Saturday, August 27, 2016

Chemical and Heavy Metal Toxicity are Real

Toxicity is not often considered by physicians when a patient with multiple symptoms comes into their office, unless there is ample evidence of acute exposure.  However, toxic exposure has a profound effect on health and should be addressed more frequently.

There are many articles on the internet debunking detoxification.  I agree that many of the fad diets and products out there may not do much to detoxify the body.  But many of these articles say there is no proof that toxins stay in the body.  This blog is quoting various government agencies and scientific articles to show that this is not true:  toxins can stay in the body and cause harm.

The New York State Department of Health website states the following:

What is a toxic substance?

A toxic substance is a substance that can be poisonous or cause health effects. People are generally concerned about chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxin which can be found at some hazardous waste sites. Products that we use daily, such as household cleaners, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, gasoline, alcohol, pesticides, fuel oil and cosmetics, can also be toxic. Any chemical can be toxic or harmful under certain conditions.

Health effects: toxic or hazardous?

Chemicals can be toxic because they can harm us when they enter or contact the body. Exposure to a toxic substance such as gasoline can affect your health. Since drinking gasoline can cause burns, vomiting, diarrhea and, in very large amounts, drowsiness or death, it is toxic...


Some substances are more toxic than others. The toxicity of a substance is described by the types of effects it causes and its potency.
  • Types of Effects: Different chemicals cause different effects. For example, Chemical A may cause vomiting, but not cancer. Chemical B may have no noticeable effects during exposure, but may cause cancer years later.
  • Potency: Potency (strength) is a measure of a chemical's toxicity. A more potent chemical is more toxic. For example, sodium cyanide is more potent than sodium chloride (table salt) since swallowing a smaller amount of cyanide can poison you. The potency and, therefore, the toxicity of a chemical can be affected by its breakdown within the human body. When a substance is absorbed into the body, its chemical structure may be changed or metabolized to a substance that is more toxic or less toxic. For example, carbon tetrachloride, once a commonly used solvent, is changed by the body into a more toxic chemical that causes liver damage. For some other chemicals, metabolism changes the chemical into a form that is more easily eliminated by the body.
  • Exposure: A chemical can cause health effects only when it contacts or enters the body.
  • Routes of Exposure: Exposure to a substance can occur by inhalation, ingestion or direct contact...
  • Dose: The amount of a substance that enters or contacts a person is called a dose. An important consideration in evaluating a dose is body weight. If a child is exposed to the same amount of chemical as an adult, the child (who weighs less) can be affected more than the adult. For example, children are given smaller amounts of aspirin than adults because an adult dose is too large for a child's body weight. The greater the amount of a substance a person is exposed to, the more likely that health effects will occur. Large amounts of a relatively harmless substance can be toxic. For example, two aspirin tablets can help to relieve a headache, but taking an entire bottle of aspirin can cause stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, convulsions or death.
  • Exposure medium: Exposure to chemicals occurs when we breathe, eat or touch soil, water, food or air that contains chemicals. The amount of a chemical in the medium is called its concentration... A person's dose can be determined by multiplying the concentration of the chemical times the amount of the water, air, food or soil that a person takes in. For example, the average adult drinks about 2 liters (roughly quarts) of water and breathes about 20 cubic meters (roughly cubic yards) of air a day. If drinking water contains 1 milligram of lead per liter, then the person would take in a total of 2 milligrams of lead in a day.
  • Length of exposure: Short-term exposure is called acute exposure. Long-term exposure is called chronic exposure. Either may cause health effects that are immediate or health effects that may not occur for some time. Acute exposure is a short contact with a chemical. It may last a few seconds or a few hours. For example, it might take a few minutes to clean windows with ammonia, use nail polish remover or spray a can of paint. The fumes someone might inhale during these activities are examples of acute exposures.
    Chronic exposure is continuous or repeated contact with a toxic substance over a long period of time (months or years). If a chemical is used every day on the job, the exposure would be chronic. Over time, some chemicals, such as PCBs and lead, can build up in the body and cause long-term health effects. Chronic exposures can also occur at home. Some chemicals in household furniture, carpeting or cleaners can be sources of chronic exposure.
    Chemicals leaking from landfills (dumps) can enter the groundwater and contaminate nearby wells or seep into basements. Unless preventive measures are taken, people may be exposed for a long time to chemicals from their drinking water or indoor air.


All people are not equally sensitive to chemicals, and are not affected by them in the same way. There are many reasons for this.
  • People's bodies vary in their ability to break down or eliminate certain chemicals due to genetic differences.
  • People may become allergic to a chemical after being exposed. Then they may react to very low levels of the chemical and have different or more serious health effects than nonallergic people exposed to the same amount. People who are allergic to bee venom, for example, have a more serious reaction to a bee sting than people who are not allergic.
  • Factors such as age, illness, diet, alcohol use, pregnancy and medical or nonmedical drug use can also affect a person's sensitivity to a chemical. Young children are often more sensitive to chemicals for a number of reasons. Their bodies are still developing and they cannot get rid of some chemicals as well as adults. Also, children absorb greater amounts of some chemicals (such as lead) into their blood than adults...

What can happen if you are exposed to a chemical?

A chemical exposure can produce a health effect directly at the site of contact (local) or elsewhere in the body (systemic), and that effect can be either immediate or delayed.
  • Area of the Body Affected: Chemicals can affect any system in the body, including respiratory (nose, air passages and lungs), digestive (mouth, throat, stomach, etc.), circulatory (heart, blood), nervous (brain, nerve cells) and reproductive (sperm, egg, etc.). Some chemicals, like acids, are nonspecific and cause damage on direct contact. Other chemicals, like gasoline, can be absorbed into the blood, and carried throughout the body. Some chemicals affect only certain target systems or target organs. Every organ system has different functions and physical characteristics. So the effect of chemicals on each system has to be evaluated slightly differently. As an example, consider three ways that chemicals can affect one system: the reproductive system.
    First, chemical exposure can affect a man's or woman's reproductive system by making the production of normal sperm or eggs more difficult.
    Second, the chemical may act directly on an unborn baby (fetus). Since chemicals can be transferred from the mother's blood to the unborn baby's blood, the fetus can be affected when the mother is exposed to certain chemicals. A pregnant woman who drinks alcohol can have a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome. The health effects can range from birth defects to learning disabilities.
    And finally, some chemicals can have indirect effects on the development of the fetus. For example, smoking during pregnancy can reduce the amount of oxygen to the fetus. The lack of oxygen can affect the baby's growth.
    Not all chemical exposures affect reproduction, but it is best to minimize exposure to all toxic substances during pregnancy.
  • When Health Effects Will Occur Immediate health effects happen right away. They can occur directly at the site of contact or elsewhere in the body. For example, inhaled ammonia can irritate the linings of the nose, throat and lungs. Alcohol can cause dizziness. Immediate health effects are sometimes reversible and may disappear soon after the exposure stops. However, some immediate health effects do not go away; acute exposure to a corrosive substance, such as battery acid, may cause permanent damage to skin or eyes. Delayed health effects may take months or years to appear and can result from either acute or chronic exposure to a toxic substance. The delay between the exposure and the appearance of health effects is called the latency period. Delayed health effects can be reversible or permanent. Permanent effects don't go away when the exposure stops. For example, breathing asbestos over a period of time may cause lung disease. Once the lung disease begins, it will continue even if the exposure stops or decreases.
    Cancer is an example of a delayed health effect. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells in the body. There are many kinds of cancer. Cancer can be caused by a number of things, including exposure to toxic substances, ultraviolet sunlight and ionizing radiation. Exposure to some chemicals, such as benzene and asbestos, can produce cancer in humans. Some chemicals produce cancer in animals, but whether they will in humans is unknown. Because cancer may not appear until 5 to 40 years after exposure, determining the cause of cancer is difficult.
    What you know can help you!

Protect Yourself

Even though chemicals we use or are exposed to every day can be toxic, you can protect yourself and your family from chemical exposures. No matter how toxic a substance may be, if you are not exposed to the substance, it cannot affect your health. The important rule to remember is: minimize your exposure.
  • Before you use a product, read the label carefully and follow the instructions. Pay attention to warnings on the label.
  • Use proper ventilation. Ventilation means getting fresh air into your home or workplace. When using strong chemicals, open your doors and windows whenever the weather permits. When you use a toxic chemical indoors, you may wish to blow air out the window with a fan. Have another window or door open to let fresh air into the room. If you use chemicals in your hobbies, use them outdoors or in a well- ventilated area away from your living space.
  • Wear appropriate protective gloves when handling chemicals. If you use substances that are harmful to breathe (like fiberglass which can lodge in the lungs), use an appropriate mask.
  • Store chemicals safely and out of the reach of children. Label all containers and do not store liquids in commonly used household containers such as soda bottles or food cans.
  • If clothes become soiled while handling chemicals, change the clothes as soon as possible to reduce exposure. Wash soiled clothes separately; then run the machine through a rinse cycle to clean it before washing more clothes.
  • If you must use a toxic substance, buy only the amount needed so there will be less material left for storage or disposal.
  • Try to avoid using a toxic substance. If that is not possible, choose products that have less toxic ingredients. For example, water-based paints are generally less toxic than oil-based paints.
  • Indoor air can contain chemicals from outside air, soil or water. Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, can affect your health. It enters homes through holes or cracks in basement floors or walls. Learn how to test for radon. If the radon levels in your home are elevated, take corrective steps as soon as possible.
  • Drinking water can contain harmful chemicals. Lead can leach from (dissolve out of) lead pipes or lead solder. Reduce the amount of lead in your water by using cold water and by running the water for a minute or two before using it for drinking or cooking. Filters can take out some chemicals from drinking water. Filters should only be used when necessary; be sure that the one you use takes out the chemical you are concerned about, and maintain the filters regularly.
  • If you are concerned about chemicals in water, indoor air, household products, landfills or factories, the following agencies may be able to provide information and assistance:
    • your local county or city health department, or a district office of the New York State Department of Health;
    • your regional office of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation;
    • the New York State Department of Health's Center for Environmental Health. To contact the Center, email, or call 518-402-7800 and leave your name, telephone number and a brief message. Department of Health staff will respond promptly to your call.
Public and university libraries, professional organizations or citizen groups may also be helpful.

Heavy Metals:
Heavy Metals and the Environment  
Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements that have a high atomic weight and a density at least 5 times greater than that of water. Their multiple industrial, domestic, agricultural, medical and technological applications have led to their wide distribution in the environment; raising concerns over their potential effects on human health and the environment. Their toxicity depends on several factors including the dose, route of exposure, and chemical species, as well as the age, gender, genetics, and nutritional status of exposed individuals. Because of their high degree of toxicity, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury rank among the priority metals that are of public health significance. These metallic elements are considered systemic toxicants that are known to induce multiple organ damage, even at lower levels of exposure. They are also classified as human carcinogens (known or probable) according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. This review provides an analysis of their environmental occurrence, production and use, potential for human exposure, and molecular mechanisms of toxicity, genotoxicity, and carcinogenicity.

From the National Organization of Rare Diseases: 

General Discussion

Heavy metal poisoning is the accumulation of heavy metals, in toxic amounts, in the soft tissues of the body. Symptoms and physical findings associated with heavy metal poisoning vary according to the metal accumulated. Many of the heavy metals, such as zinc, copper, chromium, iron and manganese, are essential to body function in very small amounts. But, if these metals accumulate in the body in concentrations sufficient to cause poisoning, then serious damage may occur. The heavy metals most commonly associated with poisoning of humans are lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium. Heavy metal poisoning may occur as a result of industrial exposure, air or water pollution, foods, medicines, improperly coated food containers, or the ingestion of lead-based paints.

Signs & Symptoms

The symptoms of heavy metal poisoning vary according to which type of metal overexposure is involved. Some specific examples are:  [Descriptions from symptoms related to multiple heavy metals is given.  Go to website to see.]

This are just a sampling of multiple studies showing how chemical and heavy metal exposure should be taken seriously.  The next blog will discuss what ways of detoxifying the body work and which may not. 

Until we meet again,
Dr. Judi 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

How to Maintain Health in a Toxic World

I had a patient with diabetes that no matter what she did her blood sugars were not in control.  After working on diet, exercise, emotions, supplements and medications, I had her do a test for heavy metals.  Her test showed dangerously high for arsenic.  She told me that she had grown up near the Kennecott Copper Mines in Utah, and all the houses down to her street were condemned for arsenic poisoning.We did IV chelation therapy on her to reduce her arsenic load, and she was finally able to lose some weight and get her blood sugar under better control.

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, brought to the forefront for a moment the hazards of chemicals, pollutants and industrial dumping to our and our children's health.  But Flint isn't the only city in danger from lead poisoning.  5 percent of Flint children tested positive for elevated lead levels compared to 8.5 percent in Pennsylvania, 6.7 percent in parts of New York State, and 20 percent in Detroit.  In the U.S. as a whole, more than half a million children between the ages of 1 and 5 still suffer from lead poisoning.  And lead is only one of thousands of toxic metals and chemicals we are exposed to.

The entire U.S., in fact the entire world, is in the midst of a toxic crisis.  Over 200 toxic chemicals are found in our blood and in breast milk.  A 1995 study showed that 287 chemicals were found in the umbilical cord blood of newborns, with the majority of them known carcinogens and neurotoxins. The President’s Cancer Panel even stated, “… To a disturbing extent, babies are born ‘pre-polluted.’”
 In 2014, a review in The Lancet Neurology noted industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for rising rates of neurodevelopmental disabilities.  This includes autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia and other cognitive impairments.

Environmental toxins come from many sources:  Waste products from industry, mining and industrial farming enter our air, ground and water supplies.  Toxic cleaning supplies fill our cabinets.  Known carcinogens such as pthalates are put into our skin and hair products.  Adjuvants in immunizations are known neurotoxins and carcinogens.  Many food additives that are determined by the government to be safe for consumption have never been studied for the effects of long-term consumption.  Fire retardants are in our furniture and clothes.  Toxic chemicals are in our carpets.  Even toys are often made from toxic chemicals.

So in a world where toxins are ubiquitous and the solutions seem to be far away, what can we do to keep our and our children's health from being affected?  Here are a few things that can be done:

  • Eat fresh whole foods rather than packaged and processed foods with lots of chemicals.  Eat organic as much as possible.  Eat pasteurized organic meat and wild caught low mercury fish.  Even a month of eating organic can dramatically improve your health.  
  • Buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastics or cans.
  • Filter your water.
  • Replace non-stick pans with glass or ceramic.
  • Vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  • Buy BPA-free, fire-retardant, stain resistant free toys and clothes.
  • Use natural cleaning products or make your own.  Vinegar and baking soda can clean a lot.  Hydrogen peroxide or colloidal silver can sanitize.
  • Use organic and natural toiletries, shampoos, detergents and skin products. Use fragrance-free products to avoid phthalates.  Use vinegar instead of clothes softener.  1/2 C vinegar in 2 C water makes an excellent hair conditioner.
  • Visit your integrative, functional or naturopathic physician to be tested for toxins and to learn healthy ways to detoxify your gut, liver and kidneys.
  • Since we can't avoid toxins even doing our best, use supplements such as SpringTree's Detox and Chelate.
My next blog will be on more specific ways to detoxify.

Until we meet again,
Dr. Judi