Metal Toxicity | Common Types of Heavy Metal Poisoning

Humans are exposed to heavy metals every single day. Metals are found in the water we drink, the land we walk on and the products we use daily. While we actually need small doses of some heavy metals to keep our bodies functioning, extended and large dosages of exposure can lead to illnesses such as heavy metal poisoning, also known as metal toxicity.

Types of Metal Toxicity

Arsenic Poisoning:

Exposure to arsenic is typically through exposure to contaminated drinking water. Water can become contaminated naturally through exposure to the elements, however also can be influenced by agriculture and mining. Most cases of arsenic poisoning are from accidental exposure. 200 million people worldwide are exposed to water with irregular levels of arsenic, especially areas such as Bangladesh and West Bengel. Long term exposure can lead to heart disease and cancer.

Common Sources of Arsenic:

  • Smoking Tobacco
  • Living near industrial areas
  • Exposure to landfill sites

Preventing Arsenic Poisoning

  • Drink clean, filtered water
  • Ensure foods are also cooked with clean, filtered water
  • Wear a mask in industrial areas
  • Consider drinking bottled water when travelling or working in an industrial area

Lead Poisoning:

Lead exposure can occur through contaminated food, water, goods and air. Children are often more at risk of lead poisoning because they are more susceptible to putting things in their mouths. These things could potentially contain lead paint. In 2013, 853,000 deaths occurred as a result of lead poisoning, mostly in developing parts of the world. Long term exposure can lead to seizures, anemia, coma’s or worst case- death.

Common Sources of Lead include:

  • House paint made before 1978
  • Pipes and Sink Faucets
  • Toys and household items painted before 1976
  • Jewellery, Pottery and Lead figurines

Preventing Lead Poisoning

  • Ensure hands are washed before eating
  • Test your water for lead. If readings are high, use a filter or drink only bottles water.
  • Clean faucets and aerators regularly.
  • Wash children’s toys and bottles regularly.
  • Use lead-free paint in your home.
  • Avoid areas where lead-based paint may have been used.

Diagnosing Metal Toxicity

Testing for metal toxicity involves testing samples of blood, hair, feces and urine. Each of these samples plays a different role in the diagnosis of Metal Toxicity. These tests can show which metals are present in the human body, and how much of each.

Treating Metal Toxicity

If the tests come back positive for metal toxicity, a detoxification plan will be implemented by a doctor experienced in chelation. In extreme cases, rinsing out the gastric sleeve and inducing vomiting may be necessary to flush out the ingested metals. Some complications can occur from this detox, but can be managed as it occurs. This includes shock, anemia and kidney failure.

  • If you are in immediate danger, call 000.
  • If you are in need of advice, call NSW Poisons 24/7 Information Centre on 131126
  • Provide immediate first aid

Metal by the Metre