METALS IN THE HOME
The first step to any detoxification protocol is to reduce your overall exposure to toxic substances.
To help us do this, this post contains examples of the heavy metals you are most likely to come into contact with. Some of these may surprise you, and I’m pretty sure some will shock you to the core!
At this point, it’s important to note that heavy metals can destroy health faster than you can say accelerated aging and memory loss.
They have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, behavioral problems, joint pain, fatigue, anxiety, kidney disease, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and the list goes on and on.
Dangerous heavy metals such as mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenic, and cadmium often hide in plain sight. And if we aren’t paying close attention, we may even pay to bring them into our homes!
What follows is by no means a complete list but it does serve as a valuable aid to anyone looking to stay out of the doctor’s office. To get the ball rolling see if you can spot the heavy metal hiding in the photo below.
If you managed to spot this toxic invader, top marks for observation. If not, I’ll give you the correct answer right before this post ends.
For now, let’s dive straight in with some common heavy metals that most of us are exposed to. The first of these is lead.
The brain has a protective barrier around it intended to keep toxins out (we’ll cover this in more detail later). Unfortunately, metals such as mercury, aluminum, and lead all cross that barrier with ease.
Lead is neurotoxin associated with major depression, reduced IQ, and anxiety disorders. A neurotoxin acts on the nervous system and disrupts the normal function of nerve cells. This makes developing fetuses and small children are particularly susceptible to the dangers of lead.
History tells us that lead plumbing may have played a role in bringing down the mighty Roman Empire. More than five hundred years later, there’s a pretty good chance that lead is still coming into your home via the water line. No really, it’s true!
Right up until 1986, lead solder was still being used to join copper pipes together. Today, it’s not uncommon to find an aging network of copper pipes hidden underground in towns and cities across the US. If you think this only happens in Flint, Michigan then, unfortunately, you would be wrong.
When water sits in pipes for any length of time, lead begins to break down. It then makes its way to your kitchen and bathtub. As we shower, heat opens up our pores allowing trace amounts of toxins to be absorbed through the skin.
There’s a couple of workarounds that can help reduce the amount of lead (and other toxins) coming in via the waterline. First, let the water run for a few minutes before using it. Second, add a water filter to your home. Without a water filter, your kidneys become the filter!
There are lots of water filters on the market, some are obviously better than others but any filter is better than no filter at all. To make life easier, I’ll supply some helpful products links at the back of this book. In case you were wondering, I have ZERO affiliation to any of the products I mention, I’m simply trying to save you some time.
Today, plumbers use a form of lead-free solder but many older homes still have lead somewhere in the water line. If in doubt, it pays to get your water tested. Having your water tested is relatively easy and inexpensive to do. A small sample is collected from each faucet and those samples are sent away to a lab. A quick google search will give you a list of people who perform water testing in your area.
Okay, moving along nicely, lead can also be found on the glaze of ceramic dishes. Colored dishware tends to have more glaze while white dishes contain the least. Many of the better quality white dishes contain no lead at all.
Lead can even show up at your front door gift wrapped. Many imported toys have high levels of lead that you really wouldn’t want young children sucking on. If you are about to send someone a birthday present, it’s best to check reviews BEFORE buying. If you want a truly lead-free gift, you could always try spending the same amount of money on a memorable experience. It’s funny how kids will remember a day at the park long after a plastic toy hits the trash can.
Lead can also be found in spices such as turmeric, chili, and paprika. Whoa! isn’t turmeric supposed to be good for you? Yes, but many spices now coming from India and China contain alarmingly high levels of lead! Remember, organic food is tested for pesticides, not metals.
Lead paint is something most of us are already aware of but it’s actually the fine dust particles that cause the real problem. These can linger in the home long after a remodeling project is complete.
When that happens, tiny particles of lead find their way into our bodies causing serious neurologic changes, developmental delays, and irritability. High levels of lead may even be fatal! Lead can accumulate in the body (even small amounts) hence those dust particles pose a serious health risk to young children.
If you are attempting to do a little DIY work yourself be sure to wet the whole area down, wear a mask, and ventilate the room. If in doubt, hire a licensed contractor to do the work for you. As a side note, apple pectin has an affinity for lead and may be helpful when taken in a supplement form. For those already dealing with exposure to lead it’s also important to work with an informed healthcare provider.
Cadmium is classified as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing). It can also damage the kidneys and lungs. Other symptoms to be aware of are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, unhealthy weight loss, and hypertension. Cadmium can even have an impact on the skeletal system.
Exposure to cadmium occurs mainly from the consumption of contaminated foods. That said, Cadmium is also present in batteries, synthetic rubber mats, and copy machines. Cadmium is also something to be aware of for those living in close proximity to hazardous waste facilities such as junkyards, recycling centers, or places where smelting activities are carried out. Cadmium can also be found in tobacco smoke (which obviously includes passive inhalation).
Mercury is a naturally occurring, toxic heavy metal. When mercury reacts with another substance, it forms a compound. These compounds can be expressed in various ways. From a toxicity standpoint, mercury from fish consumption and mercury found in dental amalgams eclipses all other forms.
To keep things simple, let’s look at mercury in three forms.
1 Elemental (or metallic) mercury,
2 Inorganic mercury compounds,
3 Organic mercury compounds (which forms methylmercury).
Elemental mercury is a shiny, silver-white metal that is liquid at room temperature. It can be found in thermometers, dental amalgams, fluorescent light bulbs, and some electrical switches. Elemental mercury is an element that has not reacted with another substance. When elemental mercury is dropped it breaks down into smaller droplets.
These droplets can disappear through small cracks such as floorboards. At room temperature, elemental mercury can evaporate to become a toxic vapor. These vapors are absorbed via the respiratory tract and distributed throughout the body. As a side note, dental amalgams release similar vapors when exposed to heat or chewing.
Inorganic mercury compounds are formed when mercury combines with other elements, such as sulfur or oxygen. Inorganic mercury compounds can occur naturally in the environment in the form of mercury salts. Generally, they are white powder or crystals, except for mercuric sulfide (cinnabar) which is red. Most uses of inorganic compounds have been discontinued although some are still used by industry to make other chemicals.
Organic mercury compounds are formed when mercury combines with carbon. This can happen during the coal burning process. Working on the principle that what goes up must come down we can assume that once mercury is released into the air, it eventually settles on land and sea. It then reacts with bacteria to form a toxic form of mercury known as methylmercury.
Methylmercury then works its way up the food chain to you. Fish that feed on smaller fish such as King mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna, and bigeye tuna all contain higher levels. Smaller fish such as anchovies and sardines tend to fare much better. Sardines are perhaps your best bet as they contain trace amounts of selenium. Selenium limits the adverse effects of methylmercury.
Methylmercury is the major source of organic mercury found in humans. Poisoning from methylmercury can manifest itself in more ways than you or I can shake a stick at.
Methylmercury isn’t something to take lightly. As levels in the body rise, more symptoms appear. These can include memory problems, anxiety, depression, along with devastating neurological damage. Methylmercury is toxic to the central and peripheral nervous systems. It can also have a serious impact on the immune system, lungs, kidneys, and digestive system.
Methylmercury is the one to watch out for as it is the most common form of organic mercury compound found in the environment. Like most heavy metals, it also accumulates in the body over time. During pregnancy, methylmercury can pass from mother to baby. It’s also linked to developmental abnormalities and cerebral palsy.
Like mercury and lead, aluminum is another neurotoxin. Many studies have linked it to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Cooking with aluminum pots and pans can add aluminum to your food. Some estimates suggest upwards of 2 mg per meal. Is that enough to cause a mental decline? Who knows, but what we do know is this… over time aluminum has an accumulative effect. Perhaps this is why we see so much Alzheimer’s later in life.
Either way, the safer option is to switch all aluminum pots and pans to stainless steel ones. For the same reason, cooking with aluminum foil can be equally problematic. When roasting in the oven, switch to using a glass dish or stainless steel grilling basket instead.
Staying in the kitchen, it pays to make a habit of reading food labels. This can help prevent sneaky amounts of aluminum from entering your bloodstream. Certain foods, such as processed cheeses contain aluminum-based food additives. Some brands of baking powder also contain aluminum while others are 100% aluminum free.
Aluminum can also be found in toothpaste, cosmetics, and underarm antiperspirants. Aluminum salts plug up pores so that you won’t sweat as much. Deodorants, on the other hand, have no aluminum and reduces body odor with fragrance or antibacterial compounds. Voting with your wallet lets the supermarket know which brands suck and which to keep stocked on the shelf.
Soda companies use aluminum cans to package their products. Obviously, they are also quick to assure us that drinking out of aluminum cans is safe. And while this may (or may not) be true the best way to limit your risk is to drink less soda. Soda is a burden on the immune system which can hinder the detoxification process.
Arsenic is a metalloid meaning it can exhibit some properties of metals and some of non-metals. As such, it finds its way into air, food, soil, and groundwater, the latter being the most common. Arsenic is known to cause an increase in lung, bladder, and skin cancers.
Arsenic can be found in private well water, some seafood, rice, and rice-based food products. Rice tends to absorb more arsenic as it tends to grow best in flooded rice fields. And while an occasional bowl of rice is unlikely to cause any lasting problems, it is something to be aware of if you consume rice on a regular basis.
If this is you, here’s the workaround. 1: Soak rice overnight 2: Drain the rice and rinse thoroughly with fresh water. This opens up the grain and allows arsenic to be washed out. Sprouted Blonde Rice grown locally in California seems to fair much better.
At one time, wood preservers accounted for almost 90% of arsenic produced domestically. By 2004 many manufacturers transitioned away from arsenic trioxide. This was in response to customer demand which just goes to show the power of voting with your wallet.
Pressure treated decks built before this date may still contain arsenic. This is something to think about when standing barefoot on your deck. Lest we forget, arsenic is used in weed killers and rat poison!
Okay, before we end this chapter did you manage to spot the heavy metal in the photo? Let’s take a look a closer look at that innocent looking thermostat on the wall.
Here we see an example of elemental mercury in all its splendor! Thermostats such as these can be problematic if the glass gets broken and toxic vapors are inhaled.
If you come across one of these in your home, it’s best to seal it in a plastic container and call your local transfer station. They can usually help you dispose of it.
This form of mercury is added to silver dental amalgams. Obviously, once it’s been added to your tooth it’s not so easy to get rid of. Despite this, the ADA (American Dental Association) continues to assure people that silver/mercury fillings are safe. Me? I’m not so sure.
If your dentist is telling you this, then perhaps it’s time to look for a new dentist. If you already have dental amalgams a specialized dentist is required to remove them (more on this later).
Bottom line: when the burden of heavy metals overwhelms the body’s ability to detoxify them, health problems begin to intensify. Because of their high degree of toxicity, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury all play a significant role in mental health.
Thanks for reading.