Modified on 2010/04/05 16:29 by Chrissie Cole
Zinc is an essential food element required by the body in low doses. Zinc is found naturally in air, soil, and water, and is present in all foods. Diets lacking in zinc can lead to poor health and lowered immune response. However, excessive intake or exposure to zinc can be harmful. Zinc usually enters the body when a person consumes food, drink, or dietary supplements containing the element. Drinking water supplies contaminated with excessive levels of zinc are a major source of exposure. The element can also enter through the lungs when zinc dust or fumes are inhaled in the workplace or elsewhere. Normally, zinc leaves the body in urine and feces.

Zinc Toxicity

Exposure to elevated levels of zinc may interfere with the body's immune system and affect the body's ability to utilize other essential minerals. In addition, excessive dietary intake of zinc may cause digestive problems such as stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting. When large amounts of zinc are inhaled, a short-term disease called metal fume fever may occur. Scientists do not know whether zinc plays a role in cancer.

Zinc poisoning includes the following symptoms: skin reactions, Gastrointestinal disturbances, liver dysfunction, fever, shaking chills, headache and cough.

A recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health involving 47,000 American men linked zinc supplementation to an increased risk of prostate cancer.

Review literature on manifestations of toxicity at several levels of zinc intake.


Zinc toxicity is also a concern for pets. The Pet Food Products Safety Alliance (PFPSA) a non-profit group, tested NUTRO cat food and discovered the levels of zinc were “sky high” enough to cause kidney and liver damage, and gastrointestinal problems. The company blamed the high levels of zinc on a production error. And the products were recalled.

Greg Webb, an Injury Board Partner, wrote in June about consumers filing product liability suits alleging that denture cream use causes zinc buildup and neurological problems. A dozen cases in federal courts in California, Colorado, Florida, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee target Poligrip manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Fixodent manufacturer Procter & Gamble Co., and the companies’ subsidiaries.


In February, GlaxoSmithKline announced it was taking voluntary, precautionary action to end the manufacture and supply of Poligrip products containing zinc because they became aware of potential health problems associated with the long-term excessive use of our zinc-containing denture adhesive products.

See your doctor if you have experienced serious health problems because of excessive zinc exposure.

See Also

  1. Toxic & Hazardous Substances
  2. Anemia
  3. Digestive Disorders: Overview
  4. Immune Disorders
  5. Lung & Airway Disorders
  6. Men's Health Matters
  7. Metal Fume Fever: Overview
  8. Nausea: Overview
  9. Skin Disorders: Overview
  10. Zinc: Frequently Asked Questions
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