Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mercury: a friend or a foe?

Xean James, a 7 year old kid, was rushed to the hospital due to heavy metal poisoning. Thanks to the management and the health care team that attended him, his life was saved. Days have passed, the boy fully recovered from the tragic incident. One sunny morning, Leslee, the mother of the child, visited his son and grab the chance to sit back and talk to his naughty son about what just had happened. She told her son that the reason behind his hospitalization was due to exposure to mercury.

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Exposure to lead, cadmium, mercury, aluminum, copper, and other less common metals can cause serious disease and can be fatal. Scientist has established threshold limits that indicate dangerous exposure, depending on the metal in question, but there is widespread controversy over whatever any degree of exposure can be considered safe and tolerable. In fact, no one knows if even the smallest exposure to any toxic metal is safe, particularly, among people considered sensitive to a particular metal.


  1. HAIR MINERAL ANALYSIS. This test offers a cost-effective and painless way of screening for chronic heavy metal accumulation in the body. A small amount of hair is collected from the nape of the neck, where removal is not visible. Hair that has just emerged from the follicle provides a good representation of heavy metal exposure in the recent past. If a hair analysis shows significant abnormalities, additional information can be obtained by performing a urine provocation test fro more exact measurement and confirmation of results.

  1. URINE PROVOCATION TESTS. Typically, the patient is given an oral or intravenous injection of an agent designed to concentrate heavy metals in the urine, which is then collected for the next 6 to 24 hours fro analysis. Based on these results, a course of heavy metal detoxification, typically using oral or injectable chelating agents, can be determined.

  1. BLOOD TESTS. These are less useful fro measuring heavy metal toxins. For toxic metals to show up in blood tests, you need to have significant toxicity or poisoning. Subacute and low grade accumulation are much more common, yet are rarely detected with blood tests, so in most cases we prefer hair or urine screening tests.


Henry’s Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods 21st Edition, Edited By Richard A. McPherson, Matthew R. Pincus, 2007

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