Cadmium is usually found as a mineral combined with other elements such as oxygen, chlorine, or sulfur. It is found naturally in soil and rocks; used in products such as batteries, pigments, and metal coatings; and found in cigarette smoke. (2) When consumed in large amounts, cadmium can affect the stomach and when high levels of the metal are inhaled, it has been linked to affecting the lungs. Low-level exposure in the air or people’s work environment may build up over time, impacting the kidneys and fragile bones.
Like the other heavy metals we’ve discussed, arsenic occurs naturally in the earth’s crust and is most toxic in its inorganic form. It is distributed through the environment in the air, water, and soil, contaminating food and water sources. Humans are exposed to arsenic naturally, through industrial sources, or inorganically through unintended sources.
How Do Heavy Metals Get into the Body?
Heavy metals are naturally occurring, and therefore we come into contact with them when using or eating natural products. In addition to natural products (yes, even organic sweet potatoes contain trace levels!), some sources of heavy metal contamination can include industrial processes such as mining or smelting, industrial paints, cosmetics, pesticides, herbicides, and naturally occurring events like volcanic eruptions and the weathering of metal-bearing rocks. It’s important to understand that humans are exposed to heavy metals simply by going about daily life, but there are higher risk activities, such as consuming contaminated food sources, drinking contaminated water, inhaling polluted air, absorbing it through the skin, and occupational exposures in the workplace. (3)
In 2016, the FDA conducted testing that revealed the presence of heavy metals in some protein powders. Later in 2018, The Clean Label Project conducted its own research and discovered the same findings, raising awareness about the importance of heavy metal transparency and testing in products. ICYMI: Ritual’s entire line is now Clean Label Project certified, showcasing our unwavering commitment to clean supplements.
What Do Heavy Metals Do to the Body?
Heavy metal toxicity has been linked to adverse effects on the body due to the accumulation of heavy metals in essential organs and tissues. This is why it’s important to understand potential heavy metal exposure and its impact on the body.
The Evident Effects of Heavy Metals on the Environment
Heavy metal pollution is of increasing environmental concern: uncontrolled pesticide use, mining, smelting, fossil fuel burning, sewage dumping, and natural events can all cause environmental contamination that severely impacts the health of the planet. Heavy metals do not biodegrade over time. Instead, they accumulate in the soil, air, and water, working their way into the food chain and compromising the growth of plants, soil microorganisms, and sustainable agricultural production.
How Does Ritual Test for Heavy Metals?
We third-party test every product lot for arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury to ensure we are in compliant with our high standards. We are also one of the first brands to publicly share the test results for a recent batch of protein powder as part of a one of its kind tool called the Certificate of Traceability. As part of our traceable wellness map, as detailed in the Ritual 2022 Impact Report, we are also committed to urging the FDA to establish health-protective limits for heavy metals in supplements and protein powders.
Plant-based protein powders may have an increased risk for higher heavy metal concentrations given environmental pollution. Totally eliminating heavy metal exposure is impossible given that these elements are naturally occurring and accumulate in the body from different sources. The best strategy is to work to reduce your exposure or lower your risk where possible. If you work in a profession where you come into contact with heavy metals, wearing suitable protective clothing and masks is imperative. When it comes to food and protein powders, support brands that invest in rigorous testing and encourage your favorite companies to publicly share test results as Ritual has for our Essential Protein.