Manganese, an Essential Element
Mn is a critical metal in many defense and defense-related private sector applications including steel making and fabrication, improved fuel efficiency, and welding, and a vital and large component in portable power sources (batteries). At the current time, there is much debate concerning the potential adverse health effects of the use of manganese in these and other applications. Due to the significant use of manganese by the Department of Defense, its contractors and its suppliers, the Manganese Health Research Program (MHRP) seeks to use the resources of the federal government, in tandem with manganese researchers, as well as those industries that are involved with manganese, to determine the exact health effects of manganese, as well as to devise proper safeguard measures for both public and private sector workers.
Humans require manganese as an essential element; however, exposure to high levels of this metal is sometimes associated with adverse health effects, most notably within the central nervous system. Exposure scenarios vary extensively in relation to geographical location, urban versus rural environment, lifestyles, diet, and occupational setting. Furthermore, exposure may be brief or chronic, it may be to different types of manganese compounds (aerosols or salts of manganese with different physical and/or chemical properties), and it may occur at different life-stages (e.g., in utero, neonatal life, puberty, adult life, or senescence). These factors along with diverse genetic composition that imposes both a background and disease occurrence likely reflect on differential sensitivity of individuals to manganese exposure. Unraveling these complexities requires a multi-pronged research approach to address multiple questions about the role of manganese as an essential metal as well as its modulation of disease processes and dysfunction.