Abstract

In classical toxicology, speciation of carbon is taken for granted and the carbon compounds responsible for toxicity are always described with the appropriate chemical nomenclature. By contrast, speciation of other elements is largely ignored and elements other than carbon are often condemned as toxic because of evidence relating toxicity to only a few of the chemical species in which they occur. In some cases, such as chromium, the distinction between oxidation states (chromium III and chromium VI) may be recognized as important. The fact that chromium VI may only be a toxicological problem in certain well defined forms, such as specific chromate salts that may cause nasal and lung cancer, and then only by the respiratory route of exposure, is largely ignored. Failure to consider properly chemical speciation of elements other than carbon can lead to poor use of our resources. Laws and regulations based on simple elemental analysis may wrongly condemn environmental media or products as toxic and prevent the use of important resources.

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