Are Heavy Metals and Toxins the Cause of Your ADD/ADHD?

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Brain toxicity caused by heavy metals and other harmful substances can promote neurological malfunction that emulates symptoms of ADD/ADHD. Being familiar with these various substances, what symptoms they promote, and appreciating the importance of detoxification is hugely beneficial for resolving neurological conditions such as ADD/ADHD.

The Risk of Exposure

Even minor exposure to heavy metals and other environmental toxins can lead to significant disruption throughout the body.

The time of greatest danger regarding heavy metal exposure is during pregnancy. Prenatal exposure to heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium have been shown to increase the risk of developing ADHD. Therefore, avoidance of metals and toxins is particularly important when pregnant. Postnatal exposure to heavy metals and other toxins is also related to ADHD development but to a lesser degree.

Unfortunately, there is no way to completely avoid toxins and some individuals are at greater risk of exposure than others. In August of 2000, it was estimated that 58% of American children lived in counties with Superfund sites. These locations were at one time used as hazardous waste sites by various industries. Those living anywhere near these locations are at a significantly higher risk of exposure not only to heavy metals but many other environmental toxins as well.

Threatening Metals

There are many different dangerous metals that people come in contact with on a daily basis. Some of the most common toxic metals to be aware of include:

  • Aluminum
  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Nickel
  • Thallium
  • Uranium

Of the metals listed above, lead, mercury, and aluminum are perhaps those most common that people are exposed to on a daily basis. Although not all of the metals listed are associated directly with ADD/ADHD, exposure to them can contribute to other forms of dysfunction resulting in ADD/ADHD like symptoms.

Excessive exposure to heavy metals may result in heavy metal poisoning, which promotes the development of various neurological disorders ranging from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s. It may also cause one to experience neurological dysfunction similar to ADD/ADHD. Some of the most common ADD/ADHD related symptoms caused by heavy metal poisoning include:

  • Anxiety
  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Memory loss
  • Trouble retaining information

Other Toxins of Note

Many are not aware that everyday objects frequently contain toxins that may contribute to the development of neurological disorders including ADD/ADHD. Of specific concern are endocrine disruptors such as perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), triclosan, bisphenol A (BPA), and phthalates. These substances can inhibit communication, transport, and regulation of various chemicals, such as thyroid hormone, that play an important role in neurological function. Some of the most common carriers of such toxins include:

  • Carpeting and flooring
  • Cleaning products
  • Fire retardants
  • Lawn care products
  • Personal care products
  • Pesticides
  • Various toothpastes

Similar to heavy metals, early exposure, especially prenatal exposure, to such the selection of chemicals mentioned above increases the risk of developing a neurological disorder. This is because much of the body’s neurological development is completed during early stages of growth. The most important part of neurological development occurs during the first trimester of pregnancy. However, even after birth, environmental toxins and metals pose a threat to children and infants. This is because their biological defenses have not yet developed fully.

The Importance of Testing

Heavy metal poisoning and other forms of toxicity can be difficult to treat. Part of the challenge comes from identifying which substance or substances are causing the dysfunction. Testing for heavy metals typically involves a hair analysis and/or blood test. If someone suspects they have some form of toxicity, this method can confirm it and help identify the source of the problem.

Without identifying what substances are causing the disruption it is nearly impossible to construct a treatment plan to resolve it. Therefore, appropriately testing for harmful metals and toxins is one of the first steps that should be taken when diagnosing a patient suffering from neurological symptoms relating to ADD/ADHD.

Treating Toxicity to Support ADD/ADHD Recovery

The body naturally removes harmful substances and toxins through detoxification. Unfortunately, this process can malfunction, resulting in significant dysfunction. One of the potential disruptors of detoxification is a system overload due to toxin buildup caused by overexposure. When there are too many toxins in the system, the body simply can’t keep up with the demand or effectively remove previous toxin deposits. This is typically when notable symptoms of toxicity such as numbness, vomiting, and fatigue. When such dysfunction occurs, it is important to support the various components of the body’s natural detoxification process by limiting exposure to harmful substances and supplying it with detoxifying nutrients and supplements.

A professionally supervised heavy metal detox may also be beneficial in resolving heavy metal poisoning and limiting the symptoms of ADD/ADHD. The main goal of a heavy metal detox is to free toxin deposits in the body and subsequently remove them from the body. It is important to have a plan for removing or excreting toxins from the body once they are freed. This is because releasing heavy metal deposits without establishing a method of excretion can lead to a worsening of symptoms and greater toxicity.

Chelation is the most common way to support toxin excretion. This process utilizes chelating agents that bind to toxins allowing them to be dissolved and excreted through urine. Specific binders work with select metals. Therefore, it is important to use the appropriate chelating agent for each toxic substance. This is another reason why accurate testing and toxin identification is essential for effective treatment.

Recognizing and Removing ADD/ADHD Contributors

Heavy metals and environmental toxins are some of the many possible contributors of neurological disorders such as ADD/ADHD. Recognizing symptoms of these disorders and subsequently testing for imbalances and toxins present in the body is an important part of relieving symptoms and ultimately resolution of the condition.

Effectively eliminating heavy metals and other toxins can help restore the body’s neurological function and limit the occurrence of ADD/ADHD symptoms.


1. Lead, Mercury, and Cadmium Exposure and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Children.
Stephani Kim, Monica Arora, Cristina Fernandez, Joseph Caruso, Julio Landero, and Aimin Chen.

2. Are Everyday Toxins Causing ADHD? ADDitude.

3. Dangers of Heavy Metals & How to Do a Heavy Metal Detox. Dr. Axe.