Our Body’s Toxic Burden

Posted by on Mar 27, 2012 in Hormonal Balance

Our Body’s Toxic Burden

 

You don’t want to think about this. . . but you have to. There are hundreds of chemicals (xenobiotics) inside you, in me, in everyone. We are exposed to a multitude of chemicals everyday in our food and water and air, yet also in the most unlikely places: Teflon and non-stick cookware, water-repellent jackets (yes, even Gore-Tex, my NW friends), shampoo, cosmetics, bath and beauty products, household cleaners, plastics, food-can linings, stain repellents on carpet, clothing and furniture, microwave popcorn bags, nail polish, dental floss, and baby’s toys. Stuff most of us use every day, right?

Why should you concern yourself? Even though your body is designed to heal itself, your toxic burden can overwork your cellular metabolism and detoxification systems. Some chemicals are excreted from your body and do not accumulate. Other chemicals are fat soluble – they accumulate in fat cells and the liver – and resist being metabolized and cleared from your body. Ongoing research trials continue to look at this “toxic burden” though only a relatively small number of the thousands of chemicals in high use in the US can be accurately measured in humans. More importantly, human fat tissue has revealed over 700 chemical contaminants that cannot yet be chemically identified.

These chemicals have been:

  • Associated with diabetes, birth defects, and abnormal development
  • Linked to various cancers in humans
  • Shown to be toxic to the brain and nervous system, the immune system, and the reproductive system
  • Shown to interfere with the hormone system
  • Cause mitochondrial dysfunction.

Mito what? Let’s look back to biology class for this one. Every cell in the human body is packed with tiny organelles called mitochondria. Mitochondria are referred to as the cell’s “powerhouse” because they produce most of the energy used by the body. Mitochondrial energy production is an absolute necessity for physical strength, energy, stamina, and life itself. Even the slightest, subtle drop in mitochondrial energy output can lead to muscle weakness, fatigue and cognitive difficulties. Researchers are seeing a link between mitochondria dysfunction and chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, dementia, autism, heart failure, stroke, migraine, and neuropathy to name a few.

SOME OF THE PREVALENT CHEMICAL OFFENDERS

Triclosan is an antibacterial and anti-fungal agent showing up in hundreds of common consumer products such as hand sanitizers, soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, cosmetics, fabrics, and plastics. It is among the top 10 persistent contaminants in U.S. rivers, streams, lakes, and aquifers. A number of recent studies have raised serious concerns that Triclosan and other similar products may promote the emergence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Other studies have increasingly linked Triclosan to a range of health and environmental effects from skin irritation, allergy susceptibility, and dioxin contamination to destruction of fragile aquatic ecosystems. Triclosan has been found in 60% of tested human milk samples. Studies show Triclosan bio-accumulates in fatty tissue, and that it interferes with the body’s thyroid hormone metabolism and is an endocrine disruptor.

Bisphenol-a , better known as BPA, is an industrial chemical that has been present in many hard plastic bottles and metal-based food and beverage cans since the 1960s. Bisphenol-a mimics the actions of estrogen, a reproductive hormone. Most health risk studies have been done in animals and have found breast- and prostate-like cancers and altered growth of these and other reproductive organs during development. Studies also indicate increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and liver problems.

Parabens are a group of synthetic chemicals widely used as preservatives in foods, cosmetic and pharmaceuticals. They are commonly found as methyl- or ethyl-paraben. These chemicals mimic the naturally occurring hormone estrogen.  Scientists are concerned that long-term exposure to parabens may play a role in the development of breast cancer, as well as negatively affect the functionality of the male hormonal and reproductive systems.

Phthalates, called “plasticizers,” are a group of industrial chemicals used to make plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible or resilient. Phthalates, ever-present in modern society, are found in toys, food packaging, garden hoses, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, wall coverings, lubricants, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hair spray, shampoo, and many other consumer products. That “new car smell”, which is especially pungent after the car has been sitting in the hot sun for several hours, is partly the odor of phthalates volatilizing from the hot plastic dashboard. They condense out of the air inside your car as it cools in the evening, leaving that oily film on the inside of your windshield.

Phthalates have been found to disrupt the endocrine system – causing reduced sperm count and infertility, deformity of male reproductive organs  (which indicates increased risk for testicular cancer later in life), and has shown indications of feminization. Studies also link phthalates to liver cancer.

When you are educated about how these chemicals impact your health (and the health of our future generations), you are empowered to make healthier choices for you and your family.

I’ve just begun to skim the surface here, so do more research on your own. While some governing authorities advise that these chemicals are safe in low doses, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests otherwise. You don’t have to wait for government authorities to protect your health and that of your family.

Someone is looking our for our health! On April 14, 2011, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the “Safe Chemicals Act of 2011″ (S. 847) a new chemical safety reform to protect American families. More information about the bill can be found at Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, an organization which represents 300 organizations and millions of Americans who are concerned about toxic chemicals.