ELI5; Why are heavy metals in all of our products?



I am slowly learning of the toxicity that is ever present in our foods, soaps, water, etc. Something I’ve discovered is the existence of heavy metals in most products and their harmful effects. My question is, why are they even there. I mean, just a few years ago it was discovered that most baby food contained toxic heavy metals….

In: Chemistry

Because heavy metals are everywhere. This is especially true in water. That being said toxicity is about dose so it usually isnt an issue.

They are elements commonly found on Earth. They are in lots of places, it’s only a problem if you consume a lot..

Companies only care about profits. Testing products for random contamination is not required by law, and very difficult for the end consumer to do, so it doesn’t get done. Because of their nature heavy metals never go away. The more humans dig them out of the earth and spread them all over the planet, by not properly disposing of them, the more they start to build up. Once a heavy metal enters the Eco system then tend to build up in apex predators (like us).

Metals make up the majority of all elements, and are very present on earth as a result. And since a lot of metals are heavy metals, you get a lot of metals everywhere. Hell, even iron is technically a heavy metal, and we use it to build pretty much everything. And since most of the piping we build as well as most machines are made from metal, youre bound to get some contamination. That said, our bodies do have mechanisms to deal with heavy metals, because theyre everywhere. Low enough doses are survivable without any concern.

Heavy metals are everywhere so it’s only fitting that they are on food as well. The presence of toxic elements is not a problem per se. Your house contains extremely toxic molecules such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide but that’s not an issue unless their quantity gets out of hand. Conversely, “healthy” molecules like vitamines are only healthy if don’t ingest too much.

Lead paint and leaded gas are part of it. Burning leaded gas basically sprays lead around everywhere where people drive, kind of like an aerosol spray of lead. The lead falls out of the air and into the soil. Lead paint can flake off and become lead dust.

Coal naturally contains mercury. If you dig up the coal and burn it, that releases the mercury into the atmosphere.

Arsenic has been used on cotton fields to kill boll weevils. It stays there in the ground. If the same land is later used to grow food crops, they can absorb arsenic from the soil. Rice is particularly good at absorbing arsenic from soil. It’s also good at absorbing cadmium.