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Heavy metals exist naturally in our environment, and it’s common to consume low amounts through our diet. Small quantities of some metals, such as copper, selenium, and zinc, are necessary for our health. Other chemicals, such as mercury, lead, and cadmium, aren’t nutritionally beneficial and can be toxic in sufficient quantities.
Heavy metals play a useful role in various industries, so they are common pollutants found in water, food, air, and soil. They can damage organs and lead to Alzheimer’s disease, muscular dystrophy, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis.
Luckily, testing yourself or members of your family for heavy metal toxicity has never been easier. Whether you want to take a test in the comfort of your own home or at a convenient local lab, you have many solid choices.
If you’re in a hurry and want to know which of these three we would recommend most, here's a quick rundown of our top picks:
This test offers the best value, testing for the most important metal pollutants.
myLAB Box is one of the largest and most respected at-home health and wellness testing companies. The company receives high ratings in terms of Value, Accuracy, Privacy, and Customer Support.
Winner: myLAB Box
Heavy metal testing accuracy and usefulness depend significantly on the specific metals you want to measure and the type of sample a collection kit requires. We looked closely at the kinds of samples each company collects and the methods used to determine the presence of metals and minerals in them. The clear winner among at-home tests was myLAB Box. However, HealthLabs has a slight edge thanks to their variety of available heavy metals tests, allowing you to use either blood or urine depending on what contaminants you want to measure. If they had an exclusively at-home kit option, they would have taken the category.
Winner: myLAB Box
This contest was nearly a draw. The base price for myLAB Box’s heavy metals test is $10 lower than the cost of Everlywell’s test. However, Innerbody readers save a little more on the Everlywell test, bringing it just a few dollars under the discounted myLAB Box alternative. HealthLabs’ tests are more expensive across the board, even those that test for far fewer elements than Everlywell and myLAB Box tests do. Ultimately, given that myLAB Box and Everlywell prices are nearly identical and that the myLAB Box test screens for ten elements instead of seven, myLAB Box took the win.
Winner: myLAB Box
While myLAB Box did technically win this category in our eyes, none of the companies we tested lived up to the standards we’d expect from our experiences testing other products they offer. Shipping was slow for everyone, and the testing turnaround was unusually sluggish. We have to chalk this up to current supply chain and shipping logistics issues. In the face of these, myLAB Box performed the fastest. This category could have easily gone to HealthLabs given the absence of shipping times when testing in-person, but the focus here is on at-home testing. Still, if speed is very important to you and you don’t mind spending more money for the faster results, consider in-lab testing with HealthLabs.
Customer care covers every aspect of the experience, from ordering a test or contacting customer service to receiving and interpreting your results. Everlywell’s website is the easiest to navigate. Their customer service representatives — both on the phone and via email — are friendly and knowledgeable. Their results are the easiest to understand in the bunch.
At Innerbody Research, we extensively test each health service we review, including these heavy metal testing services. All told, our team has spent over 62 hours testing and researching the heavy metals test kits and services of these companies to provide an accurate, unbiased analysis of how they compare, free of marketing jargon and gimmicks.
Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions to live healthier lifestyles. We evaluate the service based on adherence to quality, the latest medical evidence and health standards, and a simple question: would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job, and would we recommend it to family and friends?
Additionally, like all health-related content on this website, this guide was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.
Photo by Innerbody Research
Your potential for heavy metal exposure may surprise you. Metals can get into your body from food and supplements, smoke and pollution, and more. It will be a comfort to know that the average person’s exposure doesn’t rise to the level of danger, at least not according to experts. Still, if you fear exposure for yourself or a loved one, a test is probably a good idea. This is doubly true if you work in an industry where heavy metal exposure is common, as such work is the most prevalent cause of heavy metal poisoning.
Some folks might want to take a heavy metal test for peace of mind, regardless of their workplace conditions. After all, lead may be present in old paint around your home or in your drinking water, and other toxins may have found their way into the soil or water in your area. Self-testing is increasingly common among new or expecting parents, particularly those at high risk of exposure.
Common causes of heavy metal poisoning include:
Keep an eye out for the following symptoms, which doctors associate with some of the most commonly encountered heavy metals:
Children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning. This is primarily because their brains and bodies are still developing, and lead can significantly impair the growth and function of their brains and nervous systems. Kids are also at high risk because, in their earliest years, they spend a lot of time on the floor where lead-laden dust can accumulate. Very young children also have a tendency to put just about anything in their mouths, which can increase exposure.
Drawing blood from a child at home is something of a non-starter for these companies from a liability standpoint. Most parents would probably rather leave that to a professional, anyway. And many providers that offer in-lab blood draws don’t offer pediatric testing, though the reasons behind this are unclear given that most of the labs they employ offer pediatric blood work when a child’s physician orders it.
Ultimately, none of the companies we profile here in this guide are ideal for pediatric lead testing. HealthLabs offers a lead urine test for children 12-18, but a blood test would be more accurate. If you believe your child has been exposed to lead, you should contact your family’s pediatrician to order a blood test.
Not all kits measure the same metals, so it’s essential to review which metals companies include in their tests. Below is a handy chart detailing our top testing choices.
The tests from myLAB Box and Everlywell allow you to collect your sample in the comfort and privacy of your home, then ship that sample off to a lab and receive your results within several days. The collection processes for these tests have some noteworthy differences, but both companies employ certified professional labs to provide you with accurate and trustworthy results.
This heavy metals test offers the best value, testing for lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium.
myLAB Box is one of the largest and most respected at-home health and wellness testing companies. The company receives high ratings in terms of Value, Accuracy, Privacy, and Customer Support.
myLAB Box is one of the largest and most respected at-home health and wellness testing companies. For the most part, they divide their vast array of tests into convenient bundles to address specific health and wellness concerns. Their Heavy Metals Screening Test [$151.20 with promo code] stands alone and offers the best value among its peers, testing for ten metals and minerals at a great price.
Those elements are:
Note that this test does not include lead, however -- a relatively recent change for the company.
The testing process through myLAB Box includes two urine collections — one upon waking and the other just before bed. You will urinate onto a strip of absorbent paper or into a cup, then dip that paper into the collected urine. You have to let this strip of paper dry before packing it into the included biohazard bag, and a few of our testers found this to be a little off-putting. It’s inconvenient that you have to find a safe, clean space to hang-dry a piece of urine-soaked paper. Ultimately, it was more eco-friendly than Everlywell’s approach, so that it might come down to a personal choice.
myLAB Box results are not as easy to read as Everlywell’s. They list each of the metals they test for in the left-most column and have a measurement (i.e., 9.7 μg/g) next to that. In the next column, they provide a normal reference range. If your measurement falls within that reference range, your levels are safe.
The fourth column is the “flag” column, and here the company should list low, normal, high, or similar terms to convey the state of your toxicity in layman's terms. In testing, myLAB Box left this column completely blank for our testers. Perhaps they did this because the results were normal across the board, but it still felt like an omission. You might have to read and reread your results a few times to make sure that your numbers are normal.
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The Everlywell Heavy Metals Test [$149.25 with promo code] costs a few dollars less than the myLAB Box offering, but it measures three fewer elements. The test covers the following:
Like myLAB Box, Everlywell omits lead from its testing. Everlywell’s customer service and responsiveness are a step above myLAB Box, and their urine collection method is cleaner and much more innovative.
Everlywell’s testing process also involves two collections, but theirs don’t use strips of absorbent paper that you have to hang-dry for eight hours. Instead, they use a plastic cup and a pair of specialized collection tubes. You urinate in the cup and screw on the lid. Then, you press the top of the collection tube against a safely recessed needle in the lid. The tubes contain a vacuum, and the company seals them shut with a self-healing rubber cap. When the needle in the cup lid punctures the rubber tube cap, the pressure difference causes the tube to suck the sample out of the cup. It’s kind of fun to watch.
When the pressure equalizes, there’s enough urine in the tube for an accurate test, and you can pull the tube with its self-healing stopper off of the needle without spilling a drop.
Of all the various tests from a slew of companies that our testers have investigated, this urine collection method was, by far, the cleanest and easiest. If the idea of collecting your own urine has you hesitating over whether at-home metals testing is right for you, this test is your best bet.
The test offers the best trade-off between comprehensiveness and value, testing for mercury, arsenic, cadmium, bromine, iodine, and more.
Everlywell is one of the largest and most respected at-home health and wellness test companies. The company receives high ratings in terms of Value, Accuracy, Privacy, and Customer Support.
The results you get from Everlywell are well-designed to allow someone without any knowledge of medical science to interpret them. You get a numerical value for each measurement, but Everlywell also plots your results on individual ranges. You can see at a glance exactly where your measurement falls within a normal range, and if it doesn’t, you can see how far outside the normal range it is.
Thorne is a company similar to Everlywell and myLAB Box, but their testing scope is much more limited. That’s because they’re a supplement company before all else, and their tests serve as gateways to discover what supplements you might need so that you might buy those supplements from Thorne. It’s a one-stop-shop model, but as far as heavy metals testing goes, there’s one big problem: availability.
At the time of this writing, Thorne is in the process of revamping their heavy metals test. The old one was a blood test that cost $145, and it looked for the following:
That’s a good price for a thorough test, and the company provides additional details in your report based on an extensive database of research and their proprietary AI technology. However, that test is not currently available since, according to their representatives, they’re changing the test to exclude measurements for lead, which is basically what myLAB Box has done.
Thorne didn’t provide a reason, nor could they tell us if the new test would be a urine test instead of the blood test, since blood is ideal for measuring lead concentrations and urine is ideal for most other metals. They also couldn’t tell us what the new test would cost.
Like their competition, Thorne uses CAP-accredited and CLIA-certified labs, and they offer free shipping on most orders. But until they come out with their new heavy metals test and we can get all the information we would need to make a recommendation in good conscience, they will remain on the periphery.
LetsGetChecked is one of the premiere at-home testing companies in existence. They offer a wide variety of tests, including screenings for sexual health, general wellness, and even coronavirus. While they don’t have a true heavy metals test, they earned an honorable mention because their mineral test offers screening for zinc, magnesium, selenium, and copper. They are the only provider in our guide to offer at-home copper testing, with Personalabs providing an in-lab test. If LetsGetChecked expands into testing for lead, mercury, arsenic, or cadmium, they’ll undoubtedly compete strongly in this space.
If you were to visit the website, you’d conclude that ZRT is either a sleeper pick that offers the most comprehensive test on the market for a reasonable price, or they’re a shell company whose website still exists without anybody at the controls. The site is impossibly difficult to navigate, and you have to be both lucky and talented to weave through the various convoluted steps required to find a test.
Still, they’re the only provider whose biggest heavy metals test uses both blood and urine samples to ensure you get the most accurate possible results for each element they measure. They also measure for 14 elements in their most expensive test, which costs $229. That’s only $10 more expensive than the HealthLabs test that looks for just three elements.
Among in-lab test experiences, HealthLabs is our top pick.
Testing in a lab is ideal for anyone who might not be able to collect their own sample. It also helps guarantee against untrained human error in the collection process. But the service does come with additional cost: the most affordable HealthLabs test is still significantly more expensive than at-home tests.
The HealthLabs Comprehensive Heavy Metals Profile is an excellent test for those who want to measure additional heavy metals. Along with lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic, this test package includes thallium and cobalt.
If testing children 12-18, you can use HealthLabs’ a la carte menu for a urine test. However, blood is the best way to measure lead poisoning in children and adults, so HealthLab’s option may not be your most accurate choice for lead testing.
None of the telehealth providers we’ve researched offer lead testing (or any blood testing for that matter) to children under 12. We found this a little strange, since the facilities they partner with each have the capacity for pediatric blood testing and pediatric lead testing in particular. No one we spoke to from any of these companies could give us a clear reason for this restriction. If lead is a concern for your young child, we recommend talking with your pediatrician.
We also tested other companies, most notably Personalabs, another high-quality provider that partners only with trustworthy labs. But if your goal is to order diagnostic tests online and have them administered in a controlled lab setting, then your better choice is HealthLabs. HealthLabs gives you the same convenient service and dedication to top quality but has 4,500 lab locations nationwide — almost double Personalabs’ 2,300 locations.
Symptoms of heavy metal poisoning can differ according to the metal. Many early signs are easy to mistake for other ailments or illnesses, making them more dangerous. People often assume their symptoms are related to something entirely different.
Long-term effects of poisoning vary as well. For example, too much exposure to arsenic can increase the risk of various cancers and impaired nerve function. Exposure to cadmium for an extended period can cause lung, bone, and kidney disease. While selenium and iodine (a nonmetal) are needed to help the body function normally, unnaturally increased iodine levels can lead to thyroid dysfunction. Too much selenium over time can cause hair loss, bad breath, and nerve damage.
The term heavy metals refers to a large group of metals whose density is at least five times that of water. Among this large group, there are four heavy metals of greatest concern when it comes to human exposure and toxicity:
While various metals can cause adverse effects when blood concentrations get too high, those four heavy metals are known for their particularly devastating effects. They also happen to be among the four most common causes of heavy metal poisoning.
The best way to treat early chronic exposure to heavy metals is to avoid them and provide supportive care for the symptoms that overexposure causes. In ingestion cases, some doctors will utilize a bowel cleanse.
Significant buildup from chronic exposure or acute poisoning may call for chelation therapy. When administering chelation therapy, a doctor will inject you with a chelating agent, usually ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. This agent will form bonds with the metals in your blood, creating compounds that your body can eliminate as waste.
It’s important to note that the FDA only approves of chelation therapy in instances of lead poisoning and that its use to treat toxicity from other metals remains controversial.
The World Health Organization lists mercury as a top 10 chemical of public health concern. Even tiny amounts can threaten your health by damaging the nervous system, digestive system, and immune system, as well as the lungs, skin, and eyes.
Two types of mercury account for most exposure:
Volcanic activity can also release mercury into the environment, but most of our mercury exposure occurs due to pollution from human activity, primarily:
These activities release mercury in high amounts in the environment, where bacterial processes turn it into methylmercury. This form of mercury bioaccumulates in the seafood that we eat. It then bioaccumulates in us, just as it did in marine animals. Unlike some other pollutants, the cooking process won’t get rid of mercury.
Meanwhile, those working in industrial settings and workplaces such as those listed above are more likely to inhale quantities of mercury as vapor, either in low amounts over a long period or in high quantities during industrial accidents.
Though it affects numerous systems and organs in your body, the most noticeable symptoms of mercury poisoning relate to its neurological effects:
The source of your mercury exposure significantly affects whether it will show up in a given test. Methylmercury — the kind you get from fish — will show up in the blood, but not urine. But urine tests are more accurate for inorganic and elemental mercury compounds like those you might encounter in industrial settings.
The best testing company for mercury testing is myLAB Box. It’s a urine test, so it will accurately identify elemental mercury, which is advantageous since poisoning from elemental mercury is far more common than methlymercury poisoning.
The World Health Organization considers arsenic “the most significant” chemical contaminant of drinking water globally. Exposure causes several cancers, skin lesions, infant mortality, and other health conditions.
Found naturally in our environment in small amounts, arsenic is an environmental pollutant in many parts of the world — including the United States — due to human activity and industry. People use arsenic in numerous industries (textiles, paper, ammunition, tanning, and others), and it is also present in pesticides and herbicides. Arsenic accumulates and contaminates the topsoils where produce is grown. Working in or living near such industries can result in higher exposure.
Cigarette smoking exposes smokers — and those nearby — to arsenic in the smoke. A smoker inhales up to 2.4 micrograms of arsenic per pack of cigarettes, absorbing about 40% of it into the respiratory tract.
The symptoms of arsenic toxicity include:
Blood levels of arsenic have too short a half life to warrant testing in all but cases of known, recent exposure. In most instances, a urine test will better show evidence of chronic exposure. As a result, we believe the best testing company for arsenic is myLAB Box.
Lead poisoning can be fatal in high amounts. Over time, low quantities will bioaccumulate, meaning that it does not leave your body. Low doses can damage your health or the health of children, who are particularly at risk of physical and cognitive developmental problems.
Many of us are familiar with the tragedies of Flint, Michigan, with its infamous exposure to lead through the drinking water supply. Many don’t realize how common this might be throughout the United States due to corroding household pipes and public pipes that supply water to communities.
In addition to drinking water, lead exposure occurs from:
Typical symptoms vary widely and include:
The best company for lead testing is HealthLabs. Frankly, it’s the only top testing company to currently offer a lead test, and since their adult test uses blood instead of urine, it’s especially accurate.
For most people, exposure to cadmium will come through the foods and water they consume. However, cadmium exposure can occur industrially in the workplace; cadmium is a common byproduct in zinc and lead refining. It’s also a common protective coating in the aerospace industry and maritime settings. You can find it in the manufacturing of electronics and certain plastics as well.
Cadmium enters agricultural soils as a contaminant in phosphate fertilizers and also due to pollution in our atmosphere. Like arsenic, cadmium is one of many good reasons to quit smoking; cigarette smoke is a primary way people accumulate toxic levels of cadmium.
Cadmium toxicity over time can damage bones, blood, and vital organs like the kidneys and liver.
Common symptoms of cadmium toxicity partly depend on how you were exposed but often include:
Unlike arsenic, cadmium hangs around in the blood for at least a couple of months, making HealthLabs the best company for the most accurate testing, especially for relatively recent exposure.
While the four most toxic heavy metals get the most attention, many of these tests measure some other common metals and nutrients. A little understanding of their roles can help you decide whether the inclusion of such a measurement is of any value to you.
Creatinine is a byproduct of cellular activity in the body, specifically the delivery of energy to the muscles by creatine. When your kidneys function properly, they will filter the majority of your body’s creatinine out of the blood and send it to your urine as a waste product. If your creatinine levels are out of whack, there’s a good chance your kidneys are malfunctioning, which can be a sign of kidney disease as much as it can indicate a potential heavy metal poisoning. We recommend myLAB Box for creatinine testing.
Selenium is an essential element that our bodies need for proper thyroid function but cannot make on their own. Meats, cereals, grains, and dairy products are common dietary sources. Overexposure to selenium can cause digestive problems, discoloration and brittleness of the nails and hair, and even skin cancer. No curative treatments exist; limiting or stopping exposure and supportive care are the only treatments. For the best test covering selenium, we recommend Everlywell.
Magnesium plays many vital roles in the body, and most Americans don’t get enough of it. Dietary sources include almonds, spinach, avocado, and soy products. While dietary overexposure is extremely rare, magnesium continues to be the third most common material used in construction and is a prevalent alloying material for aluminum products. Work in these industries can create an opportunity for toxic exposure. An IV of calcium gluconate or calcium chloride can work as an antidote to acute magnesium poisoning. For targeted magnesium testing, we recommend HealthLabs.
While your body requires only small amounts of zinc to function properly, it doesn’t produce zinc or store any excess, so you have to consume it regularly. Dietary sources include meats, shellfish, nuts and seeds, and dairy products. Various industries use zinc to galvanize other metals, and zinc oxide is a vital player in producing rubber, paint, cosmetics, plastics, soaps, and more. If you work in an industry heavily reliant on zinc, you should consider testing for it. We recommend HealthLabs’ a la carte approach to zinc testing through blood or urine.
In small quantities, lithium has beneficial properties for mental health and well-being. Doctors often prescribe it to patients with bipolar disorder. Because of its prevalence in battery manufacturing, there are a lot of people at risk for overexposure. Symptoms may include increased thirst and frequent urination, as well as hair loss and weight gain. Chronic overexposure can have adverse effects on the kidneys and thyroid. Our preferred test for lithium comes from myLAB Box.
Copper, like zinc, is a trace element that the body only needs a small amount of for optimal health. It’s essential in the cardiovascular system, so much so that if you’ve ever had blood in your mouth, you may have noticed a taste similar to pennies. You can get it from oysters and shellfish, as well as meat and dried fruits. Copper remains an essential component in electrical wiring and automotive manufacturing. A few medicinal treatments for copper poisoning exist, including Cuprimine. The best copper screening on the market comes from LetsGetChecked.
Bromine is one of just two elements that are liquid at room temperature and pressure (the other being mercury). Exposure often occurs in oil and gas drilling enterprises and during the production of flame retardants. Chronic and acute exposure in industrial settings usually involves a bromine compound inhaled in a gaseous state. In significant cases, hospitals will treat a patient with oxygen and fluid injections. Our favorite test including bromine comes from Everlywell.
Iodine is essential for thyroid health and is abundant in foods like kelp, but it also has numerous industrial uses. Iodine plays a role in producing everything from pharmaceuticals to LCDs, and any of these industries present the opportunity for overexposure. Because of its deep connection to thyroid function, overexposure can quickly lead to hormonal problems and thyroid cancer. Acute poisoning can require induced vomit and the use of activated charcoal, and if breathing problems develop, a patient may need a ventilator. For the best test containing iodine, look to Everlywell.
Thallium is so toxic that murderers have used it in the past as an effective and inconspicuous poison (it has no flavor or smell). Though thallium occurs naturally, smelters and the burning of coal release thallium into the surrounding areas, where unsuspecting people can inhale it or ingest it through food or water. People who work in coal-burning plants, cement factories, and smelters are at risk of inhaling large amounts of thallium. So, too, are cigarette-smokers. An oxidized ferrous ferrocyanide salt called Prussian blue is a common antidote to thallium poisoning. HealthLabs offers the best test that screens for thallium.
Though naturally present in small amounts, cobalt can accumulate in and around industrial sites, in the dirt near highways and high-traffic areas, and other areas with high pollution. Cobalt has many industrial applications as a colorant, in alloying, in electroplating, and in the manufacturing of cutting tools, batteries, and prosthetics. Workers in aerospace, petroleum, and mining industries may encounter dangerous amounts of cobalt. Wear and tear on cobalt-based hip and joint replacements can also contribute to toxicity. Hemodialysis may be necessary to treat cases of high toxicity, and doctors may also remove potentially hazardous artificial joints. The most effective test for cobalt exposure comes from HealthLabs.
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