A series of patients in the emergency department diagnosed with copper poisoning: recognition equals treatment

Tohoku J Exp Med. 2006 Jul;209(3):243-8. doi: 10.1620/tjem.209.243.


Only scarce data are available on chronic copper poisoning in general toxicology literature. This paper reports four patients with chronic copper poisoning and one patient with acute poisoning. The cases with chronic poisoning in our study consisted of four members of a farmer family presenting to the emergency department (ED) with malaise, weakness, abdominal pain, headache, dizziness, tightness in the chest, leg and back pain, accompanied by significant anemia (hemoglobin [Hb]: 8.7 - 9.5 g/dl). They were hospitalized and investigated thoroughly, although there were no other findings or clues enlightening the etiology of anemia. The anemia was attributed to chronic copper exposure acquired from vegetables containing copper. The diagnosis was established by ruling out other possible etiologies and history coupled with laboratory findings. The patients were discharged with the recommendation on diet to avoid consumption of pesticide-treated vegetables. Their Hb values were between 10 and 11.4 g/dl on the 15th day, and between 12 and 14 g/dl after two months. Their symptoms had also resolved completely in two months. The patient with acute intoxication (5th case) had ingested copper oxychloride with suicidal intent. He was admitted with anuria and hemolytic anemia. After being hospitalized for fifteen days, he was diagnosed with chronic renal failure and was scheduled for a dialysis program. Acute poisoning is more deliberate, while chronic exposure may result in atypical findings. In conclusion, physicians working in primary care and EDs should consider copper poisoning in patients presenting with anemia, abdominal pain, headache, tightness in the chest, and leg and back pain.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Anemia, Hemolytic / chemically induced
  • Chronic Disease
  • Copper / poisoning*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / chemically induced
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pesticide Residues / poisoning
  • Poisoning / diagnosis*
  • Poisoning / therapy*
  • Renal Dialysis
  • Suicide, Attempted


  • Pesticide Residues
  • copper oxychloride
  • Copper