Heavy Metals


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Subject: Heavy Metals

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  • Elements in the periodic table that form cations due to electron loss when ionized. Metals with a high relative atomic mass and a density >5 g/cm3, which include aluminum, arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, copper, selenium, thallium, and zinc

  • Normal range:

    • Aluminum: <10 ng/mL (serum)

    • Arsenic: <13 ng/mL (blood)

    • Cadmium: <5 ng/mL (blood)

    • Copper: <10 ng/mL (serum/plasma)

    • Lead: <10 μg/dL (blood); <5 μg/dL (blood) for children under 6 years

    • Mercury: <10 ng/mL blood

    • Selenium: 58–234 ng/mL blood

    • Thallium: <10 ng/mL serum

    • Zinc: 0.6–1.2 μg/mL plasma


  • Many are naturally occurring in the environment (soil, air, water) and human body.

  • Depending on the metal, heavy metals have widespread use in consumer products such as cooking utensils, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, packing materials, insecticides, wood products, batteries, computer chips, semiconductor industry, military, barometers, gauges, wiring, paint, fungicides, preservatives, canning industry, glass, plastic, ceramics, smelting, and refining and construction industries.


  • Typically, whole blood, free of clots, is tested. (Note exceptions above under normal range.)

  • Specimen must be collected using a procedure that minimizes environmental contamination. Specimen container must be trace-element free (e.g., royal blue sodium EDTA tube).