How Heavy Metals and Toxins Cause Kidney Disease

Sep 22, 2021 | Environmental Toxins, Kidney Disease

Heavy metals and toxins are well-known to cause kidney disease but are not routinely tested for or treated. Today we live in a world where these toxins are ubiquitous and we are exposed every day to toxins from a variety of sources ranging from cleaning products, cosmetics, plastic food wrappers, pesticide residues in our food chain, metallic compounds and many more. These toxins bioaccumulate and an individual’s susceptibility depends on a variety of factors including genetic variations and lifestyle and can become symptomatic especially if the detoxification pathways are overwhelmed.

Although there has been significant reductions in lead exposure over the last few decades, it continues to be widely used in paints, cosmetics and gasoline and low-level lead toxicity is an ongoing concern. When lead enters the body it is not metabolized and 90% is bound to erythrocytes and may travel to different tissues including bones (95%), blood (2%), liver and kidneys (3%).  The rate of excretion is slow and primarily in the urine (76%) (1).

Heavy metal testing can be done in blood, urine and hair. Upper quartiles of lead and mercury levels cause hypertensive heart disease and stroke. (2,3). Lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic cause kidney disease by tubular damage due to oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction and also cause hyperuricemia. Most of the heavy metals compete with calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, selenium and so repleting these is essential to maintain cellular function.

It is important to incorporate therapeutic foods on a regular basis to improve detox pathways to help eliminate these toxins. Treatment for heavy metals with chelation using EDTA is controversial but studies have suggested stabilization of renal function(4,5,6). Calcium channel blockers can protect the kidneys against lead toxicity and hyperuricemia.

If you have history of elevated blood pressure requiring medications, if you have unexplained elevated uric acid levels, if you have elevated creatinine and kidney disease you will benefit from testing for toxins and heavy metals. Schedule a consultation with me now to discuss further.


  1. Ho G, KeutgensA, SchoofsR, KotolenkoS, DenoozR, CharlierC. Blood, urine, and hair kinetic analysis following an acute lead intoxication. J Anal Toxicol. 2011 Jan;35(1):60-4.
  2. Lead poisoning and health. World Health Organization. . Published August 23, 2019. Accessed August 30, 2021
  3. Bautista LE et al. WMJ. 2009 Aug;108(5):250-2. Association of blood and hair mercury with blood pressure and vascular reactivity.
  4. Rana MN, Tangpong J, Rahman MM. Toxicodynamics of lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic- induced kidney toxicity and treatment strategy: a mini review. Toxicol Rep. 2018;5:704-713. doi:10.1016/j.toxrep.2018.05.012.
  5. Is lead chelation therapy effective for chronic kidney disease? A meta-analysis. Yang SK, Xiao L, Song PA, Xu XX, Liu FY, Sun L.Nephrology (Carlton). 2014 Jan;19(1):56-9. doi: 10.1111/nep.12162.PMID: 24341661
  6. Lin-Tan DT, Lin JL, Yen TH, Chen KH, Huang YL. Long-term outcome of repeated lead chelation therapy in progressive non-diabetic chronic kidney diseases. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2007 Oct;22(10):2924-31. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfm342. Epub 2007 Jun 7. PMID: 17556414.



Dr. Nandana Mapakshi is a medical doctor, nephrologist, and functional medicine practitioner. She founded Functional Kidney Care to help her optimize patients’ kidney health and overall wellness using a personalized, comprehensive approach powered by the principles of functional medicine, which treats the whole person, not just symptoms. 

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