Taking a Stand on Toxins
Preserving Your Health in an Unhealthy World
Toxic exposure is not just about air pollution anymore. No matter where you live on the planet today, there are dangerous contaminants hiding just about everywhere: in your food and water, in your household cleaners and personal care products, even in your children’s toys, as evidenced by the latest wave of child illness brought on by lead-tainted playthings.
In its most recent report dated June 2006, the World Health Organization attributed nearly one quarter of global disease to exposure to environmental toxins, a number that continues to rise as an additional 1,000 new chemicals are introduced into the environment every year. If allowed to enter the body and take up residence in its cells and tissues—even for a relatively short period of time—those toxins can lead to poor health and chronic disease. But while we may not be able to stem the onslaught of dangerous chemicals being used today, we can take steps to reduce their accumulative risk to our overall well-being.
Revealing the Human Body Burden
Staying healthy in an ever more toxic world begins with understanding not only how toxins affect our external environment, but how they affect our internal environment as well. For years scientists have been measuring the amount of industrial pollutants in air, water and soil samples to gauge their effects on global ecology, but only more recently have they discovered a way to measure the level of toxins found inside the human body.
The process, called biomonitoring, is currently being used by a number of organizations in order to map the effects of toxicity worldwide. Nearly a decade ago non-profit research giants Environmental Working Group and Commonweal began a collaborative study called the Human Toxome Project (www.bodyburden.org), which utilizes biomonitoring to measure the level of harmful contaminants present in the human body, otherwise known as our “body burden”.
So far samples of blood, urine, breast milk, umbilical cord blood and other tissues have been analyzed from 75 participants ranging in age from developing embryos to elderly adults, and each one has tested positive for 455 out of 528 dangerous chemicals, including pesticides and heavy metals. Of note however, was the substantial number of toxic substances detected that are present in places many people may not expect: everyday products such as shampoo, conditioner, lotion, hand soap, laundry detergent, and even cosmetics. These hidden toxins have been slowly but steadily making their way into our lives and our bodies for decades, and only recently have we begun to take notice.
Home Safe Home
From scrubbing bubbles to shaving cream, many of today’s most hazardous chemicals can be found right beneath the kitchen sink or below the bathroom vanity. These include cleaning agents and personal care products made with synthetic chemicals that are used as preservatives, foaming agents, softeners and thickeners. Artificial colors and fragrances also contain dangerous toxins. Among the most widely used preservatives are parabens (methyl-, propyl-, butyl- and ethylparaben), which have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer among women.
Commonly used in commercial deodorants (particularly antiperspirants) parabens may accelerate tumor growth, and research has shown that a woman is eight times more likely to develop breast cancer in the area of the breast closest to the underarm than in any other part of the breast. Also used as preservatives in many cosmetics, skin care products, shampoos and conditioners, diazolidinyl urea and imidazolidinyl urea both release formaldehyde, which has been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent). Added to many shampoos and skin care products as thickeners, the chemical compounds diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) have been shown to cause skin and eye irritation.
Likewise, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate—often derived from petroleum—may cause eye irritation, scalp and skin rashes, and other allergic reactions. Softening agents such as petrolatum (or petroleum jelly), propylene glycol and stearalkonium chloride are commonly used in lotions, hair conditioner and cosmetics, but research indicates they may actually interfere with the body’s natural moisturizing mechanism and exacerbate dryness and skin irritation. Finally, synthetic colors (including synthetic hair dyes) should be avoided entirely, as they may increase the risk of developing cancer. It is best also to avoid synthetic fragrances, as they have been shown to cause headaches, dizziness, skin irritation, violent coughing, vomiting and other issues. Because cosmetic ingredients don’t fall under the jurisdiction of either the EPA or the Food and Drug Administration, many such products sold in the United States today contain known toxins that can over time lead to poor health and disease.
Equally concerning is the fact that although cosmetics manufacturers are now required to disclose certain so-called “dangerous” ingredients to the State Department of Health and Human Services, they are not required to remove those ingredients. (For a list of companies that have pledged to not use harmful chemicals, visit http://www.safecosmetics.org.)
A Little Knowledge Goes a Long Way
In today’s world there’s no denying that the more we know, the better off we are. Only by becoming aware of the true danger of toxins and taking steps to reducing our toxic exposure can we really begin to take back control of our bodies and our health. It may seem like a daunting task, but the first step is often as simple as knowing the facts. From there, we can begin to make changes that not only help our own generation, but that may help preserve the health of generations to come.
The material on this page is for consumer informational and educational purposes only, under section 5 of DSHEA.
Disclaimer: Nothing in this website is intended as, or should be construed as, medical advice. Consumers should consult with their own health care practitioners for individual, medical recommendations. The information in this website concerns dietary supplements, over-the-counter products that are not drugs. Our dietary supplement products are not intended for use as a means to cure, treat, prevent, diagnose, or mitigate any disease or other medical or abnormal condition.