The action of copper is very similar to that of silver and zinc. Metallic copper is inert. The salts are not absorbed by the unbroken skin, but applied to mucous membranes and exposed tissues they are caustic, stimulant, and astringent. Internally in small doses they have the last two, and also tonic, qualities; and in large doses act on the stomach as irritants, causing vomiting, and on the intestines as irritant purga tives. Copper salts enter the blood very slowly, and are eliminated by the saliva, bile, faeces, and urine. The metal is not official.

Preparations Of Copper

Cupri Sulphas. Copper Sulphate

Sometimes called blue vitriol, or bluestone. Externally it is used as an escharotic, and internally as a tonic and astringent.

Symptoms Of Poisoning

In cases of acute poisoning by blue vitriol, as much as ℥ ss. or upwards will produce the following symptoms, which come on in a few minutes: A strong metallic taste in the mouth; nausea, and vomiting of bluish or greenish liquids; a feeling of constriction in the throat; a distended abdomen; colicky pains in the stomach and bowels; diarrhoea and tenesmus. These symptoms are fully developed in one or two hours. Then follow rapid and difficult breathing; small, quick pulse; great thirst; cold perspiration; weakness, giddiness, stupor, coma, convulsions, and paralysis. Death may occur in a few hours, or be delayed several days.

Treatment Of Poisoning

Albumin, as white of egg, milk, wheat flour, should be given, and then, as the albuminate of copper is not entirely harmless, the stomach should be well washed out with plenty of warm water. Stomach-pump used if necessary. The chemical antidote is potassium ferro-cyanide, but with this, too, emesis should follow promptly.

Average dose (medicinal), gr. 1/16-0.004 Gm.

Average dose (emetic), gr. iv.-0.25 Gm.

Copper poisoning, acute and chronic, may result from the use of dirty copper dishes and cooking utensils, and from cooking acid fruits in copper. Chronic poisoning is also caused by the inhalation of the fumes of copper, as in certain occupations, and by the adulteration of certain articles of food, as pickles, which are sometimes colored green with copper. Chronic poisoning presents the same symptoms as the acute form, but in a lesser degree, and death may result from exhaustion.