Do We Really Need to Worry So Much About Toxins?

March 4, 2012

toxic waste - an elegant solution

A Comparison to Our Ancestors

Here is a comment I often hear when I express my concerns regarding the barrage of toxins we currently face in our daily lives and the measures I take to avoid them:  ”It is a wonder our ancestors survived.”  The implication being that if the world were so full of toxins, then our ancestors would not have survived their ignorance of them and that people like me need to relax our toxin avoidance efforts accordingly.  I wholeheartedly disagree with this line of reasoning.  It simply does not stand up to the facts.

Our ancestors were not exposed to the chemicals that are presently in what we eat, drink, wear, slather on our bodies, breathe, decorate our homes with, and let our children play with.  Most of the present-day threats to our health were either not yet invented or not used in food and consumer products in our ancestors’ time.  A modern-day newborn can be reasonably expected to carry a greater toxic burden in its bloodstream than did the most polluted senior citizen in our ancestors’ time.

Our ancestors also had much stronger immune systems than we do because they consumed fermented foods teeming with probiotics, did not kill their body’s beneficial flora with antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, and were not exposed to immune-suppressing electromagnetic fields. Not to mention the fact that our ancestors ate meat from healthy animals raised on pasture, as opposed to the sick, antibiotic and hormone ridden, grain fed, feed-lot animals most of us now consume.  Furthermore, fruits and vegetables are no longer as nutritious as they were in our ancestors’ day, because of genetic modifications, soil depletion resulting from irresponsible farming and use of chemical fertilizers, and air pollution.

A Polluted People

Humans are now born with +/- 200 industrial chemicals in their bloodstream, many of which were not around when our ancestors were alive.  Such toxins include pesticides from foods that mom ate or air that mom breathed, phthalates that were in mom’s perfume or scented lotion, carcinogenic fire-retardants that were in mom’s furniture, triclosan that was in mom’s soap and toothpaste, toxins from genetically modified crops that mom ingested, teflon from the non-stick pans mom cooked with, and stain-guard treatments from mom’s carpet and upholstered furniture.

According to the Environmental Working Group, in a study they carried out in 2005:

Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. The dangers of pre- or post-natal exposure to this complex mixture of carcinogens, developmental toxins and neurotoxins have never been studied.

Ignorance with Consequences

Most parents would never allow a child to drink or eat a known carcinogen.  However, most parents thoughtlessly slather cosmetics on themselves and their children.  Most moms I know do not think twice about wearing synthetic fragrances around their children, scenting their houses with synthetic fragrances, or spraying hair-styling products around their children.  The cosmetic industry is not regulated, and most cosmetics contain known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and neurotoxins.  Similarly, unsuspecting parents let their children roll all over carpets and couches covered with stain-release treatments containing chemicals that are known  to be harmful to human health and even carcinogenic.

You Do Not Have to Swallow the Toxins for Them to Damage You

Chemicals in the air and against our skin may seem harmless compared to chemicals that we might ingest; however, nothing is further from the truth. Most anything absorbed through the skin or via breathing is typically a more potent toxin than if it were swallowed. When you eat or drink something, your liver has a chance to detoxify it somewhat–this is known as “first pass metabolism” and you can read about it in any introductory pharmacology textbook.  When toxins are absorbed through the skin or lungs via inspired air, they bypass the liver and go straight into the bloodstream, full-force, to do their damage. This is why a medication given by a transdermal patch is always given in a lesser dose than that same medication given orally.  With administration via the skin or inspired air, the liver is not able to detoxify substances like it would if they were swallowed, and this can potentially leave the body even more vulnerable than if the toxin were ingested.

Overburdened Organs

As noted above, if you have a fully functioning liver, your liver can help mitigate some of the damage that some toxins might do in your body.  However, many Americans do not have fully functioning livers, as a result of damage due to poor diet, use of prescription drugs, use of alcohol, and constant exposure to environmental toxins.  Even a liver that started out with normal capacity will be taxed after years of toxic burdens.  This is especially true for women, according to the Mayo Clinic.  The kidneys also help to detoxify our blood.  Like the liver, the kidneys can also become dysfunctional as a result of medications and or toxins.

We cannot rely solely on our detoxification organs to protect us, for the reasons stated above.  There are obviously some exposures we simply cannot avoid.  Therefore, shouldn’t we avoid those that we can avoid, so that we will have less burdened organs that can better handle the toxins with which we unintentionally come in contact?

Environmental Toxins Cause Cancer–There is No Longer a Doubt

All of the major cancer research foundations and government-funded cancer advisory organizations now recognize the role that environmental toxins play in cancer.  In case you haven’t heard, cancer is on the rise.  Breast cancer is a prime example.  According to the Cleveland Clinic, in 1940, a woman’s lifetime breast cancer risk was 1 in 20.  Currently, a woman’s lifetime breast cancer risk is 1 in 8.  The rates are expected to worsen for our children’s generation.

Chemicals Mimicking Our Own Hormones and Feeding Cancer

Many cancers are at least somewhat fueled by particular types of estrogen.  Many of the toxic chemicals around us mimic estrogen in the human body and disrupt our hormone balance–this is why they are also known as “endocrine disruptors.”  Endocrine disrupting chemicals are thought to cause cancer, in the same way that the synthetic estrogen in the drug DES did in the offspring of women who used it.  Therefore, endocrine disruptors are a probable contributor to cancer that we can easily avoid by taking care with our purchases.  Most personal care products are loaded with these endocrine disruptors, and so are many home, lawn, and garden products.

Do Not Wait for the Government to Protect You!

Many of the substances in our surroundings are so toxic that they do not even have to disturb our hormones to give us cancer or chronic illness.  Some substances cause severe irritation and inflammation that can lead to cancer and illness through a series of ensuing internal events.  Some common chemicals cause gene mutations practically on contact. Toxic chemicals are all around us and they are killing people every day.  Many known toxins are 100% legal and in your house right now.  Do not expect the government to protect you.  You will die waiting.

Is Ignorance Bliss?

To folks who mock those of us who make every reasonable attempt to avoid environmental toxins, please remember the following.  No one will protect you from developing cancer or some other horrible disease besides you.  No, this is not fun to think about.  Ignorance may indeed be bliss, but what good is that bliss if you are dying of cancer.  As a nurse, I have witnessed patients of all ages suffering painful and horrible deaths from cancer and other preventable diseases.  I have cared for many babies with horrendous deformities that are not genetic, nor are they due to maternal use of illicit drugs.  If you do not understand the fear that some of us have, and the caution with which we are purchasing food, toys for our children, items for our home and yard, and personal care products, then I suggest you do some reading.  Your life may just depend upon it.  You do not want to endure the suffering I have witnessed.  I live this way because I do not want anyone in my family to experience the suffering I have seen.

Lessons in the Suffering

If you just cannot seem to get yourself very concerned about all of these threats, then I suggest you volunteer in a hospital and witness what patients with chronic and terminal diseases endure.  Spend some time in a children’s hematology-oncology unit.  Feel the pain of families watching their loved ones lose their brave battles.  Give some of your time to the March of Dimes and learn about the relationships between toxic chemicals and birth defects.  Read about this birth defect cluster that happened here in the U.S., as a result of legal agricultural chemicals.  When you entertain the idea of wanting to prevent such suffering in your own family, start by doing some reading about childhood cancer clusters and birth defect clusters where industrial, agricultural, and/or pesticides are used, particularly around golf courses.  Read about the poisoning of military families at Camp LeJeune, or view the award-winning film, and learn just how concerned our government is with protecting us from chemicals.  You will fast become like me and want to learn all you can about how to keep your family safe–I am sure of it.

The Choice is Obviously Yours, but My Choice Lies with Science

Individuals are, of course, free to decide whether or not to heed the warnings implicit in the mountains of scientific findings generated over the past 30+ years, but please realize that those of us who live this way are doing so for scientifically verifiable reasons.  Do not mock us or act as though we are fear mongers who have nothing better to do than cast gloom.  If we did not have a will to live an enjoyable life, then we would not be trying to protect ourselves and avoid future suffering.  Think about it.

Comparing Oranges to Apples

Whatever one decides to do or not do, the fact remains that the health of our ancestors is in no way justification for our choosing to wear blinders regarding the multitude of threats to our health in this present, more toxic, day.  That is like comparing Earthlings to Martians.  The Earth of our ancestors, is not the Earth of today!  Please do not pretend that it is.  We have changed our planet, our diet, and our lifestyles in ways that would apall our ancestors . . . and kill them just as efficiently as it is killing us.


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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Starlene March 16, 2012 at 23:57

Great post. I fully agree with you that we our ancestors did not have as many toxins to deal with and process and their bodies were much stronger than ours. I can even see this today as I witness people who are in their 70s in better health than me (48) and even people who are younger than me, like in their 20s, 30s. (You know the ones “When I was going to school we had to walk 30 miles through the snow”). Each generation seems to be getting weaker and sicker. My sister has a house cleaning business and she uses extremely harsh toxic chemicals and I have tried to warn her that she has to stop using them. Especially since we have the genetic mutation MTHFR and that makes detoxing harder for our bodies.

I have also dealt with people poo-pooing my sensitivities to noxious fumes/perfumes, etc., but I think I can understand their position somewhat. I think it has to do with the fact they are simply not bothered by these toxins so they can’t understand our concerns. This isn’t necessarily a good thing. Their bodies might be so overwhelmed they are not giving any signals that these toxins are too much. I was much more sensitive to the soap aisle in the grocery store before I started on the GAPS Diet. Now it doesn’t bother me hardly at all to walk down that aisle, but I know it is bad to breathe in all those smells so I continue to avoid it. But I can understand now because if I had never gone through those years when I was super sensitive I might have been the same as people who don’t get that this stuff is literally poisoning our bodies. Thanks for sharing this post. I’m going to post on my GAPS Diet Journey Facebook fan page to let others know about it.


Suz May 7, 2014 at 23:14

Just found out I have this MTHFR defect too Starlene, are you supplementing?
Suz recently posted..MTHFR – say what?My Profile


admin March 17, 2012 at 01:13

That is a great point about the elderly of today being more hardy than many young people, Starlene. My husband and I often talk about the amazing health of his grandmother, now in her 90s, who grew up on a farm. She has told us that her mother gave her a daily dose of cod liver oil that was kept beside the cook-top, which we speculate may have been a method of allowing the oil to ferment. I hate to imagine the 9th decade of today’s children, who are largely raised on highly-processed foods with chemical colorings and preservatives:-(

I have just begun learning about the MTHFR gene. Where did you have your testing done? I hope your sister comes around. I find it very difficult to know the horrible truth about consumer products and food, and watch my family and friends expose themselves to poisons. I think that is part of why I decided to start blogging. Those who want to hear my commentary can choose to read it. Those who are sick of my commentary do not have to read it.

I am with you on the chemical smells thing. I used to laugh at folks who were bothered by fragrances and such. However, since my pregnancy, I have become quite sensitive. Like you, I am glad that my nose now guides me.

Thanks for posting on your Facebook page. I am new to blogging and am thankful for you sharing my post. I am excited to learn of your GAPS-related blog. I will stop by very soon:-)


Kim March 17, 2012 at 08:47

Hi! Thanks for posting this information, and thanks to Starlene for posting on FB! I really had no idea how bad it is. Do you have a list of ingredients to avoid in personal care products?


Starlene March 17, 2012 at 12:36

Hi Nicole, like you I am glad for my blog so that I can reach out to like minded people and keep my mouth shut around friends and family and coworkers who now consider me the “health freak”. LOL. I didn’t use to be this way! I had my testing for MTHFR done through my insurance, but Dr. Ben Lynch also offers the test at his site for $150 for those who don’t have insurance or can’t get their doctor to order the test for them. Dr. Lynch is a naturopath who is passionate about teaching us about MTHFR. He has if I remember correctly, the worst combination of the genetic mutation, but is now symptom-free.

I can remember being sensitive to smells since early adulthood. I have also recently learned that adrenal fatigue can cause our nose to turn into a “super smeller”. Thanks for stopping by my blog, I will send you a reply soon. The spiralizer is a wonderful tool and we love it. :-)


Starlene March 17, 2012 at 12:37

@Kim, you’re quite welcome! I’m glad it was helpful. I’ve been trying to post these interesting and informative posts I find and read to my Facebook fan page just to get the word out there.


admin March 17, 2012 at 13:02

Starlene, Dr. Lynch is actually where I had heard of the MTHFR mutation. I had seen that he offered the testing. That is why I had asked. He is a smart guy. I just discovered his work a few days ago while searching for a higher quality multi-vitamin.


admin March 17, 2012 at 13:22

Kim: thanks for stopping by! I used to try to shop by carrying an “ingredients to avoid list,” but then I discovered the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, which I mention in my most recent post. Using the Skin Deep database you can look up the products you currently use and see how they rate in terms of toxicity. If your products are toxic, then you can use the database to get the brand and product names of less toxic products. In our house, we have committed to not using anything that has a Skin Deep rating higher than 2. We attempt to not use anything on our daughter that is higher than a Skin Deep rating of 1. In the near future, I hope to begin adding safe products, that either my husband or I have used and loved, to my “E-Shoppe.” My E-Shoppe is through Amazon, and will have the same prices as if you went directly to Amazon. I chose to have a shop through Amazon, because Amazon tends to have some of the lowest prices around on safer products. Honestly, I do not care where folks buy safer products as long as they switch to safer products:-) There are far too many folks out there suffering from poisoning. I had hoped to have some safer personal care items added to my E-Shoppe by now, but life has had other plans for me lately. This blog is definitely a work in progress. I have built it from the ground up all by myself (when my two-year-old has allowed), because I wanted to be able to fix it myself when something went awry. I have no background in web design, so it has been a learning process for sure!


Kim March 19, 2012 at 17:55

Thanks, Nicole! I will check out the database! Keep up the great work! Lots of luck with the web designing!


disappointed March 28, 2012 at 03:17

aw, man! i was so hoping that someone would tell me, ‘it’s ok, you don’t have to worry about this stuff’. we just watched ‘tapped’ yesterday and, as our tap water is desalinated, all of our drinking water comes in the 5 gallon plastic bottles. so i came here looking for a nurse to tell me not be concerned, that everything will turn out ok.

but i knew it sounded too good to be true.


Nicole, The Non-Toxic Nurse March 28, 2012 at 12:40

Disappointed: I am sorry:-( The truth is indeed disappointing. On the bright side, some plastics leach less than others. Hopefully your bottled water is coming in containers made of one of the more stable forms of plastic, like polypropylene (#5). I have seen some five gallon containers that were made out of #5, although most are still made out of polycarbonate (#7), which may have BPA and should be definitely be avoided. Also, you can help protect the integrity of water stored in plastic containers by not allowing the plastic to get warm. Additionally, acidic and oily substances stored in plastic are more likely to lead to the plastic leaching into the container’s contents; at least the water has neither of those characteristics (at least I hope it doesn’t).


Antonietta April 15, 2012 at 16:51

Wow! You would think this sort of news would be plastered all over the media. Thank you for kanimg me and hopefully many others aware of the daily dose of harmful chemicals we get everyday along side of the ones we ingest. Thank you


Nicole, The Non-Toxic Nurse April 15, 2012 at 17:13

You are very welcome Antonietta! I was shocked too when I first began looking into all of this five-or-so years ago.


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