Findings of and Treatment for High Levels of Mercury and Lead Toxicity in Ground Zero Rescue and Recovery Workers and Lower Manhattan Residents

In 2005, the Olive Leaf Wholeness Center conducted a demonstration project that provided health assessment, testing, and treatment to 160 uniformed service personnel and residents of Lower Manhattan who were exposed to the air at Ground Zero following September 11, 2001, for extended periods of time. The program, known as Project Olive ReLeaf, found that most individuals had eight or more serious health complaints, including severe respiratory problems, digestive problems, skin rashes, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, weight gains, elevated blood pressure, lethargy, and recurrent headaches.

Heavy metal toxicity was suspected as a causal factor for many of these symptoms. Of those tested for heavy metal toxicity, using a challenge urine test, 85% had excessively high levels of lead and mercury. Chelation treatment using dimercaptuosuccinic acid (DMSA), a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved sulfur compound, was the primary treatment prescribed. After three to four months of treatment, the first cohort of 100 individuals reported significant (greater than 60%) improvement in all symptoms. (This demonstration program was developed based on the results of an earlier pilot in 2003 for 25 emergency service officers of the New York City Police Department.) In addition, adjunctive therapies to assist with the detoxification process and build the immune system were offered. A small grant has been received to conduct follow-up tests on a sample of those treated with DMSA.