I've been hearing about mercury toxicity in vaccines and dental amalgams recently. I've also read about it in Discover Magazine. Can you show me some of the data on mercury toxicity, and what I can do for prevention and detoxification?
Mercury toxicity is a serious issue. There is an excellent article on mercury toxicity in the current Discover magazine, which is available on their website. I've also attached the text below. Acute metal intoxication is well-known in all medical circles, but the chronic toxicity (experienced by most) is as dangerous, if not more since not many doctors know to test for it. If unrecognized, some symptoms that patients complain about might be treated well, but the underlying contributing cause of increased body burden of toxic metals would not have been addressed leading to progression of disease.
The World Health Organization in 1998 showed that 80% of all deaths were due to either cancer or cardiovascular disease (heart attack, heart failure, strokes). Just looking at these two big killers then, we can find very significant data showing a contributing link to toxic metal burden. Specific examples will be below, but a quick search in the medical literature will show 13-15 journal references for a link between mercury and heart disease. Searches in the medical journals will show about 10 references between mercury and cancer. Now here's the important part: there are two databases that need to be checked when dealing with metal toxicities! The other is the scientific literature and here we findd over 350 references for a link between mercury and heart disease and over 600 for a link between the metal and cancer! Furthermore, there were over 1400 articles on mercury and neurodegenerative disease (Alzheimer's, dementia, autism etc) in the scientific literature and only about 40 in the medical. So clearly the research is out there, even if most doctors don't know where to look for it.
For example, just looking at medical literature, in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (1999) 33:1578-83, patients with a form of heart failure (idiopathic dilated caardiomyopathy) had 22,300 times the level of mercury in heart muscle than in controls! In the journal Circulation (1995) 91:645-55 the authors found that hair mercury levels were associated with 2-3 times the risk of acute heart attacks in 1833 Finnish males. They also found that hair and urine mercury levels correlated with oxidized cholesterol (the form that creates plaque in the arteries). Even the very conventional New England Journal of Medicine (2002) 22:1747-54 found that toenail mercury correlated with increased risk of heart attack!
Mercury poisons the machinery in our cells by binding to the sulfur groups on enzymes and DNA. It is one of the most potent free-radical catalysts. Mercury interferes with selenium, one of the most important nutritional and anti-cancer minerals. Mercury toxicity starts with occupational, environmental, dietary, and dental exposure. Our genes are not prepared to deal with the increase in this toxic metal we don't have an effective mechanism in our bodies to neutralize or clear mercury. We basically store it as metabolic garbage.
People with mercury amalgam fillings are constantly increasing their mercury body burden. Fillings constantly gas off mercury vapor, 80% of which is absorbed across the lungs and into the blood stream. This fat soluble and uncharged mercury vapor easily diffuses across our fat soluble membranes and into the cells: favorite targets of accumulation are the brain, pituitary gland (hormonal control) and the kidneys. In these organs it is converted into the non-fat soluble ionic mercury. This charged mercury cannot diffuse back across the cell membrane and is effectively stuck, unless you chelate it out. The half life of mercury excretion out of the brain is 20 years. Thus if all mercury exposure was stopped, then it would take 20 years to get half of the amount out. With amalgam fillings, eating fish, or living on an industrialized planet complicating things, it is much more effective to actively chelate or pull the mercury out.
Our environment is a constant source of mercury. When we burn coal to generate electricity, the mercury component of coal is vaporized into the atmosphere, where it returns to the ground in the form of "acid rain". The mercury then flows into our waterways, where planklton then ingest the mercury and attach a chemical methyl group to the mercury to creat methy mercury. This mercury, similar to the mercury leached from amalgams, is fat soluble, so it very easily enters into our cells and poisons the proteins and DNA. Small fish eat the plankton, are then consumed by larger fish, and thus larger fish bio-accumulate the mercury. Fishermen know this well: the fishing license bureau will inform them of which rivers and streams have been closed due to mercury contamination.
It's still worse for children and unborn children. 8% of American women who are menstruating have high levels of mercury which can pass through th eplacenta and reach the fetus. In fact, mercury levels of infants and children correlate well with the number of amalgam fillings in the mother. As described above, mercury is extremely toxic to nerve cells and thus is especially dangerous for the developing nervous system of children.
Overall, the take-home point is that mercury is next to impossible to avoid based on our environment. Even if all the mercury amalgams are removed, there is still the mercury within the body to deal with. Below are basic protective measures that can be taken to protect the cells from the damage of mercury; ideally a medically supervised detoxification should be done by a doctor trained in heavy metal toxicology and chelation:
1. Take a comprehensive multivitamin with minerals (without iron, unless your levels have been checked). The nutritional minerals, especially selenium, are displaced by mercury.
2. Take antioxidants. The most important is vitamin C, and bowel tolerance is safe for most patients.
3. Take a whey protein (if not sensitive to dairy). Whey protein is a good source of glutathione, which is an important antioxidant protein. Glutathione is lost as the body tries to protect itself from mercury.
4. Have your levels tested and then detoxified by chelation. Blood levels or urine levels without a provoked challenge are useless, as we need to administer a chelating agent to pull mercury from the tissues into the blood before the body burden can be assessed.
Mercury is a toxic metal. In my cardiovascular patients with congestive heart failure, I find high levels. A recent article found 22, 000 times the amount of mercury in diseased heart muscle compared to normal! Pediatricians find mercury in their autistic children. And epidemiologists find mercury associations with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, as well as with other neurodegenerative disorders. It should be taken out - even before amalgams are removed.