Don't push the pedal to the metal

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Don't push the pedal to the metal

“All things in moderation, including moderation” is a centuries-old saying. But its meaning holds true today: Do things in a way that is reasonable and not excessive.

The human body needs small amounts of some heavy metals to function normally, including zinc, copper, chromium, iron, and manganese. However, certain metals can be toxic in larger amounts and when exposed to them over long periods of time.

Heavy metals form naturally within the earth. Heavy metal poisoning (toxicity) is caused by the accumulation of certain metals in the body – such as lead, mercury, and arsenic – through food, water, industrial chemicals, or other sources. Heavy metals can be found in varying amounts in cosmetics; spices; medicines; improperly coated food containers, plates, and cookware; lead-based paints; insecticides, herbicides, and pesticides.

Heavy metals can bind to cells, adversely affecting the organs. Long-term exposure can result in severe neurological damage or cancer. However, heavy metal poisoning can be difficult to diagnose since many of the symptoms can be the same as other health conditions.

Children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable to the health risks posed by exposure to heavy metals in certain products, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. In children, the effects can include reduced IQ, learning difficulties, and behavioral issues, such as hyperactivity and inability to pay attention.

Contrary to some belief, aluminum-containing antiperspirants do not cause cancer, the Ohio State University states. For a compound to cause cancer, it would need to be absorbed into the bloodstream at a concentration high enough to cause toxicity.

Symptoms of heavy metal poisoning depend on the type of metal and its toxicity and the duration of exposure. Signs and symptoms can include abdominal pain, dehydration, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. With arsenic and lead exposure, symptoms may not show up for two to eight weeks. Symptoms of cadmium poisoning, however, may arise hours after exposure. Cadmium is a natural element absorbed in foods and used in many products, including batteries, pigments, and plastics.

A heavy metal blood test, also known as a heavy metals panel or toxicity test, can detect common metals, such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, copper, zinc, aluminum, and thallium.

The Cleveland Clinic offers the following tips to reduce the risk of heavy metal poisoning:

  • Wear personal protective equipment, like a mask and gloves, when working with heavy metals.
  • Calling your local environmental protection agency to clean up any heavy metal spills.
  • Limit the amount of fish that contain metals (mercury) in your diet.
  • Contact your local health department, landlord, or inspector to make sure you do not have any heavy metals in your home.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Read food product labels to see if they contain metals, including baby food.