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Our Toxic Body Burden

By Vreni Gurd

We are toxic soup! How much of a burden to our bodies are the chemical toxins that find their way inside of us? A journalist for National Geographic decided to explore his own body chemical burden and was shocked to find out what and how many toxic chemicals were inside him, considering he lived a pretty "clean" life, in his opinion! And he was pretty surprised to find out that the chemical that was present in him in the greatest quantity was flame retardant. After much thought, he figured it was from frequent air travel. According to the Fitzgerald Report, as of 1998, there were over 75,500 synthetic chemicals registered as appearing in processed food, consumer products, industry and agriculture. And since that time there have been about 2000 chemicals added to the list each year.

Chemicals are so much a part of our life these days, that we rarely give them a second thought. We eat chemicals in the form of colourings, flavourings, preservatives, emulsifiers, thickeners, sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, transfats, inter-esterified fats, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides etc., and chemicals designed to make us want to eat more. We apply chemicals on our skin, hair, underarms, teeth and nails to clean, moisturize and polish, protect from the sun's rays, or to look and smell nice. We bathe in water that frequently is contaminated with chlorine and fluoride. (If you put it on your skin you are drinking it). We frequently store food in plastic, which usually have endocrine disruptors like phthalates and BPA in them - especially bad news if those foods are microwaved in that plastic! We wash our dishes with toxic dishwashing detergent, and wash our clothes in toxic laundry detergent.

Many of our household cleaners are very toxic and have toxic vapours that we breathe. Many of us take over-the-counter medications or pharmaceutical drugs, which our livers then must detoxify. (Have you looked at the ingredient list on cough syrup??? Hydrogenated oils, colourings, artificial sweeteners - a virtual toxic soup!) Even synthetic vitamins, especially those targeted to kids, are full of sweeteners and colourings. Many of us have mercury amalgam fillings, which leach mercury into our systems. We cook with Teflon, which leaches PFOA into our food and into the air. Then there is that new car and new carpet smell - not healthy! And many of us have jobs involving chemicals on a daily basis. Walking down the street we are inhaling air filled with car exhaust and other chemicals. And many of these chemicals stay in our bodies for a very long time.

Toxicologists will say that the amount of a particular chemical in the food etc. is too low to cause any problems. Maybe so if you look at each chemical individually. But the fact is that they spray up to 19 different pesticides on a field of strawberries! How exactly do they interact? And how do those 19 pesticides react with the other chemicals in the food / drugs we consume, and the chemicals we inhale or absorb through our skin? It is really no wonder that we are a toxic mess, and why rates of cancer have climbed so dramatically over the last 100 years. And no wonder our poor liver is having a heck of a time coping in its detox duties, and may not have much left to help our hormones function properly, leaving our bodies in a chronically stressed state!

Even today, with the crunch in health-care playing out all around us, our chemical-laden life is not even on the radar as wreaking havoc with our health. And Canada's Food Guide is actively promoting toxic food by suggesting we choose oils like canola, corn, soybean, and sunflower (which are rancid on store shelves due to the heat used in the processing) or soft margarine (a manufactured, unnatural fat) over butter or lard! It makes me crazy.

I won't get into the problems that our chemical mess is causing the other living creatures that share this planet with us - needless to say the news is downright scary, especially with respect to fish.

Although we can't come close to controlling all the toxins we are exposed to, to me it makes sense to do all one can in this regard, not only for our own health but also for the health of the planet. Choosing organic, unprocessed food, environmentally-friendly cleaners, using over-the-counter drugs sparingly, doing what is possible through lifestyle modifications to reduce the need for pharmaceuticals, and using quality non-toxic skincare products can help a lot. I have been using organic virgin coconut oil as my moisturizer for the last two years - seems to work fine for me. Coconut oil may be expensive as a food, but wow, is it cheap as a moisturizer! And no one yet has commented that I smell like a coconut!

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