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Heavy Metals

There is a race to figure out what is fueling the epidemic of autoimmune diseases in the United States and other industrialized countries.

Fingers have been pointed at the high consumption of processed foods, factory-farmed animals, stress, EMF’s, prescription medications (including overuse of antibiotics and resulting impact on the gut microbiome), lack of fresh food, lack of community, and genetics.

One factor largely known to cause disease and a decline in health is heavy metals.

Global pollution has been recently cited as causing three times more deaths than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined, according to John Balbus, M.D., NIEHS senior advisor for public health. [1]

Yet those diseases receive the most of the monetary investment in global health. The 2017  Lancet Commission report on pollution and health blamed pollution for more than 9 million deaths, warning that it “endangers the stability of the Earth’s support systems and threatens the continuing survival of human societies.”

Even though up to 92 percent of pollution-related deaths occur in poor countries, wealthier regions are also affected because pollution spreads around the world.

Recently, it was noted that 29 percent of shellfish consumed in the U.S. comes from China. In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was able to test only 0.10 percent of imports. Of that, about 9.5 percent was rejected due to heavy metals and antibiotic residues.  Additionally, testing has shown arsenic to be present in baby cereal, and unacceptable cadmium levels in other foods.

More recently, a report published in BMJ last August (2018) describes how a team led by researchers at Cambridge’s Department of Public Health and Primary Care carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies covering 350,000 unique participants from 37 countries.

The results of the study showed that exposure to arsenic, lead, cadmium and copper – but not mercury – was associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.  Worldwide, those at greatest exposure of arsenic, lead, cadmium and copper were around 30% to 80% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those at lowest exposure. [2]

In the US, we may be more exposed than you think.  In considering your sources of exposure, consider the air you breath, the food you eat, the medicine you take, the water you drink, chemicals at your workspace, how you cook your food, and the beauty products you use.

heavy metal blog image

Common sources of heavy metal exposure in industrialized countries like the US are: 

  • Air pollution
  • Polluted food (cattle, fish, pesticide-laden produce)
  • Polluted groundwater/drinking water
  • Prescription medicines, vaccines, contrast agents, dental work (amalgams/silver fillings)
  • Jewelry, cookware, lead-based paint, improperly coated containers, aluminum foil and aluminum containing products (health and beauty products)

Immediate effects of acute heavy metal exposure include:

  • Confusion
  • Numbness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Coma

People can build up heavy metals over time in their system.  Some don’t feel anything at all, while others can suffer miserably. This depends largely on the individual’s ability to remove toxins they are continually exposed to at a consistent rate. This can obviously vary person to person, and is affected by diet quality, liver functionality, immune system function, chronic diseases present, oxidative stress, genetics, and more.

Long term effects of heavy metal exposure:

  • Headache
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Muscle pain
  • Joint pain
  • Constipation


If you feel that heavy metals may be an issue for you based on past or present exposure and your symptoms, consider contacting your Vibrant Wellness ordering practitioner to consider doing the Vibrant Heavy Metals panel at your earliest convenience.



  1. National Institutes of Health.
  2. Original link: for Chowdhury, R et al. Environmental toxic metal contaminants and cardiovascular risk: a systematic review 1 and meta-analysis of observational studies. BMJ; 30 Aug 2018; DOI: