Getting the Lead Out: Are Heavy Metals Slowing You Down?

Concerned about heavy metal exposure? Explore natural detox methods to protect your health and improve overall well-being.
Metals are important for our health—we couldn’t survive without iron or magnesium. But many—like mercury, lead, and arsenic—can be very dangerous. Heavy metal toxicity can cause or exacerbate many health problems including cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, autism, Alzheimer’s, psychiatric disorders and neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). Low level symptoms of metal toxicity include many vague symptoms such as fatigue, stomachache, headache, joint pain, depression, memory loss and irritability. At early stages, however, many people have no symptoms at all.


Toxic metal exposure can come from almost anywhere—the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, even the supplements we take. The main sources of mercury toxicity are drinking water, food, ‘silver’ dental fillings and vaccines.
Mercury is a byproduct of a number of industrial processes and ends up in our water. As a result, mercury contamination is highest in fish. The biggest offenders are swordfish, shark and tuna. Other fish may have some mercury but at much lower levels. Fish such as wild salmon, Alaskan halibut, farmed tilapia or catfish, sole, mahi mahi and atlantic mackerel are safe to eat. For more details, check out


Lead is commonly found in water, air and food, in old paint and windows and some pottery glazes. Old houses often have lead pipes and newer houses may still have lead solder even if the pipes are copper. Vinyl miniblinds are another common source of lead poisoning for young children. Shockingly, lead can also be found in some candy. The ink used to print candy wrappers can contain lead. This is an even bigger problem with candies from Mexico as some of the ingredients, especially chilis and tamarinds, can also be contaminated with lead. Colored gift wrap, esp. metallic and yellow tinted paper can contain appreciable amounts of lead.

Those most at risk for heavy metal injury are unborn babies and young children. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need to be particularly careful about mercury consumption. Mercury and lead can be passed through the placenta and breast milk, so detoxing before (but not after) you become pregnant is a great idea. The smaller a child is, the greater the risk, so exposure to things as seemingly innocuous as gift wraps needs to be tightly controlled in young children.

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about the author

Dr. Simon Barker, N.D. treats people of all ages for all conditions with an emphasis on the care of patients with cancer and hormonal imbalances such as hypothyroidism, menopause, osteoporosis and diabetes. He uses a wide variety of alternative health care approaches including therapeutic diets, exercise, nutritional supplementation, herbal medicine, homeopathy and mistletoe. He was named “Doctor of the Year” by the California Naturopathic Doctors Association in both 2015 and 2023.
Naturopathic medicine allows people to maximize health, minimize reliance on prescription drugs, and take active steps toward longer, healthier lives.

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