LOS ANGELES -- Depression is a growing problem across America. Some reports state that 17.5 million Americans suffer from depression. According to one Surgeon General's Report, as many as 1 in 10 children may suffer from a serious emotional disturbance. People with severe depression have a reported suicide rate as high as 15 percent, making it potentially the No. 1 cause of suicide in the United States.
Americans end up spending billions of dollars on ineffectual and harmful pharmaceutical drugs each year to supposedly deal with the problem of depression. Yet despite the use of these drugs, why are depression rates still rising?
Researchers are finding evidence that depression may come from an entirely different cause. The University Pathology Consortium, a not-for-profit academic consortium founded and owned by the medical school departments of six leading universities including Stanford, recently attributed some symptoms of depression to exposure to toxins.
Repeated exposure to pollutants in the food and environment can result in accumulation of toxins such as lead, mercury and aluminum inside the body. One possible source of exposure is dental fillings made from amalgam, which contains mercury. Norwegian researchers found that 47 percent of patients with dental amalgam fillings reported suffering from major depression, compared to 14 percent in the dental control group. Exposure to other toxins, such as lead, may also elicit symptoms of depression.
"Environmental toxins have only increased over the past 50 years and have been found in everything from grit on the ground to the makeup a woman uses to powder her nose. Pesticides, toxic mold and harsh chemicals cleaners have all become more prevalent in our country and also in many of our homes," says Dr. Harry Wong, clinical director of the Physicians Plus Medical Group, a medical clinic in the San Francisco Bay area. "We often see patients who have feelings of depression and one of the first things we suspect is an environmental influence."