Heavy metals are all around us.

We take in heavy metals through the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. Ideally, our bodies should be able to dispose of them, but if we take them in faster than they can be eliminated, they can accumulate in our tissues.

Not all metals are bad for our health.

Some metals are essential to core functions of the human body, and we can’t store or produce them, which means we need to consume appropriate amounts of zinc, copper, chromium, iron and manganese through our diet or supplementation.

Overexposure to any of these metals can cause imbalance and deficiencies in others.

Today, though, we’ll be breaking down toxic heavy metals and how we might acquire them.

The four most common heavy metals humans are exposed to and can absorb in toxic amounts are: arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury.

Even small amounts of these metals can be considered toxic. Once heavy metals are in our bloodstream they can be stored in our tissues and organs for years, predisposing us to chronic health issues until addressed.

Removing heavy metals reduces inflammation and oxidative dress, and may improve neurological, digestive, cardiovascular, and immune system functioning.

Arsenic

Poisoning Symptoms: inorganic arsenic poisoning usually presents gastrointestinally; nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can lead to dark urine, rapid dehydration, muscle cramping and abdominal pain. Visible symptoms can include red or swollen skin, and warts or lesions.

Exposure Sources: environmental sources include working around hazardous waste without the appropriate protective gear, residing in a region known for higher concentration levels in rocks, water, and soil, or ingesting agricultural chemicals such as insecticides, herbicides, and pesticides.

You can also consume arsenic through your diet, notably in seafood. Finfish, shellfish, and seaweed are known sources of arsenic, however, the majority of these sources are organic arsenic which is non toxic to humans.

Cadmium

Poisoning Symptoms: similar to arsenic, cadmium poisoning symptoms can present as gastrointestinal distress in the form of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can also lead to raised body temperatures, respiratory issues, kidney failure, and reduced bone density.

Exposure Sources: Primary environmental sources come from working in the industrial industry. When ore is processed, smelted, or a compound containing cadmium is welded, cadmium can release and bind to smaller particles which are then ingested. Manufacturing workers of batteries, plastics, solar panels, and metal coatings, as well as construction workers using coated building materials are more susceptible to exposure.

Cigarette smoke is the main source of ingested cadmium. While some sources of rice can contain cadmium through contaminated soil, the average level of cadmium in rice found in North America is very low.

Lead

Poisoning Symptoms: while lead poisoning can also present in the stomach, as loss of appetite or constipation, it is primarily shown in cognitive degeneration. Symptoms of sleep problems, headaches, and fatigue, lead to memory loss, aggressive behaviour, and irritability are consistent with lead poisoning.

Exposure Sources: environmental exposure to lead includes residing in an older house with lead based paints and lead soldered hydro piping. Industrial manufacturing and construction work.

Mercury

Poisoning Symptoms: mercury poisoning is associated with physical and neurological impairment including lack of coordination, difficulty hearing and speaking, muscle weakness and nerve damage, and vision issues.

Exposure Sources: primary sources of mercury exposure are mining and process of mercury, and manufacturing and disposal of incandescent light bulbs and mercury thermometers. Consuming fish or shellfish with raised levels of methylmercury can also lead to poisoning.

It’s worth noting that while we’ve listed a number of symptoms for these four heavy metals, the prevalence of these symptoms comes from long term exposure, when high amounts have accumulated and stored in your soft tissue, so you are unlikely to notice any indicators early on. As such, it is in our best interest to be mindful of potential sources of exposure, and reduce the odds of absorption as much as possible.

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