By Dr. Joseph Mercola
with Rachael Droege
Are you feeling tired or irritable? Is your head foggy or are you suffering from Alzheimer's disease, depression or anemia? These are just a few of the signs that you may be suffering from metal poisoning--a toxic accumulation of metals in the soft tissues of the body.
Metal poisoning is much more common than most people realize, and if you're thinking that it doesn't apply to you because you haven't been exposed to any, think again. If you've eaten fish regularly, had amalgam fillings, received vaccinations, drank contaminated water, or done industrial or agricultural work or pharmaceutical manufacturing, there's a good chance that you have a fair amount of toxic metals in your system.
The effects of these toxic metals can range from subtle symptoms to serious diseases. Since metals build up in your body over time, symptoms are often attributed to other causes and people often don't realize that they have been affected by metals until it's too late.
The worst part about metals is that once they build up in your body they can cause irreversible damage. Further damage can be prevented by removing the metals, but this can be a slow, difficult process. Prevention is the best defense when it comes to metal poisoning, and this list of five common toxic metals will give you a heads up to avoiding further exposure to these health-degenerating elements.
Mercury is one of the most problematic of all toxic metals because, despite its dangers and known role as a neurotoxin, many people have it implanted in their mouth, injected into their bloodstream, or are consuming it daily in fish.
If you are one of the millions of Americans who has received silver dental fillings, take heed: Mercury makes up about 50 percent of every amalgam dental filling, also known as "silver" fillings. According to the American Dental Association, "Dental amalgam (silver filling) is considered a safe, affordable and durable material that has been used to restore the teeth of more than 100 million Americans. It contains a mixture of metals such as silver, copper and tin, in addition to mercury, which chemically binds these components into a hard, stable and safe substance. Dental amalgam has been studied and reviewed extensively, and has established a record of safety and effectiveness."
However, consider that while 78 percent of Americans have dental fillings, 95 percent of people with disorders of the central nervous system such as MS, epilepsy, paralysis and migraines also have silver dental fillings. This begs the question, would you want mercury, one of the most powerful neurotoxins on the planet, embedded in your mouth, only inches from your brain? The answer is obvious.
Vapors from amalgams are released continually, and studies have found that those with these fillings can have mercury vapor concentration 10 times higher than people without them. Simple activities such as chewing gum, drinking hot liquids and brushing teeth can increase the release of mercury even more.
If you decide to have your amalgams replaced with a non-toxic material, the most important thing is to find a dentist who can remove your amalgams safely. Any dentist can technically replace your amalgams, but if they don't employ proper precautions much of the mercury in your fillings will go straight to your brain. Secondly, I would highly recommend getting healthy BEFORE you start on your fillings. Even a good dentist will likely liberate some mercury in the removal process and you want your detoxification mechanisms optimized prior to removal.
Thimerosal, a mercury-containing vaccine preservative, is still widely used in vaccines, including those routinely administered to children. Thimerosal contains close to 50 percent ethyl mercury by weight. Children are particularly sensitive to the mercury as their nervous systems are still rapidly developing. Years ago, health-related organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that thimerosal be removed from vaccines as soon as possible, yet it's still present in many vaccinations including Hepatitis B, diphtheria, pertussis, acellular pertussis, tetanus and Hib.
Over the past decade, the prevalence of autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders such as attention deficit disorder have been increasing at epidemic proportions, and many experts believe that mercury from vaccines is at least partly to blame. It is thought that a child's reduced ability to excrete the mercury--children's detoxification abilities may vary greatly--may also play a role.
It is possible to get childhood vaccines without thimerosal, since some manufacturers have developed thimerosal-free vaccines, however, you will have to ask your doctor to check the package insert and provide a written guarantee that the vaccine is mercury-free. Even then you will not know for sure, as the package inserts, which are supposed to detail exactly what is in a vaccine, may not even be accurate. You will also want to read the many other reasons why vaccines can do more harm than good.
Tragically, our oceans are largely contaminated with industrial pollutants like mercury. Ocean and farm-raised fish pick up these toxic chemical residues, which bioconcentrate in their flesh.
The larger the fish, the more problematic because big fish eat smaller fish, thereby getting an even greater dose of accumulated toxins. People who regularly eat fish have higher levels of methylmercury than those who don't.
Even the conservative Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings about the dangers of mercury in fish, and they are now planning to issue a federal warning to pregnant and nursing women, and even those thinking of getting pregnant to limit their consumption of tuna, along with their previous warnings about other types of fish, due to mercury concerns. Pregnant and breastfeeding women can transfer mercury to their newborns, causing significant neurological problems.
Even if you are a man or not planning to become pregnant, mercury from fish can still accumulate in your body and cause serious problems down the road. If you do eat fish, please be sure to have it lab tested for mercury. We have found a brand of salmon, Vital Choice, that has less than .1ppm mercury, so this is one option for those of you looking for a safe source of fish. Alternatively, most sardines have little to no mercury since they are so small, and you can also take a high-quality, purified fish oil or cod liver oil to safely receive the health benefits of fish without the mercury.
If you are concerned about mercury poisoning, please review my Mercury Detoxification Protocol for detox information.
There are many ways that humans can be exposed to lead. Among the major sources are lead-based paint, leaded gasoline, lead-contaminated water, manufacturing of lead batteries, rubber products, glass and other lead-containing products, and lead oxide fumes that result when demolishing industrial buildings. While some of these sources, such as lead-based paint and leaded gasoline, have been discontinued over the past few decades, their effects still show up in the environment. For instance, it is estimated that 64 million homes in the United States still contain lead paint, which can either be ingested in flakes or inhaled as a microscopic dust.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the prevalence of lead toxicity (levels greater than 10 mcg/dL) in U.S. children ranged from 1.5 percent for upper-income white children living in recently built houses in the suburbs, to 36.7 percent for black children residing in large cities. Children are more susceptible to lead absorption than adults, whose lead toxicity is generally related to occupational exposure. It's estimated that more than 800,000 U.S. workers are exposed to lead through their work.
However, low-level exposure to lead, such as through drinking water or living near an incinerator or toxic dump, is also associated with many negative health effects like brain dysfunction in children, neurobehavioral changes in adults (such as a reduction in cognitive abilities and IQ, and personality changes), hypertension and chronic kidney disease.
As with the other elements, aluminum is absorbed and accumulated in the body, and has been linked to serious illnesses including osteoporosis, extreme nervousness, anemia, headache, decreased liver and kidney function, forgetfulness, speech disturbances and memory loss.
Aluminum has also been widely associated with Alzheimer's disease. People who have died from Alzheimer's disease have been found to have up to four times the average amount of aluminum accumulated in the brain's nerve cells.
Antiperspirants contain aluminum that is absorbed by your body. It's best to avoid it all together and use simple soap and water instead. Deodorants aren't as bad as antiperspirants, but I would also avoid using them unless it was made from some form of baking soda.
Aluminum-contaminated water is another significant concern, as studies have found that Alzheimer's disease is more common in regions where levels of aluminum in drinking water are highest.
To find out whether you may be at risk from aluminum and other toxins in your water you'll need to have your water tested by a reliable source. I've worked with AquaMD, a top-notch water-testing agency, to create the "Mercola's Recommended Water Tests"--and to make them affordable compared to other sources--so you can ensure the safety of your tap water today.
Other Common Sources
- Aluminum cookware: Although aluminum pots are probably less problematic than the sources mentioned above, I personally would not use aluminum cookware.
- Aluminum foil
- Over-the-counter drugs: These include many antacids, anti-diarrheal drugs and drugs used for pain and inflammation.
- Several douche brands
- Some baking powders: Most baking powders contain aluminum as an additive, but health food stores carry non-aluminum varieties.
- Refined foods, refined flours, baked goods, processed cheeses, and common table salt
Organic arsenic compounds are mainly used as pesticides, primarily on cotton plants, while inorganic arsenic is primarily used to preserve wood. Once arsenic is released in the environment it cannot be destroyed, and many arsenic compounds dissolve in water.
The primary route of exposure to high levels of arsenic is typically through occupational hazards, or near hazardous waste sites or areas with high natural levels. You can also be exposed by breathing sawdust or burning smoke from arsenic-treated wood. Arsenic has also shown up in drinking water, especially among well water, and long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking water has been linked to cancer of the bladder, lungs, skin, kidney, nasal passages, liver and prostate.
Exposure to low levels of arsenic can cause nausea and vomiting, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels, and a sensation of "pins and needles" in hands and feet, and over the long term can cause darkening of the skin and the appearance of small "corns" or "warts" on the palms, soles, and torso.
In January 2001, the EPA revised the standard allowable level of arsenic in drinking water from 50 parts per billion (ppb) to 10 ppb. Levels must reach this lower amount by 2006. However, some experts believe that an even tougher standard of 3 parts per billion should have been adopted.
It's a good idea to have your water tested for arsenic, especially if your water comes from a well, to ensure you are not being slowly poisoned.
Cadmium, a naturally occurring metal, can be found in food, water and cigarette smoke. It is a known human carcinogen that appears to act in two ways: it harms DNA directly and disturbs a DNA repair system that helps to prevent cancer.
Like other metals, cadmium stays in the body for a long time and accumulates after long-term exposure to even low levels. Cadmium is released into the air from mining, industry, burning coal and household wastes, where it then binds to soil particles and dissolves in water. Fish, plants, and animals accumulate cadmium from the environment, as such there are low levels of the metal in most all foods with the highest levels found in shellfish, liver, and kidney meats.
People are exposed to cadmium not only through foods but also through drinking contaminated water and breathing cadmium-contaminated air (such as near burning waste, battery manufacturing, metal soldering or welding). Cadmium is also present in cigarette smoke, and smoking doubles the average daily intake.
It is thought that cadmium is carcinogenic, and long-term exposure to low levels can contribute to kidney disease, lung damage and fragile bones. Animal studies also suggest that it may lead to liver disease, high blood pressure, and nerve or brain damage.
If you are concerned about potential metal poisoning, numerous research projects in the United States and Europe indicate that chlorella -- a type of green algae -- can aid the body in the breakdown of metallic toxins such as mercury, cadmium and lead, while strengthening the immune system response.
This detoxification of metals and other chemical toxins in the blood will take 3-6 months (to build up enough to begin this process) depending on the dosage of chlorella a person is taking.
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