These Are The Effects (#3 in Heavy Metal series)

(audio podcast below)

Welcome to AIM For Health: Root-Cause Conversations with Dr. James Biddle. All content from the conversations in this podcast are created and published for informational purposes only. This is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on for personal medical decisions. Always seek the guidance of your doctor with any questions you have regarding a medical condition.

All right, welcome back to our podcast, Ask Dr. Jim Bob.  I am Dr. James Robert Biddle.  I run Asheville Integrative Medicine, and I have our new patient coordinator Joy to help us out today.

Hello everyone!

Today being September 2nd, 2020 and this is part 2 of Heavy Metal Toxicities.

Right, so in the past two episodes we have been discussing what heavy metals and minerals are in relationship to the periodic table and how they can impact the body.  We focused on helpful minerals and how we need them to function properly last time.  In these next episodes we are going to dig in to how heavy metals specifically and sadly harm the body and why it is so important to get them out.  Then we will wrap up this series later with a look at how we actually get the metals and toxins out of our body.  So we have a lot of ground to cover today.

That’s a lot of ground to cover.  So – this is actually part 3 then, because we split that first recording into two.

Right, and this is probably going to be a 2-part today as well everyone, so buckle in – there is a lot of information. 

So to clarify – the how we talked about last time.  The how of how heavy metals poison us is because they look like nutrient minerals and they poison enzymes.  That’s the main mechanism.  There are several others – they cause oxidative damage the same way that free radicals cause oxidative damage like rancid fat and things like that, but that is the main one.  So what we are actually looking at is the data showing the damage that they do.  The types of damage that shows up, and we are going to take these metal by metal.  We are going to start with lead.

Yes.

And I put together a list of some data a long time ago concerning kids and how these different metals, especially lead and mercury affect kids.  So I am going to go through some of these in kids, starting right from birth.  So here is a study in 1999 from the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology showing that in neonatal kids, right after birth, even if you look at moms who have normal lead levels – so the blood level is considered normal up to 10 mcg/dL.  So a level of 10 in the bloodstream.  So this is less than 10, but if you take the high normal compared to the low normal, there is a dose effect trend in poorer attention and poorer motor control.  So right at birth you can measure deficits in children on high-normal lead levels from the mother.

And aren’t blood levels in and of themselves tricky or a little bit deceptive in terms of whether or not you actually have a lead burden? 

Yes, they do show a lead burden we are finding, but the normal range is so generous that almost nobody is above the normal range and the only time that the blood levels are really useful is when you have a job where you have ongoing lead exposure – so if you are working in a battery factory or a smelter, or something like that –

Right.

And they are monitoring you for occupational exposure, then blood lead levels or mercury levels make sense.  But they do not show what happened to you years or decades ago.  So we’ll see – well, I’ll talk about it right now.  There is a study done by the VA Hospital system looking at lead levels and heart disease risk in male veterans.  And there was no difference in blood levels – everybody’s blood lead level was basically the same.

Ok.

But they used x-rays looking at how much lead is in your kneecap.

Kneecap?

In your kneecap.  Now this is experimental, we can’t do this in practice.

Now you mean floating around the kneecap or actually in the bone itself?

No – in the bone.  How much lead is in your bones.

Stored in your bones.

Stored in your bones.  Because that is where lead goes.  Lead follows calcium into your bones and then when you get older, for example there is a study published in JAMA in 2003 that showed that lead leaking out of women’s bone in postmenopausal women is the leading cause of high blood pressure in postmenopausal women.  So when you are growing up all the lead is going into your bones, and then as you get old all the lead comes back out of your bones, just like the calcium comes out of your bones.

And makes you sick.

And makes you sick.  The leading cause of high blood pressure in postmenopausal women is lead leaking out of their own bones.

And I am willing to bet is also probably incredibly overlooked as a cause of high blood pressure.

Completely overlooked.  Nobody is looking at this.

Now I think Wolverine is as cool as the next superhero character, but I am not feeling good about having metal in my bones.

Right, so in this study in the VA, they used x-rays to determine what your lead – we call it body burden – what your lead body burden is.  And they compared the – they put it into what is called a quintile, so the top 20% compared to the bottom 20%.  Like who is the worst compared – and this is the strongest risk factor ever studied for heart disease.  So for example when you are smoking cigarettes you triple your risk of heart disease.  That is called a relative risk of 3.

Right.

Like 300% more.  If you are a diabetic you triple your risk of heart disease.  If you have the top 20% of lead levels, you have a 9-fold increased risk of dying from heart disease.  So having lead in your bones from your youth is like being a smoking diabetic for your heart disease risk.

Or worse!

Or worse.

That’s terrible!

It is really terrible.  Yes, and it’s not like 3+3, it’s 3×3.  So it is really worse.  So that is an example of – you know, how you diagnosed heavy metal toxicity in conventional medicine is a blood test.  Or a non provoked 24-hour urine test.  But that is only useful for ongoing recent exposures.

Right.  If your exposure was 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago – it is not the best test.

You’re not going to find it.  So the test we use, we do a hair analysis.  It is a decent test for heavy metals.  It is a better test for nutrient minerals like magnesium, calcium, zinc, selenium, boron, molybdenum – but again, it only shows fairly recent stuff.  So the definitive test for heavy metals is a provoked urine sample.  So we give an IV of stuff that binds lead and mercury.  We use calcium-EDTA for the lead and other heavy metals and then IV DMPS for the mercury and other heavy metals, and between those two we get all the heavy metals coming out and then for the next 6 hours you collect your urine in a jug and then you shake it up, pour off a test tube, mail it to Chicago, and see what’s there.  And that does not diagnose heavy metal toxicity, but it diagnoses elevated body burden.

Got it.

And then we can treat you for a while.  We usually treat for like a year, 1 ½ to 2 years, and then retest and see how much have we lowered this.

Right, because this is going to be a process.  We can’t just get all the metals out at once.

Right.  So I had extremely high levels and it took me like 4-5 years to get mine down to normal.

All right, so going back to the kids, by age 2 even low levels of lead, again in the bloodstream, low-normal compared to high-normal, correlated with decreased IQ.  In preschoolers blood lead levels that are now diagnostic at the 10 level, up to 25 mcg, directly associated measurable behavioral changes compared to less than 10.

And that is still with what they are considering to be low lead levels.

Well, back then.  Yes.  So the reference range for lead is becoming tighter and tighter.  So since then they have lowered it from like 10 to 7 to 5.  Because the more studies that come out it shows that there is no tolerable lead level.  Like if you study it closely enough, any lead causes problems.  You can measure problems if you look at enough people.

Right, there is no safe amount – it’s just not supposed to be in our bodies.

No safe amount.  Exactly.  Here is a great one, it’s from way back in 1996 using hair analysis – look at the lead levels in hair and it shows it correlates with classroom disruption and attention deficit behavior.  There are some of the types of studies that were done, including looking at hair, that got lead removed from paint and from gasoline in the 1980s.  But this is even more recent.

Here is from age 7 to 11, you’re looking at bone lead levels, correlate with antisocial and delinquent behaviors, aggression, and attention deficits, and that is right out of JAMA in 1996.  Ages 4 to 12 – hyperactive kids have higher blood lead levels and higher urine lead levels after chelation challenge than non-hyperactive kids.  And that was actually studied in Lancet in 1972.  And this is one of the ones they used to get lead out.  So here in the Lancet in 1972 they are using a chelation challenge to measure lead levels, but I had to defend my licence against the medical board for using a chelation challenge to measure lead levels.

Right – and they were doing it on children.

And they were doing it 50 years ago on kids.

Wow.

And showing it’s perfectly safe to do that – it has been studied over and over again, it’s perfectly safe.  Here is another study, this one out of the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1989 looking at kids age 11 to 13.  The lifetime low lead exposure correlates with emotional and behavioral deficits.  Here is one out of the Archives of General Psychiatry in 1983 age 8 to 13 hyperactive kids have higher urine lead after chelation – so they were also using a chelation challenge here.

So, I have to ask the question, this might be treading on controversial waters, but if we are talking about children and preteens and earliteens, and attention deficit behavior issues, things like that – if this is stemming from lead or other metals, is using medication to treat their behaviors going to be effective?

Well, it’s a Band-Aid, right?  It’s like you have, you are driving your car and your check engine light comes on.  And you take it to your mechanic and they reset the check engine light and say “Hey, you’re good to go, go on your way.”  

That’s not going to be good, no!

It’s not going to be good because they didn’t change the problem that was occurring.  So you take it back to the mechanic and say “Hey, the check engine light is on” and he goes “ok, I can fix that”, and he puts a piece of electrical tape over that light on your dashboard, so now you can’t see the check engine light – you’re good to go – keep driving!

Except your not.

That’s what the medications are doing.  It’s not identifying why the check engine light is on and getting rid of the causes.

So the issues will persist. 

And I’m not saying that lead is the only cause of ADD.

Right, of course.

It is one cause.  And there is a whole list of other potential biological causes that can be treated and reversed, but these kids are not deficient in Ritalin.

No.

They don’t have a genetic deficiency of Ritalin.

No one does.

No one does.  So that is not the proper way to treat it.  The proper way is to identify why they have the problem.  Now I don’t have this in front of me, but there is a whole series of studies showing men in prison routinely have higher lead levels.  Lead makes you aggressive, and even more importantly, it gives you poor impulse control.  So most people in prison are actually not significantly more criminal than people not in prison, but they have poor impulse control so they get caught.  And they have racial differences, and socioeconomic differences.  So people with good impulse control who are not a minority and who are not poor, may do the very same things but they don’t get caught and they don’t get convicted and they don’t get imprisoned.  So – yes, impulse control is a big deal.

Yes.

So that is just some examples of lead.  I mean, we could talk all day long about all the studies that show that lead is bad for us and the ways it is bad for us.  So I have mentioned heart disease, high blood pressure, it causes osteoporosis, and then attention behaviors.

Now is the osteoporosis because of lead taking up bone space?

Yes.  Because you have lead rather than calcium and things don’t quite fit together right that way.

So when you chelate then, if you have lead stored in your bones, is that making your bones more brittle because it is taking out what is filling in that space with the metals?

Well, if you are chelating in a clinic that is taking care of the whole person, they are also going to be giving you things like vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, and calcium to help rebuild your bones.  So we do not, in my clinic we have not seen chelation cause bone loss and most of my patients actually gain 3-5% per year on their bone density.

Wow, that’s great!

Yes, without using medications.  So, an interesting question that has not been studied that I know of.

Shall we move to mercury?

Yes.

We have a lot to cover.

A lot to cover with mercury.

I have a personal interest in mercury also.  Besides having lead, I had mercury and my mom had very high mercury.  I have a big poster of mercury on my wall.  Our sources of mercury are fish, especially big predator fish because it concentrates up the food chain, so tuna and shark and swordfish are very high in mercury.  And then our dental amalgam fillings release mercury vapor 24/7, and then there is of course unfortunately mercury in thimerosal in vaccines.  And even though they have taken the thimerosal out of childhood vaccines, they have not taken it out of the flu vaccine.  So all these kids getting shot with the flu vaccine, they are still getting their mercury doses.

Now, do you know why – how is mercury getting in large fish specifically.  Why is that occurring?

It comes mostly from us burning coal and some from oil.  We talked about the opening up Pandora’s box last time, and digging all these up and spreading these toxic metals around, so the coal byproducts go up into the atmosphere and they travel all around the world.  It rains, it goes down into the ocean.  The microplankton and stuff in the ocean picks it up, bio-converts it into methyl mercury, and then the small fish eat it, the big fish eat them, and up the food chain it goes.

So that that is how it gets concentrated in the big fish.

Right, so you have a serving of tuna and you’re getting as much mercury as what is in 10,000 tiny fish.   Which is why it is way better to eat sardines which are low on the food chain than big fish.  So you should always eat vegetarians if you can. 

(laughs)

So, what does mercury do to you?  Well the classic symptom of mercury is you’re mad as a hatter.

Right.

So in Alice in Wonderland, the arc type of the hatter, the hatters used mercury to cure the felt hats and before that even the beaver skin hats and things like that, to make them pliable and shape, and they all got mercury toxic and they all ended up in insane asylums, because it makes you anxious and paranoid, and depressed, and you think everybody is out to get you.  It is one of the most toxic substances on earth.  It is much more toxic per molecule than lead is.

That must put dentists at a pretty high exposure rate.

It does.  Dentists have the highest rate of any profession of divorces and of suicide, and dental technicians have the highest rates of miscarriages and infertility, so it is really problematic in the dental profession.  Now when I started practice 80% of the fillings put in in the United States 23 years ago were still mercury.  Now it is down to about 20-30% just because, mostly for cosmetic reasons.  Because I think dentists are kind of getting that in a rational world the lawsuit on dental mercury would make tobacco look like tiddlywinks.  I mean really – it just so much damage has been done.  It is a toxic waste before you put it in, it’s a toxic waste after you take it out.  It’s not safe while it’s in your tooth.

No – not at all.

And I had 12 of these suckers.  So 80% of the mercury vapor that is coming off of those dental amalgams gets absorbed into the body and that was given to congress in a 2000 page report in December of 1997 by the EPA.

And once mercury is absorbed into the body, isn’t the half life of it something like 50 years?

Yes, 25-50 years which means –

It’s never going to dissipate.

Yes.  While 50 years later you still have half of it, that is what a half life means.  So you have only gotten rid of half off it in 50 years.  Coal-burning power plants release 40 tons of mercury into the air and mercury causes brain damage in 60,000 babies born in the United States every year.  60,000 US babies born with brain damage every year just from mercury and mom concentrates mercury into the baby 6-fold.

Really?

So baby is born with 6 times more mercury pound for pound than mom had.  Because Mom used baby as a toxic waste dump.

So the mom’s body is literally just shunting it away to the baby.

Shunting it away, right.  And then also putting it into the breast milk.  So mercury crosses the placenta and also into breast milk.  And so here’s one published in 1997 “Biological Trace Element Research” that shows that is concentrated into both sheep and human breast milk.

Now we have had some people as part of their prepregnancy plan go through chelation, right?

Right – we have done that a lot.  And it makes a lot of sense.

To help reduce possibly passing that on to your child.

Yes.  We did that in my wife before we chose to get pregnant, did detox first.

Here’s an interesting study looking at kids at age 7 and looking back at data from their prenatal mercury exposure levels.  You can show cognitive defects in the 7 year old kids from the prenatal exposure to methyl mercury which is basically what is in tuna fish and the vaccines.

Wow.

So giving vaccines to pregnant women when those vaccines have thimerosal in it really should be illegal.

Right.  Because you are basically just giving that to the baby. 

To the baby.  Yes, mom is going dump that into baby, into baby’s brain.  So that is just a touch of mercury.  Mercury is also associated with about a 3-fold increased risk of heart disease compared to lead having a 9-fold increased risk.  Mercury is associated with a lot of autoimmune disease, besides the neurological things with anxiety and depression, mercury is associated with cardiac arrhythmias and then with increasing autoimmunity.

That’s a lot of risk.

That’s a lot of risk, yes.  So mercury is a big deal and mercury is actually harder to treat.  It is harder to get out of the body than lead is because it is trickier.  There are not as many things that bind it, and it is not as easy to pull out.  You have to have sulfhydryl groups to bind the mercury.  Sulfhydryl groups is what gives rotten eggs its unique smell.

That sulfury smell?

That sulfury smell, yes.  So natural things that have sulfhydryl include eggs, garlic, onions, things like that.  But all the chelators which we will talk more about – they all have a strong sulfury smell to them if they are going to bind mercury.  So again –

So there are plenty of good reasons to get it out!

Lots of good reasons to get it out – that’s right.

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