Toxic Metals and Brain Dysfunction

“There is significant contamination of freshwater resources and an accelerating accumulation of toxic metals in the human food chain. The annual total toxicity of all the metals mobilized, in fact, exceeds the combined total toxicity of all the radioactive and organic wastes generated each year, as measured by the quantity of water needed to dilute such water to drinking water standard.”

Nriagu J and Pacyna J, Nature 333:134, 1988

There is actually a new science called “Behavioral Toxicology,” in which scientists study the effects of substances on brain function. This field actually started over 2000 years ago when the Egyptians discovered that “Lead makes the mind give way.” Most recently (in the last 50 years) the debate centered on whether levels of lead considered being low had any lasting effects on the brain. There is no doubt now that even low levels of lead and other heavy metals such as mercury can be linked directly to ADD, autism, lowered intelligence, mental retardation, dementia, organic mental disorders, depression and memory loss.

There is a significant association between heavy metal toxins such as lead and physical complaints, depressed and anxious behavior, social problems, attention problems, and delinquent and aggressive behaviors in younger and older adolescents. There is an increase in reading difficulties, verbal competence, academic failure and antisocial behavior.

What is even more of a concern is that these metals can cross the placental barrier so that the fetus is affected by maternal exposures. Fetuses, infants, and small children are less able to handle these toxins and are more affected by them.

Currently, the furor has been over the public discovery that thimerosol, a mercury-containing preservative, was used in the immunizations of infants and

adults. Until recently, almost all immunizations contained mercury. The mercury has been removed from most of the childhood immunizations within the last three years. There are some who believe that this exposure to mercury at birth (and even before birth in the form of Rhogam which contains mercury for Rh negative mothers during pregnancy) is the cause or a large factor in the epidemic of autism and related disorders such as ADD.

The amount of mercury injected into children has increased over the years as the number of immunizations has increased. For example, in 1950, the exposure to mercury in vaccines from birth to six months was a total of 50mcg; in 1970, it was 75mcg, and, in 1992, it was 187.5mcg. It is clear that the “safe limit” set by the EPA of .1mcg/kg/day was exceeded. Even the Hepatitis vaccine given shortly after birth until recently contained 12.5mcg of mercury exceeding the above limit which for an average newborn would be .4mcg/day!!! What is even worse is that if a multidose vial was used and not shaken after each use then the mercury settles to the bottom so that the child who received the last dose in the vial could receive up to 125-250mcg in one dose depending on the vaccine!

Are there other causes of mercury toxicity? Certainly, dental fillings, paints, fish, fungicide, grains and seeds treated with mercury fungicide, adhesives, floor waxes and polishes, film, tattooing, industrial wastes, etc., are all sources.

When I first met “Alice,” an attractive woman in her late 30s, she suffered from severe memory loss, inability to concentrate, chronic pain, and fatigue. At the time she could not find her way home from three blocks away and still does not remember the first four months of treatment! She was evaluated by many physicians, including specialists at Johns Hopkins, and was given a diagnosis of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. No cause was determined for her debilitating illness. Her family refused to give up.

It was found that when Alice had a number of dental amalgams placed (these are 50 percent mercury), the dentist had placed the amalgam not just in the tooth but also under the edge of her gums. Upon testing she was found to have extremely high levels of mercury. She complained of a metallic taste and her husband stated that kissing her was like “kissing a metal pipe.” Her toothbrush turned yellow with each use and her urine also had a metallic and chemical smell. She is recovering well over time and her family is happy to have Mom back.

“Alan” was diagnosed with autism after he turned two years old. When I first met him he was six years old, had almost no eye contact, no verbal response except an occasional mumble and could not sit still. His parents had done a lot of investigating and asked me to check him for mercury. The test includes taking a medication for three days, which also removes mercury. The parents noticed an immediate improvement in his eye contact, focus and attempts to speak right after the test. He has been on a very strict diet, nutritional regime, and treatment for the removal of toxic metals. Last week when he was in the office near a television he said “hello Dr. Goode.” When I asked him what he was watching he told me “Animal Kingdom.” His responses were appropriate and clear and he had no trouble sitting still!

Clearly there is no single “cure” for any of these conditions. The alternative therapies and combination of treatments are in their infancy but present us all with some hope. What is clear is that we are all, young and old alike, carrying a toxic load that comes to us in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. The question is not “if” we have bodies loaded with unhealthy toxin, but “how much” of a toxic load are we carrying, and how is it affecting our health?

Finding a reliable answer to that question is becoming increasingly important for all of us.