Heavy Metal Poisoning Tests : What You Need to Know
Heavy Metal Poisoning and Testing – Facts, Symptoms and Prevention Tips
By Nick Gold
Are you aware of the most common heavy metals that can ruin your health?
No, not “heavy metal,” the famous rock genre, but heavy metals represented primarily by arsenic lead and mercury.
Heavy metal testing is necessary to determine the levels of metals such as cadmium, lead, arsenic, and mercury in the body.
Lead poisoning as well as mercury poisoning, among others, are major concerns in the US and worldwide.
It is a well-known fact that these heavy metals don’t offer any health benefits and they might contribute to the development of different types of cancers.
How to test for heavy metals?
Testing for heavy metals can be done in various ways, and the most important ones are blood and urine tests.
Taking samples of blood and urine helps healthcare providers determine the levels of mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and lead in the body.
Appropriate treatment options and dietary changes can be recommended to patients who have high levels of heavy metals in the body to help them eliminate these unwanted substances safely and progressively.
This article strives to inform readers about the negative effects of heavy metals in the body. Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms of potential mercury poisoning, what foods contain high levels of arsenic and how can these metals be excreted.
What are heavy metals?
Heavy metals are elements which occur naturally on earth and have high densities as well as high atomic numbers.
They have numerous applications and have been widely distributed across the world in various formats. For example, batteries and metal alloys contain high levels of cadmium and mercury. Certain paints contain lead and other toxic elements.
Pesticides and insecticides, as well as different types of glues, also have heavy metals in their composition.
Plastics and certain household items might contain arsenic and lead. Although the usage of heavy metals is carefully monitored nowadays, it is paramount to learn more about these dangerous substances and their potential effect on human health.
Are heavy metals dangerous?
If heavy metals accumulate in the human body in high quantities, they are dangerous and can develop different health conditions.
· Colds and flu
· Chronic diarrhea
· Cardiovascular diseases
· Respiratory illnesses
· Neurodegenerative diseases
This list is just a small sample of symptoms. Each heavy metal can trigger specific ailments and complications, depending on the organ it gets deposited in (such as heart, kidney, liver, etc.).
Why should I test for heavy metals?
Testing for heavy metals should be done to assess their levels in the human body and undertake appropriate prevention/treatment options for eliminating them.
These substances can be seriously dangerous for human health, and they can create a lot of symptoms. Acute heavy metal poisoning can lead to impaired brain functioning, behavioral changes, and brain atrophy.
In worst cases, heavy metal poisoning can lead to life-threatening ailments.
What heavy metals are tested using a blood and urine sample?
The most common metals tested are arsenic, mercury, lead, and cadmium. In some cases, other metals might be tested such as zinc, copper, chromium, and others.
How are samples collected?
After ordering the heavy metal test, the patient receives an appointment at a nearby lab where a doctor can take blood samples. The healthcare provider will insert a small needle into an arm’s vein to collect blood for testing.
The patient’s urine sample might also be required, and this is collected into a 24-hour urine collection kit. The blood and urine samples are preserved in special containers to minimize exposure and contamination with other substances.
Certain heavy metals can also be detected in hair and fingernails, although such testing procedures are rarer.
Are there any risks involved?
Minor bruising might occur when blood is collected from the arm, but it will pass in a couple of days, so testing for heavy metals is a risk-free experience.
Who should test for heavy metals?
Anyone who wants to measure his or her levels of heavy metals in the body qualifies for this test. The body can process a small number of heavy metals, but when these substances are present in higher quantities in one's organism, certain complications can occur.
Some people are more predisposed to heavy metal poisoning and are strongly encouraged to undertake this test.
· People who work in the construction industry
· People who work in the mining industry
· People who work in firing ranges or appliance repair shops
· Factory workers who create metal alloys such as aluminum, bronze, and brass
· People who handle batteries and paints on a regular basis
· People who live next to large industrial centers and waste disposal areas
· People who live in very crowded cities
What are the most common types of heavy metals?
The list of heavy metals which can cause poisoning is broad. For example, cobalt, copper, barium, lithium, silver, zinc and even gold poisoning are possible.
However, the most widely distributed heavy metals are arsenic, mercury, lead, and cadmium. They are present in numerous household items as well as foods, and they usually produce the most amount of health damage.
Arsenic divides into organic arsenic and inorganic arsenic. The United States is one of the largest consumers of arsenic worldwide. This heavy metal is usually excreted through urine, and it can be deposited in the spleen, liver, kidney, and lungs.
Foods that contain arsenic
Organic forms of arsenic include arsenobetaine, and these can be found in different types of foods such as:
· Crabs and lobsters
· Certain types of fish
Trace amounts of arsenic can also be found in:
· Beverages, including water
· Fruit and fruit juices
Inorganic arsenic can usually be found in the water extracted from wells. This heavy metal also gets in foods such as vegetables and fruit from contaminated soil.
Medication containing arsenic was used to treat different types of skin conditions. The creams containing arsenic-caused skin cancer and they were eliminated from pharmacies. Arsenic was also used to treat syphilis, but it was quickly replaced with powerful antibiotics which are much safer.
Arsenic poisoning symptoms
When too much arsenic accumulates in the body, it causes different types of symptoms including:
· Muscle loss
· Low blood pressure
These symptoms usually appear approximately 2 to 8 weeks after one has been exposed to high levels of arsenic. Other symptoms include abnormal darkening of the skin, white lines on nails and inflammation of sensory nerves.
Severe arsenic poisoning can lead to a burning sensation in the mouth, abdominal pain, muscle spasm, and hypotension. In some cases, arsenic contamination can lead to jaundice-like symptoms such as yellowing of the eyes and skin.
Arsenic poisoning treatment and prevention methods
Before treating arsenic poisoning, it is necessary to gauge how much of this metal is present in the body. An arsenic blood test or arsenic urine test is necessary, and both these tests can be ordered online.
A healthcare provider interprets the results of the samples and determines if arsenic poisoning is a real concern for the patient.
Remember that arsenic is excreted through urine, so most of it will be eliminated in a couple of days or weeks, depending on how much arsenic was present in the body in the first place.
It has been discovered thatselenium and vitamin Emight help the body eliminate arsenic quicker, but more research is necessary.
When it comes to prevention, there are several ways one can reduce his or her arsenic intake:
· Consider water filtration systems. Buy a water cooler with an integrated reverse osmosis filter which can eliminate most arsenic and other heavy metals and impurities.
· Consume seafood in moderation since most of it contains arsenic, particularly sardines
· Get regular blood tests to measure arsenic levels and keep them under control
· Consider soaking rice for a couple of hours before cooking it as this can eliminate most arsenic content
· Chelation therapy might help
Mercury poisoning can be another dangerous health problem as this heavy metal is present in multiple objects, tools, cosmetics and applications people use daily.
Mercury divides into metallic mercury, organic mercury, and inorganic mercury. It can be excreted through urine and feces, and it can affect the lung, skin, brain and other vital organs.
Sources of mercury
Similar to arsenic, mercury can also be found in different types of seafood such as:
Mercury can also get into the body from various other sources such as:
· Contaminated water
· Contaminated air, particularly near power plants which burn mercury
· Contaminated soil – mercury gets in the body through grains and vegetables
Mercury poisoning symptoms
Having too much mercury in the body can lead to multiple symptoms and health illnesses such as:
· Constricted visual fields and even blindness
· Joint problems
· Mental fatigue
· Nervousness and anxiety-like symptoms
· Muscle spasms
· Muscle loss
Mercury can get into the body through vapors, creating a suite of respiratory problems such as:
· Excessive coughing
This heavy metal tends to get deposited in red blood cells. Testing for mercury poisoning with a blood sample is the best way to discover if the mercury levels are dangerously elevated.
Organic versions of mercury are particularly problematic as they can damage the central nervous systems, causing mood swings, poor emotion control and even mild personality changes in some patients.
Mercury treatment and prevention options
As mentioned earlier, mercury is excreted through urine and feces, and less than 1% can be eliminated through sweat.
Getting rid of mercury isn’t a quick process. It can take approximately 6-12 months to get rid of 50% of mercury content after a single exposure.
However, there are some ways to excrete mercury faster. For example, one should increase his fiber intake to sustain two to three bowel movements per day.
Another way of eliminating mercury from the body would be by increasing sulfur stores, and this can be done using garlic. People might want to eat three or four cloves of garlic per day since the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of garlic help excreting mercury faster.
It is best to use raw garlic instead of a garlic supplement. To prevent an unpleasant breath, it is also possible to ingest the garlic directly, without chewing it.
Increasing the levels of antioxidants such as vitamin E and vitamin C can be beneficial for eliminating mercury quicker.
Lead poisoning is equally dangerous and can contribute to numerous health complications. This heavy metal is present in gasoline, medical equipment, paints, batteries, metal alloys and more.
Lead is primarily deposited in bones, and it affects individuals directly, depending on their age and health levels. It is excreted through urine and feces, but it can also be found in breast milk, saliva, and sweat.
Sources of lead:
Although the presence of lead in household items has been drastically monitored and reduced, this metal can still be found in:
· Air and soil
· Potable water
· Different types of paints
· Old toys and furniture items
· Cosmetics and certain medicine
Lead poisoning symptoms
When the level of lead in the body increases to an alarming value, certain symptoms can appear such as:
· Stomach problems
· Sleep disturbances
· Muscle weakness
· Lack of appetite
In severe cases, lead poisoning can cause death, particularly if the quantity ingested has been high.
These symptoms usually appear after three weeks from the moment of exposure.
More serious symptoms can include:
· Slurred speech
· Mental retardation
· Poor cognitive function
· Brain damage
· Convulsions and seizures
· Change in behavioral patterns
The lead-crime connection hypothesis
During the 1960s and 1970s, lead was added to the gasoline used by vehicles and it subsequently ended up in the atmosphere. Kids growing in these decades were more exposed to lead (inhaling it from the air) and since this metal is known for causing changes in behavioral patterns, researchers believe that it might have provoked a substantial increase in crime rate.
However, a significant decrease in crime rate occurred between 1994 and 2004 and it might be attributed to a drasticreduction of lead exposure among children. This happened mainly because fuels were manufactured without pollutants such as lead since the 1980s, and its quantity in the breathable air was heavily reduced.
Lead treatment and prevention options
A urine specimen is required to determine the lead levels in a person’s body. Depending on the results, doctors can recommend certain treatment options to eliminate lead content as well as preventing additional exposure.
Here are a few useful prevention tips:
· Water filtration systems can purify tap water and eliminate most lead content as well as other pollutants
· Keeping a clean and dust-free house
· Inspecting painted surfaces and address paint deterioration immediately
· Washing hands often
Eliminating lead from the body is a natural process which happens over time. Adults manage to successfully eliminate lead, but kids are more vulnerable to its dangerous effects.
When lead levels exceed 5mcg/dL, chelation therapy might be recommended as a treatment method for children and adults alike.
Cadmium poisoning poses serious health problems as this metal gets deposited primarily in the kidneys. It can be available in high quantities near mining sites as well as places where waste is incinerated.
Tobacco leaves also extract cadmium from contaminated soil, and it gets in cigarettes. Smokers have a high risk of accumulating a large quantity of cadmium in their bodies as well as other harmful toxins.
Cadmium is often found in batteries, fertilizers, and plastics.
Sources of cadmium include:
· Air (as vapors) and water (available in soluble forms)
· Vegetables and plants (extracted from contaminated soil)
· Seafood such as sardines and shellfish
· Sunflower seeds
It is important to note here that cadmium is present in trace amounts in the foods above. However, one should get tested for cadmium exposure using a urine sample to determine the levels of this heavy metal in the body.
Cadmium poisoning symptoms
This heavy metal can affect numerous organs in the body, and it is the source of many health complications. Symptoms include:
· Fatigue and dizziness
· Headaches and nausea
· Abdominal pain
· Pulmonary edema (particularly in smokers)
· Rapid heartbeat for no reason
· Impaired sense of smell
Serious cases of cadmium exposure can cause significant kidney and liver damage. Cadmium is eliminated slowly from the body, a process which might take years.
Cadmium treatment and prevention options
There are several ways one can limit his exposure to cadmium. These include:
· Give up smoking and don't be exposed to second-hand smoking
· Eat a diet containing sufficient amounts of iron
· Keep a clean and dust-free home and workplace
Similar to lead poisoning, chelation therapy might also help eliminate cadmium from the body quicker, but exposure should be drastically limited before beginning treatment.
Heavy metals summary
1. Heavy metals don’t bring any health benefit, and they can cause serious complications in both adults and children
2. The most common types of heavy metals which can get in the body are arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead
3. Heavy metals are present almost anywhere, including atmosphere, water, soil, foods and electronics people use every day
4. Heavy metal poisoning can lead to numerous symptoms such as headaches, nausea, abdominal pain, confusion, dizziness, brain impairment and so on
5. Most heavy metals tend to be excreted through urine and feces, and they are deposited in bones and organs such as kidney, liver, and heart
6. Testing for heavy metals can be done using blood and/or urine sample
7. The body slowly eliminates heavy metals, but this process can be improved using chelation therapy
8. Children and newborns are more vulnerable to the dangerous effects of heavy metals, in comparison with adults
9. Certain parts of Asia such as Bangladesh are significantly more exposed to heavy metals due to air and soil contamination
10. Hair and fingernails can also be sources of elimination of heavy metals
What to do next?
The next step would be to order a heavy metal test which consists of a urine and blood specimen. These will be sent to a laboratory for analysis, and the results will be received by email in a couple of business days.
A professional healthcare provider helps the patient interpret the results and can make recommendations based on these results.
The end goal is to increase awareness regarding heavy metals and help people take control of their health.
Important tips to know before screening for heavy metals
1. Most seafood contains a decent amount of heavy metals including arsenic and mercury. It is advised to not eat sardines, shellfish, oysters or other types of seafood for up to 48 hours before being tested.
2. Avoid red wine approximately 72 hours before the test since this drink can significantly influence your results.
Order the heavy metal blood and urine test today!
Especially if you usually have some of the symptoms mentioned above, it is paramount that you take this test and assess the levels of heavy metals in your body. Order the heavy metals test today, and you’ll have more peace of mind.
FIND OUT IF YOU HAVE HEAVY METAL POISONING BY GETTING THESE TESTS: Click here