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Toxic American Nightmare, Part I

You may remember this news story from a few years ago. Public Broadcasting’s Bill Moyers volunteered to be tested for toxins in his body. He was shocked by what the doctors found. Among the contaminants he was carrying in his body:

  • Seven furans, byproducts of industrial processes that may cause abnormal tissue growth.
  • Six dioxins, chemicals particularly damaging to the hormone system.
  • 31 PCB’s. Banned in 1976, PCB’s can cause severe nervous system problems.
  • 3 organochlorine insecticides, which affect the reproductive system.
  • 29 volatile and semi-volatile organic chemicals. These solvents and industrial chemicals can cause severe nervous system effects.

In all, the doctors found 84 toxic chemicals in Moyer’s system!

But the story gets even scarier. Working with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Commonweal, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found a total of 167 toxic chemicals in nine test subjects. The average person was carrying 91 dangerous toxins in their bodies.1

Toxins are everywhere – in our parks and forests… our air and water supplies… even our food. They can affect your health in so many ways: from simple skin rashes and breathing problems to brain damage and reproductive issues.

But there are ways to lower your exposure – what scientist call reducing your toxic load. In this article and two more to follow, I’ll tell you about some of the most common and most dangerous toxins. And I’ll also tell you how to avoid them… so you can enjoy better health every day.

Your Home Is Under a Toxic Gas Attack

The number of toxic materials around your home could make your head spin. Take volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), for example.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, VOC’s can cause headaches, nausea, irritation of the eyes nose and throat, kidney and liver damage, nervous system disorders, and more.

With that kind of track record, you’d think VOC’s would be banned, right? Hardly. They’re found in paint and paint stripper, aerosol sprays, cleaners, moth repellants, air fresheners and dozens of other products. Even your dry cleaned clothes may give off VOC’s, because of the solvents used in the process.  Is it any wonder the EPA says levels of VOC’s inside the average house are two to five times greater than outside?

What You Can Do

Use low-VOC paints. While using VOC’s may make paints less expensive, it also makes them more dangerous. But low- and zero-VOC paints are available. Some manufacturers of these safer products include such well-known companies as Olympic, Benjamin Moore and Pittsburgh Paints. Be sure the label clearly states the product is low- or zero-VOC.

Get Your Dry Cleaning Done With CO2. Take your laundry to an organic or “green” dry cleaner that uses the CO2 process. In this system, CO2 gas is liquefied under pressure. It then carries biodegradable soaps through the laundry. The CO2 is allowed back into its gaseous state and is mostly reused. Because there are no solvents involved, your family is protected from the VOC’s associated with traditional dry cleaning.

Freshen Your Air Naturally. Organic essential oils can give your home a fresh, clean scent without a dose of VOC’s. Another nice way to scent the air is to simmer orange slices and a cinnamon stick in some water on your stovetop. Of course, watch the pan carefully to be sure the water doesn’t all evaporate.

These steps can help reduce your family’s exposure to VOC’s. Unfortunately, they’re not the only toxins you face every day.

Pest Control Is Out of Control

Whether it’s locusts eating our crops, or termites eating our homes, most people don’t see insects as friends. And while they’re not the world’s only pests, they’re the ones we usually focus on.

Unfortunately, that focus has resulted in a lot of human sickness. That’s because many of the insecticides we’ve invented not only make bugs sick, they make us sick, too.

Four of the most common insecticides listed by the EPA – organophosphates, carbamates, organochlorines and pyrethroids – all have one thing in common. They can be extremely toxic to the human nervous system.

And according to the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, some other pesticides mimic estrogen in human tissue.2

Neurotoxins? Artificial estrogen? Do you really want your family exposed to these things? Of course not! And there’s something you can do about it.

What You Can Do

Use an Eco-Friendly Pest Control Service. Work with a local pest control company that uses natural insecticides. Some companies even help cut your family’s exposure by focusing on the outside of your home, and only baiting/spraying indoors if there’s evidence of a problem.

Use Natural Insecticides/Repellants. Some plants contain natural insect repellants. For example, many types of ant avoid marigolds, bay leaf and several other common plants. A bed of marigolds could easily keep pesky ants away from your house, while posing no threat to your children or pets.

Spray scale insects with a mixture of water and household detergent. Garden suppliers can provide you with ladybugs (as eggs) to control aphids. And, of course, citronella is effective against mosquitoes and other biting insects.

There are lots of simple ways to reduce your exposure to toxins. In my next article, we’ll talk about how to protect your family from toxins in household products.

Dr. Kenneth Woliner
Best Life Herbals

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1 Body Burden, the Pollution in People. Environmental Working Group, 2002. See http://archive.ewg.org/reports/bodyburden1/es.php.
2 Soto AM, et al. The Pesticides Endosulfan, Toxaphene, and Dieldrin Have Estrogenic Effects on Human Estrogen-Sensitive Cells. Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 102, Number 4, April 1994.
Other sources:
Environmental Protection Agency

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