Santa Cruz Integrative Medicine

740 Front Street, Suite 130

Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Tel: 831-607-8086

© 2016 by Janet Volpe

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed are solely my own. All information provided here is meant as general education and not meant as medical advice to treat of advise specific patients. Medical decisions should be made in direct consultation with a medical doctor.

"Toxins in Our Environment" by Dr. Janet Volpe

There is no question just how much we routinely benefit from advancements in science and technology living in our modern society. At this moment, I am sitting at my desk typing on at my laptop, wirelessly connected to the router in another room, awaiting an Amazon package to arrive on my doorstep, as a stew cooks inside my pre-programmed crock pot, which I haven't had to check on since plugging it in hours ago.

 

Modern conveniences aside, there is another aspect of life in this 21st Century which makes it fundamentally different from just a few generations ago: 

Since the 1940's, over 80,000 industrial chemicals have been invented and released in the United States alone.

 

Of those, only about 15% have been tested for safety and of those tested, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has only been able to successfully ban 5. Many of these chemicals are ending up in our water, soil, air, food supply, as well as inside of us. All of us, including newborns...

 

A Shocking Finding:

In 2004, the Environmental Working Group, a non profit environmental research and consumer advocacy organization, conducted a first of its kind study. 10 healthy newborns had their cord blood analyzed immediately after birth. An average of 200 different chemicals in each of their samples were found, including pesticides, gasoline toxins, coal burning toxins and personal care product ingredients.

A total of 287 different chemicals were detected, including:

134 known to cause cancer

158 known to be toxic to the nervous system including the brain

186 linked to infertility

151 known to cause birth defects or abnormal development

1 of the detected chemicals was DDT, which was banned in 1972

 

The chemical industry's standard response to chemical exposures has been "trace" doses are too tiny to cause adverse effects. What has not yet been studied is the build up of continued exposures over a lifetime, or the mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins for their combined effects on the human body.

 

For the first time in human history our society is living and growing in conjunction with an ever expanding armory of synthetic chemicals. And it's not that the creation of synthetic chemicals all bad, for we have come a long way because of the invention of some of these substances.  Without chemicals, we wouldn't have cars, computers, life-saving medical equipment or medications. And right now I'd be spending hours and devoting all my attention to cooking my stew over an open fire right now rather than sharing this information with you.

 

I believe as members of society, we have the right to know what we are getting exposed to, and what might have the potential to harm us. For with this knowledge comes the ability to make smart choices about how we can minimize our exposures to substances that could be putting our health at risk. And with these exposure reductions we can minimize our risk of the chronic illnesses from which we are trying to escape.

 

More Hard Facts:

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Proection Agency (EPA), of the top 20 synthetic chemicals released into our environment, almost 75% are now known or suspected to be toxic to the developing human brain.

 

In a single year, over 4 billion pounds of chemicals get released into our environment. This includes 1.1 billion pounds of pesticides applied on U.S. land including lawns, homes, hospitals, schools, parks and recreation centers.

In the U.S. we are using about 22% of the world's total use of pesticides, yet our population makes up less than 5% of the total world population.

 

In 2005, the Journal of the American Chemical Society published that Perchlorate, commonly known as rocket or missile fuel, was found in 36 out of 36 breast milk samples from 18 states and 46 out of 47 dairy milk suppliers from 11 states.

Some recent studies suggest Perchlorate, a known endocrine or hormone disruptor, may impair the thyroid gland and cause neurodevelopmental injuries to human infants.

 

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are produced for use as flame retardants and have also been found in human breast milk. Studies link PBDEs to adverse neurodevelopment in animals and humans. A 2012 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found a possible association between early-life PBDE exposure and increased activity/impulsivity in toddlers.

 

Bisphenol A is one of the most common synthetic chemicals in use today. Over 3 million tons are produced annually. It is put into water bottles, lining of canned foods, water pipes, toys, thermal receipt papers and is also found in household dust. Most people have detectable amounts in their blood and urine. It is a known endocrine (hormone) disruptor with negative effects on the human reproductive system, brain, metabolic processes; it is cancer causing and creates oxidative stress to human tissue. Recent studies show alternatives now found in "BPA free" labeled products, such as BPF and BPS, may also have similar adverse effects.

More than 10,000 food additives have been invented, According to the Environmental Working Group, some pose serious health risks because they are endocrine (hormone) disruptors or may contribute to cancer. Potassium bromate, for example, has been linked to cancer. It is banned in Canada, Great Britain, the European Union, but not the U.S.

 

Why have Toxic Chemicals Been Allowed to be Used?

The primary U.S. federal law regulating the release of industrial chemicals, the Toxic Substances Control Act was created in 1976 and did not require chemical manufacturers to perform testing to prove safety before releasing their products. This law was created at a time when chemicals were considered safe until proven otherwise. Many organizations and experts including academics, scientists, environmentalists, and healthcare providers, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, believed for years that this law was in desperate need of revision for it failed to regulate the safe use of chemicals affecting human health and environmental welfare.

After several years of unsuccessful reform, a bipartisan milestone was finally achieved in Washington, D.C. in June of 2016 when President Obama signed the bipartisan bill to protect our health from dangerous chemicals.  This reform empowers the EPA to evaluate chemicals purely on the health risks they pose, to evaluate existing chemicals with enforceable deadlines, and provides the financial funding for the EPA to carry out these responsibilities.

 

We Are Not Doomed:

The human body is an amazing machine, we come equipped with powerful internal cleansing and detoxification abilities. Wonder what our intestines, kidneys, liver, lungs and skin have in common?  They are our organs that are constantly excreting, or ridding the body of things we don't need. From substances we naturally create like carbon dioxide that comes out of our lungs every time we exhale; to our kidneys filtering out waste into our urine, our bodies work hard to keep us in balance.

 

The addition of synthetic chemical exposures means these organs have to work even harder. Unfortunately, cellular damage including oxidative stress (stress at the cell level) and changes in DNA expression can happen before our organs can get rid of certain chemicals, based on how they act once inside of us. Other chemicals are so foreign that our bodies have not evolved a way to get rid of them. Persistent organic pollutants, are an example of fat soluble chemicals that accumulate in our fatty tissues where they can remain for a very long time.

Here's what we can do to protect ourselves and our families from unnecessary risk...

 

Make Smart Choices:

 

Limit your intake of pesticides and buy organic when you can. Go to the Environmental Working Group's website, ewg.org, to learn about the dirty dozen and clean 15 foods.

 

Because eating clean can get expensive, check out EWG's excellent section on eating healthy on a tight budget at ewg.org.

 

Eat a rainbow of phytonutrients everyday to help repair damage caused by of the oxidative stress that these synthetic compounds create in us.

Check out my article, A Rainbow of Phytonutrients.

 

Learn to read food labels to avoid unwanted chemicals in your diet, see ewg.org for dirty dozen food additives

 

Get educated about which plastics are safe for you and your family and which pose a threat to health at healthychild.org.

 

Filter your tap water, including shower. Skin is our biggest organ and aside from its job to release toxins, it can also absorb unnecessary chemicals. See ewg.org.

 

According to research from EWG, there are over 10,000 unique chemical ingredients in personal care products used by women, men, teens, children and infants on a daily basis. The average female is exposed to about 160 different chemicals per day and the average male, 85. Some of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, others disrupt hormone status. For more information on choosing personal care products wisely, see ewg.org.

 

Green household cleaning products exits. Check out ewg.org for guide to healthy household cleaning, including what not to use in your home, ewg.org.

 

1. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cdc.org.

 

2. Envoronmental Protection Agency (EPA), epa.org.

3. Environmental Working Group (EWG), ewg.org.