Barium has not been established to be an essential nutritional element. Elevated levels of Barium often are observed after exposure to Barium which is used as a contrast agent during diagnostic medical tests such as "barium swallow", "upper GI series", "barium enema", etc. Elevated levels of Barium may interfere with calcium metabolism and potassium levels. Acutely high intake of soluble Barium salts (nitrates, sulfides, chlorides) can be toxic. Chronic exposure to Ba may be manifested by skeletal muscle and cardiac muscle stimulation, tingling in the extremities, and loss of tendon reflexes. Due to its high density, Barium is utilized to absorb radiation and is utilized in concrete shields around nuclear reactors and in plaster used to line x-ray rooms. The main use of Barium in medicine is as a contrast medium. Long-term retention of Barium can occur - granuloma of the traverse colon has been reported after diagnostic use of Barium sulfate. Crystalline Barium titanate is a ceramic compound which is used in capacitors and transducers. Barium is also used to produce pigments in paints and decorative glass. Soluble Barium compounds are highly toxic and may be used as insecticides. Barium aluminates are utilized for water purification, acceleration of concrete solidification, production of synthetic zeolites, and in the paper and enamel industries. Although Barium is poorly absorbed orally (<5%) it can be very high in peanuts and peanut butter (about 3,000 Nano grams/gram) as compared to egg, frozen and fast foods such as burgers, fries, and hot dogs (400-500 monograms/gram). It is noteworthy that Barium intake is much higher in children than adults (Health Canada 2005, www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxprofiles/tp24-c6.pdf). Barium levels (and the levels of 16 other elements) in water can be assessed with water testing. A confirmatory test for elevated Barium is measurement of urine levels of Barium after a chelation provocation, and blood electrolytes should be checked as hypokalemia (low potassium) may be associated with elevated Barium.
If you suspect that you have an elevated Barium level, it is important to determine total body load, not just a blood level. Here at Chelation Medical Center we can do a provoked challenge, with a urine collection which will show your total body load of Barium, as well as other heavy metals. Just give us a call.