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Thallium, Blood

Thallium, Blood

Test Highlight

Thallium, Blood


Clinical Use

  • Diagnose thallium toxicity

Clinical Background

Thallium salts are used as insecticides and rodenticides, as a tracer (201Tl) in myocardial imaging, and in manufacturing of low temperature thermometers, photoelectric cells, dye pigments, and certain cement. In the United States, the industrial atmospheric time-weighted average (TWA) is 0.1 mg/m3.

Many thallium compounds are readily absorbed by the digestive tract, skin, and lungs. Fatal and nonfatal thallium poisonings stem from medicinal, cosmetic, industrial, and pesticide application. Symptoms of intoxication include colic, nausea, vomiting, tremors, albuminuria, sensory changes, polyneuritis, speech impairment, weakness, ataxia, tachycardia, arrhythmia, paralysis, and convulsions. Alopecia may occur after 1 to 3 weeks. The lethal adult dose is about  8 to 15 mg/kg of soluble thallium salt. Although Prussian blue hastens excretion, no single chelating agent has been shown to be an especially effective treatment.

The half-life is 2 to 4 days.


Inductively-coupled plasma/mass spectrometry (ICP-MS)

An argon plasma at 6,000 to 10,000 °K destroys the organic matter in the sample and ionizes the metals. The resulting metallic ions are detected and quantitated in the mass spectrometer using an internal standard. Results are reported in μg/L.

Interpretive Information

Non-exposed adults typically have levels <5.1 μg/L. Toxicity occurs at levels ≥80 μg/L


Content reviewed 04/2013

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