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J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1999;37(2):145-72.

Selenium.

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1
dgbarcelou@aol.com

Abstract

The 4 natural oxidation states of selenium are elemental selenium (0), selenide (-2), selenite (+4), and selenate (+6). Inorganic selenate and selenite predominate in water whereas organic selenium compounds (selenomethionine, selenocysteine) are the major selenium species in cereal and in vegetables. The principal applications of selenium include the manufacture of ceramics, glass, photoelectric cells, pigments, rectifiers, semiconductors, and steel as well as use in photography, pharmaceutical production, and rubber vulcanizing. High concentrations of selenium in surface and in ground water usually occur in farm areas where irrigation water drains from soils with high selenium content (Kesterson Reservoir, California) or in lakes receiving condenser cooling water from coal-fired electric power plants (Belews Lake, North Carolina). For the general population, the primary pathway of exposure to selenium is food, followed by water and air. Both selenite and selenate possess substantial bioavailability. However, plants preferentially absorb selenates and convert them to organic compounds. Aquatic organisms (e.g., bivalves) can accumulate and magnify selenium in the food chain. Selenium is an essential component of glutathione peroxidase, which is an important enzyme for processes that protect lipids in polyunsaturated membranes from oxidative degradation. Inadequate concentrations of selenium in the Chinese diet account, at least in part, for the illness called Keshan disease. Selenium deficiency occurs in the geographic areas where Balkan nephropathy appears, but there is no direct evidence that selenium deficiency contributes to the development of this chronic, progressive kidney disease. Several lines of scientific inquiry suggest that an increased risk of cancer occurs as a result of low concentrations of selenium in the diet; however, insufficient evidence exists at the present time to recommend the use of selenium supplements for the prevention of cancer. The toxicity of most forms of selenium is low and the toxicity depends on the chemical form of selenium. The acute ingestion of selenious acid is almost invariably fatal, preceded by stupor, hypotension, and respiratory depression. Chronic selenium poisoning has been reported in China where changes in the hair and nails resulted from excessive environmental exposures to selenium. Garlic odor on the breath is an indication of excessive selenium exposure as a result of the expiration of dimethyl selenide. The US National Toxicology Program lists selenium sulfide as an animal carcinogen, but there is no evidence that other selenium compounds are carcinogens.

PMID:
10382553
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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