The problem of bioaccumulated toxins is reaching crisis proportions. Residues of more than 400 toxic chemicals have been found in human blood and tissues, many of them at levels that cause disease in animals. Recent medical and scientific studies show disturbing correlations between chronic low-level exposure to synthetic chemicals and allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, birth defects, developmental delays, cancer, and a host of other problems. Thousands of chemicals permeate our everyday life.
Fortunately, we can minimize these toxins through education and common sense. We must learn how to stop bringing toxins into our homes, to rid ourselves of toxins we have already introduced, and to help our bodies detoxify.
We accumulate toxins from air, water, and food. Surprisingly, most of our toxic load comes from sources in our own homes. Indoor air pollution poses a serious threat to the health and safety of families—especially to children. Indoor air is usually five times more polluted than outdoor air. The EPA has measured many indoor air samples to be 70 times more polluted.
Common household products contribute some of the most dangerous chemicals. One class of products is aerosols. A new study in the Archives of Environmental Health looked at the effects of aerosol air fresheners on the health of more than 10,000 young mothers and their infants. Formaldehyde and phenol are components of air fresheners that interfere with the ability to smell by coating nasal passages with an oil film or by releasing a deadening nerve agent.
Aerosol products, from air fresheners to cleaning products and shaving cream, contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can include known carcinogens such as benzene and known neurotoxins such as xylene. Studies have shown that within 26 seconds of exposure to such products, traces of these chemicals can be found in every organ in the body and daily use of such aerosols causes a gradual increase in the amount of VOCs in the home air.
Daily use of air fresheners has been shown to cause adults to experience a 10 percent increase in headaches and a 25 percent increase in depression. Infants living in these homes suffered significantly more earaches and were 32 percent more likely to suffer from diarrhea. Keep in mind that these symptoms were the result of toxins seriously harming normal cell chemistry. The solution is simple: don’t use aerosols! (If you feel you must, use them sparingly with very good ventilation.)
Furniture and carpets made of synthetic materials are significant sources of indoor pollution and VOCs; they will off-gas toxic chemicals for decades. New carpets are especially toxic. Chemicals outgas from the fibers as well as the adhesives, backing, and padding. Researchers at Anderson Labs measured the effects of carpet toxicity on 110 families and found that within three months of installation, 82 percent of those people developed diverse health problems including irregular heartbeat, fatigue, rashes, memory loss, muscle pain, blurred vision, and tremors.
The problems with carpets first gained attention in 1988 when the new headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency caused “sick building syndrome.” The problem was eventually traced to chemicals outgassing from the backing of their new carpets. Synthetic-fiber carpets can contain as many as 200 different chemicals, many of which outgas into a home’s living space.
Mice exposed to fumes from new carpets died in a matter of hours, while carpets up to 12 years old caused severe neurological problems. If carpet fumes can kill mice, what are carpets doing to you, your children, and your pets? And if all this isn’t bad enough, it gets worse when carpets are cleaned.
Carpet cleaning products usually contain a multitude of toxic ingredients, including high risk hazardous chemicals such as 2-butoxy ethanol, formaldehyde, and perchlorethylene. During application and while drying, these chemicals evaporate and pollute the air. Carpet shampoos also leave a residue on carpet fibers. Such residues can disperse into the air or be picked up by pets and children who are close to the carpet. Children play on the floor and they tend to put everything in their mouths. They are more susceptible to toxins because their detox systems are still developing.
Carpet cleaning also leaves carpets wet for too long, encouraging the growth of mold. Once mold begins to grow in a carpet or its pad, it is impossible to adequately remove it. Even when mold is not actively growing, mold particles and spores can cause health problems such as fatigue, headaches, allergy symptoms, and asthma attacks. Chemicals from molds can cause cancer and mimic hormones.
Dangerous gasses and particles are also generated by household appliances. Gas stoves, water heaters, furnaces, space heaters, and fireplaces all release toxins such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and other gasses along with fine particles into the air. Furnaces and gas water heaters should be kept outside the living space, in a shed or an unattached garage. If that is not possible, consider switching to an electric water heater. This is what I had to do. Gas stoves should be used only with good ventilation. Electric stoves are preferable. Use fireplaces sparingly and never use artificial logs as they put a heavy VOC load into the living space and the neighborhood.
The list continues. Paradichlorobenzene, found in mothballs and deodorizers, is another common indoor pollutant and carcinogen. Pesticides are very toxic. Never use them in or around the home. Tobacco smoke, perfume, cosmetics, cleaning products, aerosol products, and all manner of scented products are toxic and should be avoided. Biological contaminants include mold, animal dander, dust mites, and cockroaches.
Attached garages pose another problem. Exhaust fumes and hydrocarbon vapors coming from the engine can enter the living space. The interiors of vehicles, especially new vehicles, are exceedingly toxic. Even tap water is dangerous. Most tap water is contaminated with aluminum, arsenic, pesticides, chlorinated hydrocarbons, chlorine, and fluoride. In addition to damaging the brain and lowering IQ, fluoride also causes cancer, weak bones, poor teeth, and soft tissue calcification.
Exposure by breathing these chemicals in your bath can rival or exceed exposure from drinking the water. Breathing the fumes from dishwashers, clothes washers, bathtubs, and showers is particularly bad, and bleaches and detergents used in washing add to the toxic load.
Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors. Indoor air pollution is creating an epidemic of undiagnosed chronic disease that is mystifying medical doctors. Too often the medical response is to prescribe medications that only add to the toxic load.
Even if we could stop putting all these toxins into our bodies today, we would still be in toxic overload. Since toxins are now unavoidable, we must reduce our toxic exposures and help our bodies detoxify.
There are three major approaches to detoxifying: eating a nutrient-rich diet, consuming high-quality supplements, and taking regular saunas.
Most of us are malnourished. The body’s detoxification system requires a variety of nutrients to operate efficiently. Lack of these nutrients allows toxins to build up and do harm. Nutrients critical to detoxification include vitamins C and E, magnesium, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, carotenes, quercitin, CoQ10, glutamine, choline, and glutathione. It is important to supplement with detoxification-supporting nutrients and herbs.
There is another very effective way to get rid of toxins—saunas. According to detox expert Dr. Sherry Rogers, “Saunas have become a household necessity.” Sweating is a critical detoxification pathway, and saunas are the only proven way we know of to effectively rid the body of the hundreds of manmade chemicals we bioaccumulate. Through regular saunas, people with undiagnosable and untreatable problems have been restored to health. Unfortunately, saunas themselves can be toxic.
It took me two years to find and approve a sauna that met my exacting standards for safety and effectiveness. I finally found a far infrared (FIR) sauna made of nontoxic wood with special patented heating elements. I have one in my home. Twice a week, I sauna for an hour-and-twenty-minutes.
FIR saunas which operate at lower temperatures, take out more toxins and are far safer and more easily tolerated than regular saunas. If you are unable to have a sauna in your home, you can sauna at a health or fitness club. The important thing is to sauna regularly, at least once a week.
Other household aids include water filters, shower filters, and air filters. Each of these helps to reduce our toxic exposure. Finally, eating organic foods and using safe personal-care products such as organic, non-toxic shampoos, soaps, toothpastes, deodorants, and skin creams are a must. There are safe alternatives for most of the dangerous products we use. Remember, there are only two causes of disease: deficiency and toxicity. Both of these causes are under your control.
With a modicum of education and a willingness to put it to work, almost anyone can improve their nutrition, reduce their toxic load, get well, and stay well.
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