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Environmental Toxins and Your Health

Thinking about Earth Day has made me think recently about the toxic exposures that are sadly a part of each of our lives, and about the significance of toxins in health and wellness.

Each of us is exposed to hundreds and thousands of toxins: there are tens of thousands of chemicals produced in this country every year, and we are exposed to many of them.

Common sources of exposure include our food, household and outdoor products and personal care items. These include such items as plastic food storage containers and wraps, cans lined with BPA, pesticides in foods, phthalates in personal care items such as lotions, creams, cosmetics, soaps and shampoos.

Some of these chemicals, including BPA and the phthalate are known to be endocrine disruptors, meaning that they interfere with the normal functioning of our endocrine systems, affecting our hormones like estrogen, progesterone and thyroid. These chemicals accumulate and are stored in our fat cells, making it a challenge to get rid of them from the body.

One category of toxin, POPS (persistent organic pollutants) has been shown to have a strikingly high association with the development of Type II Diabetes.

Studies have shown the presence of many of these toxic chemicals in the majority of people studied.

So what should we do?

First, it is important to become aware of the sources of toxic exposure in your own environment and life, and to take steps to eliminate as much of the exposure as possible. A good place to start is with the Environmental Working Group ( They provide excellent information about ways to minimize one’s exposure to these chemicals.

When possible, buy organic foods that are not contaminated with pesticides. Avoid the use of plastic food containers, and do not microwave your food in plastic containers.

Take a good look at your personal care products, and begin to change them for brands that do not contain harmful chemicals.

Secondly, you may want to discuss detoxification with your physician. A healthy detox program should ideally be done in conjunction with your health care provider so that you can be supported in the process. No two people are the same, and the program needs to be tailored to address your individual conditions, concerns and needs. People who are less healthy may need a very gentle program to avoid making them quite ill during the detox process. An effective program will help remove the toxins in the healthiest way possible for you and help strengthen and support your body’s detox pathways. This can be done with foods, nutritional supplements and particular detox therapies, such as sauna.

I like to think about using Earth Day as a reminder to make a commitment to reduce our individual toxic load and body burden; taking these steps will be good for our health and good for the health of our planet.

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