Many of the heavy metals such as mercury, lead, thallium, cadmium, and arsenic exert toxic effects largely by binding to or otherwise interfering with organic sulfur compounds or groups in the body. What is the chemical reason that many of these heavy metal elements and their compounds seem to bind easily to sulfur and sulfur compounds?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ HSAB explains this fairly decently $\endgroup$
    – orthocresol
    Apr 2 '17 at 0:27
  • $\begingroup$ Strongly related: chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/275/… $\endgroup$ Apr 2 '17 at 3:09
  • $\begingroup$ Roughly speaking, they both have big squishy electron density, so they smudge together very easily (soft acid-base as orthocresol suggests). $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Apr 2 '17 at 4:09

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