Heavy Metal Toxicity

Recently I have been diagnosed with pretty bad heavy metal toxicity, (mercury, antimony, cadmium, lead). These are common exposures from smoke chimneys and copper and steel smelters. My home was close to these as a kid, I lived close to the Port Kembla Steelworks in the  Illawarra Region.  I also had some other exposures too!  Treatment has just began, it is too early to comment on that, however I thought it important to share an article on heavy metal toxicity, as while considered rare, it is now being recognised as a pretty common contributer to Environmental Illness and  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Heavy Metal Exposures  & Toxicity

Heavy metal exposure can wreak havoc on your health. Metals bind to cellular sites normally occupied by essential minerals, disrupting metabolic activity. They can inhibit the uptake of calcium, depriving bone tissue of essential nutrition and potentially causing osteoporosis. Metals can also damage the body’s natural antioxidants, leaving you more susceptible to oxidative stress. People experiencing vague and puzzling symptoms sometimes do so due to heavy metal toxicity.

Diagnosing Heavy Metal Toxicity

Heavy metals can accumulate in the body over time. If one’s health progressively deteriorates, most doctors are unlikely to consider heavy metals as a cause, and low levels of metal toxicity are difficult to diagnose.  On the other hand, acute exposures to heavy metals, while potentially deadly, are often easier to identify and treat.

As an investigation into your chronic health issues evolves, it is wise to have your provider run tests that can detect levels of heavy metals. Excellent lab testing is available using urine, hair, feces, and blood. Photo-spectrometry sensing technologies can also be used.  Each medium has its own respective value in the diagnosis and monitoring of detoxification. 

Heavy metal detox guide - Dr. Axe




Treatment usually involves reduce exposures to heavy metals, nutritionally rebalancing programs and cleanses (detox, other).  It must be guided by a qualified health practitioner, as if not done correctly it may simply cause reintoxification, or even injury to detox pathways or organs.   Doctors trained in Functional medicine, Integrative Medicine or Nutrition and Environmental Medicine (NEM) are usually best qualified for this.  Some information you may find helpful can be found at Dr Klinghardts, Dr Wilson and Dr Axe’s websites. 

Symptoms and Exposure sources


Mercury toxicity may be associated with hundreds of symptoms and conditions. The most common include depression, neurological damage, emotional instability, mood swings, inability to concentrate, sleep disturbances, irritability, abnormal heartbeat, pressure and pain in the chest, high or low blood pressure, and anemia.

Besides dentistry and occupational settings where elemental mercury is used, most of the health risk from mercury exposure is due to methylmercury from fish consumption. Mackerel, shark, shellfish, and swordfish top this list. Tuna may also contain methylmercury, but usually in smaller amounts. Adults who consume a large quantity of these fish on a regular basis are at a high risk for toxicity.

Other common sources of mercury exposure include:

  • Batteries
  • Broken fluorescent light bulbs
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Grains and seeds treated with methylmercury to kill bacteria and fungi
  • Latex paints
  • Pesticides and fungicides
  • Plastics
  • Printer’s ink
  • Vaccines

Mercury is uniquely dangerous because it is a liquid at room temperature and vaporizes easily. This is why you shouldn’t attempt to vacuum up a mercury spill from a broken thermometer unless the vacuum’s exhaust system is vented to the outside. Mercury is absorbed upon skin contact, inhaled into the lungs, and seeps through the intestines when ingested.


Lead toxicity can contribute to a wide array of symptoms and conditions, including, but limited to:

  • Cirrhosis of the liver, hair loss, birth defects, heart problems, thyroid dysfunction, and kidney disease
  • Frequent colds and infections of all types
  • Muscle weakness and muscle pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and weight loss
  • Seizures, learning disabilities, headaches, tremors, dizziness, depression, fatigue, malaise, nervousness, disorientation, hyperactivity in children, nerve damage to hands and feet, loss of sight, and mental retardation

the most common source of lead exposure is at workplaces involving the use of lead compounds. Workers can also sometimes bring lead residues into their home on their work clothes, skin, hair and equipment after contact with lead.

Other sources of lead exposure exist, such as 

  • lead paint– used in many homes prior to 1970; those built more recently may also have paint containing lead. Lead is still used in paint and surface finishes of cars and boats. Flaking or peeling paint, or renovation activities, may generate dust or chips of paint containing lead which can then be inhaled by adults or inhaled or eaten by children
  • hobbies which involve the use of lead – such as home renovations or restoration of old cars or furniture, lead-lighting, pottery using lead glazes, making or handling lead sinkers used for fishing, recreational gun shooting (including casting bullets and shooting at a pistol range)
  • air may become polluted with lead from copper and lead smelters, . Vehicle battery works, iron and steel production and soldering using lead can produce small amounts of lead in the air. In early 2002, leaded petrol for cars was phased out in Australia
  • high lead levels in soil can be caused by some industrial and mining activities. In areas with a history of high traffic flow, roadside soil may still contain lead deposited from traffic fumes prior to the removal of lead from petrol
  • household dust may contain lead from a number of sources – including deteriorating lead-based house paints, contaminated soil or dust brought into the house
  • drinking water can contain small amounts of lead. The solder or fittings of some older pipes may contain lead which can dissolve into water that may be sitting in these pipes
  • traditional and alternative medicines, usually sourced overseas, have been found to contain high levels of lead – cases of lead poisoning as a result of taking Ayurvedic treatments imported from India have been reported in Victoria
  • old toys (for example, painted items or metal cars and toy soldiers) may contain high levels of lead – Australian standards restrict the amount of lead in painted toys. However, some imported toys have presented a risk. Also, very old cots or second-hand painted cots may contain unsafe levels of lead in the paintwork
  • foods stored in pewter, lead crystal glassware or pottery containing lead-based glazing may become contaminated with lead. Imported cans from specialty stores with irregularly soldered side seams may contain high levels of lead. Legislation restricts lead levels in Australian foods. Eating animals hunted using lead shot may also cause lead exposure
  • metal objects such as jewellery, old coins, medals and curtain weights may contain lead.

The Department of Health and Human Services (Victoria) Environmental Health Program can provide advice about lead sources in the home and how to manage them safely (Tel. 1300 761 874).



Cadmium exposure is associated with the following symptoms and conditions:

  • Abdominal pain, weight loss, vomiting
  • Disrupted iron, copper, and magnesium metabolism
  • Immune suppression, immune dysfunction, slow healing
  • Sodium retention, low body temperature
  • Sore joints, acne, anemia, decreased fertility, lung disease

Common sources of cadmium exposure include:

  • Batteries
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Dental amalgam fillings
  • Fertilizers
  • Fish from polluted water
  • Incineration by-products of rubber and plastics
  • Metal plating
  • Paints
  • Particles from auto tires and brakes
  • Photographic processes
  • Silver polish

Suggestions to reduce the risk of exposure to cadmium include: 

Source: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/cadmium

  • Stop smoking. Cigarette smoke contains cadmium that can be absorbed through the lungs.
  • Try to avoid inhaling other people’s cigarette smoke.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet with only moderate amounts of shellfish and organ meats.
  • If your job or hobbies involve handling cadmium, always use appropriate personal protective equipment and consider having your cadmium levels checked regularly by your doctor.


Aluminum exposure may be associated with the following symptoms and conditions:

  • Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive difficulties, headaches
  • Bone loss, muscle aches, physical weakness
  • Higher susceptibility to colds and flu
  • Severe dryness of the mucous membranes and skin

Some studies suggest that aluminum is linked to Alzheimer’s disease—a condition in which cognitive function and memory diminish over time, eventually leading to senility and dementia. The cognitive function of Alzheimer’s patients is reported to improve when aluminum is removed from the body with desferroxamine, a chelating agent. Chelating agents are used to bind metals and remove them from the body.

Common sources of aluminum include:

  • Aluminum cans, paints, silicates, and spray paints
  • Antiperspirants, deodorants, and shampoo
  • Automobile exhaust
  • Baking powder
  • Buffered aspirin
  • Cat litter
  • Cigarette filters and smoke
  • Cookware
  • Food additives
  • Lipstick
  • Medications

One study documented that the concentration of aluminum in water heated in an aluminum coffee pot is increased by 75 times. The use of aluminum cookware is probably the most common source of exposure in daily life, despite public awareness of the problem.

One study documented that the concentration of aluminum in water heated in an aluminum coffee pot is increased by 75 times. The use of aluminum cookware is probably the most common source of exposure in daily life, despite public awareness of the problem.


Sources of heavy metals

Aluminumvaccines, anti-perspirants, aluminum foil, tea  especially mint and peppermint (all teas have aluminum), animal feed, antacids, aspirin, auto exhaust, used as an anticaking and drying agent in our, baking powders and table salt, beverages in aluminum cans (soda, beer, juice), ceramics, cheese (processed), cigarette smoke, clays like bentonite, color additives, aluminum cookware, cosmetics, mercury amalgam llings, ‘natural’ deodorant stones and crystals, tap water (used to cause sediment to sink to the bottom of municipal water sources), some medications, nasal spray, pesticides, pollution, toothpaste, vanilla powder, and occupational exposure.

Arsenic – conventionally raised poultry and commercial chicken feed, some beer, treated wood (wood preservatives), coal combustion, drinking water (US, Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile), pesticides, fungicides and insecticides, glass and mirror manufacturing, paints, pigments, table salt, tobacco smoke, rice and rice products (organic has much less),cosmetics, seafood from coastal waters (especially oysters and shrimp), soil.


Barium – contaminated groundwater, cigarette/tobacco smoke, barium sulfate beverages (used in certain medical procedures), cathode-ray tubes (in plasma TVs, LCDs/liquid crystal displays/ TVs, LCD computer monitors, and laptop computers), at panel display devices/FDPs (such as TVs, computers, and smart phones), clay slurries used in drilling oil wells, ller for rubbers and plastics, manufacturing of ceramics, paint pigments, paper ller, petroleum production, pyrotechnics (signal ares, reworks), rat poison.

Beryllium – tobacco smoke, air pollution (burning fossil fuels), coal burning, dental crowns, electronics, glass, manufacture of plastics and household products, industrial dust, metal work, mining, steel alloys, volcanic ash, and X-ray tubes.

Bismuthcosmetics and makeup, stomach remedies (Pepto Bismol), some medicines, occupational exposure.

Cadmium – cigarettes and marijuana, airborne industrial contaminants, artist’s paints, auto exhaust, batteries, burning coal, ceramics, coffee and instant coffee, copper alloys, dental alloys and amalgam lling, electroplating, fertilizers, food grown on cadmium contaminated soil (sewage sludge, chemical fertilizers, and contaminated irrigation water), fungicides, galvanized pipes, hydrogenated oils, incineration of tires/rubber/plastic, shell sh and large ocean sh (tuna, cod, haddock), metal coatings, motor oil, paints, pigments, plastics, processed foods, rubber, sewage, silver polish, smelters, solders (including in canned food), water (tap, softened, well), welding material, and occupational exposure.

Chromium (toxic) – cement, cheese (American), dental materials, jewelry, oysters, paint pigments, tattoos, tobacco smoke.

Cobalt (toxic) – batteries, hair dyes, magnets, radioactive solutions, tires.

Copper – any birth control involving estrogen will raise copper like IUD’s (intra-uterine devices) and the birth control pill, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), avocado, beer, bone meal, chocolate, congenital intoxication (acquired at birth), copper water pipes, copper added to tap water as a fungicide, copper cookware, corn oil, crabs, dental alloys and amalgams, electronic devices, fertilizers, fungicides, gelatin, grains, hair color, industrial emissions, insecticides, jewelry, lobster, margarine, mushrooms, nuts, nutritional supplements – high in prenatal vitamins, organ meats, oysters, perch, pesticides, shell sh, soybeans, swimming pools, tofu, vegetarian diets in general, welding, wheat germ, and occupational exposure.

Gold – computers, coins, dental crowns and gold llings, jewelry, radioactive solutions.

Iron (toxic) – enriched our, drinking water, cast iron cookware, iron pipes, welding, re ned foods.

Lead – auto exhaust, batteries and battery manufacturing, cigarette smoke, coal combustion, colored inks, cosmetics, root canals, eating utensils, electroplating, glass production, glazes, hair dyes, industrial emissions, lead pipes, lead-glazed earthenware pottery, mascara, metal polish, milk, newsprint, paints, pencils, pesticide residues, pvc containers, rain water, smelters, cans with lead solder sealing (such as juices, vegetables), tobacco and tobacco smoke, toothpaste, water (city/well/tap).

Manganese (toxic) – well water, auto exhaust, gasoline, batteries, ceramics, soy infant formula, fertilizers and pesticides.

Mercury (ethly) – eye drops, nasal sprays, thimerosal, vaccines.
Mercury (inorganic) – batteries, dental mercury amalgam llings, disinfectants, vaccines.
Mercury (methyl) – sh and shell sh (especially tuna, shark and other large sh), fungicides, grains, and soil. Mercury (phenyl) – eye drops, soft contact lens solution, fungicides, latex and oil-based paints, nasal sprays.

Mercury (general) – adhesives, air conditioner lters, air pollution (coal burning), algaecides, antiseptics, battery manufacturing, body powders, bleached our, broken thermometers, burning of building materials, calomel lotions, some Chinese herbs, cleaners including Ajax, Lysol, Comet, Derma Scrub, Dove Soap, Ivory Liquid, chlorine and chlorine bleach, congenital intoxication (acquired in utero), cosmetics, diuretics, dyes, embalming uid, engraving supplies, exhaust fumes, fabric softeners, felt, fertilizers, inks, laxatives, lumber, paints, paper manufacturing, medications, mercurochrome, photo engraving, polluted water, Preparation H, psoriasis ointment, sewage disposal, skin lightening creams, tattooing, water (contaminated), waxes (including oor), and wood preservatives.

Molybdenum (toxic) – dental materials, fossil fuels, hair color, lubricating oils.

Nickel – braces, dental crowns and materials, red teas like roobios, air pollution, batteries, cigarette smoke, cosmetics, fertilizers, fuel oil combustion, hydrogenated fats and oils (margarine, fast food, commercial peanut butter and shortening, imitation whipped cream), industrial waste, jewelry, oysters and shell sh, stainless steel cookware (makes it shiny), and occupational exposure.


Palladium – car exhaust, coins, dental crowns, radiation, razors, watches, ‘white gold’.
Potassium (toxic) – fruit grown with NPK fertilizers (Miracle Grow).
Platinum – catalytic converters, dental llings, jewelry, pacemakers, tobacco smoke.
Rubidium (this element is non toxic) – organic black beluga lentils, meats, whole grains, vegetables. Silver – dental llings, food colorings, jewelry.

Strontium (toxic) – air pollution, ceramic glazes, cathode-ray tubes for televisions, ceramic making, coal burning, glass making, making of uorescent lights, some medicines, metal melting and casting, mining waste waters, municipal land ll operations, nuclear waste facilities, oil, paint pigments, pyrotechnics, scrap metal work (sorting, sales, and brokerage), soil, surface and underground water.

Thallium – car exhaust, smog, ant killers, cardiac scanning (thallium isotopes are used in this procedure), cement plants, coal ash, inhalation of contaminated dust from pyrite burners, kale and other cruciferous vegetables, lead smelting, manufacture of electronics, low temperature thermometers, optical lenses, imitation precious jewels, semiconductors, scintillation counters, green-colored reworks, oil drilling, anti-knock additive in some gasoline in areas where high-octane gas is in short supply, production of photoelectric cells, rodenticides, smelting activities, soil, water uoridated with uorosilicic acid, zinc smelting.

Tin – canned foods or juices, dental amalgams, land lls, soil, toys, water collected from galvanized (tin) roofs, air, dyes, food additives, fungicides, some herbs, licorice, occupational exposure, smelting, tin recovery from scarp metal, soaps, seafood, some toothpaste, stablizers in plastics, moluscicides, and miticides.

Titanium – bone pins, hip/joint replacements, cosmetics (used to make it white colored), sunscreens (used to make it white colored), paints, jewelry, stainless steel watches, toothpaste (used to make it white colored), food coloring, candy and gum (used to make it white colored).

Tungsten – air, light bulb laments, x-ray tubes, a component of steel in high-speed tools, turbine blades, phonographic needles, welding electrodes, gyroscope wheels, shing weights, darts, golf club components, bullets (as a replacement for lead), and in armor penetrators (as a substitute for depleted uranium).

Uranium – Fukushima fallout, well water, contaminated soil, water ltered through volcanic rock, pottery glazes, high-energy X-rays, nuclear power plants, photographic chemicals, gyroscopic compasses, glassworks, artillery,

Vanadium – dental implants and alloys, titanium implants, UV ltering in glasses

Zirconium – alloys and metals used in nuclear power, aerospace, and various chemical industries; manufacture of ceramics, glass, and porcelains; in the synthesis of pigments, dyes, and water repellants; abrasives and polishing materials; igniters in the manufacture of munitions and detonators; lighter ints; skin ointments and antiperspirants; a “Gas getter” in the manufacture of high-vacuum tubes; deodorizer, denitri ed, and desulfurizer in iron and steel manufacturing, and occupational exposure

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