Heavy Metals / Toxins
If you suspect heavy metal or toxin exposure you should
get tested. You could be living or working work with toxins or other toxic substances
and not even know. Exposure to certain hazardous materials such as heavy metals
can quickly increase to dangerous levels. Heavy metal exposure may occur through
your diet, from the environment, from medications, or from other aspects of
your daily life.
There are some heavy metals that are necessary to support
life in very small doses, but in large amounts are toxic and can present a health
hazard if they build up in the system.
Zinc is important
to the body, as is cobalt atoms found in vitamin B-12.
Iron is another good
heavy metal, and so is copper, manganese, chromium and selenium. On the other
hand lead, mercury and cadmium are heavy metals that are very toxic to humans,
and have no known benefit to the body.
In medical usage, the term "heavy metal" is used as a general
term for all metals and semimetals with human or environmental toxicity, regardless
of their atomic weight. Lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic are the most common
examples of toxic metal exposure (Heavy
Metals Profile: Tests for Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, and Arsenic).
Other types of heavy metals that when exposed to can lead to toxic levels
include chromium, copper, fluoride, zinc, and xylenes.
Toxicity of Heavy Metals
There are several determinants of the toxicity of heavy
metals. The type of the metal, how much was absorbed, the age of the person
absorbing the metal, and the way in which they were exposed are all important.
Young children are very susceptible to lead poisoning because their brains are
not as developed as adults, and even small amounts of lead exposure can cause
brain damage. Mercury can be inert when absorbed through the skin, but when
injected or inhaled mercury can be very toxic.
Exposure over a period of time to toxic heavy metals can
result in physical, muscular and neurological damages. The effect on the body
when exposed long-term can resemble Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis,
muscular dystrophy and even allergic reactions. According to the International
Occupational Safety and Health Information Center, long-term exposure to heavy
metals can even cause cancer.
Heavy metal poisoning is generally uncommon, but is rather
serious when it does happen. It can reduce the quality of life for a person,
and those who are suspected of being exposed should get a blood test for heavy
metal toxicity. If unrecognized or misdiagnosed, heavy
metal poisoning can result in serious health problems and mortality. People
can be exposed to dangerous heavy metals through diet, medications, medical
procedures (such as
from hip or joint replacement surgery), in the home (such as lead paint used
in older homes), from the environment or even from working around dangerous
chemicals. A complete medical and environmental history should be taken into
consideration if exposure is suspected.