is little evidence to suggest that cancer is a major concern for people exposed to manganese in the environment or near hazardous waste sites. The EPA has determined that manganese is not classifiable as a human carcinogen.

One compound that contains manganese, potassium permanganate, damages the skin. Two other compounds that contain manganese, the pesticides maneb and mancozeb, can cause skin reac­tions in people who have allergies to these pesticides. Skin rashes can occur because of these allergies, but once the exposure to the pesticide is stopped, the rashes and any other effects will usually go away. However, once a person has developed an allergy to a particular manganese-containing pesticide, that person may have similar allergic reactions to different, but related, pesticides.

The negative adverse effects of exposure to excess levels of manganese have been observed in all ages. Several studies in humans and animals indicate that the elderly may be a potentially susceptible population to the adverse effects of manganese exposure. Further, studies show that the young may also be a susceptible population.

Health effects in children

To protect the public from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals and to find ways to treat people who have been harmed, scientists use many tests.

One way to see if a chemical will hurt people is to learn how the chemical is absorbed, used, and released by the body; for some chemicals, animal testing may be necessary. Animal testing may also be used to identify health effects such as cancer or birth defects. Without laboratory animals, scientists would lose a basic method to get information needed to make wise decisions to protect public health. Scientists have the responsibility to treat research animals with care and compassion. Laws today protect the welfare of research animals, and scientists must comply with strict animal care guidelines.

Manganese is an essential nutrient, and eating a small amount of it each day is important to stay healthy. Manganese is present in many foods, including grains and cereals, and is found in high concentra­tions in many foods, such as tea. The amount of manganese in typical western diets (about 1–10 mg manganese per day) appears to be enough to meet daily needs. Human diets with too little manganese can lead to slowed blood clotting, skin problems, changes in hair color, lowered cholesterol levels, and other alterations in metabolism. In animals, eating too little manganese can interfere with normal growth, bone formation, and reproduction.

Too much manganese may also cause serious illness. Most manganese compounds seem to cause the same effects, although it is unknown whether exposure to different manganese compounds results in slight differences in adverse effects. Manganese miners or steel workers exposed to high levels of manganese dust in air may have mental and emotional disturbances, and their body movements may become slow and clumsy. This combination of symptoms is a disease called ‘manganism.’ Workers do not usually develop symptoms of manganism unless they have been exposed to manganese for many months or years. Manganism occurs because too much manganese injures a part of the brain that helps control body movements. Some of the symptoms of manganism may improve upon certain medical treatments, but the improvements are usually temporary, and the brain injury is permanent. Manganism has been reported most often in miners. It has only been reported a few times in other workers exposed to the metal, such as steel workers. The symptoms most commonly observed in occupational workers (other than miners) include difficulty in the following motor skills: holding one’s hand steady, perform­ing fast hand movements, and maintaining balance when tested. These symptoms are not as severe as those related to manganism, indicating that the effects caused by manganese over-exposure are related to the level of exposure.

Most people who inhale manganese are involved in jobs where they are exposed to the metal. There is a possibility that people can be exposed to manganese in the air if they live near a plant that uses manganese, or if they live in a high traffic area and the automobiles burn manganese in the gasoline. A recent study showed that people who inhaled manganese from the air and who had high levels of manganese in their blood showed signs of neurological problems that were similar to those reported in occupationally-exposed persons. The neurological problems were most significant in the people aged 50 years and older.

It is not certain whether eating or drinking too much manganese can cause symptoms of manganism. In one report, people who drank water containing high concentrations of manganese developed a number of symptoms that were similar to those seen in manganese miners and steel workers. However, it is not clear whether these effects were caused by the manganese alone; other effects were noted, suggesting that other compounds may have been involved. In another report, people who drank water with above-average levels of manganese seemed to have a slightly higher frequency of symptoms such as weakness, stiff muscles, and trembling hands. However, these symptoms are not specific for manganism and might have been caused by other factors. Another study discovered that people who ate food with high concentrations of manganese, while also eating a diet low in magnesium, suffered nerve disease. Another study in adults over 40 years old who drank water with high manganese levels for at least 10 years reported no changes in behavior and no symptoms, that commonly occur in people exposed to excess levels of manganese. Two studies reported that children who drank water and who ate food with higher-than-usual levels of manganese did more poorly in school and on specific tests that measure coordination than children who had not eaten above-average amounts of manganese. However, these studies included several limitations; it is not clear whether the adverse effects in the children were caused only by eating too much manganese.

Studies in animals have shown that very high levels of manganese in food or water can cause changes in the brain. This information suggests that high levels of manganese in food or water might cause changes in the function of the nervous system. However, people exposed to manganese concentrations typically found in food, water, or air have little cause for concern.

Breathing too much manganese dust over a short or long time can cause irritation of the lungs. Sometimes this makes breathing difficult, and it can also increase the chances of getting a lung infection, such as pneumonia. However, this can happen from breathing in many kinds of dust particles and not just those that contain manganese.

A common effect in men who are exposed to high levels (levels seen in some occupational studies) of manganese dust in the air over a long time is impotence. Studies in animals show that too much manganese may also injure the testes. Much less is known about the effects of too much manganese on women’s ability to reproduce. Studies in animals suggest that too much manganese can negatively affect a female’s ability to reproduce.

No studies have been done to determine whether breathing manganese dust causes cancer in humans. Some studies in animals show that eating large amounts of manganese might increase the chances of getting cancer. However, only a few animals in these studies developed cancer, and it was difficult to tell whether the tumors were really caused by the excess manganese. Thus, there is little evidence to suggest that cancer is a major concern for people exposed to manganese in the environment or near hazardous waste sites. The EPA has determined that manganese is not classifiable as a human carcinogen.

One compound that contains manganese, potassium permanganate, damages the skin. Two other compounds that contain manganese, the pesticides maneb and mancozeb, can cause skin reac­tions in people who have allergies to these pesticides. Skin rashes can occur because of these allergies, but once the exposure to the pesticide is stopped, the rashes and any other effects will usually go away. However, once a person has developed an allergy to a particular manganese-containing pesticide, that person may have similar allergic reactions to different, but related, pesticides.

The negative adverse effects of exposure to excess levels of manganese have been observed in all ages. Several studies in humans and animals indicate that the elderly may be a potentially susceptible population to the adverse effects of manganese exposure. Further, studies show that the young may also be a susceptible population.

Reducing risk of exposure to manganese

If your doctor finds that you have been exposed to significant amounts of manganese, ask whether your children might also be exposed. Your doctor might need to ask your state health department to investigate.

In typical situations, there is no need to reduce exposure to manganese. A healthy body regulates the amount of manganese that it either keeps or eliminates based on the foods eaten and the air breathed. Because manganese is the twelfth most common element in the earth’s crust, it is always found in measurable concentrations in topsoil. If young children eat soil, it is unknown whether they are able to absorb the manganese in the soil. No studies were located that would show how much, if any, manganese can be absorbed after eating soil. Despite this lack of infor­mtion, manganese concentrations in soil are not typically high, and therefore, the amount of manganese that children might take in from eating soil should not be a great concern. However, if soil in your neighborhood contains large amounts of manganese from hazardous waste or other environmental sources, you should prevent your children from eating it and discourage children from putting their hands in their mouths or performing other hand-to-mouth activity.

Manganese is also present in drinking water. The EPA has set a Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for the metal in drinking water at 0.05 ppm because at higher concentrations it can stain clothes or plumbing fixtures. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also set this level for bottled water, and it is believed to be low enough to protect human health. Individuals with well water that leaves black deposits or dark stains in their sinks and other fixtures may want to have their water tested for high levels of manganese.

The exact amounts of manganese necessary for proper body functioning in an infant or child are not known. However, the effects of getting too little manganese are well known in adults, and recorded cases of manganese deficiency are very rare. Therefore, it appears that humans get adequate amounts of manganese from their diets. Children are not likely to be exposed to toxic amounts of manganese in the diet. However, manganese can be absorbed in higher-than-usual amounts if the diet is low in iron. Therefore, it is very important to provide your child with a well_balanced diet. The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council (NRC) has not established a Recommended Daily Allowance for manganese because too little is known about the dietary requirements of this trace element. However, an Estimated Safe and Adequate Daily Dietary Intake (ESADDI) for manganese has been estimated as 0.3–0.6 mg/day for infants from birth to 6 months, 0.6–1 mg/day for infants aged 6 months to 1 year, 1–1.5 mg/day for children aged 1–3 years, 1–2 mg/day for children aged 4–10 years of age, and 2–5 mg/day for children aged 10 years to adult.

Medical tests for exposure to manganese

Several tests are available to measure manganese in blood, urine, hair, or feces. Because manganese is a normal part of the body, some is always found in tissues or fluids. Concentra­tions in blood, urine, hair, or feces are often found to be higher than average in groups of people exposed to higher-than-usual levels of manganese. Because the levels in different people can vary widely, these methods are not very reliable to determine whether a single person has been exposed to higher-than-usual levels. However, blood or urine levels in groups of people who have been exposed to higher-than-usual amounts are useful indicators of exposure when compared with reference levels from people who have not been exposed. The normal range of manganese levels in blood is 4–14 µg/L, 0.97–1.07 µg/L in urine, and 0.15–2.65 µg/L in serum (the fluid portion of the blood). Because excess manganese is usually removed from the body within a few days, past exposures are difficult to measure with common laboratory tests.

A medical test known as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, can detect the presence of increased amounts of manganese in the brain. This test has been very useful in determining whether people have accumulated higher_than_usual amounts of manganese in the body. This tool is often used when a person is showing severe signs of manganese toxicity, as in manganism, or in other diseases that affect the brain, such as Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. The results must be used along with a complete medical history because other diseases affecting the brain can cause abnormal MRI scans. MRI is not useful, though, in determining the source of increased exposure or in establishing the amount of manganese that you might have been exposed to. Furthermore, MRI analysis will not necessarily detect manganese in the brain after exposure to the metal has ceased. Most people who have increased manganese concentrations in their body do so as a result of increased exposure to the compound (most often by work exposures); others have increased levels because they are unable to clear manganese from their bodies. A medical test would not be able to tell the difference between these two possibilities, and further testing would be needed to find the cause of increased exposure. Also, exposure to high levels of manganese (such as in the case of manganese miners) may cause a permanent effect on the brain, depending on the length and level of manganese exposure.



Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.

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Citation

(2008). Health effects of manganese. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/153404

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