To Your Health
February, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 02)
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Symptoms indicative of acute toxicity are not difficult to recognize because they usually are severe, rapid in onset and associated with a known exposure or ingestion: cramping, nausea and vomiting; pain; sweating; headaches; difficulty breathing; impaired cognitive, motor and language skills; mania; and convulsions.

The symptoms of toxicity resulting from chronic exposure (impaired cognitive, motor and language skills; learning difficulties; nervousness and emotional instability; and insomnia, nausea, lethargy, and feeling ill) also are easily recognized; however, they are much more difficult to associate with their cause. Symptoms of chronic exposure are very similar to symptoms of other health conditions and often develop slowly over months or even years. Sometimes the symptoms of chronic exposure actually abate from time to time, leading the person to postpone seeking treatment, thinking the symptoms are related to something else.

What Is a Heavy Metal?

"Heavy metals" are chemical elements with a specific gravity that is at least five times the specific gravity of water. Simply stated, specific gravity is a measure of density of a given amount of a solid substance when it's compared to an equal amount of water. The specific gravity of water is 1 at 4°C (39°F). Some well-known toxic metallic elements with a specific gravity that is five or more times that of water are arsenic (5.7), cadmium (8.65), iron (7.9), lead (11.34) and mercury (13.546).

Where Are They Coming From?

Heavy metals come from everything from auto exhaust, industry emissions and pesticides; to prescription medicines, dental fillings, solvents and household cleaning products; to personal products such as cosmetics, deodorant and toothpaste.

Beneficial Heavy Metals

In small quantities, certain heavy metals are nutritionally essential for a healthy life. Some of these are referred to as the trace elements (e.g., iron, copper, manganese and zinc). These elements, or some form of them, are found naturally in foodstuffs, fruits and vegetables, and a variety of commercially available multivitamin products.

Heavy Metals Are "Free Radical" Factories

Heavy-metal accumulation in humans has been linked to many common health challenges, including cancer, candida, yeast overgrowth, cardiovascular ailments, arthritis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Many neurological diseases, including depression, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, also have been strongly associated with heavy metals. Heavy-metal poisoning can even accelerate the aging process, because the presence of heavy metals in the body promotes free-radical formation.