What to Know About Copper Toxicity
To most people, copper is used to make pennies, pipes, or wiring in certain machines and electronics. But copper is also found in the human body, and we must have copper in the right amounts for our health.
When copper is ingested in excessive amounts, it can cause minor to severe health issues. This guide outlines basic facts about copper, copper toxicity, and how the IUD contraceptive Paragard may be causing harm in females.
While copper is a metal, we can safely consume it at the appropriate levels. Your muscles contain most of your body’s copper, typically between 50-80 milligrams. Any more or less than this amount could result in health complications.
We ingest copper in many of our foods. When your body is healthy, excess amounts of copper are released from your body via human waste and urine.
How Your Body Uses Copper
Your body uses copper in several ways. Copper helps your internal organs function properly. It also helps your skin, nails, and hair stay healthy. Copper is even important for babies as they develop during pregnancy.
Copper is so prevalent in your body that it is found in most of your proteins and your blood. Your body needs copper to develop organs, tissue, joints, and ligaments. Without copper, these parts of your body would not develop properly.
Where Is Copper Found?
While we are most familiar with copper pennies (those made before 1982), copper pipes, and copper wire, people use copper in many manufactured products. For example, copper can be found in:
- Fish aquarium products (such as the coils in the water heaters)
- Lawn care products (such as pesticides)
- Vitamins and minerals
While copper is acknowledged as an essential micronutrient, if we ingest too much, it can have toxic effects on our bodies.
What Is Copper Toxicity?
While people need copper for good health, we only need it in trace amounts. Your body’s proteins normally have copper bonded to them – this is normal and healthy. If the copper in your body is not bonded to a protein, it is called unbonded or free copper. When this happens, your body is at risk of toxic side effects.
There are two types of copper toxicity: inherited toxicity (Wilson’s disease) or acquired toxicity.
Inherited Toxicity (Wilson’s Disease)
Inherited copper toxicity is caused by a condition called Wilson’s disease. In people with this disease, the body’s usual functions for releasing excess copper do not work properly. Instead, large amounts of copper build up in the body. This excessive copper is mostly found in the liver, eyes, and brain.
The symptoms of Wilson’s disease usually manifest when a person is between the ages of 6-45, most often during the teenage years. The disease presents as a mix of liver disease and psychiatric problems.
Acquired toxicity is the more common form of copper toxicity. As the name implies, this condition stems from the body taking in too much copper from external sources.
For instance, acquired toxicity to copper can come from ingesting copper salts. Sometimes, unused food containers or cookware form blue-colored salts – over time, eating from these items can lead to copper toxicity.
Copper salts can also collect inside water pipes. If this happens, your water could be contaminated. Eating too much copper-rich food (such as liver, oysters, and shiitake mushrooms) or taking too many dietary supplements that contain copper can also cause copper toxicity.
How Common Is Copper Toxicity?
Copper toxicity can happen very quickly – known as acute copper poisoning – or slowly over time. Acute copper poisoning is quite rare. Copper poisoning that stems from long-term exposure is far more common.
Long-term copper exposure can have dire health consequences, including liver failure and eventually death. Health issues, including long-term damage to internal organs, vary for each person.
Paragard Side Effects
Paragard is an intrauterine device (IUD) proven to be very popular among females looking for an effective contraceptive. Paragard’s website describes the product as:
- A small IUD that uses just one simple active ingredient to prevent pregnancy over 99% of the time
- Placed in your uterus by a healthcare provider during a routine office visit to prevent pregnancy for as short or as long as you want (up to 10 years)
- Unlike hormonal IUDs like Mirena or Skyla, Paragard does not contain hormones
- Its only active ingredient is copper, which is toxic to sperm and makes it nearly impossible for sperm to reach the egg
Minor Side Effects
Paragard has a solid track record, but there have been reported cases of both minor and serious side effects. Some of Paragard’s minor side effects include:
- Anemia (lack of healthy red blood cells)
- Painful menstrual cycles
- Longer menstrual cycles
- Spotting between menstrual cycles
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina)
Serious Side Effects
Paragard also has serious side effects, though they are rare. Some of these effects include:
- Ectopic pregnancy – A pregnancy that occurs outside of the uterus, often in a fallopian tube
- Septic abortion – An abortion caused by inflammation of the uterus
- Sepsis – A life-threatening infection response that damages the body’s own tissue
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – An infection of one of several upper reproductive organs
- Uterine perforation – A small hole in the uterus
Can Paragard Cause Copper Toxicity?
The Paragard IUD kills sperm by using copper coils to cause inflammation in the uterus. This inflammation prevents the fertilization of a woman’s eggs but is not known to drastically increase the likelihood of copper toxicity, unless the woman already has a pre-existing condition. This pre-existing condition could hamper her liver’s ability to properly process copper.
Signs of Copper Toxicity
A person without acquired toxicity (Wilson’s disease) would only get copper toxicity through ingesting too much copper. Taking in too much copper could lead to:
- Liver damage
- Abdominal pain
If you are healthy, it is unlikely you would suffer from copper toxicity. Wilson’s Disease, a genetic disorder, can lead to copper toxicity if you are born with it.
Paragard IUD Complications
During the first year of use, less than 1% of Paragard users become pregnant. The longer women use Paragard, the less their risk of pregnancy. As stated above, women who become pregnant while using Paragard have a high risk of an ectopic pregnancy. However, because Paragard is so effective at preventing pregnancies, the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy when using Paragard is less than the risk of having one without it.
Symptoms to Watch for When Using Paragard
If you are using Paragard, be aware of the following symptoms. If you notice any of these, see your doctor immediately.
- Signs of pregnancy
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Foul or abnormal vaginal discharge
- Pelvic pain that worsens over time
- Fever unrelated to any other illness or disease
- Exposure to a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
Copper Toxicity: Symptoms and Treatment
The phenomenon of “copper overload” has increased in recent years. This condition comes from:
- More women using oral contraceptives that include estrogen
- Increased exposure to xeno-estrogens (commonly found in plastics and petrochemicals)
- Growth hormones fed to livestock
- Pesticides and fungicides
Symptoms of Copper Toxicity
There are many potential symptoms of copper toxicity, including:
- Frequent headaches
- Unexplainable fever
- Abdominal cramping
- Passing out
- Feeling ill
- Throwing up
- Blood in your vomit
- Black feces
- Brown markings around your eyes
- Jaundice or yellowing of eyes and skin
Also, copper toxicity symptoms are not restricted to physical effects. Psychological symptoms of copper poisoning include:
- Lack of focus or concentration
- Anxiousness or moodiness
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Rapid mood shifts
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling overexcited
Copper toxicity can have long-term effects and cause severe conditions like kidney problems, liver damage, liver failure, heart failure, brain failure or even death.
Copper in Water, Food, and the Environment
Copper is commonly found in water, food, pollution, and our environment. Thankfully, there are ways to prevent copper toxicity and other health issues.
Copper in Water
If copper pipes in plumbing systems corrode, tap water passing through these pipes can absorb copper particles. Industrial waste and farming can also pollute public drinking water supplies. If your plumbing has copper pipes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends running your water for at least 15 seconds to reduce the risk of ingesting copper particles. This recommendation is particularly important if you do not use the faucet for six hours or longer between uses.
Copper in Food
Be aware of copper corrosion on your dishes, cookware, or cocktail shakers, especially if they are unused for long periods of time. If the copper in a metal container corrodes, it can leech into your food and drink.
Copper in the Environment
Like many other minerals, chemicals, and substances, copper also finds its way into the environment via mining, metal production, wood production, fertilizer production, and more.
Industries across the globe continue to produce more copper, with production rising. When fossil fuels are burned, copper ends up in the air before it rains. Rainwater then causes the airborne copper to settle in soil where we grow food, cotton, and other crops.
Copper is also spread naturally by way of forest fires, decaying vegetables, sea spray, and dust.
Treatments for Copper Toxicity
Treatments for copper toxicity can be simple or complex, depending on the severity of the condition. Some medicinal methods for treating copper toxicity include:
- Zinc – Doctors may recommend that you take zinc to prevent liver or gastrointestinal copper build-up.
- Chelation therapy – This therapy causes the copper to bind together into compounds. These compounds are then flushed out via urine filtered by your kidneys.
- Stomach pumping – As the name implies, the copper is pumped out of your stomach.
- Corticosteroids or other medications – Doctors may prescribe corticosteroids or other medications to reduce swelling in your brain caused by copper.
- Hemodialysis – If your kidneys are not functioning properly, this procedure uses a machine to filter harmful waste material out of your blood – a job usually performed by your kidneys. For many patients, this is an ongoing procedure with regular sessions.
Is There a Class Action Lawsuit Against Paragard?
So far, the lawsuits filed against Paragard stem from claims of the IUD breaking off during removal. Paragard removal is non-surgical and completed by a doctor during a routine office visit. The removal usually takes just a few minutes.
The arms of the device fold up, supposedly making the removal safer and easier. However, current lawsuits allege that the device’s arms break, leaving behind broken pieces during the removal process. Many Paragard users claim that they required surgery to retrieve these broken pieces.
It is estimated there will soon be over 1,000 lawsuits against the makers of Paragard.
There have been several developments in recent months regarding Paragard litigation.
Some in the legal community estimate that about 100 Paragard users are filing lawsuits each month. As of February 2022, a status conference is scheduled to find out how many Paragard lawsuits will be coming in both federal and state courts.
To date, about 45,000 negative reports from users are associated with Paragard, with that number expected to rise as well.
Contact Us for a Free Case Evaluation
If you are a Paragard user and believe you have suffered health complications because of using this device, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Our network of ParaGard lawsuit attorneys is ready to help you fight for justice.
The lawyers in our network are dedicated to fighting for the rights of consumers who are victims of the bad practices of major corporations. When defective or harmful products make their way into the hands (or bodies) of consumers, the people buying these products are entitled to legal representation.
Victims of faulty consumer products often feel they have no recourse. Whether they suffer long-term, painful health consequences or lose beloved family members, they deserve to see justice prevail. Let our personal injury lawsuit lawyers fight for you and help you seek the compensation you need to heal physically, emotionally, and financially.
Connect with an attorney today by calling 1-844-448-6787 for a free case evaluation.