An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study of chemicals found in human body fat through biopsy showed the wide array of toxic chemicals that each of us carries within. The “toxic load,” also known as “total body burden” or “bio-accumulation” occurs when the body exceeds the capacity of the organs of detoxification to reduce or neutralize toxins. Since the end of the Second World War, our planet has been experiencing a dramatic chemical revolution. Our existence, at the cost of our health and quality of life, now depends upon thousands of synthetic chemicals that are used to create virtually everything we associate with modern life—agriculture, health care, energy production, food supply, household and personal care products, and manufacturing all pumping tons of chemicals—most sold to consumers or dumped into the environment. A portion of these foreign chemicals, referred to as xenobiotics (foreign to the body), end up within the human body.
“The contamination of our world is not alone a matter of mass chemical spraying. Indeed, for most of us this is of less importance than the innumerable small-scale exposures to which we are subjected day by day, year after year. Like the constant dripping of water that in turn wear away the hardest stone, this birth-to-death contact with dangerous chemicals may in the end prove disastrous. Each of these recurrent exposures, no matter how slight, contributes to the progressive buildup of chemicals in our bodies and so to cumulative poisoning…Lulled by the soft sell and the hidden persuader, the average citizen is seldom aware of the deadly materials with which he is surrounding himself; indeed, he may not realize he is using them at all.”Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY
With over 75,000 chemicals currently registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, only very small fractions are assessed for their toxicity in humans. In fact, only about 25 percent of commonly used chemicals have undergone even the most basic toxicity testing— even fewer are tested for their effects on the developing fetus, brain or the immune system. Chemicals, like criminals, are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, because of our lax environmental laws, most of these toxic offenders never go on trial and are presumed safe until widespread harm occurs or the public demands accountability.
The use of mercury in dental amalgam fillings is a perfect example of toxic chemical “grandfathers” that remain in widespread use without any adequate safety testing required of the manufacturers. I worked in dentistry for many years prior to embarking on my career in natural health. I am one of those victims of heavy metal poisoning as a result of not only handling mercury in the course of dentistry, but also as a result of a mouthful of mercury amalgam fillings from age seven to eighteen. The only way we can preserve or repair our health from these toxic saboteurs is through education and finding safe alternatives.
Most of these untested chemicals make their way into natural ecosystems and end up in the human body. Because of this, we are unknowing victims in a giant, uncontrolled experiment with billions of humans functioning as the experimental animals. It’s making millions very sick. As a result of this toxic exposure and buildup, we’re developing “invisible illnesses” like fibromyalgia, arthritic disorders, chronic fatigue, lupus, scleroderma, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Gulf War syndrome, multiple skin disorders, a myriad of chemically-induced immune system disorders, and yes, even cancer.
Future generations may look back upon this era with contempt for the indiscriminate way we’ve allowed toxic chemicals to pollute our world, erode our quality of life, and in general cause disease and death.
A PHYSICIAN’S PERSPECTIVE
Dr. Claudia Miller, Department of Family Practice, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, believes we are on the threshold of a new theory of disease— one that recognizes the impact of toxic chemicals. In a paper discussing chemical intolerance in Annals of New York Academy of Sciences, Miller wrote:
“In the late 1800’s, physicians observed that certain illnesses spread from sick, feverish individuals to those contacting them, paving the way for the germ theory of disease. The germ theory served as a crude but elegant formulation that explained dozens of seemingly unrelated illnesses affecting literally every organ system.
“Today, we are witnessing another medical anomaly—a unique pattern of illness involving chemically exposed people who subsequently report multi-system and new-onset chemical and food intolerances. These intolerances may be the hallmark for a new disease process, just as fever is a hallmark for infection.”
Miller and other prominent scientists believe this new disease process is the key to the emergence of a totally new type of chemically related disorders and undiagnosed diseases. Disorders such as Gulf War syndrome, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, lupus, environmental illness, chemical sensitivities and multiple allergic response syndromes (MARS), are now believed to have a common denominator, toxic overload.
Toxic stress comes from more than the absorption of environmental chemicals. A wide range of potentially toxic substances are generated from processes at work within our body. When the natural mechanisms of detoxification malfunction, or when internally generated toxins are produced in excessive amounts faster than the ability of the organs to detoxify and neutralize, significant health disorders and disease result.
For example, if a person does not have sufficient intake of vitamin B6, B12, or folic acid to meet their body’s specific demands, their cells are unable to properly metabolize and excrete the amino acid methionine—an important nutritional substance derived from protein digestion. When this occurs, a normally harmless amino acid is broken down into toxic homocysteine, a waste material that damages arteries and causes atherosclerosis.
Even the processes within cells that generate energy from food molecules and oxygen result in the release of toxic free radicals — unstable molecules that have to be snuffed out by a complex system of dietary and internally generated antioxidants. If these complex antioxidant systems fail to perform properly, accelerated aging, disease and eventually death occurs.
Toxins are also continuously generated from microbial activity in the digestive tract. Everything we eat is either absorbed into the body or it ends up in the colon where it is fermented by over 400 different species of bacteria and several kinds of yeast. Some of the fermentation by-products are harmless substances like lactic acid, but a wide variety of more toxic substances are also produced; ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, butane, cadaverine, and putrescine—a few of the many microbial toxins generated in our own gut. Most of these toxic by-products remain in the gut and those that are absorbed are quickly neutralized by the liver. However, if unfriendly gut microbes overgrow, or if liver function is compromised, serious health problems occur.
Many individuals living with chronic health problems suffer, in part, because of the condition commonly known as “leaky gut syndrome,” in other words, autointoxication, meaning they are being poisoned by the toxic substances within their body—the condition does not have to be acute for the person to manifest symptoms.
This condition, technically known as increased intestinal permeability, occurs when the normally leak-proof lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed or damaged and tiny gaps open up between intestinal cells. In this condition, large molecules from partially digested food and microbes pass through the leaky gut and into the surrounding blood and lymph.
When a person has leaky gut, every meal places an unhealthy load on their immune system, particularly their liver, resulting in an increase in overall body burden—often escalating into multiple allergic response syndromes (MARS™). Once this occurs, the allergic responses to food and the environment can escalate to multiple chemical sensitivities and even anaphylactic shock. As a recovered victim of leaky gut syndrome and MARS, I can attest to the life-threatening and life-altering challenges that a victim of these disorders endures. In order to achieve full recovery, complete life-style changes must be implemented. The best insurance against these disorders is knowledge. However, knowledge without action is just as deadly as no knowledge.
BODY BURDEN—The Chemical Assault
The human race is now contaminated with hundreds of synthetic chemicals, which were not found in our ancestors. Exposure in the womb to these contaminants can cause birth defects and affect our children’s future ability to reproduce and their susceptibility to diseases, including cancer. In some cases, developmental problems can result and affected children may never reach their full potential. Put simply, the integrity of the next generation is at stake. Protecting our children from the legacy of these chemicals is a major challenge and responsibility of modern society.
CHEMICAL TRESPASS?— Pesticides in Our Bodies
Many U.S. residents carry toxic pesticides in their bodies above government assessed “acceptable” levels. “Chemical Trespass: Pesticides in Our Bodies and Corporate Accountability,” makes public for the first time an analysis of pesticide-related data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a study of levels of chemicals in 9,282 people nationwide (2,644 of whom were tested for pesticides).
Many of the pesticides found in the test subjects are linked to serious short- and long-term health effects including infertility, birth defects, learning disorders, childhood and adult cancers. Chemical Trespass finds that children, women and Mexican Americans shoulder the heaviest “pesticide body burden.” For example, children—the population most vulnerable to pesticides—are exposed to the highest levels of nerve-damaging organophosphorous (OP) pesticides. CDC data shows the average six year-old sampled is exposed to the OP pesticide chlorpyrifos (commonly known by the product name Dursban) at four times the level the EPA considers “acceptable” for a long-term exposure.
Future articles will discuss specific challenges and the modifications necessary to live healthy in a toxic world through nutrition-based medicine employing pluralistic health principles, naturally.