Heavy Metal Toxicity in Human Beings

Heavy metals are high-density metallic elements that can be toxic or poisonous even at low concentrations. Human beings are exposed to these elements are different circumstances during their day to day lives. These metals if accumulated, can cause harmful effects to the health and have a negative impact. These elements do not have a biological role but impair the normal functioning of the human body in different ways.

They can interfere with metabolic processes by acting as a pseudo element of the body. The harmful effect of accumulation depends on the amount of exposure, duration, and nature of exposure. The human body needs to be detoxified in the case of accumulation before it can lead to serious consequences.

What metals are toxic?

There are a number of heavy metals that can harm the human body is found in higher quantities. They can accumulate primarily through the water that you drink or the contaminated fumes that you breathe. Oxidative stress is the major result of metal toxicity and can cause various problems such as cardiovascular issues. The major metals that cause issues are the accumulation of Arsenic, Cobalt, Cadmium, Lead, Mercury, Thallium, Aluminium, and Tin. Oxidative stress can have a major risk for the following organs.


  • Nervous system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Respiratory system
  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Endocrine glands
  • Bones

Symptoms of metal toxicity

Accumulation of each metal can cause different adverse effects on the human body. For instance, having higher levels of mercury content in the body can result in excess fatigue, lethargy, depression and nerve damage in case of extreme situations. Preliminary symptoms of metal accumulation may vary depending on the nature of exposure. Acute poisoning is a situation where a high dose of metal poisoning is accidentally administered. This is an emergency and requires immediate attention

Symptoms of acute poisoning include

  • Vomiting
  • Numbness
  • Confusion
  • loss of consciousness

Chronic poisoning is when the metal accumulates over time and body eventually gets sick. Symptoms of these include

  • A headache
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Achy joints and muscles
  • Constipation


Metal toxicity can only be accurately diagnosed by testing the blood or urine of the affected person. In some cases, toenail and hair tests are also conducted to determine the level of accumulation. An Xray of the abdomen can make arsenic visible as well as it is radiopaque. Before treatment, it is also necessary to conduct detailed tests in order to determine the level of accumulation of the heavy metal and to determine what metal levels are on the higher side.

Heavy metal detox

When the metal contents are on the higher level, there can be a lot of minor and major consequences. This article gives some good advice regarding heavy metal toxicity and detox. The primary step is to determine how the exposure has occurred and put an end to that situation. In certain situations where acute poisoning has occurred, pumping the stomach out may also be necessary.

However, if the poisoning is serious, Chelation is the first treatment option. Medication is administered orally or through IV to supply drugs to the body that will cause the metals to stick to the fluid and get removed through the urinary system. Drugs such as DMPS and DMSA are medicines for this purpose. However, the downside is that essential metals can also get removed and hence the body tends to be weak after the process. There are also various therapies and treatment that are in the process of development to remove heavy metal accumulation.

Activated charcoal is often described as a magnet as they can attract and bind heavy metals in the body and remove them. It is administered orally and can help in case of preliminary stages of chronic poisoning.

Prevention of Heavy metal toxicity

Heavy metal toxicity can occur due to environmental conditions such as harmful fumes and paint. Lead infused fumes have been clouding the atmosphere in the past and there are various other metal contaminated fumes that are released in chemical factories and plants. Polluted fluids released from factories can contaminate the water bodies and effect settlement in close proximity as well. To steer clear of such situations are the best prevention for those in affected areas.

Additionally, mercury amalgam dental fillings can be replaced by composite metal filings that are mercury free. The diet is another factor that can help as maintaining nutrients sufficiently can reduce the intake of toxic metals by the body. Some fishes can contain higher levels of mercury and these can be avoided being consumed in excess. You may limit the intake to once a week or so.

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