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This is a shortened version of the original article. For more details please download the original article in PDF format entitled: " Natural Heavy Metal Chelators: Do they work?"
This paper examines the systematic research that has been conducted over the last 5 years on various natural substances that are purported in the literature to work at mobilising and eliminating heavy metals. The research presented here examines the results using a number of natural substances, and their combinations, as well as a unique compound that had powerful synergistic effects against the majority of heavy metals, including mercury.
Most of the natural substances were tested using a double blind, placebo controlled study – some were found to work with some metals, one particular one, Cilantro, was found to retain more metals than baseline (which could be detrimental) and only one compound tested was found to mobilise all metals tested. This particular oral formula called HMD™ underwent further double-blind, placebo controlled trials with 350 people. Pre- and post-provocation samples of urine and faeces were collected and analysed for a variety of heavy metals using Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) as well as Atomic Fluorescence Spectrometry (AFS).
Much of this research on HMD™ was presented in a separate paper in Explore! Volume 14, Number 4, 2005, entitled The Discovery of a Unique Natural Heavy Metal Detoxifier. This paper will reiterate some of this research while introducing new data on mercury elimination using HMD™ that was not published previously.
Heavy metal poisoning is now so common that it is literally impossible to avoid it. There would not be many scientists knowledgeable in heavy metals and xenobiotics that would disagree with the statement that “we are all toxic”. What is the proof? Well, there are many studies that have found many of these heavy metals and xenobiotics in new-born babies. In September 2005, Greenpeace International with the World Wildlife Fund, published a document entitled “Present for Life: Hazardous Chemicals in Umbilical Cord Blood.2” The research was a real eye-opener as it showed convincingly that newborns tested for hundreds of different xenobiotics showed high numbers and levels of these toxins. Specifically, the blood tests showed that these newborns had an average of 287 toxins in their bodies, 180 of these are known carcinogens.
This study also quantifies the antibacterial agent triclosan in human blood; this chemical was found in almost 50% of the samples. DDT, the notorious pesticide that is banned for agricultural use worldwide but which is still used in some places to control malaria, was still found in virtually all blood samples. Similarly, the organochlorine by-product and pesticide hexachlorobenzene – also subject to a global ban - was found in the samples. Perfluorinated compounds like PFOS and PFOA, used to make non-stick pans and water repelling coatings, were present in all but one maternal blood sample. PFOS was detected in all cord blood samples and PFOA in half of them.
We could make the assumption that this study was conducted in America where the level of toxicity is probably higher, compared to other countries. In order to address this question, let’s examine a similar study conducted on pregnant women living in the North Pole where generally most people feel is a clean part of the earth! The research was published in The Science of the Total Environment and was entitled, Organochlorines and heavy metals in pregnant women from the Disko Bay area in Greenland.3
The study showed high concentrations of heavy metals, such as mercury, and organochlorines in the blood and fatty tissue of the Inuit. This is attributed in particular to their high consumption of the meat and blubber of marine mammals. In this present study, 180 pregnant women and 178 newborn babies were studied, amounting to 36% of the total number of births in the Disko Bay area during 1994-1996. The pesticides found in the highest concentrations in maternal blood were DDE - 4.8 μg/l wet wt., trans-nonachlor - 1.6 μg/l.and hexachlorobenzene - 1.2 μg/l; while the total concentration of PCB (Aroclor 1260) was 19.1 μg/l. Calculated on a lipid basis, concentrations were slightly higher in maternal than in cord blood. The mercury concentrations were 16.8 μg/l in maternal blood and 35.6 μg/l in cord blood. In a linear regression analysis, the concentrations of organochlorines, mercury and selenium increased with maternal age. Concentrations of mercury and cadmium increased with the consumption of marine mammals, and cadmium was associated with smoking.
Similar studies have also shown that wildlife in the arctic, are also being killed due to high levels of toxic chemicals in their environment. The study showed that several arctic mammal and bird species that indicate chemical exposures are likely adversely affecting the health of these species. Some of the effects seen are potentially quite serious (e.g. immune suppression, hormone disturbances, altered behaviour).
Before we leave the Arctic Circle, there is another interesting study entitled, Human health implications of environmental contaminants in Arctic Canada: a review6 published in The Science of the Total Environment that has looked at the how the Inuit Eskimos are being exposed to chemicals such as chlordane, toxaphene pesticides as well as PCBs.
Another fascinating study conducted by the World Wildlife Fund set out to explore whether there was any relationship between the types and levels of contamination found in three generations of families, and to examine possible links between contamination and a family’s lifestyle, consumption patterns and everyday products. The report entitled, Contamination: The Next Generation 7 summarises the findings of the analysis of 104 different chemicals in the blood of 33 volunteers from seven families living in England, Scotland and Wales. The volunteers in each family spanned three generations, generally comprising the grandmother, mother and two children. The volunteers comprised 14 children, 13 adults and six grandmothers. The ages of the volunteers ranged from nine years to 88 years. All three generations tested, including the children, were contaminated by a cocktail of hazardous man-made chemicals. The results reveal that every child, from as young as nine years (none younger were tested), was contaminated by the same range of hazardous chemicals: organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, brominated flame-retardants, phthalates and perfluorinated (“non-stick”) chemicals. Five chemicals found in each parent and grandparent was also found in every child.
While it might be expected that chemical burden increases with age, this study has shown that this conventional assumption is not always true: children can be more contaminated by higher numbers and levels of certain “newer” chemicals than their parents or even their grandparents, despite being exposed to these chemicals for only a fraction of the time. These “newer” chemicals include brominated flame retardants (used in sofas, textiles and electrical appliances) and perfluorinated chemicals (used in the manufacture of non-stick pans, coatings for takeaway food packaging and treatments for carpets, furniture, clothing and footwear). The results also show that chemicals in everyday products around the home are contaminating the blood of all the families tested in the survey, including the children. For example, fifty seven per cent of the seven people found to be contaminated by deca-BDE, a brominated flame retardant, were children. Of the volunteers tested, 82 per cent were contaminated by one or more perfluorinated chemical. The perfluorinated chemical PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) was found in more than a third of the children tested. A related chemical PFOS (perfluorooctane sulphonate) was found in five of the family members tested.
There have been similar studies in the USA too - in July 2005, the Department of Health and Human Services, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, USA, published a 475-page document entitled, Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals 8 which clearly indicates the growing number of chemical toxins present in all age-groups in the USA. The American Council on Science and Health published a document in May 2003 entitled, Traces of Environmental Chemicals in the Human Body: Are They a Risk to Health?9 This research looked at the different types of xenobiotics found in US citizens, as well as their quantity. While chemicals that have been banned for many years are still being detected, generally there is a downward trend with up to 90% reduction in the last few decades of toxins such as DDT and lead.
Toxicologists studying chemical toxicity usually have a reference range of values which indicate the “safe levels” of these chemicals. New research is showing, however, that even low-dose exposure10 is accumulative over time and can lead to children having decreased performance in areas of motor function and memory. Similarly, disruption of attention, fine motor function and verbal memory was also found in adults on exposure to low mercury levels. It is an occupational hazard for dental staff, chloralkali factory workers and goldminers, etc. Mercury has been found to be a causative agent of various sorts of disorders, including neurological, nephrological, immunological, cardiac, motor, reproductive and even genetic. Recently heavy metal mediated toxicity has been linked to diseases like Alzeihemer’s, Parkinson’s, Autism, Lupus, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, etc. Besides this, it poses danger to wildlife. This low-dose toxicity and its effects on health will be the toxicologists next goal for future research.
Many health practitioners use synthetic chelating agents such as DMPS, DMSA, EDTA and others to mobilise and eliminate heavy metals from the body. There are advantages and disadvantages to using these. One advantage is the power of their mobilising activity – they are quick to mobilise and eliminate certain metals in the body, but this may place a huge burden on the body’s detoxification systems. Further symptoms have been reported by natural medical physicians throughout the U.S., such as intractable seizures in paediatric patients and multiple sclerosis in adult patients, due to taking high doses of DMSA over extended periods of time11-13.
These are valid reasons to be at least cautious in the use of DMSA for the treatment of mercury toxic paediatric patients. The fragile brains and nervous systems of children with autism, PDD and seizure disorders should be handled with considerable care so as not to increase the damage. DMSA and DMPS can certainly be life-saving drugs in cases of acute metal poisoning. Toxicologists have noted that synthetic chelators should be used only in cases of acute metal poisoning, or as a last resort for intractable chronic poisoning. Natural methods should be exhausted first.
The literature is full of claims about natural substances that apparently mobilise and eliminate heavy metals. When one asks for the scientific studies to support these claims, then one becomes unstuck! One of the intentions of this author and researcher was to test a variety of different natural substances found in the literature to see whether there was any truth in their claims.
Over a period of three years, a number of natural substances were tested using double blind, placebo controlled trials. Substances tested included:
The summary of all these protocols is shown in table 1 below, but detailed explanations can be found in Explore! Vol 14, no. 4, 2005.1
Table 1 Summary of the different natural substances tested using double blind, placebo controlled trials (N=220).
The data presented in Table 1 (N=220) shows the success (√) or failure (×) of these trials using the above named natural substances. Success meant that there was an increase in the specific metal in the post-testing, compared to baseline for the group being tested as a whole. It is important to bear in mind the stringent criteria that were used in this study to include a remedy as being “successful”. To be considered a successful remedy it must have shown the ability to eliminate metals in ALL the people involved in the particular trial.
There are a couple of things worth commenting on - the only compound that was effective at mobilizing and eliminating all metals was HMD™ consisting of homeopathic Chlorella, Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF) and Coriandrum sativum leaf tincture. Interestingly, when these individual components were tested separately, there was negligible chelating activity, but when they were combined together there was a powerful synergy that helped mobilise and eliminate all the metals tested through the urinary route as opposed to the biliary route. This has added advantages as reabsorption of metals from the gut is avoided.
Another trial was run at a later date for mercury and the results for this are presented below in Fig. 1 – again a double blind, placebo controlled trial was used with 56 people.
There was a 448 per cent increase in eliminated mercury in the post-test after 24 hour provocation with HMD™ in the 56 people tested, compared to the baseline sample (t=5.395, df=55, p<.0005). In the control group there was a negligible increase in mercury.
Fig 1 Efficacy of HMD™ in Eliminating Mercury using Double Blind, Placebo Controlled Trials (N=56)
Before we discuss the further trials that were conducted with the HMD™, let me make a brief comment about another finding when using Cilantro tincture. When using Cilantro leaf tincture in a double blind, placebo controlled trial, it was found that there was a percentage decrease in the post sample compared to baseline. This is an indication that instead of eliminating the metals with the Cilantro tincture, the body was pulling back more than what was being measured at baseline. It is known that Cilantro tincture is a good intracellular chelator, facilitating the removal of metals from inside the cell into the mesenchyme. However, if the Cilantro by itself cannot mobilise and eliminate the metals in the mesenchyme, then the osmotic potential will increase over time and there will be a backlash of metals going back into the cell. This could be very detrimental with neurological compromised patients, children and the elderly and is worthy of note by practitioners who tend to use Cilantro on its own.
Just a reminder, HMD™ is a patent-pending, proprietary synergistic blend of three natural ingredients in liquid form that are taken orally:
• Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF)
• Organic Coriandrum sativum leaf tincture
• Homaccord of cell-decimated, energised Chlorella pyrenoidosa
Table 2 shows the summarised results of a number of different trials over a three-year period. The mean percentage increase of heavy metals after provocation with the HMD™ is compared with the elimination with placebo (a highly diluted chlorella tincture). The post-provocation urine samples were collected after 24 hours and the post-provocation faeces samples after 48 hours due to the slower transit time – “U” denotes the Urine samples and “F” the Faeces samples.
Table 2 HMD™ data over a number of trials over a 3-year period
During the HMD™ research trials, blood samples were taken from a small group of people (N=16) to determine the effects of the HMD™ provocation on liver and kidney function tests. The average percentage increase was calculated from the pre-and post sample figures of these biochemical tests.
Table 3 shows the percentage increase of these biochemical parameters in the post-serum samples, compared to the baseline serum sample before HMD™ was taken. Overall, there are small average increases in creatinine, bilirubin, urea, ALT and AST, but nothing that surpassed pathological parameters. The minimum and maximum levels are also shown, but generally the higher levels were present in one individual only.
Table 3 Details of the Liver and Kidney Function Tests
It can be concluded from these tests that HMD™ is a gentle detoxifier that does not adversely affect liver and kidney function tests and is tolerable by most people of all ages. However, based on clinical use of HMD™ over the last 2-3 years, it would be advisable for the practitioner to use a universal drainage remedy that can work concomitantly on all detoxification systems including the liver, kidney, skin, lymph and blood – the author has formulated such a natural herbal drainage remedy called Organic Lavage.