Home / THE TOXIC METAL CONNECTION by B. Windham
Studies have found that heavy metals such as mercury,
cadmium, lead, aluminum, nickel, and tin affect
chemical synaptic transmission in the
brain and the peripheral and
central nervous system.
A recent study released by the National Academy of Sciences found
that 50% of children born in the U.S. suffer from birth defects,
developmental disorders, or are otherwise chronically unhealthy (82).
A recent government study in Canada also found significant increases in neurological or allergenic developmental disorders over the last 2 decades (132). Large numbers of peer-reviewed studies have found that the majority of such developmental neurological disorders such as ADD, dyslexia, autism, schizophrenia, other mood disorders, and learning disabilities are primarily caused by prenatal and neonatal exposures to toxic metals or other toxics[A]. Common exposures have been documented for mercury (vaccines, amalgam fillings, and fish), lead (paint, soil, water fixtures), arsenic (treated wood, pesticides, shellfish, other foods), aluminum (processed food, pans), cadmium (shellfish, paint, piping), antimony (Scotch guard), manganese (soy milk, welding, metal works). All of these are documented to be extremely neurotoxic[A].
Studies have found that heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, lead, aluminum, nickel, and tin affect chemical synaptic transmission in the brain and the peripheral and central nervous system (19,24,37-41,43,56,57,154). They also have been found to disrupt brain and cellular calcium levels that significantly affect many body functions: such as (a) calcium levels in the brain affecting cognitive development and degenerative CNS diseases (5,28,43,74) and (b) calcium-dependent neurotransmitter release which results in depressed levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine (5,19,28,46,47,83,110,43) – related to mood and motivation. Some factors that have been documented in affective disorders, impulsiveness, and violent behavior are low serotonin levels, abnormal glucose tolerance (hypoglycemia), low folate levels, and low chromium levels (126-130,115), which mercury and other toxic metals have also been found to be a cause of (43,81,A).
Toxic metals have also been found to affect cell membrane permeability and thus cellular transfer and levels of other important minerals and nutrients that have significant neurological and health effects such as magnesium, lithium, zinc, iron, Vitamins B-6 & B12(5,27,43,46,75,83). Based on thousands of hair tests, at least 20 % of Americans are deficient in magnesium and lithium (5,68,76,83), with zinc deficiencies also common. The resulting deficiency of such essential nutrients caused by toxic metal exposure has been shown to increase toxic metal neurological damage (5,43,74,75,83). Cerebrospinal magnesium was found to be significantly lower in both depression and adjustment disorder and in those who have attempted suicide (166).
A direct mechanism involving mercury’s inhibition of cellular enzymatic processes by binding with the hydroxyl radical (SH) in amino acids appears to be a major part of the connection to these neurological and immune reactive conditions (81,83,89-91,97,105,43b). For example mercury has been found to strongly inhibit the activity of xanthine oxidase and dipeptyl peptidase (DPP IV) which are required in the digestion of the milk protein casein (89,91,93,43b), and the same protein that is cluster differentiation antigen 26 (CD26) which helps T lymphocyte activation. CD26 or DPPIV is a cell surfact glycoprotein that is very susceptible to inactivation by mercury binding to its cysteinyl domain. Mercury and other toxic metals also inhibit binding of opioid receptor agonists to opioid receptors, while magnesium stimulates binding to opioid receptors (89). Studies involving a large sample of autistic and schizophrenic patients found that over 90 % of those tested had high levels of the milk protein beta-casomorphine-7 in their blood and urine and defective enzymatic processes for digesting milk protein (92,93,83), and similarly for the corresponding enzyme needed to digest wheat gluten (92,94). The studies found high levels of Ig A antigen specific antibodies for casein, lactalbumin and beta-lactoglovulin and IgG and IgM for casein. Beta-casomorphine-7 is a morphine like compound that results in neural dysfunction (92), Similarly many also had a corresponding form of gluten protein (94). This likewise is related to ADD, mania, and other neurological conditions.
Due to the large number of vaccinations that are now containing mercury thimerosal, most children have been documented to receive mercury exposure far above the government health guideline for mercury, and the number of causes of autism has increased over 600% in the last decade [81,A,43b]. Other pervasive developmental disorders (PDD) have also increased significantly with well over 20% of children having ADD, dyslexia, or mood disorders [A]. Research on manic patients, on the other hand, has revealed elevated vanadium in the hair‑significantly higher levels than those measured in both a control group and a group of recovered manic patients (84).
Much of the developmental effects of mercury (and other toxic metals) are due to prenatal and neonatal exposures damage to the developing endocrine (hormonal) system (155). Other agents including mercury are known to accumulate in endocrine system organs such as the pituitary gland, thyroid, and hypothallamous and to alter hormone levels and endocrine system development during crucial periods of development (33,37,43,27,109). Such effects are usually permanent and affect the individual throughout their life. Some of the documented effects of exposure to toxic metals include significant learning and behavioral disabilities, mental retardation, autism, etc. But even some of the relatively subtle effects that have been found to occur such as small decreases in IQ, attention span, and connections to delinquency and violence, if they occur in relatively large numbers over a lifetime can have potentially serious consequences for individuals as well as for society (37,41,42). Prenatal and neonatal toxic metal exposure to mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, nickel, and aluminum have been documented in medical publications and medical texts to cause common and widespread neurological and psychological effects including depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorders, social deficits, other mood disorders, schizophrenia, anorexia, cognitive impairments, ADHD, autism, seizures, etc. (152-155,113-115,43,49). High aluminum levels have been found to be related to encephalopathies and dementia (49,15). Scores for tension, depression, anger, fatigue and confusion in workers exposed to aluminum for more than ten years were significantly more than those in non-exposed controls (49).
High lead, copper, manganese, or mercury levels have been found to be associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), impulsivity, anger, aggression, inability to inhibit inappropriate responding, juvenile delinquency, and criminality (19,20a,21,61,83,122, 133,136,145,151-155,160,43). It has been found that excess levels of copper can cause violent behavior in children (124,115). A study that investigated the effects of zinc and copper on the behavior of schizophrenic patients by comparing blood zinc and copper levels in criminal and noncriminal schizophrenic patients found criminal subjects have significantly lower zinc levels and significantly higher copper levels than non-criminal subjects(165).
Likewise mercury has been found to be a factor in anger and mood disorders (135,133,153-155,160,A). Occupational mercury exposure has been found to cause depression, anxiety, anger, antisocial behavior, and aggressiveness (160). Manganese toxicity has long been known to be associated with impulsive and violent behavior (37, 61a, 134, 151). The most common significant source of high manganese neonatal exposure is from soy infant formulas, which typically have very high levels of manganese (151,156). Lead has been the subject of extensive research documenting its relation to all of these conditions and juvenile delinquency (19-21,61,151,A). Based on a national sample of children, there is a significant assoc. of lead body burden with aggressive behavior, crime, juvenile delinquency, behavioral problems (62b). After adjustment for covariates and interactions and removal of non-influential covariates, adjudicated delinquents were four times more likely to have bone lead concentrations greater than 25 parts per million (ppm) than controls (21a).
One mechanism by which mercury has been found to be a factor in aggressiveness and violence is its documented inhibition of the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholinesterase (5,19,28,44-47,43,83,110). Glutathione and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) have been found to have a strongly protective effect on peroxynitrite’s adverse effect on acetylcholine levels (137), as induced by mercury. Low serotonin levels and/or hypoglycemia have also been found in the majority of those with impulsive and violent behavior(127,128,155,115).
Inhibition of cholinesterase activity in the brain was also found to be associated with toxic metals and pesticides relation to aggressive and violent behavior (110,etc.). Studies have found evidence that abnormal metal and trace elements affected by metal exposure appear to be a factor associated with aggressive or violent behavior (37,60-63, 110,113,115,123,136,21), and that hair trace metal analyses may be a useful tool for identifying those prone to such behavior. Another series of studies found abnormal trace metal concentrations to be associated with violent-prone individuals including elevated serum copper and depressed plasma zinc (115). A group with a history of assaultive and violent-prone behavior had significantly higher median Cu/Zn ratio than for controls. Assaultive, violent-prone individuals usually have abnormal trace-metal concentrations, including elevated serum copper and depressed plasma zinc (115b).
Similar tests in the California juvenile justice system as well as other studies have found significant relations of trace metal levels and mineral levels to classroom achievement, juvenile delinquency, and criminality (63,120,123,136).
Three studies in the California prison system found those in prison for violent activity had significantly higher levels of hair manganese than controls (61,37), and studies of an area in Australia with much higher levels of violence as well as autopsies of several mass murderers also found high levels of manganese to be a common factor (37,134b, 115a). Such violent behavior has long been known in those with high manganese exposure. Other studies in the California prison and juvenile justice systems found that those with 5 or more essential mineral imbalances were 90% more likely to be violent 50% more likely to be violent for 2 or more mineral imbalances (120). A study analyzing hair of 28 mass murderers found that all had high metals and abnormal essential mineral levels (115). Like several other studies they found higher levels of such toxic metals in blacks than in Caucasian populations. Doctors in UK found a woman’s insanity and violent behavior to be related to poisoning from leaking amalgam dental fillings (37), and other studies and clinical results have confirmed the connection of toxic metals to behavioral problems and violence (114c,115,119,120,123,136). A group of violent criminals had significantly higher levels of hair lead and cadmium levels than non-violent controls (62b).
Studies at the Argonne National Laboratory found that the majority of delinquents and criminals had high metals levels such as cadmium and lead, and to fall into 2 categories. One group with high copper and low zinc, sodium potassium tended to have extreme tempers, while another group with low zinc and copper, but high sodium and potassium tended to be sociopathic (115). But it was found that treatment of delinquent or violent prone individuals for metals related problems including nutritional therapy usually produced significant improvements in mood, violent behavior, and functionality- with complete cure in the majority of cases (115,119,120). In studies at juvenile delinquency centers, nutritional therapy reduced antisocial and violent behavior by over 50%(120,115). Toxic metals detoxification and nutritional treatment have also been found to be effective in recovery from autism, ADD, PDD conditions (81,43,114), and in cases of abnormal glucose tolerance/hypoglycemia (130,115a).
Manganese can down-regulate serotonin function, reducing sociability and increasing aggressiveness or depression. Excess manganese exposure reduces dopamine levels which can result in violent behavior. Higher levels of manganese exposure are correlated with Parkinson’s Disease and violent behaviorn(151).
Because lead and other toxic metals are retained in bone and astroglial cells in the brain, uptake during fetal development and early childhood has long-lasting effects on development and behavior (151). Among the toxic effects of lead is a reduction of dopamine function (which disturbs the behavioral inhibition mechanisms in the basal ganglia) and glutamate (which plays an essential role in the long term learning associated with the hippocampus). Research at the individual level showed that the uptake of heavy metals is associated with higher levels of learning disabilities, hyperactivity, substance abuse, violent crime, and other forms of anti-social behavior. In seven different samples of prison inmates, violent offenders had significantly higher levels of lead, cadmium, or manganese in head hair than non-violent offenders or controls. In two prospective studies, high lead levels at age 7 (one measuring lead in blood, the other bone lead) predicted juvenile delinquency and adult crime. A substantial proportion of individuals diagnosed with ADD/ADHD are likely to have dangerously high levels of lead, manganese, or cadmium in bodily tissues. Because alcohol, cocaine and other drugs temporarily restore neurotransmitter functions that are abnormal, substance abuse may often be crude self-medication in response to the effects of toxicity. For example, because lead down-regulates dopamine and cocaine is a non-selective dopamine reuptake inhibitor, lead toxicity could increase the risk of cocaine abuse (151).
Heavy metals compromise normal brain development and neurotransmitter function, leading to long-term deficits in learning and social behavior (151). At the individual level, earlier studies revealed that hyperactive children and criminal offenders have significantly elevated levels of lead, manganese, or cadmium compared to controls; high blood lead at age seven predicts juvenile delinquency and adult crime. At the environmental level, our research has found that environmental factors associated with toxicity are correlated with higher rates of anti-social behavior. For the period 1977 to 1997, levels of violent crime and teenage homicide were significantly correlated with the probability of prenatal and infant exposure to leaded gasoline years earlier. Across all U.S. counties for both 1985 and 1991, industrial releases of heavy metals were — controlling for over 20 socio-economic and demographic factors — also a risk-factor for higher rates of crime. Excess levels of lead and manganese are correlated with ADHD and violent behavior. Poor diet increases the effects of lead and manganese toxicity. Communities with a higher percentage of children having blood lead over 10 mg/dL are significantly more likely to have higher rates of violent crime and higher rates of educational failure. Studies comparing Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data to crime rate data for all U.S. counties found a positive correlation between releases of lead and manganese and violent crime rates. A large federal health survey, NHANES III found a significant correlation between mercury exposure from amalgam fillings and mental conditions (6) Specialists at the Pfeiffer Treatment Center in Illinois have found that treatments to reduce levels of lead and other toxins provide lasting improvement without medication (151).
Surveys of children’s blood lead in Massachusetts, New York, and other states as well as NHANES III and an NIJ study of 24 cities point to another environmental factor: where silicofluorides are used as water treatment agents, risk-ratios for blood lead over 10µμg/dL are from 1.25 to 2.5, with significant interactions between the silicofluorides and other factors associated with lead uptake (152). Communities using silicofluorides also report higher rates of learning disabilities, ADHD, violent crime, and criminals who were using cocaine at the time of arrest.
The use of fluosilicic acid (H2SiF6) to fluoridate public water supplies significantly increases the amounts of lead in the water (whereas the use of sodium silicofluoride (NaSiF6) or sodium fluoride (NaF) does not. Communities using either fluosilicic acid (H2SiF6) or sodium silicofluoride (NaSiF6) have significantly higher rates of crime than those using sodium fluoride or delivering unfluoridated water. Also where silicofluorides are in use, criminals are more likely to consume alcohol, more likely to have used cocaine at time of arrest – and that communities have significantly higher crime rates. For 105 New York communities, for every age and racial group there was a significant association between siliocfluoride treated community water and elevated blood lead. Data from analysis of national sample of over 4,000 children in NHANES III, show that water fluoridation is associated with a significant increase in children’s blood lead (with especially strong effects among minority children) (152)
Lithium is an essential mineral that protects brain cells against excess glutamate and calcium, and low levels cause abnormal brain cell balance and neurological disturbances (75). Lithium also is important in Vit-B12 transport and distribution, and studies have found low lithium levels common in learning disabled children, incarcerated violent criminals, and people with heart disease (76). Lithium supplementation has been found to be an effective treatment adjunct in conditions such as bipolar depression, autism, and schizophrenia where mania or extreme hyperactivity are seen (104) Lithium had a significant mood-improving and stabilizing effect on former drug users with psychological conditions (77). In the study a group including violent offenders and family abusers were divided into 2 groups. Half got lithium supplements and half a placebo. The group getting lithium had significantly increased scores for mood, happiness, friendliness, and energy, while the other group did not (77). In a large Texas study, incidence of suicide, homicide, rape, robbery, burglary, theft, and drug use were significantly higher in counties with low lithium levels in drinking water (78). In a placebo controlled study on prisoners with a history of impulsive/aggressive behavior, the group taking lithium supplements had a significant reduction in aggressive behavior and infractions involving violence (79). The authors suggest that for those areas with low lithium levels in water, water systems should add lithium; and those with deficiencies in lithium or displaying aggressive or impulsive behavior would likely benefit from lithium supplements (78,79).
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