Blood or urine analysis is not very reliable for measuring toxic levels of most of these heavy metals, especially with long-term exposure and tissue buildup. Hair analysis, though controversial, offers the best available evaluation for accumulation of heavy metals, and in many studies, hair levels do correlate fairly well with tissue stores. The heavier the element, the more reliable is the hair analysis. Measuring these toxic minerals is probably the most useful aspect of hair analysis. In the future, we may find even better ways to measure, treat, and prevent this dangerous heavy mineral contamination.
Most of the available information concerns the main heavy metals, aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. For each of these, I provide a general introduction to the history of the metal and how it is handled by the body.
Then, insofar as information is available, I discuss:
- Sources of contamination
- Methods of toxicity
- Symptoms of toxicity
- Amounts leading to toxicity
- Who is susceptible
- Treatment of toxicity
- Ways to prevent toxicity (exposure)
There are no known nutritional deficiencies or bodily uses of these metals, with the possible exception of arsenic, which may be both essential and toxic, so is it necessary to discuss requirements. The remaining heavy metals-antimony, beryllium, bismuth, bromine, thallium, and a few even more minor ones-less commonly produce toxicity problems, and they are described only generally.