It’s not just children eating paint chips that are getting sick, adults are vulnerable too.  A culprit that is making you sick may be hiding in plain sight, metals and minerals. Though not as common as many of the other toxic bad guys, metals and minerals have quite a history. These poisonous metals include arsenic, mercury, cadmium and lead.

“Toxic heavy metals are found in the air we breathe, the food we eat and the houses we live in. Toxic metal exposure can result in a wide array of common mental health disorders that can mimic many psychiatric diseases, and thus lead to psychoactive prescription drug use or other unnecessary treatments.”

– Mark D. Filidei, DO, San Francisco Preventative Medical Grou

A culprit that is making you sick may be hiding in plain sight, metals and minerals. Though not as common as many of the other toxic bad guys, metals and minerals have quite a history.

The metals include arsenic, mercury, cadmium and lead. Arsenic is found naturally in the earth, and even in some foods. It is best known as a key ingredient in rat poison. An inorganic form of arsenic is also found in contaminated meats, weed killers and insecticides.

Mercury is a common substance found in our homes and places of work. It comes in three forms: elemental, inorganic and organic. Elemental mercury is used in thermometers, barometers, button batteries, dental amalgam, paints and electrical equipment. Inorganic mercury was used as a teething powder for babies, laxative, disinfectant and as an explosive. Organic mercury is used in pesticides, fungicides and wood preservatives. Mercury is known to cause brain and nerve damage, nausea, weakness, confusion, delirium, memory loss, slurred speech, hallucinations, coma and death.

If you’re a handy person or a hobbyist, you’ve probably worked with solder. This soft metal is formed by alloying cadmium with silver, and is used to join electrical components, pipes and other metallic items. Cadmium based solders must be handled with care to prevent cadmium poisoning. The smoke rising from your soldering efforts contains cadmium particles and should not be breathed. Cigarette smoke also contains cadmium. Breathing or ingesting cadmium can cause vomiting, difficulty breathing, headaches, exhaustion and years later possibly cancer.
Severe cadmium exposure may cause lung and prostate cancer, kidney damage, pulmonary emphysema, bone disease, anemia, teeth discoloration and loss of smell.

Lead continues to be a severe health problem, even though the dangers of this metal have been well known for over 100 years. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 400,000 children under the age of six continue to have too much lead in their blood. This versatile metal is found in paint, pottery, mini-blinds, ceramic-ware, drinking water, soil, plumbing, bathtub glazes, toys, jewelry, dust and dirt, furniture, food can seams, antiques, candlewicks, hair dyes and cosmetics.

In 1978, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned the use of lead paint on or in homes. Until then, lead paint was commonly used on the interior and exterior of most homes. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that about 38 million homes in the U.S. still contain some lead paint. While lead paint that is intact (much like asbestos) does not pose an immediate concern, deteriorating lead paint does. It can contaminate household dust, food, water and areas around the home where children play.

In either situation, a child who comes in contact with lead contaminated dust, soil or products is easily poisoned. All it takes is the lead dust equivalent of a single grain of salt, whether ingested or breathed, for a child to register an elevated blood lead level.

Lead poisoning in adults can cause high blood pressure, fertility problems, nerve disorders, muscle and joint pain, irritability, and memory or concentration problems.

If you are considering purchasing a home, or live in a home built before 1978, the most important step to take to reduce the risk of lead exposure is to have the home tested. Hire a professional, or buy a do-it-yourself kit for less than ten dollars that will allow you to test up to eight objects or areas. The testing is simple: clean the area to be tested, take out the treated swab provided in the kit, swab the test area and look for a color change on the swab or tested area. If there is no color change, there is no lead. If the test is positive, consult a professional as to what steps you may need to consider. Locate a lead inspector or certified professional lead evaluation and control specialist by checking www.leadlisting.org.

Fiberglass, like asbestos, has to generally be disturbed to cause problems. If the product is disturbed through sawing, sanding, hitting or deterioration or during incorrect installation, tiny glass particles take to the air. If you are near the disturbed area without eye and mouth protection, you may get the glass p articles in your eyes or respiratory system. Exposure to airborne fiberglass particles or direct contact with the product can cause skin, eye, nose and throat irritation and coughing. Long-term exposure may lead to cancer.

Lead contamination is a serious issue. The Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, known as Title X, is the law of the land on lead paint. One of its most important requirements is the disclosure of known lead hazards at the time of the sale or lease of a home built before 1978. Sellers and landlords must also provide a pamphlet on lead poisoning to the buyer or renter before the property is sold or rented.

The number one toxic mineral is asbestos; we’ve covered that one. Fiberglass is next on the list, but it is considered a man-made mineral. There is tremendous controversy surrounding this product, with many groups and experts calling fiberglass the next “asbestos.”
There are more than 30,000 commercial products that contain fiberglass.

It is used for insulation, fireproofing, as a reinforcement agent in plastics, cement, textiles, in automotive components like car bodies, gaskets, seals, air and fluid filters, boat hulls, motor home components and even clothing.

Fiberglass, like asbestos, has to generally be disturbed to cause problems. If the product is disturbed through sawing, sanding, hitting or deterioration or during incorrect installation, tiny glass particles take to the air. If you are near the disturbed area without eye and mouth protection, you may get the glass
p articles in your eyes or respiratory system. Exposure to airborne fiberglass particles or direct contact with the product can cause skin, eye, nose and throat irritation and coughing. Long-term exposure may lead to cancer.

What can you do? Build or find a home that uses the best alternative I’ve found – cellulose. Cellulose insulation is derived from recycled paper products and is perfectly safe for you and your family, with the added bonus of being thirty-eight percent more efficient than fiberglass insulation.