Our environment has become increasingly more polluted, causing a greater cumulative toxic burden than ever – our exposure is higher now than at any point in human history. There are more than 10,000 environmental pollutants, and they include heavy metals, organic pesticides, drugs and industrial materials. They are present in the air that we breathe, in our drinking water, in our food and in our cleaning and cosmetic supplies.
The popular definition for a toxin is of “any substance that causes structural damage or functional disturbances”. Toxicants are toxic chemicals that have been introduced into the environment by humans. These are a few examples of toxicants:
- Industrial chemicals and combustion/incineration pollutants. We are all exposed on a daily basis to some level of halogenated hydrocarbons, such as PCB’s.
- Pesticides. There at least 900 different chemicals belonging to this class, which includes insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, wood preservatives, rodenticides and insect repellants like DEET and Permethrin.
- Endocrine disruptors. These are chemicals that interfere with the hormonal system in animals or humans.
- Heavy metals
- Food additives and preservatives
- Cosmetic additives
Here is some interesting information that I have learnt at last year’s Institute of Functional Medicine (http://www.functionalmedicine.org/) “Conference on Understanding Biotransformation and Recognizing Toxicity”.
Total Toxic Load equals the Total Toxic Exposure minus the Ability to Detoxify and Excrete toxins. As the toxic exposure gets higher, our body’s capacity of neutralizing and removing toxins is overwhelmed. When we ingest and inhale more than our body can handle, toxicity starts having a negative impact on our health.
Relationship between toxicity and disease:
- Chronic toxicant exposure plays a significant role in triggering or amplifying chronic disease, accelerating the aging process.
- Exposure to environmental toxins has been shown to be associated with many types of cancers and syndromes characterized by fatigue, muscle weakness and cognitive dysfunction. Fertility and reproductive health can also be affected.
- For more information, you can visit http://www.healthandenvironment.org/
Conditions Associated with Toxicity:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Multiple chemical sensitivity
- Obesity (disproportionate to caloric intake & output)
- Metabolic syndrome
- Diabetes mellitus, type II
- Chronic kidney disease
- Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s Disease and – Alzheimer’s Disease
- Neuropsychiatric disorders like Autism and Depression
- Auto-immune diseases like Thyroiditis and lupus
- Reproductive disorders Infertility, Endometriosis
I will continue on the topic of toxicity and its health implications in my next blog Why Cleanse (Part II).