MEDICAL GEOCHEMISTRY A KEY IN THE PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES AGAINST THE DEVELOPMENT OF CANCER AND OTHER DISEASES
A considerable number of diseases are directly related to environmental impact. Toxic metals such as Hg, Pb, Cd, and As may damage significantly the human health when they exceed certain levels in the body. For example specific precautions should be taken for the diet of pregnant women and the children. Lead concentrations exceeding the safe values can cause severe damage to the development of central nervous system, as well as a general developmental delay of fetuses and young children, interfering with the functioning of almost every brain neurotransmitter. In particular for the pregnant women, it has been found that the exposure of the fetus on high lead values may cause, apart from neurological and behavioral problems, low birth weight, pre-term delivery, spontaneous abortion and stillbirth. Organic mercury (methyl mercury) is the most dangerous form of mercury, because it is the most easily absorbed orally and crosses into the brain and fetus so readily. Populations exposed to chemical compounds containing As, Ni, Cr, Cd, etc. are considered of high-risk in developing cancer. Environmental geochemical studies can help in assessing the quality of the environment as well as the determination of the sources of pollutants, their behaviour and other characteristics. This knowledge is necessary in any application of remediation methodologies and waste management for the prevention of pollutants in getting into the food chain. It is also used in determining safe criteria regarding the quality of soils, drinking water, construction of schools, playgrounds etc. In this work the importance of environmental geochemical research and its applications towards the protection of human health is demonstrated.