After finding out that I had heavy metal poisoning, I immediately thought about my sons.  Was it possible that I had passed any of this on to them?

Could this be responsible for their sensory processing disorder (SPD), asthma, allergies, eczema, acid reflux, and developmental delays?

Would I finally find the common thread that I had been looking for all along that tied all of these conditions together?

Yes, unfortunately.

My Sons’ Heavy-Metal Toxicity

After finding out about my toxicity, I had both sons tested with a heavy-metal hair test because it’s not invasive.  My older son was in the 97th percentile for heavy-metal toxicity; my younger at the 90th.

That means that my older son had more heavy metals in him than 97% of people in the reference group, which contains roughly 40,000 people.

Heavy Metal Reference Range (g/g) Older Son (g/g) Younger Son (g/g)
Aluminum <8.000 16.000 13.000
Antimony <0.066 0.110 0.210
Arsenic <0.080 0.047 0.098
Barium <0.500 0.830 0.360
Beryllium <0.020 <0.010 <0.010
Bismuth <2.000 0.078 0.100
Cadmium <0.070 0.110 0.041
Lead <1.000 2.100 0.970
Mercury <0.400 0.530 0.500
Nickel <0.200 0.330 0.080
Platinum <0.005 <0.003 <0.003
Silver <0.200 0.530 0.260
Thallium <0.002 <0.001 <0.001
Thorium <0.002 0.001 0.003
Tin <0.300 0.810 0.350
Titanium <1.000 0.630 0.770
Uranium <0.060 0.026 0.011

My older son had elevated levels of aluminum, antimony, barium, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, silver and tin, while my younger son’s levels of aluminum, antimony, arsenic, mercury, silver, thorium, tin and uranium were high.

Among other things, the Doctor’s Data lab report said that:

  • “Hair aluminum is commonly elevated in children and adults with low zinc and behavioral disorders such as ADD, ADHD and autism”.
  • Insecticides are a common source of arsenic.
  • Lead is a neurotoxin, and children with lead levels “greater than 1 g/g have been reported to have a higher incidence of hyperactivity”.
  • Mercury contributes to immune dysregulation and is also a neurotoxin. Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill say in Age of Autism that one in six children is born with blood levels of mercury high enough to cause a neurodevelopmental disorder later on in life.
  • Nickel can hypersensitize the immune system, subsequently causing hyperallergenic responses to many different substances.
  • The isotope of radioactive thorium that is tested for is Th-232, which eventually decays to lead.  It’s typically used as a coating for tungsten in incandescent light bulbs.

I believe the high levels of lead and mercury in them (they were ages 3 and 4 when I had them tested) were responsible for their sensory processing disorder, as both of these metals are known neurotoxins that damage the nervous system, and SPD is a nervous-system disorder.

Heavy metal accumulations are typically found in children with autism.

How Did My Sons Get So Polluted?

You may be wondering, as I was, how the heck my sons got so polluted.  Guess what?  They got it from me.  You read that right.

Not many people, pediatricians included, know about the Environmental Working Group’s report from 2005 entitled, “Body Burden:  The Pollution in Newborns:  A Benchmark Investigation of Industrial Chemicals, Pollutants, and Pesticides in Human Umbilical Cord Blood”.

The study found 287 “commercial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides” in the cord blood of 10 randomly selected newborns from across the U.S.

It used to be thought that the blood-brain barrier between the mother and the fetus would protect the fetus from toxins, but this report showed that it does not.  

There’s only one way that a newborn baby could have such a high toxic load and that’s from the mother.

I really felt sick to my stomach when I realized that I had unknowingly passed these toxins on to my boys.

And then I got angry, really angry.  Why hadn’t I been warned?  Why don’t doctors know about this?

The truth is that most pediatricians and other doctors have not been trained in medical school to look for environmental causes of illness, despite the growing preponderance of evidence and the growing epidemic of autoimmune diseases.

If you want the real answers to these questions, you have to do your own research and look outside the narrow viewpoint of conventional Western medicine.

I’m fortunate because I used to be an equity research analyst on Wall Street and a marketing analyst for an oil-services firm before that, so I know how to research issues.

My mom was an information analyst for the Department of Energy at Oak Ridge National Lab, which played a significant role in the production of the first atomic bomb, so I must have picked the ability up from her.

I urge you to be very selective in where you get your health news.

If it’s from the mainstream media like TV news, newspapers and magazines, you have to remember that nothing is going to be said or written that is too controversial.

They know who butters their bread, and a significant chunk of that butter comes from ads from pharmaceutical companies and even Big Ag companies, whose interest is not in keeping you healthy; it’s in making money for themselves from you buying their products.

I find my best sources to be books and newsletters because they are well researched and because you can independently review the research that is referenced.

I particularly like Dr. Sherry Rogers’ “Total Wellness” newsletter as she references her articles to the nth degree.

When I read a book, I also look at the list of scientific papers and books that are listed in the resource section in the book, which gives me a whole other set of publications from where I can learn more.

Bioaccumulation of Toxins

What’s happening is that these toxins are bioaccumulating from one generation to the next.  Do you remember how pregnant women are told to avoid large, fatty fish like tuna and swordfish because of the high levels of mercury they contain?

They have that much mercury because it bioaccumulates: a tuna eats lots of smaller fish, which in turn eat lots of still-smaller fish.  Mercury doesn’t leave these fishes’ bodies, so the levels continue to climb as you go further up the food chain, as in a tuna or swordfish.

And people are at the very top of the food chain so all of those persistent pollutants like heavy metals, pesticides and plasticizers are accumulating inside of us.  Both pesticides and plasticizers are known thyroid disruptors, and pesticides also damage the nervous system.

Other nasty toxins also bioaccumulate like perchlorate, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (such as benzene and toluene), hexavalent chromium (the Erin Brockovich chemical), and tri-chloroethylene (TCE), which is now causing a huge epidemic of male breast cancer at Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base.  (There’s a documentary about this issue:  Semper Fi:  Always Faithful.

I believe this bioaccumulation of toxins from one generation to the next has reached a critical point and is the number one reason behind the growing epidemic of cancers, autoimmune diseases, autism, SPD, ADHD, asthma, allergies, developmental delays, even heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Our babies are being born pre-polluted.  The cards are stacked against them to begin with; they really don’t stand much of a chance unless you detoxify them!

Dr. Sherry Rogers, author of many books including “Detoxify or Die”, “The High Blood Pressure Hoax”, and “Is Your Cardiologist Killing You?”, is constantly writing and lecturing about how environmental toxins are constantly overlooked by the medical profession as causes of disease.

She should know because she recovered herself from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and numerous other toxin-related illnesses and conditions.

I really wish other doctors and laypeople would read her books to gain an understanding of the nature of most chronic diseases and conditions:  toxicity and deficiency.

I’m really beginning to believe that most people are far more toxic than they realize, and the toxicity compounds from one generation to the next.

In addition, some people are better at detoxifying than others, and this ability can vary depending on the ability to handle stress (remember those adrenal glands I wrote about a few blogs ago?), the nutritional quality of a person’s diet, exposure to toxins, and the use of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals.

As Dr. Rogers says, “drugs work by simply poisoning a pathway” and “the sick get sicker quicker” when they take pharmaceuticals; that’s why there are so many nasty side effects to taking them.

Pharmaceuticals also put a tremendous amount of strain on the already toxic, overloaded liver.

Prevention, Not Cure

I believe there is far too much time, money and attention paid to researching genetic origins of diseases and to developing pharmaceuticals that mask symptoms.

Why are we spending millions of dollars trying to find a cure for breast cancer, for example, and not looking at what can be done to prevent it or what causes it?

Keeping with this example, I’m not talking about mammograms as a means of prevention.

I mean:  why aren’t most scientists, doctors and the media looking at the causes of breast cancer:

  • The toxins that lead to the disease (such as the TCE I mentioned above)
  • Foods that can reduce the risk of getting the disease (such as mushrooms and cruciferous vegetables)
  • Supplements that can help detoxify the body (like silymarin, vitamin C and vitamin D)
  • Pre-disease conditions that lower the body’s immunity (such as hypoadrenia, hypothyroidism, systemic Candida infections, and food sensitivities and allergies)?

Why?  Because there’s no money in prevention.  OK, maybe a little, but it’s nothing in comparison to the money that is generated by a drug that provides a temporary benefit and simply masks a symptom without getting to the root cause.

As Robyn O’Brien said in, The Unhealthy Truth:  One Mother’s Shocking Investigation into the Dangers of America’s Food Supply and What Every Family Can Do to Protect Itself:  “people are profit centers”.

In other words, you’re worth more as a sick person because you need drugs and medical services to treat your condition, which costs money, certainly far more money than it would have cost you to eat cruciferous vegetable and take some silymarin (for example).

There’s a new field of study called epigenetics, which, thankfully, is getting some attention and funding.  The basic premise is “genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger”.

Yes, you may carry BRCA1 gene which means that you’re more susceptible to breast cancer, but what you eat and drink, what you put on your skin, what toxins you’re born with and the toxins you’re exposed to, how you deal with stress, how healthy your gut flora are, and whether or not you take pharmaceuticals, hormones or over-the-counter drugs is far more important in determining if you’ll ever get breast cancer.

“The Perfect Storm”

I’ve established that my sons got their heavy-metal poisoning from me.  As if that weren’t bad enough, there are several compounding factors that made their health worse.

Beth Lambert, one of the founders of the Epidemic Answers non-profit for which I blog, details these factors in her book, A Compromised Generation:  The Epidemic of Chronic Illness in America’s Children.

She calls these factors a “perfect storm” that’s leading to the growing epidemic of children with autism, ADHD, allergies, asthma, etc.

The perfect storm consists of stressful lifestyles, an overuse of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals, growing exposure to environmental toxins, a lack of nutrients in the mother’s and baby’s diet, and excessive or improperly administered vaccines.

Little did I know when I was first pregnant that we were about to get caught up in that perfect storm.  Here’s what it looked like for me, and I believe it’s the reason for my sons’ SPD, acid reflux, asthma, allergies and eczema.


I grew up in a dysfunctional, stressful home.  My parents had a home-based technical translation business (Trans-Chem, Inc., for anyone that was familiar with it).

They were both chemists and both knew a multitude of languages, so they made a living at translating foreign chemical patents into English for companies such as Dow, Monsanto, Wrigley’s, Conoco, Hoechst Celanese, etc.

They did this before the age of personal computers, so everything was translated by hand, typed with a typewriter and copied in the basement with a mammoth-sized Xerox copy machine that was as big as some people’s kitchen counters.

I worked in that business since I was six.  I used to stand on top of a footstool making copies of pages one by one.  This was the old days; we didn’t have multi-page copiers back then.

I remember being yanked out of my bed in the middle of the night on a school night and being forced to make copies in the cold, dark basement alone because I had messed up.  It took me a loooong time to get over my fear of making a mistake!

I believe my dad was bipolar because he was either very happy or very angry.  He got angry a lot, and when he did, he cursed and threw things.

I remember not wanting to be in his line of sight when he was like that, so I was either hiding under the bed or out the door.  Usually, however, he wasn’t home.

He was either catting around (to put it nicely) or indulging in his favorite money-losing pastime, racing cars.  He always had new cars, but we rarely had new clothes, I remembered.

Given that our family business was in our home, the hours were erratic, and we had no structure and certainly no typical family activities or involvement from our parents.

I was the neglected one, the youngest of six, the little wild child in the corner, and I really don’t remember much of my parents when I was little except that we were forbidden to go into the rooms where they were working unless I had work to do for them.

This is an example of how neglected I was:  we moved to a different town closer to ORNL when I was nine.  My parents, instead of properly researching the schools, which is ironic given that they were both researchers, assumed I would go to the school up the road.

It was only after I’d been at school for a few days that the teachers realized I shouldn’t be there.  It was a school for the mentally challenged.

My dad died when I was 11 of a rare cancer combination (stomach and bone marrow), and my mom became an alcoholic after that.

She did have a paying job by then at ORNL, as I mentioned, and somehow she kept it together enough to work during the week, but she would drink when she came home and binge drink to the point of passing out on the weekends.

Because we had no nanny at this point, there was absolutely no structure in our lives, except for going to school.  Nutrition for me was cereal in the morning, a Snickers bar and a carton of milk for lunch, and frozen, processed food for dinner.

I remember the stress being so bad for me in high school (not that I knew that that’s what it was back then) that I would have horrible gas cramps in my intestines, and I would double over in pain.

Given that I was the youngest, I was now home alone with my mom and not old enough to drive myself away from there (I did that when I graduated high school).

I hated watching what she would do to herself and often wondered what would happen to me if she died, which she talked about wanting to do a lot:  “What do you want in the will when I kick the bucket?”  That should never be asked of a child!

Fast forward to a few years later after I had moved away from home and never went back except to visit.  My mom died when I was 25, and I felt like such an orphan.

A few years after that, I put myself through business school at Tulane University while working full-time at my corporate market analyst job.  After I got my MBA, I moved to New York to start my career on Wall Street.  It was exciting and fun, but very stressful.

I was still working on Wall Street while I was pregnant with my older son.  It was a stressful job, and the hours were long:  working from 7am to 6pm was considered a short day.

I always had to be up on current news, and if there was some breaking news, I analyzed it by running it through my financial model for that particular company to see what the impact on earnings and, ultimately, share price would be.

I had to be fast and accurate, as people were trading on these ideas.  Let’s just say when there’s money involved, it brings out the absolute worst in people as far as their ability to be abusive to their colleagues goes.

To say that my colleagues were dysfunctional is putting it lightly.  I honestly believe that the more dysfunctional you are on Wall Street (and probably other career callings as well), the more successful you are.

Obviously, I was not dysfunctional enough, as evidenced by the numerous knife-marks in my back.

In any case, that amount of stress is not good for the mother or the fetus.  There was a recent study that came out saying that a mother passes on her stress response to her fetus.

Other studies say that living in a stressful environment at home affects the body’s ability to detoxify because a lot of the body’s energy is used to deal with the “fight, fright or flight”.

At that point, detoxifying becomes a luxury; staying alive is a necessity.  Anyway, all this has been to say how I’ve had a pretty stressful life, which has affected my ability to detoxify and later, my children’s ability to detoxify.

Total Load Theory

According to a Swedish study, a mother dumps 75% of her toxic load into her baby.  I believe my older son got the bigger dump because he was the first; there were more toxins for him to get from me.

In addition, I was 39 years old when he was born, so that’s 39 years of accumulated toxins that he received.  My younger son was born on my 41st birthday, and his heavy-metal toxicity was lower than his brother’s but still substantially higher than average.

Have you ever noticed that in most families with autism, ADHD, etc., that it’s usually the older/oldest child who has the worst symptoms?  That’s because of the toxic load theory:  they get more toxins than their siblings.

Traumatic Birth Experience

My older son also had a very traumatic birth experience.  I was in labor for several hours when all of a sudden the nursing team couldn’t find his heartbeat.

At this point, they broke my water so they could insert a monitor to listen to it.  They found it, but when they broke the water, my son went into fetal distress, and I was wheeled into the surgery room for an emergency C-section.

My doctor, who had not yet shown up, was finally contacted, and she halted the surgery.  I was then told to relax (yeah, right) for several hours so the anesthetic they had given me for emergency surgery could wear off.

Pitocin was then administered to restart labor, and when my son finally emerged, he had meconium in his lungs, which then had to be immediately suctioned.  His APGAR score was 5/9.

Both fetal distress and Pitocin have been linked to neurological damage in babies that were exposed to them.


Antibiotics were administered to me during labor because of my mitral valve prolapse and, with my younger son’s delivery, the presence of strep B bacteria in me.

Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride in her book, “Gut and Psychology Syndrome”, details how an imbalance of good bacteria and yeast versus pathogenic types leads to gut dysbiosis, which then leads to psychological syndromes like autism, ADHD, OCD, as well as dyspraxia, dyslexia, bipolar disorder, etc.

She writes that the following things can lead to gut dysbiosis:

  • The overuse of antibiotics in everything from meat and dairy (remember, if it’s not organic, it’s got antibiotics in it) to the antibiotics that doctors over-prescribe
  • The use of pharmaceuticals, including birth control pills
  • A highly processed and refined diet devoid of nutrition and loaded with sugar and starches
  • Stress

In addition, the mother passes her gut flora, good and bad, on to her baby as it travels through the birth canal and through breastfeeding.

A recent study showed that children with autism and gastrointestinal disturbances have altered expression of genes involved in digestion because bacteria in your gut actually control your immune response and thus your gene expression, so good flora = good immune response and gene expression, and bad flora = bad immune response and gene expression.

It’s my belief that one of the reasons why we’re seeing such an increase in children’s chronic health conditions is for these reasons and also because more and more women are having C-sections.

If a woman has a C-section, antibiotics are administered and the baby doesn’t receive any flora from her birth canal.  Let’s hope C-section moms can at least breastfeed.

In addition, my older son had three ear infections by the time he was 3, and I dutifully gave him antibiotics.  I remember his first one occurred when he was 3 months old, and he had pus oozing out of his eye.

Little did I know when I gave him antibiotics that I was making his gut dysbiosis worse.  His pediatricians knew nothing about gut dysbiosis or even about probiotics.

These days, he doesn’t get ear infections (my younger one has never had one), but if he were to get one, I now know that there is a multitude of antibacterial herbs and remedies that our naturopath uses, such as goldenseal, cat’s claw, olive leaf, and colloidal silver.

By the way, both Donna Gates of The Body Ecology Diet and Dr. Natasha have dietary programs that can be used to recover a child from autism, ADHD, depression, etc.

Yes, you read that right, “recover”.

Why doesn’t everyone, including doctors, know about this?

Children can be recovered from autism and sensory processing disorder!

I will say that there is a window of opportunity, however, that Jenny McCarthy referred to in Louder Than Words:  A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism.

The window closes at about the age of 5 years because the brain has been hardwired by then.  That’s why I worked so hard and diligently on doing as much as I could for my boys when they were little so that they wouldn’t suffer the consequences of me waiting too long.

Both programs are based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, which in itself has been used to recover children from autism.

They both use similar approaches such as avoiding allergenic foods such as gluten and dairy, supplementing with fermented foods, and avoiding foods that feed Candida, such as sugar, refined/processed foods, and most/all grains (depending on the program).

I used and continue to use the principles of these programs for the recovery of my children and myself, although I will say that treatment from our naturopath also significantly contributed to our recoveries.


Just being a boy raises the risk of having a chronic health condition like autism, ADHD or SPD.  That’s because testosterone blocks the body’s ability to make glutathione, so boys need extra help in making glutathione.


My sons were fully vaccinated before I began reading about the dangers of over-vaccination.

Children today receive at least 69 doses of vaccines by the time they are 18, roughly 4 times the level kids received 30+ years ago, and new vaccines are constantly introduced.

Here’s my theory on vaccinations:  I believe they are sometimes the last straw to break the poor child’s “back” (immune system).  Kids today are born so pre-polluted that vaccines and their adjuvants can sometimes be the external factors that drive their immune systems into overdrive.

Knowing what I know now, I would never vaccinate my child if he were sick or ill, as the immune system is already under attack at that time.  Also, I never give my kids or myself the flu shot, as they typically STILL contain mercury!  As of my current research, the hepatitis B vaccine also still contains mercury.

I was horrified when my state required my younger son who was in preschool to get a mandatory flu shot.  My husband and I signed a religious exemption form that we found online instead.

And as far as heavy metals in vaccines goes, non-flu-shot vaccines contain other adjuvants such as aluminum and formaldehyde that have also been shown to cause neurological damage.

These days, instead of getting booster shots, I have their blood titers of the specific antibodies drawn and analyzed instead.  If the child has enough antibodies for measles, for example, he won’t need the booster for it at that time, although you may need to keep checking if your state requires you to do so.

It’s more money out of pocket to pay for the lab fees, but at least I know I’m not doing any further damage to their immune system.  I was extremely upset when I found about “having titers checked” because none of the pediatricians even told me it was an option!

Other Toxins

Heavy metals aren’t the only toxins contributing to this perfect storm.  Pesticides have been shown to damage a person’s nervous and endrocrine systems.  After all, that’s how they were designed to kill those pests.

The pesticide Roundup significantly increases the bioaccumulation of mercury.

Organophosphate pesticides have been linked to ADHD, while organochlorine pesticides may decrease T3 thyroid hormone during early life, leading to hypothyroidism and damaging a child’s neurodevelopment.

I believe hypothyroidism, as well as adrenal fatigue and systemic Candida, may be the great under-reported links leading to this epidemic in chronic illnesses in both children and adults.

If your thyroid isn’t working properly, neither is your immune system.  I’d be curious to see what proportion of kids with ADHD, SPD, autism, etc. is also hypothyroid.

Prenatal exposure to phthalates, a group of chemicals that I like to the think of as the €œrubber ducky chemical€, as they are what softens plastic to have that rubber ducky feel, have been linked to lower mental and gross motor scores in infants, particularly boys.

Phthalates, BPA and other plasticizers have also been shown to be endocrine disruptors.  When you see that term, think “thyroid damager”, so not only do endocrine disruptors damage the thyroid, but they also damage the reproductive system and its hormones, which may, in my mind, be one of the real reasons for the rise in infertility and the reduction in age of puberty.

Maria Rickert Hong is a Certified Holistic Health Counselor who received her training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  She specializes in recovery from symptoms of autoimmune, neurological, behavioral and digestive disorders, as she has recovered her own sons from Sensory Processing Disorder, asthma and acid reflux.  She is also a board member, social media director and blogger for Epidemic Answers, a non-profit whose goal is to let parents know recovery is possible from autism, ADHD, SPD, allergies, asthma, autoimmune, Lyme and more.

Maria Rickert Hong can be contacted at maria[at]epidemicanswers[dot]org


  1. Jennifer Boyd

    This is an amazing piece of work -thorough and compelling. I am truly grateful to have all of this great information in one digestible (pun intended) piece. Thanks so much for making this available to everyone Maria and Beth. I can’t believe this is free!!!!

  2. hillary

    great article. My oldest son has been suffer from bipolar I for almost 4 years now and we have tried it all….I felt it was heavy metals from all I read. We started seeing a DO who specializes in chelation and something called PK intravenous therapy which administers IV glutathione. He is improving tremendously. He has only had one chelation and 4 PK treatments and he is his old self and I dropped his medication to almost nothing. He is continuing these treatments and will for months. His hair analyses came up high copper and aluminum and some cadium and mercury. There will also be a challenge urine test after todays chelation. He was extremely low in vitamin D although he was taking 5,000 i.u. a day he was not absorbing them. Now he gets shots twice a month. His testerone was low and so was thyroid on the T3 level so he is on DHEA and T4/T3 medication made at a compound pharmacy. He is improving rapidly with no depression or mania….this from a young man who was hospitalized 8 times for psychosis in less than 2 years. If you know anyone with bipolar or schizophrenia it is a godsend.

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