Question: “Last week I dropped a mercury thermometer on a ceramic floor. I opened the window and put on gloves and used index cards to pick up the mercury so as not to touch any of it. I went out and bought a thermometer that is digital.
“Is there anything else that I should do……I do not believe that I came in direct contact with the mercury. Does it burn your skin on contact? Should I now eat any certain foods or take any supplements to make sure that my body is ok?”
Answer: Emma, you were wise to use caution in cleaning up the mercury. Mercury is a toxic, heavy metal, that can cause serious damage to the body, including our nervous system. Mercury is not only easily absorbed through the skin, but it is also absorbed when we inhale the vapor.
I remember, as a child, playing with mercury. We did not understand the danger back in those days. Exposure today is less direct, with the primary problem being a result of industrial, environmental contamination.
Mercury is one of many “heavy metal” toxins. Some of the others are the following: lead, cadmium arsenic, nickel and aluminum. These toxic metals can accumulate in the body, leading to cumulative, chronic damage.
Your experience, as an isolated incident, certainly does not compare in seriousness to children playing with mercury. I do not think you need to treat this as a medical emergency. Depending on your long term exposure to heavy metal contaminants–in the air you breath, the water you drink, and the food you eat–you might want to indeed take some precautionary actions.
There are certain nutritional and herbal supplements that might be helpful. Here are my suggestions:
(1) If you are not already doing so, take a high potency, broad spectrum multivitamin and multimineral supplement. If you are already doing so, increase the dosage for a couple of weeks.
It is important to note that I included “multimineral” in the description. This is important, and means not only calcium and magnesium, in therapeutic dosages, but also zinc, iron, copper, chromium and other trace minerals. High levels of “good” minerals can often counter the effects of bad minerals.
The easy way to do this is to use products such as Willvite, from Willner Chemists, Multigenics, from Metagenics, or My Favorite Multi, by Natrol. These products contain not only a full, balanced spectrum of vitamins, but also a full dose of calcium, magnesium and the trace minerals, all in one product. The recommended dosage, because of that, is four to six per day, depending on whether you are using the tablet or capsule form.
If you prefer a separate multivitamin, such as Solgar’s VM2000, or Omnium, you will need to take a separate multimineral formula as well. Any of the popular calcium, magnesium (and Vitamin D) formulas will do, as long as you double check that the combination of products is supplying the proper amounts of trace minerals–zinc, copper, iron, chromium, selenium, etc–as well.
(2) Many nutritionists recommend increased levels of vitamin C and B-complex vitamins. In addition, supplementation with sulfur-containing amino acids (cysteine, methionine, taurine) and foods rich in these amino acids (eggs, garlic, onions) is recommended.
My favorite is the nutritional supplement, NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine). NAC is a powerful antioxidant amino acid and a precursor in the body to the critical antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione exerts a variety of protective effects, including detoxification and intracellular defense against oxidative stress. NAC supplements are available from most reputable supplement manufacturers.
Because of their chelating action, water-soluble fibers such as pectin, guar gum, oat bran, psyllium and various alginate are helpful. The product mentioned below, Toxguard Heavy Metal Detox, contains these agents.
(3) Heavy Metal Detox Formulas. There are also special products that have been designed to assist in heavy metal detoxification. Using such products under these circumstances is highly recommended. Products of this type are usually designed to facilitate the “chelation” or enhanced excretion of heavy metal toxins. I will suggest two good examples:
(A) MetalloClear, from Metagenics. MetalloClear is a novel formula designed to naturally enhance the body’s clearance of specific heavy metals that can negatively impact health and vitality. Based on exciting new research, this formula contains ingredients that offer specialized nutritional support designed to enhance heavy metal metabolism. It contains Zinc (as zinc citrate), Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata), Turmeric (Curcuma longa) Rhizome Extract, and a blend of Hops (Humulus lupulus) and Luduxin
(B) Heavy Metal Detox, from Jarrow Formulas. Toxguard® Heavy Metal Detox contains PectaSol® Chelation Complex, a complex of modified polyuronide dietary fibers (citrus pectin and alginate) that have been specifically designed to tightly bind heavy metals and increase their clearance from the body while having a reduced affinity for most nutritionally essential elements. PectaSol’s modified citrus pectin (MCP) has a unique chemical structure and optimized molecular weight that allows for maximized absorption, systemic chelation of toxic metals, and facilitation of their removal. PectaSol’s modified alginate complements MCP by chelating toxic metals within the digestive tract and preventing their reabsorption.
These are two excellent examples of this type of product. They function through somewhat different mechanisms, and, in acute situations, can be used simultaneously.
(4) Liver Support. While heavy metal exposure may not directly impact liver function, it is not unusual that people with concerns about heavy metal exposure also have concerns about other toxic chemicals, drugs, solvents, pesticides, food additives, and alcohol. The liver plays a key role in metabolic detoxification. Liver support, therefore, is something that should be considered, even in cases where heavy metal contamination is the main problem.
There are many specialized products for liver support and detox (AdvaClear, by Metagenics. Liver PF, by Jarrow Formulas, and others). There are many individual nutrients and herbs (Milk Thistle, Artichoke Leaf, NAC, etc).
Under these conditions, where we are concerned about an isolated exposure, and prevention, a general liver support formula may be more appropriate. I suggest the product Liver Support, a PhytoTech supplement in the Willner Chemists line, for this purpose.
PhytoTech Liver Support is a herbal blend with a systemic detox action, supporting liver function and blood cleansing, protecting the body from environmental and dietary toxins. It is intended for those who feel they would benefit from:
– a systemic cleansing stimulant
– a specific liver function stimulant
– protecting the liver from exposure to toxins
– skin cleansing via liver detox
– bile stimulation
Phyto-Tech™ Liver Support comes in a liquid herbal form, regular and alcohol free, as well as a standardized liquid filled Veggie Cap. The latter is standardized to Silymarin content.
The liquid supplement contains the following herbs: Fresh Dandelion Root, Red Root, Oregon Grape Root, Milk Thistle Seed, Yellow Dock Root, Fresh Ginger Root, Fringe Tree Bark.
Each Phyto-Tech™ Liver Support Standardized Veggie Cap contains the following: Oregon Grape Root, Milk Thistle Seed, Yellow Dock Root, Burdock Root, Dandelion Root, Red Root, Fringe Tree Bark, and Silymarin (Milk Thistle) 80 mg.
Willvite (Willner Chemists)
My Favorite Multi, Natrol
VM2000 and Omnium, Solgar
N-Acetyl Cysteine NAC
Heavy Metal Detox
Liver PF, AdvaClear
Liver Support, PhytoTech
Heavy Metal Support, Captomer, Basic Detox Nutrients