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Grand Canyon zinc poisoning hazard

Grand Canyon zinc poisoning hazard

C041/5647

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Credit

DAVID PARKER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DAVID PARKER / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Large rock in the Grand Canyon covered in coins left by tourists. Despite signs alerting tourists of the danger to wildlife from ingesting these coins, particularly birds, the practice continues. While some coins can be safely ingested and passed out in the stool a few days later, some types of coins contain large amounts of zinc, resulting in zinc poisoning. When the zinc-containing coin enters the acid environment of the stomach, the zinc breaks down, causing stomach upset and zinc absorption into the blood stream. Zinc poisoning can lead to destruction of red blood cells, liver damage, kidney failure and heart failure.

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