In the heart of a bustling metropolis, with towering buildings and throngs of people, existed a tight-knit, flourishing community, recognized for its strong connections and rich customs. Anchoring this community was a cherished community center, a sanctuary for locals of all ages to congregate, learn, and develop collectively.
During a routine gathering of parents at the community center, they observed a shared concern emerging among them.
“Of late, my daughter has been having unexplained stomach pains,” revealed Alice, a worried mother.
“I assumed it was unique to us, but my son has been struggling to focus in school and often complains of headaches,” remarked John, a troubled father.
As the parents exchanged stories of their children’s baffling symptoms, they deduced that this could not be mere happenstance. They opted to consult the city’s foremost health authority, Dr. Larson.
Taking their concerns to heart, Dr. Larson promptly delved into the situation. He interviewed the affected families, performed examinations, and scrutinized the medical history of the children. His investigation led him to believe that the origin of their afflictions was environmental.
Dr. Larson meticulously examined the community center and its vicinity, seeking potential hazards. In time, he identified that the water source for the community center was tainted with elevated levels of lead, seeping into the drinking water from the center’s deteriorating pipes.
Distressed by his findings, Dr. Larson convened a town meeting to discuss his revelation. “The symptoms your children have been manifesting align with lead poisoning,” he clarified. “It is crucial that we tackle this problem without delay and implement necessary measures to guarantee the well-being of our community.”
Galvanized, the community united to replace the outdated pipes, install water filtration systems, and heighten awareness of lead exposure risks. Gradually, the children’s health rebounded, and a revitalized sense of solidarity and resolve enveloped the community.
Lead is an invisible yet dangerous threat to our health. It’s often overlooked, but the Flint Water Crisis of 2014 highlighted how lead can have serious consequences for those exposed to it. Lead poisoning can be hard to identify, so comprehending how it enters the body and what actions you can take to protect yourself from contact are essential for sustaining wellbeing. Fortunately, Functional and Integrative Medicine offers solutions that address lead toxicity at its source – learn more about these approaches here. Join me on this journey of exploring “lead and your health” – we’ll look at environmental injustice, ways of keeping indoor water safe from contamination with this toxic metal, plus much more.
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The Flint Water Crisis and Environmental Injustice
Since 2014, Flint, Michigan has been suffering from the devastating consequences of lead-contaminated water from the Flint River used for drinking. The crisis began when when the city switched its drinking water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River. Lead poisoning can be extremely detrimental to human health, particularly for minors who are more vulnerable to its poisonous effects. This environmental injustice occurred due to systemic racism, poverty, and negligence by government officials.
The contaminated water had high levels of lead which entered people’s bodies through ingestion or skin contact, also while showering and bathing with it. Lead poisoning can have severe, long-term effects on health, such as anemia, kidney damage, hypertension and memory loss in adults; while in children it may lead to decreased IQ scores and behavioral issues like hyperactivity or aggression. The lasting repercussions of this ecological calamity will likely remain with the people affected for many years to come.
Since the early days of the Environmental Justice Movement in the 1980s, many studies have revealed a pattern across the country: certain communities are excessively burdened by environmental pollution and health risks. “Environmental Injustice,” defined as the lopsided distribution of environmental hazards among disparate populations based on their race or socio-economic status (EPA), was seen in full effect during the Flint Water Crisis. Low income African American communities were hit especially hard with this hazard due to a lack of access to safe drinking water sources; something that wealthier white communities did not experience. State government officials attempted to sweep this situation under the rug for months to years, compounding public anger towards them for their mismanagement from day one.
The tragic events unfolding in Flint are a stark reminder that even today racial disparities still exist when it comes to access basic necessities like clean drinking water; something we take for granted every single day without even realizing how fortunate we truly are. It is imperative that lessons be learned here so similar tragedies do not occur elsewhere across our nation moving forward into future generations.
The Flint Water Crisis serves as a sobering example of the potential harms that can befall communities when environmental justice is not given its due consideration. Moving on, let’s look at strategies to reduce lead exposure from contaminated drinking water in order to keep our indoor water lead free.
What happens if someone drinks water that contains lead?
It can cause damage to the brain, red blood cells, kidneys, and even the liver. Infants and young children are more at risk of having Elevated Blood Lead levels (above 10μg/dL). The National Primary Drinking Water Regulations set an upper limit of 15ppm (parts per billion) for lead in drinking water. Some health effects are found even at low blood lead levels less than 5 μg/dL, including lower IQ scores, decreased academic achievement, and increases in both behavioral problems and attention-related behaviors. There is a wide range of lead-associated behavioral effects in the area of attention. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one example on the more severe end of the spectrum.
Keeping Your Indoor Water Lead Free
Lead is a poisonous metal that can be located in various domestic items, for example, paint and plumbing fittings. Unfortunately, lead exposure can occur through drinking water due to the presence of lead pipes or other sources of contamination. It’s important to take steps to reduce your risk of lead exposure from indoor drinking water.
Testing for Lead in Drinking Water:
The first step is testing your home’s drinking water for lead levels. An accredited lab that specializes in testing for lead is recommended to conduct the assessment. Your local health agency may provide free or inexpensive testing services. If you have any reason to believe there could be elevated levels of lead present, it’s best to test before using the water for cooking or drinking purposes.
Once lead levels have been determined, there are steps that can be taken to limit exposure and safeguard against any potential health risks.
- Flush out old pipes – if possible replace them with new ones made without any materials containing lead;
- Install a point-of-use filtration system designed specifically for removing heavy metals like lead;
- Run cold tap water until it reaches its maximum temperature before using it;
- Check regularly on the condition of all interior faucets and fixtures;
- Consider having an NSF certified plumber inspect your home annually for signs of corrosion or leaks which could indicate the presence of harmful contaminants including those containing high concentrations of lead.
Tips For Keeping Your Home’s Drinking Water Safe From Lead Contamination:
Taking these simple steps will help keep you safe from potential health risks associated with ingesting contaminated drinking water:
- Water filters can get rid of lead, but they need to be changed as recommended to work well.
- Avoid storing food in imported pottery and dishware, as it may contain lead.
- Monitor recalled toys and jewelry by visiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission website, and remove recalled items from your home.
- If a household member works in a lead-related occupation, they should change work clothes and shoes before entering the home, and their work clothes should be washed separately.
By testing for lead in drinking water, reducing exposure from high lead levels and keeping your home’s drinking water safe from contamination you can keep your indoor environment free of lead. Additionally, functional and integrative medicine approaches such as nutritional therapies, herbal medicines and lifestyle changes may help to address any existing toxicity due to lead exposure.
Functional and Integrative Medicine Approaches to Address Lead Toxicity
Functional and integrative medicine approaches to address lead toxicity are becoming increasingly popular. Nutritional strategies for detox can be beneficial in decreasing the damage brought about by lead contact, such as chelation treatment which ties up heavy metals like lead to expel them from the body. Vitamins and minerals can reduce inflammation, as well as facilitate the body’s elimination of lead, when taken in appropriate doses. Herbal remedies may be employed to assist in detoxification, including plants such as dandelion root, burdock root, yellow dock root and milk thistle which are known for their capacity to aid the liver’s functioning when dealing with heavy metal poisoning.
By making small but meaningful lifestyle changes combined with functional and integrative medical approaches, you can effectively manage your own health without relying solely on medications. Regular physical activity can assist in maintaining a strong immune system, which is essential for battling the hazardous substances present in our surroundings. Consuming foods abundant in antioxidants, such as produce and fruit, can aid in shielding against oxidative stress associated with toxic exposures like those triggered by lead poisoning. By taking a proactive approach to managing your health, you can minimize your use of medications and maximize your health using integrative therapies and lifestyle change.
Functional and Integrative Medicine approaches can provide a comprehensive approach to addressing lead toxicity, by combining nutritional therapies, herbal medicine, and lifestyle changes.
Your Heavy Metal Detox Diet should include:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) and B6 (pyridoxine) deficiencies enhance sensitivity towards lead and cadmium toxicity. Vitamin B1 and B6 supplementation has proven to be effective against lead and cadmium toxicity.
- Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and it helps remove lead from the body, with a similar potency to that of EDTA. Vitamin C deficiency is also known to enhance sensitivity towards lead and cadmium toxicity.
- Vitamin D3 prevents your bones from releasing lead into your bloodstream.
- Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and protects the kidney from oxidative stress of heavy metal toxicity.
- Glutathione protects the liver and may protect cells from the oxidative damage that heavy metals can cause.
- Deficiencies in zinc, calcium, or iron can lead to greater absorption and toxicity of lead and cadmium. Zinc, calcium, and iron supplementation has proven to be effective against lead and cadmium toxicity.
Plants and Algae
- Spirulina and Chlorella can bind to heavy metals and attenuate lead or cadmium toxicity in the liver, kidneys and brain. These algae contain many powerful antioxidants and anti-Inflammatory properties, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, phycocyanobilin and carotenes, which enables them to alleviate toxic metal-induced oxidative stress.
- Tomatoes are rich in iron, calcium, selenium, zinc, vitamins B and C, quercetin and naringenin.
- Berries contain essential elements, vitamin C, anthocyanin and catechin.
- Onions are rich in selenium, quercetin and vitamins B and C.
- Garlics are rich in sulphur-containing compounds, essential elements and vitamins C and E.
- Grapes are rich in vitamins, essential elements and anthocyanin.
- Curry leaves decrease cardiac lead and cadmium levels and increase the activity of cardiac antioxidant enzymes.
- Cilantro can bind heavy metals and remove other toxic agents from the body.
- Green tea has high antioxidant activity and repairs the liver.
- Ginger has high antioxidant activity and protects the kidneys.
These plant sources are natural antagonists to lead and cadmium toxicity and should be consumed on a regular basis.
Some species of lactic acid bacteria (LAB) including Lactobacillus rhamnosus, L. plantarum, and Bifidobacterium longum are capable of binding heavy metals. LAB are also known to have antioxidative properties.
Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any integrative and complementary health approaches you use, including any “detoxes” or “cleanses.” Together, you and your health care providers can make shared, well-informed decisions.
The environment in which we live is a major determinant of our health and wellbeing. Clean air, water, soil, plants, food supplies, and even our community environment which includes the Social Determinants of Health, are essential for our personal health. In my blog’s Environmental Health Series, we will continue to talk about the environment and try to answer the question, “What is an unhealthy environment and how does it get under the skin?” The environment’s effect on our health is complicated, but there are ways that we can prevent and reduce toxic exposure.
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I really wanted to talk about this topic today because your natural health and wellness is important. You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health, your environment, and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of poor health, including chronic disease, so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use functional medicine and lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you lose weight, reverse some chronic diseases (if you suffer from them), and can even help you with detoxification. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy.
But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Is Dietary Supplementation Right For You?
For some people, vitamin and mineral supplements offer important health benefits. Supplements are designed to fight deficiencies found in our diet and complement the food we eat regularly. Supplements are basically “helping hands” to our daily food.
If you suspect that you aren’t getting the nutrients you need, consider shifting your focus from supplements to eating better.
But it is very important to note that we are not eating the same foods we ate years ago because the soils have been depleted of critical nutrients through current industrial farming practices. And because the soil is not as good as it used to be, the food supply (grown from the depleted soil) is not as good as it used to be. For example, you are not getting the same levels of magnesium as you would have gotten 30 or even 50 years ago.
Second, much of the food has been genetically altered, which can impact the inherent and unique nutritional composition that each food possess. For example, ancient einkorn wheat has less gluten, more protein, more Vitamin A, and more beta carotene, than modern genetically modified wheat.
Third, the toxic load in the environment today is much higher than 100 years ago. We can see this with global warming, toxic landfills, polluted oceans and waterways, etc. Toxicity levels interfere with nutrient assimilation and absorption not just into the foods, but into our bodies as well.
So… if you are unable to eat better, the supplements in my MaxHealth Essentials Bundle may provide the extra boost you need.
These are my favorite Wellness and Immune-Boosting Supplements to use! This MaxHealth Essentials Bundle will ensure you have the intake of the important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to decrease inflammation and boost your innate wellness day and night. Taken together, it’s a solid plan for increasing your body’s natural resiliency.
For best results make sure you use the supplements with dietary changes including a whole food plant-based diet, regular exercise (at least 2-3x per week), regular sleep (8 hours per night), and intermittent fasting (at least 1-3x per week).
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor (*this scale cannot be used with a pacemaker or other implanted devices).
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, help you maintain a healthy weight, and is a great way to detox your body!
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Check out some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Another alternative for dumbbells/free weights are resistance bands. They are great for physical therapy, yoga, strength training, and excellent for traveling.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet, regular physical activity, and reducing stress are the best ways to maintain a healthy weight. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
Summary of Key Points
Lead exposure is a serious public health concern, particularly for those living in areas with aging infrastructure and environmental injustice. Testing of drinking water for lead is a must to guarantee the safety of your household’s water supply. Integrative and functional medicine approaches can help reduce the impact of lead toxicity on health by supporting detoxification pathways and reducing inflammation caused by lead exposure. Lifestyle changes such as avoiding contaminated sources, eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, exercising regularly, managing stress levels, and limiting alcohol intake are important strategies to reduce risk of further exposure to lead.
Lead and Your Health FAQs
Lead is a heavy metal that can be found in many places, including water, soil and paint. Exposure to lead has been connected with serious medical conditions, including mental incapacity, renal harm and reproductive troubles. In children it can cause learning disabilities and behavior problems. Lead poisoning occurs when the body absorbs too much of this metal from its environment or through contaminated food or drink sources. It is important to reduce exposure by avoiding contact with lead-containing materials, having regular blood tests done if exposed regularly and ensuring proper nutrition for protection against absorption of the toxic metal into the bloodstream.
Lead is not good for health and should be avoided. Lead exposure can have serious consequences, ranging from anemia and nerve damage to kidney failure, reproductive issues, cancer and even developmental delays in children; thus, it is best to avoid contact with any sources of lead. Kids may be at risk for developmental delays if exposed to lead. The best way to protect yourself from lead poisoning is to avoid contact with any sources of lead such as lead paint, paint chips, or lead-contaminated dust that may contain it. Additionally, regular testing of drinking water supplies and proper maintenance of homes built before 1978 are important steps towards preventing lead contamination.
Lead poisoning can have a significant effect on multiple organs, but the organ most affected is the brain. Lead accumulates in the body and can cross into the brain through blood vessels, causing neurological damage that affects cognitive functioning such as memory and attention span. Lead poisoning can cause anemia, kidney failure, reproductive problems, high blood pressure and other health issues in the long run if exposure is not limited. Hence, it is essential to avoid contact with lead in order to sustain a sound condition.
Lead toxicity is a serious issue that affects our health and environment. It’s essential to be cognizant of the potential sources of lead in your residence, as well as how Functional and Integrative Medicine can help tackle one aspect lead contamination. Taking proactive steps to protect yourself from lead poisoning will ensure you are able to maintain your health for years to come. Lead and your health should not be taken lightly; it’s essential we take action now so future generations don’t have similar issues with environmental injustice due to toxic levels of this heavy metal.
Take control of your health today with Dr. Nicolle MD‘s integrative therapies and lifestyle change solutions to eventually reduce medication use and improve overall wellbeing. Unlock a healthier, happier you by working with the professionals at Dr. Nicolle MD!
2. JonesRL, HomaDM, MeyerPA, BrodyDJ, CaldwellKL, PirkleJL, BrownMJ. 2009. Trends in blood lead levels and blood lead testing among US children aged 1 to 5 years, 1988-2004. Pediatrics 123(3):e376-385.
3. SchaumbergDA, MendesF, BalaramM, DanaMR, SparrowD, HuH. 2004. Accumulated lead exposure and risk of age-related cataract in men. JAMA 292(22):2750-2754.
6. DietrichKN, WareJH, SalganikM, RadcliffeJ, RoganWJ, RhoadsGG, FayME, DavoliCT, DencklaMB, BornscheinRL, SchwarzD, DockeryDW, Adubato S, Jones RL. 2004. Effect of chelation therapy on the neuropsychological and behavioral development of lead-exposed children after school entry. Pediatrics 114(1):19-26.
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Last updated on April 18th, 2023 at 10:15 pm
Are you super busy but need to take control of your health? Are you tired of being tired? Subscribe to my “Minimize Medications, Maximize Health Blog” and I’ll give you 7 Tips to Get Healthy in No Time absolutely FREE.