Lead is a metal which has no place in the human body. While micro-doses of most other metals (iron, copper, zinc, manganese …) do indeed play a role in the vital chemical reactions that take place in our cells, lead is toxic at a cellular level however low the concentration.
Our prehistoric ancestors were fortunate enough not to have any lead in their bodies. Even at very low doses, lead is a contributing factor in mental retardation
. It is harmful to the embryo or foetus and affects learning capacity in children (1); indeed some experts believe the fall of the Roman Empire was due to the abundant use of lead. (2)
The Romans ate and drank from vessels made of lead, and it was also used to make pipes and coins. Roman noblewomen often fell victim to lead poisoning because they wore make up containing white lead. Lead poisoning manifests first as digestive problems, anaemia and sterility, then destruction of the nervous system and brain, and finally paralysis and death.
Lead poisoning remained rare, however, until the Industrial Revolution, but with the advent of lead-based paint and leaded petrol, it became widespread in the 19th and 20th centuries. Indeed, it was declared one of the top six industrial diseases
in October 1919.
A frightening epidemic
Lead poisoning took on epidemic proportions after the Second World War as hundreds of thousands of men worked in factories producing batteries, or as ship painters using lead-based paint. Leaded petrol only began to be phased out in Western countries in the 1980s and continued to be widely-used in Communist or former Communist countries until the end of the 1990s.
Nowadays, our bodies contain on average a thousand times more lead
than was the case in the pre-industrial age.
Molecular lead is neither biodegradable nor degradable. Without evasive action, it actually bio-accumulates in the body, and for this reason, lead exposure will remain a public health issue in most countries for some time to come. For while emissions in the developed world may have fallen, the beginning of the 21st century has seen global lead production continue to rise, with China’s population exposed to very significant environmental lead contamination, as are populations of countries where leaded petrol is still sold.
The effects of lead on the human body
Every child on the planet today is to some degree contaminated by lead.
Average blood levels of lead among populations of affluent countries generally exceed 10 micrograms per decilitre, though it is not uncommon to find concentrations of more than 200 mc/dl. The majority of symptoms appear at levels in the region of 100 mcg/dl while measurable effects on child behaviour and reduced IQ appear at much lower concentrations than these.
While it is now impossible to prevent lead from being absorbed by the body, we can eliminate it before it has the chance to do us any harm. The human body has natural defence mechanisms but they are limited and only work when the amounts of heavy metal absorbed do not exceed those excreted. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case with lead, which is why specialists such as Dr Garry Gordon recommend taking “oral chelators every day, throughout life, from the moment you can swallow a dietary supplement".(3)
‘Chelators’ are molecules which have a particular affinity for heavy metals. Once ingested, they attach to metal particles in the bloodstream and transport them out of the body via urine and faeces.
The most widely-used chelator for removing lead is ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid or EDTA
EDTA: a laser beam that eliminates lead
EDTA helps eliminate lead from the body by binding to it via ‘chelation’ and transporting it out of the body through natural means.
It can lead to the eradication of many symptoms induced by lead, symptoms which doctors often attribute to other causes because of their non-specific nature:
• Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea/constipation, headaches, and frequent loss of appetite and weight;
• Abdominal pain (known as ‘lead colic’);
• Neurological problems including a decline in cognitive ability (difficulties with concentration and memory), fatigue and either lethargy or the complete opposite - hyperactivity;
• Irritability – a symptom primarily observed in schoolchildren from regions or families exposed to lead, though some experts believe its incidence in adults has been underestimated;
• Delayed mental development in children, and irreversible damage where poisoning affects the embryo, fœtus or young child;
• Psychomotor problems: lead affects the central and peripheral nervous systems, quite painlessly at first. One of the early signs of peripheral damage (chronic neuropathy) is weakness of the extensor muscles in the hand (which appears after a few weeks’ exposure). If exposure continues or is severe, joint pain develops, and potentially, paralysis of the limbs;
• Kidney disfunction;
• High blood pressure;
• Male sterility (due to toxic effects and/or endocrine disruption) ;
• Hearing loss;
• Hyperuricaemia (accumulation of uric acid when excretion in urine is inadequate);
• Cancers (induced by some chemical forms of lead).
It’s thus no exaggeration to say that regular chelation with EDTA could save hundreds of thousands of lives each year, especially among populations living in cities and industrial areas.
How does EDTA work?
EDTA is an amino acid which was synthesised in Germany in 1935 and first patented 10 years later in the United States.
EDTA is like a simple food in that it is an amino acid (amino acids are the ‘building blocks’ of protein and thus of our flesh, bones and tissues). But the body treats it as a foreign substance once it attaches itself to an atom of lead (or to be more precise, an ion, ie an atom without a normal number of electrons). The whole particle – now a lead-chelator compound – is thus eliminated from the body by the kidneys.
That’s why taking 1000mg to 2000mg of EDTA a day prevents the body from becoming a ‘lead sponge’. Furthermore, by some fortunate quirk of Nature, it seems that EDTA can also offer significant protection against … heart disease.
Remarkable efficacy against heart disease
Since the first clinical trials were conducted, chelation has consistently demonstrated a remarkable ability to remove calcium deposits from the arteries (atherosclerosis), which is a factor in heart disease
Research conducted back in 1955 at the Providence Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, reported that EDTA dissolved ‘metastatic calcium’ - calcium deposited where it is not wanted (in the joints, bones and inner ear, etc, interfering with normal function). In other words, chelation appears to be a powerful antidote to atherosclerosis, arthritis, kidney stones and otosclerosis (hearing loss associated with calcification of bones in the ear).
Indeed, hardening of the arteries does not affect just one part of the body. If your coronary arteries are clogged up with atheromatous plaque, you can be sure that the arteries in your brain, kidneys, lungs, sex organs and other vital organs are similarly affected.
But it is possible to prevent or reduce the build-up of plaque by regularly supplementing with EDTA.
Chelation helps eliminate atheromatous plaque (or prevent it from forming) and restore healthy blood flow throughout the vascular system. It can be described as the elimination of calcium deposits from the arteries, in addition to its effect against lead toxicity. Since calcium deposits are also responsible for excess free radical production, EDTA chelation also acts as a powerful antioxidant, protecting cell membranes, DNA, enzyme systems and lipoproteins from the damaging effects of these dangerous molecules.
Chelation can be administered intravenously or orally, in the form of nutritional supplements. One month’s oral supplementation is considered equivalent to a 2-3 hour intravenous treatment. Between 20 and 40 intravenous treatments are frequently prescribed to eliminate blockages in the arteries.
The product to take is therefore EDTA in capsule form (see below) at a dose of 4-6 capsules a day.
(1) Kuzirian, A.M., F.M. Child, H.T. Epstein (1996), Lead affects learning by Hermissenda crassicornis. Biological Bulletin 191:260-261
(2) Lionel and Diane Needleman (1985), "Lead Poisoning and the Decline of the Roman Aristocracy" ; Classical Views, 4(1), 63-94; voir aussi : Walter Scheidel (1999) , "Emperors, Aristocrats, and the Grim Reaper: Towards a Demographic Profile of the Roman Elite" ; The Classical Quarterly, 49(1), 254-28; et Roman Aqueducts & Water Supply (2002) de A. Trevor Hodge.
(3) An authority on chelation, Dr Gordon has written a number of books on the subject and treats thousands of patients with EDTA.