Effect of Toxic Metals on Human Health
Toxic metals are a fairly large group of minerals that have no known function in the body. In addition, they are known to be harmful to plant, animal and human bodies.
Toxic metals have always been present on earth. However, mankind today is exposed to the highest levels of these metals in recorded history. This is mainly due to their industrial use for the past 300 years, the burning of fossil fuels without scrubbers, and improper incineration of waste materials worldwide.
Toxic metals are now everywhere, and affect everyone on planet earth. They have become a major cause of illness, aging and even genetic defects.
The study of toxic metals is often considered a part of the study of toxicology. This subject matter is not widely taught today in high schools, colleges or medical schools.
For this reason, this important cause of disease is given little attention in society or in conventional mainstream medicine. Fortunately, environmental science is beginning to pay more attention to toxic metals and their relationship to the health of all living things on planet earth.
INTRODUCTION TO THE MINERALS
Minerals are the building blocks of our bodies. They are required for body structure, fluid balance, protein structures and to produce hormones. Minerals also act as co-factors, catalysts and inhibitors of all our body’s enzymes. Everything in our bodies are made of about 50 minerals, also called chemical elements.
Having the right minerals is a great a key to the health of every body system and function.
Mineral classification. Minerals are classified into four groups:
1. Macrominerals. These are found in large quantity in our bodies. They include calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, phosphorus and sulfur. The first four are sometimes called the electrolytes, because they are common in the blood.
2. Required trace minerals. These include iron, copper, zinc, manganese, chromium, selenium, boron, silicon, iodine, vanadium, lithium, molybdenum, cobalt, germanium and perhaps a few others.
3. Possibly required trace minerals. Less is known about these. They may include rubidium, tin, niobium, gold, silver and others.
4. Toxic metals. The most well-studied include aluminum, antimony, barium, beryllium, bismuth, bromine, cadmium, chlorine, fluoride, lead, mercury nickel, and uranium. However, there are a dozen or more others.
This article will only discuss the more common toxic metals.
TOXIC METAL DANGERS
Easy exposure. Today mankind is exposed to the highest levels in recorded history of lead, mercury, arsenic, aluminum, copper, nickel, tin, antimony, bromine, bismuth and vanadium, among others. The levels are up to several thousand times higher than in primitive man. In my clinical experience, for this reason everyone has excessive amounts of some or all of the toxic metals.
Persistent in the environment. Toxic metals are also persistent. The late Henry Schroeder, MD, who was a world authority on minerals, wrote:
“Most organic substances are degradable by natural processes. (However), no metal is degradable…they are here to stay for a long time”.
Persistent and cumulative in the body. Toxic metals also tend to persist or remain in our bodies for years. We can remove some of them if we are healthy, but many also accumulate.
Specific types of damage:
Depositing in tissues. Toxic metals may also simply deposit in many sites, causing local irritation and other toxic effects.
Causing infection. Some toxic metals support development of fungal, bacterial and viral infections that are difficult or impossible to eradicate until this cause is removed.
Damaging biosynthesis. Minerals are very involved in the production of all chemicals in our bodies from DNA and RNA. They are needed as raw materials for body chemicals, for enzymes that participate in the synthesis of all of our chemicals, and for more. Toxic metals interfere, block, replace, and poison many aspects of biosynthesis.
Weakening body structures. For example, lead, fluoride, aluminum and other toxic metals that find their way into the bones weaken the bones.
General enzyme damage. Toxic metals replace nutrient minerals in enzyme binding sites. When this occurs, the metals inhibit, overstimulate or otherwise alter thousands of enzymes.
An affected enzyme may operate at 5% of normal activity. This may contribute to many health conditions. Toxic metals may also replace other substances in other tissue structures. These tissues, such as the arteries, joints, bones and muscles, are weakened by the replacement process.
Other. Toxic metals upset digestion, alter gland activity, change the metabolic rate, and damage organs such as the kidneys and liver. In addition, all are neurotoxic. This means they damage the brain and nervous system.
In fact, we find that many mental and emotional health disorders involve excess toxic metals in the body and brain. I hope that someday this fact will be recognized in the fields of psychology and psychiatry. There is a small group of doctors known as orthomolecular psychiatrists who are aware of this, but they are yet very few in number.
SUMMARY OF THE SOURCES AND SYMPTOMS OF SOME COMMON TOXIC METALS
Sources: cookware, beverages in aluminum cans, tap water, table salt, baking powders, antacids, processed cheese, anti-perspirants, bleached flour, vaccines and perhaps other medications, and occupational exposure. Virtually everyone has too much aluminum in their bodies.
Symptoms: Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, anemia and other blood disorders, colic, fatigue, dental caries, dementia dialactica, hypoparathyroidism, kidney and liver dysfunctions, neuromuscular disorders, osteomalacia and Parkinson’s disease.
Sources: pesticides, beer, table salt, tap water, paints, pigments, cosmetics, glass and mirror manufacture, fungicides, insecticides, treated wood and contaminated food.
Symptoms: abdominal pain, abnormal ECG, anorexia, dermatitis, diarrhea, edema, enzyme inhibitor, fever, fluid loss, goiter, hair loss, headache, herpes, impaired healing, interferes with the uptake of folic acid, inhibition of sulfhydryl enzyme systems, jaundice, keratosis, kidney and liver damage, muscle spasms, pallor, peripheral neuritis, sore throat, stomatitis, stupor, vasodilation, vertigo, vitiligo and weakness.
Sources: air pollution (burning fossil fuels), manufacture of plastics, electronics, steel alloys and volcanic ash.
Symptoms: adrenal insufficiency, arthritis, bone spurs, bursitis, depression, fatigue, osteoporosis and symptoms of slow metabolism.
Sources: cigarettes, (tobacco and marijuana), processed and refined foods, large fish, shellfish, tap water, auto exhaust, plated containers, galvanized pipes, air pollution from incineration and occupational exposure.
Symptoms: hypertension, arthritis, diabetes, anemia, arteriosclerosis, impaired bone healing, cancer, cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis, reduced fertility, hyperlipidemia, hypoglycemia, headaches, osteoporosis, kidney disease, schizophrenia and strokes.
Sources: tap water, cigarette smoke, hair dyes, paints, inks, glazes, pesticide residues and occupational exposure in battery manufacture and other industries.
Symptoms: abdominal pain, adrenal insufficiency, anemia, arthritis, arteriosclerosis, attention deficit, back problems, blindness, cancer, constipation, convulsions, deafness, depression, diabetes, dyslexia, epilepsy, fatigue, gout, impaired glycogen storage, hallucinations, hyperactivity, impotency, infertility, inflammation, kidney dysfunction, learning disabilities, diminished libido, migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis, psychosis, thyroid imbalances and tooth decay.
Sources: dental amalgams, ALL fish (tiny fish are better), ALL shellfish, sea vegetables, some medications such as thiazide diuretics, air pollution, gold mining, and the manufacture of paper, chlorine, adhesives, fabric softeners and waxes. Most everyone has too much mercury in their body today.
Symptoms: adrenal gland dysfunction, alopecia, anorexia, ataxia, bipolar disorder, birth defects, blushing, depression, dermatitis, discouragement, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, hearing loss, hyperactivity, immune system dysfunction, insomnia, kidney damage, loss of self-control, memory loss, mood swings, nervousness, numbness and tingling, pain in limbs, rashes, excessive salivation, schizophrenia, thyroid dysfunction, timidity, tremors, peripheral vision loss and muscle weakness.
Sources: hydrogenated oils (margarine, commercial peanut butter and shortening), shellfish, air pollution, cigarette smoke, plating and occupational exposure.
Symptoms: cancer (oral and intestinal), depression, heart attacks, hemorrhages, kidney dysfunction, low blood pressure, malaise, muscle tremors and paralysis, nausea, skin problems, tetany and vomiting.
1. Schroeder, H., Trace elements and Man, The Devin-Adair Company, CT, 1975.
2. Ibid, p. 154
3. Braunwald, E. et al, editors, Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, McGraw-Hill, Professional, 15th edition, 2001.
4. Pfeiffer, C., Zinc and Other Micronutrients, Keats Publishing, CT, 1978.
5. Kutsky, R., Handbook of Vitamins, Minerals and Hormones, 2nd edition, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, NY, 1981.
6. Ibid., Schroeder, H., Trace Elements and Man.
7. Hall, R.H., Food For Naught, The Decline in Nutrition, Vintage Books, NY, 1974.
8. Anderson, M. and Jensen, B. Empty Harvest; Understanding the Link Between Our Food, Our Immunity and Our Planet, Avery Penguin Putnam, 1993.
9. Price, W., Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, CA, 1949.
10. Stannard, J., Shim, Y.S., Kritsineli, M., Labropoulo, P.,Tsamtsouris, A., Fluoride levels and fluoride contamination of fruit juices, J Clin Ped Dentistry, 1991;16(1).
11. From the warning label on hydrofluosilicic acid, Cargill Corporation, FL.
12. Casdorph, H.R. and Walker, M., Toxic Metal Syndrome, Avery Publishing, NY, 1995.
13. National Autism Association, Press Release, Feb. 9, 2004.
14. Eck, P. and Wilson, L., Toxic Metals in Human Health and Disease, Eck Institute of Applied Nutrition and Bioenergetics, Ltd., AZ, 1989, p. xiv.
15. Shamberger, R.J., Validity of hair mineral testing, Bio Trace Element Res, 2002, 87:1-28.
16. Muir, M., Current controversies in the diagnosis and treatment of heavy metal toxicity, Alternative and Comp Ther., June 1997:170-178.
17. Environmental Protection Agency, Research and Development, Toxic Trace Metals in Human and Mammalian Hair, EPA-600, 4.79-049, August 1979, p. 3.
18. Tuthill, R., Hair lead levels related to children’s classroom attention-deficit behavior, Arch Env Health, 1996, 51(3)214-220.
19. Ames, BN, Elson-Schwab, I., Silver, EA, High-dose vitamin therapy stimulates variant enzymes with decreased coenzyme binding affinity: relevance to genetic disease and polymorphisms, Am J Clin Nut. April 2002;75(4):616-658.
20. 1993, J Applied Nut, 45(1). (article on trace mineral content of organic foods versus commercial foods)
21. Mortensen, M.E. and Watson, P., Chelation therapy for childhood lead poisoning: The changing scene in the 1990s, Clin Ped., 1993;32:284-291.
22. Committee on Drugs, American Academy of Pediatrics Treatment guidelines for lead exposure in children, Pediatrics, 1995, 96:155-159.
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