Why Detox? The Killers Within
Detoxification refers, of course, to the elimination of poisons or toxins. Because of the huge amounts of environmental contaminants, our bodies are in serious need of regular cleansing to reduce damage to the immune system and metabolism. Detoxification is vital to maximise the body’s energy and to prevent chronic illness. It’s also a time-honoured way to keep digestive elimination regular, circulation under control and stress to a minimum. Detoxification maintains good health and promotes healing from illnesses.
The Killers Within: How Our Homes Are Making Us Sick
CAROLINE MARCUS Sydney Morning Herald
December 13, 2009
Hidden dangers… the Henderson family faces chemical perils.
AUSTRALIAN homes are a hotbed of toxic chemicals, full of products and furnishings that have been linked to cancer, reproductive damage and learning disabilities.
Experts have called for tighter regulations in the industry relating to chemicals that are allowed into homes and more transparency so consumers can become aware of the dangers.
Environmental scientist and National Toxics Network co-ordinator Jo Immig said everything from our carpets to our computers contained toxic chemicals that could cause a raft of illnesses and behavioural disorders, particularly among children.
Among the most harmful toxins she identified are: perfluorochemicals (found in stain resistant chemicals in carpets, upholstery and some clothing) that have been found to be potentially carcinogenic and risky for pregnant women; brominated flame retardants (found in electrical goods such as computers and televisions) that have been linked to cancer and reproductive damage; and lead (found in old paint in many homes and in some imported products, such as toys) that has been linked to learning disabilities and behavioural disorders.
Then there is triclosan (found in products labelled ’’antibacterial’’, including wipes, shower curtains, even toothpaste) that has been linked to hormonal abnormalities and a weakening of the immune system; and formaldehyde (found in building materials such as chipboard) that is a known carcinogen.
‘’We need to tighten up our national standard,’’ Ms Immig said. ‘’Currently, the regulator is a toothless tiger. It does not have the power to do anything. The Government is taking the approach where they are leaving it up to the market to self-regulate and we are the guinea pigs. It is outrageous that people need a PhD in chemistry before they can buy a product.’’
Ms Immig said children today had ‘’much higher’’ levels of such toxic chemicals in their systems compared with their grandparents.
‘’In some instances, they are born with those chemicals in their bodies because their parents are living in a soup of those chemicals before they are even conceived,’’ she said.
Organic Federation of Australia chairman Andre Leu called for an overhaul of the industry, saying that there should be the same level of scrutiny for household and personal care products as there was for food and drink.
‘’Dermal absorption through the skin, in many cases, can be worse than actual swallowing or eating food,’’ Mr Leu said. ‘’The other route [of absorption] is breathing them in and that applies to a lot of cleaning products.’’
Malcolm Rands, a New Zealand farmer who founded organic brand Ecostore in 1993, said the average household used up to 30 different cleaning and personal care products containing harmful toxins.
‘’It is the wild, wild west and the whole of humanity is being used as guinea pigs,’’ he said.
A spokesman for the Government regulator for industrial chemicals, the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme, said the body must be notified of all new industrial chemicals, including ingredients in household products, prior to import or manufacture.
He said regulatory action had been taken on three types of brominated flame retardant in 2001, while the use of perfluoros had been monitored since 2002 and a restriction on lead in industrial paints was made effective on January 1, this year.
Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said the consumer group would examine the issue of chemicals in homes and industry disclosure.
Families at risk
An investigation into the home of the Hendersons was enough to make the family’s skin crawl.
Eco-campaigner Malcolm Rands identified hundreds of potentially dangerous chemicals inside their Marrickville house.
They included parabens (‘’mimics female hormones and linked to breast cancer’‘), optical whiteners (’‘upsets immune system and kills fish’‘) and sodium lauryl sulfate (’‘strips skin’s protective oils’’).
Homes Turned Into Toxic Zones
Mariann Lloyd-Smith and Jo Immig
October 23, 2007
Few people know that most chemicals used in everyday products have never been thoroughly tested for their long-term health effects and may never be. With more than 80,000 chemicals present worldwide, in everything from children’s toys to furniture, and more than 1000 new chemical compounds introduced each year, individually assessing chemicals is no longer feasible.
In short, we need a new paradigm to guide the way chemicals are regulated.
Basic toxicology teaches that “the dose makes the poison” but what gets overlooked is that we are not just exposed to individual chemicals. The primordial soup we now spring from is contaminated with a multitude of manufactured chemicals that are foreign to our genes and evolutionary detoxification mechanisms.
Some manufactured chemicals have proven to be persistent and accumulative, such as DDT and dioxin, which forever swirl around in the air and water and end up in our food, clothing and shelter. Our homes are no longer safe havens and are among some of the most polluted places we’ll find ourselves in.
Studies which measure chemicals in our blood, fat and breast milk reveal an alarming array of chemicals at unprecedented levels, with children having higher levels than their grandparents in some instances. Despite bland reassurances that these levels are only “small”, things can only get worse if new chemicals are constantly introduced and older ones keep concentrating up the food chain.
Exposing children to chemicals can result in learning disabilities and behavioural disorders, asthma, autism, cancer, dysfunctional immune systems and reproductive disorders, the World Health Organisation says. Babies are constantly exposed to hazardous chemicals from the moment of conception and are born with hundreds of synthetic chemicals in their small bodies.
It’s a sobering thought that breast milk, the most precious source of nutrition and protection for the next generation, couldn’t be sold if it were a product because of contamination with banned bio-accumulative chemicals.
Growing international concern over the health effects of exposure to chemicals, particularly in children, is galvanising global action on chemical pollution. Australia is still using the risk-management model espoused by the United States to regulate chemicals rather than the precautionary approach underpinning new European Union legislation, which will ultimately lead to the quick removal of dangerous chemicals in favour of safer and greener ones.
Taking a precautionary approach requires effective regulation and incentives for green chemistry, regular bio-monitoring and rapid removal of dangerous chemicals. At present questionable chemicals are treated as innocent until proven guilty, which, as we’ve seen with substances such as tobacco and asbestos, can take a long time, with a great deal of damage done in the meantime.
Against this backdrop, industry is poised to introduce even more novel chemicals into the environment via nanotechnology, genetic engineering and new polymers, which has health professionals and the broader community asking if Australia’s fragmented regulatory system is up to the task of protecting us.
Recent incidents with imported toys and blankets with dangerously high levels of chemicals illustrate the difficulty of regulating in a global marketplace, which is made more complicated by the fact that Australian regulators have little, if any, regulatory control over chemical components in imported products.
One group of chemicals that clearly highlights the failings of government agencies to protect the health of its people and environment are the perfluorochemicals, a group of chemicals used in products such as non-stick cookware, stain- and grease-resistant treatments, building products and electronic processing equipment. Little is known about the health or environmental effects of perfluorochemicals, but we already know some can cause tumours and reproductive damage and are toxic to the immune system. Importantly, these chemicals do not break down or degrade.
Dubbed “poisons without passports”, perfluorochemicals now travel the globe on air and water currents and become widespread throughout the environment, contaminating wildlife far from sources of production and use.
Levels of some perfluorochemicals have been doubling every five to eight years in polar bears, for instance.
These emissions join other toxic chemicals given off by consumer products and contaminating the dust and air in our homes, as well as the wastewater we flush away. Effluents released into rivers from municipal wastewater treatment plants are contaminated with many persistent toxic compounds originating from the products we use.
It’s time regulators took the health and environmental threats of chemical pollution seriously. Rather than the current obsession with reducing the regulatory burden and improving efficiencies for the chemical industry, we need an entirely new focus, one where the protection of public health and the environment are the centrepiece of chemical regulation.
Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith is co-chair of the International POPs Elimination Network and senior adviser to the National Toxics Network. Jo Immig is co-ordinator of the National Toxics Network and author of The Toxic Playground and Safer Solutions.
Slow Chemical Death by Rubber Duck
April 17, 2010
COULD that innocent-looking rubber duck, bobbing quietly in the bathtub, eventually kill you?
This is not a question often broached, but two Canadian environmentalists set out to answer it and found deadly but invisible toxins lurking in the most mundane places.
Mattresses, frying pans, shampoo bottles and dozens of other household objects all contain traces of synthetic chemicals which build up in the human body, slowly crippling health and very likely accounting for rising levels of asthma, attention deficit disorder, fertility problems and many other afflictions.
Environmental researchers Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie investigated the phenomenon after finding elevated levels of synthetic toxins in more than 100 people – or almost everyone they tested.
‘’The first questions all of our test subjects asked us was, ’How did these chemicals get inside me and how can I get them out?’‘’ Mr Smith said. ’’The level of concern about everyday pollutants is growing fast.’’
The result of their studies is a book called Slow Death by Rubber Duck, which became an instant bestseller in Canada and is striking a chord with readers in Australia, Europe and the US. The pair will speak at the Sydney Writers’ Festival next month.
To test their theory that people are being exposed to dangerous levels of synthetic hormone disruptors simply by living ordinary lives, the authors took the step of using their own bodies as laboratories. They sat in rooms breathing in air contaminated by furniture stain remover, repeatedly brushed their teeth and ate tins of tuna. Blood and urine tests showed their bodies soaking up disturbing amounts of chemicals.
‘’My wife thought I was a bit mad,’’ Mr Smith said. ‘’But in reality it wasn’t that dangerous – the one rule of all our experiments is that they had to actually mimic activities that hundreds of millions of people do every day in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe.’’
The rubber ducks of the book’s title have become a symbol of the struggle against unsafe levels of some chemicals in children’s toys. The book’s findings are being contested by pharmaceutical companies and other industries in the US and Canada.
‘’There are class actions already starting to take place,’’ said Mr Lourie. ‘’I think we’re going to see a pretty significant movement against these types of pollution developing in the next five years.’
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