Copper poisoning

Poisoning from an overdose of copper.

Poisonous Ingredient 


Where Found 

  • Copper wire  
  • Some aquarium products  
  • Clinitest tablets (see Clinitest tablets overdose)  
  • Vitamin and/or mineral supplements

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.


Acute overdose by ingestion may cause vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and jaundice. External contamination from copper can result in hair discoloration (green).

  • Body as a whole       o Burning sensation       o Metallic taste       o Pain       o Shock       o No urine output       o Convulsions       o Fever       o Muscular aches       o Chills       o Weakness       o Anemia  
  • Yellow eyes  
  • Yellow skin  
  • Gastrointestinal       o Nausea and/or vomiting       o Diarrhea

Home Treatment 

Seek emergency medical care immediately.

The normal treatment is to induce vomiting unless the patient is unconscious or experiencing convulsions. Before inducing vomiting, contact Poison Control to verify that is the correct treatment.

If instructed to induce emesis, proceed as follows or as otherwise instructed:

  • Give the usual dose of ipecac syrup: 15 mL (1 tablespoon) for children and 30 mL (2 tablespoons) for an adult.  
  • Follow with 1/2 cup (4 oz) of water for children or 8-12 oz. of water for adults.  
  • Repeat if vomiting has not occurred in 1/2 hour.

Before Calling Emergency 

Determine the following information:

  • The patient’s age, weight, and condition  
  • The name of the product (and ingredients and strengths, if known)  
  • The time it was swallowed  
  • The amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number 
See Poison Control centers for telephone numbers and addresses. Bring a sample with you to the emergency room.

What to expect at the emergency room 

Some or all of the following procedures may be performed:

  • Induce vomiting  
  • Administer activated charcoal  
  • Use gastric lavage  
  • Administer an antidote  
  • Dialysis  
  • Treat the symptoms

Expectations (prognosis) 
If treated promptly and properly, copper poisoning is rarely severe. If toxicity is due to long-time accumulation, the ultimate outcome depends on the extent of damage in body organs affected by the metal.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 5, 2012
by Potos A. Aagen, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.