Most people think of MRIs as safe because they use magnets and radio waves instead of harmful radiation. However, it turns out they might be dangerous to society since they leech toxic gadolinium into our water supply.
Gadolinium is used in MRI contrast agents. It helps doctors find anomalies in patients such as inflammation, blood clots or tumors. The contrast agents are thought to be safe in the human body because the gadolinium in them is bound to chelating agents which make it nonreactive. The environmental problems begin, however, when patients expel the compound from their bodies via urination.
Gadolinium cannot be removed from water by most wastewater treatment plants. This allows the gadolinium to flow back into natural waters. This gadolinium can become toxic when it is exposed to UV light from sunlight.
Tokyo Metropolitan University researchers tested Tokyo river waters for gadolinium. They found that gadolinium levels in the water were much higher near treatment plants. The levels were 5.0 to 6.6 times higher than they were 22 years ago. The researchers found that the gadolinium levels in the water were “associated with MRI apparatus numbers and medical practice level.”
Japan has the most MRI machines per capita in the world.
Previous research found that similar levels of gadolinium were found in a German wastewater treatment plant.
Some patients who have been given gadolinium-based contrast agents have been reported to experience a suite of symptoms which have been dubbed “gadolinium deposition disease.” These symptoms are analogous to the symptoms of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, a syndrome which sometimes occurs in gadolinium-based contrast agent patients with impaired kidney function. The difference is that the gadolinium deposition disease symptoms occur in patients with normal kidney function.
These symptoms include:
• Burning sensation in tissues
• Bone pain
• Skin thickening
• Mental confusion
• Skin discoloration
It is thought that gadolinium deposition disease may be the result of gadolinium accumulating in the body after use of a gadolinium-based contrast agent.
Modern science is currently unsure if gadolinium deposition disease actually exists, as the disease has never been proven to exist. However, recent research has acknowledged that a growing body of evidence for the disease may lead to successful litigation involving the disease in the future. That research recommends that medical professionals use gadoteridol as their gadolinium-based contrast agent of choice in the future, noting that animal studies have shown that gadoteridol demonstrates “significantly lower retention and more efficient clearance in cerebral, cerebellar, and renal tissue” compared to other gadolinium-based contrast agents.