The Hair Elements test measures concentrations of both toxic and essential elements in a strand of hair.
Hair element analysis provides important elemental information, which, in conjunction with symptoms and other laboratory values, can assist the physician in an early diagnosis of physiological disorders associated with abnormalities in essential and toxic element metabolism.
With respect to its contained elements, hair is essentially an excretory tissue rather than a functional tissue. Hair is unique in its ability to concentrate divalent cations because of its high sulphur amino acid content, which act as strong binding sites for many essential and toxic elements. Toxic heavy metals and essential trace elements are found in hair levels many times higher than those found in any other tissues; therefore hair can be used as an indicator of long-term mineral and toxic metal exposure.
As protein is synthesized in the hair follicle, elements are incorporated permanently into the hair with no further exchange or equilibration with other tissues. Scalp hair is easy to sample, and because it grows an average of one to two cm per month, it contains a “temporal record” of element metabolism and exposure to toxic elements.
Hair, however, is vulnerable to external elemental contamination by means of certain shampoos, bleaches, dyes, and curing or straightening treatments. Therefore, the first step in the interpretation of a hair element report is to rule out sources of external contamination.
Hair element analysis is a valuable and inexpensive screen for physiological excess, deficiency or maldistribution of elements. Yet, it should not be considered a stand-alone diagnostic test for essential element function, and should be used in conjunction with patient symptoms and other laboratory tests.
Abnormalities in essential and toxic metals in hair samples
Symptoms and conditions:
Toxic elements may be 200-300 times more highly concentrated in hair than in blood or urine. Therefore, hair is the tissue of choice for detection of recent exposure to elements such as arsenic, aluminum, cadmium, lead, antimony, and mercury. The CDC acknowledges the value of hair mercury levels as a maternal and infant marker for exposure to neurotoxic methylmercury from fish.
Nutrient elements including magnesium, chromium, zinc, copper and selenium are obligatory co-factors for hundreds of important enzymes and also are essential for the normal functions of vitamins. The levels of these elements in hair are correlated with levels in organs and other tissues.