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Manganese (Mn) is a component of several minerals in the earth’s crust and is an abundant element. It is distributed to the environment through dust and industrial emissions during the production of iron alloys and coal burning. Manganese is a very brittle, hard metal of grey-black colour. It is present in most foods and drinking water, although at low levels. Its ores are mined to extract the metal. Manganese oxides and carbonates are used in glass, porcelain and ceramic manufacture and as colourants for coloured glass. The metal is also used in dry cell batteries and as a catalyst. Manganese sulfate is used in dyeing, fertilisers, ore flotation and as a fungicide.
Manganese exposure in air can result in a number of adverse health effects depending on the concentration and duration of exposure. These include oxidative stress, respiratory illness and neurotoxicity. Neurotoxicity is manifested as a number of symptoms including muscular weakness, speech disturbances and headaches. It may be accompanied by a feeling of lethargy and anorexia and a tendency to develop infections.
Manganese dioxide is the most toxic form of the metal and is primarily associated with respiratory disorders such as bronchitis/pneumonitis and a type of lung cancer called manganese pneumonosis. It is also an important contaminant in the environment, particularly in acid mine drainage. Manganese chloride is used as a precursor to other manganese compounds and in the chlorination of organic compounds. Potassium permanganate is an oxidising agent, disinfectant and anti-algal agent. The compound is also used as a varnish drier and in dyeing.