Heavy Metal Exposures in Children

If you check out the EPA website it states the top three most concerning environmental toxins are Lead, Mercury and Arsenic. These metals are everywhere in our modern industrialized world, and they are present to some extent in all of us.  The fetus is at particularly high risk, because it concentrates metals dramatically compared to the mother’s blood concentration. There is evidence that toxic metals contribute to neurodevelopmental problems, autism, cancers, and diseases of numerous organ systems.

Arsenic is found in the ground water regionally, and therefore in well water. Arsenic is fed to mass-produced chicken in the U.S., because it causes them to gain weight rapidly (in the form of fat). It causes obesity and diabetes in humans as well. We are told that form of arsenic is not harmful to humans, but after it is ingested and assimilated by the chicken it does in fact become the toxic type. Eating only organic chicken is a very good idea. Pressure-treated wood, used in construction of porches, decks and playground equipment, contains a large amount of arsenic. One should not let their children eat on this type of wood, where they may drop their food on it.

Mercury is one of the most toxic substances on the planet, and particularly accumulates in the developing brain. Mercury is found in old thermometers and also in those new compact fluorescent light bulbs. The most common exposure to mercury is fish. Most predatory ocean fish now contain toxic amounts of mercury, and you can look up tables for mercury content of specific species. Wild Pacific salmon (not Atlantic) is still safe, especially Alaskan salmon. It is not at all safe to eat farmed salmon however, because of incredibly high levels of PCB’s. It is a good idea to not let your children eat tuna, swordfish, tilefish, mackerel, grouper, halibut or many other fish.

Lead is ubiquitous in our industrialized world. The blood levels of lead in the public dropped dramatically when gasoline became unleaded, but there are many other sources. The liners of boxed wine contain lead, as do gum wrappers. Old houses may still possess leaded paint and pipes. Children are exposed frequently through toys painted with lead-containing paints. Toys from China contaminated with high levels of lead were in the news repeatedly in recent years, causing recalls. Chinese factories responded by switching to cadmium-based paints; but cadmium is even more toxic and is known to cause cancer.

Avoidance of heavy metals can take some research and some work around the house. Testing water supplies and toys is a good idea. Toy companies are producing nontoxic items verified not to contain any toxic metals; you can seek those out. It is hard to find light bulbs without mercury now, but if they break take great care when cleaning up. Never let your dentist use mercury fillings. Be aware of the arsenic sources like wood surfaces outdoors, and avoid fish and seafood with high metal content. Educate yourself; start with the EPA websie.

Chelation therapy can remove metals from individuals with illness from high levels, and that can be done quite easily and safely. Cilantro, garlic, and chlorella algae are foods that can help remove toxic metals from children. N-Acetyl Cysteine is a simple amino acid that helps detoxify metals and chemicals. Taking baths with a heaping dose of Epsom salts, as hot as the child can stand (so they sweat into the water), can help remove metals as well as many chemical toxins. If you are worried your child has high levels of metals you can have a urine sample checked for “porphoryns”, or have a provoked urine metals test done using a chelating agent as a challenge.

Published on: January 03, 2013
About the Author
Photo of Ty Vincent MD

Dr. Ty Vincent is an integrative physician who dispels many of the false beliefs the American culture has been led to embrace in regards to diet, exercise, and medical care in his new book Thinking Outside the Pill Box. He is a practicing physician, frequent speaker, and father of six.

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