Many workers are frequently exposed to lead and other heavy metals, such as, mechanics, welders, painters, plumbers, electronic metal recyclers, as well as law enforcement officers and demolition workers. Many of the health effects of exposure are subtle and may go unnoticed, until later, and then hypertension, renal changes, as well as cognitive dysfunction and adverse female reproductive outcomes may develop.
Under OH&S guidelines, if employees may be exposed to lead, mercury or other heavy metals, It is the employer’s responsibility to perform testing at the time of hire and at least yearly to monitor exposure levels.
Using sterile blood collection techniques, performed by lab technicians and nurses, our team can perform on site phlebotomy services, eliminating the need to send employees to outside labs for collection. This is a convenient and cost saving service and your employees with feel more comfortable in a familiar environment.
Heavy Metals AKA:Toxic Metals
Common testing in the workplace includes: Lead, Mercury, Iron, Copper
Procedures and practices:
Why Get Tested?
To screen for, detect, and monitor excessive exposure to specific heavy metals
When to Get Tested?
Periodically when you work with heavy metals, or when a healthcare practitioner suspects that you may have been exposed
A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm or a 24-hour urine sample; rarely, a hair or nail sample, tissue sample, or other body fluid sample
Test Preparation Needed?
48 hours before collection, you should not eat seafood. If you have had a procedure in which either gadolinium- or iodine-containing contrast media has been administered, wait 96 hours before sample collection.
How is it used?
Heavy metals testing is used to screen for or to diagnose heavy metal poisoning in those who may have been acutely or chronically exposed to one or more heavy metals and to monitor excessive metal concentrations in those who work with various heavy metals. Such occupations include construction work, mining, radiator repair shops, and firing ranges. Testing is also conducted to monitor the effectiveness of chelation therapy, a treatment to rid the body of high amounts of a heavy metal.
Heavy metal panels are set up in groups of tests that mirror potential metal exposures. A laboratory may offer several different groupings that are specific for either blood or urine. A healthcare practitioner will order the metals panel that corresponds to the person’s occupation, hobby, suspected exposure, and/or clinical symptoms. Some of the metals that are more commonly tested include:
If a healthcare practitioner suspects that someone has been exposed to a specific metal, such as lead, the practitioner may order that specific test instead of, or in addition to, a panel. Lead is usually ordered by itself when screening for exposure, effects. Some metals can also be measured in fluid, hair, fingernails, and body tissues. Usually these are ordered individually.
When is it ordered?
A heavy metals panel may be ordered if a healthcare practitioner suspects that someone has been acutely or chronically exposed to one or more heavy metals. Signs and symptoms of heavy metal exposure will vary in nature and intensity depending on the type and quantity of metal involved; early symptoms of poisoning can be missed because they are often non-specific. Excessive exposure and damage to several different organs can occur even if a person has no, few, or nonspecific symptoms. Some signs and symptoms of metal poisoning may include:
- Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Nervous system symptoms such as numbness, tingling of hands and feet, weakness
- Kidney damage
- Liver damage
- In the lungs – irritation, fluid accumulation (edema)
- Brain dysfunction, memory loss
- Meese lines (horizontal lines on nails)
- Changes in behavior
- Malformed bones in children, weakened bones
- In pregnant women – miscarriage, premature labor
People who may be exposed to metals in the workplace are usually monitored periodically. Safety measures minimize risk to employees and help address problems when they are identified. oh&s regulates the use and monitoring of several toxic metals that may be found on the job. If excessive concentrations are detected, affected persons are monitored and steps are taken to reduce their exposure.
What does the test result mean?
Care must be taken in the interpretation of heavy metals tests. A low level of a heavy metal in the blood does not necessarily mean that excessive exposure has not occurred. Heavy metals do not stay in the blood and will not be present in the urine for extended periods of time. Lead, for instance, migrates from the blood into the body’s organs and over time is incorporated into the bones. If someone was chronically exposed to lead, then that person might have lead in his or her blood, urine, organs, and bones.
Very low levels of many heavy metals may be present in the blood and urine of apparently healthy people because these metals are present throughout our environment. Recommendations for safe levels of heavy metals depend on the age of the person and may change over time as more information about their safety emerges.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, scientists found measurable mercury in over 8,000 participants in a study conducted in 2004. A conclusion they came upon was that both blood and urine levels of mercury tend to increase with age. They also state that finding a measurable amount of mercury in blood or urine does not imply that levels of mercury cause an adverse health effect. Monitoring studies on mercury levels in the body provide physicians and public health officials with reference values so that they can determine whether people have been exposed to higher levels of mercury than are found in the general population.