Sculptor unknowingly poisons self with own art, will ‘never fully recover’

When a sculptor in Toronto began feeling ailing in 2013, she had no concept that her artwork was the rationale why. The sculptor, Gillian Genser, had been utilizing blue mussel shells in her sculptures for the previous 15 years, and, in consequence, unknowingly poisoning herself.

The offender? Heavy metals, together with arsenic and lead, discovered within the mussel shells. In a transferring private essay printed Nov. 28 in Toronto Life, Genser described the onset of her signs — which started with agitation, complications and vomiting, and later progressed to signs resembling listening to loss in a single ear and short-term reminiscence issues. It took two years for medical doctors to nail down the analysis of heavy steel poisoning.


Certainly, Genser wrote, it wasn’t till she visited the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and spoke with a curator of invertebrates that she put the items collectively. The curator advised Genser that toxins can construct up within the shells of invertebrates, main her to analysis blue mussels. As Dwell Science has beforehand reported, chemical compounds accumulate in mussels as they filter feed, making them good barometers for water pollution.

Genser wrote that, in her case, the mussels she had been working with possible got here from water contaminated with industrial waste. After 15 years of working with the mussel shells, she had constructed up excessive ranges of arsenic and lead in her blood. She’s going to “by no means totally get well” and continues to stay with many signs, she wrote. Nonetheless, she went on to finish her mussel-sculpture, an outline of the biblical Adam, in 2015. She calls him her “lovely dying.”


Heavy-metal poisoning happens when an excessive amount of of a heavy steel accumulates in an individual’s physique, in line with Nationwide Group for Uncommon Issues (NORD). At excessive ranges, heavy metals can change sure minerals in a wide range of processes within the physique, which might have deleterious results.

The signs of heavy-metal poisoning can range, relying on the metals concerned, in line with NORD. Each arsenic and lead poisoning trigger a variety of signs and could be life-threatening. Arsenic poisoning, for instance, could cause signs resembling complications, drowsiness, confusion and seizures, in addition to intestinal issues. Lead poisoning in adults could cause signs resembling hypertension, muscle weak point and nerve ache.

Initially printed on Dwell Science.

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