Medically reviewed on July 13, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Each day, whether we realize it or not, our bodies are exposed to a range of heavy metals in our physical environment. While most metals are relatively harmless, excessive exposure for prolonged durations can result in some undesirable health outcomes.
Understanding the relationship between heavy metals and your body is an important step toward gaining a big-picture perspective of your health and wellness. Interested in learning about how to test for heavy metals in the body? Keep reading for everything you need to know.
Heavy metals refer to a class of substances with distinctly high atomic weights and densities.  While seldom found in the natural geological makeup of the Earth, the heavy metals we encounter in modern life are largely the result of human industrial development. 
There are about 40 heavy metals known to science.  Some of the most common ones include: 
While your body needs select heavy metals to stay healthy (e.g. zinc), chronic exposure to high levels of certain heavy metals can cause heavy metal poisoning.
Symptoms and severity of heavy metal poisoning can vary widely depending on the causal heavy metal and level of exposure. Some common signs of heavy metal poisoning include: 
Because heavy metals are ubiquitous constituents of the modern physical environment, there are a host of ways you can encounter them in your everyday life.
Some heavy metals, like arsenic, can turn up in human water systems, while others, like cadmium, can result from industrial runoff contaminating our food sources. 
The most common culprits of heavy metal exposure include: 
One of the most well-known examples of serious heavy metal poisoning is lead poisoning.
Once a common ingredient in household paint, lead is still present in many buildings in use today. If you’re an occupant of an older building, it’s important to have your home tested to ensure there isn’t lead exposure—especially if you have children in your household, for whom lead exposure can be especially dangerous. 
Currently, the best heavy metal testing in the body is by taking a heavy metal blood test. This is a simple, virtually risk-free procedure that may be administered in one of two ways: by your healthcare provider or with a home testing kit.
Heavy metal tests administered by healthcare providers usually screen for four substances that can be dangerous in high quantities. These include: 
While less common, some healthcare providers may also be able to measure blood levels of: 
In general, it’s recommended that you eliminate seafood from your diet at least 48 hours before your blood test. This is because some seafood contains high levels of mercury, which can inflate or skew the mercury levels recorded in your test results. 
Bear in mind that some heavy metals don’t linger very long in your bloodstream, so even if your exposure is high your blood test results may not record your level of exposure. If you’re concerned about exposure to a toxic heavy metal, talk to your healthcare provider about your options for hair or urine tests, which may paint a fuller picture of your exposure to noxious substances. 
If you’d prefer not to have your blood drawn, you can also screen your body for heavy metals by providing a urine sample with an at-home lab test.
Home testing kits are a convenient, minimally invasive alternative to being screened by a healthcare provider. Not only can they screen for a toxic heavy metal, but they may also tell you whether or not your body has sufficient levels of certain metals your body needs to stay healthy, like selenium and iodine.
It’s not uncommon to encounter heavy metals in the physical environment, but it can be difficult to gauge the toll they take on our health. This is because the effects of heavy metal exposure are cumulative—in other words, they more commonly lead to long-term health concerns rather than acute distress or toxicity. 
As such, heavy metal testing can be an important part of moderating and regulating our exposure to certain substances. If your heavy metal blood test exhibits elevated levels of certain heavy metals, there are two ways to minimize your health risks: 
Heavy metal poisoning symptoms
How do you get mercury poisoning?
Cadmium poisoning: causes and symptoms