HAIR TESTING INFORMATION: By Andy Cutler and Moria Merriweather
Copyright Andy Cutler and Moria Merriweather, April 2002, May 2002, October 2002



Which test to get
If you want to use "the counting rules" then you need to get a HAIR ELEMENTS TEST, run through DOCTOR'S DATA INC. Do NOT get their "hair toxic exposure" test --- it does not include the essential elements.  The essential elements are essential if you want to use the counting rules.

DDI contact information
Doctor's Data (lab) contact information:
address: Customer service, Doctor's Data Inc., P.O. Box 111, West Chicago, IL 60186 USA
phone: (800) 323-2784 - from US and Canada (Monday-Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM, central time) or (630) 377-8139
fax:  (630) 587-7860
email address for inquiries:

Requirements, alternatives and costs
This test requires the signature of a licensed health care practitioner of some sort --- an MD, DO, podiatrist, optometrist, chiropractor -- any of those is okay.   An ND in states where NDs are licensed to order medical tests also; and an ARNP (nurse practitioner) IF working under a physician.  And probably other some other types of practitioners. DDI can also tell you the names of doctors in your area who have ordered this test, if you call and ask.  This test can be ordered from the UK. (You need a signed order from your doctor, which can be faxed to DDI.)  Probably can be ordered from elsewhere, too (but we just happen to know about the UK.)

This will cost $76 (unless the practitioner has "special pricing", in which case it is sometimes $42).   If you have someone to sign the request, great.  If you do not have a cooperative practitioner around, then you can get the test ordered from Direct Lab Services. This will cost $79 (rather than $76 or $42.)

Direct Lab Services
Direct Laboratory Services provides access to testing for professionals and consumers, and they will order tests for you. The way they do this is they have a doctor who requests the tests for you. They are following the normal procedures of the labs involved. They will charge you for this service (by marking up the prices of the tests). However, in some cases their prices will be lower, due to volume discounts and other pricing considerations they get from the labs. Expect them to be helpful, and to treat you as a customer.  To order tests, call (800) 908-0000.

DLS does all types of tests, not just hair tests.  In general, which test you want run will determine what lab they run the tests through.  They expect you to prepay, and will send the test kit(s) to your home.

A list of many of the tests available, and prices, can be found at: "Healthchoice" incorporates several organizations, including DLS.  (see

DLS no longer runs ANY test through GSDL. They canNOT run a plasma cysteine test for you (as of 04/02).

Preparing hair samples
Doctor's Data will send a "test kit" for you to use. (Some doctor's have these on hand.) The test kit is just an envelope with the supplies you need. It contains instructions, a tiny paper scale, and a little plastic baggie to put the hair into.  There are also a few questions to fill in.  The sample is then mailed to DDI.  The results will be returned to you practitioner and NOT to you. This will take around 2 to 4 weeks from when the sample was mailed.

Use of current hair vs. baby hair
Sometimes people will ask about using baby hair that they have saved for testing. It is recommended that you use CURRENT hair for this test.  Testing baby hair will show what was going on at that time, and it is hard to tell how this relates to the current situation.  It is also hard to know when baby hair was saved relative to mercury exposure.
The directions for the hair test will say to use the end of the hair from right next to the scalp. This is the newest growth. However, if someone with long hair is very reluctant to cut off some hair to test,  the ends of the hair could be used. A test of the older hair at the ends is still often informative -- this is especially true for adults. Children change more rapidly, and also have probably had an acute (vaccine) exposure. The hair sample at the scalp is the most indicative of the current situation.  Other hair shows the situation at the time that THAT hair grew.

What is on a DDI report?
If you want to see an example of what the test results looks like, you can download one here:  A list of the elements included can be found later in this file, in the section "how to post hair test results to the list".

--a method for determining probable mercury poisoning--

Terms used
In this explanation, we use the following words interchangeably:

Introduction: Mercury poisoning is difficult to determine; mercury "hides"
Trying to figure out whether someone has mercury poisoning is not an easy, direct thing to do. You cannot just test the level of mercury to find out.  That is, one cannot simply test someone's hair, or blood, or urine, or feces, and measure how much mercury is there, and go by that.

Why not? The body's tissues are selective about how long they keep mercury inside themselves. Mercury will stay in some body tissues (such as the brain and liver) which are very attracted to it, for a long time.  Other tissues (such as blood), will clear out the mercury pretty quickly. Blood will keep mercury for a few months. The brain keeps it for a lifetime. Other tissues are in between.

At first (soon after exposure), mercury is present in hair and blood. This means that soon after someone is poisoned, their blood and hair will probably show high levels of mercury. But later, in most cases, the mercury is "hidden".  It is no longer present in the blood or hair or urine or feces. If the person is poisoned, it is still present in other areas (such as the brain) and is still doing damage. For people who have been exposed to mercury through vaccines (thimerosal) or through amalgam (dental fillings), the exposure is usually too far in the past and/or too slow and chronic for mercury to show up in hair or blood or urine or feces.

THIS IS IMPORTANT: A PERSON WHO IS MERCURY TOXIC will usually (in most cases) have a NORMAL reading for mercury on tests of hair or blood or urine or feces. You cannot go by that. The most recent edition of many medical textbooks tell physicians that mercury poisoning cannot be ruled out based on the urine or blood level of mercury. This is also true for hair levels of mercury. Only about 1 poisoned person in 10 shows up with a high level of mercury on these tests. The other 9 poisoned people have normal readings for mercury.

If the reading for mercury is HIGH (red) on a hair test, this probably indicates the person has mercury poisoning.   On the other hand, if the reading for mercury is normal (or even very low), this indicates nothing one way or another about whether the person has mercury poisoning.  Mercury can still be present in the brain and organs, doing lots of damage there, and NOT be present in the hair. THIS IS VERY COMMON.

Blood, urine, feces and hair are all relatively easy to test. But, the mercury level there is not a good indicator of past mercury poisoning or slow chronic mercury poisoning. Because of this, measuring mercury in blood, urine, hair or feces is often not helpful in determining whether a person is poisoned.

The way to tell if a person is poisoned (when mercury doesn't show up), is to use the available samples (hair, blood, urine, etc.) and look for the biochemical aberrations which mercury causes.

We can look for what mercury DOES: impaired "mineral transport"
Mercury usually interferes with the body's ability to use, process, and store minerals. Regular minerals: stuff like calcium, magnesium and sodium. (On a hair test, these are called "essential elements".) While this is a very bad thing in terms of health effects, it is "helpful" for the purpose of determining mercury poisoning, because it is a pretty predictable result. This is exactly what the "counting rules" look for: seriously messed up minerals.

To be just slightly more technical about it, mercury poisoning usually causes impaired "mineral transport". Mineral transport is the ability of cells to pull minerals into themselves and pump minerals out of themselves selectively.

If mineral transport is normal then someone with too much mercury will have high hair mercury levels.  This happens with about 1 person in 10 who have a mercury problem.  This person will have a HIGH reading for mercury. In this case, it is easy to see they have a problem with mercury. These people have normal mineral transport, and can move mercury from the large pool in the body into the hair. For the other 9 people who are mercury toxic, it is harder to figure out if they have a problem or not. The normal level of mercury present in their hair could mean they don't have much mercury in their body (they are okay), or it could mean they have impaired mineral transport due to mercury poisoning, and that is why there is little mercury in their hair.

Since mercury impairs mineral transport, examining hair for the level of many minerals lets us determine if mercury has left its signature in the hair's biochemistry even if the mercury itself doesn't show up.

What the counting rules should be used for:
The counting rules determine if a child/adult has impaired mineral transport. That is what they are for.

Impaired mineral transport indicates mercury poisoning is likely:
In a strict sense, all the "counting rules" check for is that SOMETHING is causing disordered mineral transport.  While in theory there may be many things that do this, the only one we know of is mercury poisoning, and it is certainly the only common reason for mineral transport to be messed up.

We are not aware of any other condition (besides mercury poisoning) which regularly results in  impaired mineral transport. This does not mean that some other cause is not possible.

In particular, the other heavy metals (other than mercury) do NOT generally appear to cause impaired mineral transport.  If you have normal mineral transport (as indicated by the counting rules), and you have a high level of a toxic metal (other than mercury), this would tend to indicate that you are poisoned with that element, and not mercury.

Another point worth noting is that it is having mercury in one's body (not brain) which causes impaired mineral transport. A person with mercury in their brain only would most likely not have impaired mineral transport. They would still have mercury poisoning, but would not show up as having impaired mineral transport, based on the counting rules. This would be likely in a person who was poisoned with mercury long ago, with no exposure since. This gives the body organs time to slowly clear out the mercury. The brain (unfortunately) hangs on to the mercury much longer, and does not clear itself out.  Such a person might not have any laboratory abnormalities.  Or, they might have endocrine (hormone) abnormalities (of the sort that endocrinologists and mainstream MD's are unlikely to understand), or neurological abnormalities.

Most people with mercury poisoning do seem to have abnormal mineral transport as shown by their hair tests, and small children do not appear to have enough time to clear all the mercury out of their bodies to get normal mineral transport again, if they are mercury poisoned.  The only group of people likely to have mercury poisoning AND have normal mineral transport AND have a normal reading for mercury are those who have tried to remove the mercury from their bodies for many years but who have been using protocols that do not clear the mercury out of the brain, or those who have had no exposure to mercury for at least a few years.  In other words, from a practical standpoint, almost everyone who is mercury toxic will have EITHER impaired mineral transport (what the counting rules measure) OR have high level of mercury in their hair.

Probability versus proof:
The counting rules can tell you that it is HIGHLY PROBABLE that a child or adult has impaired mineral transport. This is a fair indicator of mercury toxicity, but is NOT an exact precise 100% accurate diagnostic measure.  First, there is a slight chance of a false negative or a false positive as to whether the person has impaired mineral transport. (See "Note about statistical probabilities" for more details on statistical probabilities as related to the counting rules.) Second, the counting rules do not actually test for mercury's presence, they are looking for impaired mineral transport.  So, it is inexact.

It is possible that there may be some other disease or condition that is causing impaired mineral transport, or very skewed mineral levels. Andy doesn't know of any other condition that does this, but this is not exactly a guarantee of certainty for any individual.

We are aware of at least one person who had normal mineral transport (as measured by the counting rules) and who chelated anyway, and saw improvement.  We are also aware of at least one person who had normal mineral transport and chelated anyway and did not see any change from chelation.

A lot of people have used the "counting rules" and we think it is a pretty reasonable and reliable method to decide to look into mercury poisoning further, or give chelation a try.

If your hair test shows a high level of mercury:
If the reading for mercury is HIGH (in the red area) on a hair test, this indicates the person may have mercury poisoning.  You do not need the counting rules.  It is clear that there is mercury present at high (unhealthy) levels.

Other ways to look for mercury toxicity:
There are a number of other ways (besides looking for impaired mineral transport) to look for mercury poisoning. However, getting a hair test and using the counting rules is RELATIVELY cheap and RELATIVELY easy and RELATIVELY reliable.  So, a lot of people on the autism-mercury list have been using this method.

You can read about other methods here: or in Andy's book "Amalgam Illness", available from his website:

How to read a hair test from DDI
These rules are ONLY for the Doctor's Data "hair elements" test - tests by other companies need different rules. Andy highly recommends using the DDI "hair elements" test. Do not get the DDI "toxic elements" test.


STEP TWO: STEP THREE: If any ONE of these criteria is met, it indicates a high probability of abnormal mineral transport and it indicates a high probability of mercury poisoning. If step one OR step two OR step three indicates abnormal results, it indicates a high probability of abnormal mineral transport and it indicates a high probability of mercury poisoning.

Note about statistical probabilities
If any one (or more) of the criteria are met, there is a 1 in 44 chance that it happened randomly and a 43 in 44 chance that something is wrong. Of course, the chances that it is random diminish rapidly if the deviation is greater or if more than one of the rules is met.  The greater the deviation, the greater the probability that the person is toxic.

Additional patterns which are characteristic of mercury toxicity
There are some characteristic non-statistical findings, too, in mercury toxic people. These are probably caused by other heavy metals in addition to mercury, but are NOT caused by COPPER toxicity. People who are copper toxic, with nothing else going on, have very normal looking hair analyses except for very elevated copper. Their minerals are not "skewed".

Not everyone who is mercury toxic has these patterns, but they are reasonably common:

The most important finding is the one that the counting rules "count":   mercury toxic people generally have their essential elements much more scattered than well people, with lots of highs and lows. "Normal" people do NOT have this pattern. If you look at the hair analyses of some "normal" people it becomes quite obvious.

When mineral transport is abnormal: OTHER TOXIC METALS

(TEXT TO BE ADDED HERE.  This section is not complete.)

When mineral transport is normal: OTHER TOXIC METALS
The counting rules look for abnormal mineral transport.  A person who has NORMAL mineral transport has the ability to move use and process BOTH TOXIC AND ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS. The readings on a hair test for other toxic metals (other than mercury) should be an accurate indicator of any toxicity (or the lack of toxicity).  For example, if a person has normal mineral transport, but high copper and high arsenic, then the readings for copper and arsenic would be accurate, and you would want to consider how to lower the copper and arsenic.

(TEXT TO BE ADDED HERE. This section is not complete.)

NOTES: About test results, in general
Medical laboratory tests are standardized by testing a bunch of normal, healthy people and determining "normal ranges" where 1 person in 40, on average, is above them and 1 in 40 below, for a total of 2 in 40 or 1 in 20 who do not fall "within normal limits."

Of course, with this statistical definition, this means that if you do eight gazillion tests in some mondo test panel, some of them are expected to randomly be out of range. The Doctor's Data hair element analysis is in effect one of those mondo test panels, like a "chem 25" blood test panel. While it is extremely difficult to go look at the myriad interrelationships of all the things on these panels (and in practice nobody does it), it is possible to use statistical methods to turn the whole panel into "one test" that is either "within normal limits" or "abnormal." Andy has done this and generated the following rules to interpret the DDI "essential and other" elements portion of their test which includes 23 elements. For tests including a number of elements different than 23, the rules have to be rederived.

NOTES: Probability equations used to come up with the rules
For those who like numbers and equations, the way Andy did this is pretty simple.

The probability of a given number of event "A" and event "B" where "B" is "not A" out of n tries is:

Pa ^ Na * Pb ^ Nb * 23CNb
(23CNa = 23CNb since Na + Nb = 23)
where Na is the number of events A and Nb is the number of events B, and Pa and Pb are the probabilities of events A and B. Pa + Pb = 1.

Andy could calculate this for all Na and sum the probabilities up from, say, zero to some number. What he did was calculate probabilities and add them up so the total probability of satisfying the counting rules given above is 0.023 (2.3%) and all the the different things to check have similar probabilities of occurrence.

The probability, Pa, of something being "very elevated" or "very low" is defined by the "normal limits" of a medical test as 0.05.

The probability, Pa, of something being greater than average, is of course 0.5 or 50%.

The probability, Pa, of something being within one standard deviation of average (in the middle band on the DDI test report) is defined by statistics as 2/3.  NOTE: Using just math (statistics) here, this would lead to a rule that says "If the number of items that is in the "average" section is FOURTEEN or less it indicates abnormal mineral transport". This is, in fact, what this rule initially said when Andy created the counting rules. However, since there is correlation between the minerals, the actual number needed (to be "abnormal") or really lower. Andy had to get a lot of reports and go over them in order to determine what the number really should be, which is what he did. The rule was then modified to ELEVEN, instead of fourteen.

NOTES: How to read an OLDER hair test from Great Smokies Diagnostic Lab
IMPORTANT: As of August 2001, GSDL recently changed the format of their test results. Andy has not derived "counting rules" for GSDL's new reporting format at this time. The method outlined here does NOT work with the new format.  This information is included ONLY in case you have an OLDER test. If you are going to order a test, please use DDI at present if you wish to use the counting rules.


  • Find the results for "nutritive elements" and "additional elements". There should be 21 items listed in these 2 groups together
  • Draw a line (very carefully) down the middle of the test results page with a ruler. We will call this line "average".
  • Find the area called "abnormal high" and "abnormal low" (way at the edges of the little bell curves on the test result sheet)
  • STEP 2:
  • Count the number of values that are "abnormally high" plus the number of values that are "abnormally low".  If this number is 3 or more it indicates a high probability of abnormal mineral transport and it indicates a high probability of mercury poisoning.
  • Look for values that are "above average" -- that is, the line extends to the right, beyond the "average" line you drew down the middle of the paper. Count the values that are "above average". (This may include ones that are "abnormally high".) If the number is less than 6, it indicates a high probability of abnormal mineral transport and it indicates a high probability of mercury poisoning.
  • Again, using the values that are "above average" -- that is, the line extends to the right, beyond the "average" line you drew down the middle of the paper. Count the values that are "above average". (This may include ones that are "abnormally high".) If the number is greater than 15, it indicates a high probability of abnormal mineral transport and it indicates a high probability of mercury poisoning.

    If you would like to read more about testing (mostly reiterating that direct testing of hair, urine, etc. is not reliable), here are some things you can read:

    Posts written by Andy: different tests, and that test may not show mercury high level of mercury in hair/blood/urine is not good for diagnosing mercury poisoning mercury toxicity versus copper toxicity other toxic metals high withOUT impaired mineral transport Mercury doesn't show up in tests Skewed minerals on tests abnormal mineral levels How long mercury shows up in urine, after exposure date Chronic mercury exposure (e.g. amalgams) doesn't result in high mercury on hair tests

    A conversation between Andy and Dr. Amy Holmes: post by Dr. Amy Holmes: hair patterns in ASD kids response from Andy response by Dr. Amy Holmes: more about the patterns in ASD kids and NT kids

    Posts written by Moria: normal level of mercury in hair test doesn't mean you are okay hair reading for mercury of high means you are toxic, but normal means it is unknown

    Additional writing on this topic, by Dr. Amy Holmes: From the website of Dr. Amy Holmes: a good explanation in non-techie language of why mercury levels may be "normal" in people who are mercury toxic. post by Dr. Amy Holmes: hair tests show recent exposure post by Dr. Amy Holmes: scattered pattern of hair elements seen in ASD kids


    Introduction to posted DDI hair test results:

    Why would you want to look at these? Note about viewing "squashed" results:

    When view these posts on the website, even if the writer carefully lined everything up, YOU will see a "squashed" table that "looks weird". In order to get it "unsquashed" you can do either of the following:

    If you do either of these, you will see the results as the writer typed them. There is no other way Moria has figured out to work around this.

    DDI hair test results: [Barry Jones] [jondank] [jmgdad] used standard deviations to post [Andy - response] [Alex Barcley] [milothegreat] [Andy - response] [Denise Lavery] [Andy - response] [fvillaaz] [Andy - response] [cewlslgr] [Andy - response] [Ping Li] [HeidiCallin69] [Andy - response] [Andrea & Mark] [tiredmamma18042] [D&J Tobey] [Andy - response] [etchemendy] [autismzone] [Andy - response] [lecopeland73] [Andy- response] [TwoTonks] [Andy- response]


    If you want to post your hair test results to the list, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you post enough information.  This is not a recommendation that you post your results, merely advice on HOW to do so, if you choose to.   Most of the time, people who post hair results desire help with using the counting rules. In order to USE the counting rules, one must have complete info (or it can't be done). Therefore it is important to post enough information.  Using the format below is highly recommended.

    When posting hair test results, please:

    When posting any type of test results, please include the test medium  (e.g. hair, blood, urine), the name of the lab,  and the name of the test.

    Note about viewing "squashed" results:

    When you post your results, which are (one hopes) all neatly lined up in columns, some people (those who get email) will SEE neatly lined-up columns, while others (who read on the website) will see a "squashed" table that "looks weird".  If you are VIEWING a post on the web with "squashed" results, you can do either of the following to get it "unsquashed":

    If you do either of these, you will see the results as the writer typed them. There is no other way Moria has figured out to work around this.

    Example of format to use, with example results included:

    element       result    ref range    color
    aluminum      11        < 8.0        yellow
    antimony      0.07      < .066       yellow
    arsenic       0.1       < .08        yellow
    beryllium     <0.01     < 0.02       no line
    bismuth       .2        < .13        yellow
    cadmium       .034      < .15        green
    lead          .2        < 1.0        green
    mercury       0.37      < 1.4        green
    platinum      .003      < .005       no line
    thallium      < .001    < .01        no line
    thorium       < .001    < .005       no line
    uranium       .001      < .06        no line
    nickel        .09       < .4         green
    silver        .06       < .2         green
    tin           .16       < .3         green
    titanium      1.4       < 1.0        yellow

    element       result    ref range    color    under/over 50%
    Calcium       459       125-370      yellow   over 50%
    Magnesium     54        12-30        yellow   over 50%
    Sodium        93        12-90        yellow   over 50%
    Potassium     93        12-40        yellow   over 50%
    Copper        8.2       8.0-16       green    under 50%
    Zinc          200       100-190      yellow   over 50%
    Manganese     0.2       0.2-0.55     yellow   under 50%
    Chromium      0.46      0.26-0.5     green    over 50%
    Vanadium      0.034     0.03-0.1     green    under 50%
    Molybdenum    0.035     0.05-0.13    yellow   under 50%
    Boron         1.8       0.6-4.0      white    over 50%
    Iodine        0.26      0.25-1.3     green    under 50%
    Lithium       0.009     0.007-0.023  green    under 50%
    Phosphorus    262       160-250      yellow   over 50%
    Selenium      0.97      0.95-1.7     green    under 50%
    Strontium     0.31      0.16-1.0     white    over 50%
    Sulfur        49200     45500-53000  green    over 50%
    Barium        0.12      0.16-0.8     yellow   under 50%
    Cobalt        0.008     0.013-0.035  yellow   under 50%
    Iron          16        8.0-19       green    over 50%
    Germanium     0.052     0.045-0.065  green    under 50%
    Rubidium      0.11      0.016-0.18   green    over 50%
    Zirconium     0.38      0.04-1.0     white    over 50%

    Example of format to use, blank copy for you to fill in:

    The "format" below can be "copied and pasted" to your email, just be sure to fill it all in completely:

    element       result    ref range    color

    element       result    ref range    color    under/over 50%