Friday, March 2, 2012

Chemicals in our environment and our bodies

FoodFacts.com understands that people don’t want manmade chemicals in their bodies; we definitely don’t. To avoid unwanted chemicals (such as pesticides and heavy metals) in our bodies, we wash our fruits and vegetables to rid them of pesticides and avoid taking huge bites of lead (maybe only little ones). However, a report published by the CDC titled Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals shows the level of chemicals people have in their bodies. The latest report has 75 chemicals listed; some which may be surprising.

The Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals report measures the amount of chemicals in blood and urine from a sample group of people and over a number of years. They state that the chemicals they tested for may have found their way into the human body through air, dust, soil, water and food. It also shows if a population has more/less of a certain chemical in their system. For example, their toxicology report states “In the past 15 years, data show that blood cotinine levels for nonsmokers in the US population have decreased about 70%, indicating that public health interventions to reduce ETS exposure have been successful.” The same report also says bisphenol A (BPA), which is linked to reproductive toxicity, has been found 90% of the samples tested. Furthermore, the report states, “the measurement of an environmental chemical in a persons blood or urine does not by itself mean that the chemical causes disease.” While there might be traces of chemicals found in our system, which may or may not be causing harm, do we want them there at all?

For example, one of the herbacides, 2,4- D, was found in concentrations of 12.6 micrograms/L in samples in the 95th percentile. Pesticideinfo.org lists this chemical having moderate toxicity, a possible carcinogen and a suspected endocrine disrupter. Another chemical listed 1,4 dichlorobenzene (urinary 2,5 Dichlorophenol) was found in amounts of 473 micrograms/liter in samples in the 95th percentile. 1,4 dichlorobenzene is listed as a known carcinogen in California. So what can we do about this?

On the plus side, however, our bodies are amazing machines that can filter out chemicals that aren’t supposed to be there. Our bodies rid toxins from our system through waste elimination (feces/urine), but there are multiple organ systems at work – like our livers, kidneys, lungs as well as our colon (plus other systems, like our immune system). For those of us that want to keep chemicals in our bodies low, we can keep our organs running efficiently by taking a few simple measures.

Drinking plenty of (filtered) water to help our kidneys flush away toxins, keep caffeine, alcohol and processed foods to a minimum – the less your liver has to do, the better. Sweating also helps remove a trace amount of chemicals, so we can go ahead and add another benefit to exercising. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables for their vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber, which will help our immune system and keep a healthy colon. Remember to thoroughly wash your fruits and vegetables and/or buy organic when/if possible.

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