Saturday, October 28, 2006

Toxic Heavy Metals

We have been exposed to heavy metal toxins for an immeasurable amount of time. The industrialization of our planet has drastically increased the environmental burden of heavy metal toxins, to the point that we are dependent upon them for proper functioning.

Industry and commercial processes are actively mining, refining, manufacturing, burning, and manipulating heavy metal compounds for many reasons. Presently, heavy metals are abundant in our drinking water, air and soil due to our increased use of these compounds. They are present in virtually every area of modern consumerism.

Toxic metals are found in construction materials, cosmetics, medicines, processed foods, fuel sources, appliances, personal care products and so much more. It is very difficult, if not impossible, for anyone to avoid exposure to any of the many harmful toxic heavy metals that are so ubiquitous in our environment. It doesn’t look like we will successfully neutralize the threat of heavy metal toxicity in our communities, nor diminish our use of the many commercial goods that they help produce. We can, however, take steps to understand and deal with this threat. Cadmium, aluminum, mercury, antimony, lead and arsenic are some of the heavy metals added to our food chain from upstream industrial discharges, pesticide runoff, incinerator emissions, and smokestacks, as well as aviation.

Heavy metals are found in the air we breathe, from factories, automobiles and in places you wouldn’t imagine. Low-level metal toxicity is recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as well as by individual state health departments.

The American Heart Association states that blood-levels of lead and cadmium may increase the risk of peripheral artery disease — even at levels currently considered safe. Low-level toxicity from heavy metals and the resulting “oxidative stress” are associated with a depressed immune system, increases in infertility, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and premature mortality.

Emerging evidence shows that blood and bone lead levels, reflecting relatively modest exposures, are also associated with hypertension, renal insufficiency, and cognitive impairment. Studies conducted at the National Academy of Science (NAS) show clear and present danger of heavy metals in our bodies. Tuna, dental fillings and vaccinations containing mercury, can cause problems including birth defects, brain damage, depression, fatigue, hearing loss, vision loss, kidney damage and many more ailments.

The really bad news is that, according to the EPA, 99% of our population contains chemicals that are linked to the development of cancer. Most heavy metals are carcinogenic and can cause free radical damage. They can cause the energy factories in our cells (known as mitochondria) to stop working, which essentially causes cells to die. In the process, the DNA for those affected cells may also be damaged, causing a malfunction in the next generation of cells of this type.

When cells are programmed to die off more quickly or to wildly multiply, we see problems such as weaker tissue, maligned function, or tumors. In short, heavy metals lead to serious illnesses and shorten our lives. There are more than twenty different heavy-metal (environmental) toxins that can impact human health—each toxin producing unique behavioral, physiological, and cognitive changes in an exposed individual.

The degree to which a system, organ, tissue, or cell is affected by a heavy metal toxin depends on the toxin itself and the degree of the individual’s exposure. Here we examine just five of the many hazardous heavy metals that we are commonly exposed to.

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