From cleaning products, to pollution in the air, to the water we drink, to contamination in our food supply from industrial and processed foods, to the clothes we wear, to the houses in which we reside, to the sheets and pillows we sleep on, we are all exposed to tremendous amounts of toxins each and every day of our lives. Estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report that approximately 500,000 chemicals are currently in use, and with each passing year more than 5,000 new chemicals are added. It may seem overwhelming to consider just how much our bodies contend with on a regular basis and attempt to eliminate in order to keep us healthy. With so much exposure, it seems a wonder that any of us could live past the age of one, much less be born. But our bodies are amazing vessels, and they are designed to handle a lot of input, bacteria, toxins, and viruses.
Sometimes, however, we find that our bodies are unable to handle this load. When the body finally gives up and problems start to occur, this phenomena is known as toxic overload. Toxic overload can occur at any time and can have a variety of symptoms including headaches, asthma, allergies, coughing, wheezing, digestive disorders, sore throat, hoarseness, lethargy, mood disorders, itching, eczema, psoriasis, heart problems, osteoporosis, arthritis, chronic fatigue-like symptoms, MS, lupus, diabetes, and many other conditions – especially auto-immune disorders.
- The average American carries a “body burden” of 700 synthetic chemcials
- Chemicals in tap water can cause reproductive abnormalities and hermaphroditic birth
- A 2005 study of lactating women in 18 U.S. States found perchlorate (a toxic component of rocket fuel) in practically every mother’s breast milk
Randall Fitzgerald reveals how we are deceived by the marketing, advertising, household, food, pharmaceutical, and chemical industries. Labels cleverly try to convince consumers that products are safe by rewording or omitting information about hazardous chemicals in toxins contained in foods we eat, beverages we drink, household products we use, and many other items we rely on to accomplish daily tasks. He also discusses how pretty much everywhere we go – whether it be to the store, a gas station, school, out to eat, the office, a recreational facility, wherever – there are toxic chemicals in those environments continually off-gassing, and exposing us yet to more harmful substances.
Here is an excerpt from the book:
The only “truth” in labeling today is the fact that there is widespread secrecy. Of forty common consumer products tested by the National Environmental Trust in Washington, D.C., during 2004, more than half contained toxic chemicals not listed on the product labels. Two examples cited were Lysol All Purpose Cleaner, containing unlisted glycol ethers (a neurotoxin), and Revlon Moondrops Lipsticks, containing unlabeled phthalates that are neurotoxins and reproductive toxins. Food additives may be labeled simply “flavorings” or “natural” while chemcials in personal-care products might fall under “fragrances” or “unscented” and pesticide ingredients hide under the term “inert”. Genetically modified foods aren’t labeled either, though we can be sure the GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) are now in just about every processed food product we encounter.
Let’s break down these terms to see what they really mean. Fragrances are chemicals used to either add a pleasing aroma to cosmetics or other products, or to mask a hideous odor from other chemicals in the product. Even products labeled “unscented” or “fragrance-free” may contain these masking ingredients. This practice certainly sounds deceptive to me, as does the tendency of food processors to hide synthetic chemicals under the “natural flavor” language. “The individual components that make up the fragrance portion do not have to be listed on the label,” according to a 2002 issue of Flavor and Fragrance Journal, a chemical science publication. “Only the word ‘fragrance’ must appear. The fragrance portion of the product may contain over one-hundred different materials…Secrecy is often required to protect the formula.”
How are we to protect ourselves from deceptions given to us by those in whose authority we are told to trust? The government requires no testing of chemicals before they are used in products. It also takes a herculean effort in order to get anything removed from a product being sold on the market. Here are just a few startling facts about the agencies that govern the inclusion of toxic chemicals in common products used by millions of people daily:
- The AMA, EPA, and Consumer Product Safety Commission acknowledge adverse health effects of toxic chemicals. Their guide titled “Indoor Air Pollution” shows a clear connection between common Environmental Toxins to wheezing, worsening asthma, and lung disease.
- The Congressional Office of Technology Assessment states “…causes of brain-related disorders are… pesticides, food additives… and cosmetic ingredients”
- The Department of Health and Human Services annual report “Priority List of Hazardous Substances” shows 6 of the chemicals in the top 10 are found in household items such as packaged meats, baby bottles, and drinking water.
- The European Union has banned toxic chemicals such as phthalates and pesticides that are known as hazardous. The United States has failed to do the same.
- Bisphenol A, found in plastics, was found to leach into liquids from containers like baby bottles. Canada promptly banned Bisphenol A – the US has failed to take it off the market after 2 Congressional Hearings, but has finally begun the process of requiring its removal from products
- The newly created class of chemicals called nanoparticles are being added to thousands of everyday products despite FDA warnings that they may be extraordinarily harmful to humans and the environment.
The author urges individuals to trust their own intuition, personal experience, and powers of observation when deciding whether to permit exposure to chemicals. We are also encouraged to take steps to eliminate excess and unnecessary toxins from our environment and bodies by detoxification, avoiding synthetic toxins and chemicals whenever possible, and to receive testing for toxic chemicals to determine the load on your individual body. Here’s a good rule of thumb – as with food – if your grandmother would wonder what it is or hasn’t heard of it, don’t use it!
Throughout my life I have heard people say things like, “what we don’t know about won’t hurt us”, or, “I’ve been exposed to X and it hasn’t hurt me yet”. But the human body can only withstand so much toxic load before it gives up and gives out. Pretending as though toxic chemicals don’t affect our health has caused an extreme weakening of our immune systems and our bodies’ abilities to defend themselves against foreign invaders that make us sick and can kill us. We’ve become susceptible to deadly pathogens and bombarded with such a vast amount of chemical toxins that at some point, our bodies cannot continue to fight off all the substances in our environments. Some people have already become sick and begun to notice the deadly affects of toxic overload — and some individuals cannot carry on life as they once knew it because their health condition has reached such a state that their health is compromised – sometimes irrevocably, because toxin load is so high and cannot be undone or simply because the individual lacks the information or desire to actually do something useful about his or her condition.
Fitzgerald also tackles the topics of weight-gain, hyperactivity, learning disorders, and other food-additive related problems as a result of developed nations citizens’ addictions to processed, toxified foods. This is such an important subject because the health industry has people obsessed about counting calories and fat grams, but not paying the least bit of attention to whether the food they are eating is actually real food. Toxins in foods have a tremendous effect on all of these types of health issues. When toxins become stored in the body it can cause weight gain, fatigue, mood disorders, inability to focus, headaches, digestive disorders, insomnia, eczema and skin irritation, memory loss, candidasis, and much more. Continued use of these substances can lead to degenerative disease like brain dysfunction, high blood pressure, MS, cardiovascular disease, blood clots, stroke, and even cancer.
I urge everyone to read this book, an important expose on all the hidden and unknown substances we deal with in our everyday living environments that affect our health adversely. The book includes a toxic load survey, a time-line history of chemical substances within our environments, a thorough treatment of how sustainable/organic/natural foods are some of our best defenses against these deadly toxins, and the systematic debunking of various myths we harbor in our belief systems about chemical toxins because authority figures have assured us they are true, including:
- “we get all the vitamins we need [from the food we eat]
- “fluoridated water is healthy for us”
- “the government insures that drugs are safe”
and my two favorites –
- “food additives are harmless” and
- “artificial sweeteners are safe”
It’s pretty obvious that many harmful toxins lurk in the products we use and the food we eat. Become toxin free! Release yourself from artificial flavors, colors, emulsifiers, preservatives, thickening agents, caking agents, excitotoxins, fragrances, parabens, petroleum-by products, sulfates, and many others.
Some steps you can take to go toxin-free:
- Educate yourself by doing the research and reading labels. Then you will be armed with important knowledge that will help you to live a more toxin-free existence (don’t worry, your health and your pocketbook will thank you!).
- Stop purchasing processed and packaged foods, personal care products, cleaners, detergents, air fresheners, soaps, hand sanitizers, and other products as much as possible.
- Look for suitable alternatives for the things you remove from your life – or learn to live without them. For instance, if you discard a plastic cutting board from your kitchen, you can replace it with glass or bamboo cutting surfaces – both safe, non-toxic alternatives. If you throw out polyester rug in your living room, replace it with bamboo, organic wool, or organic cotton. Hand sanitizer can be eliminated. All you need is good, old-fashioned soap.
- If you cannot or do not want to spend money on expensive, organic, non-toxic products, consider making your own. You can make cleaners, shampoos, toothpastes, detergents, and many other items from things you have in your cupboard – food grade hydrogen peroxide, aluminum-free baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, borax, salt, epsom salts, and essential oils.
Want to know more? Then check out these articles:
Cosmetics Database – resource for ingredients in personal care products
Dr. Grisanti – food toxins
This article is linked to in Real Food Wednesdays from Cheeseslave. Please visit the other great posts there.