Both plants and animals require certain minerals to grow and thrive. These essential minerals are acquired through food and water. However, some minerals are poisonous, even in minute amounts. Heavy metals; named because they are dense elements found in the metal portion of the periodic table, can cause acute or chronic toxicity in animals. Common sources of heavy metals include plant-derived feedstuffs, polluted soils, industrial wastes, fish meals, mineral supplements or premixes, feed therapeutics, and surface or well waters. New agricultural practices such as the use of municipal and livestock wastes on croplands and increased feeding of recycled or upcycled plant and animal products may result in greater exposure of animals to toxic levels of heavy metals.
Heavy metals can have adverse effects on animal health and growth. These toxic effects depend on the concentration and length of exposure to the heavy metal(s). Symptoms range from slow growth and poor reproduction to significant impairment or death. Heavy metals cause oxidative damage, impair the absorption of other essential minerals, and they can mimic or alter the action of hormones needed for bodily functions. Many heavy metals are difficult to excrete and can accumulate in the body over time, causing toxic impairment in older animals.
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