Manganese is a very hard, brittle metal, which is used to increase the strength of steel alloys. Absorption from the gastrointestinal tract occurs in the divalent and tetravalent forms. Permanganates, which are strong oxidizing agents, have a +7 valence. The principal organomanganese compound is the anti-knock additive, methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl. Manganese is a ubiquitous constituent of the environment comprising about 0.1% of the earth's crust. For the general population, food is the most important source of manganese with daily intake ranging from 2-9 mg Mn. Combustion of gasoline containing methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl releases submicron particles of Mn3O4 that are potentially respirable. Biomagnification of manganese in the food chain probably does not occur. The lungs and gastrointestinal tract absorb some manganese, but the relative amounts absorbed from each site are not known. Homeostatic mechanisms limit the absorption of manganese from the gastrointestinal tract. Elimination of manganese occurs primarily by excretion into the bile. Animal studies indicate that manganese is an essential co-factor for enzymes, such as hexokinase, superoxide dismutase, and xanthine oxidase. However, no case of manganese deficiency in humans has been identified. Manganism is a central nervous system disease first described in the 1800s following exposure to high concentrations of manganese oxides. Manganese madness was the term used to describe the initial psychiatric syndrome (compulsive behavior, emotional lability, hallucinations). More commonly, these workers developed a Parkinson's-like syndrome. Currently, the risks of exposure to low concentrations of manganese in the industrial and in the environmental settings (e.g., methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl in gasoline) are being evaluated with regards to the development of subclinical neuropsychological changes. The American Conference of Governmental and Industrial Hygienists recently lowered the TLV-TWA for manganese compounds and inorganic manganese compounds to 0.2 mg Mn/m3.
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