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 across Wyoming, but it is also harvested from the Montmorillon region in France (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:
- Bentonite Clay from Essential Living (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:
- How to Detox Your Armpits
- Squeezable Homemade Toothpaste
- Detox Foot Soak
- Remineralizing Tooth Powder
- Deep Cleansing Mud Mask Recipe
- How to Detox Your Hair
Do you use any healing clays like Bentonite? What is your take on them?
Discussion (86 Comments)
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.
Do you feel similarly about kaolin clay? I bought some for tooth powder …..
Irene G D
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
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.
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.
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 🙂
Sorry to hear about your daughter. Did they also try chlorella? I found it very helpful but expensive.
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.
Wellnessmama…YOU ROCK! Love this information! Thank you for breaking it down!!!
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
I would ask your doctor.
@Wellness Mama could you please address this article posted, written by Dr. Christianson? I’d greatly appreciate it.
I would not use while pregnant, please read this article!
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.
First off, thank you for the awesome blog! I’ve been bouncing around your articles for a few years now and this is my first comment.
Second, I just ordered my first bentonite clay from MRH to make your revitalizing tooth powder. To sort of follow up from this OP, can their clay be used for this or is Redmond better?
Thanks so much, Jess! That one can be used 🙂
Thank you very much! Btw, I just made your hair growth serum and I can’t wait to try it!
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.
What brand of bentonite clay did you use?