This post is sponsored. All research is independent and all opinions are my own.
Recently, some people have become concerned that bentonite clay isn’t safe and may contain lead. Lead, as many know, is not a safe substance and can cause brain damage. It’s therefore regulated quite carefully and most people try to avoid it.
But is there really lead in bentonite clay? And if there is…is it enough to be concerning?
A lot of you have asked me, so I decided to investigate.
Where Did the Concern Come From?
A lot of companies have noted on their packaging “may contain lead.” One such product is Earthpaste, the toothpaste that I choose to use (and still do, by the way). This, naturally, lead to consumer concern.
The reason for this is because of the Prop 65 law in California. This law was enacted in 1986, and is a list of (now) over 800 chemicals that may cause birth defects, cancer, or reproductive harm. New chemicals are being added to the list every year, as new research is done.
If a chemical is on the list, then businesses must make their customers aware if they use it, even in small amounts. If there is any possibility of any of the chemicals being in products or used within buildings, most companies are opting to label up front. If they don’t, and someone calls them on it, they can face major fines or civil lawsuits. So most businesses are opting to just label rather than face these potentially steep financial penalties in a “CYA” move. With fines as high as $2500 per violation per day it’s not hard to see why a label is an easy solution!
Labeling is a good thing. It allows consumers to make their own choices about what might or might not be safe for them, and what they want to purchase. Unfortunately, in this case, it seems to have muddied the waters a bit — is there really lead in clay? And is that dangerous?
Now that we know where the concern came from, let’s look at the actual issue: lead in clay.
Is There Lead in Bentonite Clay?
That’s the short answer, but in and of itself it doesn’t mean a whole lot. Let’s look more closely at how much lead is in clay, and how that compares to other substances.
Brands and amounts:
- Redmond Clay, a form of bentonite clay: 11.9 PPM, or about 0.001% (source)
- Earth’s Living Clay, a form of bentonite clay: >0.001% (source)
- Most other sources don’t even list lead
In general, the amount of lead is tiny. Most unprocessed foods contain 0.02 to 0.4 PPM.
The EPA says that the average amount of lead in uncontaminated soil is 50 – 400 PPM, or much, much higher than in either clay or food. This amount is considered safe. So what we know so far is that yes, bentonite clay contains lead, but it isn’t much and the level isn’t dangerous.
Could clay’s health benefits possibly outweigh even the minute traces of lead it contains?
Health Benefits of Clay
This study shows that clay can be used to remove fluoride from water, due to its absorptive and adsorptive properties. (Absorption = pulling stuff into itself, adsorption = attracting stuff to the outside of itself.)
This study is a fascinating look at the role of clay in human health. Clay’s adsorptive properties can help to heal ulcers, diarrhea, infections, and more (including MRSA and E. Coli). Different types of clay have different properties — this study looked at many of them, including bentonite and French green clay. Some can even be used as a mineral supplement! (Others can’t because they will bind with minerals and actually could cause a deficiency.) In general, the use of edible clay in humans is fairly well-studied, generally safe (especially in small doses), and frankly just really cool. 🙂
This study actually shows that some types of bentonite clay can be used as a purifier to remove lead from water! (This study shows the same, removal of lead from other contaminated sources.)
There’s nothing in the scientific literature showing any harm caused by lead. In fact, the worst harm caused by clay is if large amounts are ingested daily (200 mg or more) — it binds with zinc, magnesium, iron, and other necessary minerals and could lead to deficiencies. But there’s nothing in the clay itself that’s causing any issues. And this is easily avoided by using clay internally only as needed (when you are experiencing digestive distress or illness).
Using clay topically or as a toothpaste, especially if not swallowed, is no issue at all.
I always have clay in my house, and plan to keep it that way.
There’s simply no scientific evidence that there are dangerous levels of lead in clay, or that taking clay can cause any particular harm. Clay absorbs or adsorbs much greater amounts of minerals than it ever gives off, because of its molecular properties. Given that it’s been shown to have so many health benefits — which are backed up by peoples’ experiences, too — there’s no reason at all to avoid it.
I keep Redmond Clay on hand — powdered mostly, plus Earthpaste and hydrated first aid clay. I have also purchased powdered clay from Mountain Rose Herbs in the past. (I kind of want to get my hands on some French green clay after reading that study!)
So I have some powdered clay I won a while back and I want to use it on my four year old to try and help her eczema. Problem is, I don’t know how. Do I simply add a little to a smoothie? I want to try it internally in case it’s a toxin build up causing her eczema. Thoughts?
I am possibly reading this incorrectly or it may be an error- the scientific literature does indeed consider lead to be harmful. Small amounts in clay may not be a problem at all but your post above states “There’s nothing in the scientific literature showing any harm caused by lead.”
I do hope you meant to say there is nothing showing any harm caused by clay! Lead ingested, inhaled, etc. does indeed cause brain damage in young children. Clay that may contain minute percentages of lead is not necessarily harmful.
Thanks for clarifying.
I just bought some bentonite clay to make deoderant. You had me worried there for a moment! 🙂
My in-laws and a friend use Redmond Clay a bit, for bug bites most often. I did a foot soak once and it actually drew out a toenail fungus that had been dormant for several years. I have felt a little gun shy to use it like that ever since. I have tried drinking it some time ago . . . the texture was tough to handle! 🙂
Lead in clays come from two sources: 1. naturally occurring during formation and 2. environmental contamination after the deposit. The former poses no risk and the latter could indeed pose a potential risk. The form of the elements in clay are such that they are not bioavailable, i.e. all of the elements are bound together tightly. They are eliminated from the body along with the toxins that the clay has absorbed and adsorbed. The key is to look at the mineral analysis for post formation contamination. Ask the vendor for this info.
The amount of lead you are reporting on this page in our clay is incorrect, The correct amount is .001%. Please correct this immediately. Thank you.
What should be the #1 reason for using bentonite in the first place is it’s affinity for binding to toxic substances. Once in solution, any residual lead would be swiftly bound to the bentonite, if not already bound to it naturally. Bentonite is an inert substance. It will not release toxins after it has made the bond, and will be naturally eliminated from the body.
I was planning to use the clay to help remove lead from my daughters system. 🙁 She recently ate some paint chips. I saw the warning label when I went to buy on amazon and then read your article. Thank you for doing the research.
Hello and thank you for your article. My question is: how can we make sure that proper use of bentonite, taken internally in small quantities, with good amounts of water, doesn’t get stuck to the walls of your colon? I wonder if this, despite all the attentions one can have, can actually happen! Thank you-
carried out a few calculations:
200mg clay with PB content @ 11.9ppm supplies 2.38mcg of lead.
Other sources state a PB content <24mcg / kg (ppm): thus a 200mg supply of this clay would supply 100mcg.
I hope further this clarifies the issues of the safety of clay.
Hello, can bentonite clay be used as a thickener as well? I’m making a homemade deodorant.
I HAVE tHYROID NODULES I found on you tube that boiled slightly with water and seived its to be ingested gradually.