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Hair Test Interpretation: Finding Hidden Toxicities

by Andrew Hall Cutler, PhD, PE
ISBN: 978-0967616810

Please note: This is a book, not a hair test.

A wide variety of debilitating and supposedly incurable conditions may actually be due to chronic mercury poisoning. Mercury poisoning can be easily cured if it is recognized. These conditions are seldom cured because mercury poisoning is believed to be rare. It is not. It is quite common. Thus, many people suffer needlessly.

The problems is the tests most frequently used by medical doctors are only accurate for acute poisoning, like if you drank some mercury. Most people have chronic poisoning – small exposure to toxic material over time, like mercury vapor from your fillings or arsenic from your garden vegetables.

By working with many people, Dr. Cutler was able to develop a set of rules for hair tests which allow you to identify if you are toxic. Once you know, you can take steps to improve your health.


What is in the book?

Hair Test Interpretation: Finding Hidden Toxicities is a practical book. The book starts out telling you how to interpret a hair test for mercury and other heavy metals. It provides a step by step discussion of this with figures to make this easy to do. It gives examples using actual hair test results from real people.

Mercury interferes with how the hair element results come out. On the hair test, mercury is often low and other minerals take unusual values. It is crucial for proper hair test interpretation to know how to recognize mercury’s characteristic signature.

Mercury often causes retention of certain minerals. Arsenic, antimony, tin, titanium, zirconium and aluminum are elements many people retain too much of when they really have a mercury problem.

Hair tests are worth doing because a surprising number of people diagnosed with incurable chronic health conditions actually turn out to have a heavy metal problem. Heavy metal problems are easy to correct. Hair testing allows the underlying problem to be identified and the chronic health condition often disappears with proper detoxification

Essential element levels contain much useful information about hormones as well as nutritional problems. High hair levels do not always mean high body levels. Interpretation is specific to each element. Some of the essential elements can be toxic if they show high hair level, others actually show high hair levels when the body is deficient and needs more of them. Excessive stress, poor digestion, adrenal issues and thyroid problems all show up in hair tests long before they can be identified by other laboratory methods.

Hair Test Interpretation contains over seventy example hair tests with background information and interpretation. All of these tests are actual results from real people, with complete details of their health situation, what they are doing about it, and in many cases how they responded to different treatments. Several families are presented with hair tests and health histories for all members, one including identical twins. Several of the cases have before and after hair tests showing the effects of different treatment regimens on test results.

Hair Test Interpretation: Finding Hidden Toxicities also contains a discussion of what to do based on the test results, e. g. how to chelate heavy metals.

Back cover copy

This book shows how a hair test can be used to identify hidden toxicities that are causing intractable health problems. Dozens of examples are given of people who had been told they had something horrible but who turned out to be toxic. Many of these people got better through detoxification. Their cases are presented to highlight the basic principles of hair test interpretation explained in this book. Want to know why low hair mercury is not a good sign? Interested in whether high hair calcium means you should consume MORE calcium? Wondering how in the world zirconium gets in your hair? Wondering whether you should be concerned about your copper levels if you have gall bladder problems? Need to know how to detoxify uranium? This book will answer all your questions!

  • Find out if you have a heavy metal problem
  • Know the sources of exposure to heavy metal
  • Learn what to do to detoxify each element
  • Understand the secrets of interpreting a hair test

Find the information you need to take control of your health in this book!

Conditions heavy metals can cause

This book explains how to properly interpret a hair test so you can tell if conditions like these ones below are actually due to heavy metal poisoning, as is commonly the case.

  • ADHD
  • Adrenal exhaustion
  • Allergies
  • ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s’ disease
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Attention deficit
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Autism
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Birth defects
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Bulimia
  • Cancer
  • Chemical sensitivity
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Depression
  • Developmental disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Endocrine problems
  • Environmental illness
  • Female Hormone problems
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gastritis
  • Heart problems
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Infertility
  • Insomnia
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Irritable bowel
  • Juvenile arthritis
  • Learning disabilities
  • Lupus erythromatosus
  • Manic depression
  • Mental retardation
  • Multiple chemical sensitivitties
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Myasthenia gavis
  • Obesity
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • PDD
  • Personality disorders
  • PMS
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Schizophreneia
  • Sciatica
  • Sleep disorders
  • Vision problems
  • Yeast syndrome

Table of contents

  • Acknowledgements

  • Preface
  • Introduction: Why hair tests can be confusing
  • How mineral transport works
  • Deranged mineral transport and hair test interpretation
  • Recognizing deranged mineral transport
  • Interpreting a Doctor’s Data or Great PlainsHair Element Profile
  • Here are some normal looking tests
  • Medical textbooks say many terrible conditions can be from heavy metals and hair tests show it
  • Reasons to check for heavy metal poisoning
  • Why bother to do a hair test?
  • Why worry about heavy metal?
  • Diagnostic difficulties in modern medical practice
  • Sources of exposure to toxic metals
  • Merury poisoning
  • Other toxic elements: signs and symptoms
  • What’s high and low with deranged mineral transport
  • Meaning of essential and othe elements results
  • Case summaries and example hair tests
  • What to do about heavy metals and other hair test results
  • Heavy metal hair test results
  • Essential and other element hair test results – major minerals
  • Essential and other element hair test results – trace minerals and other elements
  • Appendix: Statistical tables and calculations
  • Appendix: Various laboratories’ hair tests
  • Appendix: Reference ranges vary with age and sex
  • Index

Excerpt from the Book: Preface

This book explains how to properly interpret a hair test and gives specific examples of how to do this using Doctor’s Data Laboratories and Great Plains Laboratories tests.

This book is intended for a broad audience, including physicians, other kinds of licensed health care practitioners, and laymen. Physicians have their own special language to describe health care concepts. While this language is clear, precise, and standardized, it is also not understood by laymen. In order to make this book accessible to as many people as possible, I have used common laymen’s terms for health care concepts and conditions in most cases. I have mentioned the proper medical terminology in many cases but it simply isn’t practical to do this throughout the book.

This book is a practical book. It provides detailed academic style information only in those areas where that is important so readers can understand things in order to be able to use the methods described in this book. For example, I do go through the details of how to calculate probabilities so that people who routinely use tests with a different format can come up with their own counting rules for the labs they use. In other areas little information is provided in the interest of brevity. I cite references only when you might actually want to verify them or check out what else they say, not simply to produce a long important looking academic style bibliography that nobody will ever read.

Because the book is intended to be useful in a practical sense, some material is repeated if it is relevant in several sections so that people don’t have to go flipping through the book when they are trying to look up one specific thing. For example, the effects of low magnesium are repeated under all the toxic elements t hat can cause magnesium levels to be reduced, and how to determine the amount of vitamin B-6 to use is repeated wherever relevant.

The book starts out telling you how to interpret a hair test for mercury and other heavy metals. I provide a step by step discussion of this with figures to make it easy to do.

Next, I actually interpret some example hair tests that are particularly compelling in terms of them being real people diagnosed with horrible diseases that have no good treatments who turned out to have a heavy metal problem instead. This should provide some motivation to study the rest of the book carefully.

Following the introductory examples are some graphs giving my best estimates¹ regarding what fraction of sick people have heavy metal poisoning or other specific problems underlying their conditions. This is very useful in understanding why a hair test is worth doing early on.

Having explained how mercury affects hair test results, I discuss the other toxic elements, how useful hair testing is for checking them, how likely the test is to be falsely normal² or falsely positive³ (and why this might happen), and give a brief description of what kinds of things happen with people who have too much of each toxic metal in them.

Once I have discussed the toxic elements, I discuss the meaning of the essential element levels as measured in hair. High hair levels do not always mean high body levels – for example, hair zinc levels go up when the body can’t hold it in. Some of the essential elements can be toxic if they build up to a high enough level. I discuss briefly what the essential elements do for us, and what happens to people who end up with toxic levels of them.

Then I provide information on what other kinds of information you can derive from a hair test regarding how someone’s body is working, such as whether they have too much stress, poor digestion, have adrenal issues or thyroid problems.

Following this, I provide many, many example hair tests – actual case studies – with interpretation and background information as to what is going on with the person whose test it is. All of the tests used in this book are real tests from real people and accurate information is provided about what was going on with them, what they did, and what happened.

After the examples of useful, informative hair tests I provide examples of why you need to make sure the right test is ordered and the right information written on the test order form by showing an assortment of hair tests for a family of four where some tests were ordered improperly and the interpretation changed when a corrected test report based on accurate age, sex, and type of test desired was issued.

Following this, I provide a very brief discussion of what to do based on the test results, e. g. how to chelate heavy metals. Hopefully this discussion will help you avoid the use of harmful or ineffective protocols, but it is BRIEF and necessarily omits much detail. Anyone wishing to actually pursue any of these would be wise to consider researching other materials (e. g. Amalgam Illness: Diagnosis and Treatment).

Finally, I provide an appendix with the equations and numerical probabilities that underlie the counting rules approach, as well as an appendix providing information on how to deal with tests from other laboratories if you cannot possibly get a Doctor’s Data or Great Plains Laboratory test.

Peer review is considered an important part of modern medicine. This book has been peer reviewed by relevant experts and I have addressed all the reviewers’ concerns.


  1. Made by comparing published information from which underlying causes can be determined with patient reports regarding success or failure of proper detoxification to bring significant lasting improvement. Since outcome studies for alternative medicine treatments based on politically incorrect diagnoses (for example, how many autistic children are cured by mercury chelation) are not yet available in the mainstream medical literature I rely on patient or caregiver reports when these are numerous and informative enough to generate good statistical data).
  2. This is referred to as alpha error in statistics.
  3. This is referred to as alpha error in statistics.


Excerpt from the book: Reasons to check for heavy metal poisoning

There are six basic reasons to check for heavy metal poisoning:

  • Problems suggestive of heavy metals
  • A health condition with a poor expected outcome
  • A history of or a high risk of
  • Health problems the doctor can’t find a cause (or a cure) for
  • A relative has a heavy metal problem without a large exposure
  • One person has several apparently unrelated health problems

Health conditions with poor expected outcomes are things like Parkinson’s disease, borderline personality disorder, autism, multiple sclerosis, lupus erythrematosus. After all, heavy metal intoxication is easily treatable so it is prudent to make sure the person doesn’t really have it.

History of cancer is a reason to exclude heavy metal intoxication since most cancers are environmental in origin, not genetically determined¹.

Health problems that the doctor can’t find a cause (or if they assert a cause, can’t find a cure) for are things like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, ADHD, chemical sensitivity, or severe allergies.

Most cases of heavy metal poisoning today are due to people with a genetic predisposition to accumulate some metal. The relatives of these people have a good chance of sharing this predisposition and need to be checked. Also note that I have seen many family sets of hair tests, and the husbands and wives almost always both have heavy metal problems or neither do. Most of the heavy metal toxicities are known to affect mood and personality which apparently leads to people with heavy metal problems getting together.

One person having the misfortune to have several unrelated health problems is quite unlikely. When one person DOES have a lot of health problems, even if they are mundane ones, it makes sense to check and be sure they aren’t all due to heavy metal toxicity.


  1. Environmental and heritable factors in the causation of cancer–analyses of cohorts of twins from Sweden, Denmark, and Finland. By Lichtenstein et al. in the New England Journal of Medicine, volume 343, number 2, pages 78-85, July 13th, 2000.


Excerpt from the book: Why worry about heavy metals?

The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) did a study¹ based on blood and urine samples taken from 3,800 people in 1999. CDC found that 10% of young children and women of child bearing age had mercury levels high enough that the children or unborn babies may reasonably be expected to suffer health damage.

Previously the National Research Council (NRC) had estimated that 60,000 children were born annually with too much mercury in their system – a HUGE number – but this CDC study shows that was a substantial underestimate.

To make matters worse, until 2004² these children received vast quantities of highly toxic organic mercury in their vaccinations in addition to the already high levels present in their bodies!

Other CDC studies showed that in the 1990’s, 4.4% of children had too much lead in them. Since almost none of them received treatment, it is still there, making them less intelligent and functional than they should be. The good news is that in 2001, only 2.2% of young children had too much lead. The bad news is that 2.2% of the population is an incredibly high number. We are talking about roughly a million little children with brain damaging chemicals in their system that nobody is doing anything about, and maybe 2 million older children in the same situation.

Over the last 30 years the “threshold” for lead in children’s blood has been reduced from 45 to 10. Current studies show that a blood level of 10 corresponds to an average loss of 7 IQ points. Of course, half the people lose more than this, half less, since it is an average. And of course adults who were children back when 45 was an acceptable blood level might have lost 32 IQ points due to lead levels physicians didn’t consider worth doing anything about. To put this in proper perspective, 100 is an average IQ. People with an IQ of 68 usually can’t live on their own as adults, they need to be taken care of in a group home or institution.

There is a lot of discussion of the hazards of mercury in fish. In fact, women of childbearing age should not eat more than one can of tuna a week if that is their only source of mercury exposure due to the risks it poses to their unborn children. It is politically incorrect to talk about the facts that fish mercury is a much smaller source of exposure for the mother and her unborn child than dental amalgam fillings, and is much smaller for the child than infant vaccinations were until last year. Unfortunately, once mercury was removed from all existing childhood vaccines, flu shots were added t o the list of vaccinations children routinely receive and these still do contain mercury.

Also curiously absent from the news is much discussion of the effect of the arsenic treated wood that suddenly replaced creosote treated wood in the early 1990’s. This new kind of wood has dramatically increased children’s and adults’ exposure to arsenic. There is also little discussion of antimony from flame retardant pajamas and bedding. Both arsenic and antimony are well known to be toxic, and are being observed at high levels in surprising numbers of people by those few doctors who check. “Mainstream medicine” says don’t bother to check for antimony or arsenic unless people work in factories or occupations using it. Unfortunately this attitude comes from older experience gathered before these poisons were placed in every home as wood preservatives and flame retardants.

The primary problems with heavy metals are that people’s metabolism of them varies greatly, and that individual exposure can also vary greatly. Most people are not exposed to unusual amounts, and clear the metals at an “average” rate. These people are fine. It is the people who clear the metals slowly or who are exposed to more than usual that have trouble. This presents health care providers with a very confusing situation where everyone seems to be exposed to about the same amount of heavy metals and most people are fine. Thus many doctors “don’t get it,” because it is often impossible to figure out that someone has an unusual exposure level, or had a large past exposure, and it is also difficult to figure out how a given individual’s metabolism for heavy metals works.

For a detailed discussion of individual variations in the metabolism of mercury, see pages 16-25 of Amalgam Illness: Diagnosis and Treatment.

We have a situation today where we know large numbers of people accumulate too much toxic metal and suffer ill effects from that. Unfortunately we have a system full of health care providers who weren’t taught how to tell if you are one of them, but were taught not to order any tests to check. Since metal toxicity doesn’t fit the general “medical model” of disease, which is that either you are OK or you are obviously sick (that is, your arm is either broken or not, you either have the flu or you don’t) health care providers may have trouble recognizing that there is a problem until it is severe.

The most important reason to worry about heavy metals is quite straightforward. The kinds of problems heavy metals cause are generally considered to be untreatable by mainstream medicine, and to have poor outcomes. Heavy metal poisoning IS treatable, treatment usually has a good outcome, and neither testing nor treatment are particularly expensive or unpleasantIS. So whenever someone has a condition that is chronic and has a negative impact on their life it makes a lot of sense to check for heavy metals.

While thimerosal containing vaccines were taken off the market earlier, many doctors continued to administer their stock of thimerosal containing vaccinations until those expired – a year or more after their manufacturing date. For practical purposes vaccines are made and bought a year in advance so children were still receiving mercury laden vaccines until 2004.

  1. The study is not yet published as of the time this book was written. It is expected to appear in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, MMWR. The prior study for 1999 is reported there and can be downloaded on the internet at
  2. Recent Developments in Low-Level Lead Exposure and Intellectual Impairment in Children, Koller, Brown, Spurgeon and Levy, Environmental Health Perspectives, volume 112, number 9, pages 987-94, 2004. Downloadable on the web for free at


Excerpt from the book: What textbooks say about cancer

Because the dominant belief in medicine is that toxicity problems are an occupational hazard, most research on metals causing cancer (and other diseases) has been performed on people exposed in the w orkplace. Regardless of where toxic metals come from, if they get into someone’s body they behave however they are going to behave. The real issue is whether the metals are there, and one way to determine that is a hair test.

One would expect toxicology books to mention heavy metals and cancer if the association is well known, and in fact they do. In Clinical Toxicology, by Ford, first edition (2001), page 718:

“Inorganic arsenic is a recognized human carcinogen, primarily of the respiratory tract and skin (International Agency for Research on Cancer group 1 and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency group A).”

Textbooks on cancer would be expected to have significant coverage of any links between heavy metals and cancer, and they do. Perusing Clinical Oncology by Abeloff, second edition (2000), we find much useful information.

Page 289: “Medicinal use of inorganic arsenic was associated with skin cancers in the early 20th century. More recently, excess skin cancer has been observed in populations exposed to arsenic-contaminated drinking water.”


“Reports of skin and lung cancers among vineyard workers with exposure to arsenic fungicides and pesticides appeared during the late 1950s.”


Page 290: “Elevated risk of prostate and lung cancer among workers exposed to cadmium has been reported.”


“Experimental investigations indicate that the hexavalent salts of chromium are highly carcinogenic, whereas trivalent chromium is not carcinogenic.”

With mainstream medicine’s focus on occupational exposure which usually happens by breathing dust at work we would expect to find this topic covered in relevant texts if an association between heavy metals and cancer was believed to be important. In fact, the Textbook of Respiratory Medicine by Murray and Nadel, third edition (2000) has a lot to say on this topic:

Page 1400: “Occupational exposure to inorganic arsenic in copper smelting causes a 2- to 14-fold increase in respiratory cancer risk.”

Page 1401: “Hexavalent chromium compounds are established human carcinogens.”


“The increased lung cancer risk prevalent in nickel refinery workers was initially attributed to exposure to metallic nickel and nickel carbonyl, which are carcinogenic in animals. However, subsequent epidemiologic evidence has suggested that exposure to combinations of nickel sulfides and oxides encountered in the refining industry increases lung cancer risk.”

Page 1402: “Two cohort mortality studies have reported a significant excess of lung cancer associated with exposure to beryllium.”

Page 1403: “Follow-up from a cohort study of cadmium smelter workers reported a relative risk of 1.49 not explainable by smoking.” (The risk is for lung cancer).

The role of heavy metals in causing cancer is so well known that basic medical texts covering internal medicine and pathology also discuss it.

In table 193-2 of Cecil Textbook of Medicine, 21st edition (2000) arsenic, chromium and nickel are listed as being carcinogenic.

Table 8-3 on page 274 of Robbins Pathologic Basis of Disease, by Cotran, Kumar and Collins, sixth edition (1999) lists arsenic and arsenic compounds as causing lung and skin cancer as well as hemangiosarcoma¹, beryllium and its compounds as causing lung cancer, cadmium and its compounds as causing prostate cancer, chromium and its compounds as causing lung cancer, as well as nickel and its compounds as causing lung and nasal cancer.

Checking the Textbook of Natural Medicine by Pizzorno and Murray, second edition (1999) we find on page 168:

“One study which evaluated bladder cancer mortality over a 5-year period in 26 counties in the US, found that bladder cancer was significantly higher in counties with documented arsenic exposure.”

In addition to excessive levels of toxic elements being carcinogenic, inadequate levels of certain nutrient elements may also increase the risk of cancer. For example, in Sleisenger & Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease by Feldman, seventh edition (2002), the authors state that low dietary selenium can cause colon cancer. Low levels of selenium (and other relevant nutrient elements) may be detected by a hair test as long as mineral transport is normal and orderly.

There is an extremely large amount of journal literature on the topic of what causes cancer. The most useful study is Environmental and Heritable Factors in the Causation of Cancer: Analyses of Cohorts of Twins from Sweden, Denmark and Finland, by Lichtenstein et al., New England Journal of Medicine, volume 343, number 2, pages 78-85 (2000).

“Inherited Genetic factors make a minor contribution to susceptibility of most types of neoplasms. This finding indicates that the environment has the principal role in causing sporadic cancer.”


“We conclude that the overwhelming contributor to the causation of cancer in the population of twins that we studied was the environment.”

If you go from the research literature to the clinics of health care providers who actually do screen for heavy metal problems in cancer patients and look over the tests it is quite apparent that mercury and lead show up in a lot of these people in addition to arsenic, nickel and chromium.

Heavy metal exposure is one risk factor that can be easily screened for with a hair test, and for which there are effective means of removing the cancer causing material from the body if it is found.

  1. a malignant tumor derived from blood vessel cells



Excerpt from the book: What textbooks say about schizophrenia

Textbook of Clinical Neurology, by Goetz, second edition, 2003, says in the section on mercury poisoning: “Psychotic episodes with delirium, hallucinations, and motor hyperactivity have been reported.”

Lead, mercury, carbon disulfide are listed as possible causes of acute psychosis in table 11-2 on page 107 of the Textbook of Primary Care Medicine, Noble, third edition, 2001.

Several other standard medical texts say that mercury exposure should be ruled out in anyone showing up at the hospital with an unexpected psychotic episode. In addition to this, there is journal literature directly linking mercury amalgam dental fillings to schizophrenia.

The sixteen year old boy whose hair test is presented on page 49 started out as a happy and friendly child. He was athletic, he enjoyed sports a lot and he was quite involved in them. He would sometimes play more than one sport in a season – great fun for him but his parents still remember how tiring it was to bring him to all the practices and games! School often did not come easy to him. He would spend long hours doing homework (without the need for parental pressure) and get by with average grades despite this great effort. He was able to relate to people of all ages, was well liked and got along with everyone. He passed the lifeguard test and planned to be a lifeguard the next summer. One of his goals was to play college football.

Around his sixteenth birthday he started to complain to his parents that the kids at school were talking about him. The parents didn’t recognize this as suggesting any mental disturbance and simply hoped things would work themselves out. Then suddenly one day the boy was locking doors and saying that people were trying to break in to get him. He told his parents that the people on TV were talking to him. He was also hearing voices. He was very upset by this. Realizing at this point that something was seriously wrong, the parents took him to the emergency psychiatric ward, where he was kept as a patient for three weeks until he was stabilized on medication.

He was initially diagnosed as having manic depression² and treated aggressively with Risperdal and lithium. He gained weight, paced constantly, couldn’t focus on anything, showed no emotions and had a very different personality. The parents thought he was overmedicated and, with physician supervision, started reducing the Rispderal dose. The boy subsequently developed heavy breathing, stopped talking, and acted like a zombie. He was brought back to the doctors who decided he was having another psychotic episode. By this time the parents had educated themselves, declined to let the doctors keep their son as an inpatient, and convinced the doctors to treat him as a schizophrenic rather than bipolar since his symptoms fit that more closely. The lithium was dropped, and Abilify was substituted for the Risperdal in hopes of lowering the side effects, and he was released to his parents’ care.

The boy still had profound personality changes, still paced a lot, and did a lot of smiling for no apparent reason. He could not stay focused on anything and really couldn’t do his schoolwork. He would show up and dress for sports but didn’t play in competition. He didn’t talk much and couldn’t really carry on a conversation.

His new psychiatrist asked the parents not to dismiss the diagnosis of bipolar disorder too quickly, but held out no real hope of anything other than a lifetime of being medicated to the gills and nonfunctional regardless of whether they eventually decided the boy was schizophrenic or bipolar. From the parents’ perspective the first year was Hell. The (mainstream medical) doctors offered little help, seemed to have a narrow view of the possible differential diagnosis, and mostly seemed to make their son worse with their prescribed treatments. These doctors told the parents that their son would be like this for the rest of his life and the parents needed to prepare for that.

Based on their own research regarding possible etiologic agents for their son’s condition, the parents decided to get a hair test done to check for heavy metal problems since some of these (mercury, manganese) are well known to cause mental disorders and are mentioned in standard textbooks as problems that should be ruled out when someone unexpectedly has a psychotic episode. The boy’s hair test is shown on the facing page …

Giving chelation a try seemed like a reasonable thing to do on this basis as a possible alternative to a lifetime of dysfunction and heavy medication….

The father was immediately convinced that his son needed chelation, but the mother resisted it at first because the doctors told her it was dangerous, couldn’t possibly help, that a lot of people got hurt by it, that DMSA was not an FDA approved drug (it is), and managed to frighten the mother into believing that she would hurt her son in some manner if she tried to chelate him.

The father had read enough on chelation and mercury – mostly on the internet – to be able to discuss these issues intelligently with the doctors. He would attempt to have reasoned discussions with the doctors while his wife listened in. A typical encounter would go like this: first the doctors would say that the son couldn’t possibly have a mercury problem because he didn’t have high levels in his blood or urine. The when the father pointed out that even mainstream medical textbooks like Harrison’s Textbook of Internal Medicine and Cecil Textbook of Medicine said that blood levels only showed current exposure the doctors would reluctantly admit he was right, that they weren’t familiar with the subject, then would refuse to prescribe DMSA because they weren’t familiar with it!

The mother became convinced that chelation was worth trying when her husband showed her on the FDA website that DMSA was an approved medication for heavy metal chelation, and when she saw her husband argue rings around doctor after doctor, none of whom offered any reasonable discussion as to why heavy metal toxicity should not be considered and treated. Eventually the parents were able to find a doctor who was willing to prescribe DMSA and provide appropriate care for their son.

After 6 months and 23 chelation rounds … the parents have been able to lower their son’s dose of Abilify substantially. The school called and said the son was suddenly talking to people again! School officials continued to call every so often reporting further improvement. The wrestling coach said he could see the boy growing up before his eyes – by the end of the season he was acting somewhat normal, was able to compete in wrestling, and took first place in one of the wrestling tournaments.

While their son still has a ways to go, the parents could see after 23 chelation weekends that their son would become normal again in the foreseeable future. In fact, they were able to see progress after the third weekend. In addition to behavioral improvements, chronic acne on the boy’s back suddenly disappeared and hasn’t come back. The parents say the difference in their son’s condition after six months of chelation is like night and day.

The parents report that chelation can cause increased symptoms as a side effect. While the symptoms come and go, they don’t all come at once, and when they go, they are usually gone for good.

The boy’s psychiatrist continues to insist that chelation can’t possibly be doing any good and now offers the explanation that the boy must never have had bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and is just getting better on his own.

This is what the father has to say about his experiences over the last year and a half:

“This whole situation with my son really opened my eyes. These mainstream doctors will talk against chelation like they are experts. But, I will sit and talk the facts with them. They will then tell me that they really do not know much about it. You would think that they see the improvements in my son and look into it. With what happen to my son my eyes are now open to the toxic metal problem. I am amazed at how many people I see that they or their children could possibly have this problem and are not being treated properly. My sister has found out that her problems could be due to this toxic metal poisoning. She had her fillings taken out and will be chelating. Too bad a doctor did not look into this possibility for her years ago. I believe chelation saved my son a life of misery. Look at how many other people who are suffering that could be helped as well. I try my best to let other people know. I just hope some of them will give it a try and look into it as a possible solution to their problems.”

  1. Psychometric Evidence that Dental Amalgam Mercury May be an Etiological Factor in Schizophrenia, Siblerud, Motl and Kienholz, Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, volume 14, number 4, pages 201-9, 1999.
  2. The medical term is bipolar disorder.


Excerpt from the book: What textbooks say about problems with children’s development

Standard medical textbooks point out the need to check for heavy metal problems in children with developmental disorders. For example, Clinical Toxicology, Ford, first edition, 2001: “Chronic lead poisoning should be considered in the differential diagnosis of any child with neurocognitive deficits, attentional impairment, or developmental delay.”

Textbooks also point out that despite what is in essence an advertising and public relations campaign by the makers and users of childhood vaccines there really is no reason to consider them proven safe.

Child Neurology, sixth edition, 2000, John Menkes, editor. From Chapter 16, Disorders of Mental Development, section on Autism, p. 1172, by Marcel Kinsbourne:

“The increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism is so spectacular, that it is unlikely to be merely because health care workers are paying greater attention to this condition. Despite apparent links between measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) immunizations and autism, opposed by energetic disclaimers, the definitive epidemiologic study that would distinguish causation, a rare inordinate susceptibility, from chance association has not been performed.”

Recent research demonstrates that heavy metal problems are quite common in children – so it is important to check for them early on. The US Government’s Centers for Disease Control periodically conducts studies to determine what toxic exposure members of the general population have. The 2003 study found that 10% of children and 10% of women of childbearing age had mercury levels above safe limits. They also found that 2.2% of children had lead above safe levels. This is down from 4% of children who had too much lead in similar studies 20-30 years ago….

A hair test (and consideration of the individual child’s history and situation) seems like a reasonable way to screen children with developmental disorders for heavy metals. As you can see from the tests below, when people do get hair tests on their impaired children heavy metal problems often turn up! While genetically based autism and related conditions are often presumed to be completely unresponsive to medical treatment, heavy metal problems are easily treated and children with them show dramatic improvement in their neurodevelopmental status on detox….

A pretty obvious case where screening for heavy metal exposure would be appropriate is an autistic little girl who has no known risk factors, no family history suggestive of any genetic issues, and whom the pediatrician thinks is a textbook case. This little girl’s hair test is on the next page….

This hair test suggests that the girl’s autism is a consequence of mercury intoxication. Chelation led to improvement in her autistic symptoms, confirming this…..

At about the same time as the sister¹ was being evaluated, her younger brother began to exhibit problems. He had shown normal development for the first 16-18 months, then regressed into autism. At age 6 this boy had no expressive language. He had never been able to say a single word. It was the speech therapist’s impression that he did try to say some words but was unable to pronounce them well enough that even his mother could figure it out….

The brother received far more vaccinations than the sister and they all contained mercury as a preservative (in the form of thimerosal). Since his body holds onto mercury unusually well this apparently was enough, when combined with whatever unknown exposures he may have been receiving from other sources, to make him autistic.

Based on these test results the parents chose to detoxify their children through chelation….

Despite having no expressive language at all at age 6, by age 8, after 61 weekend rounds of chelation, he was articulate, normally expressive for his age, and took part in his second grade class’ stage production, singing and participating so well that he was indistinguishable from the other children much to the amazement of his parents, teachers, and other children’s parents who had known him in kindergarten and first grade.

After 61 rounds of chelation this autistic boy is far from cured, but has undergone dramatic improvement and continues to improve with further chelation. If he had continued on in the state he was in at age 6, he would have been institutionalized for life as an adult because he couldn’t even make his needs known, much less take care of himself. Now, at age 8, even if no further progress occurs, he will likely grow up to be able to live independently, hold a job and take care of himself, a dramatic improvement in his quality of life. The progress reasonably expected on further chelation should enhance his quality of life much more in terms of future health, happiness, social relationships, educational opportunities and employment options.

  1. A different girl than the one mentioned above.


Excerpt from the book: Calcium (Ca)

Calcium levels in hair often move in the opposite direction to body inventory. High hair calcium suggests calcium loss and wasting. High hair calcium will occasionally be due to very elevated serum calcium, parathyroid problems or excessive vitamin D levels but these are uncommon (serum calcium is part of most standard “chem panel” blood tests). Low hair calcium may suggest deficiency or may indicate low intake with adequate body levels. Diets which do not contain dairy products are typically much lower in calcium t han the average American diet.

Thus the apparently paradoxical suggestion is made by people who know how to use hair tests that people with elevated hair calcium should consume more calcium.

Excerpt from the book: Mercury poisoning

Mercury poisoning is the most common heavy metal problem. It is also difficult to diagnose because the exact problems it causes vary so much from person to person. There is also some confusion in the health care community as to how to interpret clinical laboratory test results. There is intense controversy because the major cause of mercury poisoning today is health care and many doctors understandably find this very upsetting. Given these factors I am including a separate fairly long section on mercury. Additional descriptions can be found on pages 25-29 of Amalgam Illness: Diagnosis and Treatment or in the medical literature¹.

Reviewing some of the key factors noted in standard medical texts is a good place to start. Medical textbooks are conservative in the material they present. Controversy regarding the nature of mercury poisoning or the lack of utility of certain tests to detect it may be due to the emotionally charged nature of this subject, not to medical or scientific questions.

Erethism is generally mentioned as the most common and important finding in mercury poisoning.

Clinical Toxicology,Ford, first edition, 2001:

“Erethism is a constellation of signs and symptoms, including shyness, emotional lability, nervousness, insomnia, memory problems, and inability to concentrate.”

Merritt’s Textbook of Neurology, ninth edition, 1995:

“the psychological changes which include timidity, seclusiveness and irritability have been referred to as ‘erethism’.”

Textbook of Medicine, Cecil, seventh edition, 1948

“Erethismus mercurialis, a peculiar psychic disturbance characterized by ready excitability and a strange shyness in the presence of strangers, a symptom of great interest and importance; insomnia; headache; vertigo; mental depression and dullness; and, rarely, hallucinations.”

Erethism is the constellation of personality changes that appear early on in mercury poisoning, often before other symptoms are present.

Textbook of Clinical Neurology,Goetz, first edition, 1999:

“Personality changes can develop before neurological signs appear. So-called ‘mercurial neurasthenia’ may develop for weeks or months before the patient seeks treatment. This syndrome consists of extreme fatigue, hyperirritability, insomnia, pathological shyness, and depression.”

I have included a description of mercury poisoning from an older textbook written in the days when occupational poisoning was common and doctors had to rely on clinical skills rather than lab tests to make good diagnoses.

Textbook of Medicine,Cecil, seventh edition 1948:

“Tremors of the orbit, lips, tongue, fingers and limbs. These are usually moderately fine at first, but at intervals become a coarse and jerking. They may become very severe and in rare instances involve contractions of the limbs of such violence as to require restraint. The tremor is intentional and subsides during rest. Under observation it may increase and diminish, rhythmically recurring. When it is marked, the patient may require assistance in eating and in other activities. Weakness of both the flexor and extensor muscles of the hand and forearm has been reported, but marked paresis is rarely, if indeed ever, caused by mercury. Polyneuritis is said to result occasionally from exposure to mercury. No ataxia occurs and reflexes are not notably affected.

Modern medical textbooks also make it clear that mercury from “silver”² fillings is a potential hazard to both dental patients and the people who work in the dentist’s office.

Harrison’s textbook of internal medicine, 14th edition 1998:

“Low-level exposure from dental amalgams may also be associated with adverse immunologic reactions.”

Cecil Textbook of Medicine,21st edition, 2000:

“10% of dental offices have excessive mercury vapor levels; and accidental spillage can lead to mercury poisoning.”

Textbooks and journal articles cover some of the basic biochemical phenomena underlying mercury’s ability to affect the body in a wide variety of ways.

Textbook of Clinical Neurology,, Goetz, first edition, 1999, lists the following in a table on the effects of different heavy metals under mercury: “Alters cell membranes; causes combination of: metabolic disturbance, disturbance of Ca+2 homeostasis, oxidative injury, aberrant protein phosphorylation.”

In the journal Endocrinology,volume 89, number 6, pages 1489-98 (1971), an article entitled Effect of Mercury on Response of Isolated Fat Cells to Insulin and Lipolytic Hormones by Jack M. George shows how mercury has physiological effects that can cause exactly the constellation of problems seen in type 2 non insulin dependent diabetes: elevated blood sugar, insulin resistance and weight gain.

One very important question is whether you have to continue to worry about mercury if a doctor has told you that you definitely don’t have a problem with it, or that you have something else. Standard medical textbooks make it clear that mercury poisoning is hard to diagnose and easy to mistake for something else.

Cecil Textbook of Medicine, 21st edition, 2000:

“With mild exposure, the manifestations are likely to be subtle and diagnosis is difficult. Insomnia, nervousness, mild tremor, impaired judgment and coordination, decreased mental efficiency, emotional lability, headache, fatigue, loss of sexual drive, and depression are early manifestations and are often mistakenly ascribed to psychogenic causes.”

In a separate section, Cecil also says “Chronic metal intoxication may also produce a dementing syndrome.”

Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, third edition, 1998, Haddad, Shannon and Winchester, eds.:

“Chronic mercurialism may be misdiagnosed as Parkinsonism, depression or Alzheimer’s disease.”

Merritt”™s Textbook of Neurology, 9th edition, 1995:

“Because of the prominent motor manifestations, confusion with ALS³ can occur.”

Because mercury poisoning is hard to diagnose, many doctors may order blood or urine tests for mercury. Textbooks point out that this is not helpful.

Cecil Textbook of Medicine, 21st edition, 2000:

“Because of the body’s metabolism of mercury, blood and urine levels may be unreliable.”

Textbooks are also clear on the fact that some children are very sensitive to mercury and become poisoned at low levels that don’t bother others.

Clinical Toxicology,Ford, first edition, 2001:

“Acrodynia … Although it is most often postulated that the etiology of this syndrome is an idiosyncratic hypersensitivity reaction to mercury because of the lack of correlation with mercury levels, many of the symptoms resemble recognized mercury poisoning.”

With medical textbooks saying that mercury poisoning is difficult to diagnose and can cause a wide variety of problems, a thorough description of it is necessary.

Mercury’s effects on thought and emotion cause the most troubling symptoms.

Mercury poisoning changes people’s emotional responses to things. Irritability, argumentativeness, avoidant behavior, anxiety, shyness, being easily embarrassed, and a desire to avoid strangers lead to social withdrawal and makes it difficult for them to relate to others. The victim generally feel that their behavior patterns are appropriate even when this is clearly not so.

The argumentativeness may reach the point where it is impossible to hold a job or maintain most social relationships.

Fatigue, lassitude and depression further limit social interaction. The depression brings feelings of futility, hopelessness, discouragement, and impending doom. Minor problems become overwhelming and insurmountable, while these emotional changes themselves are frightening.

Feelings of enjoyment and happiness become less and less common. There is no motivation for important tasks, fun activities, or day to day routine.

Intelligence gradually deteriorates. Previously bright persons become dull and slow thinking. They suffer from a progressive decline specifically affecting short term memory as well as the faculties for logical reasoning. Thus their ability to do things like balance the checkbook, do math, or play chess suffers. Thoughts become heavy, repetitive and pedantic. Creative thinking becomes progressively more difficult. Verbal expression suffers from an inability to select the right words to convey their meaning.

“Brain fog” sets in with a poor ability to concentrate and pay attention.

Men frequently become quietly depressive and withdrawn while women more often become anxious, shy, fearful and high strung.

Symptoms come and go over a period of months or years. Life seems to progress in fits and starts, with periods of productivity and social enjoyment coming less and less often as poisoning progresses.

In severe cases, mercury poisoning can cause psychosis. Psychosis interferes with a person’s thinking, emotions, memory, communication, behavior and interpretation of reality. When sufficiently impaired in all these areas that they can not meet the ordinary demands of life, a person is psychotic.

Psychotic people often have very disorganized behavior which may be childlike or infantile, an inappropriate mood for the situation they are in, poor ability to control their impulses, speak in an incoherent jumble of words, and may have delusions and hallucinations (usually without an understanding of the fact that these are not real). Thought processes are often quite disrupted, with the psychotic person’s train of thought seeming perfectly logical to them but being at best very loosely connected as far as anyone else is concerned.

Mercury can impair the brain’s electrical regulation and cause epilepsy (either grand mal or petit mal varieties). Poor electrical regulation that is not bad enough to cause epileptic seizures can cause impulsivity and sudden strong emotions not rationally related to what is going on. It can also cause sudden confusion or disorientation or loss of train of thought.

Mercury affects the senses. The most well known effect is numbness in the hands, feet, and around the mouth (the medical term for this is stocking and gloves parasthesia). There can be a generalized reduction in sensitivity to touch and pain which is often more pronounced in children.

The sense of smell becomes less acute. While the ability to perceive sound is not reduced the person loses the ability to pick meaningful sounds out of background. For example, they are not able to understand speech directed at them at a party, or if music is playing.

The ability to focus the eyes and to control the iris progressively deteriorates, as does convergence – the ability to bring both eyes to bear on nearby objects so as to see one object with depth perception rather than to have double vision. People with convergence problems have difficulty keeping their place while reading and find reading for long periods quite tiring.

Color vision may also become less acute and colors do not appear as bright.

Mercury poisoned children typically have learning or developmental disabilities and trouble relating to peers. The poor visual convergence and accommodation due to mercury poisoning is a common cause of dyslexia and reading difficulties.

Children who are poisoned in infancy or before birth may have hyperextensible joints, hypermobile hips, and may lay in crib with their feet up by their head.

Early physical symptoms include dizziness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), insomnia and daytime drowsiness. The biological clock runs slow. The poisoned person’s body wants to wake up late and stay up late. It takes them a long time to “get going” in the morning.

There may be a tendency towards diarrhea – often alternating with constipation, cold hands and feet, a tendency towards sweating (some people have the opposite symptom and do not sweat at all, which is more common in women), flushing or reddening of the skin – particularly on the face and neck. Some people blush frequently, but others do not blush at all.. Digestive disturbances are also common.

The skin becomes dry, athlete’s foot and toenail fungus progress, and the insides of the ankles, particularly behind the ankle bone and a bit above it become dry, itchy, flaky and peel. This becomes annoying enough to keep the victim up at night. There may also be hair loss. Hair may thin out or it may fall out in patches leaving bald spots.

Tremors eventually appear. There may be twitching of the eyelids. Poor coordination of the lips and tongue may render speech more difficult to understand. Handwriting deteriorates and eventually becomes illegible.

Mercury affects the blood coagulation mechanism and leads to easy bruising and bleeding in some people.

Women with mercury problems often have menstrual problems, irregularities, and may suffer from infertility.

Mercury also interferes with the brain’s regulation of water balance and causes excessive urination.

Mercury can reduce the function of the adrenal and thyroid glands. Typically it does this enough to make the person miserable, but not enough to make laboratory tests abnormal.

Mercury poisons the immune system, making fighting off minor illnesses more difficult. Immune dysregulation can also lead to increased allergy, asthma and other respiratory complaints. It is also a common trigger for autoimmune conditions such as lupus, multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis. In physiologic terms, mercury poisoning causes an imbalance between T helper type 1 and T helper type 2 cells along with reduced activity of natural killer (NK) cells. This is the same problem that zinc deficiency causes and is most likely due to an acquired zinc deficiency caused by mercury’s derangement of mineral transport.

Heart racing (the medical term is tachycardia) is quite common in people with mercury poisoning. The heart rate may vary dramatically over a period of a few minutes for no apparent reason. Heart pain (angina) may occur. Doctors may hear intermittent heart murmurs and may find a flattened T wave or a prolonged QT interval on an EKG.

Mercury induced derangement of mineral transport almost invariably results in reduced body zinc levels (usually reflected by high hair zinc levels), poor zinc absorption, increased loss of zinc in the stool and urine, and difficulty concentrating zinc into cells where it is needed. People with low zinc due to mercury problems typically need levels of zinc supplementation that would be excessive in normal individuals. Mercury toxic people tolerate high level zinc supplementation for prolonged periods of many years. Deranged mineral transport also typically results in a need for large amounts of magnesium and molybdenum. Sometimes manganese or selenium is also needed, sometimes excessive selenium is retained. Copper levels are usually somewhat high and copper supplementation is usually harmful.

Blood and urine porphyrins are often elevated in mercury toxic people though this test is seldom performed

It is not unusual for MCV and MCH on a blood count (CBC) to be mildly elevated (suggesting B-12/folate deficiency anemia) in people with mercury poisoning, even when they have more than adequate levels of B-12.

The liver enzymes AST and ALT (also called SGOT and SGPT) may be mildly elevated when a “chemistry panel” test is done on someone with mercury poisoning, though this is not the rule.

Cholesterol may go up quite a bit in the earlier stages of mercury poisoning. In some people it later falls due to inhibited steroid synthesis, typically in conjuction with inability to make enough cortisol and DHEA for their body’s needs.

Blood sugar may go up (and may be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes) due to mercury poisoning.

In chronic mercury poisoning there is seldom any evidence of the kidney problems which are present in acute poisoning.

The most common result from a person’s doctor ordering standard tests like a CBC, chem panel, urinalysis and thyroid test on someone with a fairly serious mercury poisoning problem is that all the tests come back normal, or close enough that the doctor doesn’t consider the results significant.

In certain circumstances mercury poisoning may be recognized in an ‘acute’ phase. For example, after placement of fillings which extend below the gumline, after placement or replacement of several fillings, after placement of a dissimilar metal crown or bridge over or against amalgam.. In this earlier phase there may be red blood cells in the urine, greatly elevated urinary porphyrins leading to pink – not red-tinged – urine, burning urination, as well as the above symptoms. Very high exposure levels cause nausea, loss of appetite and diarrhea. In general acute poisoning leads to much more pronounced physical symptoms and much less pronounced mental and emotional symptoms. As time progresses the mental and emotional symptoms slowly increase.

  1. The review by Gerstner and Huff (Clinical Toxicology of Mercury, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health volume 2, pages 491-526 (1997) ) is particularly good. Also the descriptions in the 1948 and 1955 editions of Textbook of Medicine by Cecil are excellent though more modern editions have less useful descriptions. Any pre-1972 edition of Diseases of Occupations by Hunter also contains accurate and useful descriptions of what mercury poisoned people are like. For a firsthand description of mercury poisoning see
  2. Silver amalgam fillings are 50% mercury, and approximately 30% silver plus 20% other materials. It would be more accurate to refer to them as mercury fillings.
  3. ALS is amylotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gherig’s disease. In the United Kingdom it is referred to as motor neuron disease.


Excerpt from book: Thallium (Tl)

It is relatively difficult to establish good reference ranges for every element under every circumstance. Despite the fact that the statistical definition of the Doctor’s Data reference ranges would reasonably be expected to lead to a bar on the plot for thallium most of the time, it is common not to see one.

Blood thallium levels are often falsely normal (low) in poisoned people. Urine levels in a 24 hour collection are somewhat more reliable but false normals are still common. Hair levels are often informative but no estimate is available at present regarding false normal thallium levels in hair from toxic people.

Most thallium salts are colorless, odorless, and tasteless.

Thallium is concentrated into certain cells because it binds to a specific site on a cell surface mineral transport protein that is normally used to take potassium up in exchange for sodium (the biochemical term is Na,K ATPase). It concentrates particularly well into the brain, kidney, and the part of the heart called the myocardium. In addition to binding to the sulfhydryl groups of various enzymes, thallium specifically attaches to vitamin B2 – riboflavin – and inactivates it. Without vitamin B2 fats can’t be burned for energy and the main route that carbohydrates take into the energy producing Krebs cycle through pyruvate is also blocked. Citric acid, succinic acid, suberic acid and adipic acid go up on an organic acid test. Only protein can be easily used for energy.

Thallium is also reabsorbed in the kidney by the same mechanism that retains potassium, so people with low serum potassium or low potassium intake retain thallium and are more susceptible to its toxic effects.

The half life for thallium elimination from the body is variously given in the literature as 8 to 30 days. It apparently does not clear from the nervous system at a significant rate since neurological problems may persist for years.

The majority of excreted thallium leaves the body in the fluids the intestines secrete to help digest food. Lesser amounts are secreted in the bile and also are excreted in the urine. About twice as much thallium leaves the body in feces as in the urine.

The medical literature is full of descriptions of acute poisoning by large amounts of thallium. Typically the symptoms start 12-24 hours after the thallium is eaten. When smaller amounts are eaten the symptoms might not appear for 24-48 hours. The first symptoms are from the digestive tract – abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, perhaps vomiting, with constipation later. One to a few days later neurological symptoms appear. There is hypersensitivity to touch and pain, unusual phantom sensations, as well as muscle weakness that often begins in the soles of the feet and the big toe and slowly spreads up to the body. Movement may also become clumsy. The pain hypersensitivity can be so extreme that the brush of a feather can cause intense pain. The victim may salivate excessively. There may also be excessive thirst. At this point a variety of other problems may appear. Psychic disturbances such as delirium, restlessness, hallucinations and delusions are common. There may be eye turn or crossed eyes. Color perception may be altered or reduced. Blindness (due to optic neuritis) is frequent. Convulsions or seizures are occasionally seen. Liver and kidney damage often occur. About a week after the thallium is eaten the head hair falls out and the outer part of the eyebrows is lost. Children tend to develop the psychic disturbances more while adults are more prone to the weakness, hypersensitivity and heart regulation problems that come from impairment of the nerves that run the body.

Heart function is affected and victims are at risk of sudden cardiac death for at least several weeks. Heart racing is a common symptom as is elevated blood pressure.

Chronic toxicity does not have the digestive tract problems or dramatic onset of symptoms that acute toxicity does. The neurological, psychiatric and vision problems described above are prominent, hair loss does occur, and there can be heart problems and high blood pressure due to impairment of the nerves that run the heart and other internal organs (autonomic neuropathy in medical terminology). There are typically also sleep problems. Tremors sometimes occur as well. The neurological and psychiatric effects can be severe enough to lead to dementia or psychosis.

A slow blurring or dimness of vision is characteristic, with loss of both central vision and also mild constriction of the field of vision.

Thallium does cause toxic porphyria through its effect on the liver.

In chronic toxicity the symptoms may come on slowly and will usually be subtle rather than dramatic. Mild to moderate chronic toxicities are quite unlikely to be diagnosed (e.g. the combination of hair loss, heart racing and high blood pressure might be misdiagnosed as too much thyroid hormone.

Excerpt from book: Selenium (Se)

When mineral transport is orderly, hair selenium appears to accurately reflect at least intake and probably body b urden as long as you don’t use a selenium or sulfur containing anti-dandruff shampoo (for example, Selsun Blue® or the selenium sulfide containing version of Head and Shoulders®).

Contamination of hair samples by dandruff shampoos containing selenium or sulfur – which is sometimes contaminated with selenium – is quite common and accounts for most observed very high hair selenium levels….

The toxic level of selenium is only about 15 times higher than the level needed for adequate nutritional intake. Only copper has a narrower window between minimum required levels and toxicity. A few people start to experience mild symptoms of selenium toxicity at an intake as low as 750 mcg a day (on an adult basis)….

Selenium deficiency causes aching muscles, heart muscle weakness and heart disease. It can also contribute to sensitivity to the toxic effects of arsenic and mercury and perhaps other heavy metals at lower than the usual toxic levels.

Excerpt from book: Zinc (Zn)

Hair zinc does provide useful information about body zinc levels but interpretation can be complex since elevated hair zinc can indicate low body levels, and low zinc can too.

Low hair zinc does correlate well with low red blood cell and total body zinc. Substantially elevated hair zinc is usually a sign of zinc wasting and consequent LOW body zinc levels (and low blood zinc levels). That is, people with high hair zinc usually have low red blood cell zinc and low tissue levels of zinc. Rarely will high hair zinc be due to elevated body levels of zinc.

Plasma and serum zinc are reduced in acute illness and are not reliable indicators of body inventory….

Vegetarian diets are low in zinc. High carbohydrate intake is believed to reduce zinc levels and high consumption of grains is known to hinder zinc absorption. Modern foods are relatively low in zinc compared to foods 50 years or more ago (due to changes in agricultural methods since that time), and sometimes are preserved by the use of EDTA or other agents to sequester whatever zinc is in them and render it unavailable. In addition, zinc absorption from the intestines is limited and saturable, which means a smaller fraction is absorbed as the amount taken increases. Thus as you increase the amount taken a lot the amount absorbed only increases a little. Because of this very few people will have high enough zinc levels to be a problem unless they take zinc supplements several times a day for months on end….

Much zinc is absorbed in the large intestine and people with chronic diarrhea can become zinc deficient.

The half life of zinc in the body is about 4 months. Interventions to affect zinc levels will thus typically have their effects gradually over a period of several months….

Low zinc levels lead to rough dry flaky skin especially on the hands, feet and around body orifices. It also causes slow wound healing, poor immune function – specifically cellular immunity – in the presence of normal levels of white blood cells and antibodies, poor appetite, reduced taste sensitivity, reduced sense of smell, fatigue and poor night vision. Low zinc also lead to impaired growth and development in children, and to birth defects and difficulties during labor and delivery. Severe forms of childhood zinc deficiency are described in standard medical textbooks. Current estimates are that about 10% of children have mild zinc deficiencies that they are suffering some negative effect from, e. g. that they have recurrent ear infections – a problem which can often be stopped with supplementary zinc….

Low zinc levels are known to cause impairment of neurological and psychiatric functioning which are corrected by zinc supplementation, and zinc supplementation is known to improve attention and behavior in ADHD.

The specific aberration of immune function that zinc deficiency causes is an imbalance between T helper type 1 and T helper type 2 cells along with reduced activity of natural killer (NK) cells. This is also commonly observed in mercury toxic people and is most likely a consequence of their poor zinc status due to mercury induced mineral transport derangement. This results i n allergies, autoimmunity and a poor immune response to pathogens like viruses, bacteria, yeast and fungus.

Want to read more?

The Mercury Detoxification Manual

Amalgam Illness: Diagnosis and Treatment

Hair Test Interpretation: Finding Hiddent Toxicities