Is There Lead In Bentonite Clay?

Is there lead in bentonite clay

I use bentonite clay in various ways in my home and beauty routine. I slather it on my face, use it to detox my armpits, and it is even an ingredient in my homemade remineralizing tooth powder.

I’ve used bentonite clay in my homemade shampoo alternative, and in a soothing foot soak I often use.

Is There Lead in Bentonite Clay?

If you’ve used bentonite clay in any of these ways, you might have noticed the new warning label about lead. This label is required by Prop 65 in California (which requires hundreds of potentially harmful chemicals to be labeled).

I’ve received many questions and comments from readers asking if there is indeed lead in bentonite clay, and if so, if it is safe to use. Certainly, this is an important question since lead is a very harmful substance in the body and our family uses bentonite clay regularly.

After much research, my short answer is…. yes, there is lead in bentonite clay, but I still feel completely safe using it on myself and my family.

As with any health topic, it is important for you to do your own research on this, but these are the reasons I feel comfortable using it (even with the lead warning).

The Amount of Lead in Bentonite Clay?

To understand why I am unconcerned about the lead content in bentonite clay, it is important to understand why there is lead in bentonite in the first place and the amount present.

Bentonite Clay (also known as Montmorillonite clay) is a naturally occurring element that is composed of hardened ash from volcanos. Much of this clay is harvested from large volcanic deposits in Fort Benton, Wyoming (thus the name), but it is also harvested from the Montmorillon region in France (again, thus the name) and several smaller deposits worldwide.

Since Bentonite Clay is harvested from the earth and is a natural substance, it contains trace amounts of various elements, including trace amounts of lead.

So how much lead does it contain?

In my opinion, not enough to worry about. Here’s why…

Lead naturally occurs in the earth’s crust and is also present in many things we interact with on a daily basis. Historically, it has been used in cosmetics, paints, and other substances (in fact, hundreds of lipstick brands still contain lead in higher amounts than bentonite, but that is another post for another day)

You know what else contains lead that you probably consume daily? Many foods.

Foods that grow from the earth (fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc.) contain trace amounts of lead. Foods from animals that eat these plants also contain trace amounts of lead. In fact, many unprocessed foods can contain up to 0.4 PPM (parts per million) of lead or more.

For instance, a 2007 study from the FDA found these levels of lead in typical servings of common foods:

  • Fresh collard greens: 30 micrograms of lead (50x higher than prop 65 stipulates)
  • Dry roasted mix nuts: 20 mcg of lead
  • Brussels sprouts: 15 mcg of lead
  • Sweet potatoes: 16 mcg of lead
  • Spinach: 15 mcg of lead (source)

The amount of lead present in the commonly used amount of bentonite clay is less than half of the lead found in spinach.

Soil is an even bigger source of lead. Uncontaminated soil contains 50-400 PPM of lead. To put that in perspective, Bentonite Clay contains 11-12 PPM, or less than 0.001%. So the soil in your yard likely contains at least 4 times the amount of naturally occurring lead than Bentonite clay, but even the trace amounts present in clay would be a concern, except…

The Lead Isn’t Bioavailable

This is the often-overlooked part of the lead equation. The lead that is naturally present in many foods and clays is not available to the body.

Lead is dangerous, even in tiny amounts, when it is able to build up in the body. This does not occur with the trace amounts of lead in clays like bentonite for one very important reason:

Lead likes to bond to other elements like silver, copper and zinc.

To understand why this is important, think about high school chemistry. Compounds that would be dangerous on their own, are not in certain combinations. Sodium (a reactive caustic metal) and Chloride (an explosive acid) are harmful on their own in elemental form, but together they form harmless and important NaCl, or salt.

A similar comparison is true with lead. Lead in an un-bonded form (like the isolated form found in some metals, cosmetics or old paint) is dangerous and is important to avoid because it can bond and remain in the body. Lead that has already bonded is not likely to remain in the body.

Lead from natural sources, like dirt and clay, remain bonded when they enter the body. Just as the bond between sodium and chloride is very difficult to break, the bond between lead and another element is not easily broken and does not happen through the normal process of digestion.

This is why there are exemptions in Prop 65 for natural foods like Brussels Sprouts, collard greens, and nuts, which naturally contain moderately high levels of lead and would have to show many times the “safe” level of lead on their labels. Foods like carrots and yams contain over 20 times the legal limit of arsenic, but they aren’t dangerous because the arsenic is similarly bonded.

It is likely that companies that produce and sell Bentonite Clay products could claim this exemption as well, since the lead is already bonded, and it contains much less than the safe threshold according to Prop 65. From my understanding, many companies choose to label anyway to be completely transparent and because mislabeling fines are severe.

Putting It In Perspective

Bentonite Clay contains less lead than many common foods like vegetables and nuts, and much less than uncontaminated soil. Even this tiny amount of lead is already bonded to another element and not likely to release or store in the body.

Even common collard greens contain over 5 times the amount of lead as bentonite clay, and it is considered safe to eat, even under Prop 65.

I’ve been unable to find any actual research showing the potential for harm from the trace amounts of lead in clays like Bentonite and a lot of research showing the potential for some serious benefit.

The Benefits of Clay

It is also important to weigh the benefits of bentonite clay when determining if it is safe to use. I’ve written in depth about the scientifically backed benefits of bentonite clay, but to summarize:

  • Bentonite carries a strong negative charge which allows it to bond to chemicals and heavy metals within the body and remove them. This process also releases beneficial minerals into the body.
  • There is now research showing that clays may have properties that make them effective natural antibiotics (this study has some fascinating information on the medicinal uses of clays)
  • Bentonite pulls excess hydrogen from the body, allowing cells to take in more oxygen.
  • Clays like Bentonite also have the ability to bond to and remove certain viruses, even potentially rotavirus (source)
  • Harmful bacteria in the mouth has the potential to affect the body negatively in many ways, which is why I use Bentonite in recipes like homemade tooth powder to help remove these bacteria (and chemicals and heavy metals) before they enter the body.
  • Interestingly, there is now research showing that while Bentonite does not release lead into the body, it may have the ability to remove it from water, tissue and contaminated sources (source)
  • I also add clay to my children’s baths to remove fluoride form the water (source) though I am not as diligent about this now that we have a whole-house fluoride filter
  • Research is still preliminary, but clays like Bentonite may even have the ability to fight MRSA, Salmonella, E.coli and other viruses (source)
  • Bentonite can pull bacteria, infection, chemicals and heavy metals from the skin, making it an effective face mask and detox soak. This same property makes it beneficial to the hair as it can remove buildup that slows natural hair growth.
  • I’ve even use clay on my babies (as a natural baby powder) and for our pets (when they had digestive upset) with great results.

What I Do…

As I mentioned before, you should do your own research on any health topic, especially a controversial one like lead exposure.

From my own research, I feel completely comfortable using high quality clays from reputable sources. I personally use clays in these forms for various beauty and natural remedy purposes:

  • Calcium Bentonite Clay from Aztec Secrets (for external uses and detoxing)
  • Redmond Clay for internal uses, oral health, and as a natural remedy (also great externally)
  • Earthpaste (clay based toothpaste that I use when I travel and that my children love)

My recipes that contain clay:

Do you use any healing clays like Bentonite? What is your take on them?

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Reader Comments

  1. I have used bentonite clay for a skin infection. I used it externally as a paste and internally, it helped us tremendously. It helped beyond expectations, my child’s behavior had a positive effect when taking the bentonite clay his overall health and cognitive abilities where boosted amazingly well.
    I still use it a lot in the bath or internally mixed with juice.
    Even if it has lead it does the opposite of lead poisoning. It actually helped my then 3 year old learn, focus, and behave better. I had almost stopped using it when i was running low but we saw such a difference we ended up using it for about 6m daily.

  2. I was wondering if there is any particular reason you don’t use bentonite clay from MRH internally or externally?

    • I have used it in the past and think it is a good brand, it has just been out of stock every time I’ve needed to order lately.

  3. Hi Katie
    Can i use this during my pregnancy? I’m 16 weeks now. I can get bentonite clay from la cordillera de Los Andes I live in chile
    Thanks a lot

  4. Wellnessmama…YOU ROCK! Love this information! Thank you for breaking it down!!!

  5. Great post! Thank you! I definitely want to try your bentonite clay recipes and I already have some from Aztec secrets that I didn’t know what to do with.

  6. We are currently working with the department of health using bentonite clay as chelation therapy to pull the lead out of my very poisoned daughter. We are using a variety of supplements but our main course of treatment is bentonite clay taken orally and baths.

    • I have family that is searching for solutions to lead poisoning in their two children, is there any info you could share with me? Thanks!

      • I’ve read that Creeping Charlie, a very common ground cover, is good for chelating lead from the body. It has been called “Painters Tea” in the past because painters (using lead based paints) would sip it all day to keep lead out of their system. I’ts free if you live where it commonly grows (almost everywhere). Make sure it hasn’t been sprayed with herbicides.

    • What brand of clay do you use internally?

    • Cassie — Which health department is willing to work with you using Bentonite? And how is it going?

    • Hi could we have an update on your progress please. I find this very interesting 🙂

  7. I was just curious if you allowed your children to swallow earthpaste when they were to young to spit? Because I am always a little nervous about my babies swallowing too much.

  8. Thanks for the information! Is there a reason you don’t take Aztec Secrets bentonite clay internally? Is it different from the Redmond bentonite clay?

    • I would like to know this also.

  9. Hi Wellness Mama Katie,
    I have been receiving your newsy emails for a few months now. Most have something I can still learn from (& I’m a Grandmother)…now I’m wondering if you know anything about an autoimmune disorder called Lichen Planus (oral mucosal) ? I guess what I am really asking is – can you point me in the right direction for some dietary changes (I’ve done 60 days on the Reset Diet & have just re-introduced my first
    1-2 foods….there is no known cause or cure for this complaint, but can be controlled to a degree by steroid/cortisone mouthwash & gel/creams (which are not very pleasant). Thanks in advance for any help you can/or maybe can’t give. IGD

  10. I also have a jar of clay and not know how to use it. thanks for getting me started and will forward this to friends, how about dogs using this. any info on this.

  11. I use bentonite clay in my bath bombs. Of course it’s great for you but it also adds a whole other layer of hardness to them which is great for packaging.

    On the subject of the armpit detox, I haven’t yet tried the bentonite on underarms but I have several times used French clay and that works fantastic!! But here’s an odd thing – Fuller’s Earth actually seems to work backwards – so if you WANT to smell use that LOL!! Truly makes things worse!! I am finding that having quit the regular anti-perspirants, that the chemicals that inhibit perspiration must have been built up in my body to a great extent because for at least the first 2 months I had zero odor. I thought wow that’s fantastic – lucky me. However turns out my shoot stinks just as much as anyone’s afterall darn it LOL because for the last several months I have noticed more and more and now I am a little hyper-aware and vigilant about it which I don’t like. But I shall go through your page on this and try every possible solution before perhaps going back to the regular stuff at least occasionally when I might expect to perspire more – like at an outdoor picnic with just a tank-top or sleavless dress say for instance.

    And then besides baths and armpit detoxes I use it for foot baths. And that’s it. I got lucky enough to have normal skin so that I do not do face masks or otherwise mess with my face too much as I get an opposite effect. If I don’t mess with it, it stays good and if I use things like masks or toners it acts up. I do use hydrosol sprays from mountainroseherbs.com to good effect and I do use your oil-cleanser to GREAT effect as well!!! It’s fantastic and I HIGHLY recommend it!!! The hydrosols are very mild, a great way to cool off (especially for hot flashes – which I use geranium-rose refrigerated) and so long as I just spray and not rub my face at all I find it to be a good way to partially cleanse a bit or refresh during the day (I don’t often wear make-up anymore). So I highly recommend those as well.

    So what do you think is the reason that Fullers earth (I got it at newdirectionsaromatics.com so a good source!) has an opposite effect on the armpits? Oh and it’s a good way to make your skin moisturized as opposed to dryer for people who have dry skin I recommend it – otherwise French green clay if you have super oily skin and bentonite or kaolin clay for normal skin or combination skin.

    Thanks for all you do!!

    Cynthia

  12. Thank you Wellness Mama for your amazing blog.

    I refer to your blog so many times a week.

    I know your article is about bentonite clay, but I was wondering if you would recommend French Clay and Rhassoul Clay as well. If so, do you know if these clays have bonded lead?

    Thank you for your help!

    Shabana

    • As far as I know, these clays do not contain lead and could be good alternatives for external use.

  13. Great info. I am starting using Bentonite (here in Brazil it is called white clay, but according to my research it is the same) for so many things, from detoxing armpits, face and hair to toothpaste, etc. I just love how my skin feels after!

  14. Hey 🙂

    It’s my very first time with Redmond CLay. Is there anything I have to think about before I take internal for the first time ?

  15. Questions….

    Have your or any of the members of your family had a Hair Mineral Test Analysis to see your lead levels given your extensive use?

    With so many people having issues related to mineral imbalance lately, do you think there might be something people are ingesting or are exposed to that is contributing to it (and possible issues with lead accumulation)?

  16. FDA is warning consumers not to use “Best Bentonite Clay,” a product of Best Bentonite, located in Guthrie, Oklahoma. FDA has determined that the product contains elevated lead levels and may pose a lead poisoning risk. 3/23/16

  17. I just read an article (jan/feb 2016) about high levels of lead in Bentonite Baby Me clay form Alikay products sp?. The clay tested for 35 PPM?? Don’t quote me on that can’t remember all the details- google the artlcle I googled bentonite clay lead government study. I currently use Evenbetternow Bentonite clay and was wondering Wellness Mama if you recommend this clay. My family takes footbaths 3-4 a years with it and my youngest who has several health issues has been taking a clay bath with it twice a week for 8 years. I have seen the many benefits of it for him. Our specialist is concerned about all these lead warnings but you have calmed my concerns. Our dr is urine testing my son for high levels of lead. Of course this doesn’t mean, it’s from the clay but we are just curious. It does make sense that if it even had lead, it couldn’t stay in the body since the clay attracts metals and that it is a very low dose.

  18. Thank you for addressing this topic.

  19. We just got a notice from Amazon that the 10 lbs of Best Bentonite has elevated amounts of lead. We use it primarily for toothpaste. This is a bummer.

  20. Yes I have been researching element analysis that is available for some companies and it does have some clay but it is a very low amount some have about 12 part per million but it seems that some are high in aluminum which is like 58 parts per million (PPM). I still think it is a good product.

  21. I think you’ve got some skewed numbers there, Wellness Mama. I found the FDA article discussing the amounts of lead in foods. I found it by following links in your article to the source.
    http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodSafety/FoodContaminantsAdulteration/TotalDietStudy/UCM243059.pdf

    I used the Mean column (someone correct me if that’s wrong) and I see it is in milligrams per kilogram. Since there are 1 million milligrams in a kilogram, 1 mg/kg relates exactly to parts per million (PPM).

    Per the FDA, collards have 0.011mg/kg or 0.011ppm. Bentonite clay has 11-12ppm or 11-12mg/kg. Thus, I calculate that Bentonite clay has 1,000 to 1,091 times more lead than collards.

    Am I wrong?

    • Your calculation is correct,but you also need to look at the amount consumed to compare the total amount. Based on a serving size of 1 cup cooked collard greens weighing 225 mg and the maximum amount found of 0.136 mg/kg, the maximum amount of lead in a serving is 30 mcg. I don’t know how much is in a serving of Redmond Clay, but comparing it to the Earthpaste, it is 5 times the amount in the Earthpaste.

  22. I have been a frequent user and consumer of Great Plains Bentonite Clay for well over a decade. About 10 days ago, I took Great Plains bentonite clay in an attempt to help detox my body. I ended up with verified lead poisoning, impacting my liver, gallbladder, spleen, stomach, lungs and upper respiratory system. It’s been hell-a-ceous to overcome, and I am still not there. Use with caution!

    • Sorry to hear of this experience. Thanks for sharing the potential dangers of internal bentonite use. I was really looking forward to using this clay for this purpose. Wishing you a speedy recovery!

  23. katie, i’ve been reading up about bentonite clay as i figured with people having such great results i was ready to give it a try if it indeed seemed safe. i was curious as to your statements as to what amount of lead is in bentonite clay and did some searching on this. first, the CDC says:

    “No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement. And effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected.” https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/acclpp/blood_lead_levels.htm

    so, is there lead in some foods? yes, but i’m not at all sure the statistics you’ve posted are accurate as the commenter Chris above has mentioned. the amounts in those FDA tables are significantly less than anything there is in the info you posted above from Redmond. of course they are selling the product so will not be unbiased. in the comments on a post i’m linking to about Earthpaste toothpaste & the bentonite clay it contains which is from Redmond Clay there is info saying how they are skewing the statistics. the post itself is from Lead Safe America Foundation, a non-profit started by a woman whose children have lead poisoning. here is what she posted:

    “In December of 2013, when we contacted Earthpaste to ask how much lead was in the product, we were informed that Earthpaste had tested their product and it has approximately 11.9 parts per million lead in the clay that that is the base of (and largest ingredient in) the product. [see this PDF from Redmond with their analysis: RedmondClay_MineralAnalysis]

    The amount of lead that is considered toxic in water is 15 parts per billion! With 11.9 parts per million—Earthpaste has THREE ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE more lead – way above what is considered safe for something children might ingest daily (especially given it is recommended that kids brush their teeth daily – and at least twice a day.)”

    she said the following in the comments & there is much info in the comments on that post from others as well:

    “Even if you don’t swallow your toothpaste, a certain amount remains in your mouth and gets in to your body (with any body product.) There is no safe level of lead for humans, and the federal standard for water (for example) is that water is considered unsafe at 15 parts per billion. With the main ingredient of Earthpaste (the Redmond Clay) coming in at 11 parts per million (by their own white paper for their product) and ranging from 3 to 15 parts per million (based on my XRF testing of some samples) the amount of exposure is considerably higher than even what the feds consider toxic. I use a non-clay based, non-fluoride toothpaste myself. Baking soda is a good option as well.” http://leadsafeamerica.org/earthpaste/

    honestly, i am no chemist so can’t say whether or not all this is factual but this sure gives me pause. the fact that with toothpaste a child or adult will be ingesting some is worrisome. i don’t know if there is a safe level for adults but the CDC does say there is none for children. unless i’m misunderstanding, and please correct me if i am, going by the FDA link in the above comment by Chris, it does sound like Earthpaste’s & Redmond’s levels of lead are much, much higher in comparison to other foods as Redmond is claiming. also, the amounts of lead in water in the Earthpaste are much higher than what the lady at Lead Safe America reports are the federal safety guidelines.

    In summary that i don’t think the risks of lead exposure in products containing bentonite clay are worth it, especially not for children where lead exposure has much more serious effects. i think there are enough safer alternatives out there that it is wise to use those alternative products instead. if i am wrong in anything i posted here please do correct me. it certainly is difficult as laypeople for all of us to know these days what is safe and what isn’t and to accurately read these scientific studies. best, linda

    • Thanks for all the good comments here. Linda, I agree you. Was going to try internally. I suppose one interested in internal use can get the bentonite tested. Buy bunch of jars and have a few jars tested for lead and go from there.

  24. Thank You for this great article. I have been using clays for years, then today I read an article by a Doctor C. and he was saying how dangerous the amount of lead in clay was and he even said dangerous lead in bone broth with cow collagen and chicken gelatin is dangerous… Give me a break! Everything on earth is contaminated by man and we do not live in a bubble,! there are worst things out there than a trace amount of lead in these healing clay. Just look up in the sky, criss-cross DAILY with Chem Trails. He needs to write and complain about that and not about natural clay.
    Thank you for your great article.