Heavy Metal Detoxification
Development of Heavy Metal Toxicity
The severity and health outcomes of toxic heavy metal exposure depend on several factors, including the type and form of the element, route of exposure (oral/inhalation/topical/ocular), duration of exposure (acute vs. chronic), and a person’s individual susceptibility (CDC 2012).
Acute toxicities arise from sudden exposures to substantial quantities of some metals (such as from occupational exposure to aluminum dust or breaking a mercury-containing thermometer) and typically affect multiple organ systems, commonly the GI tract, cardiovascular system, nervous system, endocrine system, kidneys, hair, and nails (Jang 2011). Acute exposures to some metals (mercury, gold, nickel, and others) can also cause hypersensitivity (allergic) reactions (Sinicropi 2010).
Chronic toxicities are manifested as conditions that develop over extended periods from chronic exposure to relatively low concentrations (eg, sustained environmental exposure). Symptoms of chronic heavy metal toxicity (described later in this protocol) can be similar to other health conditions and may not be immediately recognized as intoxications. Increased cancer risk is a common feature of chronic exposure to certain metals; the exact mechanism of their carcinogenicity is not completely understood, although many are weak mutagens (cause DNA damage), can disrupt gene expression, and deregulate cell growth and development (Galanis 2009). They can also interfere with innate DNA repair systems (Koedrith 2011). In addition, certain metals may affect gene expression and alter gene function (Arita 2009; Martinez-Zamudio 2011).
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified several metals based on their potential carcinogenicity to humans. Group 1 metals include arsenic and arsenic compounds, cadmium, gallium, and nickel compounds. Group 2B (possible carcinogens) include cobalt and cobalt compounds (Sinicropi 2010; Galanis 2009).