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“Chemical Soup”

We don’t live in the world our grandparents and great grandparents lived in.

In modern life we have access to ideas, foods and experiences our ancestors never dreamed of. We have available many more things that improve our lives, making living easier and more productive.

At the same time, when it comes to previously unknown chemicals, modern living exposes us to a huge collection of food colorings, flavorings and preservatives every day. And let’s not forget the large number of other previously unknown chemicals in our environment. It’s like we’re surrounded by a strange, invisible chemical soup.

There are two problems with our exposure to this modern chemical soup.

The first problem is that we expect our foods to be healthy. Most people, at least in the U.S., assume that regulatory agencies look out for our health and wellbeing.

Sadly, this isn’t always the case.

For example, fresh, conventionally grown strawberries are sprayed with as many as 54 different pesticides. The EPA considers each of these pesticides to be safe when used at appropriate levels, but there are no tests showing the cumulative effect of all of them together.

The accumulated toxic load of as many as 54 different pesticides, even at low levels, is substantially higher than any single one. And some of the individual chemicals are known to cause cancer.

Overall pesticide use is so high in the U.S. that the water in almost every city has pesticide residues in it. So do most of the conventionally grown foods in the super market.

And if you’re planning on carefully washing your produce to remove these toxins, you should know that pesticides & fungicides also get absorbed into the plants through their roots. There is no way to remove the pesticides that have migrated into the cells of the plant.

If you want to know which foods have lower and higher amounts of toxins, review the Environmental Working Group list.

But produce isn’t the only place you’ll find unwanted chemicals in your food. Conventionally raised livestock is frequently treated with a dangerous drug called ractopamine, used to increase protein synthesis. Ractopamine is banned in 160 countries. Even so, the FDA allows it’s use in the U.S.

What’s wrong with ractopamine?

Here’s a clue: It is so dangerous to human health that it the FDA requires a label on it saying, “Not for use in humans. Individuals with cardiovascular disease should exercise special caution to avoid exposure. Use protective clothing, impervious gloves, protective eye wear, and a NIOSH-approved dust mask.”

But apparently it’s okay to feed this to livestock…

When you consider that up to 20% of ractopamine is still active in meat when it’s delivered to consumers, you can see it’s a problem. Eating this meat exposes people to this dangerous drug. In addition, antibiotics and growth hormones are also commonly used in conventional meat production. The bottom line is that conventionally raised meat can be toxic.

Of course it’s not only food that exposes us to dangerous chemicals.

The other part of the chemical exposure problem exists because of the sheer number of modern synthetic substances in the world. Over 80,000 synthetic chemicals are approved for use in the U.S. They fall into easily recognized categories such as pesticides, fertilizers, plastics, paints, coatings & fire retardants.

At this point, less than one percent of these 80,000 substances have been tested for safety. In fact, the approval process is based on the idea that they are safe unless proven otherwise. But how can we know what their effects are if they haven’t been tested?

And those chemicals that are tested are tested one at a time. Unfortunately, this doesn’t tell us anything about how they affect our bodies when combined with any of the hundreds of other chemicals we’re exposed to every day.

Protecting Yourself: What You Can Do

Our exposure to all of these substances in our food and our environment requires our bodies to work harder to detoxify. And for many people, detoxification pathways are overwhelmed. This leads to toxic accumulation in the body that interferes with normal, healthy functioning.

Here are some of the most important things you can do to reduce the negative effects of unwanted chemical exposure:

  • Filter Your Drinking Water And Your Shower Water. Toxins are present in virtually every municipal water source. The reason is that municipal water authorities must balance cost against safety. The result is that they focus on reducing toxins, but they can’t focus on eliminating them altogether. And because you absorb toxins through both drinking unfiltered water and by exposure through skin and breathing it’s important to filter any water you drink, inhale as steam, or absorb through your skin.
  • Avoid Pesticides And Additives. The strawberry example above is only one illustration of the presence of pesticides in conventionally grown produce. There is at least some residue in all such produce. In addition, flavorings, preservatives and other additives add toxic load to our bodies. We aren’t naturally set up to metabolize most of these substances. Always read labels and focus on eating organic, pesticide-free and additive-free foods.
  • Eliminate Conventionally Raised Meat. Most commercially raised beef in the U.S. is raised with synthetic hormones, antibiotics and growth stimulants. These substances get transferred to people when they eat such meat. Hormone use is completely unregulated. Curiously, in Europe, growth hormones, etc. are completely banned. And antibiotic use in livestock creates drug-resistant strains of bacteria in the food we eat. Always look for naturally raised, grass-fed beef, poultry raised without antibiotics, and eggs from free-range chickens.
  • Take Enough Antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect you from damage caused by reactions to toxic substances. They are part of your internal defense mechanism to keep you healthy. Antioxidant-rich foods include fresh, organic/naturally raised vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and meats. It’s also useful to take antioxidant-rich vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.
  • Store And Carry Drinking Water In Stainless Steel Or BPA-Free Containers. This eliminates the possibility of estrogen-like substances leaching into drinking water. And never, ever cook food in your microwave in plastic containers. Heat releases toxic substances out of the plastic and into your food. 

References:

Environmental Working Group. Report Card: Pesticides in Produce. www.ewg.org Accessed 2010 August.

“American Beef: Why is it Banned in Europe?” Cancer Prevention Coalition http://www.preventcancer.com/consumers/general/hormones_meat.htm. Accessed August 1, 2010.

“FDA Official Support Livestock Antibiotic Limit” Union of Concerned Scientists http://www.ucsusa.org/news/press_release/fda-livestock-antibiotic-pampta-0261.html. Accessed August 1, 2010.

President’s Cancer Panel 2008-2009 Annual Report. Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk. What We Can Do Now. Available at http://pcp.cancer.gov. Accessed August 1, 2010.

Nelson R. President’s Cancer Panel: Environmental Cancer Risk Underestimated. Medscape Oncology. Accessed August 1, 2010. Available at: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/721766.

Healthier Talk News – Chemical Threat: 9 Alarming Facts You Must Know. Accessed July 28, 1020.

Why Has the FDA Allowed a Drug Marked ‘Not Safe for Use in Humans’ to Be Fed to Livestock Right Before Slaughter?. Accessed July 30, 2010.

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