How do heavy metals get into our food chain? The main route is through human activities such as industrial and agricultural processes. The 5 metals of particular concern in relation to harmful effects on health are mercury, lead, cadmium, tin and arsenic, but there are others too.
The toxicity of these metals is in part due to the fact that they accumulate in biological tissues, a process known as bioaccumulation. This process of bioaccumulation of metals occurs in all living organisms, not only humans. So, when we eat fruit, vegetables, meat of fish, we are taking in small quantities of heavy metals daily, and these accumulate in our organs and tissues, eventually causing health issues that can be quite serious.
There are other harmful toxic metals such as chromium and uranium that research has also identified as contaminants in food or water, while a number of metals have been associated with health effects in individuals exposed to them in the workplace, for example beryllium and nickel – through the inhalation of metal dusts that can cause lung injury.
Toxic Effects of Mercury
Excessive exposure to mercury is associated with a wide spectrum of adverse health effects including damage to the central nervous system (neurotoxicity) and the kidney. It can also adversely affect the heart and circulatory system. There is also some evidence that it can cause cancer as the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified it as a “possible carcinogen to humans.”
Different forms of mercury (i.e. mercury metal, inorganic mercury salts such as mercuric chloride and organic forms of mercury such as methylmercury) produce different patterns of toxicity.
One of the main concerns of mercury is in the form of methylmercury that is the kind found in fish and other seafood products. These organic forms of mercury can cross the placenta and circulate in the embryo, resulting in a range of neurological disturbances from impaired learning to obvious brain damage.
Toxic Effects of Lead
Short-term exposure to high levels of lead can cause brain damage, paralysis (lead palsy), anaemia and gastrointestinal symptoms. Longer-term exposure can cause damage to the kidneys, reproductive and immune systems in addition to effects on the nervous system.
Lead poisoning can happen if a person is exposed to very high levels of lead over a short period of time. When this happens, a person may feel:
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Memory loss
- Pain or tingling in the hands and/or feet
A person who is exposed to lead over a prolonged amount of time may feel:
- Abdominal pain
When children, and adults, are exposed to low-levels of lead over time, this will affect the intellectual development and cognitive functioning. Indeed, lead can also cross the placental barrier into the embryo where the young embryo will absorb it readily.
Consumption of food containing lead is the major source of exposure for the general population.
Toxic Effects of Cadmium
Cadmium is known to adversely affect the kidneys especially to the proximal tubular cells, the main site of accumulation. Cadmium when inhaled (it is a by-product of zinc manufacturing) can adversely affect the lungs causing tumours. Cadmium can also cause bone demineralization, either through direct bone damage or indirectly as a result of renal dysfunction.
Cadmium, once absorbed by the body, takes a long time to be eliminated, accumulating mostly in the kidneys. This is why eating offal or specifically the kidneys of various animals is a major source of cadmium in the diet although lower levels are found in many foods.
Toxic Effects of Tin
Tin is relatively less toxic than mercury, cadmium and lead. Tin is present in the air, water, soil, and landfills and is a normal part of many plants and animals that live on land and in water. Tin is also present in the tissues of your body. There is no evidence that tin is an essential element for humans.
Since tin is naturally found in soils, it will be found in small amounts in foods. Tin concentrations of vegetables, fruits and fruit juices, nuts, dairy products, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beverages, and other foods not packaged in metal cans are generally less than 2 parts per million (ppm).
Tin concentrations in pastas and breads have been reported to range from less than 0.003 to 0.03 ppm. You can be exposed to tin when you eat food or drink juice or other liquids from tin-lined cans. Canned food from lacquered tin-lined cans contains less than 25 ppm of tin since the lacquer prevents the food from reacting with the tin.
Food from unlacquered tin-lined cans contains up to 100 ppm of tin since the reaction of the food with the can causes some of the tin to dissolve in the contents of the can. Greater than 90% of tin-lined cans used for food today are lacquered. Only light-coloured fruit and fruit juices are packed in unlacquered tin-lined cans, since tin helps maintain the colour of the fruit. Tin concentrations in food also increase if food is stored in opened cans. Stannous fluoride, a tin-containing compound, is added to toothpaste and tin oxide can also be found in women’s lipsticks.
Inhalation (breathing in), oral (eating or drinking), or dermal exposure (skin contact) to some tin compounds has been shown to cause harmful effects in humans, but the main effect will depend on the particular tin compound.
There have been reports of skin and eye irritation, respiratory irritation, gastrointestinal effects, and neurological problems in humans exposed for a short period of time to high amounts of certain organotin compounds. Some neurological problems have persisted for years after the poisoning occurred.
The principal concern in relation to tin in food is the possibility of high levels potentially present in canned food in incorrectly manufactured tins, where tin present in the can has leached into the food. This has been shown to occur in the case of acidic foodstuffs such as canned tomatoes, and consumption of the affected foodstuff has resulted in gastrointestinal irritation and upsets due to the acute toxic effects of tin.
These short-term effects may occur in some individuals at concentrations above 200mg/kg. Only limited data are available on the toxicological effects of inorganic tin present in canned food, resulting from the dissolution of the tin coating.
Inorganic arsenic is significantly more toxic than organic arsenic compounds.
Inorganic arsenic has been confirmed as a human carcinogen that can induce skin, lung, and bladder cancer. There are also reports of its significant association to liver, prostate, and bladder cancer. Recent studies have also suggested a relationship with diabetes, neurological effects, cardiac disorders, and reproductive organs, but further studies are required to confirm these associations.
Check your heavy metal levels
If you have concerns about your level of heavy metals there is now a simple Hair Tissue Analysis that you can do to determine a number of heavy metals that are circulating in your blood, as well as a full mineral profile.
Other natural ways to detoxify
Given that it is difficult to keep ourselves in a constant state of sweating, there are other natural ways of removing heavy metals naturally from the body. The best and easiest way is to use a natural toxic metal detox product! But what is the best one to use?
It is best to eliminate heavy metals naturally using a proven toxic metal detox formulation such as HMD™.
This can be used by all the family and there are also children’s dosages too.
Natural toxic metal detox using HMD™ – designed for eliminating heavy metals naturally!
HMD™ is a Heavy Metal Detox formulation for removing heavy metals from body!