Living in a Chemical Soup

Living in a Chemical Soup
February 19, 2012 No Comments » Healthy Lifestyle Brian Fulton

Commercial pesticide spraying

 

The topic of chemical exposure has re-entered the news these days with leading stories of major retailers yanking bisphenol A (BPA) off of their shelves. BPA is a synthetic chemical compound found in some hard clear plastics, (e.g. Lexan) and is used as liners in many metal cans. After several studies in peer-reviewed journals indicated that even at low doses BPA appear to increase breast and ovarian cancer cell growth and the growth of some prostate cancer cells in animals, there has been a growing tide of controversy over using BPAs in human food containers. Retailers pulled many polycarbonate bottles containing BPA after the announcement from Health Canada banning the import and sale of polycarbonate baby bottles containing bisphenol A. BPA is only one 23,000 chemicals that were in use in Canada prior to the development of the New Substances Notification Program, developed in 1994. This program reviews approximately 800 new chemicals each year and determines their safety to the public, and then adds these items to what is known as the Domestic Substances List (DSL).

Prior to 1994 there was no cohesive system in place to classify, monitor and assess the safety of these substances, so in 1999 the Government of Canada decided to sort through and categorize the DSL. When this was completed, Health Canada determined that 85% of the substances on the DSL “do not need further action at this time”, but unfortunately this means that the remaining 4,000 still need to be investigated further. The most active citizens group monitoring this situation is Environmental Defence, a non-profit group that champions critical environmental and health issues. An arm of Environmental Defence is Toxic Nation, which has performed some rather telling studies of toxic chemical presence in the bodies of average Canadians.  Here is a summary of results testing a cross-section of Canadian families.

  • 46 of 68 chemicals tested for were detected, including 5 heavy metals, 5 PBDEs, 13 PCBs, 5 perfluorinated chemical, 9 organochlorine pesticides, 4 organophosphate insecticide metabolites, & 5 PAHs.
  • On average, 32 chemicals were detected in each parent volunteer, and 23 chemicals were detected in each child volunteer.
  • Of the 46 chemicals detected:
    • 38 are cancer-causing substances,
    • 38 are chemicals that can harm reproduction and the development of children,
    • 19 are chemicals that can harm the nervous system,
    • 23 are chemicals that can disrupt the hormone system, and
    • 12 are chemicals associated with respiratory illnesses.
Summary: Number of chemicals detected in the study volunteers

Chemical Group

Total number of chemicals tested

Total number of chemicals detected

In adults

In children

In all volunteers

Heavy metals

5

5

5

5

PBDEs

5

5

5

5

PCBs

16

13

10

13

PFCs

13

5

4

5

Organochlorine pesticides

13

9

7

9

Organophosphate insecticide metabolites

6

4

3

4

PAHs

10

4

5

5

Total

68

45

39

46

Summary: Health effects of chemicals found in volunteers

 

Chemicals’ Effect on Health

Number of chemicals detected in volunteers that are linked to listed health effect

Total

In Adults

In Children

Carcinogen

38

37

33

Hormone disruptor

23

23

20

Respiratory toxin

12

11

11

Reproductive/developmental toxin

38

37

33

Neurotoxin

19

19

17

No data on health effects

3

3

2

 

* Includes both recognized and suspected health effects for each chemical as identified on Scorecard.org Chemical Profiles in April 2006.

According to Environmental Defence, much of the pollution that surrounds us comes from industry. Toxic chemicals are released from facilities into air, water and land. Examples include: generating electricity; manufacturing chemicals; making materials such as steel and paper; extracting natural resources, such as oil and gas. Chemicals can also come from farming practices (pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides). Pesticides contaminate the food we eat, as well as air, water and soil when they run-off from crops and enter the wider environment. You can also be exposed to harmful chemicals through products used at home such as perfumes, shampoos, air fresheners, cleaning products, frying pans and food containers. You might say, “well what’s the big deal, we’ve lived with these chemicals for years”, but there is a clear link between many of these chemicals and our health. One definitive report covering over 200 studies of synthetic chemicals that humans are exposed to daily found “good evidence that about 200 of these chemicals are adult neurotoxicants and another 1,000 are suspected of affecting the nervous system.”

Now that I have managed to scare the begeebies out of you, I will leave you with Toxic Nations’ top ten list of ways to reduce toxins in your daily life. For more on this topic I recommend you visit their site at www.toxicnation.ca

1.     Improve Your Indoor Air Quality

2.     Eat Organic Foods

3.     Choose Personal Care Products Carefully

4.     Avoid Plastics with Bisphenol A

5.     Choose Chemical-free Lawn Care

6.     Get Green School Supplies

7.     Say No to Non-stick Cooking Surfaces

8.     Get Rid of the DEET Insect Repellent

9.     Do not use stain repellents (these products can cause cancer and disrupt hormones)

10.   Avoid Toxic Flame Retardants (PBDEs)

For more information on making your home toxic free go to:
Toxic Nation‘s Healthy Home Checklist


Addendum- This picture, which I took at a park in my city a few years ago shows a common way that chemicals enter our environment. This sign was less than 20 metres from Lake Ontario. The first rainfall would have washed pesticides directly into our (or someone else’s) water supply. Fortunately the city has changed their pesticide policy since then.

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About The Author
Brian Fulton
Brian Fulton Brian Fulton has been a Massage Therapist in Ontario Canada since 1999. His approach toward health and the human body is broad and holistic in nature. Brian is also the author of The Placebo Effect in Manual Therapy: Improving Clinical Outcomes (available on Amazon)