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  • Writer's pictureGary Moller

Manganese Toxicity, Health Issues, Sources, and Detoxification

Updated: Mar 11


HTMA Report Chart
An example of manganese toxicity & fatigue

I'm writing this article because one of the most common health issues we see on the Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) is manganese toxicity, and this can lead to serious mental and physical health issues. While trace amounts of this mineral are essential for human health, too much can cause serious health issues, some of which are listed below.


Managanese toxicity, or "manganism" is common in regions of the South Pacific, such as Vanuatu, and Australia where the mineral is mined.


Chronic exposure to low levels of manganese can lead to a range of subtle symptoms, though it's important to note that individual experiences may vary and other conditions can also cause these symptoms. Here's a list of potential symptoms that may arise from subtle, chronic exposure to this mineral:


Neurological:

  • Tremor: This is often the most noticeable symptom, starting with fine tremors in the hands and progressing to involve other body parts.

  • Muscle stiffness: This can affect various muscle groups, causing difficulty with movement and coordination.

  • Slowed movement: This can manifest as sluggishness, clumsiness, and difficulty with fine motor skills.

  • Poor coordination: This can affect balance, gait, and overall movement control.

  • Cognitive changes: This can include forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating, and impaired problem-solving abilities.

  • Mood changes: Anxiety, irritability, and depression are potential symptoms.

  • Sleep disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restless sleep can occur.


Other potential symptoms:

  • Headaches: These can be persistent or episodic.

  • Fatigue: Feeling tired and lacking energy is a common complaint.

  • Vision problems: Blurred vision, double vision, or difficulty focusing can occur.

  • Hearing problems: Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or hearing loss are potential effects.

  • Respiratory problems: Coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath may be experienced.

  • Gut issues: Pain and inflammation of the digestive tract.

  • Joint and bone diseases: Including brittle bones and cartilage degeneration.


There are several ways people can be exposed to manganese contamination, categorised mainly into occupational, environmental, and dietary sources.


Occupational exposure


Inhalation:

This is the most common route of occupational exposure, affecting miners, welders, steelworkers, battery factory workers, and those involved in manganese processing. Inhaling dust or fumes containing manganese can lead to lung irritation and neurological problems.


Dermal contact:

Skin contact with manganese-containing dusts or liquids can also occur in these occupations, causing skin irritation or allergic reactions.


I see high levels of manganese in truck drivers, and operators of heavy machinery (fumes from fuel?), engineers, workers in the boating industry and in horticulture (antifungal spraying?).


Environmental exposure


Drinking water:

Contaminated drinking water is a major source of manganese exposure in some areas. This may be the most common source of contamination in New Zealand, either through drinking water off a rooftop, or from bore or spring water that's flowed through manganese-rich rock or sediment. This can occur naturally due to geological factors or through industrial contamination. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a maximum manganese concentration of 400 µg/L in drinking water.


The most common link we see with HTMA is with people who live on farms and lifestyle blocks. The common factor is their onsite sources of water, either from the ground or off the roof.


Air pollution:

Industrial emissions and vehicle exhaust can contribute to airborne manganese, particularly in areas with heavy industrial activity. However, the levels are usually lower than what can cause health problems.


Soil contamination

Industrial activities, mining, and improper waste disposal can lead to manganese-contaminated soil. This can then be ingested accidentally through hand-to-mouth contact or via homegrown vegetables.


Check antifungal spray for their manganese content, if the HTMA manganese is high.


Dietary exposure


Food:

While most people get their manganese from food within safe limits, some foods are naturally high in manganese, such as: Whole grains (brown rice, oats) Legumes (beans, lentils) Nuts and seeds Leafy green vegetables Tea Contaminated food: In rare cases, food can become contaminated with manganese through industrial processes or improper storage.


Food would be a limited risk, but it may pay to reduce foods such as legumes if manganese is high on the HTMA.


It's important to note that:


The level of exposure and the individual's susceptibility determine the potential health effects of manganese contamination. High levels of manganese exposure can lead to neurological problems like manganism, characterised by tremors, muscle stiffness, nervousness, panic, and depression, and cognitive decline.


Testing for manganese toxicity


While most people aren't at risk of manganese toxicity from dietary sources or low-level environmental exposure, there's no doubt that certain occupations are, including people who get their water from sources other than municipal supplies. If you are concerned about potential manganese exposure, then test yourself and your family (testing people who live with you allows us to better identify the source of contamination).


Here's the test to order:


Read this and the linked articles carefully before ordering any testing:


How to detox manganese


Identify the source (if you can):

First, we must identify the source of the excess manganese, which may prove difficult in many cases. This may involve testing of their water, although this may prove problematic because seasonal water flow may dramatically affect concentrations. The contamination may have been many years ago or merely a once-off, such as when drinking water off a hut roof while hiking many years ago, or contamination by a fungicide being used in an orchard.


The main thing is for us to be assured that the patient isn't putting more manganese into their body, which is akin to putting their burned hand back on the hotplate after each treatment! Given we're sure more excess of this mineral isn't entering their bodies, we can concentrate on removing the excess.


Detoxification of manganese:

I won't go into detail because every person is different, and the therapy is guided by what is found on their hair tissue mineral analysis. However, there are three basic principles to follow: Increase the mineral antagonists, increase the nutrients that protect from manganese toxicity, and promote healing, while supporting the body's ability to detoxify the mineral (safely remove it from the body).


To get rid of minerals like manganese, it's important to do it slowly and over a long period of time. This is because if we try to get rid of them quickly, they can become harmful by entering our bloodstream in large amounts. In addition, these minerals become sequestered deep within the body in organs like the liver and kidneys, in fatty tissue, including the brain, and in the bones. So it takes time, often a few years for decontamination to be completed.


Here are some articles and links for further information:


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