Toxicity Tests -- Which Heavy Metal Tests are the Best?
Heavy metals and other chemical pollutants occur naturally in the environment, water, and some foods and medications. Exposure to heavy metals or other chemical pollutants can cause several human health effects. Accumulation can lead to toxicity, which is harmful to your health. Simple lab tests can detect Arsenic, Cadmium, Selenium, Mercury, Lithium, Bromide, Iodine, and other toxic materials. A toxicity test kit measures the presence of heavy metals and other chemical pollutants in your body. Usually, the tests use urine samples, though it’s possible to use blood, a hair, fingernail, or saliva sample. Unlike drug testing or toxicology tests, toxicity tests or heavy metal tests are not required by employers and are done based on exposure risk and clinical symptoms that include:
- nausea and vomiting
- abdomen pain
- behavior changes
- shortness of breath
- tingling in hands and feet
When should I use Heavy Metal exposure and toxicity tests?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the U.S. Department of Labor defines “heavy metals” as metal compounds but also semi-metallic elements that negatively affect people's health. You may want to consider a heavy metal test if they have had possible exposure to heavy metals or live in an older house or an area with aging water pipes. Additionally, some children under 6 years may require lead testing. Lead is a heavy metal that can lead to brain damage and behavioral conditions, especially in children whose brains are still developing.
The following table summarizes OSHA heavy metal potential exposures and risks1.
|Heavy Metal Tests||Exposure||Symptoms|
Common sources of exposure to higher-than-average levels of arsenic include near or in hazardous waste sites and areas with high levels naturally occurring in soil, rocks, and water.
red or swollen skin changes, including new warts or lesions, abdomen pain, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heart rhythm muscle cramps, tingling in fingers and toes, death
Elemental beryllium has a wide variety of applications. Occupational exposure most often occurs in mining, extraction, and in the processing of alloy metals containing beryllium.
can cause sensitization, and lung and skin disease in a significant percentage of exposed workers.
Cadmium is an extremely toxic metal commonly found in industrial workplaces, particularly where any ore is being processed or smelted. Several deaths from acute exposure have occurred among welders who have unsuspectingly welded on cadmium-containing alloys or with silver solders.
fever breathing problems, muscle pain
Calcium chromate, chromium trioxide, lead chromate, strontium chromate, and zinc chromate are known human carcinogens.
An increase in the incidence of lung cancer has been observed among workers in industries that produce chromate and manufacture pigments containing chromate.
Occupational exposure to lead is one of the most prevalent overexposures. Industries with high potential exposures include construction work, most smelter operations, radiator repair shops, and firing ranges.
constipation aggressive behavior, sleep concerns, irritability, high blood pressure, decreased appetite, anemia, headaches, fatigue, memory loss, loss of developmental skills in children
Common sources of mercury exposure include mining, production, and transportation of mercury, as well as mining and refining of gold and silver ores.
poor coordination, muscle weakness, hearing and speech difficulties, nerve damage in the hands and face, vision changes, difficulty walking High mercury exposure results in permanent nervous system and kidney damage.
How to choose the right heavy metal tests?
There are several factors to consider when selecting the right toxicity tests. The first is the type of sample which may be urine, blood, a hair. Collecting a hair sample can be the most convenient method. Heavy metals, such as mercury, cadmium, copper, iron, and arsenic, can be measured in hair but, at present, hair levels are not considered a good marker of either exposure or health. Therefore, the results of hair monitoring should be treated with caution. Then, urine is considered by most people as the more comfortable non-invasive method in comparison to blood collection. Urine toxicity samples are accurate and reliable, but a toxicity test for Lead is best to check in blood.
Another factor is the type of heavy metal exposure. If you’ve been exposed to a certain substance or pollutant, make sure it is in the list of analytes of that particular test. Always check analytes included. An accurate urine test that does not include those compounds is less relevant than a hair test that does. If you do not know what chemical or heavy metal you were exposed to select the test with the broader list of included pollutants.
Then, you should compare all toxicity tests’ prices and find the most cost-effective test that fit your budget. The cost of heavy metal tests and other pollutant chemical is wide and range from $49 for a blood lead test to $199 for a comprehensive urine heavy metals test and up to $399 for a test that checks 47 different Per- and Polyfluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS) in blood. You should compare all parameters and prices before you are selecting your toxicity tests.
You can use a home heavy metal test kit to do your toxicity testing to find out if you have heavy metal toxicity. This may be due to exposure through your environment, home, or workplace. Urine, blood, and hair tests are commonly available. However, at-home heavy metal tests are not a substitute for advice and treatment from your healthcare professional. If you are showing any symptoms of heavy metal poisoning or get positive results in your toxicity testing, you should contact a doctor as soon as possible for further advice.
Do you know that the CDC requires all refugee children who are 6 months to 16 years of age upon entering the U.S. to take a lead test?
1. U.S. Department of Labor - Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA, Toxic Metal