What are the health effects of heavy metals?

Adults, children and pets can be exposed to small amounts of heavy metals through food, water and air. Each heavy metal is different in how it affects our bodies. Age and health matters too. Young children and people with a weak immune system are most at risk to heavy metal poisoning.

 

Acute heavy metal poisoning

Acute heavy metal poisoning usually occurs when a person is exposed to large amounts of a metal all at one time. For example, swallowing a lead toy can cause a large amount of lead to be absorbed all at once. A worker may be exposed during an industrial spill. Acute exposures are dangerous and can quickly result in serious health effects or even death.

 

Long-term heavy metal poisoning

There is growing evidence that long-term or “chronic” exposure to low levels of heavy metals causes health problems. One of the ways we are exposed to metals is through our drinking water. We drink, cook and bathe in water that could be contaminated! Symptoms of chronic heavy metal poisoning can be severe, but usually develop much more slowly over time compared to symptoms caused by acute exposure. There are many health problems caused by long-term exposure and ingestion of heavy metals. Each metal has a different target organ and effect. Generally speaking heavy metal poisoning causes these symptoms:

 

  • Stomach irritation
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Decreased production of red and white blood cells
  • Cancer of the skin, lungs, liver and bladder.
  • Damage to nerve tissues
  • In pregnant women, high levels of exposure to lead may cause miscarriage.
  • Hair loss, nail brittleness, and neurological abnormalities
  • High blood pressure, changes in heart rhythm

 

Protecting your health

Diagnosing heavy metal poisoning is complicated and must be performed by medical professionals. Limiting your exposure to heavy metals is in your hands. One of the easiest ways to protect yourself and your family is by avoiding contaminated drinking water. Your water supply, pipes and plumbing fixtures could be releasing heavy metals into your water. The Health Metric heavy metals test is easy to use and will alert you to heavy metal contamination.