People with high levels of
the metal tungsten in their bodies are at increased risk for stroke, according
to a new study.
Tungsten is widely used in
consumer items such as cell phones and computers, as well as many industrial
and military products.
Researchers analysed data
collected from more than 8 600 Americans, aged 18 to 74, over 12 years. People
with higher tungsten levels in the body (measured by urine samples) had double
the normal risk of stroke, according to the study, which was published in the
journal PLoS One.
The researchers at the
University of Exeter, in England, also found that tungsten could be a
significant risk factor for stroke in people younger than 50.
"While currently very
low, human exposure to tungsten is set to increase," study lead author Dr
Jessica Tyrrell said in a university news release. "We're not yet sure why
some members of the population have higher levels of the metal in their
make-up, and an important step in understanding and preventing the risks it may
pose to health will be to get to the bottom of how it's ending up in our
Tip of the iceberg
Although the study found an
association between higher levels of tungsten in the body and increased stroke
risk, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.
we're seeing between tungsten and stroke may only be the tip of the
iceberg," study co-author Dr Nicholas Osborne said in the news release.
"As numerous new
substances make their way into the environment, we're accumulating a complex
'chemical cocktail' in our bodies," Osborne said. "Currently, we have
incredibly limited information on the health effects of individual chemicals
and no research has explored how these compounds might interact together to
impact human health."
With largely unknown health
effects, tungsten has been identified as a toxic substance of emerging concern.
This study is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the potential health
effects of the metal, the researchers said.
Stroke is the second
leading cause of death in the Western world, according to the World Health
Organization, and it's the leading cause of disability in adults.
The US National Institute
of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about stroke.