Tests for Mercury Poisoning

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Testing for Mercury

Testing for mercury is the only way to objectively determine if your body is eliminating higher than normal amounts of mercury. But a warning in advance—the ADA and many of its pro-amalgam supporters don’t consider these tests meaningful. Sure, it’s true that testing for mercury has limitations. For example, no test can tell you where and how much mercury is in your body, how much is in your brain or how much damage it has done.

But it’s also true that many health professionals regard testing a valuable diagnostic tool.The medical profession uses a number of tests including fecal metals, blood, urine and hair analysis to determine if mercury is in the body and/or if it’s being excreted.

These tests will designate a level of mercury considered “normal.” What this means is that the majority of people that test at the “safe” level or below won’t yet exhibit symptoms of mercury poisoning. Two issues stand out here. First, “a majority” won’t exhibit symptoms—which means some at those levels will. Second, there is absolutely no “safe” level of mercury—every atom of it in your body is poisoning you to some degree. Plus, not all tests are equal and some can give misleading information or be misinterpreted to the point where you might think you aren’t mercury toxic but actually are.

Some people use the saliva test but I’ve omitted it because it can only detect mercury in the mouth. It neither indicates how much mercury is in the body, nor shows the amount of mercury being removed.

Contact information for the laboratories I recommend for testing for mercury are listed on Page 2. All tests listed will have to be ordered by a health practitioner.

Commonly Used Tests for Mercury

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Fecal Metals Test

Ninety percent of the mercury eliminated by the body’s natural detoxification/chelation process is by way of the liver/common bile duct/intestine/feces detoxification pathway, so any objective monitoring should include the fecal metals test. This test is ideal for any, patients, dentists or health practitioners, who are skeptical about whether or not mercury is stored in your body or would like to monitor the progress of a detoxification program. The fecal metals test offers a number of distinct advantages over any other test for mercury because it:

  • demonstrates a direct correlation between fecal mercury levels and the number of amalgam fillings
  • reflects the body burden of accumulated (not incoming) mercury after filling removal
  • lets you compare each test to previous tests
  • reflects accurately the body’s ability to remove mercury naturally which helps evaluate the effectiveness of the immune system
  • eliminates concern about undesirable side effects such as an allergic or dose-related reaction that may occur with tests requiring a pharmaceutical chelating agent
  • is a simple, non-invasive procedure that can be done at home
  • is ideal for children and chemically sensitive patients because it doesn’t require any drugs, or other chemical products
  • is ideal for anyone with kidney problems that would preclude using a pharmaceutical chelator.

In addition, the fecal metals test can help determine:

  • whether the liver, your body’s main detoxification pathway, is eliminating mercury
  • if the amount of mercury you’re eliminating puts your body burden of mercury in the “normal” range or not
  • the effectiveness of the mercury detoxification program by comparing mercury prior to starting the program to levels at periodic intervals
  • your fecal mercury levels compared to those of people who never had amalgam fillings.

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While it’s possible to use the fecal metals test only for mercury, I recommend you test for the full range of toxic metals. Other toxic metals are removed along with mercury, so it’s a good idea to keep track of them too. Doing so will help your dentist or health practitioner monitor which ones are being removed and their rate of removal. If I could only choose one test for mercury it would be the fecal metals test. I beleive the best lab for this test is Doctor's Data, Inc. www.doctorsdata.com.

Urine Mercury Testing

As a diagnostic tool for mercury, the urine mercury challenge test is limited. For example, it provides little information about:

  • what part of the body the collected mercury came from
  • how much mercury is stored and where it’s located
  • the health problems the accumulated mercury is causing
  • brain and central nervous system mercury
  • the mercury the body removes naturally via the feces.

Two types of urine tests are commonly used. One is the unprovoked mercury urine test which doesn’t use a pharmaceutical mercury chelator and only reflects the amount of mercury the body naturally removes via the urine. The other is the urine mercury challenge (provoked) test, which uses a pharmaceutical chelator. Today, DMPS is the most commonly used pharmaceutical chelator for this test, but DMSA is also be used. I beleive the best lab for this test is Doctor's Data, Inc. www.doctorsdata.com.

Unprovoked Urine Mercury Test

It’s impossible for the unprovoked urine mercury test to accurately reflect the total amount of mercury the body naturally removes every day. That’s because less than 10% of the mercury the body removes naturally passes through the kidneys and out through the urine, while about 90% is eliminated via the feces. Thus, an unprovoked urine mercury test can easily indicate a relatively “safe” reading when the total body burden of mercury could actually be much higher. For example, if the total amount of mercury the body eliminates in one day is 10 mcg, the unprovoked urine test would show less than 1 mcg. And unless you knew your kidneys were functioning normally, you couldn’t determine if what’s coming out is what healthy kidneys would normally remove.

Used alone it could lead you to believe that you aren’t that mercury toxic, when you actually are. I don’t recommend this test for evaluating your body burden of mercury, determining how much mercury is being removed from your body, or for deciding whether or not to participate in a mercury detoxification program.

Urine Mercury Challenge Test

When a urine mercury challenge test is done correctly (especially for those who still have amalgam fillings), the results will show a far greater amount of mercury being removed from the kidneys than the unprovoked urine test will. This is because the pharmaceutical chelators used to capture and remove mercury, DMPS or DMSA, are much more aggressive at removing mercury than the body’s natural chelators. Unlike the body’s natural chelators, pharmaceutical chelators remove the mercury they capture via the kidneys/urine pathway. 

However, the challenge test can also be misinterpreted, especially if the kidneys are not functioning normally and are unable to release mercury effectively. When used as a one-time challenge test and evaluated just for mercury levels, this test can also be deceptive. Ideally, the urine challenge test should be done more than once, with the first one being used as a reference. You can then compare the results of future tests with the first one.

It’s also important to note that mercury isn’t the only metal that pharmaceutical chelators will find and remove. For example, DMPS has a greater affinity for other metals, including essential metals/minerals and, according to a study by Daunderer, DMPS will chelate them in the following order:

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Selectivity of DMPS

1. Zinc

6. Lead

2. Tin

7. Iron

3. Copper

8. Cadmium

4. Arsenic

9. Nickel

5. Mercury

10. Chromium

DMPS will remove zinc, tin, copper or arsenic first, so it means less DMPS is available for mercury removal. Therefore, a single urine mercury challenge test could indicate comparatively low levels of mercury and not accurately reflect the real mercury levels in the body. DMPS’s lack of “selective intelligence” (also DMSA) points out the major problem with relying on a pharmaceutical chelator for mercury detoxification. Zinc and copper are essential metals and necessary for life. If they’re removed indiscriminately a mineral imbalance could result, potentially creating serious side effects. The body is far more intelligent and knows what to keep and what to eliminate.

In addition, DMPS does not cross the blood brain barrier and can’t be used to reflect brain and central nervous system mercury levels. Even if a provoked urine test shows mercury levels in the normal range, there can still be a significant amount of mercury in the brain and central nervous system. Thus, when you’re using the urine challenge test, and the results show a normal level of mercury, I suggest it be confirmed it with a fecal metals test—the latter will reflect brain mercury. I beleive the best lab for this test is Doctor's Data, Inc. www.doctorsdata.com.

Blood Mercury Test

This test detects mercury levels in blood. While it can indicate exposure to all three types of mercury (elemental, inorganic and organic), the following limitations prevent this test from being useful at determining your body’s burden of mercury, or indicating its effectiveness in removing mercury.

  • If you take this test 72 hours or less after eating fish containing methyl mercury the test could show a high level of mercury in the blood.
  • The results could be completely different if you took the blood test before eating the fish, or a week after.

Mercury vapor passes quickly through the lungs and into and out of the blood stream, so any exposure to elemental mercury vapor from amalgam fillings or other sources shortly before testing can dramatically affect the results of this test. For example, if any of the following take place shortly before blood is drawn this test will indicate a high level of blood mercury.

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  • chewing gum
  • grinding your teeth
  • eating
  • drinking hot liquids
  • any other action that stimulates/heats amalgam fillings

But if you don’t stimulate your fillings for two hours before taking the blood test and had no other recent exposure to mercury (i.e., eating contaminated fish), the blood test would show low—even so-called “safe”—levels of blood mercury. Thus, the same person, taking the same blood test will show two completely different results.
However, if your health professional wants to know your blood mercury level for other reasons, this is a good test. For example, it’s an effective way to monitor an acute exposure to mercury. But it can only tell you if mercury was in your blood at the time the blood was drawn. It reveals nothing about:

  • whether mercury is present in other parts of your body at the time of the test
  • what effects it may be having on your health
  • your systemic body burden of mercury
  • the mercury that has accumulated in your brain.

Unless it’s indicated for other reasons, the blood test can be extremely misleading unless a fecal metals test is also done and the results compared. Mercury levels in the blood could indicate relatively “safe” levels while the fecal metals test could indicate high, harmful levels. I beleive the best lab for this test is Doctor's Data, Inc. www.doctorsdata.com.

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To Learn more about how much mercury can be released from amalgam/silver fillings - by various means of stimulation - and how toxic mercury is to the body, Click on the above Image to watch Dr. Tom McGuire's YouTube Video: Mercury The Poison

in Your Teeth!

 Page 2 - Additional Mercury Tests >>