Hair Loss: Something's Fishy
Hair Loss: Something's Fishy
Karen Marie Shelton - Copyright - All Rights Reserved
Revised Date: 11/24/08 - Original Publication Date: 10/1/2004

Introduction

Hair loss can be one of the mysterious conditions to diagnose.  While there are definitely strong indications for certain types of hair loss such as aging, hormonal situations, serious illness and hereditary conditions, some forms of hair loss continue to baffle even the most experienced hair loss experts.

Recently some dermatologists have discovered that eating too much of certain types of fish such as canned and Ahi tuna, king mackerel, tilefish, swordfish and shark may cause unusually high levels of mercury to be stored in the body. 

Excessive Levels Of Mercury & Hair Loss

Excessive levels of mercury deposited from too much fish can lead to mercury poisoning which can result in unexplained hair loss.

With the rise in the popularity of sushi and eating low carb meals, more people than ever are at risk for taking in too much mercury.

While some dermatologists that specialize in diagnosing hair loss may be aware of this new cause of sudden follicle shedding, other dermatologists might not be aware of the need to test for mercury poisoning as a potential cause of excessive cuticle loss.

The current Environmental Protection Agency and National Academy of Sciences published safety stands or "reference dose" for mercury in human blood is 5.8 micrograms per liter.

If you sudden hair loss can not be linked to thyroid deficiencies, prescription drug side effects, hormonal issues, age or other obvious causes such as hereditary hair loss, ask your dermatologist to schedule a mercury screen.  This is especially important is you eat a lot of fish on a weekly basis. 

Mercury Poisoning Symptoms

If your dermatologist scoffs at you, absolutely insist.

While it might not be mercury poison that is causing hair to suddenly fall out on globs, if you also experience any of the following symptoms along with sudden, unexplained hair loss, think long and hard about getting testing for your mercury levels:

  • General nausea with no explained cause
  • Debilitating fatique & exhaustion
  • A metallic taste in the mouth
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mental fuzziness
  • Fainting spells
  • Unexplained headaches
  • Tingling in the hand & feet
  • Neurological problems such as numbness, muscle weakness
  • Altered vision and/or hearing.

In advanced stages, mercury poisoning will cause convulsion, dementia and ultimately death.

While contaminated fish may be at fault in some situations, mercury pollution can actually occur in the air and water from other sources such as dental waste from mercury fillings flushed down drains, municipal incinerators and coal-fired power plants. 

Mercury is found in nasal sprays, batteries, fluorescent lights, thermostats, veterinary drugs as well as in flu and tetanus shots.

Estimates indicated that 158 tons of mercury pollution spewed into US airways in just one year alone.

One that has done pioneering diagnostic work in the area of mercury poisoning from fish and hair loss is Dr. Jane Hightower, MD who practices in the San Francisco area of California in the US.

There is a lot of controversy amongst federal agencies and environmentalists about whether or not mercury poisoning is real or a fantasy.   Some doctors find the possibility that high levels of mercury in the blood could impact hair loss to be completely unfounded.  Other physicians are taking a hard look at the possible connections.

Preventing Mercury Poisoning

What you can do to prevent mercury pollution poisoning & possible hair loss:

1.  The FDA warns pregnant women to eat no more than twelve ounces a week of fish that have a risk of having high levels of mercury. 

2.  Oily fish such as salmon and sardines contain much lower levels of mercury.  Sole, tilapia and shrimp ten to have lower levels of mercury.  Little sized fish also tend to have lower mercury levels.

3.  If you suspect that your hair loss is related to high levels of mercury in your body, stop eating fish for at least six months.  Studies have shown that when exposure to mercury is discontinued for several months, mercury levels start to recede.

4.  Instead of just guessing at what might be causing your unexplained hair loss or hoping that a random suggestion might work, make a serious effort to find a physician that will run the appropriate diagnostics on your body, based on the many symptoms it is providing.

Other Chemical Toxins That May Cause Hair Loss

While some experts believe there is a definite link between mercury poisoning and some types of sudden hair loss conditions, other types of chemicals toxins can also contribute to sudden, unexplained hair loss.

1.  Hair bleach that contains high levels of mercury may actually trigger unexplained hair loss.

2.  Some drugs used to treat high blood pressure and hypertension such as drugs made with potassium thiocyanate.

3.  Epilepsy drugs, especially those formulated with trimethadione.

4.  Chemicals used in some lipsticks, nail polish and eye shadow.  It is thought that if the chemicals are applied in large quantities, they may trigger hair loss.  The same chemicals used to add a pearl infused sparkling finish to lipsticks and other beauty products known as bismuth is found in antacids and other digestive aids.  These may also trigger unexplained hair loss.

5.  Toxic lead levels due to contamination of water supplies where water is supplied through old lead pipes. This may be true in older houses.  This situation can be more critical if there is also excessive levels of zinc from galvanized water pipes.

6.  Lithium drugs used in antidepressants and antipsychotic remedies as well as various form of zinc can be toxic to hair.

7.  Cancer treatment drugs which often have a side effect of causing complete hair loss.

8.  Too much or too little iodine or iron can cause an imbalance which results in hair loss.

Other hair loss triggers can include aluminum intoxication from water contamination, inhalation of monomeric/dimeric chloroprene which is produced during rubber manufacturing and water contaminated with gold salts.

Ironically one of the earliest symptoms that presents in murder victims that have been poisoned with rat poison, arsenic or various types of plants that contain abrin is sudden hair loss.  Rat position is also used in some forms of heart treatments and have been found as contaminants in some Chinese herbs.

Summary

Bottom line, if you've suddenly started to loss handfuls of hair and there is no obvious explanation, be willing to follow all leads to get to the bottom of any unexplained hair loss and other physical symptoms. 

While losing your hair may be painful and confusing, losing your life could be even worse.  Maybe your problems are not related to mercury or related chemical poisoning issues but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

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