Bodily Defenses Image Map

Heavy Metals

Four heavy metals (cadmium, mercury, lead and chromium) are all toxic to the kidneys. Each causes problems in the tubules, but by slightly different means.

  • inhibits the functions of the mitochondria, making cells unable to reabsorb substances like they are supposed to

  • also  a major problem in damage to the brain, especially in young children

Sources: paints, gasoline (except unleaded), batteries, pipes soldered with lead, industrial plants

More about Lead

  • kidneys concentrate mercury

  • reacts with other proteins and enzymes in the kidney cells and can eventually kill them

  • can also damage the central nervous system.

  • accumulates in food chains. 

Sources: coal burning, manufacturing processes

More about Mercury

  • damages kidney tubules (also causes anemia and bone and mineral loss)

  • reacts with proteins and accumulates in kidney

  • substitutes for zinc in enzymes and changes enzyme action

Sources: Some soils just naturally have high levels of cadmium; quarries, mines; plastics, batteries, rubber goods

More about Cadmium

  • reabsorbed by the tubule cells and becomes very concentrated

  • interferes with energy exchange and can become a corrosive acid

Sources: metal finishing processes, burning of fossil fuels, wood preservatives

More about Chromium


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