Heavy Metals Testing refers to various forms of testing for any metallic chemical element that has a relatively high density and is toxic or poisonous at low concentrations. Some examples of heavy metals that can be quite toxic include mercury, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, thallium, antimony, and lead. Since they are a naturally occurring substance in the earth’s crust, they can’t be degraded or destroyed. Some heavy metals such as copper, selenium, and zinc are essential to the human body in order to maintain our metabolism. However, higher concentrations of toxic ones can lead to some very serious side effects. Such poisoning can be caused by contamination of drinking water as was found recently in a Michigan water supply. It could also be caused by emission sources into the air such as certain types of factories, by ingesting them in your food or absorption through your skin.
The danger of heavy metals is that they tend to accumulate and increase in concentration in a biological organism over time. Accumulation would occur when they are absorbed and stored faster than they are metabolized or excreted. They can enter a water supply by acidic rain, consumer waste, and industrial pollution that accumulate into the streams, lakes, rivers, and groundwater.
In a Molecular, Clinical, and Environmental Toxicology journal article Heavy Metals Toxicity and the Environment, the authors report that:
“These metals are systemic toxicants known to induce adverse health effects in humans, including cardiovascular diseases, developmental abnormalities, neurologic and neurobehavioral disorders, diabetes, hearing loss, hematologic and immunologic disorders, and various types of cancer. The main pathways of exposure include ingestion, inhalation, and dermal contact. The severity of adverse health effects is related to the type of heavy metal and its chemical form, and is also time and dose dependent.
“Several studies have shown that toxic metals exposure causes long term health problems in human populations. Although the acute and chronic effects are known for some metals, little is known about the health impact of mixtures of toxic elements. Recent reports have pointed out that these toxic elements may interfere metabolically with nutritionally essential metals such as iron, calcium, copper, and zinc.”
Testing for Heavy Metals
So how do you know if you have an accumulation of toxic metals in your body? A heavy metals panel is a group of tests that measures the quantity of certain toxic metals in the blood, urine, hair, tissue, or fluid in the body. We use the Doctor’s Data Urine test to check for heavy metals. This test can be useful in testing for any of the more common toxic heavy metals.
After a metal detoxification agent is administered, analysis of the levels of the metals is an effective way to determine metals that may have accumulated in your body. The danger comes when the accumulation becomes concentrated over time and not excreted. Being exposed to low levels of toxic metals tend to produce a great amount of retention in the body that has many adverse health effects and chronic illnesses. Clinicians also use this test to evaluate the nutritional status during metal detox because going through the detox can cause loss of vital minerals such as zinc, copper, manganese, and molybdenum.
Specifics about some of the Heavy Metals that can be tested
Antimony is a metal used in the flame retardant, antimony trioxide. It is found in batteries, pigments, ceramics, and glass. Exposure to high levels for a short period of time causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is a suspected carcinogen. Cadmium has a toxicological profile similar to zinc, which is an essential micronutrient for plants, animals, and people. But Cadmium usually remains in the human system for years. Long-term exposure is associated with renal dysfunction and high exposure can lead to obstructive lung disease and is linked to lung cancer. It has also been linked to bone defects and it may be linked to high blood pressure. Cadmium is primarily used in nickel/cadmium batteries but it is also used in pigments, stabilizers for PVC, in alloys and electronic compounds, and is also present in products including phosphate fertilizers, detergents, and refined petroleum products. You are exposed to it through food from the addition of Cadmium soil from different sources such as fertilizer applications. It is then taken up into the food and fodder crops. Drinking water and ambient air is another way we are exposed. Long-term exposure can cause kidney and liver damage, circulatory and nerve tissues. Eating fish that may have been exposed to high levels of mercury and other heavy metals can also present a risk.
Copper in high doses can cause anemia, liver and kidney damage, and stomach and intestinal irritation. It occurs in drinking water from copper pipes as well as additives designed to control algae.
Lead poisoning is rare today but can be so severe as to cause illness and in children can damage neuropsychological development such as a loss of IQ. Different effects may occur depending on the exposure but it is particularly more damaging to infants and to a fetus in a pregnant woman. High levels may result in problems with the kidneys, GI tract, joints, reproductive system, and acute or chronic damage to the nervous system. In the environment, lead is found in drinking water, food, air, soil, and dust with the most widely contaminated being the food supply. Lead in the air contributes to levels in food from the deposition of dust and rain on crops and in the soil. Other contaminants include water from lead water pipes, paint flakes from old houses where lead paint was used. For infants up to 4 or 5 months, air and milk formula are the most significant sources.
Mercury is a very toxic substance with no known function in human biochemistry. Mercury poisoning is associated with tremors, gingivitis, minor psychological changes, spontaneous abortion, and congenital malformation. Monomethyl mercury causes brain and central nervous system damage and also abortion, congenital malformation, and developmental changes in children. Mercury is a global pollutant emitted from the degassing of the earth’s crust and emissions from volcanoes and evaporation from natural bodies of water. Mining of the metal leads to discharges into the atmosphere which lasts about a year. Mercury accumulation in fish is considered to be toxic as well and people are advised not to eat certain types of fish on a regular basis.
Nickel is needed by the human body in small amounts to produce red blood cells but can be toxic in large amounts. Long-term damage can decrease body weight, heart and liver damage, and skin irritations. It can be found in aquatic life but not so much in the food chain.
Selenium is also needed in small amounts by people and animals alike but in excess can damage the nervous system, kidney and liver damage, circulatory damage, and can create fatigue and cause irritability. High selenium content in fish and other organisms can create problems in the long term which includes hair and fingernail loss.
Aluminum can also be toxic if excess amounts are ingested, usually from foods and additives to a variety of things that you use every day. It is in beef, poultry, eggs and fresh fruits, different types of fish, tea leaves, and baking powder. Processed cheeses are higher in aluminum and so are pickles, cocoa, and non-dairy creamers. It is so abundant in the environment and in food that you can’t avoid getting it through the diet. As long as you are healthy, it is usually eliminated from your body but pay particular attention to foods with aluminum additives or antiperspirants that use aluminum.
Antimony is a metal used in the flame retardant, antimony trioxide. It is found in batteries, pigments, ceramics, and glass. Exposure to high levels for a short period of time causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is a suspected carcinogen.
Here at Renewed Vitality, when it is indicated, we use Heavy Metals Testing and this is something you can discuss with your practitioner at your appointment. If it is found that you have high levels of any of these toxic heavy metals, we have a detox protocol that you can follow that utilizes a detoxification agent, to rid your body of much of these toxic heavy metals.
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