Understanding toxins in our environment and pointers on how to detoxify our bodies.
Toxins, Toxins Everywhere
Since July is time for the semi annual liver detox and blood cleanse that I recommend, it seems appropriate to take a look at an alarming study that now makes it clear that regular detoxing is no longer optional. Regular intestinal, liver, blood, heavy metal, and kidney cleanses are now a basic requirement of life in the industrialized world. And take note, the study found that even living a pure organic lifestyle offers no protection.
This study — Toxic Nation: A Report on Pollution in Canadians (PDF) — was conducted by Environmental Defence (in Canada) to serve as a representative sampling and a wake-up call. Children, as young as 10, were found to have excessive chemicals in their bodies (i.e. stain repellents, flame retardants, heavy metals, organophosphates, insecticide metabolites and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) even when raised by health conscious parents. Participants that have been interviewed for various newspaper articles (Montreal Gazette & Toronto Star) speak of their ‘shock and awe’ at the state of ‘our toxic nation.’
Results & Reactions
Montrealer Vivianne Maraghi is a 34-year-old mother who makes an effort to buy ‘organic and biological food’ whenever possible. Her son Aladin, 10, has been raised on organic food since he was a baby.
- The study found 36 toxic chemicalsin Viviane herself, the highest total number among the volunteers.
- “When I saw how many different chemicals are in my body, I was astounded. But, when I saw the toxic chemicals in my son’s body, I was angry. Our children deserve better protection.”
- Her 10-year-old son, Aladin Bonin, had 25 toxic chemicalsin his body.
- “It’s not fair that children should be so polluted with these chemicals. I hope that adults do something now to fix the problem.”
Barri Cohen, 24, and her 10-year-old daughter Ada Dowler-Cohen had a similar experience.
- The study found 31 chemicals in Barri.
- Her 10-year-old daughter had 24 chemicalsin her body.
- “I was very alarmed when I saw the long list of chemicals found in my daughter’s body. As a mother, it’s inconceivable that my daughter is more polluted by some chemicals than I am”
Wilson Plain Sr. an elder from the Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Sarnia, Ontario had three generations of his family tested.
The study found 32 chemicals in Wilson Plain Sr.
- 36 chemicals in his son, Wilson Jr.
- And 20 chemicalsin his 14-year-old granddaughter, Jessie.
- “What’s most shocking is my granddaughter, who has chemicals in her body that were banned before she was even born. Canadians have the right not to be polluted by these chemicals.”
Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, was quoted as saying that the study reveals for the first time the extent to which children are being affected by toxic pollutants.
“Pollution is now so bad in our country that the bodies of our children have higher levels of pollution than their parents. Our children are being poisoned every day by toxic products in their home, in their schools, and when they are at play.”
Keep in mind that the biochemical make-up of children makes them more sensitive to chemicals so while the levels in many cases may have been low, health consequences are likely. A lifetime of exposure to even low-levels of toxins will ultimately degrade your health. And as the Environmental Defence notes, some of the chemicals found:
- Have been shown to cause reproductive disorders
- Harm the development of children
- Are suspected of causing cancer or neurological problems.
The bottom line that we can extrapolate from the study is that even if you try and live a pure organic lifestyle, some toxins are inescapable — even for children raised on organic food and living in a ‘clean’ environment. Although the study was small, it’s the proverbial canary in a coal mine and worth a closer look.
The Toxic Nation Study
The Toxic Nation study used a method of sampling human tissues and fluids, known as biomonitoring. This method is being used by environmental groups (and governments) to get a sense of the chemicals our bodies are absorbing through air, water, food, soil and consumer products.
The key findings (as noted in the study) were:
- The study specifically tested for 88 known chemical toxins.
- Laboratory tests detected 60 of the 88 chemicals tested in 11 volunteers, including 18 heavy metals, 5 PBDEs, 14 PCBs, 1 perfluorinated chemical, 10 organochlorine pesticides, 5 organophosphate insecticide metabolites, and 7 VOCs.
- On average, 44 chemicals were detected in each volunteer, including 41 carcinogens, 27 hormone disruptors, 21 respiratory toxins and 53 reproductive/developmental toxins.
- This report is the first cross-Canada study to measure PFOS levels (the key ingredient in Scotchgard, the 3M-made fabric protector) in people, and findings show that PFOS contamination is likely widespread in the Canadian population.
- Results from one volunteer, a First Nations leader from northern Quebec, showed the highest levels of mercury and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as PCBs and organochlorine pesticides. These findings are consistent with previous studies indicating that, despite the distance from most point sources of pollution, many chemicals tend to migrate due to air and water currents and climatic conditions.
- Although PCBs were banned in the 1970s, they were detected in all volunteers, including those born in the early 1980s. However, the results suggest that the ban has been successful in decreasing people’s exposure. The study revealed a higher number of PCBs in older volunteers in comparison with younger volunteers; for example, between 12 and 14 PCBs were detected in the samples from volunteers aged 60 and older, whereas 5 PCBs on average were detected in the samples from volunteers aged 25 and under.
Again, the bottom line is that even if you try and live a pure organic lifestyle some toxins are inescapable.
Understanding the Inescapable Toxins
While this is the first study to confirm the inescapable exposure to toxins across Canada, Environmental Defence points out that these results are in-line with the results of similar studies done in the U.S. and Europe. So, since we are all at risk, let’s take a brief look at some of the key culprits — where they linger and the harm they can cause.
Toxic Heavy Metals in the Environment
In the Air
On April 9, 2006, the Health Effects Institute ‘A Partnership of the Environmental Protection Agency and Industry’ held a conference examining state air quality and reported that sources such as coal, motor vehicles, and residential oil are emitting metals such as Cu (copper), Zn (zinc), V (vanadium) into the air at unhealthy levels.
Over time, these metals accumulate in the tissues of your lungs, heart, and liver and in your blood causing numerous health problems including allergies, respiratory, and cardiovascular disease. For more details on this specific issue see http://www.healtheffects.org/Slides/AnnConf2006/Costa.pdf.
In the Kitchen
Walk into any store selling cookware and you will see a full spectrum of metals. From aluminum to stainless steel, you have probably been told that your exposure to these metals is low — below the level of risk. But consider for a moment the frequency and duration of the use of this cookware. Over time, the accumulated levels of these metals can rise well above risk levels, compromising your health. Your body is simply not equipped to expel these metals (on its own) so they continue to accumulate in your body.
Everyone knows about the dangers of aluminum cookware, but what about stainless steel? Stainless steel cookware is the most popular cookware in North America; it’s inexpensive, long-lasting …but surprise, still potentially hazardous with long term use. Nickel and chromium are both used in the making of stainless steel, and both can compromise health when toxic levels are reached — and both have been proven to leech at low levels every time you cook.
In the Mouth
Another heavy metal to worry about is mercury. It’s in your fish, your grains, and, of course, in the amalgam fillings in your mouth. Mercury is particularly toxic and particularly insidious in that it is now so pervasive in the environment, having been released into the atmosphere through the extensive burning of coal for energy. And speaking of your mouth, nickel can be found in most crowns and bridges.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s fact sheet, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame-retardant chemicals that are added to plastics and foam products to make them difficult to burn. Because they are mixed into plastics and foams rather than bound to them, PBDEs can leave the products that contain them and thus enter the environment.
These manmade chemicals have been added to everything from children’s pajamas to computers in order to make those objects less likely to burn in the event of a fire. While I can’t quote a statistic that compares the protective value of this flame retardant to the potential health hazard caused by the excessive use of this type of chemical, the Canadian Environmental Defence study has definitively proven that it’s finding its way into your food. . . and your BODY.
An article from the Organic Consumers Association points out that while scientists aren’t sure how PBDEs get into food (fish, pork, duck, turkey, cheese, butter, milk, chicken, ice cream, eggs, etc.), they theorize that particles escape from carpets, furniture, computers and televisions into the air; then those particles fall to the ground and into the water, where animals consume them. Apparently PBDE concentrates in fat as it moves up the food chain. The concern is that in animal studies, PBDEs have been shown to harm the nervous system, alter hormonal function, change the development of reproductive organs, affect behavior, and cause liver tumors. Some researchers even wonder if they are linked to attention deficit disorders.
The scientists didn’t test vegetables and fruits, but frighteningly did find PBDEs in a soy infant formula. And if that isn’t bad enough, PBDEs have been found in breast milk.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a mixture of up to 209 individual chlorinated compounds. There are no known natural sources of PCBs. Although they are no longer produced in the United States, they are still found in the environment. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s fact sheet for PCBs, there are a number of ways that you can be exposed to this chemical cocktail:
- Using old fluorescent lighting fixtures and electrical devices and appliances, such as television sets and refrigerators that were made 30 or more years ago. These items may leak small amounts of PCBs into the air when they get hot during operation and could be a source of skin exposure.
- Eating contaminated food. The main dietary sources of PCBs are fish (especially sport fish caught in contaminated lakes or rivers), meat, and dairy products.
- Breathing air near hazardous waste sites and drinking contaminated well water.
- In the workplace during repair and maintenance of PCB transformers; accidents, fires or spills involving transformers, fluorescent lights, and other old electrical devices; and disposal of PCB materials.
The Agency’s fact sheet also highlights health effects that have been associated with exposure to PCBs, including: acne-like skin conditions in adults and neurobehavioral and immunological changes in children. PCBs are known to cause cancer in animals. PCBs have been found in at least 500 of the 1,598 National Priorities List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Fluorochemicals (PFOA’s and PFOS’s)
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is the chemical used in non-stick coatings (i.e. Teflon) on cookware and as a stain repellent on clothing, carpets, and upholstery, and in fast-food packaging. Most recently, I noticed that it is being used to undercoat beach umbrellas to provide increased protection from the sun.
- Chemicals in frying pan a potential hazard to environment
- Fluoropolymers may have harmful long-term effects
- It’s a suspected carcinogen.
Perfluorooctanyl sulfonate (PFOS) is a member of a large family of perflurooctanyl sulfonate chemicals. The 3M Company was the largest worldwide producer of PFOS chemicals but stopped manufacturing PFOS chemicals in December 2000 because of concerns about their persistence in the environment and long-term health and environmental effects; it does not biodegrade. PFOS has been found widely in wildlife species across the US (especially in fish eating birds) and in the Baltic region and in Sweden . . . and in human blood samples. PFOS accumulates to a high degree in humans and animals. It has an estimated half-life of 4 years in humans. It thus appears to combine persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity to an extraordinary degree. PFOS caused postnatal deaths (and other developmental effects) in offspring in a 2-generation reproductive effects rat study. At higher doses in this study, all progeny in the first generation died. But far more frightening is the fact that at extremely low doses many of the progeny from the second generation died. It is very unusual to see such second generation effects.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) explains in a fact sheet that organochlorine pesticides were first introduced in the 1940s and persist in the environment long after they are applied. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned many of the uses of these chemicals during the 1970s and 1980s, but other countries still use them. The problem is that levels build up in the body over time. The CDC goes on to explain that people can be exposed to organochlorine pesticides by:
- Eating fatty foods, such as milk, dairy products, or fish that are contaminated with these pesticides.
- Eating foods imported from countries that still allow the use of persistent pesticides.
- Passing these pesticides through the placenta to the unborn child or by breastfeeding.
- Absorbing these pesticides through the skin. One organochlorine pesticide, commonly known as lindane, is used to treat lice and scabies and is readily absorbed through skin.
The problem is that:
- They produce reproductive and neurological effects in animals.
- People who work with organochlorine pesticides for a long time have shown changes consistent with liver damage.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) include toluene, benzene, formaldehyde, ethyl benzene, styrene, acetone and a host of other chemicals, some of which have already made the EPA’s list of Extremely Hazardous Substances.
To give you a few examples of the phenomenal toxicity of VOCs, consider some of the Health hazards offered in the report Toxic Carpet: Dangerous Toxins that Live in Your Carpeting:
- The known carcinogen p-Dichlorobenzene is in new carpets, as are chemicals that produce fetal abnormalities in test animals. These chemicals also cause hallucinations, nerve damage and respiratory illness in humans.
- That ‘new carpet smell’ comes from 4-PC, associated with eye, nose and upper respiratory problems that are suffered by many new carpet owners. 4-PC is used in the latex backing of 95% of US carpets.
- In 2000 the 3M Company removed the chemical perflouro-octanyl salphonate from their product, Scotchgard, because it had been found to cause reproductive problems in rats. It had also been found in high levels in the wildlife of urban areas.
Beyond the Study
In addition to the categories of the 60 toxic chemicals identified in the volunteers in the Canadian study and explored above, I would like to take a moment to highlight the point that accumulated chemicals are just the tip of the toxic iceberg. Consider that these chemicals react with other chemicals to form entirely new toxicity problems — Chemistry 101, right? Well, this ignorance of toxic synergism is an emerging problem.
Chlorine and Chloramines
For more than 100 years society has used chlorine to disinfectant water. Over time this purposeful attempt to offset infectious disease in public water supplies has been linked to inadvertently causing disease:
When chlorine interacts with natural organic matter in drinking water, the process can generate byproducts that are linked to an increased risk of certain cancers and birth and developmental defects.
The problem today is that in response to the undeniable adverse health effects of chlorine disinfectants, alternative water disinfectants have been hastily implemented. Alternatives such as:
- Chloramines, a combination of chlorine and ammonia.
- And ozone.
In fact, unexpected (and unregulated) toxic reactions found in public drinking water has been given a name – Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs).
Understand that DBPs are formed when chemical disinfectants (both chlorine and chloramines) used to treat drinking water react with naturally occurring materials in the water. An article published by the News Bureau of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign explains that:
- Some 600 DBPs have been identified since 1974.
- Scientists believe they’ve identified maybe only 50% of all DBPs that occur in chlorine-treated water.
- But they estimate that they’ve only identified approximately 17% of those occurring in chloramine-treated water.
- And about 28% in water treated with chlorine-dioxide.
- And just 8% of those produced in ozone-treated water.
- And of the 600 structurally identified DBPs, the toxicity factor is known for about 30%, at best.
Michael J. Plewa, a genetic toxicologist in the department of crop sciences was the lead researcher in a team that examined DBPs in the public water supply.
‘This research says that when you go to alternatives, you may be opening a Pandora’s box of new DBPs, and these unregulated DBPs may be much more toxic, by orders of magnitude, than the regulated ones we are trying to avoid.’
In this study Plewa’s small research team (3 of the team from the Environmental Protection Agency) made a startling discovery: Pandora’s box had indeed been opened, and the toxic demons let loose upon an unsuspecting world. Researchers discovered a DBP (Idoacetic acid) in US drinking water treated with chloramine that when tested on samples of mammalian cells proved to be the most toxic and genotoxic DBP ever reported.
Plewa, explained that:
‘The iodoacids may be the most toxic family of DBPs to date. One of the five detailed in the study, iodoacetic acid, is the most toxic and DNA-damaging to mammalian cells in tests of known DBPs. These iodoacetic acids raise new levels of concerns. Not only do they represent a potential danger because of all the water consumed on a daily basis, [but because this contaminated] water is recycled back into the environment. What are the consequences?’
While it is not yet established what the health consequences are in humans (especially over time), we can extrapolate a dreary inescapable outcome from the results of this team’s animal studies.
In their study, Plewa and his colleagues found that in hamster cells, the one iodoacid they tested was anywhere from twice as toxic to nearly 300 times more toxic than chlorine byproducts
Plus there is the chloramine/lead connection:
Although chloramines are now being used as a “safe” alternative to chlorine for water purification, their use appears to be sending lead levels through the roof in some people. As far as anyone seems to be able to understand, the chemical compounds used in purification, fluoridation, and basic plumbing structures are reacting with each other in ways that are hazardous to your health.
- Tetravalent lead scales have been found inside lead water pipes from several utilities.
- In a free chlorine solution, tetravalent lead is stable, but in the presence of chloramine it dissolves into the water.
- For details see: Experiment confirms chloramine’s effect on lead in drinking water.
An article on the American Free Press highlights the ‘unhealthy consequences’ of chloraminated-water in Washington, DC; Corpus Christi, Texas and San Francisco, CA.
Keep in mind that while it is no doubt unsettling that all current water disinfectant processes have been discovered to be harmful, it is sensible and necessary to continue to disinfect public water supplies to prevent outbreaks of infectious disease. But that doesn’t mean you have to drink that same water before cleaning it up yourself at the tap.
While we are on the subject of chlorine, I have to briefly touch on Dioxins. Dioxins are created when chlorine and organic matter react in the presence of heat. Dioxins linger in the environment long after initial exposure.
A fact sheet put out by The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR)
points out that research has shown that exposure to dioxins may pose a serious health threat:
Dioxins are known cancer-causing substances (carcinogens). In fact, one Dioxin in particular, TCDD, is the most potent animal carcinogen ever studied and has been linked to cancer in humans.
Plus consider that:
- Agent Orange contains dioxin.
- Dioxin has been linked to activating the HIV virus. In theory, dioxins cause harm by binding to a cellular protein vital for immune function in the cells. When the Ah receptor combines with a pollutant such as dioxin and then combines with an HIV-1 virus, it activates the HIV genes. This enables the HIV virus to enter the cell nucleus and turn the cell’s genes on or off.
The point is that dioxins are virtually inescapable as they make their way into our air, food, and water supply. As the NFCR fact sheet highlights:
- After dioxin enters the air, people can breathe in the particles.
- Even worse, dioxin particles can fall into rivers and other bodies of water, where fish can ingest them.
- Likewise, dioxin can settle on grazing land, where it’s ingested by cattle. The dioxin particles then accumulate in the fat tissue of these animals.
- As a result, over 90 percent of human exposure to dioxin comes from the foods we eat, particularly meat, fish, poultry, cheese, milk, butter, and other foods with animal fat.
Conclusion: Detox Pointers
Although the problem sounds overwhelming, it isn’t. Just doing a few key things on a regular basis will eliminate a broad range of toxins from the body. For example, a single round of heavy metal detoxing will dramatically drop heavy metal levels of all of the problem metals in a single shot. Bingo! Then again, a good air purifier can eliminate the half dozen or so toxins emitted by the 3-M company and your carpet.
The trick to dealing with toxins is to address the problem coming and going — as they enter the body, then getting them out once they’re in.
As much as possible, you need to prevent toxins from entering the body (clean your drinking and bathing water, remove pollutants from the air you breath in your house, eat clean organic food, and opt for non-toxic cookware). But that said, no matter how hard you work to keep toxins out of your body, regular detoxing is no longer optional. It is now a mandatory part of any personal health routine.
So which detoxes do you need?
- Liver & Blood
- Intestinal Cleansing
- Heavy metals – Clinically Proven Oral Chelation
Note: although clinically tested for just mercury, aluminum, and lead, Metal Magic™ will likely produce similar results for all heavy metals in the body including nickel, chromium, arsenic, cadmium, and copper since the mechanism of removal is applicable across the board.
As the Canadian study makes clear, exposure to toxins has become inescapable. Now more than ever we must recognize that regular and continual detoxing has become a mandatory health protocol for everyone — not just an esoteric exercise for health fanatics.