Importance of Inorganic Compounds to Human Health


Discuss the importance of Inorganic Compounds to Human Health


Inorganic compounds play significant role as pharmaceuticals, medicinal agents and industrial raw materials. In the human body, inorganic compounds play major roles and some of the importance are as follow;

  1. Inorganic compounds are used as Topical Agents.

Topical agents are substances which are used on the body surface and mucous membranes for localized effects within the skin or membrane. These include antibiotics, antiseptic, corticosteroids, antineoplastics, local anesthetics etc. Locally acting topical agents have limited chemical and pharmacological activity generally have a physical basis of action.

They are classified as

• Protective agents

A protective is any agent that isolates the exposed surface (skin or other membranes) from harmful or annoying stimuli. Protective agents are applied to the skin to prevent irritation. In some severe conditions, irritation can lead to death. They are usually insoluble and chemically inert hence, would not cause any destructive interaction with the tissues. Insolubility is a desirable property for protectives because this limits the absorption of the compounds through the skin makes it difficult to wash them off and diminishes metallic properties on tissue. Examples include Talc, insoluble zinc compounds such as ZnO, calamine BP and silicone polymers e.g simethicone

• Antimicrobial agents;

Antimicrobial topical agents are classified into oxidizing and protein-precipitant. 

  1. Oxidizing antimicrobials act through oxidative mechanisms.Examples include hydrogen peroxide (H2O2 ), metal peroxides (sodium, barium and zinc peroxides) and peroxyacids such as sodium perborate BP (NaBO2 .H2O2 .3H2O). They are used as antiseptics because of their ability to liberate oxygen when in contact with tissue. The antiseptic action is associated with mechanical cleansing provided by rapid foaming release of oxygen. This helps removal of dirt and bacteria from cuts and wounds, and act as cleansing antiseptic.
  2. Protein-precipitant antimicrobials

The interaction of proteins with metallic ions such as Copper,Silver and Aluminium usually leads to precipitation of the proteins. Soluble silver salts, such as AgNO3 (0.5-1.0%w/v) aqueous solution, are used for wet dressing on burned areas in third degree burns. The silver nitrate (AgNO3) complexes with the protein in the wound tissue to form heavy precipitate which hinders bacteria action. Polar groups present in protein such as –SH, -NH2 , -COOH are reacted with the metal ions like silver.Other dermatological agents such as Na2S2O3 is used topically to prevent spreading of ringworm while CdS and SeS2 are used in the treatment of dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis of the scalp.

  • Inorganic compounds are used as Gastrointestinal Medications as;

 • Antacids

Antacids are alkaline bases which are used to neutralise excess gastric hydrochloric acid which may be causing pain and possible ulceration in oesophageal, gastric and duodenal ulcer or to inactivate the proteolytic enzyme pepsin. Antacids also act as protective for intestinal inflammation. • Inorganic compounds used as antacids include Salts of Sodium (eg.NaCl) , Aluminium (eg. AlCl3), Calcium(CaCl2), Magnesiu(MgCl2) and Bismuth

Several combination of antacid preparations have been formulated with the aim to balance the constipative effect of Calcium and Aluminium with the laxative effect of magnesium or to provide suitable duration of action. Examples include: Aludrox, Maalox, Gelusil, Mylanta, Mygel, Digel.

• Laxatives or cathartics (purgatives);

Laxatives are substances that are used to quicken or increase evacuation from the bowels. Laxatives are usually used for short term therapy since prolonged or excessive use may disturb the normal functioning of the intestine and cause patient to be dependent on the laxative. Examples of laxatives include sodium salts such as sodium sulphate BP [sodium tetraoxosulphate(VI) or Glauber’s salt], and sodium hydrogen phosphate BP [sodium hydrogen tetraoxophosphate (V)], Magnesium compounds such as magnesium citrate USP and magnesium sulphate BP [magnesium tetraoxosulphate (VI), Epsom salt].

Sulphur and calomel [mercury(I) chloride] is no longer in use due to toxicity. 

• Adsorbents for intestinal toxins: adsorb bacteria and chemical toxins as well as form protective coating along the intestinal mucosa

Adsorbents are used to adsorb toxins and poisons in acute diarrhoea caused by bacteria toxins, chemical poisons, drugs, allergy or disease. Examples include bismuth salts (eg. bismuth subcarbonate, subgallate and subnitrate), calcium carbonate, activated clays such as Kaolin and activated charcoal.

  • Inorganic compounds are used as dental agents;

A number of inorganic compounds are used in dentistry as anti-caries (anti-tooth decay) agents and for cleaning and for polishing teeth surfaces in tooth pastes. Most toothpastes contain fluoride, recommended to be effective anti-cavity agent. It acts by combating the acidity of the oral cavity, thus helps in preventing dental caries. The deposited fluoride on the surface of teeth prevent the action of acids and enzymes in producing lesions. It must however be noted that too much fluoride carried to bones and teeth causes mottled enamel known as dental fluorosis. Children toothpaste contain little or no fluoride.Dentifrices contain common cleaning and polishing agents for tooth surfaces. These include: insoluble sodium metaphosphate (NaPO4), Calcium hydrogen phosphate (CaHPO4 ) and Calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Cleaning and polishing agents remove stains from teeth by abrasive action.

  • Inorganic compounds are used as Body Electrolytes;

Body electrolytes are the essential minerals found in the blood, sweat and urine. When these minerals dissolve in a fluid, they form electrolytes — positive or negative ions used in metabolic processes. These electrolytes are required for various bodily processes, including proper nerve and muscle function, maintaining acid-base balance and keeping you hydrated. These electrolytes are required for various bodily processes, including proper nerve and muscle function, maintaining acid-base balance and keeping you hydrated. 

  • Your brain sends electrical signals through your nerve cells to communicate with the cells throughout your body. These signals are called nervous impulses, and they’re generated by changes to the electrical charge of the nerve cell membrane. The changes occur due to the movement of the electrolyte Sodium (Na+) across the nerve cell membrane. When this happens, it sets off a chain reaction, moving more sodium ions (and the change in charge) along the length of the nerve cell axon. Water must be kept in the right amounts both inside and outside each cell in your body. Electrolytes, particularly sodium, help maintain fluid balance through osmosis. This prevents cells from bursting from being too full or shriveling up due to dehydration.
  • The electrolyte Calcium (Ca2+) is needed for muscle contraction. Since a large percentage (99%) of the body’s calcium ion is deposited in the bones and teeth, it allows muscle fibers to slide together and move over each other as the muscle shortens and contracts. Also, Calcium chloride, given orally or intravenously, is the calcium source in many commercially available electrolyte replacement and maintenance solutions.Other sources of calcium are calcium gluconate BP, calcium lactate BP, and calcium hydrogen phosphate BP. Calcium ion is vital for normal muscle and nerve function and it is essential to the clotting of blood.
  • Electrolyte Magnesium ( Mg2+) is essential to life as it is a co-factor in numerous enzyme systems involved in phosphate transfer, muscle contractility and neuron transmission. Magnesium is also required in this process so that the muscle fibers can slide outward and muscles can relax after contraction. It plays important role in the structure of skeleton and muscles.
  • Electrolyte Potassium (K+) is essential for growth, normal cell functioning and metabolism as well as cardiac function. It is involved in trans-membrane potential and has profound effect on muscle. The salt for potassium replacement is potassium chloride, given orally as enteric coated tablets or as injection such as Ringer’s solution.
  •  Inorganic compounds have also found use in the complexation and chelating agents in metal poisoning and in quantitative analysis, diagnostic agents and artificial atmospheres (where oxygen, carbon dioxide, helium, nitrogen and nitrous oxide are used).

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