Metals and toxins that should concern us

by Dr. Alan Kadish

All of us are exposed to an ongoing onslaught of metals, both those that are necessary for life and those that are toxic. They are found pervasively in our air, water and food.

The good news is that our internal systems have been designed to accommodate some of the uptake and remove the accumulations of the toxins, but only when our bodies work well and we have a balanced intake of non-toxic metals.

Unfortunately the “balance” is typically not in our favor as most of us get less than optimal levels of two principal macro minerals, calcium and magnesium. These two minerals are in a competitive race for uptake and tend to block a number of the toxic group. 

In the words of a fellow physician: “It’s no longer a question of IF you’re toxic but rather HOW toxic”. Dr. Walter Crinnion

Curiously most patients are completely unaware of their exposures, until a thorough history has been taken or they find themselves suffering from a neurological or dermatological disorder of unknown origin.

It’s not necessary to have an occupational exposure to become contaminated. Some examples of patients found to be overloaded with toxic metals, can include those who eat commercial chickens or certain seafood regularly, drink from specific water sources, have hobbies including those that use paints, adhesives and/or solvents, dye their hair, get preserved immunization (including the flu, yes even now in 2014), have amalgam fillings and the list goes on.

A very difficult aspect of toxic exposure issues is what constitutes enough of a body burden to cause symptoms. No two practitioners will necessarily agree. There appears to be a significant amount of literature to suggest that even slightly elevated from “normal” levels can and will be enough to affect most patients.

PBS, the public broadcast television station, aired a program entitled , “Trade Secrets: A Moyers Report, by correspondent Bill Moyers and producer Sherry Jones. You might find yourself very much alarmed by this program as it uncovered how our health and safety have been put at risk and why powerful forces don’t want the truth to be known. This investigative report, accompanied by a PBS.org Web site, is based on a massive archive of secret industry documents as shocking as the “tobacco papers.” Trade Secrets provides everyone working on toxic chemicals and environmental health issues a tremendous education and outreach opportunity.

The intent of this article is to get your thought processes in motion and get you to evaluate your living and working environment. Poisons are generally avoidable if you’re educated and know what to ask and how to evaluate a product. Even under the worst of situations, minimal change can positively influence your health.

Lead:

Let’s take a single example of a toxic metal well worth discussing, lead. I hope you will agree that this is a dangerous material and it can be considered toxic ?

The original published work showing neurological damage, with lead, started in 1923. They saw the declines in cognition and a host of other problem, with learning impairment. Since that time many have argued that even trace amounts lead to measurable declines in IQ and other parameters and these studies have been repeated often times in the literature.

This flies in the face of the real story if you look at the progressively decreased allowable results for lead in children, per the US government CDC standards.

The story reads like this….. in the old days  (until 1965) the level of acceptable lead, from a blood sample, could be at up to a maximum level of 60 mcg/dl . Then as new findings and obvious clinical observation foretold, that level was then dropped to 10 mcg/dg in 1991. The story continues…..the findings still supported that neurological injury was present at an even  lower level. The newest CDC number for youngsters 1-5 year of age is 5 mcg/dl  (2012) and counting……with acknowledgement that this is probably not adequately low enough to be safe.

You’re probably asking what happened ? Well it took this many years due to the kickbacks and influence from many industries as lead is a very good metal when it comes to many applications and who wants to remove a cost effective product. But the story does not end there. For your child to be actively treated with a safe medication their level needs to be at 45 or greater mcg/dl. (2012 to current) This is how the current CDC site reads as of 6/14′. I know if it was my child I certainly would not use the watch and wait approach suggested.

Experts recommend chelation therapy when a child is found with a test result of greater than or equal to 45 micrograms per deciliter of lead in blood.

The current  CDC statistics are interesting, see below, but….ask yourself are they adequate ?

Approximately 500,000 U.S. children aged 1-5 years with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, the reference level at which CDC recommends public health actions be initiated

Want a great overview with loads of data and the time lines, go to the site:  The Lead Group  , from Australia. To continue the conversations  let’s consider the methods of testing used to determine the level of metals in your tissues and their inherent variations.

Testing:

In the clinical setting we use testing methods which can include sweat, blood, hair or urine analysis with or without a chelated challenging agent. A chelating agent is a medication that chemically removes metals from the tissues and put them into circulation. Often times one sees an amazing potpourri of metals in excessive amounts released with these agents. As a note the FDA approves of the use of these agents to remove metals in poisoned patients, including children. 

Blood:

Probably the most know method of conventionally analyzed for lead is the use of blood. The big deal here is that it only reflects a 72 hour window of exposure and is not applicable for most people, as they can show significant variations within short periods, unlike other more accurate techniques. There are specific laws regarding testing our infant populations for lead but only between 1-5 years of age. 

Hair:

The use of hair analysis is an excellent low cost method of screening, but tends to be less accurate for many metals and not the ideal approach if urine testing is an option. The newest means of using a long term collection of sweat is now showing significant promise and will be commercially available in the near future. A timed urinary collection of 6 or more hours, as a baseline, followed by challenge testing using a medication to liberate metals is currently the most accurate gauge of body burden. It is only slightly more involved to collect two samples and can have a positive secondary effect, as it can be therapeutic even in a single use.  

There was a rash of articles suggesting that hair analysis is dependent on the laboratory chosen. The outcome of these claims has been discredited as all of the legitimate firms use the same methodology and have shown consistency of results. We have chosen, for over 20+ years, to utilize only two firms, both of whom have been shown to be reliably consistent. They represent the highest level of laboratory quality control available.

Urine:

The use of a challenged urine sample has been faulted based on the premise that your artificially concentrating the sample collected. Hence it’s not a reliable indicator of the body burden of the patient. Perhaps this is an excellent time to segway into the big question.

How does anyone know your bodies contents of toxic metals. There is only one method of absolute certainty, which unfortunately would mean essentially chemically melting your body, homogenizing the result and then testing a sample. Not something most of us would consider.

However option B is a better approach. By using a baseline of what is being eliminated by your body via a 6 or move hour urine sample and then forcing the body to excrete more using a measured medication we can then estimate, based on the difference your body burden assuming that the baseline was not elevated, which by itself would indicate a higher than normal level. We do ask that you limit your intake of a number of foods to minimize any false elevations before the testing.

Not to muddy the waters, but even to the date of this writing, there are those who continue to contend that the use of this method is not acceptable as it “artificially” can lead to unnecessary medical interventions. The government weighed in years ago and had the companies who report the results add a section that tells the recipient that based on the 1996 textbook, “The Basic Science of Poisons” 5th edition, certain levels could be called “Tentative Maximum Permissible Levels” with a statement that this in not necessarily a toxic level ….even though the levels of the respective metals have reach a very elevated and concerning point.

The real point of testing is that you stand to achieve a large potential return on your investment: your maintenance of health as the metals can cause long term irreversible damage to multiple organs.

Plan a thorough health check up and avoid the revenges of old age. The next part of this article should give you a better perspective on the overwhelming importance of minimizing your body burden. As you will come to appreciate, many degenerative diseases are associated with the toxic nature of heavy metals. 

The three studies below will have you thinking twice about where to look and who gets affected. They are research studies show more links between heavy metals and degenerative diseases and this list is extensive. I’ve added italicized areas within the studies to highlight the real key aspects.

A study appearing in the October 24 issue of Neurology states lead can cause progressive declines in memory and learning abilities nearly two decades after occupational exposure. Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health conducted the study, one of the first on long-term effects of lead exposure.

The researchers followed 535 former chemical manufacturing employees having an exposure to lead at work, and compared them with 118 non-exposed people from the same neighborhoods.

The former workers had an average of eight years of occupational exposure to lead with an average of 16 years since last working with lead.

“The effects of the average level of bone lead found in former lead workers was like five more years of aging on the brain,” said primary author Dr. Brian Schwartz, of Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.

Significant differences were discovered between the former workers and other participants in tests of visual construction, verbal memory and learning, visual memory, planning and organizational ability, and manual dexterity.

In a second study, researchers at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland, Ohio, recently demonstrated that people with occupational lead exposures are up to 3.4 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

The Case Western study compared the occupational histories of 185 people with Alzheimer’s to 303 people who are free of the disease. The team used hazard lists developed by the National Occupational Exposure Survey, to estimate the probability of toxic exposure to a variety of agents used in each occupation. Occupational exposure was then multiplied by the number of years a person worked at a job to determine lifetime exposure.

A third research team from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has linked manganese exposure from welding fumes to the early onset of Parkinson’s disease. The paper is featured in the January 2001 issue of Neurology.

The researchers found no clinical differences between the welders and typical Parkinson’s disease patients. The two groups had the same severity and frequency of symptoms and responded similarly to levodopa, a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease. The only statistically significant difference was average age of onset: 45 for the welders, which is 15 years younger than for the control group.

(Sources: ENS, Neurology)

If you are not adequately convince consider this piece by Mitch Kennedy, ND  cand.

Lead and Cadmium in Baby Powders….really

The Center for Environmental Health (CEH), a non-profit research organization in California, conducted research on lead levels in baby powders and creams. CEH found several powders and many “medicated” Baby powders contain levels of lead above California’s legal exposure limit.

CEH cites inhalation, ingestion, and absorption through the skin as routes of exposure to these heavy metals. Most pediatricians already warn mothers not to use talc, as it leads to pneumonia and other respiratory problems. Additional cautions about specific brands may now be warranted according to CEH. You may contact CEH directly for a list of powders and creams tested.

For additional information contact, Bhavna Shamasunder, Staff Scientist, Center for Environmental Health 528 61st St, Suite A, Oakland, CA 94609 (510)594-9864, fax. (510)594-9863

What you can do: Advise your patients to use cornstarch powders (unscented and unmedicated) rather than other kinds of baby powders. Do not overuse baby powders and apply as minimal an amount as possible to avoid inhalation.

Excellent advice and it’s time to check your baby supplies and toys.

MSDS’s a way to get a clue

Are you familiar with an MSDS, Material Safety Data Sheet ?  These easy to read sheets are essential for understanding what potential issues your can have with a product. They are itemized into: physical data, toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment and spill-handling procedures. Did you realize that literally every product in your home from the cleaners you use to the spa and hobby chemicals has an MSDS freely available.

Every company that manufactures or distributes hazardous chemicals in the United States must prepare a MSDS. Development of these materials was mandated by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) in their Hazard Communications Standard 29CFR 1910.1200 year ago.

This standard is commonly referred to as the Right-To-Know Law. For those in an industrial setting you will find these information sheets attached to most chemicals and their products and must be made available to anyone in the firm.

They are free for the asking and can easily explain the nature of a potential carcinogen or the toxicity to which organ system, along with proper handling and disposal.

Want to be an astute consumer, consult and learn more about how to reference an MSDS, on line. For an extensive listings of sources of MSDS information you can download a number of useful apps to your smart phone or go online to MSDS Consider these free options:  EZYMSDS or MSDS.

The Center has a number of resource materials available, to our clients. Three of the best and easiest to use books include: “A Consumer’s Dictionary of Household, Yard and Office Chemicals” , “A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients” and “A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives” the author for all three, is Ruth Winter.

Dr. Kadish has had hands on experience, with friendlier healthier building, hobby, household and industrial materials. At the Center of Health™, we can advise you regarding the best methods and options to determine maintain and enhance your health.

Our physicians at the Center have had training in this area of medicine, known as Environmental Medicine and are happy to discuss your next steps towards a more non-toxic lifestyle.

Copyright Center of Health™ 6/2014  For permission to reprint this article, please contact the author.

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Dr. Kadish is an unusual physician often referred to as a "doctor detective". His expertise is the evaluation and treatment of complex disorders, typically after other physicians have been stumped, is renowned. He provides care for all family members and has additional training in autistic spectrum disorders and chronic complex diseases.