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Testing For Heavy Metals

I find that there is a lot of confusion among patients as to what is the best way to test for heavy metals. Part of this confusion comes from the medical profession and part from health care providers without sufficient training.

Most medical doctors when testing for heavy metals will order blood tests. This type of testing is only valuable when looking for current exposure to heavy metals. Heavy metals from past exposure are secluded in the body’s tissues and can not be picked up by a blood test.

It is not too uncommon to have patients come in with test results from hair analysis. This test will only pick up heavy metal exposure in the past 1-4 months. As most patients have exposures dating back years this test also is not very accurate in detecting body load.

The most valuable and practical test for heavy metals is a provocative urine test. With the provocative test oral DMSA ( a chelating agent) is taken in the morning after emptying the bladder. Then the urine is collected for 6 hours. The DMSA pulls the heavy metals out of the tissues and into the blood where it is excreted in the urine. This test is valuable because it evaluates the toxic load of heavy metal in the body regardless of when the exposure occurred whether a year ago or 30 years ago.

Terry Pfau DO, HMD

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