Each year more than 4 billion pounds of chemical compounds are released into the environment. We are exposed to many of these environmental toxins in our daily lives.
Even something as seemingly benign as dyeing your hair can cause devastating effects on your health. Researchers at USC have found that women who regularly dye their hair are three times more likely to develop bladder cancer than those who don’t! Chemicals in hair dye can also damage the reproductive system and central nervous system.
There are many news stories of major diseases such as cancer being caused by exposure to various chemicals, and lead poisoning is so prevalent that children are usually tested for it as part of their routine annual exam when they turn one. It is obvious that toxic levels of chemicals can have a devastating effect on the health of the human body, but what about exposure to minuscule amounts over a long period of time? Do the toxins interact to magnify the damage to your body?
What Is an Environmental Toxin?
Environmental toxins are substances in our environment that are created by humans or occur naturally but are toxic to the human body. They can be found in air, water, food, beauty products, cleaning supplies and a wide variety of other sources. Naturally occurring environmental toxins include lead, mercury, arsenic, formaldehyde, aluminum, cadmium, and fluoride. Certain strains of mold release mycotoxins which are also incredibly damaging to our bodies.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recorded over 84,000 different chemicals in use since its inception in 1970. While many of these chemicals are no longer used, this is still an enormous number. They currently list 595 of these chemicals as toxic, but countless more have not undergone proper testing. Even worse, many of the chemicals have been tested to determine what levels cause obvious adverse effects such as cancer or death but have not determined if long term exposure to small doses negatively impacts the body. Unfortunately, even chemicals known to be toxic are still allowed for use in our products if they are used in small enough amounts.
How Environmental Toxins Impact Your Body.
It is well documented that environmental toxins wreak havoc on your body. While it would be a huge undertaking to list every harmful effect of every known toxin, there are certain classes of toxins which are easy to explain. The seven main classes of toxins are listed below. Some toxins only have one classification, but many are much more complex and fall under multiple classifications, causing a variety of possible symptoms and diseases.
Carcinogen is now a commonly used word which simply means cancer causing. Carcinogenic substances cause living tissue to develop cancer after being exposed to varying levels of the substance. However, even if you do not accumulate levels high enough to cause cancer, a carcinogen can still harm your body in other ways. Polluted air and water, processed foods and sugar, arsenic, cigarette smoke, asbestos, radiation, and heavy alcohol consumption are all examples of substances that act as carcinogens in our bodies.
A neurotoxin harms the nervous system, prevents it from functioning properly, and may eventually destroy the nerve tissue. They cause a wide variety of health problems, including permanent memory impairment, slurred speech, intellectual disability, dementia, epilepsy, brain tumors, and death. Some substances, such as chemical weapons and heavy metals including lead and mercury, are well known neurotoxins. Unfortunately, others are not so commonly known, which means people are blithely consuming these substances unaware of the damage being caused. Although less widely acknowledged, some major sources of neurotoxins in food are the sugar substitutes, aspartame and sucralose, and pesticides.
Endocrine Disruptors impact the endocrine system and alter hormonal functions. As hormones play a massive role in our health and metabolism, agents that disrupt this system can create widespread harm to your health. Some common problems include obesity, infertility, low testosterone, early onset puberty, and prostate and breast cancers. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences states, “Research shows that endocrine disruptors may pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are forming.” This means it is important to avoid endocrine disruptors while pregnant, for the healthy development of your baby. They are hard to avoid though, because it seems that endocrine disruptors can be found just about anywhere, including pharmaceuticals, pesticides, plastic bottles and cans, food, to