Heavy metal

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This article is about the class of elements. For other uses of the term Heavy metal, please see Heavy metal (disambiguation).

Heavy metal refers to any metallic chemical element that has a relatively high atomic mass and density (greater than 5.0 specific gravity), and is pernicious at concentration. The term 'heavy metal' has never been officially defined by any authoritative body such as the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC).[1] Some heavy metals such as cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), vanadium (V), strontium (Sr), and zinc (Zn), are essential to human health in trace dosages. Others are non-essential and can be deleterious to health in excessive amounts. These include cadmium (Cd), antimony (Sb), chromium (Cr), mercury (Hg), lead (Pb), and arsenic (As) - these last three being the most common in cases of heavy metal toxicity. Heavy metals also tend to accumulate in food chains (bio-accumulation).[2]


  1. Duffus, John H. (2002). ""Heavy Metals" — A Meaningless Term?". Pure Appl. Chem. 74 (5): 793–807. Retrieved on 15 December 2013.
  2. Hapke, H. J. (1996). “Heavy metal transfer in the food chain to humans”, C. Rodriguez-Barrueco: Fertilizers and Environment: Proceedings of the International Symposium 'Fertilizers and Environment', held in Salamanca, Spain, 26–29, September, 1994. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 431-436. DOI:10.1007/978-94-009-1586-2_73. ISBN 978-94-009-1586-2.