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Wife’s Killer Blames Metals Toxicity

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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A Cambodian man accused of murdering his wife was deranged at the time of the killing by “heavy metal toxicity” from workplace exposure to lead, cadmium and other metals, authorities and defense attorneys have agreed.

In a rare joint submission, prosecutors and defense lawyers in Canada have agreed that Narin Sok, 51, is not criminally responsible for strangling his wife because the former scrap metal worker was suffering from lead, cadmium and manganese toxicity on the day of the murder, The Edmonton Journal reports.

Sok is on trial for the death of his wife, then 40, on July 30, 2008, in their downtown Edmonton apartment.

He had admitted the killing, and the trial continues.

 Narin Sok
Narin Sok is pictured after his arrest on July 30, 2008.

Authorities attributed the toxic exposure to Sok’s years of working with scrap metal and to his attempt shortly before the murder to melt down “magic belts” made of zinc, silver and lead that were supposed to increase the chances that he and his wife could conceive a child.

Sok brought the belts from Cambodia in 2007, and he and his wife, Deang Huon, constantly wore two belts each, he told doctors.

"In my 36 years of practice I have never seen another case like this, and doubt we will ever see another one," defense lawyer Peter Royal told the court.

Bizarre Scene

Police encountered a bizarre scene when they arrived at Sok’s house, according to an agreed statement of facts.

“Sok was sitting in the bedroom, ripping up a black garbage bag to add to numerous others that covered the floors and windows. Next to him, his wife's dead body was partially covered with garbage bags, rice sacks and other debris. Rigor mortis had already set in,” the Journal reported.

In the police cruiser, “he spit and complained of thirst.” Later, in his cell, “he urinated on the floor and simultaneously complained the room was dirty.”

He appeared deranged and told doctors later that his wife might have been possessed by the "snake spirit" of his dead brother, the Journal said.

He was later moved to a hospital, where he was treated for kidney failure, liver damage and facial scratches and bruises. There was also damage to his heart.

Metals Work

Starting in 1986, Sok spent a total of nine years off and on working in various scrap-metal yards, the newspaper said. His main job was to cut and peel wires to separate various metals to be recycled.

Sok told doctors that he usually wore gloves but used a mask only rarely because it was uncomfortably hot and turned black from the dusty work, the newspaper said.

The night before his wife's death, Sok tried to melt the “magic belts” in a pan on the stove, filling the apartment with smoke.

Later, the couple fought, and Huon was strangled. Sok told doctors that he couldn't understand what had happened before his wife’s death, or why he punctured her right arm with a thin metal rod, but did remember putting a chair across her neck and then weighing down the chair with a rice sack.

Occupational Exposure

Heavy metal toxicity occurs when the amount ingested exceeds the body's ability to eliminate it, the Journal reported. The effects vary greatly, depending on the toxicity level and the metal.

Lead was the major inhibitive pigment for corrosion control of steel structures from the early 1900s until about 1975. Lead is no longer used in paint, but is still on some steel substrates. Various forms of cadmium have been used mainly as color pigments. Zinc is used extensively today in zinc-rich coatings, as thermal spray wire for metallizing, and to produce galvanizing.

Doctors concluded that Sok's toxicity started because of his occupation, leading to paranoia and abnormal behavior, the newspaper said. It also led to the impaired judgment that led him to burn the metal belts, which caused acute poisoning by inhalation.

Sok has no prior criminal record and has recovered fully from his mental illness, the court was told, according to the newspaper.


Tagged categories: Lead; Toxicity

Comment from paul mellon, (5/11/2011, 12:03 PM)

Very interesting article on the deadly impact breathing or ingesting of heavy metals can have on a human being. One would hope that all precautions would be taken to avoid having workers directly exposed to heavy or toxic metals. Here is what OSHA states is contained in coal, copper and nickel slag per their 2006 Guidance Document for Shipyard Blasting “The levels of heavy metals in non-silica abrasives are highly variable depending on the type of raw material sources and/or the manufacturing processes used to make the abrasives. (5) Abrasive blasting media from coal slag will typically contain nickel and vanadium and a variety of other metals depending on the source of the coal used to make the slag. Copper slag from primary smelters contains significant levels of barium, cobalt, copper, chromium (trivalent), and nickel; whereas copper slag from secondary smelters might contain significant levels of arsenic and lead. Nickel slag typically contains elevated levels of copper, chromium (trivalent), and nickel and lower levels of cobalt and vanadium.” Here is what OSHA suggests that employers due to minimize the risk: A. “ ENGINEERING CONTROLS: 1. Substitution -- The easiest way to eliminate hazardous air contaminants associated with abrasive media is to select a safer abrasive blasting agent. ___________”

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