The benefits of barium for life processes in plants and animals is, as yet, unknown although it does act to stimulate the metabolism. Barium is a mineral with the atomic number 56, that is ubiquitous in soils, being found at concentrations ranging from 100-3000 µg/g. An average soil concentration of 500 mg/kg. Due to its abundance in soils, barium may be present in the air in areas with high natural dust levels. Barium can be transported into ground water aquifers through the leaching and eroding of barium from sedimentary rocks. The level of barium present in the water table is related to the hardness of the water, since barium is always present with calcium.
Human blood contains 0.08-0.4 mg Ba/l; most or all is in the plasma fraction. It also contains it in the following places: bone 4.1-29 ug Ba/g; blood 41-95 ug Ba/g; kidney 1.3-20 ug Ba/g; liver 0.2-10 ug Ba/g; spleen 0.6-12 ug Ba/g. Assuming an average of 70 kg as human body weight, the barium content has been estimated to be 16 mg. Therefore the body contains on average about 22 mg of barium and 66% of it is in the bones.
Excessive amounts of water-soluble barium may cause a person to experience the following adverse health effects:
Arrhythmia (heart rhythm changes)
Changes in nerve reflexes
Increased blood pressure
Heart, kidney or liver damage
Swelling of brain
However, barium has not shown to cause cancer in humans.
Barium is found in grain stalks, forage plants, red ash leaves and black walnut, hickory and Brazil nut trees. With the exception of the Brazil nut tree, those parts of the plants that accumulate barium are seldom eaten by man.
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