Heavy Metal Toxins a Danger in Homes

Common household sources include old paint, pewter and glazed pottery, experts say

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SATURDAY, Jan. 20, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Exposure to heavy metals -- arsenic, lead and mercury -- can occur in the home through common items such as glazed pottery, herbal supplements, food, and garden pesticides/herbicides, notes an article in the January issue of the Mayo Clinic Health Letter.

Potential household sources of lead include: old painted surfaces; tableware such as leaded crystal, pewter and some glazed pottery; fumes when soldering stained glass projects; and pottery glazes with white or yellow finishes. Dietary supplements, especially those from China, can also be a source of lead exposure. And some jewelry from China may be made from lead.

Certain kinds of fish or shellfish may contain high levels of mercury, including shark, swordfish, tuna, pike, walleye, bass, and Atlantic salmon. While concerns have been raised about mercury in dental fillings, no firm link has been established between metal dental fillings and changes in the central nervous system, the article said.

Some garden herbicides and pesticides contain arsenic. People who use these products should always read and follow instructions on the labels. Until recently, arsenic was used in pressure-treated lumber. If you're working with older, treated lumber, wear gloves and a dust mask and do your work outdoors.

There is no government oversight on what's in homeopathic, herbal or complementary health products, and it's possible that they could contain heavy metals.

Limited exposure to heavy metals isn't likely to cause any harm to your health, the article said. Some general symptoms of heavy metal toxicity include hearing loss, impaired concentration, personality changes, and loss of feeling, especially in the fingertips. People who are concerned about exposure to heavy metals should talk to their doctor. Blood tests and other methods can be used to determine if a person has toxic levels of heavy metals.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences offers a family guide to personal environmental health.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, news release, January 2007

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