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Heavy Metal Poisoning

Heavy metal poisoning? Okay, sure — the first thing that comes to mind is listening to too much head-banging music. But jokes aside — heavy metal poisoning is a legitimate concern, one that has nothing to do with the popular 80s music genre.

This type of poisoning can occur when someone is exposed to high amounts of dense metals that can be toxic. Examples of these metals include lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and chromium. Exposure to these heavy metals can happen because of air or water pollution, foods, medicines, improperly coated food containers, or ingestion of lead-based paints.

The signs and symptoms of heavy metal poisoning vary greatly depending on the type of metal overexposure is involved. We have outlined two of the most common examples.

Lead Poisoning

Lead is the most frequently encountered toxic metal in the United States. Children, especially between the ages of 1 and 3, are most affected. The CDC estimates that four-million households in the U.S. have children living in a house where they are exposed to lead. Young children absorb lead into their bodies more easily than adults, which is why lead is more harmful to them.

Levels of lead in the blood are shown to have adverse effects on developmental outcomes in children under 5.

Exposure Risks

For the average American family, exposure to lead occurs in older homes in the form of deteriorating lead paint. This type of paint was very popular until it was banned in the late 70s when its toxic traces were discovered.

Kids can come into contact with lead paint by breathing in lead dust. Many people are remodeling older homes, so it is important to keep children away from these spaces when walls and woodwork are being sanded down. Old lead pipes or faucets are another possible source. If your home was built before 1970, call your local health department or water department to find a laboratory that will test your water for lead content.

Other sources of lead are in objects imported from other countries. Things like toys and jewelry — even decorative items such as dishes and bowls, may be glazed or painted with lead paint.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Behavioral problems and trouble concentrating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle and joint weakness

Mercury Poisoning

Mercury poisoning is another common type of heavy metal poisoning, and everyone is at risk — either through diet or the environment.

Mercury is a naturally occurring metal that is in many products we use daily. However, our exposure is limited to tiny amounts. When exposure becomes excessive is when it poses a danger to our health.

Exposure Risks

The most common way of getting mercury poisoning is through eating seafood. The mercury in seafood is a highly poisonous form of the metal called methylmercury.

Methylmercury can be absorbed from the water by all sea creatures. It makes its way up the food chain starting in shrimp. Shrimp contaminated with methylmercury are then eaten by other fish, and so on — further spreading the toxins and the likelihood that the bigger the fish, the more mercury it contains.

Eating one contaminated fish will likely not lead to mercury poisoning. However, people who are on seafood-heavy diets might want to limit their intake, particularly of fish that are high on the food chain, such as swordfish, shark, white tuna (found in most canned versions), pike, walleye, and bass.

Pregnant or breast-feeding women may want to avoid or restrict their intake of fish and shellfish, as any mercury they contain can pass to the fetus or infant through the umbilical cord or breast milk.

Another source of mercury could be in your mouth. Amalgam fillings contain approximately 40 to 50 percent mercury. These types of fillings are not used in dentistry anymore. Many dentists will suggest removing them to reduce long-term exposure to mercury.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Gastrointestinal disturbance

Higher exposure levels can cause:

  • Tremors
  • Severe behavior and personality changes
  • Emotional excitability
  • Memory Loss
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

These symptoms may dissipate when the exposure is decreased.

However, extreme cases of overexposure of mercury can lead to long-term neurological damage, reproductive impact, and cardiovascular risks.

Testing for Heavy Metal Poisoning

If you suspect you or a member of your family has been exposed to toxic heavy metals, a simple test will help determine it. Any Lab Test Now offers a complete heavy metal screening panel — which can detect not only the lead and mercury toxins mentioned earlier but also the presence of 19 other heavy metals in the hair. The complete heavy metal screening panel can also be tested through urine, blood, and nails.

Be at Ease

Any Lab Test Now wants you to be at ease when it comes to seeking out any type of lab work, including a heavy metal screening.

We provide you a safe and clean alternative location for lab work. Each of our 185+ stores is sanitized several times a day, in accordance with the CDC’s protocols. Any Lab Test Now is a committed partner in helping you manage your family’s healthcare so you can make educated decisions that will directly affect your quality of life. We want to put you at ease during the coronavirus outbreak. We are here to help.

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