Heavy metal poisoning is diagnosed by an examination of symptoms and heavy metal level testing. A heavy metal test may examine for particular metals in urine, blood, or plasma to assess body levels. A blood sample can be used to test for mercury levels or to detect lead poisoning, for example. Metal toxins can also be detected in hair and nail samples.
The term "toxic" means harmful or damaging. Toxic substances are found in everything around us, including food, air, water, and the home. Some chemicals are known to be toxic at very low levels of exposure, such as nicotine, carbon monoxide, and arsenic. Other chemicals may not seem particularly harmful at first but over time will cause disease if not removed from the body. For example, high levels of alcohol consumption can lead to liver damage or cancer. The body's natural defense mechanism is called the immune system; it fights off bacteria and viruses that enter through our skin or ingestibly. However, like any other component of the body, the immune system can be weakened by certain chemicals, which allows illness-causing organisms to proliferate inside the body. As they become more numerous, these organisms then stimulate the immune system to combat them. But because of their relationship with the immune system, toxins can also accumulate in the body, causing further problems.
Toxins can be divided into two main groups: endogenous (produced by the body) and exogenous (from outside sources).
Other tests may look for pesticides in the body by examining urine or blood for metabolites produced during metabolism. Pesticides include organophosphates, pyrethroids, and carbamates.
X-rays: X-rays use electromagnetic energy (light) to produce images of the inside of the body. Two types of x-rays are used in medicine and science to view the bones, joints, soft tissues, and other internal structures of the body: chest x-rays and abdominal x-rays. These tests are used to look for problems with organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, stomach, intestines, urinary tract, pancreas, and bones (such as broken ribs).
Computerized Tomography (CT) scans: A CT scan is like a series of photographs that create detailed pictures of any area of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. These photographs help doctors see clear details about the size, location, and severity of any problems that may be causing symptoms. A trained technician will inject a small amount of radiation-sensitive liquid into your vein or artery.
Metal poisoning symptoms may include stomach discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (the hallmark symptoms of most cases of acute metal ingestion). Dehydration Cardiomyopathy and irregular heartbeat are examples of cardiac problems (dysrhythmia) that can result from metal poisoning. Heavy metals can also affect the nervous system and the immune system, causing headaches, insomnia, loss of appetite, and depression. Metal poisoning can be diagnosed by checking your blood for markers of internal organ damage or excesses of certain elements in your body. Getting more than 100 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood is unsafe; at levels below this mark, other effects may become evident.
The best way to prevent metal poisoning is not to eat contaminated food or drink. Lead is only released into the environment through the recycling of old batteries and other lead items. However, even if you follow a "lead-free" lifestyle, you could still be exposed to metal toxins in other ways. For example, you might be breathing in dust particles containing metal compounds, or you might be swallowing metal fragments that have been sprayed during manufacturing processes as a lubricant or coolant.
If you're eating contaminated food, you will first notice signs of metal toxicity in your digestive system. This would include abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. If left untreated, the effects of metal poisoning could spread to other parts of your body.
The heavy metals most typically related with human toxicity include lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. Heavy metal poisoning can occur as a result of industrial exposure, air or water pollution, foods, pharmaceuticals, inadequately coated food containers, or lead-based paint consumption. The primary way humans get lead exposed is through their mouth via dust from lead-based paint ingestion, eating from lead-contaminated soil, or inhalation of lead vapor.
How does lead enter the body? As lead enters the body primarily through the digestive system it can be absorbed into the blood stream by consuming contaminated food or beverages, or inhaling lead-laden dust. Other ways lead enters the body include through skin contact with lead-based paints, old wiring, or other materials containing lead; through use of lead-containing medicine; or through inheritance of lead-rich bones culture (in adults). Once inside the body, lead is stored in the soft tissues for later release into the bloodstream when more lead is needed. The major target organs for lead toxicity are the brain, kidneys, lungs, and muscles. Lead affects these organs either directly, by interfering with cell function, or indirectly, by causing increased stress on other organs and tissues due to its role in inhibiting normal blood cell production.
Lead has been used as a pigment in paints for buildings, furniture, and cars since before World War II.
The majority of toxins can be found in your blood or urine. A toxicology test may be ordered by your doctor. A urine or saliva sample is used to screen for common drugs. A blood sample is needed to detect certain chemicals, such as alcohol, benzene, and mercury.
Your body produces many chemicals that are called "toxins". These include free radicals, which are molecules with an odd number of electrons; heavy metals, such as lead, arsenic, and mercury; and other substances that can be harmful if not removed from the body. The liver is responsible for removing these toxins through digestion then excreting them via the urine or sweat.
There are two main types of toxins: good and bad. Good toxins are needed for health and survival. They include oxygen, energy, and the natural chemicals produced by our brains and bodies. Bad toxins interfere with our ability to think clearly, move freely, and survive. They include alcohol, drugs, and stress. Even though toxins are necessary for life, too much of a good thing can be just as dangerous as no toxin at all. That's why it's important to know what is and isn't safe to eat and drink, and how to avoid getting exposed to toxic substances in the first place.