Manganese Toxicity

Manganese is an essential element for the human body, but like most things in life – balance is key. There are unhealthy forms of manganese that are incredibly toxic to your body and can result in a litany of symptoms and detrimental health conditions. 

Unfortunately, our risk for manganese toxicity is higher than ever due to modern industrial practices. And while occupational exposure used to be the primary source of manganese toxicity, there’s a new threat you need to know about – high levels of manganese in well water and jet fuel released into our skies in the air we breathe. While there are several routes for exposure (which we’ll dive into below), well water is becoming one of the most dangerous sources of manganese. 

What does manganese do in your body?

In healthy levels, this mineral assists in the formation of cartilage and bone, wound healing, the production of glucose, and mitochondrial function[1]. 

However, when you get overloaded with toxic manganese, it deposits and accumulates in the cerebellar region of your brain, as well as your ears and pons. Your pons are responsible for communication between the right and left hemispheres of your brain, and when they’re damaged, they can impact sensory processing, balance, and movement[2]. 

This is why manganese toxicity often mimics symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. People with manganese toxicity can even be misdiagnosed with Parkinson’s. 

Furthermore, due to the oxidative nature of heavy metals, excess manganese in your system requires your body to use up precious antioxidants that could be better spent on heavy metal detox. For instance, antioxidants should be used for fighting off endogenous toxins made by the various processes in your body. When too many antioxidants go to fighting off toxins, this leads to accelerated aging. This means that the more heavy metals you have in your body, the more vulnerable your cells are to toxins that can compromise longevity and cause aging of your appearance, skin and body. 

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • Hidden sources of manganese – hiding in plain sight
  • Symptoms of manganese toxicity to watch out for
  • Why anyone diagnosed with Parksinson’s disease or cognitive impairment should have their manganese levels checked
  • If you drink or shower in well water, you need your manganese levels checked
  • How you can safeguard against manganese toxicity

Sources of Manganese 

As mentioned, occupational exposure is one of the main sources of manganese toxicity. This would include miners, welders, smelters, workers of ferro-alloy plants, and dry-cell battery workers. Airborn manganese is readily absorbed from the lungs, which puts these workers at significant risk for toxic manganese exposure[3][4][5].

Right along with occupational exposure, however, is the risk for people who drink or shower well water – at any time in your life. Specifically, as observed in several studies, children are at the greatest risk for adverse effects due to high levels of manganese in drinking water. Sadly, among the many side effects of manganese in well water is intellectual and developmental impairment in young children[6][7][8][9].

Unfortunately, most water tests don’t test for manganese, leaving anyone drinking well water vulnerable to exposure. If you do drink or shower in well water, I recommend getting more thorough water testing done; one test that I really like is My Tap Score. They do testing that other water tests miss. My Tap Score tests a surprising array of water contaminants. 

In addition to occupational exposure and well water, there are several other potential routes for manganese exposure, including:

  • Living near a ferro-manganese alloy plant[10].
  • Agriculture agents, such as the fungicide Maneb[10].
  • Auto exhaust and gasoline – due to the use of a manganese-containing fuel additive called methylcyclopentadienyl manganese tricarbonyl (MMT). 
  • Living near an airport – MMT is also used as an airplane and jet fuel additive, making living near an airport a potential risk as you can inhale jet fumes and exhaust[11]. 
  • Living near steel-making facilities.
  • Infant formula, particularly soy-based formula, which can contain 100 times the amount of manganese as human breast milk[12]. This readily crosses the blood brain barrier in infants under 6 months of age. Very dangerous!
  • Cosmetics that use a pigment compound called manganese violet. This can be found in various products, including makeup, hair coloring, skincare, nail polish, and bath products[13]. 
  • Medical imaging (MRI) agents containing manganese[14].

Symptoms of Manganese Exposure

Inhaled manganese is often transported directly to the brain before it’s metabolized by the liver. Once in your brain, manganese can cross the blood-brain barrier, which is why many of the symptoms of manganese exposure are neurological[15]. 

Some common symptoms include:

  • Attention issues 
  • Memory issues
  • Low IQ in children
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nervousness
  • sleepiness 
  • Muscle spasm
  • Hearing problems
  • Insomnia
  • Depression 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Mood changes
  • Irritability
  • Aggressiveness 
  • Cough and bronchitis (when inhaled)
  • Brain fog 

More serious symptoms include:

  • Schizophrenia (unemotional behavior)
  • Bradykinesia 
  • Tremors
  • Ataxia
  • Seizures
  • Mania
  • Extreme criminal behavior (psychopathology)

Possible Related Health Conditions 

When manganese accumulates in your body, it can result in some serious health complications. In addition to its impact on cellular aging, some health conditions directly associated with manganese toxicity include:

Mitochondria Dysfunction 

While manganese is essential for healthy mitochondrial function, when this mineral accumulates in your body it can overload your mitochondria, resulting in an increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). As a consequence of ROS production, your mitochondria struggle to produce energy, which will leave your body physically fatigued, and unable to carry out all of its vital processes[*].

Manganism (Parkinsonian Syndrome)

Manganism is the most well-known health condition associated with manganese toxicity. This condition, also known as Parkinsonian Syndrome, mimics Parkinson’s disease and is often mistaken for Parkinson’s with incorrect diagnosis[16]. 

Manganism is a neurological disease characterized by rigidity, tremors, bradykinesia, gait disturbances, mood disorders, and cognitive dysfunction[12][17][18].

While the symptoms of Manganism are incredibly similar to Parkinson’s disease, the primary difference is that Manganism won’t respond to drugs like levodopa (l-DOPA) because the dopaminergic system is not at the root of Manganism[19].

Instead, treating Manganism comes down to eliminating exposure and reducing manganese levels in the brain and body[20].

Cognitive and Behavioral Deficits

Manganese is a developmental neurotoxin, which is why the most common side effects of manganese toxicity in children are cognitive and behavioral deficits. 

For example, research shows that school children with increasing groundwater manganese exposure exhibit decreased IQ scores. Furthermore, studies show that children who have ingested manganese-contaminated well water display more aggressive and hyperactive behavior, with increased deficits in attention[7][8][21]. 

Potential Reproductive Harm

There’s some evidence that reproductive health may be affected in manganese-exposed men. Symptoms such as impotence, sexual dysfunction, and decreased libido have all been observed in men exposed to manganese in occupational settings[2]. 

Mice studies show that manganese toxicity can result in a 30% reduction in male fertility, with damage to reproductive tissues[22]. 

Reproductive harm in women due to manganese exposure hasn’t been well studied due to the fact that most occupational exposure happens in male-dominated industries. 

Cognitive Dysfunction and Dementia

With the increasing rates of neurological disease, researchers are beginning to look to environmental factors that may be contributing. One area of interest is air pollution, which may contain several toxic compounds – manganese being one of them[23]. 

While we know that manganese can cause Parkinson’s-like symptoms, studies also suggest that toxic exposure to this metal may induce signs of Alzheimer’s due to its neurotoxic effects[24][25].

With manganese having an affinity for brain tissue, and given the list of manganese-induced symptoms in the above section, it should be no surprise that this metal may contribute to neurological dysfunction. 

You can learn more details about how heavy metals and toxins cause dementia from renowned brain and toxin researcher Dr Ray Dorsey. Listen to the podcast here.

Detecting Manganese Toxicity

If you’ve been drinking well water or have worked in an industry where manganese exposure is possible, you’ll want to check your manganese levels.

What’s the best way to assess exposure?

Research shows that high levels of manganese can be found in hair samples, making a Hair Mineral Analysis (HTMA) an excellent option for assessing your manganese levels[26].

In addition to providing information about manganese, an HTMA can also provide information about the levels of other toxic compounds in your body, including mercury, lead, arsenic, aluminum, nickel, uranium, and more.

It’s so important to get heavy metals testing done at some point in your health journey. It truly is life changing information that will surprise you and will set you a direct path to massively improving your health. I am so thankful for the robust health and anti-aging benefits that I enjoy today. And for this, I credit heavy metal and chemical detox. And it all started with an HTMA

Once you know what types of toxic insults you’re dealing with, you can begin to take steps to support your body’s detoxification processes, targeting the precise toxic minerals and heavy metals that are compromising your health.

How To Support The Body’s Natural Detox Processes and Flush Out Manganese

Now, here’s the good news: should you find that your levels of manganese are high, there are plenty of nutrients that can support your detoxification processes.

  • Studies show that diets high in iron can suppress manganese absorption, protecting you from toxicity[27]. I never recommend supplementing iron, except for desiccated beef liver supplements. But I do recommend eating red meat and other food sources high in iron. 
  • Cilantro is another excellent tool for naturally assisting with manganese heavy metal detox, as it acts as a natural chelating agent, gently removing metals from your tissues[28]. 
  • Zeolites are well-known to assist in manganese heavy metal detox due to their high absorbency and their ability to exchange ions[29][30][31][32]. 
  • EDTA is another chelating agent that supports the detoxification of manganese and other heavy metals and specifically can assist in removing manganese[33]. 
  • Zinc can help to transport manganese out of your cells, assisting in the detoxification process[36]
  • Sodium lipoate, a highly bioavailable molecule, improves manganese clearance and also acts as an antioxidant.  

Of course, in addition to the above nutrients, removing the source of manganese is essential. 


Manganese toxicity doesn’t get a lot of press, but that doesn’t mean it’s something that should be ignored. While this metal is an essential nutrient for physiological health, excessive exposure can push you past your limit and result in some serious health consequences. 

If you have any concerns about your manganese exposure, taking an HTMA (hair mineral analysis heavy metals test) will provide you with all the information you need and, at the very least, give you some peace of mind. When manganese exposure remains untreated, symptoms can progress and may become permanent, so getting ahead of manganese toxicity is crucial. 

The good news is that knowledge is power. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can take steps to regain your health and clear your body from heavy metal toxicity. 

Click Here for References+

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  5. da Silva, Carlos Jorge, et al. “Brain manganese deposition depicted by magnetic resonance imaging in a welder.” Archives of neurology 65.7 (2008): 983-983.
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Dr Wendy Myers, ND is a detox expert, functional diagnostic nutritionist, NES Bioenergetic Practitioner, and founder of She is the #1 bestselling author of Limitless Energy: How to Detox Toxic Metals to End Exhaustion and Chronic Fatigue . Additionally, Wendy is the host of The Heavy Metals Summit, the Myers Detox Podcast, and the Supercharged Podcast. Passionate about the importance of detox to live a long and healthy life, she created the revolutionary Myers Detox Protocol , and Mitochondria Detox kit after working with thousands of clients, as well as a range of supplements to help you detox from everyday living and maintain a healthy lifestyle!

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