s Your Body a Toxic Waste Dump?on FEBRUARY 17, 2016
The media is sounding the alarm about Zika virus, but the environmental toxins that we're exposed to on a daily basis are a much bigger threat to our health—and our children's health. Learn 3 ways that you can protect yourself and your family.
Over the last several years I've written extensively about the importance of nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress management, social support, play, and a sense of purpose to our health and well-being.
Why are these factors so important? Because they are the primary drivers of chronic disease, which is by far the leading cause of death in the industrialized world. If you're interested in prolonging your lifespan, the name of the game is, quite simply, avoiding chronic disease for as long as possible.
There's another major factor that contributes to chronic disease that I haven't written as much about yet I've come to believe is every bit as important (if not more so, in some cases) than those I just mentioned above: environmental toxins.
In a recent article in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof points out that we're exposed to hundreds of these toxins on a daily basis, most of which are completely invisible—and either ignored or underappreciated by the conventional media and medical establishment:
Scientists have identified more than 200 industrial chemicals—from pesticides, flame retardants, jet fuel—as well as neurotoxins like lead in the blood or breast milk of Americans, indeed, in people all over our planet.These lobbyists have been so effective over the years that our current laws permit companies to introduce new chemicals into our environment (which inevitably end up in our food, air, and water) without any testing to show that they are safe.
These have been linked to cancer, genital deformities, lower sperm count, obesity, and diminished I.Q. Medical organizations from the President's Cancer Panel to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics have demanded tougher regulations or warned people to avoid them, and the cancer panel has warned that "to a disturbing extent, babies are born 'pre-polluted.'"
They have all been drowned out by chemical industry lobbyists.
In other words, chemicals are "innocent until proven guilty."
That's bad enough. But even when the chemicals are proven guilty, or at least strong concern about their effect on our health is raised, nothing happens.
Americans have over 200 toxic chemicals in their blood. Learn 3 ways to protect yourself and your family.The chemicals Kristof mentions above are perfect examples. BPA, pesticides, flame retardants, and other chemicals that are commonly found in our food, food packaging, clothing, furniture, and household materials have been linked to numerous diseases in adults, and most disturbingly, lifelong developmental changes in children.
Yet these chemicals continue to be used, and the media gives very little attention to the problem. From the same article:
Americans are panicking about the mosquito-borne Zika virus and the prospect that widespread infection may reach the United States. That's a legitimate concern, but public health experts say that toxic substances around us seem to pose an even greater threat.Kristof argues that we need a new public health revolution with the goal of protecting babies and children from the harmful effects of these toxic chemicals.
"I cannot imagine that Zika virus will damage any more than a small fraction of the total number of children who are damaged by lead in deteriorated, poor housing in the United States," says Dr. Philip Landrigan, a prominent pediatrician and the dean for global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
"Lead, mercury, PCBs, flame retardants and pesticides cause prenatal brain damage to tens of thousands of children in this country every year," he noted.
I couldn't agree more.
As a parent and a clinician, I'm deeply concerned about the effect of toxins on our children's health. We need laws that protect our kids, not corporations. Companies should be forced to prove that a chemical is safe before introducing it—instead of using our children as unwitting test subjects in an uncontrolled, society-wide scientific experiment.
In the meantime, what can we do as parents to protect our kids (and ourselves) from exposure to these chemicals? Here are the three most important places to start:
- Eat real, organic food. This means avoiding chemical additives in processed and refined foods, pesticides in conventional produce, and antibiotic residue in conventionally raised animal products.
- Use natural personal care products. What we put on our skin may be even more important than what we put in our mouth when it comes to toxins.
- Reduce exposure to toxins in your home. The Environmental Working Group has a great "Healthy Home" checklist, which includes suggestions like storing food in glass or stainless steel instead of plastic, using natural laundry detergent, and avoiding vinyl shower curtains. I've also written about theimportance of testing for mold in your home if you suspect you may be exposed.
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FEBRUARY 17, 2016 AT 12:05 PM
I adopted my daughter as an infant, and since then she has had bags under her eyes all the time. I am told it is probably environmental allergies. I only used organic products on her and try to give her an excellent diet. I am concerned that perhaps there is something in our carpet or air ducts that is causing the problem. Should I get an air purifier for her room or something? Its often the worst in the morning.
FEBRUARY 17, 2016 AT 11:15 AM
I would love to hear your thoughts on water purification and how you address it in your home? Ive been following you since the early Healthy Skeptic days and have always appreciated your input / advice. In these past few years I've turned much of my health problems around following your suggestions, but I always come back to the water. It is so elemental to health! There's nothing better than guzzling a jug of water after a good workout or taking a long hot bath on a cold night, but there's always that concern about exposure to toxins. I'm about to own my first home and could really use your advice on tap water concerns / filtration systems. I think many of us would really appreciate an article with more comprehensive advice on water. Thanks for all you do!
FEBRUARY 17, 2016 AT 11:36 AM
Chris, ditto. I have reverse osmosis but I hear that it ruins the structure of water, so you can't easily get hydrated.
FEBRUARY 17, 2016 AT 11:14 AM
Am very interested in this as a Spanish friend (30yrs old) of mine with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is figuring the cause. One possibility is toxic exposure of her Mother in pregnancy. The theory is that damage is done to the developing ovaries pre-birth which does not show till puberty, when the egg matures for ovulation but does not actually pop out of the ovum. The effects of this is hormone imbalance giving several side effects, inc excessive hair loss, acne, and heavy periods. This view was put forward by Dr John Lee who was a hormone specialist.
FEBRUARY 17, 2016 AT 11:09 AM
8 months ago I completely changed my lifestyle – made big dietary changes (organic, no sugar, gluten, grains, am working on the dairy) and store as much as possible in glass, avoid plastic grocery shopping bags and try to use organic shower gel and hand wash (just to start off). My overall health has definitely improved.
Love your passion Chris and thankyou for the invaluable information you provide to help us with our chronic health problems
FEBRUARY 17, 2016 AT 11:08 AM
Thank you for the advice on avoiding toxins. Should people be testing themselves and taking corrective action for toxins already in their bodies? If so, what tests should be done? Are any of the so-called detoxification programs worthwhile, or is it just snake oil for the fearful?
- Nancy Soper
FEBRUARY 17, 2016 AT 10:55 AM
I got the Think Dirty App for my iphone and I can check the toxicity of cosmetics, soaps, and shampoos with my phone as I shop. I think the app for androids is called Skin Deep.
FEBRUARY 17, 2016 AT 10:54 AM
As much as it pains me to say so, I too have switched to bottled water… I have noticed for a while that when I drink a glass of tap water (maybe 6+ oz at once), I get a stomach cramp and sometimes a headache that will last several hours. And it has never quenched my thirst – for decades I have thought there is something strange about how thirsty I chronically feel, with no signs of any medical condition signaled by thirst (eg diabetes). Bottled spring water – with natural mineral content and 0ppm flouride – does not have these effects – my stomach does not hurt and my thirst is satisfied by a "normal" 8 or so glasses/day. I object on so many levels to having to buy water – it's a public good and should not be making us sick – but it turns out to be one of the "small things" that has made a big difference on my healing path. I wish I could learn more about the subtle ways flouride, chloramine and other chemicals in "clean" tapwater are impacting health, but the medical literature is conflicting in this area.
- Ms Hanson
FEBRUARY 17, 2016 AT 10:52 AM
For a long time I sought the cause of my late-onset asthma, imagining I could uncover a single culprit. Approaching it as a cumulative response to environmental factors reveals a multitude of potential causes. Uncovering and removing those triggers incrementally is my work now. As I tell the extended family, learn from my experience. It could help your own children one day.
Appreciate your great work and personal experiences.
FEBRUARY 17, 2016 AT 10:43 AM
I felt my anxiety rising as I read this article as it is something I am terribly concerned about but feel completely helpless. I'm doing my best to decrease my son's exposure to toxins but then he goes to karate and the fumes in the studio from the cleaning products are enough to knock me over. There is virtually no ventilation as it is in an office building with inoperable windows. The owner of the studio is a DOCTOR and will not take my requests to consider changing cleaning products seriously. There are hundreds of children exposed on a regular basis and there are always infant siblings present as well. When my son gets home from practice, I can smell the cleaners in his hair and on his clothing.
I'm exhausted by people looking at me like I'm a nutter because I think this is cause for concern. In their defense, they likely are unable to smell the odors over their own haze of cologne, body products and laundry detergent.
Is EWG the only organization trying to make change? What can we do as mere citizens?
Thank you again for putting an emphasis on an issue that the large majority of society sweeps under the rug as they don't want to deal with it.
FEBRUARY 17, 2016 AT 10:37 AM
Great article, as usual. One of my biggest concerns with environmental toxins is water. I buy glass bottle spring water and mineral water for drinking and reverse osmosis for cooking. It gets expensive, and I also have concerns about water for showering etc. I'd love to get a whole house water filter system, but I hear so many pros and cons. It's hard to know what is best to do.
FEBRUARY 17, 2016 AT 12:17 PM
For those who want a small, inexpensive reverse osmosis system:
It attaches to your faucet. Keep it in the fridge when not in use. Takes about 30 minutes to fill a Brita pitcher.
Consider also the meter – you can measure the total disolved solids (TDS) left in your water when you first start using the Watermaker, then measure as you continue to use it. When the reading goes up it's time to replace the cartridge.
Remember also to replenish minerals – I add Concentrace.
- Byron Woolcock
FEBRUARY 17, 2016 AT 10:36 AM
I am 77, with MCS and COPD. As our neighbours burn wood all winter I have been researching ways to protect our health and home. Antioxidants, learning of air pressure factors, indoor and out, wind directions, walks in the fresh air and as much organic food
as we can afford all help. Wood smoke is forty times more toxic than tobacco smoke ! We
are trying to get the warning message out to everyone. Thank you for your excellent site
and the constant useful information. Keep up the good work.
Byron ., Ontario, Canada.
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