4 Good Reasons to Detox
Adapting to the Chemical Age
Toxins are a part of life. They have always existed in nature as means of self-defense in bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals. As humans, we have evolved a sophisticated system of detoxification to help us deal with the array of toxins present in nature.
So how well are we doing adapting to upwards of 90,000 new industrial chemicals that have been introduced into modern life over the last 70 years? The truth is we don’t know. Environmental health science is still in its infancy and is profoundly restrained by the industrial sector.
Man-made chemicals are now ubiquitous in the environment – they are present in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and nearly every consumer product we use. Increasing our awareness about this issue, reducing our daily exposures, and supporting our body’s detoxification processes through natural means are all ways we can better adapt to life in the chemical age.
We cannot change the world but we can change how we live. There is an evolutionary advantage to increasing our awareness and acting on what we have learned.
Uncovering Optimal Health
Although the science linking health to the environment is still new, we do have enough research to elicit concern. Most of what we know about the health effects of chemicals in the environment comes from people who are the most directly exposed – people working in industry or agriculture, the babies of women working in industry or agriculture, or people living on a watershed connected to industry or agriculture.
What we have learned from these unintended human experiments is that toxic chemicals cause cancer; damage the brain, the nervous system and various organs; disrupt hormonal balance; and alter normal metabolic processes. So far environmental health research has revealed that environmental pollutants are associated with a wide array of diseases which include:
Atherosclerosis + Stroke
COPD + Asthma
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
The average person living in society is exposed to 150-300 different chemicals on a daily basis through their personal care products, clothing, medication, household products, indoor environment, outdoor environment, water and food.
Daily exposures for individual chemicals typically fall below what is considered harmful but they are chronic, potentially additive or synergistic. At this time we do not know what the effects of long-term, low level exposure to multiple chemicals might be. The daily chemical cocktail our body must process is a health burden. How much better would life be if we could lighten that load?
What is Health Canada doing to protect the health of Canadians?
The Canadian government is in the process of updating our regulation of industrial chemicals. They are reviewing approximately 4,300 ‘suspect’ chemicals currently in use, that have the potential to be persistent, bio-accumulative and inherently toxic. This is a big step forward in acknowledging the impacts of the environment on human health.
This change came about after the completion of a 10-year independent audit of our regulatory system. The audit concluded that most substances used in the marketplace today lack sufficient health and safety information, and Health Canada simply cannot provide Canadians with a high level of assurance about the safety of chemicals found in their food and consumer products.
Approximately 5-7% of chemicals in use today have been subject to a full set of risk assessment tests in North America. That means the vast majority of chemicals approved for the marketplace have incomplete safety information.
New chemicals entering the market in Canada are granted approval on the basis of privately procured safety information, which applies to imports from the United States as well. The safety information required by our regulatory system is based on animal models, because we cannot ethically test for toxicity on humans. How well these animal tests translate to human biology is up for question. We also test chemicals in isolation across a spectrum of dosages to determine a standard level for safe exposure.
One key problem with this approach is that many endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can elicit a hormonal response at very low levels. EDCs have become ubiquitous in the environment and our daily lives. For this reason, environmental health scientists have been sounding the alarm on EDCs for years.
Another key issue with testing chemicals in isolation is that we do not understand their synergistic or additive effects on human health. The average person can be exposed to 10 or more types of EDCs on a daily basis. EDCs change hormonal expression and that includes neurological, metabolic, stress and reproductive hormones.
For the time being, we only have good information on a few substances, and the rest we know precious little about. Their health risks may be significant or not, we simply do not know. Setting up a non-toxic lifestyle may seem effortful at first but the benefits far outweigh the cost. Most importantly you get to stop being a guinea pig and allowing corporations to experiment with the future of your health.
MAKING AN IMPACT
Your Family, Your Children
We are living in an era where exposure to man-made chemicals begins in the womb. In 2004, the Environmental Working Group tested the cord blood of 10 babies recently born and found 287 different chemicals, including pesticides, stain repellants, flame retardants, ingredients from consumer products, and common air pollutants.
Of the 287 chemicals that were detected, 180 are known carcinogens, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal studies. The dangers of pre- or post-natal exposure to this complex mixture of toxicants has never been studied.
A 2002 study conducted in Oxford, England, found the commonly used plasticizer BPA was able to pass through the placenta into the amniotic fluid of women who were 15-18 weeks pregnant. Compared to the mother’s blood serum the concentration of BPA in the amniotic fluid was 5x higher, suggesting the fetus is unable to metabolize this endocrine disrupting chemical.
Babies and children are much more vulnerable to the effects of chemicals because their bodies and brains are still developing. Early life exposures to pollutants can sensitize and predispose children to environmental diseases like allergies, asthma, eczema, learning and mood disorders, or obesity. These early life exposures can also have latent health effects that take decades to show up but so far we lack sufficient research in this area.
Additionally a mother who are exposed to persistent pollutants, which can be stored for years in her fat cells, can release those toxins into her system during pregnancy. Mothers exposed to chemicals capable of altering DNA expression, can then pass those traits onto her children in the form of allergies or sensitivities.
The choices we make now will affect our families, our children and our children’s children. While no human on earth can be fully shielded from the effects of pollution, we can dramatically reduce the number of chemicals in our immediate environment through choosing non-toxic sources of food, water, household and consumer products. Every small change we personally make will serve as a positive example to family members and friends.