by Dr. Hilary Booth
We are constantly bombarded with toxins in our environment. They are in the things we eat and drink, the air we breathe, the products we put on our bodies, and the items in our homes. Let’s face it – toxins are ubiquitous. However, as with anything, knowledge is power. This article gives you the knowledge to make better-informed choices and minimize your toxic exposure.
Background – Are we really that toxic?
A recent study on Canadians found an average of 44 chemicals in the body of each participant. The study found 41 carcinogens (cancer causing toxins), 27 hormone disruptors, and 52 reproductive and developmental toxins. Perhaps the most shocking finding was that every chemical was found to be present regardless of age or place of residence.
Another study looked at the umbilical cord blood of Canadian newborns and found that on average, 200 toxic elements were found in babies’ cord blood, with a total of 287 toxic compounds found overall. The study suggests that we are pre-polluted; we have been exposed to toxins since the womb.
Where do toxins come from?
Toxins are practically everywhere. They are in the foods we eat: pesticides on produce, hormones and antibiotics in meat, and chemicals in food due to soil and water contamination. Toxins are breathed in through car exhaust, smoke, and other air pollutants. They also are in our water, as tap water commonly contains lead, copper, chlorine and fluoride.
The toxins that we often overlook are the ones present in our personal care products. I challenge you to look at the ingredient lists on your soaps, shampoos, creams, and makeup. You’ll notice that even products that are marketed as being natural (Aveeno, The Body Shop, Neutrogena Naturals, etc.) contain ingredients on my “chemicals to avoid” list.
Chemicals to Avoid
Phthalates are used to soften plastic and PCF, and are being phased out because they cause hormone disruption and birth defects. These are found in coatings of pharmaceutical tablets, lubricants, binders, hair spray, soap, detergents. Phthalates are often hidden under the label “fragrance” on personal care products.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA is found in canned foods and plastic containers. This compound breaks down in heat and when washed with a strong detergent. This is one of the reasons we recommend using glass or stainless steel instead of plastic for food storage containers and water bottles. BPA looks like estrogen to our bodies, which causes hormone disruption and contributes to conditions such as acne, obesity, fibroids, and endometriosis.
Polychlorinated bisphenyls (PCB)
PCBs are persistent organic pollutants, meaning they accumulate as they go up the food chain. This means that they are present in higher amounts in fish, dairy, beef and poultry. It also means that they accumulate in our bodies when we eat these foods. Buying organic, wild/free range, grass fed proteins is the best way to avoid PCBs.
Sodium Laureth/Lauryl Sulphate (SLS)
SLS is used as a foaming and cleansing agent in many soaps, shampoos, mouthwashes and toothpastes. Research shows that it can cause organ toxicity, cancer, reproductive toxicity, hormone disruption and skin irritation.
Artificial Colours and Dyes
Dyes are found in everything from laundry detergent to toothpaste, to food. Food dyes have been shown to contribute to ADHD in children, migraines, anxiety, and cancers. Only 7 dyes are currently approved by the FDA, down from 80 that were considered “safe” just 50 years ago.
Reducing our Toxic Burden
Our bodies do the best they can to process and detoxify these chemicals, but genetic defects, illnesses, and toxic overload eventually gets the better of us. This is why it’s important to do a cleanse/detox at least once per year in order to minimize the body’s burden of toxins, and allow it to “clean house”.
If you suffer from headaches, migraines, menstrual irregularities, autoimmune conditions, infertility, cancer, arthritis, or skin issues, you may have a toxic overload. Lab testing can be helpful to determine the cause and monitor changes over time. Available labs include the Environmental Pollutants Profile, hormone testing, heavy metal testing, and genetic testing.
I encourage everyone to switch their personal care products to natural products, use glass or stainless steel, drink filtered water, and buy organic foods. Small changes go a long way toward reducing your toxic exposure on a daily basis. The bottom line is to always read labels, ask questions, and make in formed decisions.