As Americans, we often pride ourselves on how far we've come in this country, with the Industrial Revolution and subsequent high-tech progress lifting us to heights that our ancestors could never dream of. But with soaring rates of autoimmune diseases, breast and prostate cancer, neurological and reproductive disorders and more, the question is: At what price? Pollution is not just about the water and the air. It is also about pollution in our bodies and the impact it's having on our health.


Every day we are routinely exposed to thousands of industrial chemicals in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat. With photos from space documenting the global drift of pollutants, exposure to these nearly ubiquitous toxins is hard to escape.

For public safety, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits exposure to toxic chemicals to levels that have been found "safe" in studies. However, in many cases there is no such thing as a safe level of exposure, warns Tom McGuire, DDS, author of Tooth Fitness: Your Guide to Healthy Teeth (St. Michael's), an expert on mercury poisoning. He believes that even minimal exposure to this toxic heavy metal can add up over time and eventually lead to serious health problems such as neurological dysfunction. (Read more about mercury poisoning in Daily Health News, September 6, 2005.)

 * To make matters worse, some industrial chemicals have more damaging effects at low doses than at high ones. For example, bisphenol A (BPA), used in the manufacture of baby bottles, is an estrogen-like chemical that attaches to the same receptor sites on the body's cells as the natural hormone estrogen. When this occurs at key points in development, it can result in brain and reproductive abnormalities. Paradoxically, higher doses of BPA and other endocrine disruptors do not provoke these same abnormal responses. Previous research has shown that BPA can leach out of polycarbonate bottles that are boiled, brushed and dishwashed, possibly due to the plastics degredation -- and it is not necessary to boil formula or breast milk. Instead, choose a polyethylene or polypropylene bottle with recycling numbers 1, 2 or 5.


Tens of thousands of industrial chemicals pollute the environment and expose you and your children to serious health risks. They include...

  • Bisphenol A (BPA). As mentioned above BPA is used in plastic baby bottles and food can linings. Tiny amounts of this chemical have caused alterations in immune response, neurochemistry, behavior and reproduction in animals.
  • Dioxins. Formed mainly as byproducts of industrial processes (such as smelting and bleaching of paper pulp), these dangerous chemicals -- classified as persistent organic pollutants -- are associated with damage to the immune system, developing nervous system, endocrine system and reproductive function. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 90% of human exposure to dioxins is through the food supply, especially dairy products, meat, fish and shellfish.
  • Fossil fuels. Used to generate the bulk of US energy, the burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) produces pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, hydrocarbons and particulates. These, in turn, are associated with diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia and cancer.
  • Heavy metals. Mercury, lead, aluminum and cadmium are associated with cancer, autism, learning disabilities, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome and more. Sources include silver-mercury-amalgam dental fillings, vaccines, drinking water, fish, pesticides and building materials.
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Although banned in the US for decades, most foods continue to contain some level of these persistent organic pollutants that are most prevalent in farmed salmon. PCBs contribute to cancer development, particularly hormone-related varieties such as breast cancer.
  • Perchlorate. A chemical used in weapons manufacture, traces of perchlorate have been found in the drinking water of 25 states. Perchlorate inhibits thyroid hormone production, which children require for brain development.
  • Pesticides. The influence of pesticides from both commercial and residential use on human health, not to mention the environment, are well documented. They include hormonal disruption, nervous system damage and increased cancer risk.
  • Phthalates. Even at minute levels, these tongue-twisting chemicals, pronounced "tha-lats" -- used in plastic wrap, plastic food storage containers, toys, drug capsules, cosmetics, perfumes and building materials -- have been linked with asthma and allergies in children, and sperm abnormalities in men.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCSs). These carcinogenic chemicals are present in dry-cleaning fluids, carpeting, paints, cleaning fluids, air fresheners, varnishes, cosmetics and drinking water.


Tests show that traces of many industrial chemicals already exist in most people's blood and urine. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found traces of BPA in more than nine out of 10 urine samples tested. To make matters worse, life is not a laboratory where we are carefully exposed to one chemical at a time. In the real world, we are routinely bombarded with multiple chemicals, which can add up to even greater health risks.

While you can't live in a bubble, there are many steps you can take to limit your exposure to industrial chemicals...

  • Whenever possible, use glass rather than plastic. With plastic, there is always the chance of dangerous chemicals leaching out. Because heat accelerates this process, don't microwave food in plastic containers or plastic wrap.
  • When caring for your lawn, consider natural alternatives to pesticides.
  • Likewise, consider natural alternatives to chemicals in commercial personal care items (shampoos, cosmetics, etc.) and household cleaners. Alternatives are readily available at your local health-food store, or in many cases you can make your own. Visit the Web site of environmental activist Annie Berthold-Bond to learn how (www.care2.com/healthyliving). Many environmentally friendly household cleaners can be found at Melaleuca as well (http://melaleuca.com).
  • Get your water tested and, if it's not up to par, install a water filter in your home.
  • Stay inside on ozone alert days. This is especially important for the very young and the very old, and for those who suffer from chronic diseases like asthma.


You can also protect yourself by boosting your immune system and overall health to the greatest extent possible, notes Dr. McGuire. This means getting a good balance of exercise and rest, maintaining a healthy weight, and watching what you eat...

  • Eat a variety of whole foods and, as much as possible, buy organic, free-range foods that are cultivated without pesticides and hormones.
  • Avoid processed foods that are packed with chemical additives and preservatives.
  • Choose wild rather than farmed fish, because it is less likely to contain chemical contaminants -- dioxins or PCBs.
  • Eat low-mercury fish, such as wild salmon, shrimp, pollack and trout. Because mercury can damage neurological development, it's especially important for pregnant and nursing women and young children to avoid eating high-mercury fish, including shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel and tuna (including canned white or albacore tuna).
  • The WHO recommends trimming fat from meat and consuming low-fat dairy products, because toxins tend to accumulate in fat.
  • Keep in mind that drugs are chemicals too, and take them only when you need them... and in the smallest possible amounts for the shortest possible periods of time.
  • Consider supplements. In addition to a good, all-around multivitamin, Dr. McGuire recommends antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and selenium to prevent free radical damage... alpha-lipoic acid to help the liver flush toxins from the body... milk thistle to support the liver... Lactobacillus acidophilus and fiber to strengthen the intestine... and N-acetyl cysteine and s-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM-e) to boost the body's levels of glutathione, which is a natural toxin remover and intracellular antioxidant.

Take good care of yourself, body and soul. The stronger and healthier you are, the better able you will be to withstand our society's chemical onslaught.  www.bottomlinesecrets.com