(NaturalNews) A new study has found there are higher levels of potentially toxic manganese in a number of residential neighborhoods that are located near industrial or manufacturing sites at various locations around the country.
The study, conducted by researchers from Kansas State University (KSU), Columbia University and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Department of Environmental Health Sciences, found varying levels of manganese in analyzed samples of airborne particulate matter from Sacramento County, Calif., Pinellas County, Fla., Anoka County, Minn., Harris County, Texas and Maricopa County, Ariz.
While not much research has been done on just what levels of manganese are thought to be toxic, if any, Saugata Datta, assistant professor of geology at KSU, says the most recent research on the element, as it relates to air quality, is not looking good.
"Manganese is an element that was originally thought to have a lot of nutritional aspects for humans and was relatively harmless health-wise," he said. "But more recently that thinking is changing. Manganese is a neurotoxin at certain levels when in water, so there is a question about if it's toxic in air, too."
High manganese levels problematic
The level of manganese measured at each of the five sample sites, researchers say, ranged from 0.01 micrograms/mg to 0.67 micrograms/mg. In addition, "sample compositions also varied in types of manganese, which included manganese-2 oxide, manganese-3 oxide, manganese-2 acetate, manganese-2 pyrophosphate and manganese-2 sulfate at various levels at each location," said a synopsis of the study.
"Because the levels of manganese have not been monitored very much, it's hard to say whether these are high, low or average levels," Datta noted. That said, studies of whether manganese has implications on human health have shown it to be problematic, he said.
"Toxicological studies have linked airborne particulate matter containing manganese to respiratory and cardiovascular health. Additionally, long-term inhalation of manganese has been attributed to manganism, an irreversible disease similar to Parkinson's," said the study synopsis.
Researchers also said levels of manganese found in areas near gas, power and petroleum manufacturing and refinery sites were higher even than those found near the industrial sites.
Arsenic and manganese connection?
Datta is also conducting research on India's groundwater, which contains manganese and arsenic. According to preliminary data, researchers have discovered that if arsenic is found in ground water, so, too, is manganese. The KSU team may have also found that as higher levels of arsenic are found, there are lower levels of manganese, and vice versa, though they offered no explanation of this phenomenon.
"These studies are a unique set of work that not many people are looking at," Datta said. "We're attacking manganese, understanding the toxicity levels and understanding its chemistry in both air and in water. Both are pathways to be ingested by humans."
"In air most of it is caused by vehicles and industries, but in water it is affected by sediments that leach out," he continued. "We want to attack back."
The element arsenic is a metalloid that is generally found in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals. It's most often used to strengthen alloys of copper and especially lead, such as car batteries. A 1999 study by the National Academy of Sciencesfound that arsenic in drinking water causes bladder, lung and skin cancer, and may cause kidney and liver cancer. It can also cause harm to the central and peripheral nervous systems, as well as heart and blood vessels, and causes serious skin problems, and may be responsible for birth defects and reproductive problems.
Manganese is a metal with important industrial metal alloy uses, particularly in stainless steels. It, too, is a commonly occurring element, most often found in minerals. A study in Canada found that increased levels of the mineral in water resulted in a measurable decrease in the intellect of children who drank the water.