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Heavy Metal Sources

Heavy Metals in general have toxic effects that interact with the body’s ability to function. They can be absorbed and accumulate in several tissues, leading to increased cellular damage and eventually cell death.  Heavy metals have contaminated our world by being present in our water supply, the air we breathe, the ground we walk on, the foods we eat, our children’s toys and our personal care products.  It’s important to become aware of how we come in contact with the most common heavy metals found in our environment so that we can do the best we can to limit our exposure.

Mercury Exposure: 

Dental amalgam (silver fillings) are continually release mercury vapors in the mouth which are inhaled when breathing. There have been an increasing number of studies that prove that the mercury in amalgam fillings leach into the body as we chew, brush or grind our teeth.

Fish particularly larger fish like: shark, swordfish, tuna steak, and king mackerel.  Mercury was surveyed by the FDA and found to be in 100% of canned tuna samples, frozen cod/haddock fillets, and shrimp and in most fish sticks.

Vaccines containing thimerosol, a mercury-containing additive, have been used as a preservative in most vaccines.

Pregnant women who have been exposed to mercury can pass the heavy metal to their developing baby in the womb. Methylmercury is 5 to 10 times more toxic to developing embryos than to adults.

Symptoms and Conditions associated with Mercury Toxicity

The most toxic form of mercury is methylmercury which is absorbed easily.  It has been shown to be toxic to the nervous system, damaging brain cells.  Mercury toxicity can cause psychological symptoms such as: Irritability, excitability, temper outbursts, quarreling, fearfulness/anxiety, restlessness, depression and insomnia along with chronic fatigue and poor memory.  Mercury chronically activates the immune system which can lead to autoimmune conditions.  The heavy metal has been shown to have adverse neurodevelopmental effects on children as well.

Reference: Walter Crinnion, ND. Environmental Medicine, Part Three: Long- Term Effects of Chronic Low Dose Mercury Exposure. Alternative Medicine Review.

Lead Exposure:

Lead pipes in older homes can bring a significant source of lead into the water supply. If the home was built more than 30 years ago there is a good chance that lead is leaching into the water.

Lead – based paint is the most common source of lead poisoning for children in the nation. Lead was widely used in most interior and exterior oil-based paint prior to 1950. Children are exposed to lead when they eat paint chips or chew painted surfaces. Improper renovation of homes with-lead based paint can generate lead in the air, dust and soil in and around the home.

Toys that are imported from other countries may still use lead based paint as well as older toys made in the United States before lead paint was banned in 1978.  Kids are at risk if they put the toys in their mouth.

Cosmetics like lipstick can contain significant levels of lead along with some hair dyes.

Soil can be contaminated if it is next to buildings finished with lead paint, near roads, industrial areas and companies that use lead.  You may be inadvertently bringing it into your home if you don’t take your shoes off at the door.

Symptoms and Conditions associated with Lead Toxicity:

Lead has physiological and pathological effects on body tissues that may be manifested from relatively low lead levels up to acutely toxic levels. In children, developmental disorders and behavior problems may occur at relatively low levels: loss of IQ, hearing loss, poor growth. In order of occurrence with increasing lead concentration, the following can occur: impaired vitamin D metabolism, headache, metallic taste, loss of appetite, constipation, colic, anemia, tremors, nephrotoxic effects with impaired renal excretion of uric acid, and neuropathy (damage to nerves with symptoms of tingling, numbness, muscle weakness). Lead can be destructive towards the kidneys and nerves and accumulate in the bones.

Cadmium Exposure:

Cigarette smoking significantly increases the amount of cadmium in the body.  Tobacco plants are one of the groups of crops that are efficient at absorbing cadmium from the soil.

Air pollution of cadmium occurs due to its use in industries. The burning off of fossil fuels, smelters and incineration of municipal waste of cadmium containing products such as plastics and nickel-cadmium batteries are polluting are air.

Food crops such as leafy vegetables, root crops, cereals and grains take up cadmium easily. Cadmium in the air eventually deposits in the soil making these food items a major source of cadmium.  A small amount of cadmium is absorbed from the food but over time it can add up.

Symptoms and Conditions associated with Cadmium Toxicity

Cadmium can accumulate in the kidneys and is associated with kidney damage and can target the bones lowering bone density causing osteoporosis.  Chronic manifestations associated with this degree of cadmium excess include: high blood pressure, weight loss, anemia, uterine fibroids, emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis (if inhalation was a route of contamination), atherosclerosis, poor concentration and peripheral neuropathy (damage to nerves with symptoms of tingling, numbness, muscle weakness). Some medical authorities consider cadmium to be a carcinogen for lung cancer and also may cause hypothyroidism.

Aluminum Exposure:

Foods can contain aluminum. Sodium aluminum phosphate is a common raising agent in baked goods, salt and processed cheese also contains a great amount. Microwave popcorn, salted snacks, hot cocoa mixes, coffee creamers, pizza crust, muffins, doughnuts are other examples of foods that may contain aluminum.

Food packaging of processed foods, especially if they are salty and/ or acidic, and soft drinks packaged in aluminum foil, cans, trays and wrappers can be contaminated with significant amounts aluminum.

Cookware, flatware and coffee pots containing aluminum can contaminate food are an issue. Aluminum cookware is particularly of concern if acid foods are cooked such as tomato paste which can release more aluminum.

Air pollution of aluminum is substantial as the metal is widely used in manufacturing industries.  Inhalation of the aluminum is significant for those who live nearby these plants.

Personal Care Products, specifically deodorants and antiperspirants, contain aluminum -chloride or aluminum- zirconium compounds. Long term use of these products can significantly increase the body burden of this toxic metal.  Lotions, soaps, shampoos, lip balms and suntan lotions may also contain aluminum.

Medications can contain aluminum as an active ingredient or an additive. Aluminum is present in many popular over the counter and prescription medicines such as antacids, pain-killers and anti-diarrhea medicines. Antacids can contain 200 milligrams or more of elemental aluminum in a single tablet – ten times more than the allegedly acceptable 20 milligrams per day.

Symptoms and Conditions associated with Aluminum Toxicity:

Aluminum is considered neurotoxic. Poor memory and concentration, chronic fatigue and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety are symptoms of Aluminum toxicity.  Alzheimer’s disease, osteomalacia (softening of the bones), Parkinson’s disease and breast cancer have also been linked to this heavy metal.

Other Heavy Metals such as Arsenic, Antimony, Barium, Beryllium, Bismuth, Cesium, Gadolinium, Nickel, Palladium, Platinum, Tellurium, Thallium, Thorium, Tin, Titanium, Tungsten, and Uranium may also be playing a role in your overall health.

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