Anna Priest, DAMS [Dental Amalgam Mercury Syndrome] Australia
Grafton, NSW, Aust. (2007)
Toxic elements are a part of our natural world, and at naturally low levels in the environment have posed little risk. However, since the Industrial Revolution billions of tonnes of toxic metals have been mined from the earth and utilised in various ways to advance our civilisation and provide us with a wealth of consumer goods. Just a few examples are lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, uranium, antimony, thallium, tin, titanium, nickel, cobalt and aluminium - employed either directly in various manufacturing and industrial processes, or liberated into the environment as by-products of industry, transportation, mining and smelting, explosives, fireworks, electronics, agriculture, paints and dyes, sewage sludge, coal burning power plants, incineration, cremation, landfill sites, pest control, and a host of other activities.
Governments worldwide have legislated to ban or phase out many uses of toxic metals, and to enforce rules on their emissions to the environment. However, these actions do not address the problem of decades of releases in their various forms to the air, water and soil - and hence the food chain - and the resulting bioaccumulation in plants, animals, birds, aquatic life, and humans.
A major problem with metals is that - unlike many industrial chemicals - metals do not degrade into less harmful substances over time. Once liberated, they remain, recycling through environmental media and living creatures. (While the science of Bioremediation offers some hope, projects need to be better funded if it is to provide cost-effective practical solutions.)
Rarely are metals a problem in their solid form; its in their molecular state that they become mobile and are able to penetrate biological barriers. Toxic metals come in a number of guises, often bound to other elements or chemicals - as organic compounds, inorganic salts, ions, vapours, smoke, exhausts, fine particles in dusts and soot, in mineral ores, liquid slurry and sludges, products of corrosion or chemical breakdown, and fumes from combustion of fossil fuels.
Although exposure levels to toxic metals from various sources may be small, they are not infrequent, and are cumulative over a lifetime. They can build up faster than we are able to eliminate them. For various reasons, some people are more susceptible to the effects of metals and are more prone to accumulate (as opposed to excrete) them. An inadequate intake of protective nutrients will make you more vulnerable; (especially relevant are zinc, selenium, calcium, magnesium, vitamins C and E, and sulphur-rich protein foods).
Currently, mainstream medicine is not equipped to recognise or treat chronic low level heavy metal toxicity. While blood and urine testing can be helpful to confirm acute exposures they do not reveal chronic exposures because, in most cases, they are tightly bound to components inside cells and are not in general circulation. Once attached to structures within the cell, these rogue pollutants can radically interfere with the way the cell functions. Briefly, here are some common toxic metals, their *prime target organs for accumulation and effect, and some of the **more prevalent (past and present) sources:
* - brain, peripheral nerves, muscle, pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands, liver, kidney, lung, heart, gastrointestinal tract, immune, cardiovascular and reproductive systems, and mitochondria (energy generation sites in cells).
** - Dental amalgam fillings, the vaccine preservative Thiomersal (sp. Thimerosal in US); now being phased out, preservative in eye drops and previously other medications, past use in antiseptics (Mercurochrome and others), red pigment in tattoos, skin lightening creams, fungicides, seed dressings, anti-fungal paints, seafood (esp. fish high on the food chain - shark, tuna, swordfish, etc), some farmed fish, some (non-practitioner) fish oil supplements, gold mining in developing countries (utilising Hg), sewage sludge, electronics, dump sites for electronic goods, chlor-alkali plants (in manufacture of chlorine, caustic soda), coal burning power stations, municipal and medical incinerators, crematoriums, some batteries, thermostats, automatic switches and lights, barometers, thermometers, fluorescent lights.
* - heart, brain, peripheral nerves, bone, blood, kidney, lung, hearing, immune and reproductive systems.
** - Pewter mugs or plates, some imported lead glazed pottery and ceramics, lead crystal, someantique cookware and pottery, pigments (white lead, red lead, orange lead, and chrome), black hair dyes, newsprint, batteries, tobacco smoke, calcium supplements sourced from lead contaminated bone meal, lead contaminated Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal medicines, lead arsenate pesticide (used in agriculture until the 1950s), exhaust fumes from leaded petrol, soil or food grown near busy roadways, home renovation, lead paint chips, old house dust (esp. from ceilings, attics, cavity walls, under floor areas), surfaces inside and outside pre 1970 homes, surface preparation before painting, hobbies or jobs which use lead solder, weights, or ammunition, (eg. fishing, lead lighting, shooting), various metal alloys (eg. bronze or brass alloys for plumbing), putty, solder, old gas and water pipes, building materials (lead flashings, dampcourses), plastics and chemicals (eg. lead compounds in plastic resins - as pigments, catalysts, lubricants and heat stabilisers for PVC piping, electrical cable, cladding, guttering, coated wire). See also : www.lead.org.au
* - liver, kidney, prostate gland, lung, bone, arteries.
** - Pottery glazes, yellow pigments for paints and dyes, some dental prosthetics (as a pink tint for denture plastic), organ meats (non organic), tobacco smoke, batteries, rubber carpet backing, photographic compounds, manufacture of fireworks, rubber, and fluorescent paints, past use as fungicide and insecticide, can be a contaminant of superphosphate, sewage sludge (pumped out to sea or used on crops), mining and smelting, soldering, welding, can be a contaminant of galvanised iron pipes and tanks (the early zinc used for galvanising contained Cd as an impurity), as a stabiliser in thermoplastics (eg. PVC pipes), in metal bearings, and in many other industrial and manufacturing processes including electronics, plastics and solvents.
* - lung, liver, thyroid, brain, joint fluid, bone, red blood cells.
** - Cookware, foods cooked or wrapped in foil (esp. food with high fat or acid content) will absorb Al, drinks in Al cans, drinks in soft packs (lined with Al), tea brewed in Al teapots, cathodes in electric kettles, hot water supplies (heaters with Al cathodes), drinking water (used to clarify public water supplies), vaccines and some medications (buffered analgesics, antacids, aluminium hydroxide gel), some deodorants, antiperspirants, cosmetics and toothpaste tubes, food additives (eg. some colourings and preservatives, sodium aluminium phosphate, aluminium calcium silicate as emulsifier in processed cheese, as flow agent for salt, flour and baking powder), cigarette filters, airborne contamination from air conditioner corrosion.
* - digestive, cardiovascular, and nervous systems, endocrine glands, lung, skin.
** - Tobacco smoke, some seafood, past use in insecticides, rodenticides and weed killers, mining, coal burning, especially arsenic-rich coal, in manufacture of other metals and bronze alloys, glassmaking, components of computers, microwaves, TVs, various industrial processes including manufacture of paints and laundry sprays, as a wood preservative (green CCA-treated timber). Along with antimony, Arsenic may be added to fabrics, mattresses and other furnishings as a fire retardant. Arsenic is a naturally occurring contaminant of water in some developing countries and some regions of the US.
It makes sense to lessen the toxic burden on our cells wherever possible. We can do this by being aware of possible sources, taking whatever steps we can to reduce or eliminate our exposure, and - under the guidance of a suitably qualified health care professional - undertake a cleansing and detox regime that is safe and effective, along with optimising our nutrition.
Cleaning up the tissues of accumulated foreign substances can be a sound investment in our future wellbeing. Clinical evidence and anecdotal reports indicate that a safe, gentle and efficient detoxification program which targets and removes toxic metals and chemicals can yield a wealth of positive effects. People have reported improvements in physical and mental function, higher energy level, sounder sleep, and abatement of a range of symptoms and illnesses. Many have told me they didnt realise just how much mercury (and/or other metals) had been affecting their physical and mental health - until theyd experienced the benefits of reducing them.
Lowering the body burden of toxic metals can help to:
- restore mineral status and activity (especially for zinc, selenium, calcium and magnesium);
- bolster the immune systems ability to fight pathogens and disease;
- optimise the bodys detoxification processes (liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, lymphatic system);
- enhance gastrointestinal function (i.e. nutrient absorption, waste elimination);
- calm an over-stimulated nervous system and enliven a sluggish one, and improve cognitive processes;
- promote normal hormonal activity; and
- restore energy production within cells, helping them to function more normally.
Because of biochemical individuality each person will respond differently, according to many factors. Some of these variables will be their age and general constitution, genetic strengths and weaknesses, their history of heavy metal exposures (and resultant body burden), other stress factors, diet and antioxidant support ... and whether they receive professional guidance where necessary.
Need more information? There is a wealth of material on the internet for those interested in finding out more about toxics exposures and effects, some being:
- Environmental Health Perspectives. A peer-reviewed monthly journal providing a forum for news and scientific research relating to issues in environmental health. EHP is the journal of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health and the Dept. of Health and Human Services (http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/ and: www.ehponline.org).
- Rachel's Democracy & Health News [formerly Rachel's Environment & Health News], Environmental Research Foundation, USA - provides understandable scientific information on toxic substances and other environmental problems, their effects on human health, the corporations and waste technologies that produce these problems, and what we can do about them. (www.rachel.org).
- PubMed: (US) National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?DB=pubmed).
If you would like information on methods of safely removing toxic metals from the body, please contact Anna Priest: [Australia] 02 6643 3924