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What Is Heavy Metals Testing And When Do You Need It?

While we are supposed to have certain levels of different vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in our bodies, having too much of certain substances can be dangerous to our health and even life-threatening. We get minerals from many different places, our diet, the environment, the supplements we take, and some medications. When we get too much of a certain element, we develop what is known as element toxicity.

One of the most dangerous types of toxicity to develop is heavy metal toxicity. This occurs when there is too much of a certain heavy metal in the body for the body to process it safely. Our bodies can only process so much toxic material at a time, which is why we experience health complications when we have too much of something. Even vitamins in large quantities can be bad for us, but heavy metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium can be toxic to us, especially in high concentrations.

Today we will discuss some of the different types of heavy metals, what heavy metal toxicity is, and how to know when to get heavy metal testing for toxicity to avoid potential health problems.

Types of heavy metals

There are quite a few different heavy metals that, if we end up with them in our bodies, can cause adverse health effects. Out of all the different heavy metals, the most common are arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, nickel, lead, and mercury. Copper, nickel, and lead are very common and are found worldwide.


Many common tools and everyday devices are still made from these metals. Apart from lead, copper and nickel toxicity is less common in people because we absorb small amounts regularly. Still, some chronic illnesses can cause us to process these minerals improperly and develop, for instance, too much copper in the blood, which can cause life-threatening illnesses.

The most dangerous metals are cadmium, lead, and arsenic, as they can travel greater distances through the environment. Sources of exposure include mining sites, refineries and other production facilities, chemical production facilities, pharmaceuticals, waste and waste management, sewage runoff, debris, and scrap metal.

For elements like arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, even a small amount is too much and can be dangerous. Mercury poisoning was known to be quite common in the past as it was used to manufacture many common household items, including thermometers, and even as a dye in the bands of hats.

Signs of heavy metal toxicity

It can be incredibly difficult to tell if you’ve been exposed to heavy metals. Still, there are certain health signs to be aware of that can indicate that a person is suffering from heavy metal toxicity. The longer a person is exposed and not treated, the more damaging the effects can be.

Symptoms typically start mild, with headaches, blurred vision, and fatigue. These can quickly move on to nausea, vomiting, chills, diarrhea, changes in body temperature, cognitive impairment, and numbness in the limbs, particularly the outer extremities, including the fingers, toes, hands, and feet.

Severe symptoms from heavy or prolonged exposure can include anemia, arrhythmia, brain, liver, and kidney damage, permanent or long-term memory loss, cancer, and miscarriages in pregnant women.

Heavy metals tests

If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of heavy metal toxicity, you should see a doctor who can order a heavy metal screening or heavy metal blood test. There are different forms of testing depending on the metal being detected. For example, a blood test is the best way to detect mercury or lead poisoning.

scientists in a lab running tests

A urine test can detect common metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury. A heavy metals panel may be able to test you for several metals at once. Some metals like cobalt and copper may show up in a simple hair test. Still, for the more dangerous and less common metals, like cadmium, a cadmium blood test is the best answer.

It is always better to consult your doctor and order professional testing rather than trying a product like an at-home heavy metals test kit, as these things are often inaccurate and unreliable. In contrast, specialized tests from a doctor are much more accurate. Plus, if you do have heavy metal toxicity, a doctor will require professional testing to confirm results before moving forward with treatment.

Treatment options

There are a few ways that metal toxicity can be treated. Chelation therapy is the most common treatment for patients with toxicity, particularly lead and mercury toxicity.

Chelation therapy uses a special drug that is added to the bloodstream to essentially bind together the toxins from the heavy metals and pull them out of the blood.

doctor looking at a chart

Patients undergoing chelation may need dialysis to cleanse and purify their blood of heavy metals. If your toxicity levels are mild, it is possible to use certain at-home products or make dietary changes to cause the body to detox naturally. This should only be done in extremely light cases and with the guidance of a healthcare professional, as the detox process can be slow, and the longer a person remains toxic, the more damaging it can be to their health.

Certain foods can help flush the body, as well as diuretics, which can start the cleansing process. Some levels of toxins may be able to escape through the pores, but much of the toxicity stays in the bloodstream, which is why at-home detox can be difficult.


Heavy metal toxicity is a rare but real concern for many people. If you work around a lot of heavy metals or are exposed to them through sewage, drinking water from an unclean source, or your work environment, it is a good idea to keep an eye on your health and report any strange symptoms to your doctor.

Your doctor can then order a heavy metals test and determine if you are suffering from toxicity before administering the best treatment for your situation. It is best to act quickly; the longer heavy metals stay in the body, the worse the effects.

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Lab Testing - Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to do lab tests occasionally?

It is important to do lab tests occasionally because they can provide valuable information about an individual's health and help to identify potential health issues early on. Lab tests can measure a wide range of factors, including blood count, cholesterol levels, liver and kidney function, and hormone levels, and can provide insight into an individual's overall health and wellness. Additionally, lab tests can help to diagnose and monitor the progression of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, and can help to identify any potential health risks or concerns. By doing lab tests occasionally, individuals can take proactive steps to maintain their health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of potential health problems in the future.

What does a routine blood test cover?

A routine blood test is used to check for a range of things, including your blood count and the levels of certain chemicals and substances in your blood. Blood tests can also be used to check how well certain organs, such as your liver and kidneys, are functioning.

How is a blood sample collected for lab testing?

A blood sample for lab testing is typically collected through a process called venipuncture, which involves inserting a small needle into a vein to draw blood. This is usually done on the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand.

What is the cost of a lab test?

In general, the cost of a lab test can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. It is always best to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider to get an accurate estimate of the cost of a lab test.

Read More: Lab Testing FAQ