Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 18, pp 18032–18052 | Cite as

Natural antidotes and management of metal toxicity

  • Cecilia Nwadiuto Amadi
  • Samuel James Offor
  • Chiara Frazzoli
  • Orish Ebere OrisakweEmail author
Review Article


The global burden of heavy metal especially mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium toxicities remains a significant public health challenge. Developing nations are particularly at high risk and carry the highest burden of this hazard. Chelation therapy has been the mainstay for treatment of heavy metal poisoning where the chelating agent binds metal ions to form complex ring–like structures called “chelates” to enhance their elimination from the body. Metal chelators have some drawbacks such as redistribution of some heavy metals from other tissues to the brain thereby increasing its neurotoxicity, causing loss of essential metals such as copper and zinc as well as some serious adverse effects, e.g., hepatotoxicity. The use of natural antidotes, which are easily available, affordable, and with little or no side effects compared to the classic metal chelators, is the focus of this review and suggested as cheaper options for developing nations in the treatment of heavy metal poisoning.


Antioxidants Chelators Developing nations Heavy metal toxicity Metabolic disease Public health 



Authors acknowledge efforts of the non-profit African organization Noodles ( in boosting environmental health and food safety in Africa.

Authors’ contribution

CNA: literature search, draft manuscripts, and illustration of the figures; SJO: literature search, draft manuscripts; CF and OEO: conceptualized and manuscript review.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Experimental Pharmacology & Toxicology, Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of Port-HarcourtPort-HarcourtNigeria
  2. 2.Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of UyoUyoNigeria
  3. 3.Department of Cardiovascular and Endocrine-Metabolic Diseases, and AgeingIstituto Superiore di Sanità (Italian National Institute of Health)RomeItaly

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