We Are All Toxic!
A bold statement, yes, but recent studies suggest it's true
Each year, U.S. chemical companies manufacture more than 6.5 trillion pounds of 9,000+ different chemical compounds. These same companies release over 7 billion pounds of 650+ different chemical pollutants into the atmosphere and water. In addition, industrial manufacturing plants and fossil fuel combustion release heavy metals into the environment, including 48 tons of mercury annually. Exposure to these ubiquitous chemical compounds and pollutants has created an overall toxic burden that extends from the very young to the very old.
for more information on long term effects of chronic low-dose mercury exposure.
The Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group (EWG; ewg.org), in collaboration with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, conducted a study to assess the levels of 219 industrial chemicals in nine adult volunteers who had no known previous toxic exposure. A total of 167 chemicals (the average was 91) was found in the blood and urine of the study's participants, including 76 carcinogens, 94 chemicals known to be toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 79 that can cause birth defects or abnormal fetal development. Another EWG study found an average of 200 industrial compounds, pollutants, and other chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of 10 newborn babies. Chemicals found in the second study included the organochlorine pesticides DDT and dieldrin, perfluorochemicals, brominated fire retardants, PCBs, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated and polybrominated dioxins and furans, polychlorinated naphthalenes, and mercury.
In a study of 2,540 individuals who participated in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers looked specifically for urinary phthalates and their metabolites. Phthalates are commonly used in the manufacture of plastics. More than three out of four participants in this study had detectable levels of at least four phthalate metabolites, suggesting widespread exposure. Other researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently detected Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical widely used in the manufacture of plastic bottles, in 95 percent of 400 U.S. adults.
In addition to the toxic burden that comes from external sources, the human body itself generates a large number of biochemicals, hormones, and metabolites that must be detoxified and eliminated from the body. Together, these cumulative external and internal exposures create a significant challenge to the body's organs of detoxification and elimination. This challenge must be successfully met before an individual can respond favorably to other forms of dietary supplementation and achieve the desired higher state of wellness.
The liver is responsible for the greatest share of the body's detoxification burden; therefore, in addition to identifying the sources from which toxic exposures are originating, the liver's activities must be supported so it can effectively perform its functions. The liver converts toxic substances into non-toxic, water-soluble compounds that can then be eliminated by the kidneys and the intestines. The liver and other tissues involved in the body's detoxification processes must be supplied with the essential nutrients needed for this task, as well as botanicals that assist detoxification and aid in preventing damage to the body's tissues during the internal cleansing process.
Laboratory Testing for Toxicity
Several laboratories provide cutting-edge testing for heavy metals, detoxification potential, and the metabolites of toxic compounds. For example, a urine organic acid test can be a useful tool. Organic acids are metabolic intermediates produced during detoxification. High levels of specific organic acids in the urine can signal the potential accumulation in the body of particular toxins. In addition to testing for toxic metabolites, a urine organic acid profile can detect deficiencies of specific nutrients that provide the necessary enzyme cofactors for detoxification.
The efficiency of phase I and II liver detoxification can also be examined by determining the urinary levels of specific liver detoxification markers, such as D-glucaric acid (phase I detoxification) and mercapturic acid (phase II detoxification). The presence of other compounds can also be determined to assess phase I and II detoxification capacity, such as salivary and urine metabolites of caffeine, acetaminophen, and acetylsalicylic acid.
Several laboratories provide urine testing for toxic metals such as aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. In general, collection profiles of 6-8 hours are used when an individual receives an oral or intravenous metal chelating agent that can mobilize toxic elements from the body (called challenge testing). A 24-hour collection profile may be used without the administration of a chelating agent to assess the rate of excretion of the elements being analyzed. The total output of urine over 24 hours is collected and toxic element levels are then determined. A clinician can select from either protocol. In addition, hair analysis can be used as a general screening for the presence of heavy metals.
for more information on pre- and post-challenge urine heavy metal testing, Part 1.
for Part 2.
The Toxic Home
A Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the greatest personal exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) occurs not from outside air but from air in the home. In addition to avoiding exposure to environmental pollutants as much as possible, air cleaners can be utilized to remove VOCs from indoor air. Several good indoor air filters work well for this purpose. A fair number of indoor houseplants can also be used to accomplish this goal, including philodendrons, spider plants, aloe vera, English ivy, golden pothos, Boston fern, and bamboo palm.
It is also highly recommended that doors and windows be opened to allow fresh air inside as often as possible &ndash even if for only 5-10 minutes in the winter. In addition, remove clutter which collects dust and try to initiate a 'no-shoes-indoors' policy. According to experts, lead, pesticides, PCBs, and other chemicals can adhere to dust particles that enter homes on the bottoms of shoes. A National Cancer Institute study found residues of 34 toxic chemicals in household carpet dust.
for more infomation on environmental medicine and heavy metal exposure, evaluation, and treatment.
After identifying an offending toxic substance, avoidance of further exposure is critical. This may involve avoiding new paint, new carpet, new fabric, dry cleaning establishments and dry-cleaned clothes, tobacco smoke, gasoline and diesel fumes, and automobile exhaust. It may be necessary to switch to organic foods to avoid pesticide and herbicide residues.
More on "avoidance" is available from two excellent books: Success in the Clean Bedroom
by Natalie Golos, and Your Home, Your Health, Your Wellbeing
by Rousseau and Rea.
For any toxic substance the body is dealing with, it uses essential nutrients to detoxify the offending substance. It is imperative that these nutrients be replaced as they are used so the body can continue to fully and successfully detoxify. Some nutrients and botanicals have been shown to improve liver and bowel function, while others are helpful in removing toxic matter from the body.
Thorne Research has designed a dietary supplement program in conjunction with Dr. Walter Crinnion, ND, chair of environmental medicine at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. For more information go to keyword search and type in "environmental."
The following are suggested changes for a more healthful personal environment. Not everyone will have the incentive to make all of these changes &ndash however, each change a person does make will make a difference.
Avoid scented products ("fragrance" as an ingredient) &ndash including perfumes, colognes, aftershaves, personal care products, air fresheners, potpourri, etc. Be careful about "unscented" products &ndash these products can use a "masking fragrance" to cover up the original fragrance &ndash and can be doubly toxic.
Avoid fabric softeners, dryer sheets, bleach, and scented detergents. These products are toxic &ndash and are also harmful to the environment.
Avoid pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Pesticides are neuro-toxins (they affect the central nervous system), and they don't know the difference between the bugs and you! For fleas, roaches, ants, etc., use diatomaceous earth, boric acid, or nematodes, which can be obtained from health food stores and pet supply stores with directions for proper application.
Use only non-toxic cleaning products and personal care products.
Drink and bathe in filtered water. Taking a shower in chlorinated water causes chlorine to go right into your bloodstream. You can purchase shower filters that easily attach to the shower nozzle from water supply stores. The best water filters are either the reverse osmosis type or a water distillation system. Avoid swimming in chlorinated swimming pools.
Eat organic food (food grown without pesticides or fertilizers) as often as possible. Wash vegetable and fruits &ndash even organic produce &ndash unless you're going to peel them. Avoid processed foods, foods with colors and dyes, and preservatives. Never consume any product containing "NutraSweet" (aspartame).
Wear only natural fiber clothing (100-percent cotton, linen, wool, silk, bamboo, or soy). Make sure the clothes are not "permanent press" or "wrinkle resistant" &ndash these fabrics have been treated with formaldehyde that does not wash out.
Use only 100-percent cotton, linen, wool, silk, or bamboo bed linens and blankets. Avoid "no iron" or "wrinkle resistant." A good brand is "Simply Cotton," marketed by Martex, and The Company Store has both bamboo sheets and organic cotton jersey sheets.
As much as possible, avoid plastics (store food in glass jars), plastic wrap, particle board, plywood, glues, inks, paints (look for brands that say no or low VOCs), foam rubber, vinyl, carpet, synthetic rugs, varnishes, and solvents.
Open your windows as often as possible. Even in the most polluted cities, the outdoor air has been found to be less toxic than the indoor air.