June 27, 2022 – Monday
Scroll down to watch a little (3-minute) video I put together for regular Lead Safe Mama readers!
Readers here at LeadSafeMama.com are constantly asking me, “Tamara, have you ever had a heavy metals test [urine, hair, or blood]?” — and also constantly speculating about whether or not I might test high or low for heavy metals [curious musings that I, too have had on occasion]. Up until now I had only ever had Blood Lead Level (BLL) testing done; I did two BLL tests about 14 years ago (in July of 2008) — one right before my youngest son Charlie was born [I tested positive with a BLL of 1.0 microgram of Lead per deciliter of blood], and a second right after Charlie was born [my BLL was up 10% to a 1.1 – likely due to cellular turnover that happened with the birth]. Until now, I hadn’t been tested since then.
While – without context – a BLL of 1.0 might sound “low”, please note that the normal average pre-industrial revolution “background” (baseline) Lead level in humans has been scientifically determined to have been approximately 0.016 — and prior to mining activities of humans, it has been scientifically established that the average human BLL was far below that!
A BLL of 1.0 in an adult woman today is actually quite concerning
It was not until nearly four years after these blood Lead level tests were done that I learned that my BLL at the time of Charlie’s birth was not insignificant — that, while perhaps common, it really could not be considered “normal” [that a BLL of 1.0 was, in fact, statistically more than twice the national average for a woman of childbearing age at the time].
In Dr. Felicia Rabito‘s presentation at the National Lead Poisoning Prevention Conference in New Orleans in May of 2012 (a conference where I was the opening speaker and Dr. Rabito’s presentation followed mine), she shared that the average woman of childbearing age [through 2011 – the end point for the scope of her research paper] had a BLL of 0.43 micrograms of Lead per deciliter of blood – a level that her research found was statistically significantly-correlated with infertility and birth complications (more on that here).
Since learning this profoundly perspective-changing bit of info, I have thought a lot about that as it relates to my personal situation. I have always suspected that the fact that my BLL was so high (in July of 2008) may have been reflective of the fact that I had been exposed to extremely high levels of Lead three years earlier – in August of 2005 — at the time my two other children were acutely Lead-poisoned [from the work that was done on our house at that time]. [No one had even suggested to test me when we were all exposed, and A.J. and Avi were initially acutely poisoned — even though I was solely breastfeeding Avi at the time — so we will never know just how high my own level might have initial been at that time.]
Is urine testing useful?
Urine testing is a controversial practice, from the perspective of most western medicine practitioners. When I talk to families, I often suggest that – even though it is controversial – urine testing (under the guidance of a medical professional) may be a helpful screening tool to help detect not only potential historical or current Lead exposure – but also to help detect exposures to other heavy metals that may be impacting their health.
I have always shared that while a single urine test might not be helpful in every case, that doing two, across a pre-determined interval (with specific interventions in-between — for example, cutting out fish consumption, or moving to a Lead-free home) could help provide context for potential exposures, and could also potentially serve as relevant datapoints for gauging the effectiveness of such interventions aimed at reducing/eliminating source(s) of exposure — as well as a useful aid in determining whether the exposure might be chronic/persistent, historic, or from a single recent incident.
- All things considered, (in my lay opinion — I am not-a-doctor), I think it is useful to at least have one test done as a baseline — to have in your medical file, even if you do not currently suspect/have not identified a specific source of Lead or other heavy metals exposure (whether current or historic).
- As with any form of Lead testing, if one does have a baseline test — and subsequently has a suspected exposure, a patient can then get tested again (at the time of the suspected exposure) to determine if there is any significant change from their previous test results – which may indicate that an exposure happened and should be investigated for potential current and/or future health impacts [or conversely, might potentially offer some reassurance/peace of mind if the levels are the same, or have gone down from the previous test, and therefore may indicate there was in fact no actual exposure from a particular incident or concern]. Here’s my article discussing this in greater detail.
In my home consultations (working directly with families), having a heavy metals panel test to use as a guide (to help determine which suspect metals we might want to look for in a home consultation in an effort to reduce or eliminate exposure) can also be quite useful.
Considerations around me (Tamara) getting tested for metals in this way:
When this opportunity presented itself, I thought it would be “fun” to get my metals test done, given the speculation by Lead Safe Mama readers [and me, too] around this subject (you can see some of that in the comments here – feel free to add your own comment too!), along the following lines of consideration:
- Tamara might test positive for high levels of heavy metals, because Tamara is constantly around potential exposure sources in her work.
- Tamara might test positive for high levels of Lead, because Tamara lives in an older (1905) home — amidst all the other older housing stock in her neighborhood in an older city (Portland, Oregon.)
- Tamara might test low for metals, because Tamara is super-vigilant in not allowing potential heavy metal exposure sources in her home (mostly for the benefit of my children, but this would also impact me).
- Tamara might test low for metals, because Tamara is pretty conscious about what she eats (from a metals perspective, especially) – and also because Tamara virtually never uses any make-up, or commercial “personal-care” products.
So – with those considerations in mind, I thought it would be fun to get this test done.
How did this come about?
A client (and friend) of mine in New York City is a patient of Dr. John Salerno. She told me about his work and his clinic — and suggested that John and I meet up in person, as we “might have a lot to talk about”, since a primary focus of his medical practice is helping people who have tested positive for heavy metals exposure!
I made arrangements to visit Dr. Salerno at his clinic when I was recently in New York City for work (earlier this month – in June of 2022).
During our visit we were having quite a bit of fun (in a science exploration / investigative inquiry way) chatting about the subject, and testing items in his office for Lead and other heavy metals; I showed him how the XRF instrument works for testing consumer goods, and we tested things like his water bottle, and some jewelry that his nurses had on hand, as well as other odds and ends around his office…
It was then that he suggested that he test me for metals! He offered to do a provoked urine test (free of charge; I just had to pay the $69 lab fee when I sent it in) — and I suggested that we could film the test…and that we could record a subsequent zoom call, discussing the results, and share that with Lead Safe Mama readers via video as well! He agreed that this was a great idea.
And so, here is “Part 1” — a quick (3-minute) video of me in Dr. Salerno’s office getting prepped for the provoked urine test. Please stand by for “Part 2” — the video of the follow-up zoom chat I had with Dr. Salerno discussing my results (and I will also publish a full PDF of my results here, too!) Thanks for watching. This has been a fascinating inquiry! [And thanks to Dr. Salerno and his team of nurses for making this happen, too!]