The Toxic Body And Your Defense

skin 01 The Toxic Body And Your Defense

With the possible exception of David Beckham, I reckon we all have issues with our bodies. But extra poundage, thinning hair and wrinkles around the eyes seem like small potatoes compared to what researchers call the “Body Burden”.

Even those with little or no known exposure to industrial chemicals may be surprised to learn that their bodies are potentially contaminated with dangerous compounds they never thought possible. The San Francisco Chronicle cites the case of the president/founder of an environmental research institute who, after giving blood and urine samples, found his body “polluted with 101 industrial toxins and penetrated by elevated levels of arsenic and mercury”.

But his is not an isolated case. In the study of nine seemingly healthy people, led by New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the Environmental Working Group and the nonprofit health and environmental research institute Commonweal, “researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 91 industrial compounds, pollutants, and other chemicals” in the bodies of people who neither work with chemicals nor live near a facility that produces them.

Several of the compounds found in the study were known to cause cancer, birth defects, abnormal human development and damage to the brain and nervous system. The findings were best summed up by a woman who participated in the study: regardless of how safe you imagine your personal environment to be, “we all live in the same chemical neighborhood.”

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Another likened the body burden test to a thermometer detecting “the body’s chemical fever”.

While a massive experiment into the issue seems unlikely, it’s known that many chemicals enter the body through the food we eat and via the air and water with which we come in contact. It’s not known what amounts of these chemicals are sufficient to cause the above mentioned cancers and developmental disorders, but limited exposure to known toxins seems a smart choice.

Before you start freaking out, there are things you can do. Number one, eat healthier. It’s no surprise that many fish contain high levels of mercury or that eating organically grown food is a significant way to cut down on an inadvertent intake of chemicals. These are no-brainers. You should be eating this way anyway.

But taking it a step further and limiting the number of polyvinyl chloride-based products in your home may also helpful. Consider replacing your PVC shower curtain — which, when bombarded with hot water, can release phthalates that are easily absorbed into your skin — with one made from 100 percent PEVA plastic (available at Ikea). PEVA is considered by many to be a safer alternative. Plastic food wrap is also made of PVC.

And while you’re in the kitchen, turn over your plastic food containers and check the numbers on the bottom. Some believe that numbers 4, 5, 1 and 2 are safer for food use than others. Water bottles constructed of polycarbonate are also thought to release phthalates and can easily be substituted with glass bottles or those made with enameled aluminum.

Opting for natural home cleaning products (verses those laden with bleach and other toxic chemicals) is also a good idea. Even natural flooring is worth looking at — you may be walking on chemicals all day long without realizing it. Ditto for the paints and stains on your walls and furniture.

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The point here isn’t to scare the hell out of you. It’s to make you aware of all the chemicals your body may be encountering and to encourage you to research healthier alternatives. The key word is “research”. Don’t take my word for any of it. Be as informed a consumer as you can and make the choices you think are best for you.

Instead of getting that facelift, give your personal space a makeover. While you may still have body issues, you will hopefully gain some peace of mind as well.

(via the San Francisco Chronicle, the Environmental Working Group and Twin

  • Ken Cook

    Just came across this terrific article. Winston, congratulations and thanks for the shout out to my organization. We have a new "body burden" study coming out soon, hope you'll check it out.

    And here's a link to vid of me talking about one of our studies and the general issue of pollution in people–and the policy implications of same.

    Ken Cook

    President, EWG

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