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Friday, October 27, 2023

Are You At Risk Of Heavy Metal Poisoning?

Photo by Nadin Sh from Pexels

No, we’re not talking about the music. ‘Heavy metals’ are a type of element with a high density that can be found in practically everything from the soil below us to the food we eat. Our bodies need certain heavy metals like iron and zinc to survive - but only in certain quantities. Too much of these metals can cause damage to our body. And there are certain heavy metals like lead and mercury that our body doesn’t need at all.

These metals can get into our body in a variety of ways. To prevent heavy metal poisoning, it’s important to know where these metals come from and how to limit exposure so that you’re only consuming the right metals and the right quantity.

What causes heavy metal poisoning?

Heavy metal poisoning can occur for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Eating too much fish: Fish has many health benefits, but if you eat too much you can put yourself at risk of heavy metal poisoning. This is because fish contains small traces of mercury (some fish like bluefin tuna and swordfish contain larger amounts).
  • Drinking water from old pipes: Old pipes were often made from lead. Some old properties are believed to still have lead pipes, and once these pipes corrode it can affect the water supply. Corroded copper pipes can also be a danger.
  • Taking certain medication/supplements: Many drugs - including over-the-counter painkillers - contain toxic heavy metals like arsenic and cadmium. Overdoing these medicines can put you at risk of heavy metal toxicity. Meanwhile, taking too much of certain supplements like iron tablets can also have risks.
  • Handling products containing lots of metal without PPE: Many products like paints, pesticides and heavy duty cleaning products contain heavy metals. Fumes can result in these metals being inhaled - which can become a problem if you’re using these products daily.
  • Using certain types of make-up: Heavy metals are also found in many cosmetic products ranging from lipsticks to eyeshadow. These metals are absorbed by the skin and can become a health risk if you are wearing these products regularly.

What are the effects of heavy metal poisoning?

Our body is able to filter out small amounts of metals that we don’t need, however it struggles with larger quantities. Our kidneys and liver are the organs that are in charge of filtering out these metals and these organs can become quickly damaged once metals start to build up in the bloodstream - potentially leading to liver or kidney failure. Excess heavy metals in the bloodstream can also damage other organs, including the brain (a potential cause of dementia).

Heavy metal poisoning can also increase your risk of developing cancer and lead to an increased risk of fertility issues. Inhaling too many metals can meanwhile lead to respiratory problems, while exposing the skin to too many heavy metals may lead to dermatitis and eczema.

Some of the most common symptoms of heavy metal poisoning are listed below:

  • Headaches
  • Vomiting/nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation/diarrhoea
  • Poor appetite
  • Low body temperature
  • A scratchy feeling at the back of the throat
  • Prickly/numb feeling in the hands

A blood test will be able to determine if you are experiencing heavy metal poisoning.

How can I reduce the risk of heavy metal poisoning?

There are treatments like chelation therapy that can remove excess heavy metals from your bloodstream. This is sometimes known as a heavy metal detox and can be performed by doctors or at IV therapy clinics. It is important to undergo this detox before heavy metal levels get too high.

To prevent heavy metal poisoning, there are several lifestyle changes that you may be able to make. This includes:

  • Eating a well balanced diet. Feel free to eat fish regularly, but do not eat it every day - and be particularly wary of fish that is high in mercury.
  • If you live in an old property, test your water supply for lead. Get your pipes replaced if there is lead in them. There are read test kits you can buy online.
  • Do not overdo painkillers or supplements. Stick to recommended doses to avoid heavy metal poisoning.
  • Wear PPE while handling products like paints and pesticides. This includes a facemask and gloves.
  • Check whether your makeup contains high levels of heavy metals. Opt for different brands if the metal content is high, or try to wear makeup less often (wearing makeup every day will increase your risk of heavy metal poisoning).
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