Could our body deal with trace amounts of unknown chemicals?

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kenny1999
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Even if how careful we are, I think it is hard for us to avoid TRACE amount of unknown chemicals that get into our body unconsciously, through different pathway, our mouth,
our nose and our eyes or our wound. Could our body handle these foreign chemicals
in trace amount and keep us healthy? Does it really depend on what chemical it is and dose
of it?

For example, (just a random example but my question is more general). Someone touches a leaking battery and throws it into rubbish bin and he washes and dries his hand but there could be still some trace amount of battery thing left on his hand, and then he goes to supermarket and touches a can of beer but he doesn't get it. Another guy buys it later and drinks it without a drinking straw, after all the steps, the guy still drinks up trace amount of chemicals. Yes, very minor I know.

There are a lot similar everyday situations, I'm NOT talking about extreme, criminal or intentional case

But how could our body deal with it? I strongly believe that the guy won't get sick immediately
or soon because the amount is very trace, but trace amount is trace amount, how will the
trace amount of chemical end up in our body? Handled by our liver and removed from our body? Accumulating in our body and adding up future health risk?

I hope it is my paranoid but I really want to get some more logical answer to solve my paranoid

Thanks for comments
 
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  • #2
fresh_42
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Does it really depend on what chemical it is and dose
of it?
Yes.

That's the reason why we do not want to have e.g. plutonium, asbestos, or quicksilver in the environment, why childrens' toys shouldn't contain heavy metals, why food shouldn't contain carcinogens, etc.

I could say small doses cannot be harmful, but that would be negligent. It always depends on what small is, or in your words what trace amounts are. Have you never wondered why medical drugs contain only some milligram of active agents? You can overdose on almost any substance. It really depends on what and how much - always.
 
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berkeman
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jim mcnamara
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To get this thread on track: There is no one simple answer. The main reason is that individual people are different genetically. Most of the research in this area is in toxicology and applied nutrition.

Here is an example from nutrition:
There is a book meant for medical folks, Martin Kohlmeier 'Nutrigenetics: Applying the Science of Personal Nutrition'

Without going into a lot of detail, there is a genetic disease, Celiac Disease, (CD).
https://medlineplus.gov/celiacdisease.html

This is the (maybe partial) inability to safely metabolize a protein found in wheat - called gluten. It is caused by alleles of the set of genes HLA-DQA1, HLA-DQB1. These genes provide instructions for immune response. We all have them, some few people have variant alleles which cause the disease because the immune process goes overboard in the presence of gluten. Many foods may have trace gluten amounts as a contaminant as well. Hence the 'Gluten Free' label on processed foods in the US.

The disease shows itself in reactions like:
exposure to gluten is fatal (anaphylactic shock https://www.healthline.com/health/anaphylactic-shock) without prompt medical intervention

...on down to ...

diarrhea and allergic responses like rashes.

This disease is hard to diagnose at the less dangerous end of the response spectrum. A full genome report would be conclusive. But they are not cheap.

Let's assume humans have 30000 genes, many of them come in different variants (alleles). So, from the example above, we might say that whether some trace element and its required dose is a problem or not may be VERY difficult to determine for a particular person. Even with a full genome report. And we have lots of potential trace chemicals to worry about. Including gluten.

Very difficult problem.
 
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