Sculptor Poisoned by Toxic Mussel Shells

A sculpture of Adam by Gillian Genser

A Toronto artist who created sculptures by sanding & grinding mussel shells over the past 15 years has been diagnosed with heavy metal poisoning.  Gillian Genser worked with blue mussel shells from Canada’s Atlantic coast, which unknowingly to her were saturated with toxic heavy metals, like lead and arsenic.  The mussels likely grew in water contaminated by industrial waste and made their shells toxic.  She would routinely spend up to 12 hours a day working on her sculpture, grinding and sanding shells.  Though her studio was ventilated, she never took any other precautions to avoid heavy metal residue, which can be absorbed into the body through the skin, inhalation, or consumption.  A personal essay on her art and her health struggles has been published at Toronto Life and can be read at this link.

High Levels of Heavy Metals Found in Kratom Products

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently revealed that alarming levels of heavy metals, including lead, were found in kratom products. During a separate investigation on salmonella contamination in kratom products (which resulted in the FDA’s first-ever mandatory recall order), the agency found unacceptable levels of lead and nickel.  Scientists analyzed 26 different kratom products obtained by field agents and all tested positive for heavy metal contamination.

Kratom is an herbal substance from Southeast Asia which consumers say provide relief from pain, anxiety, depression, addiction, and opioid withdrawal.  Others warn that kratom itself can be addictive, and in some cases deadly.

“The findings of identifying heavy metals in kratom only strengthen our public health warnings around this substance, and concern for the health and safety of Americans using it. To date, there have been no adequate and well-controlled scientific studies involving the use of kratom as a treatment for opioid use withdrawal or other diseases in humans. Nor have there been studies on how kratom, when combined with other substances, may impact the body, its dangers, potential side effects, or interactions with other drugs.” -  FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D.

Research Shows High Levels of Heavy Metals Lead to Greater Risk of High Cholesterol

Last weekend in Chicago, researchers from the American Heart Association (AHA) presented preliminary findings linking higher blood levels of heavy metals to increased levels of lower density lipoprotein (LDL – bad cholesterol) and total cholesterol.  Highlights from the AHA Scientific Sessions revealed that participants with higher exposure to lead, mercury, and cadmium had greater odds of elevated total cholesterol.

“Our study demonstrates increasing serum levels of heavy metals are significantly associated with increasing [total cholesterol] and LDL-C,” the researchers wrote in an abstract. “This, in turn, may be associated with cardiovascular consequences in populations exposed to heavy metals such as areas with natural disaster water crises, raising the consideration of screening for heavy metals as a risk for hyperlipidemia and cardiovascular disease,” Olajide Buhari, MD, internal medicine resident at Jacobi Medical Center in New York, told Cardiology Today.

Read more about the study here.

Heavy Metal Testing on Colorado’s Marijuana Expected in 2019

Independent news source Westword recently reported that according to Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), commercial marijuana products sold in the state may be tested for toxic heavy metals as early as next year.  Fertilizers and other growing nutrients may have measured amounts of heavy metals, such as arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, mercury, lead, nickel, selenium, and zinc.  Even organic plant food may be contaminated thanks to environmental pollution.  Marijuana is highly effective at extracting nutrients from the soil, which could lead to higher levels of the heavy metals than the soil itself.  Currently, agriculture departments in California, Oregon and Washington have specific rules in place to regulate levels of marijuana nutrients in commercial products.

Hurricane Katrina Reduced Lead Levels in New Orleans

The 2005 Category 5 Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans by breaching surge protection levees surrounding the city, resulting in 80% of the city being flooded for weeks.   An interesting positive result of this disastrous force of nature is that research shows lead levels being drastically reduced.  Lead levels in soil, and children’s blood were measured before and 10 years after Hurricane Katrina.  Prior to Katrina, children living in high-lead areas with blood lead levels of 5 mgs or more per deciliter registered at 64%.  Ten years later, it had fallen to 19%.  Lead in city soil dropped nearly 53% (mg/km).  Tulane University School of Medicine professor Howard Mielke says three factors can account for the drastic decrease in lead levels post-Katrina. The vast flooding deposited varying depths of low lead sediment from the coastal environment.  Houses were cleaned out and damaged material with lead-based paint were removed or repainted with non-toxic paint.  And lastly, new construction projects had uncontaminated soil brought in from outside the city.

“If we figure out how to solve the problem for New Orleans, we’ll have a model that other cities can follow.”Howard Mielke


Heavy metals commonly enter our bodies through a number of avenues.  Drinking water through old lead pipes, wearing lead based lipstick and cosmetics, aluminum in deodorant, smoking e-cigarettes, pesticides & herbicides used on produce, air pollution & vehicle exhaust, and industrial exposure are all such examples.  An article was recently published listing the top 10 superfoods that help detoxify and flush out toxic heavy metals from the body. A reprinting of the list is as follows:

  1. Cilantro — Experts say that cilantro contains strong chelating properties that bind with heavy metals and flush them out of the body. (Related: Detox from heavy metals naturally by adding some cilantro to your sandwiches or salads.)
  2. Spirulina — The blue-green algae is an excellent source of folic acid and is touted for its efficacy in removing heavy metals from the nervous system and the liver.
  3. Probiotic foods — According to experts, probiotic-rich foods contain high levels of lactic acid that binds to metal atoms.
  4. Ginger — Ginger is touted to support kidney health, which in turn promotes the body’s elimination process.
  5. Citrus fruits — Like lactic acid, the high citric acid content in citrus fruits are also known to attach to metal atoms and lead them out of the body’s system.
  6. Activated charcoal — Experts note that activated charcoal can be safely consumed by those who want to detoxify their bodies. Like any other chelating agent, activated charcoal tends to stick to metal atoms and rid the body of heavy metal deposits.
  7. Chlorella — Another type of beneficial algae, chlorella is known to bind with metal deposits in the body.
  8. Milk thistle seeds — According to previous studies, milk thistle seeds protect against the harmful effects of mercury.
  9. Garlic — Past studies have also shown that garlic is highly effective in keeping the harmful effects of heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury at bay.
  10. Alpha lipoic acids — Foods rich in alpha lipoic acids — such as peas, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli as well as spinach and rice bran — are believed to have the capacity to cross the blood brain barrier and take out heavy metals from the brain.

Sudanese Plants Show Promise in Removing Heavy Metals

According to an article printed in the Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, three Sudanese medicinal plants may have the ability to remove heavy metals from water. Ethanol extracts were taken from the local and common plants moringa, bulrush, and Egyptian lemongrass and used to treat water contaminated with one of four common heavy metals.  All three plants successfully absorbed cadmium, chromium, and zinc from the water samples.  Bulrush and Egyptian lemongrass extracts were successful in absorbing lead, but strangely the moringa extract failed.  This conflicted with past research where moringa was found to absorb lead. The researchers believe this to be the case because the moringa seeds they used in the test were “defatted”.  Removing the fat from the seeds may also have removed essential oils which may be necessary in absorbing the lead.

The researchers concluded, “The results of this study showed that all tested plants have capability to remove such metals and the study had confirmed the traditional use of these plants in water purification.  Therefore, a wide investigation of these plants for their removal potent of heavy metals and the identification of the flavonoids of these plants would be an interesting line of inquiry.”

Filtering Out Heavy Metals Using Gallium

Australian researchers have discovered a way to filter toxic heavy metals from water using aluminum and gallium.  According to an article published in Advanced Functional Materials, when a piece of aluminum is added to the core of liquid gallium at room temperature, layers of aluminum oxide are quickly produced at the surface of the gallium.  These aluminum oxide nano-sheets are highly porous and suitable for filtering heavy metal ions, as well as oil contamination at extremely fast rates.  The researchers say this filtration would be low cost since the gallium can be reused and “green” for the environment as it requires a low expenditure of energy.  The researchers believe this technology could be put to good use in places where people don’t have access to clean drinking water.

If you’ve got bad quality water, you just take a gadget with one of these filters with you.  You pour the contaminated water in the top of a flask with the aluminum oxide filter. Wait two minutes and the water that passes through the filter is now very clean water, completely drinkable.  And the good thing is, this filter is cheap.” – Professor Kalantar-zadeh


We often bring up what heavy metals are bad for us, but some are essential in our diet.  They include:

(Ca) Calcium – An essential component of bones and teeth and…a metal!  It is largely in our bones and critical for muscle and nerve function.

Sources:  Dairy Products, Broccoli, Figs, and Sardines

(Fe) Iron – Iron is found in our blood and helps carry oxygen throughout our bodies.

Sources:  Meat, Spinach, and Beans

(Cu) Copper – Copper can help absorb dangerous, highly reactive chemicals in our bodies.

Sources:  Lobster, Crabs, Beans, and Nut

(Mg) Magnesium – Magnesium is needed in our bodies for strong bones and teeth, as well as for muscle contraction and relaxation.

Sources:  Vegetables (especially dark green, leafy ones)

(Zn) Zinc – Zinc is important for governing gene activity and managing hormones.

Sources:   Whole Grains, Nuts, Chickpeas, and Oysters

(Co) Cobalt – Cobalt forms the core of vitamin B12 and is important for making red blood cells.

Sources:  Meat, Dairy, and Vegetables (leafy green ones)

(Mn) Manganese – Manganese helps break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in our cells and convert food to energy.

Sources:  Whole Grains and Cereal Products

New Research Finds Heavy Metals Linked to Heart Disease & Stroke

According to research published in the British Medical Journal, exposure to heavy metals like lead, arsenic, cadmium and copper may lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Researchers performed a meta-analysis of 37 unique studies comprised of nearly 350,000 participants from different parts of the world.  The study found that the greater the exposure to the previously mentioned heavy metals, the greater the chance to develop cardiovascular disease.  Exposure to cadmium, copper, lead and arsenic all showed an increased risk of coronary heart disease.  An increased risk of stroke was also linked to lead and cadmium exposure.