Why should we worry about toxins unless we work with toxic chemicals or spray pesticides for a living? Isn’t exposure minimal?
Unfortunately, risks of exposure are substantial, pose significant public health risks, and can no longer be ignored. We live in a sea of toxins.
Every single person and animal on the planet contains residues of toxic chemicals or metals in their tissues. Eighty thousand new chemicals have been introduced since the turn of the 20th century and most have never been tested for safety or for synergistic actions. The Centers for Disease Control issued a report on human exposure to environmental chemicals. They assessed human blood or urine levels for 116 chemicals (and there were thousands more for which tests were not conducted) as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.1 While they found high levels of toxins in some, and low levels in many more, the study, in isolation, may not tell the whole story. Why? Because these chemical toxins move quickly from the blood into storage sites-mostly fat tissue, organs, and bones-so the blood or urine levels underestimate the total toxic load. Both weight gain (because of stored toxins) and the total toxic load can frustrate attempts at weight loss by impairing two key metabolic organs-the liver and the thyroid, by damaging the mitochondria- the site of energy metabolism, by affecting neuroendocrine signaling, and by increasing inflammation and oxidative stress.
Fat as a storage depot for fat soluble toxins
The Environmental Protection Agency has monitored human exposure to toxic environmental chemicals since 1972 when they began the National Human Adipose Tissue Survey. This study evaluates the levels of various toxins in the fat tissue from cadavers and elective surgeries.
Five of what are known to be the most toxic chemicals were found in 100% of all samples (OCDD or octachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin, styrene, 1,4- dichlorobenzene, xylene, and ethylphenol-toxic chemicals from industrial pollution that damage the liver, heart, lungs, and nervous system).
Nine more chemicals were found in 91-98% of samples: benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, DDE (a breakdown product of DDT, the pesticide banned in the US since 1972), three dioxins, and one furan. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were found in 83% of the population. A Michigan study found DDT in over 70% of 4 years olds, probably received through breast milk. With the global economy, we may be eating food that was picked a day before in Guatemala, Indonesia, or Asia, where there are not the same restrictions on the use of pesticides as there are in the United States. Many of these chemicals are stored in fat tissue, making animal products concentrated sources. One hundred percent of beef is contaminated with DDT, as is 93% of processed cheese, hot dogs, bologna, turkey, and ice cream.
The Institute for Functional Medicine in their 13th International Symposium asked the questions:
Managing Biotransformation: The Metabolic, Genomic, and Detoxification Balance Points. What actually happens?
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