Heavy metals are natural components of the Earth’s crust. However to the body, they are poisonous substances even in very small quantities.
They enter our food and water supply by industrial and consumer waste, or even from acidic rain breaking down soils and releasing heavy metals into streams, lakes, rivers, and groundwater.
Heavy meals are also added to medicines as well as thousands of different food products, household products, personal products and untold numbers of industrial products and chemicals.
Impact of Heavy Metals on Fertility Health & Wellbeing
Generally speaking, heavy metals disrupt metabolic function in two basic ways:
- First, they accumulate and thereby disrupt function in vital organs and glands such as the heart, brain, kidneys, bone, liver, etc.
- Second, they displace vital nutritional minerals and disrupt biological function.
For example, enzymes are catalysts for virtually every biochemical reaction in all life-sustaining metabolic processes. But instead of calcium being present in an enzyme reaction, lead or cadmium may be there in its place. Toxic metals can’t fulfill the same role as the nutritional minerals, thus their presence becomes critically disruptive to enzyme activity.
Because their impact is at such a foundational level, heavy metals can be causal factors in literally any health problem.
Toxic heavy metals cannot be degraded or destroyed and are dangerous because they tend to bioaccumulate. Bioaccumulation means an increase in the concentration of a chemical in the body over time, compared to the chemical’s concentration in the environment. Heavy metals accumulate in living organisms whenever they enter the body (of humans and/or animals).
They are immediately absorbed and due to their high toxic potential are quickly and deeply stored away in tissues such as the brain, liver, kidneys and bones to prevent immediate harm as they are not easily broken down, metabolized or excreted by the body.
The problem being that due to their inability to be easily metabolized and excreted they tend to accumulate further causing metabolic disruptions which can lead to infertility, poor sperm parameters and miscarriages,
They have also been linked to malformation and abnormalities in the foetus as well as developmental concerns including autism in children whose parents (particularly the mother had high heavy metal loads during pregnancy).
Researchers believe a lot of the damage caused to developing babies and children due to heavy metals exposure begins and happens whilst in utero, in addition to some links to certain vaccines which are preserved with mercury and may contain other heavy metals as well as polluted fish, water and other environmental exposure.
Arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, aluminum, and uranium are highly toxic and every care should be taken to avoid them. Barium, lithium, nickel (one of the alloys in stainless steel) and strontium are also toxic and are certainly best avoided.
Where are Toxic Metals Found?
Download a print copy of this list from our free fertility resources
|Heavy Metal||General Sources||Food Sources|
|Aluminium||Alum, aluminium foil, animal feed, antacids, aspirin, auto exhaust, cans, ceramics, cigarette filters, construction materials, cookware, cosmetics, dental amalgams, deodorants, drying agents, dust, insulated wiring, medicinal compounds, nasal spray, pesticides, pollution, sutures with wound-healing coatings, tobacco smoke, toothpaste.||Baking powder, beer, bleached flour, colour additives, drinking water, hard cheese, milk products, salt, seasonings, tap water, treated water, vanilla powder|
|Arsenic||Automobile exhausts, burning of arsenate treated building materials, coal combustion, coloured chalk, household detergents, insect sprays, pesticides, rat poisons, sewage disposal, soils (arsenic rich) wallpaper dye and plaster wood preservatives.||Chicken, seafood from coastal waters (especially mussels, oysters and shrimp), water (drinking, seawater and well), wine (if arsenic in pesticides used).|
|Beryllium||Coal burning, manufacturing, household products, industrial dust.|
|Cadmium||Airborne industrial contaminants, batteries, ceramics, cigarette smoke, congenital intoxication, copper refineries, copper alloys, dental alloys, electroplating, fertilisers, fungicides, galvanised pipes, incineration of tires/rubber/plastic, marijuana, motor oil, nickel-cadmium plated batteries, paint, pesticides, polyvinyl plastics, rubber, rubber carpet backing, rust-proofing materials, sewage, silver polish, smelters, solders (including in food cans), tobacco, tools, vapour lamps, welding material.||Candy, colas, drinking water, food from contaminated soil, evaporated milk, instant coffee, kidney, liver, oysters, processed foods, processed meat, refined grains/flours/cereals, seafood (cod, haddock, tuna), vending machine soft drinks, water (city, softened, well).|
|Copper||Birth control pills, congenital intoxication, copper cookware, copper IUDs, copper pipes dental alloys, fungicides, ice makers, industrial emissions, insecticides, swimming pools, welding.||Avocado, beer, bluefish, bone meal, chocolate, corn oil, crabs, gelatine, grains, lamb, liver, lobster, margarine, milk, nuts, mushrooms, organ meats, oysters, perch, seeds, shellfish, soybeans, tofu, wheat germ, yeast, water (city/well).|
|Iron||Iron cookware, iron pipes, welding.||Blackstrap molasses, bone meal, bran, chives, clams, drinking water, heart, kidney, leafy vegetables, legumes, liver, meat, molasses, nuts, organ meats, oysters, parsley, red wine, refined foods, shellfish, soybeans, wheat germ, whole grains.|
|Lead||Ash, auto exhaust, battery manufacturing, car batteries, cigarette smoke, coal combustion, coloured inks, congenital intoxication, cosmetics, eating utensils, electroplating, household dust, glass production, hair dyes, industrial emissions, lead pipes, lead-glazed earthenware pottery, mascara, metal polish, newsprint, paint, pencils, pesticides, putty, rain water, PVC containers, produce near roads, refineries, smelters, sow, tin cans with lead solder sealing, tobacco, toothpaste, toys.||Bone meal, canned fruit and juice, liver, milk, organ meats, water (city, well), wine.|
|Mercury||Adhesives, air conditioner filters, algaecides, antiseptics, barometers and thermometers, battery manufacturing, body powders, broken thermometers, burning newspapers and building materials, calamine lotions, congenital intoxication, cosmetics, dental amalgams, diuretics, fabric softeners, felt, floor waxes, fungicides, germicides, industrial waste, insecticides, laxatives, lumber, manufacture of paper and chlorine, mascara, medications, mercurochrome, paints, paper products, pesticides, photoengraving, polluted water, Preparation H, psoriasis ointment, sewage disposal, skin lightening creams, soft contact lens solution, suppositories, tanning leather, tattooing, wood preservatives.||Cereals, grains, seafood (especially tuna and swordfish), water (contaminated).|
|Nickel||Fertilisers, food processing, fuel oil combustion, industrial waste, kelp, nuclear device testing, stainless steel cookware, tobacco smoke.||Butter, cereals, hydrogenated fats and oils, imitation whipped cream, margarine, oysters, tea, unrefined grains, vegetable shortening.|
The best way to protect your health and fertility as well as for the safety of your family avoid products you suspect heavy metals are present in. And be sure to do your research!
Testing for Heavy Metals in the Body
Heavy metal testing and toxicity is a very complex issue. This can often increase the length of your preconception preparation by many months. Most people will have heavy metals stored within their bodies and although it is important to address those levels at some time and have a ‘clean up’ for the sake of your own general health (and maybe even your fertility and the health of your prospective child), some couples choose to leave the whole issue of heavy metals alone.
Some experts argue that if heavy metals are deep in storage, then it is fine just to leave them there and they will not cause a problem. Others strongly oppose this view. However they all agree that if you do decide to do something about it (i.e. undergo chelation treatment) you must not attempt conception for at least 4 months after the treatment has finished.
You now know the impact of heavy metals on health and ultimately only you can make the final decision, however here’s what I know and recommend to my patients:
If a couple has been trying to conceive for more than one year without success despite there being no other reason for infertility and/or has had multiple miscarriages, my recommendation is for testing and if we do find heavy metals, I will recommend chelation therapy as a part of natural fertility treatment—unless a woman is over the age of 40.
There are a few different ways of testing for heavy metals, and although you can buy inexpensive urine test kits online, these are only semi-accurate if a person has very high levels of heavy metals in the body and their metabolic excretion rate is high, which is seldom the case—remember how we discussed previously that heavy metals are quite unwilling to be easily excreted?
Well, this is why ‘unchallenged’ urine tests are not all that useful for diagnosing heavy metal levels and toxicity. For best results be sure to seek professional advice from a practitioner who understands and specializes in the treatment of heavy metal toxicity for an opinion on your unique circumstance. For more information on this and the many other factors that can impact yor fertility health Register to Join the next 14 Day Fertility Challenge.