Health Focus: The Hazards of Heavy Metals
Every day in Hong Kong we are exposed to varying degrees of heavy metals through air pollution, water and food. Discover the detrimental effect these metals have on health and how the team at Neo Health can test and treat their effects.
Every day in Hong Kong we are exposed to varying degrees of heavy metals through air pollution, water and food. We spoke recently to the team at Neo Health to discover more about the effects of heavy metal poisoning and what treatment is available.
Air pollution alone counts for a large percentage of heavy metal exposure and comes from industry, transport and even smoking cigarettes or inhaling secondhand smoke. The most dangerous airborne particulate matter is the small micrometer particles often described as PM2.5 particles, which are particularly dangerous due to the body’s inability to process and expend them.
Heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury are also commonly found affecting personal health in a variety of ways depending on your age and lifestyle. Cigarette smoke is already known for a host of pollutants, but recently e-cigarettes were shown to have equally devastating ingredients including tin, copper, nickel and silver amongst other detrimental nanoparticles.
Although Hong Kong has excellent water quality coming out of filtration centres, another source of individuals are often still affected by heavy metals from old piping and insufficient home filtration. The cumulative effect of consuming and breathing all these heavy metals over time can gather and deposit in the body’s tissues.
Symptoms of heavy metal exposure for children include poor growth, developmental delays, skin rashes, difficulty breathing, stomach complaints and more. It can often be confused with other ailments and is consistently under diagnosed. For adults, breathing difficulties, stomach complaints, shaking, nausea, nutritional deficiencies, skin rashes and numbness are just a few common effects of heavy metals.
Neo Health, a holistic practice in Central, is addressing this growing concern through testing and mainstream, scientifically proven methods of heavy metal removal through chelation therapies. The centre can carry out all the testing, treatments and follow-up in one location, offering an on-site lab, experienced doctors and a functional medicine practitioner. Their services are offered in multiple languages as well including English, Cantonese and Mandarin.
For adults and children, it is ideal to screen once a year for both heavy metals and micronutrients at the same time. Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of heavy metals, so if you live near, or your child attends a school in an area affected by high levels of pollution, testing for heavy metals is of greater concern. Fortunately, children don’t have to worry about blood tests and can opt for hair testing to determine the levels of chronic toxicity. If you are concerned about acute exposure or if you are new to Hong Kong where there are renovations or recent construction, a blood test will detect acute levels more accurately.
Results for a heavy metal blood test take about two to three weeks. Hair analysis and micronutrient analysis tests are sent abroad and can take approximately three weeks.
There are various ways to manage heavy metals problems. For those with high levels of toxicity, intravenous chelation therapy may be required. Others can be treated with oral chelation treatment either via capsules or oral spray for younger children who have difficulty in swallowing capsules. Ongoing maintenance treatment together with dietary modifications is important to avoid the recurrence of toxicity after treatment.
Intravenous chelation therapy involves intravenous infusion of a chelating agent, EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid), a synthetic amino acid. EDTA binds to heavy metals and minerals in the blood so that they can be excreted in the urine. The therapy usually takes 2-3 hours during which, the EDTA binds to the toxic metals and is excreted from the body through the kidneys. At the same time, micronutrient therapy is given through the intravenous infusion to supplement any nutrient loss during the process. Some patients may need to go through 10-20 sessions over weeks or months. But for many, just a few sessions are adequate.
DMSA is the oral chelating agent called Succimer (Dimercaptosuccinic acid) and is FDA-approved for treatment of lead poisoning. It is also used by some physicians to remove mercury from the body. The drug combines with metals in the bloodstream and then both the metals and the drug are removed from the body via the kidneys and excreted. It is suitable for children and adults who prefer an oral route for chelation therapy. The usual oral regime with DMSA may take 4-5 weeks or even longer for patients with more chronic toxicity problems. Each treatment regime will be personalized according to the patient’s condition.
Monitoring micronutrients levels is a crucial part of chelation therapy, as some vitamins and minerals will bind to the EDTA or pill chelation therapy. By keeping track of the nutrient levels, supplements can be added to ensure optimal health throughout the process. These micronutrients are small amounts of vitamins and minerals essential to health, development and growth in the body (projecthealthychildren.org).
During the entire process, Neo Health is dedicated to conscientious follow-up with patients in-house, by phone and e-mail ensuring the individual is monitored and feels that extra sense of care. For more information on heavy metal screening, visit the Neo Health website. HK HUB readers receive 10% off heavy metal testing – just quote HKHUB when you make your appointment.
Neo Health is a growing, full-service practice in the heart of Central on Queens Road Central. In addition to the screening and treatment of heavy metals, their services include health screening, vaccination, counseling and psychotherapy, corporate consultancy, family medicine and much more. With the newly acquired functional medicine lab, Neo Health is also able to offer in-depth screening for cancer, fertility and child assessment using a vast range of genetic, practical and targeted testing.
Neo Health Screening and Specialist Center
29/F Li Dong Building, 9 Li Yuen Street East, Central, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 3167 7040
Monday – Friday 9:00am – 6:00pm
Saturday 9:00am – 1:00pm
Closed on Sunday and public holidays