|When I was growing up the only heavy metal we ever talked about was the rock music kind. But nowadays your exposure to heavy metals may have much more serious consequences for your health.
Ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution 100 years ago, all of us have been experiencing increasing exposures to lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and more recently radioactive metals in the environment. The worst part about it is that we have very little control over our inadvertent exposure.
Most of it is being spewed into the air from coal-burning power plants and other industrial manufacturing smokestacks, and from various forms of industrial waste disposal. It goes into the air, soil, and water. We breathe it, we eat it, we drink it – we are perpetually exposed to it.
Our bodies have a miraculous system of storing away heavy metals in our fat, bones, or organs to minimize damage. But metals other than the ones required by the body can ultimately disrupt normal bodily functions and are often complicating factors in many chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular disease.
For some people, the body burden of these metals does not become problematic. But for others, heavy metals may either contribute to their body’s inability to clear disease, or these metals may actually be at the root cause of the bodily breakdown that results in a diseased state.
Many advanced physicians (I used to call them alternative, but now believe that advanced is a more accurate description) regularly test for heavy metal toxicity, because it is implicated in so many chronic diseases.
One of the reasons heavy metals hurt us is because they are chemically similar to the metals that are necessary for our bodily functions. Because they are similar, they replace and interfere with metals like iron, copper, or zinc. When vital metals are displaced, the organs that rely on them do not function properly.
Another reason metals are damaging is because they are inflammatory. Many advanced physicians argue that inflammation is the root cause of all disease, so minimizing exposures that produce inflammation is key to good health.
So what can we do to make sure heavy metals are not making us sick?
Especially if we know of a possible overexposure to heavy metals through work or past activities, or if we have a chronic illness that doesn’t seem to respond to treatment, it may be helpful to have a chelation challenge test to verify internal toxicity.
Chelation is the process of binding heavy metals and pulling them out of the body. A normal blood test will only show high levels of heavy metals if exposure was recent, because the body works hard to store heavy metals away to minimize damage.
So the best way to determine heavy metal load is to find a doctor skilled in heavy metal removal, who will use a chelating agent to pull the metals out and then measure heavy metal toxicity in the urine. Each case is evaluated based on individual circumstances, but longer-term chelation therapy can be used to pull out toxic heavy metals that may be overloading the body if necessary.
However proactively limiting your exposure to heavy metals when possible can help prevent toxic accumulations and resulting illnesses.
While there is very little other than social activism you can do to minimize industrial pollution, you can take responsibility for your personal choices and minimize exposure from the products you choose to use.
That means checking your personal care products like cosmetics (lipsticks in particular) and even deodorant for heavy metal contamination. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) web site has great information about specific contamination of products, and their Skin Deep Guide to Cosmetics reviews the potential toxicity of more than 80,000 personal care products.
Also, did you know that many pesticides and herbicides contain heavy metals like lead and arsenic, and that there are no laws requiring testing for heavy metal contamination residues on foods? Conventionally grown foods may be literally covered in them, and no one is the wiser.
While organic foods are less likely to contain heavy metals because pesticide use is restricted, I was disheartened to learn recently that even the U.S.D.A. organic food designation does not address or test for the existence of heavy metals in or on foods.
The certified organic foods and herbs grown in China are the most likely to be contaminated with heavy metals due to the high level of industrial pollution tolerated there. Except for Goji berries that are typically grown at very high altitudes, many foods grown in China (even certified organic ones) test positive for high levels of lead, mercury, cadmium and tungsten.
Since the U.S. has no requirements for testing of heavy metal residues on foods (unlike many other countries) we tend to receive the ones with the highest levels of contamination.
Even resources as vast as the ocean have not escaped the contamination of industrial pollution. While fish and sea vegetables like seaweed contain vital nutrients for a healthy diet, there is increasing concern that pollution from oil spills, nuclear reactor mishaps and industrial pollution combined threaten the safety of many species of seafood.
EWG’s Consumer Guide to Seafood and its Seafood Calculator provide helpful information about food contamination and the wisest seafood choices to minimize methyl mercury and heavy metal contamination.
Unfortunately, there is no escaping industrial pollution on planet Earth now. The best we can do as consumers is make the wisest choices possible to minimize the cumulative effects of these inevitable exposures.
What efforts are you making to minimize toxic chemicals and heavy metals in your life?
Until next time . . .