This is the third of a series of articles on the roots of chronic disease. We have covered oxidative stress and inflammation. Today we are looking at toxins in our environment and their effect on our health. Next month, we will explore how to avoid them and how to help our body to detoxify.
Toxins are harmful substances in the environment and in our bodies. Through normal processes, our body produces toxins and has mechanisms to remove them. These same processes help us remove toxins from external sources like chemicals and metals.
The question is no longer if we are toxic, but, how toxic are we? Initial exposure actually begins while a baby is still in the womb!
In one study,, there were 287 chemicals already present in the umbilical cord blood of newborns. Of these, 180 are known to cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system and 208 were shown to cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests.
Six chemicals are found in virtually every person. They were identified by the CDC as probable health hazards! The six most commonly found chemicals, all of which are highly dangerous, include polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PDEs), bisphenol A (BPA), Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), acrylamide, mercury, and methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE). Let’s look at these so you can begin to avoid them in your life.
Flame retardant PDEs are chemicals found in many products that are meant to decrease fire risk. These build up in human fat tissue causing damage to the nervous system, liver, and kidneys, and sexual dysfunction, thyroid problems and brain disorders.
Bisphenol A, is another toxin added primarily to plastic products and can linings. More than 90 percent of people tested were found to have BPA in their bodies. Releases of BPA to the environment exceed 1 million pounds per year. Chemicals like BPA are called “endocrine disruptors” and are toxic to reproductive and developmental processes . Because BPA has weak estrogen-like effects, there are questions about its potential impact particularly on children’s health. In adults, there is a strong relationship between urine concentrations of Bisphenol A and the incidence of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and liver-enzyme abnormalities.
Perfluorooctanoic acid is used in non-stick cookware, stain-resistant clothing, certain food packaging and other heat-resistant products. Studies verify that PFOA contributes to infertility, other reproductive problems, liver abnormalities and immune system dysfunction.
Acrylamide is a cancer-causing chemical that forms when carbohydrate foods are cooked at high temperatures. It is found in French fries, fried chicken, and coffee, and is used in plastics, cosmetics and water treatment products. Exposure to acrylamides causes cancer and neurological dysfunction.
Mercury is another common toxin found in most Americans. Mercury can cause brain and nerve problems. It is found in dental amalgams, cosmetics and fish.
Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) is a gasoline additive not used today. However, it remains in water supplies as well as in most Americans’ bodies. Second-hand cigarette smoke is also a source. MTBE causes neurological and reproductive problems.
Other toxic chemicals are Dioxin, PCB’s and chloroform. Did you know when chlorinated water is heated toxic chloroform is released?
So start looking at your environment and your exposure to toxins. A good source for information is the Environmental Working Group – www.ewg.org. Next month we will discuss symptoms of toxin exposure, avoidance of toxins and detoxification.