Toxicity, Teflon, Bisphenol A, Dr Dale Peterson, mercury, Compact Flourescent Lamps, CFL, phthalates

Toxicity: A Fact of Modern Life



Toxicity: A Fact of Modern Life

© 2011 Dr. Dale Peterson & drdalepeterson.com

“Better things for better living . . . through chemistry.” I recall hearing that tag line many times on radio and television over the years. The slogan was adopted by DuPont Chemical in 1935 and remained in use until 1982 when the words “through chemistry” were dropped. In 1999 the line was changed to “The Miracles of Science.”

Throughout most of the twentieth century little thought was given to the potential consequences of creating new substances. There was a widespread belief that scientific advances were universally beneficial and would only serve to advance the quality of life on earth. Science, particularly chemistry, did indeed promise to provide better things for better living. The possibility that plastic wraps, plastic containers, synthetic fibers, Teflon, or other wonders could adversely health was rarely, if ever, considered. Homogenization simply eliminated the need to shake the bottle to distribute the cream throughout the milk. Oleomargarine developed from trans-fats was viewed as a healthier alternative to butter. Hydrogenating fats simply meant that one no longer needed to stir a jar of peanut butter to redistribute the oil that had floated to the top.

When people began to question the advisability of moving forward with new technologies without first considering whether they might adversely affect health, governmental agencies stepped in to protect the developers of those technologies. For example, the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, the first law in the U.S. to regulate industrial chemicals, grandfathered in 62,000 chemicals. Although there had been no evaluation of their effect on health they were presumed to be safe by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Despite pleas from several organizations, distributors of genetically modified foods were not required to inform consumers of the true nature of their products. It is estimated that today 85 % of the corn and 91 % of soybeans grown in the United States come from genetically modified seeds. It is believed that over 70 % of processed foods on grocery store shelves contain genetically modified components.

When cellular telephone manufacturers began to expand their networks, they turned to the United States Congress to clear the way. Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 bans local communities from considering environmental effects of radio-frequency emissions when zoning for placement of cell phone towers. Adverse effects on human health cannot be considered by zoning boards because they fall under the catch-all term “environmental” effects.

After consumers failed to embrace compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs), manufacturers such as Royal Phillips Electronics turned to congress to protect their investment. Title III of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 effectively bans the sale of standard incandescent light bulbs beginning with the 100 watt version. As of January 1, 2012 it will be illegal to manufacture or import the familiar bulbs into the United States. As usual, health concerns were ignored when the legislation was debated and passed.

One of the concerns expressed over the forced conversion to CFLs is the presence of mercury within the bulbs. Special precautions are to be used in cleaning up a broken CFL bulb and the bulbs are not to be thrown into the household trash, but are to be taken to recycling centers to prevent the release of mercury into landfills. Ironically, the potential contamination of the environment from CFLs is miniscule compared with that of industry. The amount of mercury present in each bulb is less than 5 mg. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that if all 270 million CFLs sold in 2007 were sent to landfill sites the mercury released would total 0.13 metric tons. This is less than 0.1 % of the total emissions of mercury in the United States that year, which were estimated to be 104 metric tons.

Where do we stand today? It is estimated that chemical companies in the United States manufacture more than 6.5 trillion pounds of chemical compounds each year. Over 7 billion pounds of chemical pollutants are released into the atmosphere and water during the manufacturing process. Over 9,000 different chemicals are currently being manufactured and over 650 different industrial pollutants have been identified.

Clearly, we live in an environment that is heavily contaminated by chemicals and electromagnetic frequencies, but does that mean that our bodies are contaminated as well? Recent studies confirm that this is the case.

In 2004, researchers at two laboratories analyzed cord blood from 10 infants born in August and September. The babies were chosen at random, and their parents gave no history of occupational chemical exposure. The tests found 287 synthetic chemicals in the infants. The average number of compounds found was 200. Pesticides were present in the infant’s blood as were mercury and other waste products from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage. Also found were stain and oil repellents from fast food packaging, clothing, and other textiles. PFOA, which is found in Teflon and has been classified as a human carcinogen, was present as were dozens of brominated flame retardants.

180 of the chemicals found are known to trigger cancer in humans or animals. 217 have been shown to be toxic to the brain and other parts of the nervous system. 208 have caused birth defects or developmental abnormalities in animals. The combined effects of so many toxins have never been evaluated.

In another study, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine analyzed the levels of 219 industrial chemicals in nine adult volunteers who had no known previous toxic exposure. A total of 167 chemicals were found in the blood and urine of the study's participants, including 76 carcinogens, 94 chemicals known to be toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 79 that can cause birth defects or abnormal fetal development. The average number of chemicals per participant was 91.

Between 2007 and 2009 four laboratories in the United States, Canada, and the Netherlands analyzed the blood of five women who volunteered to be tested for chemicals that are found in common household products. The number of chemicals in each woman ranged from 26 to 45. All of the women were contaminated with flame retardants, Teflon chemicals, synthetic fragrances, the plastics ingredient bisphenol A, and the rocket fuel component perchlorate. Each had a high level of at least one chemical believed to pose a health risk.

Some might question the validity of findings in studies involving such a small number of participants, but doing comprehensive toxicity screening on a large scale is impractical. The cost of running the tests in the cord blood study was $10,000 per infant – a total of $100,000. Testing is also limited because procedures for identifying many substances in the body do not exist.

Larger studies have been done looking at the prevalence of individual chemicals. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked for the presence of phthalates, chemicals released from plastics, in 2,540 participants in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Over 75 % had detectable levels of at least four phthalate breakdown products. Another CDC study detected bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the manufacturing of plastic bottles, in 95 % of 400 adults.

Bisphenol A is one example of the 62,000 grandfathered chemicals that are considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. BPA was first synthesized in 1891. In the 1930s the chemical was found to have estrogen-like effects in the body. It was briefly considered for use as a drug, but another chemical, diethylstilbestrol (DES) was found to have even greater estrogenic effects. DES was prescribed to prevent miscarriages from 1938 to 1971, but its use was stopped after a number of adverse effects were discovered. Women who received DES had a greater risk of developing breast cancer. Daughters of mothers who were given the drug during pregnancy were found to be at increased risk for cancer of the vagina and cervix, infertility, tubal pregnancy, and premature delivery of their own infants. Sons commonly developed cysts near the testes.

The DES experience should have raised an alarm regarding the use of BPA, but it did not. BPA began to be used on a large scale in the 1950s after it was discovered that it could be formed into plastic and resins. Over 6 billion pounds of BPA are currently produced every year. It is used in hard plastic sports and baby bottles, the resins that make up the lining of food cans and vats in which wine and beer ferment. It is also used in dentistry as a sealant to reduce the risk of cavities. In 1997 BPA contamination of infant formulas was found and it was reported in 1999 that BPA leaches out of hard plastic baby bottles when the liquid they contain is heated.

Nearly everyone carries a significant amount of BPA in their body. Blood samples have shown that the average person in the United States, Europe, and Japan has a level of 1 – 2 parts per billion. This is higher than the level shown to cause adverse effects in laboratory animals. Since 1997 over 100 studies have been published linking BPA to breast and prostate damage, early puberty, behavioral problems, and other effects at levels nearly 25 times lower than that considered safe by the EPA.

BPA is now suspected of playing a role in the development of breast and prostate cancer, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, miscarriage, type-2 diabetes, and obesity. While over 90 % of non-industry funded studies have found that low levels of BPA adversely affect health, no industry-funded study has reported any health-related problem. Interestingly, the U.S. government has consistently chosen to use industry studies in determining safe levels of BPA in products and to justify the continued use of BPA in food and beverage containers.

Although industry representatives continue to lobby against efforts to curb the use of BPA, progress is being made. Canada banned its use in baby bottles in 2008 and more than 20 states in the U.S. have introduced legislation to restrict its use in food and beverage containers designed for use by infants and children. This year the European Union banned the use of BPA in baby bottles. China has proposed a ban on the use of BPA in children’s food or beverage containers.

The challenges faced in attempting to reduce the use of BPA demonstrate that our bodies will continue to be exposed to a wide array of toxic chemicals for the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, chemicals are not the only source of environmental pollution. Toxic electomagnetic frequencies (EMFs) may pose an even greater threat to human health. I have written extensively about the adverse effects of microwaves and broadcast waves on the human body, which cause breaks in DNA, alterations in brain chemistry, and loss of the brain’s protective barrier. Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) pose yet another challenge. They not only generate radiofrequencies in a range that has been shown to have adverse effects on health, but they radiate ultraviolet energy as well. This is because they do not contain the diffusers used to filter ultraviolet radiation in larger fluorescent bulbs. Unfortunately, almost no one is voicing concern about electromagnetic toxicity.

Given the fact that we live in a toxic world, what can be done to minimize the effects of chemical and electromagnetic toxicity and improve our chances of avoiding a serious illness? A number of strategies are available.

Drink water purified by reverse osmosis or distillation. Avoid use of plastic containers with the number 3 or 7 on them and recycle those with a number 1 after their first use. Shower or bathe in filtered water. Taking a shower in unfiltered water allows chlorine and other chemicals in the water to be absorbed through the skin. Shower filters are now widely available and if taking a bath the tub can be filled through the shower filter. Limit time spent in chlorinated pools or hot tubs (chlorine-free purification systems are available).

Avoid scented products including perfumes, colognes, aftershaves, personal care items, air fresheners, and potpourri, especially if “fragrance” is listed as one of the ingredients. Also beware of “unscented” products since these may be using a masking fragrance to cover up the original smell of the product. Avoid fabric softeners, dryer sheets, bleach, and scented detergents. Stick to non-toxic cleaning supplies and personal care items.

Avoid pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Most pesticides are toxic to the nervous system. (Diatomaceous earth is a safe alternative when fighting fleas, roaches, and ants.)

Wash vegetables and fruits unless they are being peeled. If possible, purchase organic fruits and vegetables if they are types that are difficult to wash or peel such as blackberries, grapes, or broccoli. Stick to whole foods as often as possible, avoiding processed foods and foods containing dyes and preservatives. Avoid chemical sweeteners such as aspartame (NutraSweet) and sucralose (Splenda).

Wear natural fiber clothing, such as cotton, linen, wool, or silk. Wash new clothing before wearing it for the first time and if you are sensitive to formaldehyde avoid clothes that are labeled “permanent press.” The same precautions should be taken with towels and bedding.

Consider purchasing homes or vehicles in which gases from paint, carpeting, particle board, plywood, glues, paints and vinyl have had time to dissipate. If painting a room look for paints that state that they contain no or low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Open windows frequently to allow ventilation.

Opt for cookware with iron, stainless steel or ceramic surfaces. If using Teflon or other nonstick cookware never preheat on high and cook the food at as low a temperature as possible. Run an exhaust fan if using nonstick cookware. If popping corn use an old-fashioned stove top popper since microwave popcorn bags are lined with nonstick chemicals. If possible, store food in glass jars rather than in plastic containers. Never heat food in a plastic container or covered by plastic wrap. Discard scratched or worn plastic containers.

Avoiding exposure to all toxic chemicals or electromagnetic frequencies is an impossibility today. You will be exposed to some degree. Therefore supporting your body’s ability to detoxify and eliminate substances is as important as taking steps to minimize your exposure to them.

We may not think of basic nutrients as detoxifying agents, but vitamins, minerals, and amino acids play critical roles in helping the body deal with toxic chemicals. There is even evidence to suggest that antioxidant nutrients help lessen the toxic effects of EMF.

Detoxification is just one of the reasons a comprehensive vitamin, mineral, amino acid formulation should be taken on a daily basis. An excellent example is Lifetime, which is manufactured by Vitality Laboratories in Reno, Nevada.

Plant based chemicals called bioflavonoids also play a significant role in supporting detoxification within the body. Some of the most widely known are quercetin, grape seed extract, resveratrol, and green tea extract. Bioflavonoids prolong the effectiveness of vitamin C within the body. Because they enable vitamin C and other important nutrients to enter the brain, bioflavonoids are critical to the detoxification of substances within the brain and the rest of the central nervous system.

The liver is the body’s major organ of detoxification, and many plant substances are known to support liver activity. One of the most widely used is silymarin, which is found in milk thistle. Other commonly used liver supports are artichoke extract and curcumin. Curcumin is found in the Indian spice turmeric, a member of the ginger family.

A number of herbs may be used to encourage elimination of toxins from the tissues of the body. Combinations of these herbs are generally safer and more effective in promoting body cleansing than single herbs. Look for products that contain herbs such as cascara segrada, garlic, fenugreek, black walnut, quassia, red sage, black cohosh, yellow dock, and dandelion. Cleansing products are not intended for ongoing use; they should be limited to a two month period once or twice a year.

Perhaps the most effective means of detoxification is perspiration. Sweat glands are capable of excreting a large amount of toxic chemicals. Perspiration may be promoted through physical activity or by spending time in a sauna. Infrared saunas have increased in popularity in recent years due to their ability to increase perspiration and excretion of toxins at relatively low temperatures.

Electromagnetic protection is available in devices such as the EP2 pendant. They restore balance by amplifying specific energy frequencies required for normal operation of the body’s electromagnetic activities.

We live in a very hostile environment. It is not surprising that the incidence of disease has risen dramatically over the past half-century. By reducing our exposure to environmental toxins and by supporting our bodies’ ability to deal with them we can dramatically improve our chances of

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