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What is the risk of iron toxicity?

There is considerable potential for iron toxicity because very little iron is excreted from the body. Thus, iron can accumulate in body tissues and organs when normal storage sites are full. For example, people with hemachromatosis are at risk of developing iron toxicity because of their high iron stores.

In children, death has occurred from ingesting 200 mg of iron [7]. It is important to keep iron supplements tightly capped and away from children’s reach.Any time excessive iron intake is suspected, immediatelycall your physician or Poison Control Center, or visit your local emergency room. Doses of iron prescribed for iron deficiency anemia in adults are associated with constipation, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, especially when the supplements are taken on an empty stomach [1].

In 2001, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences set a tolerable upper intake level (UL) for iron for healthy people [1]. There may be times when a physician prescribes an intake higher than the upper limit, such as when individuals with iron deficiency anemia need higher doses to replenish their iron stores. Table 5 lists the ULs for healthy adults, children, and infants 7 to 12 months of age [1].

Table 5: Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for Iron for Infants 7 to 12 months, Children, and Adults [1]

Age Males
(mg/day)
Females
(mg/day)
Pregnancy
(mg/day)
Lactation
(mg/day)
7 to 12 months 40 40 N/A N/A
1 to 13 years 40 40 N/A N/A
14 to 18 years 45 45 45 45
19 + years 45 45 45 45

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