It is difficult to diagnose if any specific symptoms observed are the result of excessive exposure to heavy metals, (HM). The physiological symptoms of exposure, even to high doses of HM, are often similar to symptoms observed as a result of numerous illnesses and diseases. Therefore, even when the symptoms are consistent with HM toxicity, all illnesses that result in similar symptoms should be considered together with the possibility of HM poisoning. It should also be noted that HM can exacerbate existing illnesses. Moreover, certain groups of people such as pregnant woman, in particular in the very early stages of pregnancy, people with kidney or liver illnesses, very young babies or older people may suffer greater harm than oter groups.
To reduce the cost of determining if the observed ill-effects are the result of exposure to excess doses of HM, we recommend performing first LOW-COST screening tests according to the following step-by step sequence.
Note 1: If HM are detected in the urine or tap water sample, it is a clear sign of HM poisoning. Before getting too alarmed, REPEAT THE TESTS to confirm the results.
Note 2: If HM are detected, take the proper steps to immediately:
I. STOP potential exposure to the HM, e.g. by using an alternative source of drinking or cooking water.
II. Find the SOURCE of the HM and eliminate it. To this end, you may need to look for old paint in your house, which may contain lead, cadmium or chromium, old water pipes, spilled mercury, as well as examine foods which you consume regularly. Many times one needs to seek the advice of an industrial hygienist. Exposure may be occurring at work, home, or possibly from contaminated air, etc.
III. If HM, and especially arsenic and thallium, are found in the urine and NOT in the drinking water, do not rule out the possibility of intentional poisoning.
Note 3: If HM or arsenic are NOT found in the water or in the urine, there may still be excess exposure to HM or arsenic and it may still be a case of HM or arsenic poisoning.
Note 4: Since exposure to HM can also be via skin contact or breathing dusts which contain HM, such routs are not common but may not be ruled out in advance.