No doubt you’ve heard of the movie Arsenic and Old Lace where the dashing Cary Grant plays a character, who discovers that his delusional elderly aunts have been poisoning old lonely bachelors with Arsenic to put them out of their misery!
Clearly, Arsenic in the wrong hands can be used as a deadly poison! But did you know that it’s one of four heavy metals that we ingest, inhale or otherwise are exposed to every day? Scary huh? The other three are Cadmium, Lead and Mercury. I call them the Fearsome Four. When you learn just how much damage they can do to our bodies and our health, you will understand why!
First off, it helps to know why they’re called heavy metals. A metal is considered “heavy” if its gravity is at least 5 times heavier than water. The density of heavy metals increases the probability that they will end up in soil and water, which is why we’re so readily exposed to them. Several factors determine a person’s susceptibility to heavy metal toxicity. Three of the biggest include diet, exposure to pollution and genetic make-up. Although a large percent of metals are excreted from the body through sweat, urine, and the bowels, whatever your body can’t eliminate gets socked away in places that aren’t vital to maintaining life –mainly body fat, teeth, and bones. When heavy metals build up faster than the body can eliminate them you have what’s known as “bioaccumulation”.
There are two types of Arsenic –organic and inorganic. The former occurs naturally in the earth and small amounts are actually necessary for proper bodily function. The latter is a known carcinogen released into the air by burning fuels and coal as well as through widespread use of weed killers and pesticides. The wood industry is one of the biggest contributors to arsenic pollution and has used arsenic to preserve wood since the 1940s. An estimated 90% of wooden play structures, decks and picnic tables are made from arsenic-laced wood. Adults and children can absorb arsenic simply by touching wood treated with it. Other sources of arsenic exposure include herbicides and many foods, including meat, poultry and even wine (arsenic-containing pesticides are often sprayed on wine grapes).
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Groups Skin Deep cosmetics database identified Arsenic as a contaminant in about 641 beauty products –approximately 2.5% of all the products listed in the database.
The average person’s body contains about 10 to 20 mg of Arsenic. The good news is that the body efficiently rids itself of this metal. The bad news is that chronic exposure to low levels of arsenic can create problems for all your organ systems and is strongly linked to lung and skin cancer.
To lower your exposure to Arsenic:
- Eat organic, pesticide-free fruits and vegetables
- Avoid insecticides and weed-killers (if you have to spray avoid products containing lead arsenate)
- Keep children away from wood treated with chemicals
- Avoid eating food directly off picnic tables or food that has come in direct contact with picnic tables Consider replacing treated wood in and around your home with newer, non-toxic alternatives like bamboo.
And as an added measure for protection, add more Vitamin C to your diet.