What is it?
Heavy metals are either naturally found in the environment or produced during manufacturing of everyday products.
The body requires trace amounts of iron, copper, selenium, molybdenum, and zinc, to function normally. However, higher than normal levels of these metals can be toxic. Overexposure to heavy metals results in their accumulation in the body’s soft tissues such as fat, blood vessels, muscle and nerve along with organs such as kidney, liver, bone and brain.
Laboratory testing for heavy metal toxicity involves a quantitative measure of the levels of various heavy metals in the body. The metals most commonly tested for are lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, copper and zinc.
Testing can be done via blood sample, 24-hour urine sample, hair or nail sample or a tissue sample.
When should you get tested?
You should get tested if your healthcare provider suspects heavy metal toxicity due to clinical signs and symptoms. Signs and symptoms may vary depending on the type of metal, quantity, length of exposure, age, and your health status.
You should also consider getting tested if your occupation or living conditions put you at risk of over-exposure to heavy metals.
The initial intervention is typically terminating the exposure to the heavy metal. Additionally, chelation therapy is often used to assist in the removal of toxic metals.
This involves a chelating agent binding the heavy metal and helping to excrete it in the urine.