Aluminum, mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium all like to hide in your home. In this post, I’ll show you where to find them and how to reduce your exposure to them.
But first, somewhere in this photo is a toxic heavy metal hiding in plain sight. If you managed to spot it, then you just impressed me. If not, I’ll give you the answer right before we end.
Heavy metals can destroy your health faster than you can say accelerated aging and memory loss. If the words heavy metals had you immediately thinking of Metalica then I’m sorry to be the bearer of such bad news.
Heavy metals have also been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, behavioral problems, joint pain, kidney disease, and Parkinson’s to name just a few. Developing fetuses and small children are particularly susceptible to all forms of toxic heavy metals.
If you are trying to keep yourself and your loved ones out of the doctor’s office then here are a few heavy metals to be on the lookout for. Being aware of this information will reduce your overall risk and I’ll even provide you with practical solutions. Let’s kick off with lead, ready?
There’s more to this neurotoxin than just lead paint. Lead can come into your home via the water line. If you think this only happens in Flint, Michigan then, unfortunately, you would be wrong. Most towns and cities across America have an aging network of copper pipes. Lead solder was commonly used to join most of those copper pipes together. When water sits in pipes for any length of time it begins to break the lead down. Lead is then sent directly to your kitchen sink and bathtub. Letting the water run for a few minutes before using it may prove helpful but a much better solution is to add a water filter to your home. Without a water filter, your kidneys become the filter!
Today, most plumbers use a lead-free form of solder. But many older homes will almost certainly have lead solder holding the pipes together. Either way, it pays to have your water tested. This is relatively inexpensive and easy to do. A small sample is collected in a sample bottle and sent away to a lab. A simple google search will give you a list of people who perform water testing in your area.
Lead can also show up at your door gift wrapped. Many imported toys contain levels of lead that you really wouldn’t want your kiddo sucking on. If you are about to send someone a gift it’s best to check BEFORE buying, or better still buy local. If you want a truly lead-free gift then try spending the money on a memorable experience rather than a material possession. Just sayin, kids seem to remember that long after a plastic toy hits the trash can.
Here’s another source of lead that you might not expect. Lead is routinely found in spices such as turmeric, chili, and paprika. Be especially vigilant if your spices come from China or India. Some of these imports have been known to contain alarmingly high levels!
Lead can also be found on the glaze of ceramic dishes. Colored dishware tends to have more while white dishes contain the least. Many of the better quality white dishes contain no lead at all.
I’m sure many already know that lead paint is something to be mindful of. It’s the dust particles that are the real issue here. They can linger in the home long after a remodeling project is complete. Today, most contractors need a special license to remove lead paint. If you are attempting to do a little of the work yourself be sure to wet the area down, wear a mask, and ventilate the room.
Lead can accumulate in the body even small amounts hence dust particles pose a health risk, especially to young children. Lead crosses the blood-brain barrier which can cause neurologic changes, developmental delays, and irritability. High levels of lead may even be fatal!
Obviously, if you are being exposed to any form of heavy metal it’s important to work with a healthcare provider. As part of routine maintenance, apple pectin has a high affinity for lead. This may be helpful when taken in a supplement form.
Like lead, aluminum is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier where it acts as a neurotoxin. Many studies have linked it to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Cooking with aluminum pots and pan adds aluminum to your food. No really, it’s true. 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 that over time aluminum has an accumulative effect. Perhaps this is why we see so much Alzheimer’s later in life. Either way, switching to stainless steel pots and pans is the safer option. For the same reason, cooking with aluminum foil is equally problematic, When roasting, try using a glass pan or stainless steel grilling basket instead.
Staying in the kitchen, something as simple as reading food labels can help to reduce aluminum in your home. Some foods, such as processed cheeses contain aluminum-based food additives. Certain brands of baking powder also contain aluminum while others are 100% aluminum free. Voting with your wallet lets the supermarket know which brands to stock and which to ditch.
Aluminum is sometimes found in toothpaste, cosmetics, and underarm antiperspirants. Aluminum salts plug up pores so that you don’t sweat as much. Deodorants, on the other hand, have no aluminum and reduces body odor with fragrance or antibacterial compounds.
Soda companies frequently use aluminum cans to package their products. They are also quick to assure us that aluminum cans are 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 body which can hinder the detoxification process.
Cadmium is classed as a human carcinogen. It can damage the kidneys and lungs. It also has an impact on the skeletal system. Other symptoms to be aware of are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, unhealthy weight loss, and hypertension.
Exposure to cadmium occurs mainly from the consumption of contaminated foods. But living in close proximity to hazardous waste facilities such as junkyards or recycling centers where smelting activities are being carried out adds to the problem.
Cadmium is also present in batteries, synthetic rubber, and copy machines. It can also be found in tobacco smoke which obviously includes passive inhalation.
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 grows best in flooded fields. And while occasional consumption of rice is unlikely to cause any lasting problems it’s something to be aware of if it forms part of your regular diet. 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.
At one time, wood preservers accounted for almost 90% of arsenic produced domestically. By 2004 many manufacturers transitioned away from arsenic trioxide in response to customer demand. That said, many pressure treated decks built prior to this date may still contain arsenic. Arsenic is sometimes found in weed killers and rat poison.
Mercury is a naturally occurring, toxic heavy metal. When mercury reacts with another substance, it forms a compound which 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 its main 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. At room temperature, elemental mercury can evaporate to become a toxic vapor. These vapors are absorbed via the respiratory tract are subsequently distributed throughout the body. Dental amalgams release 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 and are generally white powder or crystals, with the exception of mercuric sulfide (cinnabar) which is red. Most uses of inorganic compounds have been discontinued although some are 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. Once mercury is released into the air, it eventually settles on water and soil. It then reacts with bacteria to form a highly toxic form of mercury known as methylmercury. Methylmercury is the one to watch out for as its the most common organic mercury compound found in the environment. Methylmercury then works it’s way up the food chain. 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 of methylmercury.
Smaller fish such as anchovies and sardines tend to fare much better. Sardines are a win/win as they contain trace amounts of selenium. Selenium is believed to limit the adverse effects of methylmercury.
Methylmercuryaccumulates in the body causing a wide range of adverse health effects. Methylmercury is the major source of organic mercury found in humans. Poisoning from methylmercury can manifest itself in many ways and isn’t something to take lightly. It can cause irritability or mood changes, nervousness, numbness, and tremors.
As the levels of methylmercury rise in the body, more symptoms appear which can include memory problems, anxiety, depression, along with devastating neurological damage. Methylmercury is toxic to the central and peripheral nervous systems. It can have a serious impact on the immune system, lungs, kidneys, and digestive system. During pregnancy, methylmercury is thought to pass from mother to baby and has been linked to developmental abnormalities and cerebral palsy.
Okay, before we end did you manage to spot the heavy metal in the photo? Let’s take a look a closer look at that thermostat on the wall.
Here we see elemental mercury in all its splendor. Thermostat such as these cause can cause a problem if it gets broken and the toxic vapors are inhaled.
If you come across something like this it’s best to seal it in a plastic container and call your local transfer station. They can usually help you dispose of it safely.
It’s a little more challenging to get rid of when its been added to your tooth in the form of a silver filling.
Despite this, the ADA (American Dental Association) continues to assure people that silver/mercury fillings are safe. 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.