Unlike several of my last posts, I wanted to write, not so much about a scientific article or conference, about supplements or medicines, but about how to reduce our chemical exposure and toxic load - also known as our Body Burden.
Last year while attending a lecture on chemical exposures, I was shocked to learn that old wood, especially pressure treated wood used in park benches, decking etc, had been regularly treated with arsenic - a potent toxin. The presenter gave a case of a husband and wife who became sick after working on replacing their old deck and were suspected of poisoning each other with arsenic. That was, until someone made the connection to their renovation project.
Treating wood with arsenic was finally halted in 2003, for the most part. However that means that wood benches, play sets, decking prior to 2003/4 could create arsenic exposure to people and especially children. You can reduce some exposure by never eating directly off picnic tables and washing hands after exposure.
So, why do we care about exposure to arsenic and other chemicals? While many of these chemicals make our life easier, progressive, safer, many are also untested, minimally tested, and can turn out to be very dangerous and cause cancers. Many of these chemicals are also insidious - meaning, it will take years, if not decades, to learn about their negative effects on humans, and specifically on child development and neurodevelopment. There is also concern that psychiatric illnesses such as autism disorders and ADHD could be effected by these chemical exposures.
Children are especially vulnerable due to their early exposure - most infants will be born already testing positive for many chemicals. They also have immature liver and brain barriers that do not clear and block chemicals as well as adults. Not to mention, children tend to experience the world by placing it in their mouths!
Examples of chemicals we still are battling and know are dangerous are: arsenic, lead, and mercury.
What about more controversial chemicals like BPA, phthalates, and certain pesticides? Unfortunately, the data is still coming out on these chemicals. However, even though many organizations take the stance of them being safe because there are no studies showing proof of danger, many people in the science community that have studied the subtle effects of these chemicals in animal studies note significant changes in chemical and hormonal pathways. Changes that concern these scientists because we don’t know how this will actually translate to health and development.
I’m attaching a lovely talk from TED Women on chemical exposure and infants, entitled, “The Toxic Baby?” It’s worth the watch.
So, how can you protect yourself and your children? In my next post, we’ll review some simple changes you can do around the home to reduce your chemical exposure and increase the clearance of chemicals from your body - without purging all those things that make life easier and without strange detox diets.