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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis: Why is it discredited in compensation claims?

HTMA example of lead toxicity 
that may have accumulated over 
20 years work in a trade.  The half 
life for lead in the body may be
from 10-15 years. 

Excess lead is associated with 
chronic fatigue, joint pain, muscle 
pain, osteoporosis, cognitive 
disorders, allergies and 
cardiovascular disease.

"Hair analysis is a test in which a sample of a person's hair—typically from the back of the neck—is sent to a laboratory for measurement of its mineral content. This discussion concerns multielemental hair analysis in which a single test is used to determine values for many minerals simultaneously. This type of analysis used by chiropractors, "nutrition consultants," physicians who do chelation therapy, and other dubious practitioners who claim that hair analyses can help them diagnose a wide variety of diseases and can be used as the basis for prescribing supplements."
Stephen Barrett, M.D.  Here is the full article on the Quackwatch website

This article is actually a load of biased rubbish.  This and several similar ones are routinely rolled out to discredit the Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis as a valid forensic tool for assessing nutrient status and heavy metal exposure.

Here in New Zealand, the Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) has been submitted a number of times as evidence in compensation claims before the Accident Compensation Corporation for Personal Injuries said to have arisen from heavy metal toxicity arising from the work environment.  Such claims for cover are for a "Gradual Process Injury" in accordance with Section 30 of the Act covering Accident Compensation.

It is hardly a surprise to me that every effort is taken to discredit the HTMA, while all the evidence supporting the test's validity is ignored.

Clean Green New Zealand - Yeah Right!

Heavy metal toxicity is a present and growing occupational health hazard in New Zealand.  Far from being "Clean and Green", New Zealand is a land that is well on the way to being dangerously polluted.  We are simply pouring far too many chemicals onto the land and into our waterways.  Chemicals and heavy metals are everywhere, including in our homes and workplaces.  From my own HTMA testing, I conclude that there is evidence of widespread heavy metal contamination of the environment, seriously affecting health.  People who work the land and who are in trades are most affected.  Welding, machine workshops, carpentry, the wine industry, agriculture and horticulture are among the worst industries in New Zealand for heavy metal contamination.  Treated timber is the leading cause of arsenic contamination which we see in carpenters.  Welders tend to have very high levels of iron.  Mechanics who work with grease tend to have very high levels of lithium and molybdenum.

As workplace contamination increases, so will claims for compensation by those workers who suffer chronic health issues, such as allergies, chronic fatigue, arthritis, heart disease, stroke, cognitive decline and cancer.

There is no desire whatsoever by those who hold the compensation purse strings to allow legal precedents to be set.  If the HTMA is accepted, by legal precedent, as being a valid measure of exposure to toxic metals, then the compensation flood gates may open.  An organisation like the Accident Compensation Corporation may be bankrupted.

The most accurate tool for determining heavy metal exposure
 in the workplace is the Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis: 
Hence the motivation to discredit it

Human hair has been accepted as an effective tissue for biological monitoring of toxic heavy metals by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and is being used for this purpose throughout the world. It is ideal in that it fits the following criteria;

1) Hair accumulates all the important trace elements.
2) It is a commonly available tissue.
3) It is widespread geographically.
4) Hair is easily collected, stored and transported.
5) It is suitable since specimens can easily be re-sampled.
6) It is present in polluted and non-polluted areas.
7) The content of the hair correlates with environmental gradients of metals.
8) There is sufficient background and exposure data.

Hair is especially suitable for biological monitoring for exposure assessment as well as global, regional, and local surveillance monitoring. The use of hair has advantages over other tissues. Monitoring metals in the urine measures the component that is excreted. Blood on the other hand, measures the component that is absorbed and temporarily in circulation before it is excreted and/or sequestered into storage depots.
(EPA 600/3-80-089, 1980)

I will leave the last comments to Dr David Watts, who is arguably the World's leading authority on the HTMA:

"It should be emphasized that most of the criticism directed toward hair mineral analysis is from data that is over 20 years old. However, there has been a great deal of research since then and especially in recent years, leading to improved laboratory techniques, and procedures. Laboratory instrumentation is far advanced over the early equipment. In fact, advances in this area can be compared to the advancements in computer technology, which everyone knows, is never at a standstill. Over the past few decades virtually millions of analytical tests have been performed on hair samples throughout the world.
Laboratory techniques, procedures, instrumentation, and reporting have been well refined. You can be assured that when a hair sample is properly obtained, analyzed and interpreted, it is a proven economical screening tool for toxic metal exposure as well as a good indicator of nutrient interrelationships and nutritional status of the individual.

It seems unreasonable for HTMA to be subjected to such strict expectations and blatant bias. If other laboratory tests were to be scrutinized as much and in the same biased manner, they would also be considered highly questionable. HTMA is the most accurate method available as a nutritional screening tool. Perhaps if it was being used as the basis to prescribe drugs, it would be more readily embraced by traditional allopathic medicine."

David L. Watts, Ph.D., Director of Research, Inter Clinical Laboratories

Here is the link to Dr David Watts detailed critique of Dr Barrett's Quackwatch article.

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1 comment:

Gary Moller said...

A reader has pointed out that the articles referred to are decades old which is correct.

Unfortunately, the Quackwatch article is still prominently doing the rounds on the internet, despite the refutations that were published shortly after its original publication.

The HTMA has come a long way since with the main advance being the development of using the combination of burning the sample with a plasma flame in a vacuum and measure the light emissions with a mass spectrometer.

I have a very informative text book on the subject and am investigating obtaining copies for sale to those who are interested in learning in detail the clinical applications of nutritional analysis.