What Is Heavy Metal and Toxin Testing?

Heavy metal and toxin tests check for dangerously high levels of toxic metals or other harmful elements in your body. While small amounts of exposure to certain heavy metals and toxins may not be harmful, high levels can be extremely dangerous to your overall health and may even result in death.

The Role of Heavy Metal and Toxin Testing

Heavy metal and toxin tests are used to verify exposure to harmful levels of environmental elements. These tests are not typically a part of routine health screenings but may be ordered if you exhibit signs or symptoms of heavy metal poisoning.

Who should get testing?

It is important to seek testing if you think you may have been exposed to a potentially dangerous toxin or heavy metal, including, but not limited to:

  • Arsenic
  • Cadmium
  • Chromium
  • Lead
  • Mercury

Symptoms of exposure may include the following:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Chills
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tingling of the hands or feet

More Heavy Metals and Toxin Tests

Getting Tested for Heavy Metals and Toxins

Heavy metal and toxin tests are typically ordered by a doctor as a result of suspected exposure to harmful amounts of toxic metals. Before prescribing a test, your doctor may ask you about certain environmental factors that may have played a part in your exposure, including the age of your home or the type of work that you do. Your health care provider will also likely verify whether or not your symptoms are indicative of a particular type of poisoning. For example, they may order a zinc protoporphyrin blood test to check for lead poisoning.

While testing is typically performed in a hospital or a doctor’s office, some at-home kits are available online for those who wish to forego the doctor’s office. You won’t get the benefit of the doctor’s experience and ability to diagnose a specific environmental toxin. But at-home testing still works for those who wish to be proactive or who think they may have been exposed to something but are not yet exhibiting symptoms.

Costs of heavy metal and toxin testing

The cost of a heavy metal or toxin test can vary widely by testing location and type.  Many labs, clinics, and at-home testing companies accept insurance, which can lower the out-of-pocket cost of testing. Lab fees for this type of testing are common and are not always covered by insurance.

Tests are also available online, whether as a kit sent directly to your home or as an appointment made at a sample collection site.

Types of sample collection

The sample required depends on the particular test being taken. While blood and urine are the most common samples collected for heavy metal and toxin testing, other tests may require fingernail clippings or even hair.

Getting test results

Patients may receive the results of their tests during a follow-up appointment with their doctor, over the phone, or through online medical charts. It’s important to discuss your test results with a health care professional who can help you figure out your next steps. If the test results show the presence of toxins in your system, it’s important to begin treatment as early as possible to reduce the risk of health complications.


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