Environment; our toxic world, our Body Burden
Invisible toxins in our environment cause disease, stress and aging.
How We Become Toxic
Approximately eighty percent of the toxins we absorb are ingested. However, environmental toxins come from many sources in and around our home and work environments. An estimated 85,000 synthetic chemicals are registered for use today in the United States. Another 2,000 are added each year. Complete toxicological screening data is available for just seven percent of these chemicals. More than 90 percent have never been tested for their effects on human health. Many chemicals persist in the environment, accumulate in body fat, and remain in breast tissue for decades. (Source: Breast Cancer Fund & Breast Cancer Action: The State of Evidence)
Environmental Toxins Are Everywhere
- In the air: Heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, fine particles, various gasses, molds and spores
We inhale about 5000 gallons of air each day. Last year, US facilities released 4.7 billion pounds of toxins into the air. Of these, 72 million pounds are known carcinogens. Fine particle pollutants from car exhaust and power plants correlate with an increased risk of dying from any disease. Coal-fired power plants spew sulfates, nitrates and mercury into the air. These chemicals are linked to more than 20,000 premature deaths each year.
- In the water: Bacteria and protozoa, persistent organic chemicals (DDT, PCB’s, dioxin, PBDE’s), pesticides, MTBE (Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether) from gasoline, fluoride, chlorine and trihalomethanes, pharmaceutical drugs in measureable concentrations, as well as heavy metals
Approximately 7 Million illnesses and 1000 deaths each year in US may be linked to waterborne microbes. Chlorinated chemicals in drinking water have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Sewage treatment plant workers are at a much higher risk of respiratory illness, skin rashes, headaches & body aches. Though most studies conducted on animals for health risks of MTBE involve inhaling the chemicals, various cancers were reported when MTBE was ingested. The concern about the concentration of MTBE in drinking water is significant as MTBE washes from the air into our water supplies.
- In the food we eat: Heavy metals, pesticides, hormones, food preparation (C8 or PFOA from non-stick cookware, aluminum from cookware and beverage cans)
Environmental toxins work their way into the food chain. Advisories issued in 47 states suggest that people limit their intake of freshwater fish due to mercury contamination. The FDA found DDE, a chlorinated pesticide cousin to DDT, in 63% of the foods analyzed and in 84% of fruit and vegetables distributed to schools. These chemicals are strongly immunotoxic and carcinogenic. Ninety-three percent of American processed cheese, hamburger, hot dogs, bologna, collards, chicken, turkey, and ice cream sandwiches contained DDE. DDE was found in 87% of lamb chops, salami, canned spinach, meatloaf, and butter, and in 81% of samples of cheddar cheese, pork sausage, hamburger, white sauce, and creamed spinach. Of all items sampled, 42 had DDE in 63% or more of all samples. (Source: Altern Med Rev 2000)
- In the personal care products we put on our skin: Heavy metals, petroleum compounds, volatile organic compounds, carcinogens, hormone disruptors
Industrial chemicals are basic ingredients in personal care products. The 10,500 unique chemical ingredients in these products equate to about one of every eight of the 82,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S. Personal care products contain carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, endocrine disruptors, plasticizers, degreasers, and surfactants. They are the chemical industry in a bottle.(Environmental Working Group)
In August 2005, when scientists published a study finding a relationship between plasticizers called phthalates and feminization of U.S. male babies, they named fragrance as a possible culprit. When estrogenic industrial chemicals called parabens were found in human breast tumor tissue, researchers questioned if deodorant was the source. And when studies show, again and again, that hormone systems in wildlife are thrown in disarray by common water pollutants, once again the list of culprits include personal care products, rinsing down drains and into rivers. (Source: Environmental Working Group ewg.org)
- In the clothes we wear: According to a Greenpeace report, clothing from the world’s largest fashion retailers test positive for hormone-disrupting chemicals and dyes that release cancer-causing substances. Most clothing and other fabrics such as sheets, upholstery and home furnishings are contaminated with chemicals harmful to the environment and human health. Read the Toxic Threads Greenpeace Nov 2012 report.
Wrinkle-free and stain resistant? NP and NPE (Nonylphenol and Nonylphenol Ethoxylates) are added to laundry soaps, deicers and clothing as surfactants (make things smooth and slippery). They not only harm the environment, but also have been shown to act like estrogen in the body and are associated with reproductive and developmental effects. These widely used chemicals have been found in environmental samples taken from freshwater, saltwater, groundwater, sediment, soil and aquatic life. NP has also been detected in human breast milk, blood, and urine.
- In the ones who love us: Toxins pass from the mother to the fetus and accumulate in the unborn child.
The umbilical cord carries not only the building blocks of life, but also a steady stream of industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides that cross the placenta as readily as residues from cigarettes and alcohol. This is the human "body burden" — the pollution in people that permeates everyone in the world, including babies in the womb. (Source: ewg.org)
What Toxins Are We Exposed To?
Heavy Metals Heavy metals may well be among the most insidious environmental toxins. Found in everything from makeup and hair color to pesticides and paints, heavy metals bind to enzymes and to other metalloproteins, disrupting normal cell metabolism:
- Lead, mercury, aluminum and arsenic cause brain and nervous
tissue damage that may result in diseases like Alzheimer’s, ADD, autism and
peripheral neuropathy. Mercury can rapidly travel to your kidneys and brain,
where it is stored for years.
Lead can be deposited into your bones and teeth. Vascular diseases, stroke, heart attack, plus most of the cancers and macular degeneration, have been directly linked to lead.
- Cadmium and nickel can be absorbed by the lungs and, with long-term accumulation in the kidneys and liver, cause lung damage, emphysema, sinus trouble, kidney damage and cancer.
- Chromium, cobalt, lead and mercury are potent carcinogens.
Volatile Organic CompoundsThe number one group of toxins in the home are more recognizable by their smell; Cleaning agents, pesticides, natural gas, formaldehyde, perchlorethylene and benzene.These volatile chemicals emit odors which, in high concentrations are potent irritants to lungs and mucous membranes. In low concentrations they accumulate in the liver, kidneys and brain. Long term accumulation of the volatile organic compounds cause cancer and weaken the immune system.
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP)POPs are especially dangerous due to their persistent nature. These chemicals resist biodegradation and therefore accumulate in the environment, increasing in concentration up the food chain. Synthetic fragrances and fabrics, chemical dyes, dye fixatives like formaldehyde, petrochemicals, NP and NPEs. In the body, these chemicals are stored in fat, the brain, liver and kidneys and reproductive organs. Dioxins, DDT, PBDE’s, lindane, and PCB’s are known carcinogens.