Heavy metals are individual metals and metal compounds that can impact human health. Eight common heavy metals are: arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, and silver. These are all naturally occurring substances which are often present in the environment at low levels. In larger amounts, they can be dangerous.
Metal toxicity is common in our modern world. The most common toxic metal is mercury, due to the use of this metal in dental silver fillings (which are 50% mercury by weight) and in vaccines as the preservative thimerosal (since 1999 it’s being replaced with other preservatives). Other frequently elevated toxic metals are lead, nickel, aluminum, cadmium, tin and others.
The simple problem with metals is that they are charged. This means that they drop off electrons and carry a positive charge, sticking to anything they find in the body that has a negative charge. The body much prefers things to have a neutral or very mild charge, so they can be moved around and function normally. Toxic metals bind in damaging ways to destroy mitochondria (the cell’s energy generator), impair nerve growth, disrupt enzyme systems, push iron out of blood cells, decrease immune function and pile up in residual deposits in cells. How sensitive a person is to metal toxicity depends on the particular metal involved, the quantity and distribution of the metal in the tissues, and the person’s degree of inherited ability to clear the metal out on their own.
Determining whether a patient has metal toxicity is done through the patient’s history of exposure to metals, testing and their symptoms. Chelating medicines are chosen based on the results of these evaluations.