Heavy Metal Poisoning
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Many people have become aware of the mercury toxicity problem. But it would be a mistake to think that metal poisoning is unique to this particular toxin. Consider: silver colloid is an antiseptic and has been used since ancient times to inhibit bacteria in drinking water. If it poisons germs, it will poison you. I have written elsewhere in the site that iron forms the most destructive free-radical of all (“hot iron”), very damaging to life.
The fact is that all metals are toxic and our bodies require special transport and handling mechanisms to keep them from harming us. This applies just as much as essential minerals, like iron, zinc and chromium, as it does to non-essential metals and metalloids, like cadmium and arsenical compounds.
Heavy metals and cancer
Metals can directly and indirectly damage DNA and that means an increased risk of cancer (we call this genotoxicity). There are also possibly non-genotoxic pathways, due to irritation or immuno-toxicity. Sure enough, a number of metals are known to be carcinogenic. These are:
- arsenic and arsenic compounds,
- beryllium and beryllium compounds,
- cadmium and cadmium compounds,
- nickel compounds and
- hexavalent chromium (remember the movie “Erin Brockovich”?).
The usual target is the lung, though arsenic has a unique association with skin cancers that has been recognized for many years.
It is a fact that metal implants in the body (as, for example, in bone pinning or plates) may be associated with adjacent cancers, caused by irritation of the tissues. The late Patrick Stortebecker at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm also pointed out the frequency with which cancer of the jaw was found in association with metal amalgam fillings. That is disturbing, since this particular kind of “prosthetic” tends to be very long term and very common indeed.
A major development in dentistry is the titanium implant, to replace lost teeth. But it is an act of faith to suppose that titanium is inert.
Other metals which cause damage
The presence of toxic metals in our systems is highly significant for they are capable of causing serious health problems through interfering with normal biological functioning. Although they can be found in high concentrations in the body, a number of these heavy metals (aluminum, beryllium, cadmium, lead and mercury) have no known biological function. Others (arsenic, copper, iron and nickel) are thought to be essential at low concentrations, but are toxic at high levels. Generally speaking, heavy metals disrupt metabolic function in two basic ways:
First, they accumulate and thereby disrupt function in vital organs and glands such as the heart, brain, kidneys, bone, liver, etc.
Second, they displace vital nutritional minerals from where they should be in the body to provide biological function. For example, enzymes are catalysts for virtually every biochemical reaction in all life-sustaining processes of metabolism. But instead of calcium being present in an enzyme reaction, lead or cadmium may be there in its place. Toxic metals can’t fulfill the same role as the nutritional minerals, thus their presence becomes critically disruptive to enzyme activity.
Because their impact is at such a foundational level, heavy metals can be causal factors in literally any health problem.
If your job or living circumstances expose you to heavy metals, you would do well to minimize or eliminate your exposure as much as possible. Be aware that there are many ways these toxins can be absorbed into your body–through foods and beverages, skin exposure, and via the air you breathe. So, whenever possible, wear gloves, use protective breathing apparatuses, and be sure to obtain fresh air ventilation.
Avoiding Heavy Metal Exposure is Impossible
Such preventative measures are worthwhile and important , but ultimately futile. The inescapable reality is that it is impossible in this day and age not to be exposed to heavy metals. It is only a matter of how much and how often.
So we need to get rid of this killer junk. How do we do it?
The answer is chelation. Chelation means, by definition, grasping and eliminating heavy metal poisons.
Heavy metal sources and effects
(rest of the world says and spells: aluminium), alum, aluminum foil, animal feed, antacids, aspirin, auto exhaust, baking powder, beer, bleached flour, cans, ceramics, cheese, cigarette filters, color additives, construction materials, cookware, cosmetics, dental amalgams, deodorants, drinking water, drying agents, dust, insulated wiring, medicinal compounds, milk products, nasal spray, pesticides, pollution, salt, tap water, tobacco smoke, toothpaste, treated water, vanilla powder.
Effects: ALS, Alzheimer’s, anemia, appetite loss, behavioral problems, cavities, colds, colitis, confusion, constipation, dementia, dry mouth, dry skin, energy loss, excessive perspiration, flatulence, headaches, heartburn, hyperactivity, inhibition of enzyme systems, kidney dysfunction, lowered immune function, learning disabilities, leg twitching, liver dysfunction, memory loss, neuromuscular disorders, numbness, osteoporosis, paralysis, Parkinson’s disease, peptic ulcer, psychosis, reduced intestinal activity, senility, skin problems, spleen pain, stomach pain, weak and aching muscles
burning of arsenate treated building materials, coal combustion, insect sprays, pesticides, soils (arsenic rich), seafood from coastal waters, especially mussels, oysters and shrimp
Effects: abdominal pain, anorexia, brittle nails, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, chronic anemia, burning in mouth / esophagus / stomach / bowel, confusion, convulsions, dermatitis, drowsiness, enzyme inhibition, garlicky odor to breath / stool, hair loss, headaches, hyper-pigmentation of nails and skin, increased risk of liver / lung / skin cancers, low grade fever, mucous in nose and throat, muscle aches / spasms / weakness, nervousness, respiratory tract infection, swallowing difficulty, sweet metallic taste, throat constriction
coal burning, manufacturing, household products, industrial dust
Effects: disturbance of calcium and vitamin D metabolism, magnesium depletion, lung cancer, lung infection, rickets, vital organ dysfunction
airborne industrial contaminants, batteries, candy, ceramics, cigarette smoke, colas, congenital intoxication, copper refineries, copper alloys, dental alloys, drinking water, electroplating, fertilizers, food from contaminated soil, fungicides, incineration of tires / rubber / plastic, instant coffee, iron roofs, kidney, liver, marijuana, processed meat, evaporated milk, motor oil, oysters, paint, pesticides, galvanized pipes, processed foods, refined grains / flours cereals, rubber, rubber carpet backing, seafoods (cod, haddock, oyster, tuna), sewage, silver polish, smelters, soft water, solders (including in food cans), tobacco, vending machine soft drinks, tools, vapor lamps, water (city, softened, well), welding metal
Effects: alcoholism, alopecia, anemia, arthritis (osteo and rheumatoid), bone disease, bone pain in middle of bones, cancer, cardiovascular disease, cavities, cerebral hemorrhage, cirrhosis, diabetes, digestive disturbances, emphysema, enlarged heart, flu-like symptoms, growth impairment, headaches, high cholesterol, hyperkinetic behavior, hypertension, hypoglycemia, impotence, inflammation, infertility, kidney disease, learning disorders, liver damage, lung disease, migraines, nerve cell damage, osteoporosis, prostate dysfunction, reproductive disorders, schizophrenia, stroke
birth control pills, congenital intoxication, copper cookware, copper IUDs, copper pipes, dental alloys, fungicides, ice makers, industrial emissions, insecticides, swimming pools, water (city / well), welding, avocado, beer, bluefish, bone meal, chocolate, corn oil, crabs, gelatin, grains, lamb, liver, lobster, margarine, milk, mushrooms, nuts, organ meats, oysters, perch, seeds, shellfish, soybeans, tofu, wheat germ, yeast
Effects: acne, adrenal insufficiency, allergies, alopecia, anemia, anorexia, anxiety, arthritis (osteo & rheumatoid), autism, cancer, chills, cystic fibrosis, depression, diabetes, digestive disorders, dry mouth, dysinsulinism, estrogen dominance, fatigue, fears, fractures, fungus, heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Hodgkin’s disease, hyperactivity, hypertension, hyperthyroid, low hydrochloric acid, hypoglycemia, infections, inflammation, insomnia, iron loss, jaundice, kidney disorders, libido decreased, lymphoma, mental illness, migraines, mood swings, multiple sclerosis, myocardial infarction, nausea, nervousness, osteoporosis, pancreatic dysfunction, panic attacks, paranoia, phobias, PMS, schizophrenia, senility, sexual dysfunction, spacey feeling, stuttering, stroke, tooth decay, toxemia of pregnancy, urinary tract infections, yeast infections
drinking water, iron cookware, iron pipes, welding,. foods: blackstrap molasses, bone meal, bran, chives, clams, heart, kidney, leafy vegetables, legumes, liver, meat, molasses, nuts, organ meats, oysters, parsley, red wine, refined foods, shellfish, soybeans, wheat germ, whole grains
Effects: amenorrhea, anger, rheumatoid arthritis, birth defects, bleeding gums, cancer, constipation, diabetes, dizziness, emotional problems, fatigue, headache, heart damage, heart failure, hepatitis, high blood pressure, hostility, hyperactivity, infections, insomnia, irritability, joint pain, liver disease, loss of weight, mental problems, metallic taste in mouth, myasthenia gravis, nausea, pancreas damage, Parkinson’s disease, premature aging, schizophrenia, scurvy, shortness of breath, stubborness
ash, auto exhaust, battery manufacturing, bone meal, canned fruit and juice, car batteries, cigarette smoke, coal combustion, colored inks, congenital intoxication, cosmetics, eating utensils, electroplating, household dust, glass production, hair dyes, industrial emissions, lead pipes, lead-glazed earthenware pottery, liver, mascara, metal polish, milk, newsprint, organ meats, paint, pencils, pesticides, produce near roads, putty, rain water, pvc containers, refineries, smelters, snow, tin cans with lead solder sealing (such as juices, vegetables), tobacco, toothpaste, toys, water (city / well), wine
Effects: abdominal pain, adrenal insufficiency, allergies, anemia, anorexia, anxiety, arthritis (rheumatoid and osteo), attention deficit disorder, autism, back pain, behavioral disorders, blindness, cardiovascular disease, cartilage destruction, coordination loss, concentration loss, constipation, convulsions, deafness, depression, dyslexia, emotional instability, encephalitis, epilepsy, fatigue, gout, hallucinations, headaches, hostility, hyperactivity, hypertension, hypothyroid, impotence, immune suppression, decreased IQ, indigestion, infertility, insomnia, irritability, joint pain, kidney disorders, learning disability, liver dysfunction, loss of will, memory loss (long term), menstrual problems, mood swings, muscle aches, muscle weakness, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, myelopathy (spinal cord pathology), nausea, nephritis, nightmares, numbness, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathies, psychosis, psychomotor dysfunction, pyorrhea, renal dysfunction, restlessness, retardation, schizophrenia, seizures, sterility, stillbirths, sudden infant death syndrome, tingling, tooth decay, vertigo, unintentional weight loss
adhesives, air conditioner filters, algaecides, antiseptics, battery manufacturing, body powders, broken thermometers, burning newspapers and building materials, calomel lotions, cereals, congenital intoxication, cosmetics, dental amalgams, diuretics, fabric softeners, felt, floor waxes, fungicides, germicides, grains, industrial waste, insecticides, laxatives, lumber, manufacture of paper and chlorine, medications, mercurochrome, paints, paper products, pesticides, photoengraving, polluted water, Preparation H, psoriasis ointment, seafoods (especially tuna and swordfish), sewage disposal, skin lightening creams, soft contact lens solution, suppositories, tanning leather, tattooing, water (contaminated), wood preservatives
EFFECTS: adrenal dysfunction, allergy, alopecia, anorexia, anxiety, birth defects, blushing, brain damage, cataracts, cerebral palsy, poor coordination / jerky movements, deafness, depression, dermatitis, discouragement, dizziness, drowsiness, eczema, emotional disturbances, excess saliva, fatigue, gum bleeding and soreness, headaches (band type), hearing loss, hyperactivity, hypothyroidism, forgetfulness, immune dysfunction, insomnia, irritability, joint pain, kidney damage, loss of self-control, memory loss, mental retardation, metallic taste, migraines, nervousness, nerve fiber degeneration, numbness, pain in limbs, rashes, retinitis, schizophrenia, shyness, speech disorders, suicidal tendencies, tingling, tremors (eyelids, lips, tongue, fingers, extremities), vision loss, weakness
butter, fertilizers, food processing, fuel oil combustion, hydrogenated fats and oils, imitation whipped cream, industrial waste, kelp, margarine, nuclear device testing, oysters, stainless steel cookware, tea, tobacco smoke, unrefined grains and cereals, vegetable shortening
EFFECTS: anorexia, kidney dysfunction, apathy, disruption of hormone and lipid metabolism, fever, hemorrhages, headache, heart attack, intestinal cancer, low blood pressure, muscle tremors, nausea, oral cancer, skin problems, vomiting
Today we are seeing more and more cryptic lingering infections due to so-called “stealth pathogens”. In the 60s we used to talk of the “smouldering virus” but it is now abundantly clear that bacteria are also to blame and so the broader term is preferred. Notable are cytomegalovirus (CMV), Chlamydia pneumoniae, Epstein-Barr and Borrelia bugdorferi (Lyme disease). But there are others and probably plenty more waiting to be discovered.
A good doctor today, when confronted with any kind of chronic disease, must think of stealth pathogens. That in turn implies terrain problems. And terrain means pollution, possibly pesticides and chemicals, but more probably heavy metal overload.
It goes without saying that cleaning up the metallosis is more important than treating the pathogen or the disease, though this is alien to the modern drug-based medical canon!
Persistence in the environment
One of the problems with metals is their environmental persistence. Once mined and brought into the ecology, they last almost indefinitely.
Also, we face the usually-ignored problem of potentiation, which means two relatively small doses of two different substances may have a dramatically enhanced effect when present together. For instance it is not widely known that the presence of lead (which is everywhere) makes mercury 100 times more toxic.
We call these metal-metal interactions and they might be quite critical in the formation of cancers. Animal studies also indicate, for example, that calcium enhances lead toxicity in rats and cadmium increases the likelihood of cadmium-induced prostatic cancer.
Given these insights, the complacency of traditional dentists over the cocktail of metalloids they put in our mouths as “amalgam” is little short of scientific folly. In the US they call them silver fillings, in an effort to imply purity and divert from the fact they are an amalgam of several different metals, of which silver is only a small proportion of the whole.
Protection from other metals
But it also works the other way. The presence of a second metal may actually protect against toxicity. Thus, for instance, magnesium was shown in animal studies to prevent cadmium-induced testicular tumours and zinc blocks lung cancer caused by continued inhalation of cadmium. Both magnesium and manganese were effective at preventing tumours which otherwise formed at the site of nickel injections in rats.
In fact magnesium has been shown to have a wide variety of beneficial effects against metal carcinogenesis risk factors. Yet another reason why magnesium is one of the most vital and health-giving nutrients we have. Avoid deficiency at all costs.
We have known for decades that selenium is vitally protective against mercury and also has a powerful anti-cancer benefit. When the daily intake is 100 microgrammes or more (200 mcg. is better), the risk of cancer from all sources drops dramatically.
What can you do?
Apart from living in isolation on an organic farm, not much. And that’s only relative. Don’t be fooled that you would be safe in this environment; metals are in the air, as experience with strontium 90 and other radio-active atoms shows. Attempts to remove lead from our motor combustion engines is a good start. Better copper-based plumbing is also a right move.
But there is much pollution in the food chain. Lead dust is everywhere by the highways and in the dirt, left there from over a quarter of a century ago, when it was spewed by motor exhausts. Having an intelligent strategy to get rid of heavy metal poisons is critical to survival in the coming century and much wiser than wishing it wasn’t there or wanting to run away to some transient utopia.
Do all you can to reduce the load by all means.
But rely more on competitive inhibition: that means the presence of “good” metals to squeeze out the bad ones. Remember all metals are toxic. But in reasonable physiological doses zinc, magnesium and selenium are important protectives. Fill up the seats with good guys and the bad guys can’t enjoy the show.
You should be taking 200 mcg. daily of selenium, 20- 50 milligrams of zinc (citrate form is shown to be best absorbed) and 350 milligrams of magnesium, as the orotate, gluconate or amino-chelate. Watch out for diarrhoea from magnesium salts, otherwise you might actually suffer a loss of mineral intake.
These will tend to squeeze the bad guys.
DMPS, DMSA, KELMER and EDTA Where the situation is serious, for example, lead or copper overload, I give IV ethyldiethylamine tetracetic acid (EDTA), in a series of infusions taking 3 hours or so each. The many benefits of this therapy can be read elsewhere on this site.
Unfortunately, this therapy is inadequate for mercury toxicity. There are three effective strategies for mercury, each with pros and cons:
6- 10 IV infusions of DMPS, 3 mgms per kg of body weight. These need skilled experience but done properly and at the correct dose I find have virtually no side-effects. The theoretical risk here is that DMPS crosses the blood-brain barrier and may carry mercury into neurological tissues, where it is most unwelcome. Side effects can be unpleasant and this seems the least advisable method.
Oral DMSA, 30 mgms per kg body weight. Duration depends on response but in the region of 6- 10 weeks. Side effects can be unpleasant but can be ameliorated by reducing the dose. Generally children tolerate DMSA much better than adults.
Oral chelation with magnesium succinate (*marketed as Kelmer), 60 mg per kg body weight. I am satisfied that this produces the same degree of mercury elimination as DMSA but without the unwanted side effects. It just takes longer, is all!
There is controversy over whether EDTA will remove mercury. For all sorts of scientific reasons, to do with valence and electrical charge, it shouldn’t work well. But Dr Gary Gordon claims is does: by actual urine and tissue testing, that it can been seen being excreted after his oral chelation regime (which admittedly includes a lot more than mere EDTA).
Self-administered therapy is not recommended. But chlorella is a great heavy metal attractor, is safe and plentiful. Lesser players are garlic and cilantro.
Finally, remember that once the source of contamination is removed, if you support your body with good de-tox and nutritional requirements, the heavy metals will gradually disappear from the tissues by slow attrition, a process termed leaching or, more exactly, depuration.