A review of the health impacts of barium from natural and anthropogenic exposure

Julia Kravchenko, Thomas H. Darrah, Richard K. Miller, H. Kim Lyerly, Avner Vengosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

192 Scopus citations


There is an increasing public awareness of the relatively new and expanded industrial barium uses which are potential sources of human exposure (e.g., a shale gas development that causes an increased awareness of environmental exposures to barium). However, absorption of barium in exposed humans and a full spectrum of its health effects, especially among chronically exposed to moderate and low doses of barium populations, remain unclear. We suggest a systematic literature review (from 1875 to 2014) on environmental distribution of barium, its bioaccumulation, and potential and proven health impacts (in animal models and humans) to provide the information that can be used for optimization of future experimental and epidemiological studies and developing of mitigative and preventive strategies to minimize negative health effects in exposed populations. The potential health effects of barium exposure are largely based on animal studies, while epidemiological data for humans, specifically for chronic low-level exposures, are sparse. The reported health effects include cardiovascular and kidney diseases, metabolic, neurological, and mental disorders. Age, race, dietary patterns, behavioral risks (e.g., smoking), use of medications (those that interfere with absorbed barium in human organism), and specific physiological status (e.g., pregnancy) can modify barium effects on human health. Identifying, evaluating, and predicting the health effects of chronic low-level and moderate-level barium exposures in humans is challenging: Future research is needed to develop an understanding of barium bioaccumulation in order to mitigate its potential health impacts in various exposured populations. Further, while occupationally exposed at-risk populations exist, it is also important to identify potentially vulnerable subgroups among non-occupationally exposed populations (e.g., elderly, pregnant women, children) who are at higher risk of barium exposure from drinking water and food.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-814
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Geochemistry and Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Barium
  • Barium chloride
  • Barium exposure
  • Drinking water
  • Health effects
  • Hydraulic fracturing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science (all)
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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