Upcoming Virtual and In-Person Educational Events for Patients and Medical Professionals ➜ VIEW NOW

Increased toxic metal exposures in our everyday life

Dr Nafysa Parpia talks with Dr. Lyn Patrick about where mercury & lead is found in
our modern lifestyle and how to easily test yourself

Play Video

It is an unfortunate reality that most people today have a high toxicant load in their body.

From pesticides, to wildfires, to modern home building practices, it is difficult to avoid. Even the simple fact of being born before 1990 means that could likely have high levels of lead in your system.

In this clip from Dr. Parpia’s interview of Dr. Lyn Patrick of Environmental Medicine Education International about detoxing, you can learn about how you are exposed to lead, mercury, and other toxins as well as how to test for them in your body.

Some topics covered in the video are:

      • The global body burden of lead and how it affects the immune system
      • Toxicants in home building such as lead, mold, & mycotoxins
      • Why Lyme is more prevalent in the U.S. now
      • The importance of seeing a doctor who is educated in environmental medicine
      • Mercury’s high levels in both inland and ocean caught wild fish, as well as high fructose corn syrup
      • The surprising way mercury is released into the air from wildfires
      • The federal government database for toxic exposure and how you can ask your doctor to test your own levels.
      • Dr. Parpia also addresses how a high toxic burden can inhibit immune function and your body’s ability to fight chronic infections like Lyme Disease. Most chronically ill patients have a very high toxicant load. Long term low level exposure to toxins can be a contributor to complex chronic illnesses.
Watch this 25 minute clip, or read the transcript below, to learn all the details.

Interview Transcript

Dr. Lyn Patrick

The reality of what we’re dealing with today is we have a significant toxic load. Anyone who was born before 1990 has a body burden of lead, just because of when they were born. In addition to all the other chemicals that are in our environment, we have this tsunami of both mold exposure and mycotoxin exposure as a result of residential and commercial building problems that we have with our building industry that allow for mold growth. And then we have Lyme disease, which is an ever-increasing epidemic as a result of global warming.

 I live in Colorado, and we never had ticks until two years ago. We now have a tick problem. We now have Lyme disease in Colorado. Even at high elevations, 9000 10,000 feet up in the air. It’s warm enough now to have ticks, and so we have a whole kind of a new problem that we’re having to deal with. This combination of toxicant exposure and chronic infection makes practicing Environmental Medicine even more challenging, so thus, even a greater need for that specialty education. But getting to today’s topic, which is detox. What is it?

Dr. Lyn Patrick  

I want to start out with just a little bit of my perspective on this. We know that the actual acknowledgement of environmental toxicant causing disease has been in medicine since the 40s and the 50s. We have pioneers in this area who are MD, medical doctors. Herbert Rinkle, Theodore Randolph, Dr. Randolph, who actually were some of the first doctors to realize that pesticides were hurting people. Remember DDT? We’ve had that available back in the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and wasn’t even taken out of commerce until 1972. So, we have a long history of that toxicant and a lot of exposure. However, due to some pressure by the chemical companies, these doctors were basically not listened to. And their assertion that toxicants caused disease was really downplayed.

Even our very young, kind of modern father of Environmental Medicine, Dr. William Ray, who was a cardiothoracic surgeon, as well as running a hospital for environmental illness, or patients who had been environmentally poisoned, he also had a difficult time getting the attention in the medical profession. Certainly, because I think we’ve had this long standing and I want to say, an actual, overt and conscious kind of pressure from the chemical industry to downplay this relationship.

 So, for those of us that now are paying attention, even though this downplaying of the importance of our exposure to toxicants on a daily basis is still happening from, I’m sad to say, even the more astute and educated aspects of the conventional medical profession. I think there’s so much information out there about our exposure levels, that the general public is very clear that there is a constant and continuous exposure that we all have to chemicals every day, and that those chemicals alter our immune systems, our reproductive systems, our nervous systems, our endocrine systems, and basically every system of the body. There’s no system that gets away without being affected.

 Dr. Nafysa Parpia  

Right. The patients that I focus on have complex chronic illness. They come to us with long standing Lyme disease or tick-borne disease, mold, mycotoxin illness, and then those wastebasket terms. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, fibromyalgia, where the doctors don’t know why they have to put this label on the patient. Autoimmune conditions, for example…

 Dr. Lyn Patrick  

Depression that does not respond to standard treatment…

 Dr. Nafysa Parpia  

Exactly. Nervous system dysregulation, mast cell activation syndrome, most of my patients have all of this all at once. Of course, I’m testing their toxins, their environmental toxic loads. I’m looking for metals, I’m looking for pesticides, insecticides, glyphosate, and I’m looking for their infections. And of course, I’m seeing high environmental toxin loads in this patient population. Once I begin to detoxify them in a way that’s personalized for the patients, I can see that they’re actually able to handle treatment of the infections or sometimes even their infections start to go away. If I detox them first, though, that’s immune regulation right there, just by detox.

 Tell us about the research on environmental toxins and in their contribution to immune dysregulation and complex chronic illness.

 Dr. Lyn Patrick  

Where I would like to start is by telling everyone out there that the federal government, your tax dollars, funds the Center for Disease Control, which has a huge database of toxic exposure in the general population. You actually have access to this. It’s available to everyone. You can look it up. And I’m going to take you to what is called the National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals. Now, this has been ongoing for two decades. It’s a huge amount of people every two years. They actually have huge buses that go out all over the country and collect urine and blood from people like you and me, large groups of people, 5000 people, 7000 people, and then they look in the blood and urine of those people for over 200 chemicals. And it’s in this database right here.

 So, if we go to this page, which is cdc.gov/exposurereport, and it’s the index for the exposure report, and we go to the actual data tables, which are in this beautiful, little searchable database right here, and we look for, oh, let’s say lead, that’s a good one. And we want to look for blood lead from the year 2011 to the year 2018. Those are the years in which data was actually collected from, as you can see, sample sizes as large as 8000 people. And that was for the years 2011 – 2012. We have actual information about blood lead on these individuals. Here’s the important thing we know from epidemiologic studies that have looked at this database for 19 years.

 There’s actually a recent study that was published in Lancet Public Health by Dr. Bruce Lamphere, who is a career public health epidemiologist. He specializes in blood lead poisoning in children. We know that levels as high as 2.3, 2.6… I’m going to say 2.6, increased risk for dying of a heart attack, or dying of a stroke significantly. Dying of a stroke was more than twice the risk. Just having a blood lead level over 2.6. Now, what I’m going to show you here is that there’s a significant amount of the population that has a blood level over 2.6. They are here in this group. And you can see that. 3.16 back in 2011, up to 2.4.  2.4 is the average, and it goes all the way up to 2.6. The 95th percentile just means the top 5% of the population.

 Now, when you go in to get your blood drawn, and you say, “Hey, I was born before 1990. And I just saw this webinar where this doctor talked about this, (and I have people in academic centers that have agreed with me on this.) that anyone born before 1990 has a significant body burden of lead that increases their risk from dying of cardiovascular disease. I want my blood lead level drawn please.” It is a test you have access to, every lab in the world does it, and it will cost about $50 out of pocket if your insurance doesn’t cover it.

 Dr. Lyn Patrick  

Your physician may say, “I have no idea why you want that. I’ve never read that study.” And that’s because most doctors don’t read the studies, they have no time to read the medical literature, and toxicology, environmental toxicology, toxic metal research is not their thing. But it is true that everyone around the globe has a body lead burden historically, because we put lead in paint. We put lead in gasoline, and when gasoline was combusted, or paint chips became dust that created a global burden of lead. So, it’s in the atmosphere, and it’s in the soil. And it is in old buildings that were built before 1982.

This is a government database that has over 200 chemicals in it. So, if you’re exposed to a chemical, you can get a pretty good idea of what the average American level is in terms of blood or urine. Not hair, and not stool, and not tissue. The CDC doesn’t measure those, but they definitely measure blood and urine. This is an open access database. I don’t have any secret passwords. Everyone has access to this. Every physician has access to this. They just don’t know how to use it. And they don’t know how to interpret the data in it. That’s what we teach our doctors to do. So that when they do have patients that they suspect, for example, I’ll give you a great example of a patient. A woman who had an old home, she has several, four children, ages 2 – 15. She had painters come to paint her home because the paint was chipping and they really needed to repaint the entire outside of the home.

 According to the law, when you have an old home and you’re going to repaint it, you have to bag that home. You literally put a plastic bag around it, so that all of the dust from the paint that you’re sanding off gets captured, because that dust could have lethal levels of lead in it. So, the company was not up to snuff in terms of following the law. And they did not bag the house. There was a lot of dust that was breathed in by her and her entire family. During that week, when the entire house, a big two-story house, was sanded, her blood pressure went up significantly. One of her children became very sick. He got headaches, he was lethargic, he got stomach aches. Because she was paying attention, she took her entire brood into the physician and forced them to do blood testing. Her lead level was 45. Standard lead level is between 0.5 and 1.5. That’s the average here, you can see the geometric mean for 2017, 2018 is 0.7. So this was many, many, many times above the average. So, while she and her children had to actually be treated for lead toxicity, this is not an uncommon occurrence.

 Dr. Nafysa Parpia  

No, I see this in my patient population. In fact, I’ve had many patients come to me, they’re in a state of chronic Lyme, all of a sudden. It is likely that they had the tick bite a long time ago, but their immune system was able to keep that Lyme in check, as the immune system should be able to do that. But they lived in the house when it was being renovated, or they moved back in three days later.  I test their blood; the blood level is high. And I do some tests to look at chronic Lyme, I’m looking at T cell tests, not just antibody tests. Sure enough, they are fighting Lyme right now and they have a high blood lead. But they weren’t finding Lyme prior to moving back into the house.

 Dr. Lyn Patrick  

It’s really great that you bring this up Dr. Parpia. Because we think of lead in kind of toxicologic terms, right? It has the capacity for causing cardiovascular disease. There are neurologic or brain related problems with lead. They can cause abdominal pain as well in an acute setting. However, lead also has an effect on the immune system. There’s a great study done in Poland, where they looked at levels of lead in utero, so in moms who were pregnant, and then they followed those children up until they were nine years old. The children that were born to the moms who had the highest level of blood lead had significant risk for severe allergies. This was, I think, the study was done in the 90s. A little while ago, but not that long ago.

This is a connection that most doctors don’t make, that these toxic exposures are immune toxicants and affect the immune system. The reason I brought up the mercury tables here is that this is another metal commonly found high especially in patients who eat fish. The US Forest Service did a study of all the inland lakes and streams in the United States in 2011. They published the study, and they found out that 50% of all the fish, we’re not talking about the big ocean tuna, or the big ocean shark or other big ocean fish that are high in mercury, like swordfish. These are inland fish like trout and bass. They found out that 50% of the inland fish had levels of mercury or a chemical called PCBs that were higher than the allowable EPA level in fish.  And this includes wild fish.

 Dr. Nafysa Parpia  

My patients will say to me, “I’m eating wild fish, though. Shouldn’t that take care of it?”

 Dr. Lyn Patrick  

These are all wild fish, stream reservoir and creek fish. I paid attention to that, because I was very tuned in to fish as a source of mercury. So here we are, again, the Environmental Protection Agency as an agency, you can see levels of mercury in people are rising. They’re not going down over time. If you look at the population from 2009 to 2010, which sadly, is the latest data that we have, it’s 10 years old, you’ll see that in the top 5% of the population, levels of mercury are over the safe level that the EPA actually allows for blood mercury. So, 5.0, and this is microgram per liter, whole blood, is the top. In other words, you can have blood mercury over 5.0. But there you’ve got it. 5% of the American population is actually mercury toxic.

 Now, as a physician, I know that the data shows me that levels as low as 1.0, which is somewhere in here, between the 50th and the 75th percentile, so at least 25% of the population has blood mercury levels high enough that it can alter thyroid function. We know that thyroid disease, autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves’ disease, or autoimmune thyroiditis is a huge problem in the United States of America, as it is around the world. Mercury is one of the toxicants that is involved in autoimmune thyroiditis. And so here, we have evidence from a government database, that mercury exposure in the United States population is significant enough that 25% of the population could be having symptoms of toxicity, at least from an autoimmune standpoint, as the result of their exposure to mercury through fish.

 I’m not going to talk about amalgam fillings, because that’s a whole nother sticky wicket. It’s not that it doesn’t cause problems. But that’s very hard to diagnose, from a medical standpoint. That mercury doesn’t end up in the blood, it ends up in the urine, but there’s no direct correlation between having an amalgam filling and having a blood urine level. 

So, you wanted data, this is a huge, huge database. Look at this. In 2009 – 2010, 8700 people in the study. You know, when we look at statistics, we always want to try and figure out as scientists, what is the necessary population that we need to study? How many people do we need to study to get statistical significance? And if you look in medical literature, you know, a huge study is considered 5000 people. Huge study! Most studies are 200, 300, 400 people. This is almost 9000 individuals. Repeated, these are not the same individuals every year, it’s a different population. So, you’re really looking at 32,000 individuals studied over the period of 10 years.

 Dr. Nafysa Parpia  

Most of my patients are Mercury’s hovering in the 90th, 95th,  above. They’re lucky if it’s 75th percent when they’re coming to me. Remember, my patients have complex chronic illness, and they’ve got autoimmune conditions. And so, I’m seeing this in the trenches with the patients.

 Dr. Lyn Patrick  

I believe because of your locality, being in California, which is more of a fish-eating population than Kansas or Indiana or landlocked states, that don’t have a lot of water bodies, you are looking at patients that may be exposed through their dietary intake.

One thing I’ll mention, just because no one ever talks about this. High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener, right? It is used a lot in a tremendous variety of foods, everything from instant oatmeal to barbecue sauce. I was one of the authors on this paper. We published a study looking at the mercury in high fructose corn syrup because of the manufacturing technologies that are used. Mercury is actually used in the manufacturing of high fructose corn syrup. It is another dietary item that is contaminated, not on purpose, but contaminated nonetheless with inorganic mercury.  We actually published that study. I worked with a bench researcher at the Food and Drug Administration who was very concerned about this. We actually sent a sample of high fructose corn syrup into NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to get it measured. They actually corroborated that these samples of high fructose corn syrup were contaminated with mercury. So you may also be seeing that. A population that’s eating a lot of high fructose corn syrup.

 Dr. Nafysa Parpia  

A lot of our patients come from all over the country actually. So for even the ones from California, still, I’m seeing that. But one thing I’m seeing in California since a fire season has developed, that started over the past four or five years, we didn’t have fire season before. Now it’s every year without fail, unfortunately. I’m seeing mercury levels higher in people than I did before. I was researching the reasons for that.

 Dr. Lyn Patrick  

There’s a reason for that, as you know. I guess we have to talk about it. Conifers, trees that have needles, like ponderosa pine trees, my area has a lot of ponderosa pine trees, actually will take up mercury from the soil. Well, to start, where does mercury come from? When coal is burned in plants that are making electricity, that coal contains mercury from the earth, from 1000s of years of compression. Mercury does exist as a metal in the earth. When the coal is burned, that mercury is released, especially in China, where the scrubbers on the electric plants are not that great, the coal burning electric plants, and it actually floats all the way across the Pacific Ocean and lands in California, as well as other parts of the United States and Canada. Conifers will take up that mercury and actually store it in their needles.

 An amazing researcher from the University of Washington actually was able to trace the release and movement of mercury from wildfire smoke into the atmosphere. So sadly, I think that our recent spate of wildfire smoke exposure that’s been happening since 2015 across the West, has released more airborne mercury. We do take that in atmospherically. We breathe that in, and it does stay in our bodies once we’re exposed to it.

 I think you brought up a really important, this whole topic now of the complication that all physicians are seeing, whether they deal with it or not, is the complication of daily exposure to toxicants. And either the resurgence of what were well controlled chronic infections, or new chronic infections as a result of these exposures, because they’re immune toxicants, as well as continued exposure to mold and mycotoxins from building.

 Dr. Nafysa Parpia  

It’s a big deal for these patients.

Interested in Becoming A Patient?

Find out if working with Gordon Medical is right for you. Set up a complimentary discovery call with our new patient coordinator.