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Heavy Metal Toxicity

Heavy Metal Toxicity Testing & Treatment in Charleston, SC

Heavy metal (HM) toxicity is a generic term for an above-average level of metal in the blood that may result in undesirable side effects. Visit The Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine (COEM) to get specialized and comprehensive care. For more information, contact us today or schedule an appointment online. We are conveniently located at 7510 North Forest Drive North Charleston, SC 29420. Patients routinely fly in to be evaluated by COEM, as we serve patients internationally. Find out if you have been exposed, extensive lab testing is available.

Heavy Metal Toxicity Testing & Treatment Near Me in Charleston, SC
Heavy Metal Toxicity Testing & Treatment Near Me in Charleston, SC

Table of Contents:

Heavy metal toxicity: Facts you must know
Heavy metal toxicity: Common causes
Symptoms of heavy metal toxicity
Heavy metal toxicity: Treatment

Heavy metal toxicity: Facts you must know

Heavy metal Toxicity is the accumulation of heavy metals, in toxic amounts, in the soft tissues of the body. Symptoms and physical findings associated with heavy metal poisoning vary according to the metal accumulated.

Many of the heavy metals, such as zinc, copper, chromium, iron and manganese, are essential to body function in very small amounts. But, if these metals accumulate in the body in concentrations sufficient to cause poisoning, then serious damage may occur. The heavy metals most commonly associated with poisoning of humans are lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium. Heavy metal poisoning may occur as a result of industrial exposure, air or water pollution, foods, medicines, improperly coated food containers, or the ingestion of lead-based paints.

Heavy metals are chemical elements that are commonly found in our environment. Without realizing it all people are exposed to heavy metals on a daily basis. However, the quantities that we inhale, ingest or come into contact with the skin are so small that they are usually harmless. In fact, small amounts of some heavy metals in our diet are essential to good health. These are referred to as trace elements and include iron, copper, manganese, zinc, plus others, which are commonly found naturally in fruits and vegetables.

Heavy metal poisoning can be acute or chronic and may be caused by the following

• Lead
• Mercury
• Iron
• Cadmium
• Thallium
• Bismuth
• Arsenic (technically not a true metal but a semi-metal – i.e. non-metal with some metallic properties)
• Phosphorous and many more

These toxic metals can cause or contribute to a long list of diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain and neurological disorders. While the medical establishment recognizes the acute toxicity that comes from high levels of metals in your body, far more people suffer the adverse effects of low-level, chronic exposure.

Mercury in particular is the second most toxic metal known to man, second only to plutonium and even in extremely low concentrations or parts per million it can strongly downgrade your health.

Heavy metal toxicity can have a wide range of negative effects. Mercury, can cause depression and add to anxiety; mercury and cadmium can significantly compromise your immune system. Amalgam fillings still present a significant risk of mercury poisoning, mercury toxicity can also cause allergies.

Lead poisoning particularly disturbs GABA balance, this neurotransmitter enables the brain to inhibit persistent thoughts going around and around when GABA becomes deficient it can contribute to anxiety, lead also dulls your intelligence.

Lead, cadmium (from smoking) and arsenic disturb dopamine, this neurotransmitter gives the brain energy, motivation and the capacity for pleasure, when it becomes deficient you can get a low energy demotivated depression.

Heavy metal toxicity: Common causes

The prominent causes of Heavy Metal Toxicity are environmental sources that may be based in the food that is consumed or the water that is being drunk or even over exposure to industrial metals and chemicals. The environment and living habits often decide on the level of Heavy Metal Toxicity that a person is being exposed to.

Often causes of arsenic toxicity include the inclusion of arsenic to be found in insect poison, drinking water sources and skin contact from oils like linseed oils besides others.

Acute exposure can occur as a result of:

• Receiving vaccinations that contain thimerosal (mercury preservative)
• Mishandled metals at a job site
• Chemical and heavy metal spills–even from a broken mercury thermometer

Chronic exposure happens over a period of time, and includes:

• Having mercury amalgams (“silver fillings”) in teeth
• Living in a home built prior to 1978 that has lead-based paint
• Smoking and/or inhaling second-hand smoke
• Eating foods (such as contaminated fish) that contain high levels of heavy metals
• Living near a landfill
• Working in an environment where exposure is prevalent, such as at a dentist’s office where amalgam is used to fill cavities

Some of the main sources of Heavy Metal Toxicity occur through:

• Consumption of contaminated water
• Consuming fish contaminated in mercury
• Mercury contamination from badly fitted dental fillings
• Poisoning from vaccinations containing thimerosal

Symptoms of heavy metal toxicity

Symptoms of heavy metal toxicity include mental confusion, pain in muscles and joints, headaches, short-term memory loss, gastrointestinal upsets, food intolerances/allergies, vision problems, chronic fatigue, and others. The symptoms are so vague that it is difficult to diagnose based on symptoms alone.

Arsenic Toxicity

Overexposure may cause headaches, drowsiness, confusion, seizures, and life-threatening complications.

Neurological symptoms include – brain damage (encephalopathy), nerve disease of the extremities (peripheral neuropathy), pericapillary hemorrhages within the white matter, and loss or deficiency of the fatty coverings (myelin) around these nerve fibers (demyelination).

Skin problems include – transverse white bands on the fingernails and excessive accumulation of fluid in the soft layers of tissue below the skin (edema). Gastrointestinal symptoms include a flu-like illness (gastroenteritis) that is characterized by vomiting; abdominal pain; fever; and diarrhea, which, in some cases, may be bloody.

Other symptoms include breakdown of the hemoglobin of red blood cells (hemolysis), a low level of iron in the red blood cells (anemia), and low blood pressure (hypotension). Some individuals may experience a garlic-like odor that may be detectable on the breath.

Chromium Toxicity

– Symptoms may include lung and respiratory tract cancer as well as kidney diseases. In addition, overexposure to chromium may also cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting, often with blood. Symptoms may lead to severe water-electrolyte disorders, increased mild acidity of blood and body tissues (acidosis), and/or inadequate blood flow to its tissues resulting in shock. Lesions on the kidneys, liver, and muscular layer of the heart (myocardium) may also develop.

Lead Toxicity

– Overexposure to lead may cause high blood pressure and damage to the reproductive organs. Additional symptoms may include fever, headaches, fatigue, sluggishness, vomiting, loss of appetite (anorexia), abdominal pain, constipation, joint pain, loss of recently acquired skills, incoordination, listlessness, difficulty sleeping (insomnia), irritability, altered consciousness, hallucinations, and/or seizures. In addition, affected individuals may experience low levels of iron in the red blood cells (anemia), peripheral neuropathy, and, in some cases, brain damage (encephalopathy). Some affected individuals experience decreased muscle strength and endurance; kidney disease; wrist drop; and behavioral changes such as hostility, depression, and/or anxiety. In some cases, symptoms may be life-threatening.

Cobalt Toxicity

– Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite (anorexia), ear ringing (tinnitus), nerve damage, respiratory diseases, an unusually large thyroid gland (goiter), and/or heart and/or kidney damage.


– The onset of symptoms may be delayed for two to four hours after exposure. Overexposure may cause fatigue, headaches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever. In addition, progressive loss of lung function (emphysema), abnormal buildup of fluid within the lungs (pulmonary edema), and breathlessness (dyspnea) may also be present.


– Symptoms associated with overexposure to manganese may include damage to the central nervous system and pneumonia. Additional symptoms and physical findings include weakness, fatigue, confusion, hallucinations, odd or awkward manner of walking (gait), muscle spasms (dystonia), rigidity of the trunk, stiffness, awkwardness of the limbs, tremors of the hands, and psychiatric abnormalities.

Mercury Toxicity

– Symptoms of mercury poisoning include fatigue, depression, sluggishness, irritability, and headaches. Respiratory symptoms associated with inhalation to mercury vapors include coughing, breathlessness (dyspnea), tightness or burning pain in the chest, and/or respiratory distress. Some affected individuals may experience abnormal buildup of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema); pneumonia; and/or abnormal formation of fibrous tissue (fibrosis).

Thallium Toxicity

– Symptoms associated with thallium poisoning include extreme drowsiness (somnolence), nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and bloody vomiting (hematemesis). Some affected individuals may experience the loss of most or all of their scalp hair (alopecia); rapidly progressive and painful sensory polyneuropathy; motor neuropathy; cranial nerve palsies; seizures; impaired ability to coordinate voluntary movements (cerebellar ataxia); and/or mental retardation.

Phosphorous Toxicity

– Symptoms associated with phosphorus poisoning include weakness, headaches, vomiting, sweating, abdominal cramps, salivation, wheezing secondary to bronchial spasm, drooping of the upper eyelids (ptosis), contraction of the pupil, and/or muscular weakness and twitching. In addition, non-inflammatory degenerative disease of the sensorimotor nerves (sensorimotor polyneuropathy) may advance to progressive deterioration (atrophy). In some cases, respiratory paralysis may also occur.


• Copper is used in the manufacture of electrical wires. It may cause a flu-like reaction called metal fume disease and disturbances in the blood.
• Lithium is used to make glasses and pharmaceuticals. Lithium may cause diseases of the stomach, intestinal tract, central nervous system, and kidneys.
• Overexposure to silver may cause a gray discoloration of the skin, hair and internal organs. Additional symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
• Zinc overexposure may cause the flu-like symptoms of metal fume fever; stomach and intestinal disturbances; and/or liver dysfunction.
• Overexposure to bismuth may cause extreme drowsiness (somnolence) and neurologic disturbances such as confusion, difficulty in concentration, hallucinations, delusions, myoclonic jerks, tremors, seizures, an impaired ability to coordinate voluntary movements (ataxia), and/or inability to stand or walk.
• Overexposure to gold (as in treatment of rheumatoid arthritis) may cause skin rashes; bone marrow depression; stomach and intestinal bleeding; headaches; vomiting; focal or generalized continuous fine vibrating muscle movements (myokymia); and yellowing of the skin, mucous membranes, and whites of the eyes (jaundice).
• Some cases of overexposure to nickel have been associated an increased risk of lung cancer.
• Overexposure to selenium may cause irritation of the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, and eyes; inflammation of the liver; loss of hair (alopecia); loss of skin color (depigmentation); and peripheral nerve damage.
• Overexposure to tin may damage the nervous system and cause psychomotor disturbances including tremor, convulsions, hallucinations, and psychotic behavior.
• Aluminum containers used in the manufacture and processing of some foods, cosmetics and medicines, and also for water purification. Overexposure to aluminum may cause brain damage (encephalopathy).
• Beryllium can cause sensitization, lung and skin disease in a significant percentage of exposed workers.

Heavy metal toxicity: Treatment

Chelation therapy, which enhances the elimination of metals (both toxic and essential) from the body.

Methods of Chelation: We use primarily two methods of chelation: oral chelation (chelating agents taken by mouth) and transdermal chelation (chelating agents rubbed into the skin). In some adult cases, intravenous chelation may be indicated.

Prior to considering any chelation treatment, our Center’s doctors perform a Comprehensive Diagnostic Work-up, as well as laboratory testing and treatment to address many aspects of disease. For those individuals with arteriosclerosis or related problems, we normally use oral nutrients, including Vitamin K2 and specific enzymes taken between meals, to reduce plaque in the blood vessels. In some cases, when a body burden of heavy metals is clearly documented and does not respond to other measures, intravenous chelation may be utilized for an adult as part of a comprehensive treatment program.

To ensure optimum results and the safety of patients who undergo chelation, we perform pre-chelation testing and other recommended screening measures. The Center follows all protocols recommended by the American Board of Chelation Therapy.

Each intravenous chelation treatment consists of a slow intravenous drip of EDTA, a man-made amino acid that chelates (binds to) toxic metals in the bloodstream and carries them away in the urine. EDTA also serves as a potent anti-oxidant, which works to change the structure of plaque that clogs arteries and contributes to many serious medical conditions. With intravenous Chelation Therapy, plaque is gradually transformed from its highly reactive state to an inert substance, which facilitates the process of gradually unblocking clogged arteries.

At The Center, we alternate intravenous Chelation Therapy treatments with intravenous nutrient replenishment treatments. This combination allows the removal of toxic metals and plaque to proceed without depleting the body’s stores of essential minerals or other nutrients. The nutrient IV’s provide the additional benefit of boosting overall nutrient status and enhancing the body’s ability to heal and overcome disease.

Calcium-disodium EDTA for lead encephalopathy and lead poisoning
Resuscitation– Good supportive care is critical. Ensure airway patency and protection, provide mechanical ventilation where necessary, correct dysrhythmias, replace fluid and electrolytes (significant fluid losses generally occur and require aggressive rehydration), and monitor and treat the sequelae of organ dysfunction.
Decontamination– Removal of the patient from the source of exposure is critical to limiting dose. Treatment may include whole-bowel irrigation with polyethylene glycol electrolyte solution if radiographic evidence of retained metal (toys, coins, paint chips) is present.
EDTA is a chelating agent that can bind free metal ions that circulate in the blood stream. Traditional EDTA treatment for chelation has involved giving it to patients intravenously. However, more recently, there has been a German-patented formula that utilizes a very dilute amount of EDTA so that now side effects are experienced and it can be used at home without doctor’s supervision.
Glutathione is a short string of amino acids called a peptide. It is composed of three amino acids: glycine, glutamine and cysteine. Glutathione is a major player in detoxifying the body of many toxic pollutants, including toxic metals and chemicals. Glutathione deficiency impairs the body’s ability to get rid of toxins whether they are environmental or the by-products of cellular metabolism.
Biologically based practices– These include use of a vast array of vitamins and mineral supplements, natural products such as chondroitin sulfate, which is derived from bovine or shark cartilage; herbals, such as ginkgo biloba and echinacea; and unconventional diets, such as the low-carbohydrate approach to weight loss.
Alpha lipoic acid is used as chelating agent. Food such as green leafy vegetable, beef is an antioxidant that is soluble both in water and fat. It can bind metallic and other substance and helps the body to excrete and get rid of the harmful metals it can regenerate antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E. We serve patients from Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, Summerville, North Charleston SC, Ladson SC, Hanahan SC, James Island SC, John’s Island SC, Daniel Island SC, all of South Carolina, Nationally, and Internationally. Patients routinely fly into Charleston to be evaluated by COEM and to enjoy this beautiful city which is a Condé Nast and Travel and Leisure Top Domestic and International Tourist Destination.