“… the epidemic of smoking causing disease in the 20th century ranks the greatest health catastrophe of the century” – US Acting Surgeon-General, in his 2014 report, when attributing 20 million premature deaths due to cigarette smoking.
Close to home, three out of our four parents were heavy smokers – they all died at a relatively early age from liver cancer or heart disease.
What exactly is in cigarettes?
We researched this question from Canadian and US sources to get a better idea of the answer.
We learned from various reports, prepared by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that tobacco smoke contains a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals; hundreds of which are toxic, and about 70 are known to cause cancer. Our research revealed that there is a lot more to cigarettes than tobacco. (The reasons for this are many and varied, not least of which are the need to influence taste and encourage addiction.) If you would like more information on this, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Science has discovered that there are several heavy metals in cigarettes, such as lead, arsenic, nickel, Chromium VI, and cadmium. Public concern over secondhand smoke is not without cause because heavy metals travel as particles in exhaled smoke, only to be inhaled unavoidably by others. In addition to heavy metals, chemicals in cigarettes include ammonia, formaldehyde, methanol, carbon monoxide, and benzene, as well as nicotine and tar.
How do heavy metals adversely affect the body?
Heavy metals cause many health issues. These include nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and a weakened immune system. They interfere with the chemistry of the brain and the body’s hormones. They cause all kinds of distress and impairment to the body’s systems, affecting the nerves, digestion, and heart. This has the unfortunate effect of increasing the potential for misdiagnosis of heavy metal-related problems, resulting in solutions that mask the symptoms instead of addressing the cause.
What are the general symptoms of heavy metal toxicity?
Chronic musculoskeletal pain, chronic malaise, brain fatigue, chronic infections such as Candida, gastrointestinal complaints, food allergies, dizziness, migraines and/or headaches, mood swings, depression, anxiety, and nervous system disease in the form of burning sensations, numbness, tingling, and paralysis.
Cadmium, Lead, and Arsenic
The greatest single source of cadmium exposure to the general public is from tobacco smoke. When it enters the body over a period of many years, cadmium is stored in the bones, liver, and kidneys. One pack of cigarettes can deposit as much as 2-4 micrograms of cadmium into the lungs of the smoker.
Cadmium poisoning causes symptoms similar to influenza, provoking inflammation of the trachea and bronchial tubes, lungs, and pulmonary oedema. After causing respiratory problems, cadmium can also damage the kidneys and liver, going on to affect bone density, resulting in soft bones and osteoporosis. Cadmium poisoning can also lead to gout and loss of a sense of smell.
Another major concern is that cadmium also damages key pathways through the body, responsible for regulating glucose metabolism, the process that the body follows to feed the cells with fuel in the form of glucose, needed by the human body for proper functioning. When this process becomes impaired, the net result is a loss of energy (a common complaint you may recall referred to by heavy smokers who came into the clinic.)
Lead deposits can cause serious side effects on the brain, nervous system, and red blood cells. Lead is toxic to the heart, blood, reproductive system, digestive tract, kidneys and nerves. Lead poisoning can result in abdominal pain, headache, anaemia, peripheral neuropathy and irritability. In severe cases, it can cause seizure, coma and, ultimately, death.
Arsenic, as most people know, is highly toxic. Milder symptoms as result of arsenic intake include headaches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and even a garlic odour on the breath and excessive salivation.
Good news, bad news, good news
It has been reported that cigarette smoking has decreased among adults in the United States from about 42% of the population in 1965, down to about 18% in 2012. In Canada, Health Canada reported that the number of current smokers fell from 25% in 1999 to 16% in 2012. This is the good news.
The not so good news is that there is a large number of people out there who have smoked at least some time in their lives, even though they may have now stopped. In Canada, this figure in 2012 is still 28%, a sizeable percentage of the population, particularly when added to the 16% who are current smokers. So 44% of the population may still be carrying heavy metals. The outcome is that their health may be impaired as a result.
Taking steps to address accumulated toxicity does help, just as eliminating the daily intake of toxins before it gets that far by stopping altogether.
So what can you do about it? The first step to consider is being tested for heavy metals, if any of the above symptoms appear familiar or concern you.
Detoxification does make a difference to your present and future health, benefits being already being experienced by those who have decided to no longer smoke.