We’ve been hearing that clay is harmful for us because it contains lead and it’s been creating some confusion. What is the truth?
Bentonite Clay is a natural substance from the earth. It contains trace amounts of lead and various other elements just like foods we all commonly eat.
The overlooked answer is based on chemistry and knowing how atoms behave depending on how they are combined with other atoms.
Example: pure hydrogen is dangerous/toxic, but when you combine it with oxygen in just the right combination you get water, a substance you can’t live without! Similarly, sodium (a reactive caustic metal) and Chloride (an explosive acid) are harmful on their own in elemental form, but together they form harmless and important NaCl, or salt.
That Lead Isn’t Bioavailable
A similar comparison is true with lead.
Lead in its un-bonded form (like the isolated form found in some cosmetics and 400 lipsticks, on these dishes, or in old paint) is dangerous and is important to avoid because it can bond and remain in the body. Lead that has already bonded (as in clay) is not likely to remain in the body.
The lead atoms in bentonite clay (and other clays) are so tightly bound in a matrix with other atoms that they do not break away from this matrix as the clay travels through your body or interacts with your skin. In fact, these clay molecules have an unusually large surface area with such a strong negative charge, they act like a strong magnet to draw the positively charged lead out of your body.
Lead is a part of planet earth – in soil, in fresh and sea water, and carried in the air (dust). Wherever we walk or live, we are being exposed to low amounts of it (50 – 400 parts per million) (ppm) on the surface of our planet, according to the EPA.
As a comparison Clay naturally has around 12 ppm — a fraction of the typical amount in “uncontaminated soils”. (Source)
Putting It Into Perspective
Trace amounts of lead might sound like a very bad thing, but the FDA has determined that consuming less than 75 micrograms does not cause health complications. (For pregnant women and children, that number is 25 micrograms.) Prop 65 limits for for lead are so low, almost all foods contain amounts higher than allowed:
Carrots and yams both exceed the legal limit of arsenic by more than 20 times, but of course they aren’t dangerous because of nature’s way of bonding ions and elements.
According to How Stuff Works, “In the earth’s crust, lead is rarely found as a pure metal, but rather as lead compounds such as lead sulfide, sulfate or oxide. These lead compounds often occur with silver.” Scientific American also agrees in this article about eating dirt!! Clay get a mention and endorsement.
Scientifically Proven Benefits of Clay
Published PubMed science shows clay as extremely valuable:
Broad-spectrum in vitro antibacterial activities of clay minerals against antibiotic-susceptible and MRSA J Antimicrob Chemother. This includes: Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Mycobacterium marinum, Staphylococcus aureus, penicillin-resistant S. aureus (PRSA), methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), Mycobacterium smegmatis, E. coli.
What We Use
Because bentonite clays can contain lead, it is important to get it from a reliable quality source. I personally feel comfortable using clays in these forms for various internal and external remedy purposes:
- Bentonite Clay from Redmond (for external uses such as detox baths and foot baths)
- Pure Clay Premium Calcium Bentonite Clay Food Grade (Montmorillonite) – Laboratory Tested for Internal Use (also great externally)
- Earthpaste (clay-based toothpaste, fluoride-free, uses Xylitol, Sea Salt, Activated Charcoal, Essential Oils!)
As I mentioned before, you should do your own research on any health topic, especially a controversial one like lead exposure.
One 2016 FDA study, however, did warn consumers not to buy a brand called “Best Bentonite Clay” out of Guthrie, Oklahoma, due to high lead levels. Obviously, they would have mentioned others if they were harmful!
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Thanks for reading!