Lead Toxicity – Physiological Effects & Exposures

Small toxic exposures, and exposures in general, are often blown off as unimportant. But are they? The active chemical in Viagra proves that infinitesimal exposures have big results. Viagra was developed and believed to lower blood pressure and enlarge blood vessels, but during the human trials male test subjects who were involved in the research because of their high blood pressure reported its side effect. A side effect that would be quite inconvenient for a man without a partner and even more disturbing for a man who took the pill with breakfast while sitting at his desk at work. Tiny amounts of chemicals change how the body works quickly and in unexpected ways. While Viagra may produce desirable results with a side effect cost, the consequences of toxic exposures on your health come at a cost with no benefit.

No amount of exposure to toxicity is safe. With so many environmental exposures you have no control over, it is important to know which exposures you can manage, and limit them in your own personal life. Your exposures and choices effect not only your health, but influence those you work and live with, as well as your unborn future offspring.

You already know you were born from one of your mother’s eggs, but have you pondered the fact the egg from which you were born was made from the body of your maternal grandmother while she was pregnant with your mother? Your mother had all the eggs she would ever have, stored in her ovaries, the day she was born. Each was made inside the body of your maternal grandmother. If you are a woman, and give birth to a daughter who then has children of her own, those grandchildren will have been born from the eggs your daughter made while you carried her during pregnancy.

Your exposures and choices effect not only your health,
but influence those you work and live with,
as well as your unborn future offspring

This article provides an overview of Lead. I hope it encourages you to do further research and become your own health advocate. Most community and university libraries offer public access to medical journals and research articles. There is also the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the ATSDR, which is a Federal Public Health Agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The reports are extensive, available on line and they are free.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

Dr Amy Yasko, in her book “Pathways to Recovery”, mentions that Cadmium excretion will precede Lead excretion. I have heavy metal laboratory test results since 2006 and her observation has been true in my own body as well. When my Lead levels looked as if they were falling, but the cadmium levels were higher, then I could expect to see Lead levels increase when cadmium levels fell, and that is what happened on more than one occasion. I mention this tidbit because if you are researching Lead then you probably need to be researching cadmium toxicity as well. The ATSDR has a report on Cadmium too, which is a good place to start.

Evidence suggests the following physiological effects on the body from Lead:
♦ Diabetes
♦ Hypertension
♦ Kidney function and renal disease
♦ Serum Creatinine levels
♦ Decreased lung capacity
♦ Gastrointestinal symptoms
♦ Postural balance
♦ Decreased fertility, decreased sperm quality and increased miscarriage
♦ Influences thyroid, pituitary and testicular hormones
♦ Childhood growth deficit, delays in sexual development and body development
♦ Stunted growth of longitudinal bone growth during youth body development
♦ Childhood Lead exposure effects trabecular bone. Children’s bones bear 73% of Lead body burden.
♦ Adult Lead exposure effects bone remodeling, both cortical and trabecular. Bones in the adult body bear 94% of the Lead body burden.
♦ Lead storage in bones is not uniform. Lead will accumulate most in bone that is undergoing calcification at the time of and the duration of exposure.
♦ Bone Lead chronically remobilizes into the blood
♦ 99% of blood Lead is in the red blood cells
♦ A relationship between paternal Lead exposure and fetal and infant development.
♦ Slow nerve conduction velocity which means messages from your brain to body parts is slow
♦ Inhibits enzymes (zinc supplementation will reverse this for some individuals).
♦ Related to hemochromatosis
♦ Interferes with the vitamin D conversion to its hormonal form
♦ Lead inhibits vitamin D activation, calcium uptake, and bone cell function
♦ Effects white blood cells and cortisol levels
♦ Faster red blood cell turnover
♦ Anemia – Anemia is a symptom of Lead toxicity for certain individuals. When Lead binds to the hemoglobin the iron cannot.
♦ Higher incidence of colds and flus with higher blood Lead serum levels
♦ Related to the APOE genotype which has a role in cell membranes and the myelin sheath
♦ Kidney, nervous system and heme synthesis are most sensitive to lead
♦ Lead accumulates in the soft tissues of the body
♦ Increases sensitivity to electromagnetic fields
♦ Young adults are 4x more likely to be delinquent, aggressive and attention impaired. Increased levels of zinc can improve behavior, but zinc does not remove Lead nor prevent a problem.
♦ Neurological disorders include: dullness, irritability, poor attention, headaches, muscular tremor, loss of memory, hallucinations, fatigue, impotence, weakness, dizziness, decreased libido, greater level of inter-relational conflict, visual motor, IQ, cognitive performance, neurons, mood, coping ability, impaired speed of simple movements and decision making.

At this point you should be asking yourself…
“Why aren’t doctors testing for Lead toxicity?”

“Why are doctors prescribing pharmacological treatments to remedy a problem that is rooted in Lead toxicity?”

If and when you get tested and treated for heavy metal toxicity you will then ask “Why will my health insurance cover the cost of extremely expensive pharmaceuticals that don’t fix the problem, but will not cover the cost of removing the Lead toxicity?”


Factors which influence absorption are:
✦ Age, gender, genetics, food choices, lifestyle
✦ Bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic environments in the body
✦ Type, intensity and duration of the exposure
✦ Growth developmental stage at the time of exposure
✦ A fasting state increases absorption by approximately 63% as opposed to 3% with food
✦ Calcium or other nutritional deficiencies increase Lead uptake (absorption)
✦ Lead particle size
✦ Lead inhibits and substitutes for calcium in many cellular processes
✦ Lead absorption is 2-3x higher in those with iron deficiency
✦ Children absorb 50% of Lead toxicity in food while adults only absorb 15%
✦ Lead toxicity is influenced by the presence of other chemicals and toxicity
✦ Three or more cups of coffee in high traffic areas will cause a higher Lead level in the breast milk.
✦ Coffee mobilizes Lead in the tissues and bone
✦ Dietary iron decreases Lead absorption
✦ A body’s nutritional levels of zinc, calcium and copper
✦ Blood Lead levels vary greatly based on physiological states such as pregnancy, menopause, lactation, baby/child/teenage body development, aging and hormonal changes
✦ Calcium supplements during lactation will decrease Lead in breastmilk and maternal Lead concentrations – be sure calcium supplements have been tested and are safe
✦ Hormone replacement treatment users have lower levels of Lead in the blood
✦ Geographic location, weather, season and moon phases

The most commonly known sources of Lead exposure include:
✔ Folk – Asian – Indian origin herbals and remedies
✔ Kitchen cookware, dishes, cups, glasses and crystal
✔ Personal care products – hair dye, cosmetics, lipstick. Check the safety and toxicity levels of your cosmetics at Skin Deep with the Environmental Working Group. Expensive cosmetics are just expensive cosmetics, they are not necessarily safe.
✔ USA Lead fuel emissions in 1970 were at their highest and contained 2.2g of Lead per gallon in leaded fuel. In 1979 Lead fuel emissions in the USA were 108.7 metric tons/year.
✔ Leaded fuel is still made and available for aircraft, race cars, boats and farm equipment. Non-auto emissions in 1990 were producing 778 tons per year. Lead emissions dust is in the air you breathe, which is taken into your blood stream the same way that oxygen, essential oils, nicotine or marijuana are taken into your body.
✔ Lead is found in insecticides, herbicides, rodenticides, paint, textiles, waterproofing, varnishes, enamel, detonating compounds for explosives, ceramics, pigments, printing, photography, explosives, cement, plastic, vinyl, lithography, process engraving, batteries, pipes, ammunition, solder, upper layers of soil, dust, tobacco use, industry, waste recycling, fashion jewelry, and in heavy hunting and fishing areas where there is Lead in spent shot and sinkers
✔ Lead in paint chips can vary from .1-35 mg per square centimeter with the average being 1-5mg per square centimeter. That is equivalent to approximately 2-12mg per square inch of paint. Imagine how much Lead there would be if a whole wall were corroded, sanded or peeling by the weather, humidity or home renovations. Painted houses have higher levels of Lead than do brick, stone or stucco.
✔ Water Lead levels vary depending on the pH. Pre-1930 plumbing is likely to have Lead pipes with Lead solder. But recency is not better. New brass faucets and fittings can leach Lead directly into the water. Older fittings and piping that have mineral deposits lining the pipes insulate the water from Lead pipes and solder. If you have doubts, get your water tested.
✔ Lead is highest in benthic organisms and algae in aquatic organisms. The animals that eat these organisms are contaminated and next in line are the animals that each those animals.
✔ Lead absorption in organic matter clay and mineral surfaces increases with increasing pH.
✔ Soil in urban areas has far higher Lead levels than in rural areas
✔ Indoor house dust in dilapidated homes and those of smokers
✔ Blood levels in children correlate with soil Lead levels in their environments but can increase/decrease depending on household dust, inside paint and drinking water
✔ Cooking water, cookware and ceramics effect and influence the amount of Lead in food
✔ Lead in glassware leaches into wine within minutes
✔ Grazing cattle on land near Lead smelter effects meat and milk
✔ Natural calcium supplements – yes the supplement you are taking for better health may be a source of Lead toxicity
✔ Inside appliances, electrical and plumbing
✔ Imported vinyl mini-blinds. Lead is often added to stabilize the plastic. As the plastic deteriorates it produces Lead dust. Consumer product safety commission requested manufacturers to make changes. Did they? How old are your blinds?
✔ Moonshine alcohol
✔ Tin coated Lead foil over cork wine bottles
✔ Plastic food wrap pigments contained an average of 26 mg for a 2,000 cm2 size bag
✔ Lead solder used to seal canned foods. Lead soldering for canned foods was discontinued in America many years ago. Was it discontinued in other countries? Was it a source of Lead exposure when it was still in use?
✔ Tobacco smoke (smokers and second hand smokers) – Smokers increase indoor Lead dust deposits
✔ Plants, vegetables and fruit have varying degrees of Lead from soil absorption – depends on the plant. Adding limestone to soil decreases bioavailability of metals.
✔ Animals ingest Lead from vegetable matter and from natural environmental exposures
✔ Fasting states (not eating) increases absorption
✔ Fumes, vapors, and smoke dust in social settings, laboratories, factories, and renovations
✔ Airborne dust. Dust settles on surfaces, carpet, food, kitchen stuffs, water, clothes and on your body. Dust is inhaled, ingested and absorbed through the skin.
✔ Toxic dust comes from home cleaners, chemicals on new furniture, flooring, carpeting, clothes, personal care products, fuel exhaust, aircraft, wind, soil, construction and renovation sites, workplace exposures that are brought back into the home, herbicides and insecticides from your own property or carried by air currents and wind from neighbors, farms, golf courses or gardens.
✔ Art materials, ceramics, paints, glazes
✔ Stained glass windows
✔ Employment – highest levels are found in mechanical, construction trades, agricultural laborers, transportation mining, military and repair jobs. Most exposures have declined considerably since 1979 except for construction.
✔ Toddler exposures: ∎ 16% from food ∎ 1% from soil ∎ 7% from water ∎ 75% from dust
✔ Old homes and renovations (tear downs, sanding, painting, plumbing and electrical)
✔ Pool cue chalk
✔ Paint removal via heat, scraping, sanding, chemical or weathering
✔ Waste and incineration sites
✔ Lead ammunition

Lead Kills 1st Yellowstone Golden Eagle Fitted with a Tracker: Cheyenne, Wyoming Associated Press, April 2019
“The first Golden Eagle in Yellowstone National Park fitted with a tracking device, has died of lead poisoning, likely after consuming lead bullet fragments while scavenging the remains of an animal killed by a hunter, officials said Monday.” Photos and article at the link provided above.

✔ Lead dust generated during gun or rifle discharge,
✔ Lead ingested or embedded in animals that are eaten for food
✔ Airborne Lead dust from indoor shooting ranges in blood will be 1.5-2x higher versus pre-exposure. Copper jacket bullets, non-lead primers and well ventilated indoor firing ranges are better.
✔ Shooting range instructors or shooters: ∎ Shooters with normal bullets have an exposure of 128ug/m3 in their area and there will be 68ug/m3 in the general area ∎ Copper jacketed will be 9.53 ug/m3 in the zone and 5.80ug/m3 in the general area ∎ 15-20 hours a week at a shooting range with a 3hr avg/day will be 460-510 ug/m3 exposures ∎ Exposures are carried on clothes, shoes, skin to contaminate other people and environments.

Often times your camel is carrying a lot of sticks. The stick that broke my camel’s back was a paradise vacation in the Caribbean eating “healthy” fish each day. While fish is not the source Lead toxicity it was the source of mercury. It was mercury that broke my camel’s back. The clean-up process has revealed mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic and more (see a couple lab results at the end).

Think not just of today’s exposures, but have a think about your life as it was in the past.
Where were you raised? What were your playtime activities? Where have you lived, worked and with whom? What surrounded those locations? From which direction did the wind blow? Where have you traveled? What were your hobbies and interests? What were the lands where you worked and lived on used for before you arrived?


While Lead toxicity is already known to be related to anemia, I believe at some point Lead and cadmium levels in the bone will be linked to certain medical conditions. XRF is a type of x-ray that can determine the Lead levels in the bone. Bone is alive. Hundreds of billions of blood cells and stem cells are manufactured each day inside the bone, in the bone marrow. How could your blood be the highest quality if the bone surrounding the bone marrow is storing Lead and cadmium?

I encourage you to be your own advocate. Start by reading the whole report on Lead offered for free on line by the ATSDR. You probably need to read the report on cadmium as well. Use the references in the more than 100 pages at the end of the reports to do more research. Then do more research at the library to find more recent findings in medical literature databases.

If it is overwhelming then give me a call, I am good at helping to sort out the puzzle pieces and locate the best direction for you and your health recovery.


Krista Umgelter

ATSDR Links:

ATSDR Toxicological Report for Lead

Toxic Substances Index

Organ system failures and possible toxic substances

When the mercury was gone I thought I was finished and stopped chelation treatments. As the months passed my body was having new problems. Tests revealed that while the mercury was much lower, my body was mobilizing other stored heavy metals at deeper levels of tissues and bones.

I started working on removing the lead in an effort to stabilize my body, relieve the burden and reverse the medical problems.

As I made chelation a way of life, like eating right, maintaining a safe home environment and limiting exposures the metals slowly came down.

Having had mercury in excess at one time and later had lead in excess. I can assure you the two toxic metals effected my mind, emotional states, behaviors and body function in very different ways. I no longer need a test to confirm that my lead levels are rising – I know. My auto immune conditions are impossible to manage and my emotional and mental states are very uncomfortable.

I still go to chelation treatment today, in 2018. My body doesn’t need me to go as often, but it still needs the help. 

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