Heavy Metal Toxicity
Metals that have no safe amount in the human system, may accumulate within the body (fat cells, central nervous system, bones, brain, glands, and hair) and may have negative health effects. Any level of these toxic metals is not normal. The levels usually need to rise above the established safety ranges to actually manifest in health problems. However, there is individual variation, and high normal levels may aggravate one person and not another.
Symptoms: Wide variety of possible symptoms. In general, a harmful (above safety index range) amount of any toxic metal is a stress on the entire body and can manifest in a wide array of seemingly confusing symptoms or in the individual's weakest physical link. Symptoms that manifest depend on the type of metal toxicity, the age of the individual (children are more susceptible to toxic metal damage), the extent of the exposure, and the presence of antagonist/protective elements that inhibit absorption, binding, and effects of the toxic metals. For example, calcium deficiency aggravates lead toxicity, and the more normal levels of calcium that are in the body act to protect the system against lead toxicity.
The most common heavy metal toxicities are lead, cadmium, mercury, and nickel. Aluminum is not a heavy metal, and is absorbed and removed from the body by different mechanisms. All may be associated with a metallic taste in the mouth. Possible side effects of each are the following.
Lead: Lead toxicity may be associated with poor bone growth and development, learning disabilities, fatigue, poor task performance, irritability, anxiety, high blood pressure, weight loss, increased susceptibility to infection, ringing in the ears, decreased cognitive functioning and concentration and spelling skills, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, constipation, muscle and joint pain, tremors, and overall general decreased immune functioning.
Cadmium: Cadmium toxicity may be associated with fatigue, irritability, headaches, high blood pressure, benign (non-cancerous) enlargement of the prostate (male sex) gland, increased risk for cancer, hair loss, learning disabilities, kidney disorders, liver disorders, skin disorders, painful joints, and decreased immune functioning.
Mercury: Mercury toxicity may be associated with cognitive problems, memory problems, irritability, fatigue, insomnia, gastrointestinal disorders, decreased immune response, irrational behavior, numbness, tingling, muscular weakness, impaired vision and hearing, allergic conditions, asthma, and multiple sclerosis related to dental amalgams.
Nickel: Nickel toxicity may be associated with fatigue, respiratory illnesses, heart conditions, skin rashes, psoriasis, fatigue, and headaches.
Aluminum: Aluminum toxicity may be associated with headaches, cognitive problems, learning disabilities, poor bone density (osteoporosis), ringing in the ears, gastrointestinal disorders, colic, hyperactivity in children, and ataxia (an abnormal walking pattern). It's possible role in poor memory or Alzheimer's disease is speculative at this time but also worth noting.
Possible routes of exposure to and contamination from the above metals:
Lead: Cigarette smoke exposure, eating paint that is lead based (in children especially in poor housing or older housing), eating and cooking foods in ceramic glazes that are lead based, leaded gasoline, eating liver that may be contaminated with lead, living in the inner city that may have elevated lead air levels, contaminated water, canned foods (especially fruit in which the lead-soldered cans may leach out into the food), certain bone meal supplements, and insecticides.
Cadmium: Possible contamination from cigarette and pipe smoke, instant coffee and tea, nickel-cadmium batteries, contaminated water, some soft drinks, refined grains, fungicides, pesticides, and some plastics.
Mercury: Possible contamination from mercury-based dental amalgam fillings, laxatives that contain calomel, some hemorrhoid suppositories, inks used by some printers and tattooist, some paints, some cosmetics, and many products that may contain small amounts of mercury such as fabric softeners, wood preservatives, solvents, drugs, and some plastics and contaminated fish.
Nickel: Many pieces of jewelry have nickel and wearing next to skin creates some absorption. Some metal cooking utensils have some nickel added to them, even stainless steel which is mostly a problem when cooking acidic foods. Cigarette smoke, hydrogenated fats (as nickel is the catalyst for the reaction to create them), some refined foods, and fertilizers contain nickel.
Aluminum: Aluminum-containing antacids, many over-the-counter drugs and douches that contain aluminum such as, to name a few, Amphojel, Maalox, Mylanta, Gelusil, Arthritis Pain Formula, Bufferin, Massengil, Summer's Eve, aluminum cookware and aluminum foil, especially when preparing and storing acidic foods, aluminum containing underarm antiperspirants, most commercial baking powders, and contaminated water.
Antagonist/protective minerals for each toxic metal:
Lead: Calcium, vitamin C, amino acids (L-lysine, L-cysteine, and L-cystine), iron, zinc.
Cadmium: Zinc, vitamin C, amino acids (L-methionine, L-cysteine, and L-lysine).
Mercury: Selenium, vitamin C, amino acids (L-glutathione, L-methionine, L-cysteine, and L-cystine).
Nickel: Iron, zinc, vitamin C.
Aluminum: Calcium, magnesium, vitamin B complex, vitamin C.