Heavy Metal Tests

Heavy Metal Lab Tests and health information

Do you want to know if there are any heavy metals in your body? Do you want to know if your body is full of heavy metals?

Heavy metal poisoning is becoming more common. Many things can cause it, like industrial waste and contaminated food or water, as well as the air we breathe. Having too many heavy metals in your body can cause a wide range of health problems. Symptoms include tiredness, headaches, depression, and problems with the intestines. It is also linked to serious health problems, like cancer and heart disease. If you're worried about how much heavy metals you've been exposed to or if they might be affecting your health in any way, we can help you out! It is important for us to know how many different types of heavy metals you have in your body so that you can figure out whether or not there is a problem. The results of your tests will be sent to you in a detailed report. This report will let you know if you have high levels of heavy metals that need to be taken care of.

Arsenic, mercury, lead, zinc, copper, and cadmium are all heavy metals. The Heavy Metal Tests panel will show you how much of each is in your body so that you can take steps to reduce your exposure and improve your health. When people are exposed to high levels of mercury or arsenic for a long time, their selenium levels can drop. This test also checks for this. Selenium deficiency has been linked to heart disease and cancer risk, so this test can also tell you about your overall health. 

Our lab tests are easy to use and low cost if you want to get checked, so you don't have to break the bank. We provide you with results quickly so that you don't have to wait for your results to understand the impact on your health. And all of our testings are done with FDA-approved labs so that you can trust the quality of your test results.

Heavy metal toxicity tests should be done if you have any of these symptoms or if you're concerned about the amount of toxic chemicals you're exposed to in your home or work. To find out if you're at risk for heavy metal toxicity, we offer tests that can help you figure that out.

From the list below, choose your Heavy Metal Lab Tests today. Arsenic, Mercury, Lead Zinc, Copper, and Cadmium are some of the metals that are often tested. 

To learn more about the heavy metals and lab tests that are offered, click the link below. 

Name Matches
Excessive exposure to heavy metals can cause acute chronic toxicity. Heavy metals panel is intended to evaluate and monitor exposure to heavy metals and evaluate the process of detoxification. Excessive cadmium exposure can damage lungs, kidneys, and the digestive tract.

Heavy Metals Panel II, Blood

  • Aluminum
  • Arsenic, Blood
  • Cadmium, Blood
  • Lead, Blood
  • Mercury, Blood


Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, Mercury, Creatinine

Patient Preparation

Avoid seafood consumption for 48 hours prior to collection

Excessive exposure to Heavy Metals can cause acute and chronic toxicity. Heavy Metals Panel is intended to evaluate and monitor exposure to heavy metals and evaluate the process of detoxification.

Description: A heavy metals test is a blood test that measures levels of toxic metals in your blood to check for metal poisoning.

Also Known As: Toxic Metals Test, Heavy Metals Blood Test

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Whole Blood

Test Preparation: Avoid seafood consumption for 48 hours prior to sample collection

When is a Heavy Metals Panel test ordered?

If a medical professional believes that a patient has been acutely or chronically exposed to one or more heavy metals, a heavy metals panel may be prescribed. Depending on the type and amount of metal involved, the nature and severity of the signs and symptoms of heavy metal exposure will vary; early signs of poisoning can be missed because they are frequently non-specific. Even if a person has no, few, or vague symptoms, excessive exposure can nonetheless cause harm to numerous organs.

Those who might be exposed to metals at work are typically periodically observed. Safety precautions reduce danger to workers and aid in resolving issues when they arise. Several dangerous metals that can be present at work are regulated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The affected individuals are monitored and action is made to lessen their exposure if excessive quantities are found.

What does a Heavy Metals Panel blood test check for?

A heavy metals panel is a collection of tests that assesses the levels of particular potentially harmful metals in blood, urine, or, less frequently, hair or other body fluids or tissues. A laboratory might offer tests for individual metals as well as various groupings of heavy metals panels. Lead, mercury, and arsenic are the most typical mixture. Other panels might contain one or more other metals, such copper, zinc, or cadmium. In addition to considering the patient's clinical symptoms, a healthcare professional will decide which metals to test for depending on possible exposure.

The definition of "heavy metals" is ambiguous. It refers to a number of elements with high density or metallic qualities and is connected to the periodic table of elements. These substances are naturally present throughout the environment, and businesses employ them to create a variety of everyday goods. Some of them, such as copper, iron, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc, are required in tiny amounts by the body for regular function but can be harmful at higher levels. Any of the heavy metals can irritate or harm the body in high doses, and they can contaminate the soil, air, food, and water as well as linger in the environment for a very long time. The terms "heavy metals" and "toxic metals" are commonly used interchangeably because they are a potential source of harm.

The signs and symptoms that an individual may suffer are influenced by the type of metal, its form, the quantity, the time of exposure, the type of exposure, the individual's age, and the general health of the individual. One form of a metal may be more dangerous than another, such as an organic vs an inorganic metal compound, and some metals are significantly more toxic than others. The amount of metal absorbed and the areas of the body that are impacted can vary depending on how a person is exposed. For instance, a metal may be far more poisonous and cause serious lung damage when its fumes are inhaled than it may be when it is held in the hand or is just moderately dangerous and poorly absorbed when consumed.

Moderate exposure over time should also be evaluated because severe acute exposure can harm you and, in some situations, be fatal. Small amounts of heavy metals can be processed by the body, but moderate to large levels can build up in the kidneys, liver, bones, and brain. Some metals can impair the body's capacity to create red and white blood cells and are thought to be carcinogenic, which increases the risk of developing cancer. Because exposure to low or moderate concentrations can disrupt physical and cognitive development and can irreparably damage the organs and brain, fetuses and young children are most at danger. A significant portion of the metals can be transferred from the mother to the fetus, and some can be transferred to the baby through breast milk.

Lab tests often ordered with a Heavy Metals Panel test:

  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Iron
  • Copper

Conditions where a Heavy Metals Panel test is recommended:

  • Lead Poisoning
  • Iron Toxicity
  • Copper Toxicity
  • Mercury Poisoning

How does my health care provider use a Heavy Metals Panel test?

For people who may have been exposed to one or more heavy metals, heavy metal testing is used to check for or diagnose heavy metal toxicity. It is also used to monitor excessive metal concentrations in people who work with different heavy metals. Construction, mining, radiator repair shops, and shooting ranges are a few examples of these professions. Testing is also done to check how well chelation therapy, a method of getting rid of heavy metals from the body, is working.

A series of studies using heavy metal panels is put up to simulate possible metal exposures. One or more distinct categories for either blood or urine may be available in a laboratory. A medical professional will place an order for the metals panel based on the patient's profession, interests, potential exposure, and/or clinical symptoms.

A doctor may prescribe a specific test in place of or in addition to a panel if they have reason to believe that a patient has been exposed to a particular metal, such as lead. When testing for exposure, lead is frequently ordered on its own, especially in youngsters due to their heightened sensitivity to its effects. Some metals can also be measured in bodily tissues, fluid, hair, and nails. These are often purchased separately.

What do my Heavy Metals Panel test results mean?

The evaluation of heavy metals test results must be done with care. A low concentration of a heavy metal in the blood does not always imply that an excessive amount of exposure has not taken place. Heavy metals do not persist in the blood for a long time and do not linger in the urine. For instance, over time, lead is absorbed into the bones when it moves from the blood into the body's organs. Lead may be found in a person's blood, urine, organs, and bones if they were exposed to lead on a regular basis.

Due to their widespread presence in our environment, several heavy metals may be found in extremely low concentrations in the blood and urine of individuals who appear to be in good health. Age-related recommendations for safe levels of heavy metals can change over time as new knowledge regarding their safety becomes available.

Scientists discovered detectable mercury in nearly 8,000 participants in a research done in 2004 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for instance. They came to the conclusion that mercury levels in the blood and urine tend to rise with age. Additionally, they claim that the presence of mercury in detectable amounts in the blood or urine does not necessarily indicate that mercury levels have a negative impact on health. Physicians and public health officials can use reference values from monitoring studies on mercury levels in the body to assess if a patient has been exposed to levels of mercury above those in the general population.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.


Arsenic, Mercury, Lead, Creatinine

Patient Preparation

Avoid seafood consumption for 48 hours prior to collection

Excessive exposure to heavy metals can cause acute and chronic toxicity. Heavy Metals Panel is intended to evaluate and monitor exposure to heavy metals and evaluate the process of detoxification.

Individuals undergoing hemodialysis are at risk for aluminum toxicity. Prolonged accumulation may cause encephalkopathy, and vitamin d-resistant osteomalacia. Also workers exposed to high levels or to long-term low levels of aluminum dust are at increased risk of toxicity.

Arsenic is widely distributed in the earth's crust. Arsenic is used in some pesticides and industrial applications. Arsenic toxicity can cause skin change, respiratory illness, nausea and vomiting, and other effects.

This assay is used to monitor exposure to arsenic, wellness, and therapy during treatment of chronic myelocytic leukemia.

Arsenic is widely distributed in the earth's crust. Arsenic is used in some pesticides and industrial applications. Arsenic toxicity can cause skin changes, respiratory illness, nausea and vomiting, and other effects

Description: The Beta 2 Microglobulin test is a blood test used to detect the protein Beta-2 Microglobulin in your blood’s serum, and is used in the examination of multiple myeloma and lymphoma.

Also Known As: B2M Test, β2-Microglobulin Test, Thymotaxin Test

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Serum

Test Preparation: No preparation required

When is a Beta-2 Microglobulin test ordered?

This test may be requested during the initial examination of a patient with multiple myeloma in order to stage the condition as well as on an ongoing basis to assess disease activity and track the efficacy of treatment. When a person has myeloma or lymphoma, it may occasionally be requested to help evaluate their prognosis.

What does a Beta-2 Microglobulin test check for?

Almost every cell in the body has beta-2 microglobulin on its surface. Cells, notably B lymphocytes and tumor cells, release this protein into the blood. It is found in the majority of bodily fluids, and when the immune system is stimulated or when cell creation and/or destruction are increased, its level rises.

With tumors like multiple myeloma and lymphoma, as well as with inflammatory conditions and infections, B2M is typically high in the blood. B2M may be useful as a tumor marker because it is elevated in blood cell malignancies. This page concentrates on its usage as a tumor marker, despite the fact that it can be used to evaluate kidney function.

Blood cell malignancies that have migrated to the brain, such lymphoma, as well as some chronic diseases like multiple sclerosis and viral infections like HIV can cause a rise in the B2M level in the CSF of affected individuals.

Lab tests often ordered with a Beta-2 Microglobulin test:

  • Albumin
  • Tumor Markers

Conditions where a Beta-2 Microglobulin test is recommended:

  • Cancer
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Lymphoma

How does my health care provider use a Beta-2 Microglobulin test?

On the surface of almost every cell in the body is beta-2 microglobulin. This protein is released into the blood by cells, particularly B lymphocytes and tumor cells. The majority of body fluids contain it, and its level increases when the immune system is activated or when cell formation and/or destruction are elevated.

B2M is generally elevated in the blood with cancers such multiple myeloma and lymphoma, as well as with inflammatory diseases and infections. Due to the fact that B2M is raised in blood cell malignancies, it may be useful as a tumor marker. Despite the fact that it can be used to assess kidney function, this page focuses on its use as a tumor marker.

A spike in the B2M level in the CSF of affected people can be brought on by blood cell malignancies that have spread to the brain, including lymphoma, as well as some chronic conditions like multiple sclerosis and viral infections like HIV.

What do my Beta-2 Microglobulin test results mean?

Increased levels of B2M in the blood and/or urine point to a problem but do not serve as a diagnosis for any particular illness or condition. They do, however, represent the level of cancer present and the severity of the disease. If the B2M level is highly raised, someone who has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma or lymphoma is likely to have a worse prognosis.

When multiple myeloma is being treated, a patient's levels should gradually decline over time to show whether the patient is improving. Levels that are stable or rising suggest that the subject is not responding.

Increases in the CSF in a person with an illness like HIV/AIDS suggest that the central nervous system is probably involved.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

Cadmium is a naturally occurring element that is mined and used in industrial production because of its durability. Excessive cadmium exposure can damage lungs, kidneys, and the digestive tract.

Cadmium is a naturally occurring element that is mined and used in industrial production because of its durability. Excessive cadmium exposure can damage lungs, kidneys, and the digestive tract.

Cadmium is a naturally occurring element that is mined and used in industrial production because of its durability. Excessive cadmium exposure can damage lungs, kidneys, and the digestive tract.

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This assay is useful to monitor exposure to chromium, progress of medical treatment or determine nutritional status.

Occupational exposure and exposure to environmental contamination of chromium may lead to toxicity. The need for chromium supplements is unproven. Supplements taken in excess may also lead to chromium toxicity.

Chromium is used in the manufacturing of stainless steel and for plating other metals. It is also a component of cement. Chromic acid or its salts constitute an industrial hazard. They may lead to ulceration of the skin and respiratory passages. Ingestion can cause violent gastroenteritis.

Occupational exposure and exposure to environmental contamination of Chromium may lead to toxicity. The need for Chromium supplements is unproven. Supplements taken in excess may also lead to Chromium toxicity.

Cobalt is part of our diet. Approximately 85% of absorbed cobalt is excreted in the urine and the remainder eliminated in stool. Toxicity may occur in select industrial environments. Colbalt is not mined in the United States, so primary supplies are imported

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Cobalt is part of our diet. Approximately 85% of absorbed cobalt is excreted in the urine and the remainder eliminated in stool. Toxicity may occur in select industrial

Cobalt is part of our diet. Approximately 85% of absorbed cobalt is excreted in the urine and the remainder eliminated in stool. Toxicity may occur in select industrial environments. Cobalt is not mined in the United States so primary supplies are imported

Description: Copper Blood is a blood test that measures the amount of copper in the blood. Copper levels in the blood can help to diagnose Wilson's Disease.

Also Known As: Cu Blood Test, Cu Test, Blood Copper Test, Hepatic Copper Test, Copper Free Test

Collection Method: Blood Draw

Specimen Type: Whole blood

Test Preparation: No preparation required

When is a Copper Blood test ordered?

When a health practitioner suspects Wilson disease, excess copper storage, or copper poisoning, one or more copper tests are requested along with ceruloplasmin.

When copper and ceruloplasmin results are abnormal or inconclusive, a hepatic copper test may be conducted to further evaluate copper storage.

What does a Copper blood test check for?

Copper is an important mineral that the body uses to make enzymes. These enzymes are involved in the regulation of iron metabolism, the development of connective tissue, cellular energy production, the production of melanin, and nervous system function. This test determines how much copper is present in the blood, urine, or liver.

Nuts, chocolate, mushrooms, seafood, whole grains, dried fruits, and liver are all high in copper. Copper may be absorbed into drinking water as it passes through copper pipes, and copper may be absorbed into food as it is cooked or served on copper dishes. Copper is absorbed from food or liquids in the intestines, converted to a non-toxic form by binding it to a protein, and transported to the liver in normal circumstances. To make the enzyme ceruloplasmin, the liver saves some copper and binds the remainder to another protein called apoceruloplasmin. Ceruloplasmin binds about 95 percent of the copper in the blood, with the rest attached to other proteins like albumin. In a free condition, only a little amount is present in the blood. Excess copper is excreted by the liver in the bile, which is then excreted by the body in the feces. Copper is also excreted in the urine in small amounts.

Copper excess and deficiency are uncommon. Wilson disease is a rare genetic ailment that causes the liver, brain, and other organs to store too much copper. Excess copper can arise when a person is exposed to and absorbs high amounts of copper in a short period of time or little amounts over a long period of time.

Copper deficiency can arise in patients with severe malabsorption diseases such cystic fibrosis and celiac disease, as well as infants who are exclusively fed cow-milk formulas.

Menkes kinky hair syndrome is a rare X-linked hereditary disorder that causes copper shortage in the brain and liver of affected babies. Seizures, delayed development, aberrant artery growth in the brain, and unique gray brittle kinky hair are all symptoms of the condition, which mostly affects men.

Lab tests often ordered with a Copper Blood test:

  • Ceruloplasmin
  • Heavy Metals
  • ACTH
  • Aldosterone
  • 17-Hydroprogesterone
  • Growth Hormone

Conditions where a Copper Blood test is recommended:

  • Wilson Disease
  • Malnutrition

How does my health care provider use a Copper Blood test?

Copper testing is largely used to detect Wilson disease, a rare genetic ailment in which the liver, brain, and other organs accumulate an excessive amount of copper. A copper test is less usually used to detect copper excess caused by another ailment, to diagnose a copper deficit, or to track treatment for one of these conditions.

Copper is a necessary mineral, but too much of it can be harmful. The majority of it is bound to the enzyme ceruloplasmin in the blood, leaving only a little quantity "free" or unbound.

A whole blood copper test is usually ordered in conjunction with a ceruloplasmin level. If the findings of these tests are abnormal or ambiguous, a 24-hour urine copper test to monitor copper elimination and/or a copper test on a liver biopsy to check copper storage in the liver may be conducted.

A free blood copper test is sometimes ordered as well. If Wilson disease is suspected, genetic testing for mutations in the ATP7B gene may be undertaken. However, these tests are only available in a restricted number of locations and are usually carried out in specialized reference or research laboratories.

A copper test may be used to identify Menkes kinky hair syndrome, a rare inherited copper transport failure condition.

What do my Copper Blood test results mean?

Copper test findings are frequently linked to ceruloplasmin levels and considered in context. Copper results that are abnormal are not indicative of a specific illness; rather, they signal that more research is needed. Because ceruloplasmin is an acute phase reactant, it might be raised if inflammation or severe infections are present, making interpretation difficult. Ceruloplasmin and copper levels rise during pregnancy, as well as with the use of estrogen and oral contraceptives.

Wilson disease is characterized by low blood copper concentrations, elevated urine copper levels, low ceruloplasmin levels, and increased liver copper.

Elevated copper concentrations in the blood and urine, as well as normal or increased ceruloplasmin levels, may suggest excessive copper exposure or be linked to disorders that reduce copper excretion, such as chronic liver disease, or release copper from tissues, such as acute hepatitis. Chronic diseases can cause an increase in hepatic copper levels.

Copper deficiency is indicated by lower copper concentrations in the blood and urine, as well as lower ceruloplasmin levels.

A normal hepatic copper test could mean that copper metabolism is normal, or that the distribution of copper in the liver is uneven, and that the sample isn't reflective of the person's health.

If a person is being treated for Wilson disease or copper toxicity with copper-binding medicines, their 24-hour urine copper levels may be high until their body copper stores are depleted. Copper concentrations in the blood and urine should return to normal over time.

If a person is being treated for a copper deficient disorder and their ceruloplasmin and total copper levels start to rise, the condition is likely responding to the treatment.

We advise having your results reviewed by a licensed medical healthcare professional for proper interpretation of your results.

The World Health Organization has a list of ten chemicals that are of concern to public health. 

These chemicals can enter our bloodstream and cause severe damage to our health. Some of the chemicals on that list are heavy metals.

How can you find out if you have been exposed to heavy metals? How can you minimize your risk of exposure? 

Read on to find out everything you need to know about heavy metal poisoning and heavy metal tests. 

What Is Heavy Metal Poisoning?

Your body needs certain substances such as iron, copper, and zinc to stay healthy. However, if you accumulate too much of these substances in the body, it can lead to health problems. 

We come into regular contact with many other metals that can accumulate in your body and cause issues.

If you have excessive exposure and a heavy metal builds up in your body in unhealthy quantities, it is classed as heavy metal poisoning. 

Which Metals Are Considered Heavy Metals?

Many metals can accumulate in your soft tissue to cause heavy metal poisoning. These heavy metals include but aren't limited to: 

  • Lead
  • Iron 
  • Copper
  • Nickel 
  • Mercury
  • Cadmium 
  • Chromium 
  • Phosphorus
  • Manganese
  • Cobalt
  • Arsenic

Although many of these metals are uncommon in everyday life, there are instances when you can become exposed to unhealthy levels. 

How Does Heavy Metal Exposure Occur?

Heavy metal toxicity can occur through exposure to heavy metals in your environment. This can be through food or drink, medications, or exposure to metals at work or home. 

You can ingest the heavy metals through your food or drink. You can also breathe in dust from heavy metals if you work in a mine or industrial plant. 

Some common causes of coming into contact with heavy metals include:

  • Mining or prolonged exposure to industrial materials
  • Exposure to toxic waste
  • Drinking contaminated water
  • Ingesting the pesticides used on crops
  • Breathing in the fumes from lead paint
  • Exposure to an improper coating on pans for cooking or containers for food storage
  • Eating seafood from areas with high levels of mercury in the water
  • Air pollution 

What Are The Most Common Causes Of Heavy Metal Poisoning?

Toxic heavy metal poisoning is very rare. However, exposure to heavy metals can occur from things we do every day.

For example, arsenic can be ingested in food with dangerous pesticides levels on it. 

Drinking water from contaminated lead pipes is another common way for heavy metals to enter our system. Lead paint used in older houses can be another source of exposure. 

Eating contaminated seafood is another way we can contact dangerous levels of mercury, for example. A lot of tuna is known to have high levels of mercury. 

Smoking exposes you to cadmium, as does shellfish and some vegetables. The production of certain plastics and batteries can also cause cadmium exposure. 

Symptoms of Heavy Metal Poisoning 

If you have come into prolonged contact with heavy metals, you may show some heavy metal toxicity symptoms. 

These symptoms are different depending on the metal you have been overly exposed to. 

The groups most affected by heavy metal exposure are pregnant women and children. It can be difficult to diagnose symptoms. If women have high levels of exposure to heavy metals during pregnancy, it can lead to miscarriage or abnormalities with the fetus. 

Other common symptoms of heavy metal poisoning include: 

  • Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea 
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia 
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired vision 
  • Mood disorders
  • Chills 
  • Fever

There are more specific symptoms depending on the metal you have been exposed to. Here are some symptoms for the more common types of poisoning:

Mercury Poisoning 

If an individual has been exposed to mercury in excess amounts, they may feel tightness in their chest and have problems with breathing, including coughing. 

They may also experience neurological effects such as memory loss, behavior change, and poor concentration. In extreme circumstances, overexposure to mercury could cause personality disorders. 

Arsenic Poisoning 

Excessive exposure to arsenic can cause headaches, tiredness, and skin problems such as rashes. It may also cause problems with the stomach, such as diarrhea.

The symptoms take several weeks to show if someone has been poisoned with arsenic. If the poisoning is severe, the person may also suffer from fever and chills. 

Lead Poisoning 

Lead poisoning can reduce the number of red blood cells in the body, which can cause anemia and pale skin.

Other symptoms of lead poisoning include vomiting, loss of appetite, headaches, abdominal pain, and even seizures. 

Cadmium Poisoning

Exposure to excessive cadmium can cause headaches, tiredness, fever, and vomiting. It can also cause abnormal function of the liver and kidneys, which can cause high protein levels in urine. 

Phosphorus Poisoning 

Phosphorus can cause twitching and muscle weakness. Other indications of phosphorus poisoning include headaches, nausea, and vomiting. 

Long-term Effects of Heavy Metals 

The long-term impacts of heavy metal exposure can be more severe. Heavy metals in the body can cause kidney damage, lung damage, organ failure, Alzheimer's disease, and many different cancers. 

The complications caused by heavy metals depend on the length of exposure you have had to them. 

Different heavy metals cause varied complications with the body. For example, lead poisoning can cause issues with reproduction and blood pressure. 

Mercury poisoning can cause issues with vision, skin issues, lung damage, and brain damage.  

If you have long-term exposure to cadmium, it can cause problems with your kidneys or lungs. 

Arsenic poisoning can cause cancer, as well as problems with neurological function. 

Heavy Metal Tests 

One of the easiest ways to find out if you have heavy metals in your system is heavy metal testing. 

You can test for different types of heavy metal with blood tests, urine tests, or hair and nail tests

The types of heavy metals that can be detected will depend on the type of test you choose. 

heavy metals panel is used to detect and measure the level of different types of heavy metals in the body. Tests like these are usually conducted using urine or blood. However, the lab may use hair, fluid, or body tissue, depending on the purpose of the test. Most labs have a variety of heavy metal panels available, each designed to test for different types of metal. Some of the metals that are commonly tested for include:

  • Arsenic
  • Mercury
  • Lead

Other metals that are frequently tested for using panels like these include zinc, copper, and cadmium. A qualified healthcare provider determines which test to order, typically basing the decision on their patient's symptoms or the likelihood of exposure to certain types of metal. 

The phrase "heavy metals" describes metallic or dense elements in the periodic table. Elements like these occur naturally throughout the world and are also used when manufacturing many different types of products. The body requires small amounts of certain heavy metals. Examples of metals beneficial in trace amounts include copper, zinc, iron, selenium, and molybdenum. While these elements are helpful at extremely low levels, they can be harmful at higher concentrations.

When the body contains too much of any heavy metal, it can cause damage or irritation. Heavy metals also can contribute to environmental contamination, affecting everything from the air and soil to water and food. Once these metals enter the environment, they usually remain there forever. Since elements like these can cause harm, they are sometimes referred to as "toxic metals."

Different types of metal can cause various symptoms. The symptoms a patient experiences can also vary based on the concentration of the metal, the amount of time they were exposed to it, how they were exposed, how old they are, and their overall level of health. Certain metals pose a greater risk than others. Different types of the same metal may also vary in terms of how toxic they are. For instance, an inorganic metal compound may be more or less harmful than its organic counterpart.

The method of exposure affects how much of the metal is absorbed by the body and which parts of the body are impacted. For instance, a metal that is harmless when touched or swallowed could be severely damaging to the lungs if it is inhaled.

Acute heavy metal exposure can damage the body, sometimes even causing death. The human body is capable of processing relatively low amounts of heavy metals. Exposure to higher concentrations of these metals, however, can cause them to build up in the liver, kidneys, brain, or skeletal system. Even low levels of exposure should be carefully tracked to monitor for any potential problems.

Exposure to certain metals may lead to a greater likelihood of getting cancer. Other metals impact the production of both white and red blood cells. Babies who are still in the womb and small children are most likely to develop problems when exposed to heavy metals, even at relatively low concentrations. Exposure to these metals can impact the mental and physical development of the child, causing irreversible damage to the brain and other organs in the body. Heavy metals can be transferred to developing fetuses from the mother. In some cases, infants can also be exposed through breastmilk.

How Should You Prepare For The Test?

During the 48 hours leading up to the test, avoid eating fish or other types of seafood. Wait a minimum of 96 hours before collecting a sample if you have undergone a medical procedure that used contrast media containing either iodine or gadolinium.

Heavy metal panels are used to determine the concentration of toxic metals in people who have been exposed to potentially harmful metals. Tests like these are also used to track heavy metal concentrations in workers who are regularly exposed to toxic metals. Examples of jobs where this type of testing may be necessary include mining, carpentry, radiator repair, and gun ranges. A special treatment known as chelation therapy is used to lower the concentration of heavy metals in the body. Heavy metal panels are used to track how effectively the treatment is working.

A typical heavy metal panel includes several tests, each designed to look for different metals. Typically, the tests are grouped based on whether they are measured through blood or urine. A doctor or healthcare provider chooses the heavy metal panel based on the type of exposure their patient experienced or the symptoms that they are demonstrating. The most common metals included in panels like these are:

When the healthcare provider believes that the patient has been exposed to a specific type of metal, they may order an individual test for that type of metal. The test for lead exposure, for instance, is usually run on its own. This is particularly true when testing children since they are at a higher risk of developing problems due to lead exposure. Tests involving fingernails, hair, fluids, or tissues of the body are typically ordered on their own rather than as part of a panel, as well.

What Are Some Common Situations Where Heavy Metals Panels Are Ordered?

If a medical provider believes that one of their patients has been exposed to heavy metals, they will typically order a heavy metals panel. Exposure to heavy metals can also cause symptoms, varying in type and severity based on the kind of metal and the concentration of the exposure. Early on, the symptoms of heavy metal exposure are easy to overlook since they aren't very specific. Unfortunately, organ damage can occur even if a patient isn't displaying any distinct symptoms. Signs to watch for that could indicate heavy metal poisoning include the following:

  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
  • Problems involving the nervous system, including weakness, tingling, or numbness in the extremities.
  • Kidney or liver damage
  • Anemia
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Lung irritation
  • Memory problems or other cognitive issues
  • Horizontal lines on the fingernails, which are known as Mees lines
  • Behavioral changes
  • Weak or deformed bones in young children
  • Miscarriage or early labor in women who are pregnant

Typically, workers who come in contact with heavy metals on the job undergo routine monitoring. There are also safety protocols in place that are designed to reduce the risk of metal exposure for employees. Many heavy metals that are used in work-related applications are regulated and monitored by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Anytime levels of these metals climb too high, steps are taken to reduce employee exposure levels and to monitor their systems for problems.

What Other Information Should I Know About Heavy Metals?

Everyone's body processes heavy metals differently. The rate at which the metals are absorbed and eliminated can vary from one person to another. That means that two people exposed to the same type and amount of a particular heavy metal may not experience the same symptoms. People who have existing problems with their health may have an increased risk of suffering ill effects from heavy metal exposure.

Trace levels of heavy metals are carefully tracked. Steps are taken to keep exposure to these metals to a minimum. Despite that, avoiding heavy metals completely is unfeasible. For example, arsenic occurs naturally in drinking water in certain areas. Thermometers and fluorescent light bulbs contain low levels of mercury. Anytime these items break, the mercury can potentially find its way into the environment. Bacteria found in water produce an organic type of mercury known as methylmercury. This mercury can accumulate in fish. The level of mercury concentration depends on where the fish are located and how large they are. Usually, old, large fish contain the most methylmercury. In general, the risk of consuming too much mercury is minimal, especially when compared to the health benefits of consuming fish. Pregnant women should be cautious when eating fish. According to the March of Dimes, pregnant women should not eat some types of fish until after they give birth. This reduces the risk of mercury harming their unborn child.

At one time, lead was commonly used in household plumbing, paint, and gasoline. While this type of environmental lead exposure is declining, old homes and buildings can still have high lead levels in their plumbing and paint. In 2015, Flint, Michigan, failed to keep lead from contaminating the water when they changed their water source. Switching from getting their water from Detroit to getting it from the Flint River without preventing corrosion leads to significant problems for the residents. As the river water made its way through the pipes, it corroded them, causing lead to finding its way into the local water supply, making it dangerous to drink.

Over time, as house paint breaks down, the paint dust and chips can contaminate the soil around the building. Young children have the greatest risk of developing health problems due to exposure to lead. Children may put their mouths on painted surfaces or consume paint chips. When playing, they may inadvertently be exposed to contaminated soil or breathe in dust that contains lead.

Lead isn't the only heavy metal that can pose a problem. Cadmium and arsenic contamination have also been found on jewelry and toys in the past.

Three government agencies are responsible for monitoring heavy metal sources in the environment, including water, air, and food supply. These agencies include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The EPA is responsible for regulating emissions, establishing upper exposure limits for heavy metals, and tracking how heavy metal exposure affects the population. The FDA is tasked with controlling toxic metals in food. The CDC advises parents to test their children for exposure to lead, particularly if they spend a lot of time in houses or buildings constructed before 1978.

Blood Tests

When you take a blood test, your doctor will be able to check for healthy levels of lead, mercury, and arsenic. Blood tests tend to be the most common type of test for heavy metals.

Urine Tests

Urine tests are better for metals that accumulate in the body over the years, such as cadmium and creatinine.

How Should You Prepare For a Heavy Metals Test?

Before you take a test for heavy metals, you should avoid seafood for at least 48 hours prior.  

You should note all your potential exposure to heavy metals to share with your physician. This includes potential exposure to harmful dust particles at work or home.

You will also need to share lifestyle details such as your diet and whether or not you smoke. 

What If My Heavy Metal Test Comes Back Abnormal?

If you have results that show you have high levels of certain metals, it doesn't need to be a cause for worry.

High levels of heavy metals in your system don't necessarily mean you have developed any diseases associated with heavy metal exposure.

It's a positive thing; you now know which metals you have in your system and can work on preventing any further exposure to that metal. 

Order Your Heavy Metals Test With Ulta Lab Tests 

If you are concerned about any heavy metal exposure, the best way to determine if you're experiencing heavy metal poisoning is with lab tests from Ulta Lab Tests.

The tests are easy to book online, and you can choose which type of test you require. The next step is to visit a nearby patient service center to have your blood drawn.

Once your sample has been analyzed, your results will appear online with detailed information about interpreting them. 

As the results are documented online, you can track your results over time and compare them with new tests you order later. This system also makes it easy to share the results with your healthcare provider. They will be able to help you address any concerns you may have. 

Take control of your health today.