• Tamra Coveau

Heavy Metal Diet



Who likes heavy metal? Do you like it in your food? You might be surprised to know that it is already there, because it has no taste or smell. If you have ever said, "Please pass the lettuce," You have been consuming Lead!

I would like to expose you, no pun intended, to the poison, lead. While many things about lead are unknown, I will be covering some of what you need to know about the dangers of lead consumption, and what you can do about it.

It is the heaviest of all non-radioactive metals.

According to the 2007 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES TOXICOLOGICAL PROFILE FOR LEAD, "Lead occurs naturally in the environment. However, most of the high levels found throughout the environment come from human activities. It is also arsenic.

A lot of the environmental contamination occurred in the last century with the use of coal, leaded gasoline, metals, lead paint, batteries, pesticides, lead plumbing that transports our drinking water, lead in canning food, leaded pottery, and leaded glassware. In the last hundred years, over 300 million tons of lead was mined and distributed in our environment through burning of fossil fuels (coal), rubber, metal and other production factories.

Why is it still here? Because lead does not degrade, these former uses leave their legacy as higher concentrations of lead in the environment. How much is too much? We eat, drink, and breathe lead every day. So if lead is natural and we have lived with it forever, is it very bad?

If we have more lead, entering our body than we can eliminate then it can build to toxic levels. Lead is found throughout the body, in the blood, soft tissues, but ninety percent of the lead in our bodies is in our bones. The human body contains lead, mostly from food. We can lessen it, in our feces, urine, sweat, hair, skin, nails, and through the gall bladder through the breakdown of hemoglobin that binds to lead, but unfortunately, the amount going in our bodies usually exceeds the amount going out.

In 2011, Consumer Reports tested 88 samples of apple juice and grape juice. Currently there is no federal limit for arsenic or lead in juice. However, "25 percent of samples exceeded the 5-ppb (parts per billion) total lead limit for bottled water, and 10 percent exceeded the 10-ppb limit for total arsenic in drinking water." (Dartmouth, 2012).

In 2012, analysis by health researchers at the University of Rochester, along with physicians with expertise in arsenic research at Johns Hopkins University revealed a study that showing that people who consume two or more rice products had arsenic levels 70 percent higher than those who had not eaten any rice. (Consumer Reports, 2012)

The Good News...We can get the lead out!

Choose, Educate, Advocate.

Nutritionists, Sonya Lunder and Dawn Undurraga, of the Environmental Working Group say that we can reduce absorption of lead several ways: "Limiting rice, brown rice syrup, and juice intake." (Lunder & Undurraga, 2012)

Keep up on the research..If you are going to drink apple juice, do you want to know the brand with the lowest arsenic level? Welch's Pourable Concentrate 100% Apple Juice (1.1-4.3 total arsenic ppb). (Consumer Reports, 2011)

Lead-based gasoline was removed in the early seventies in the U.S. and other countries, but some still use leaded gasoline. Educating the public is key, because change only comes when people are aware and can demand legislative action.

An ingredient in chicken feed that contains arsenic, called Roxarsone, is present in chickens eaten by consumers, despite previous studies that thought arsenic was eliminated with chicken waste. Maybe this is because “between 2000 and 2008, the US Food and Drug Administration admitted to testing only 1 out of every 12 million domestically produced chickens.”

After FDA finally banned because it is as a carcinogen in 2011. The major drug company Pfizer, which makes the feed ingredient, pulled it off the market in the US, but still distributes it worldwide and in their defense, The National Chicken Council, which represents companies that produce and process chickens, said in a statement that the ingredient "has been used to maintain good health in chickens for many years", and it is used in "many, but not all" flocks, and assured consumers that "Chicken is safe to eat." the group said. (Jalonick, 2011).

Advocacy! The good news is that as the environment is cleaned up, the amount of lead in our food and water has declined, but it is an ongoing effort and requires consumer vigilance. Now that you know more about lead, make informed choices for yourself, educate others and advocate for cleaner food. Communicate with public health officials and demand that government support the development of environmental health policies that monitor the food-production chain, before it gets on your plate.


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