toxic elements

Detoxification: Toxic and Essential Elements

Our environment is flooded with chemicals which fill our air, our water, our food, and ourselves. In the United States, and possibly in other countries as well, it was recently uncovered that tons of toxic industrial wastes are mixed with liquid agricultural fertilizers and dispersed across American farmlands (Quig DW. Heavy metals and the difficult to diagnose patient: implications for the comprehensive chiropractic physician. The Internist Sept 1997; 11-13).

Toxic elements and an excess of essential elements may be detrimental to our health. Testing for toxic and essential elements as well as measurements of the effectiveness of your detoxification program are necessary.


Examples of toxic elements include:

  • Mercury

  • Cadmium

  • Lead

  • Arsenic

  • Nickel

  • Uranium

  • Aluminum

Examples of toxins include:

  • Benzene
  • Toluene
  • Chlorobenzene
  • Ethyl benzene
  • DDT
  • Dioxins
  • PCB

Essential elements are those elements derived from food that the body is unable to produce on its own. They are absolutely necessary for human life. Examples include:

  • iron
  • selenium
  • copper
  • manganese
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • zinc
  • iodine
  • chromium
  • potassium
  • sodium

Toxic and an excess of essential elements have been associated with:

  • neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease
  • tremor
  • muscle weakness
  • memory impairment
  • changes in behaviour
  • damage to the brain barrier
  • allergic hypersensitivity
  • low energy
  • chronic fatigue
  • cardiovascular disease
  • changes in immune function
  • nephrotoxicity
  • hypertension
  • osteoporosis
  • eproductive changes
  • birth defects
  • cancer
  • endothelial dysfunction (abnormality in the function of the blood vessel wall)
  • aging

The mechanisms of damage by essential and toxic elements are multiple and include:

  1. direct damage to cells and neurons (nerve cells).
  2. damage to the blood brain barrier.
  3. inhibition of function of enzymes, hormones, glutathione metabolism, and the metabolism of lipids, carbohydrates, hormones, proteins (including tubulin, the most abundant brain protein), neurotransmitters, and nucleic acids (the building blocks of DNA). This is done by binding to free sulfhydryl groups and displacing essential elements (such as copper, zinc, and selenium) from their molecules.
  4. heavy metals are antagonists of essential trace elements, and compete with them for binding sites on protein receptors such as those on metallothionine (an intracellular protein which serves as a storage site for essential elements such as copper and zinc).
  5. oxidative damage and activation of free radicals by inhibiting the function of oxidative enzymes such as glutathione, catalase, superoxide dismutase (SOD). They do so by displacing essential elements (such as copper, selenium, and manganese) and by binding to sulfhydryl groups in the structure of the antioxidants, thereby inactivating them. For example, glutathione is a very important antioxidant. It is rich in sulfhydryl groups, and requires selenium for normal function. Mercury, a toxic element, has a high affinity for sulfhydryl groups. It binds to sulfhydryl groups and substitutes for the selenium on the glutathione, thereby inhibiting its important antioxidant function.
  6. potentiating ADP (adenosine diphosphate) induced platelet aggregation.
  7. potentiating iron stimulated lipid peroxidation.

Testing for Toxic Elements

Due to the damaging effects on our health of toxic elements and an excess of essential elements, appropriate diagnosis of toxic burden is essential in order to develop an appropriate detoxification program. Available tests include:

  • Blood testing – may indicate recent exposure to heavy metals, but does not provide useful information about deep tissue accumulation

  • Hair element analysis – there is controversy as to the value of hair element analysis in the diagnosis of heavy metal accumulation. From our experience, hair analysis is not a valuable tool for diagnosing the burden of toxic elements, and it is not considered to be an indicator for the type of chelation that should be performed or for assessing the effectiveness of chelation.

    A number of studies have sent hair samples from one or two healthy volunteers to multiple (six to thirteen) commercial laboratories. The studies showed that the various commercial labs gave different and inconsistent results and recommendations despite receiving the same samples. A recent study in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, for example, assessed the use of hair mineral analysis by commercial laboratories, concluding that “hair mineral analysis from these laboratories was unreliable, and we recommend that health care practitioners refrain from using such analyses to assess individual nutritional status or suspected environmental exposures” (Seidel S, Kreutzer R, Smith D, McNeel S, Gillis D. Assessment of Commercial Laboratories Performing Hair Mineral Analysis. JAMA. 2001;285:67-72).

    Another recently published article recommended in their conclusion to “refrain from using such [commercial lab hair mineral] analysis to assess individual nutritional status or suspected environmental exposure” (Drasch G, Roider G. Assessment of hair mineral analysis commercially offered in Germany. J Trace Elem Med Biol 2002;16(1):27-31).

    Similar conclusions were drawn by Dr. S. Barrett in a JAMA article titled “Commercial hair analysis. Science or scam?” (Barrett S. Commercial hair analysis. Science or scam? JAMA. 1985 Aug 23-30;254(8):1041-5).

Urine testing – Unprovoked urine element analysis may indicate recent exposure but does not provide useful information about tissue accumulation.

Provocative urine elements testing is the best confirmation of heavy metal burden, and provides a baseline value against which therapeutic effectiveness can be judged (Quig DW. Heavy metals

  • and the difficult to diagnose patient: implications for the comprehensive chiropractic physician. The Internist Sept 1997; 11-13).

    At this stage, we believe that an unprovocative urine test for baseline, followed by a provocative urine test to assess toxic and essential elements will give the best information on the burden of toxic and essential elements, thereby leading the way towards developing an appropriate detoxification protocol.

Types of provocative tests

There are different types of provocative tests. The type of test as well as the type of chelating agent used to perform the provocative test will determine the results of the test, as well as the type of detoxification treatment provided.

The chelating agents are made by compounding pharmacies. The same type of detoxification agent may give different results depending on how it was prepared. In addition, there are times when the chelating agent has pro-oxidant effects instead of antioxidant effects if it is prepared inappropriately. Dr. William Blair, director of pharmacy services for McGuff Compounding Pharmacy has written that:

Improper compounding and packaging of DMPS injection can produce a subpotent product. In turn, this may result in a less than therapeutic effect. DMPS Injection is readily oxidized when exposed to air and precautions should be taken to prevent exposure to ambient air during compounding and packaging. In addition, DMPS Injection readily chelates with various metals and should not be exposed to metal parts, surfaces, or needles during the compounding or filling process.

At the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology Symposium held on September 22 and 23, 2000 in Austin, Texas, the keynote speaker stated that the improper compounding of DMPS Injection might be the reason that physicians are not getting the results they expect.

The method of packaging DMPS Injection is critical – Oxidized DMPS is of no therapeutic value according to the literature.

Price is an important consideration when selecting a compounding pharmacy, but the quality of the product should be of utmost importance. The integrity of the DMPS Injection should be ascertained.

At our centre, we use different types of provocative tests in order to diagnose the burden of toxic elements. We also use different types of treatments for the detoxification of toxic elements. From our experience, both the results of treatment and potential side effects are affected by the type of test used, the type of product, as well as the preparation (compounding) of the product.

Below is an example of results of mercury detoxification using the same type of chelating product made by two different compounding pharmacies:

Mr. G underwent provocative testing in February, 2002 using a chelating product from

pharmacy A. The amount of mercury detected in the urine was 11 g/g creatinine. The same patient underwent repeat provocative testing in June, 2002 using the same type of chelating product, this time supplied by Pharmacy B. The urine mercury was found to be much higher, with a value of 36 g/g creatinine.

These findings clearly show how the test results depend on the quality of the chelating agent used- in this case, the agent supplied by Pharmacy B was much more effective, demonstrating that the quality of the product affects the results of the test.

Based on the results of the provocative tests and the client’s condition we start a detoxification program which may include oral and/or intravenous (injection to the vein) therapy. Regular follow-up of the client’s physical condition, and of the urine test results is needed in order to assess the effectiveness of treatment.

A simple urine test in order to assess the level of mercury or other toxic materials, is cheap, easy to perform, and gives valuable information as to the effectiveness of the products used for therapy, be they oral or intravenous chelators.

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