DETECTING TOXIC METALS
By Dr. Lawrence Wilson
© September 2018, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.
All information in this article is for educational purposes only. It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.
Today many physicians, nutrition consultants and their clients are rightly interested in toxic metals. This is a valid concern and a wonderful step in the advancement of medical science.
This article discusses current methods for detecting toxic levels of both vital minerals and the heavy metals. It will include a short section on the detection of toxic chemicals, a far more difficult dilemma today, in fact.
WHY DETECT TOXIC METALS?
This question hardly needs answering for many people. The threat of environmental pollution, food, air and water contamination and from other sources is the highest it has been on the planet earth for thousands of years, at the very least.
The main reason is industrialization. In this endeavor, a vast quantities of metals and other materials are removed from their fairly safe storage deep in the earth and brought to the surface of the earth.
Here they are processed, burned, refined, combined and recombined in thousands of ways to create products that make the modern lifestyle possible. While some of the innovations are truly amazing, such as cell phones and automobiles, most carry a price, which is the pollution of the planet in a wholesale manner as has never been before.
Fortunately, in the last 30 or so years, tremendous progress has occurred in identifying which of the chemicals that are emitted from the smokestacks and effluent pipes are harmful and need to be stopped from entering the human environment. This approach is improving the air and water, though it is not done in all nations.
R. Buckminster Fuller once said, “There is no such thing as pollution. There are just resources that are in the wrong places”. This is an excellent motto and 100% correct. Mercury in your teeth or your tissues is harmful. Mercury in the correct industrial process, such as making paper, is necessary at this stage of its evolution. Soon, safer substitutes will be found. In fact, they are starting to be used already. This is the new industrialization on planet earth.
To test toxic metals, physicians and the public are offered a smorgasbord of tests. We have divided these into biopsy tests (tissue samples and hair mineral biopsies), excretory tests (such as urine and feces), electrical instruments, and kinesiological methods.
BIOPSIES (hair, liver, red blood cells, and other tissue tests)
HAIR TISSUE MINERAL BIOPSY
Hair is called a soft tissue of the body. Most of the toxic metals accumulate there to varying extents. It is easy to sample and the samples are easily preserved and transported. We find this to be the best method to detect toxic metals provided that:
1. The hair is clean at the time of sampling,
2. The test is run properly.
3. The test is interpreted properly.
This type of biopsy is not invasive, dangerous or costly. The section below gives the protocol I use for interpreting the hair mineral biopsy test for toxic metals.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency reviewed over 400 studies of the use of hair for toxic metal detection and concluded that:
“Hair is a meaningful and representative tissue for (biological monitoring for) antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium and perhaps selenium and tin.“
The author of a study of lead toxicity in Massachusetts school children, Dr. R. Tuthill, concluded:
“Scalp hair should be considered a useful clinical and epidemiological approach for the measurement of chronic low-level lead exposure in children.”
How to interpret a hair mineral analysis to test for toxic metals:
1. The hair must be washed at home, before sampling, within 48 hours or less before sampling. Any ordinary shampoo may be used. If one has a water softener, then it is best to wash the hair twice before sampling it, using unsoftened tap water, reverse osmosis water, distilled or spring water.
2. The hair sample must not be washed at the laboratory at all. The reason is that washing the hair always and erratically removes some of its minerals. Only two labs in the USA do not wash the hair, Analytical Research Labs and Trace Elements, Inc. We cannot recommend using Trace Elements, Inc. at this time. Their readings are not as accurate. An Australian laboratory claims not to wash the hair, but we do not believe this at this time based upon their lab results we have seen.
3. Look for elevated levels of toxic metals. However, MOST LABORATORIES HAVE THEIR ACCEPTABLE LEVELS OF TOXIC METALS SET TOO HIGH. THE DOCTOR MUST USE THE ACCEPTABLE LEVELS THAT ARE LISTED IN THE ARTICE ON THIS SITE, Mineral Ideals.
4. The amigos. These are iron, manganese and aluminum. The interpretation rule is that if any one of these are elevated, the other two are elevated in the body as well. For details, read The Amigos Or Oxidants– Iron, Manganese and Aluminum.
5. Poor eliminator pattern. This complicates interpretation, but is a very sound method in my experience. If any of the toxic metal levels are extremely low, it indicates they are present in excess and simply cannot be eliminated at this time. This may sound unusual, but it is holding true.
This means that if a person embarks on a nutritional balancing program, eventually the metal that was very low begins to rise on retests and comes out of the body. When it does, the person generally feels much better. For details, read Poor Eliminator Pattern.
6. Hidden copper toxicity. The hair copper level is a very poor indicator of copper toxicity, which is very common. Instead, look for hidden copper indicators. For details, read Copper Toxicity Syndrome.
7. Mercury indicators. Mercury is so widespread that almost everyone has some. Anyone who eats large or medium-sized fish has a lot. Anyone with amalgam dental fillings has a lot. Anyone who eats seafood or sushi has plenty. Most babies today are born with it thanks to toxicity in their mothers. The hair or other mineral tests are not as important as these environmental factors.
8. Other general indicators. Often, toxic metals are hidden deep in the body tissues and won’t be revealed on any test. Possible indicators for this on a hair mineral test include:
- A slow oxidation rate
- A fast oxidation rate in an adult
- Three highs or four highs pattern
- A zinc level greater than 16 mg% or 160 ppm or less than 14 mg% or 140 parts per million
- A phosphorus less than 13 mg% or 130 ppm
- A three lows pattern
- Four lows pattern
- Sympathetic dominance pattern
- A sodium/potassium ratio less than 2.5:1.
This list includes almost everyone except children with a healthy fast oxidation rate. Almost all children also have plenty of toxic metals, but perhaps less than the rest of the population.
Other fairly reliable indicators for excessive toxic metals:
1. Sex with orgasm more than once a week causes cadmium accumulation. Having orgasms, including masturbation, depletes zinc in both men and women. It appears that one cannot easily replace this zinc and so excessive sex leads to cadmium replacing zinc in the tissues. The cadmium may only show up on tests much later as the quantity in the body increases.
2. Eating any amount of tuna fish, salmon or other larger fish, along with shellfish or seafood and seaweed except for kelp causes mercury toxicity. This seems to hold true today in every case.
3. Smokers, including the use of marijuana even once a week, add a lot of toxic metals to their bodies, especially cadmium. Using a water pipe is better, but still not recommended at all.
4. Miners, electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics and other mechanics such as diesel engine repair, tool repair and others are always very toxic.
Even using the hair mineral biopsy, no test we am aware of can detect anywhere near all the toxic metals in the body. Often they are hidden in hard-to-reach places such as the brain or bones, or places with poor circulation such as fatty tissues.
The best we can do is to know the metals will be revealed as they are excreted through the hair if one performs repeat hair mineral tests while a person is one a nutritional balancing program.
We find the best approach is to assume everyone has toxic metals. This has proven true in clinical experience. Any sound health program needs to be designed to remove all of the toxic metals, not just a few.
We use the hair test not to detect toxic metals, in most cases. It is used because it helps us design corrective programs.
Various mineral laboratories use different acceptable levels of toxic metals. We use lower values than most others because we can lower the toxic metal values to these low levels with a development program. For the latest values we use, see Mineral Ideals.
RED BLOOD CELL TESTING
Some holistic physicians use red blood cell testing for zinc. We do not use this test because we consider it inaccurate. It is too easily affected by nutrients and toxins in the blood plasma.
Fatty Tissues. Some doctors use fat biopsies to assess toxic chemicals because fat is the tissue where some chemicals reside in storage. However, toxic metals are not stored in fatty tissues to nearly the extent of some toxic chemicals. Thus, this test is not very useful for detection of metals. Sampling is also very invasive and costly.
LIVER OR OTHER ORGAN OR TISSUE BIOPSIES
Liver biopsies are used to detect iron and copper toxicity, for example. While quite useful, the procedure is painful, invasive and relatively costly and time-consuming. Thus, I do not recommend organ or tissue biopsies except in some rare cases in which this is required for some reason. It may also not be that accurate depending upon where the biopsy needle penetrates the liver.
Rarely other organs or tissues are biopsied for minerals such as the kidneys, brain, lungs, or others. These are all invasive tests and are only done rarely, perhaps on autopsy in the event of a murder, or some other rare situation.
TESTING BODY EXCRETIONS (feces, urine and sweat)
URINE CHALLENGE TESTING FOR METALS
Many holistic doctors offer to test a person’s toxic metal levels by using what is called a urine challenge test. This consists of injecting a dose of a synthetic chelating agent such as EDTA, DMPS or another. This is followed by collection of one’s urine, usually for 24 hours afterwards. The urine is then tested for toxic metals at a laboratory.
The idea behind the test is simple enough. The chelating agent removes some toxic metals from the tissues, and these will show up in the urine. This will tell the doctor if the person then needs further treatment for toxic metals.
Problems With This Methodology
1. The main problem is that the test is very inaccurate! At times, a urine challenge test identifies a high level of a toxic metal that needs to be removed, and this is helpful. However, chelating drugs cannot penetrate deep into the tissues and remove deeply-sequestered toxic metals. Many of them are actually bound to enzymes and incorporated into the body tissues.
Chelating drugs simply cannot remove these metals. All they can do is remove loosely bound toxic metals, and usually only those that happen to be floating through the blood stream, or perhaps some that are in the artery walls. This is the main problem with the test.
The result is that the patient believes the doctor has “identified the toxic metal problem” or that there is no toxic metals present, which in our experience is never the case. In both of these cases, the patient was deceived.
Also, we do not recommend chelation therapy. We much prefer a development program. For details, read Chelation Therapy.
2. Urine challenge tests are never needed, in my view. This is because, in our experience, everyone has toxic metals, so there is no need to test for them. The toxic metals may or may not show up on any type of test. However, they are there because we live on a highly polluted planet at this time in history.
3. Chelating drugs are all slightly toxic. This is not too important, however, because the amount given is not usually significant.
4. The test just adds cost and inconvenience.
STOOL TESTING FOR TOXIC METALS
The idea of this test is that many toxic metals are removed through the liver. The metals are excreted into the bile duct and then to the small intestines, and finally eliminated through the feces.
Disadvantages of this method include:
1) It can still miss a lot of metal elimination, since elimination takes place not only through the bowel, but through the urine, hair, skin and even other routes possibly.
2) Sampling is inconvenient for the client.
3) Accuracy is very questionable because the metals are excreted at times, but not all the time.
4) Accuracy is also greatly compromised on stool tests because all foods and most beverages, except for distilled or reverse osmosis water, contain varying amounts of toxic metals. This varies from day to day and from locale to locale, but it will be reflected on the stool test, even if the metals are bound up in the gut and pass harmlessly through the intestines.
There is no way to correct for this problem, other than have the patient on distilled water and a special diet that has been strictly analyzed for metals.
For example, pesticides, which contaminate most water supplies and are applied to most food, usually contain lead, cadmium, mercury, uranium, beryllium and many other toxic metals. Organic fertilizers are, at times, also allowed to contain toxic metals as well, and the soil food is grown on and the water used on the crops varies greatly.
Processing of food also introduces toxic metals in some cases, though they are not all harmful if they are tightly bound. To our knowledge, labs performing stool tests do not and cannot distinguish bound toxic metals that are from food from those that have been eliminated through the bile or other methods. Thus, there is no clear way to distinguish which of the metals are due to food, and which are due to metal elimination.
This is a serious problem with stool testing. It means that first of all, the toxic metal readings on stool exams may be much higher, for example, than in the hair. Doctors and clients may like this, thinking it indicates “progress” when really it may indicate only that the person at some fish or kelp, or some processed items which are high in toxic metals. It tends to create a false belief that “something is happening” when it is not necessarily true.
SWEAT TESTING FOR TOXIC METALS
Some doctors use sweat analysis, especially in exercise and/or sauna detoxification programs such as the Hubbard Program sponsored by Scientology and others. However, sweat has many limitations.
1) It requires sweating that is difficult in some instances.
2) Not all metals come out through the sweat, although evidence indicates that most do come out to some degree.
3) It is a short-term or instantaneous test and will not give a long-term view. Instantaneous readings are useful only in acute situations. Otherwise the test would have to repeated daily or at least weekly to gain a long-term picture of what is happening. Only hair automatically, as it were, provides a longer-term view.
ELECTRONIC AND ENERGETIC METHODS
(Electroacupuncture, radionics, electronic scans such as the Thalus, Vega, etc. and kinesiological methods)
These methods unfortunately are not reliable and are heavily dependent upon the operator of the machine or the practitioner. They may measure what is in the entire body, but often it is not clear exactly which tissues or compartments of the body are being measured.
DETECTING TOXIC CHEMICALS
This is another valid concern of everyone today. Thousands of toxic chemicals, or chemicals of questionable safety, are spewed or dumped or even added intentionally to our air, water and food each and every day.
Detecting the levels of these chemicals is even more difficult than detecting toxic metals because there are thousands of them and almost all are difficult to analyze by chemical means. Since they are ubiquitous, assessing normal or baseline levels to measure from is also more difficult in many cases. To read more on this topic, read Chemical Toxicity on this website.
Fortunately, a development program will slowly remove all toxic metals and all toxic chemicals. It is not necessary to know exactly which ones are there in almost all cases, since the removal method will be the same.
To read about how to remove all the toxic metals and toxic chemicals, read Toxic Metals on this site.