Common Toxicants & Symptoms
Sources of Toxicants and Their Common Symptoms
Many people are not aware that most of the chemicals that we are exposed to on a daily basis can have a significant effect on their health and how they feel. This is especially true once we look at the combined effect of multiple chemical exposures in a single day from things like:
- Pesticides, mercury, and arsenic in our food
- Phthalates and parabens in our personal care products and perfumes
- Solvents in cleaning products and from off-gassing of new furniture and carpets
- BPA and other plastics from water bottles, receipts, canned foods
The pertinent question to ask is “how do these common everyday exposures relate to your health and how you feel?
The following is a short summary of some of the common conditions and/or symptoms that research has shown to be linked to these exposures. Each of these chemicals has many varied effects on multiple systems in our body, and everyday new research is being published further expanding our knowledge in this area.
BPA & BPS
These group of chemicals are commonly found in plastic products, water and baby bottles, receipts, linings of tin cans and children’s toys.
BPA is a known hormone (estrogen) disruptor, and has been shown to significantly increase the risk of cancers (especially estrogen related cancers, such as breast, uterine, etc.), as well as other hormonally related conditions. Interestingly, it also has been associated with increased allergy/hay-fever diagnoses, and is officially labeled as an obesogen (a substance that increases weight gain).
Phthalates are commonly found in ‘soft plastics’ and a lot of personal care products, such as perfumes (anything with a fragrance added to it), skin lotions, shampoos, air fresheners, medications, nail polish, saran wrap, and any other flexible plastics (such as gloves).
Phthalates are another well-documented endocrine (hormone) disruptor with an estrogenic effect, as well as being an obesegen. These are especially more potent when exposure is to multiple types of phthalates (which is actually the norm in our society). They are linked to hormone related cancers as well as the feminization of men in early development, or even later in life as research finding that they may lower testosterone levels in young healthy males.
Heavy metals – Mercury, Lead, Arsenic
Heavy metals are abundant in our environment, from the air that we breathe, the food that we eat, to the water that we drink. For example, smoke (e.g. cigarette, fireplace smoke) is very high in mercury and cadmium, tuna and other fish are high in mercury, farmed chicken in arsenic, and lead from old water pipes or old homes where lead paint was used in the past.
Heavy metals are usually strong neurotoxic agents. For example, low grade but chronic mercury toxicity causes symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog/lack of concentration, anxiety, pain syndromes, and insomnia. Both lead and mercury have been linked to some development of early dementia such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Some metals may also play a role in conditions such as ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Cadmium acts more like an estrogen/hormone disruptor, leading to increased risk of estrogen related cancers.
All heavy metals strongly negatively affect energy production in the mitochondria of your cells, and as a result, fatigue is one of the primary symptoms to appear.
Solvents are another very common category of chemicals to which we are all exposed. Solvents are most commonly found in cleaning agents, off gassing of new furniture, carpets, paints, gasoline, styrofoam, and cigarette smoke. Alcohol is also a solvent.
Solvents are very toxic to our neurons. Solvent exposure can present with symptoms such as dizziness, brain fog/lack of concentration, anxiety, skin rashes, numbness and tingling, and headaches. They are also immuno-disruptors and are linked to both autoimmune conditions, as well as immune-suppression causing frequent or more rare infections.
One of the most common groups of pesticides used today are organophosphate pesticides and can be found on many of the most common foods that we eat, such as apples, cucumbers, bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, grapes, kale and collard greens, tomatoes, and potatoes.
These chemicals have been found to be neurotoxic, similar to solvents. They are linked to certain types of cancers such as lymphomas, as well as neurodevelopment conditions such as ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder. They can also cause some symptoms such as dizziness, lack of concentration/brain fog, pain syndromes, and fatigue.
Chlorinated pesticides were first used after World War II in agriculture and have been banned in the 70’s and 80’s due to their persistence in the environment and animals. An example of widely know chlorinated pesticide is DDT. These type of toxicants are stored in fatty tissues and undergo biomagnification through the food chain over the years. Exposure can occur through food, contaminated water, soil and house dust, bioaccumulation from mother, or direct skin contact.
Chlorinated pesticides can cause a variety of health problems, as they are hormone disruptors and neurotoxic. They are linked with hormone related cancers, neurological degeneration like Parkinson’s disease and dementia, and also developmental concerns.
PCBs and Dioxins
PCBs were extensively used until 1977 at which point use of such products were stopped due to significant health concerns and the accumulation of PCBs in the environment. These are in a category of toxins known as POPs (persistent organic pollutants) – meaning that they do not easily break down in the environment and undergo biomagnification in the food chain. Once they enter an organism, they do not clear readily and get concentrated up the food chain in this manner. These are most commonly found in foods that are high in animal fat, such as meats, fish, and dairy products.
PCBs have been shown to have a wide reaching effect on our health ranging from fetal developmental problems leading to learning disabilities, lower IQ, reduced motor function, and hyperactivity, to cancers, immunotoxicity, and hormone disruption (thyroid and estrogen related conditions such as endometriosis)
Mold and Mycotoxins
Mold is more common than most people realize in our homes, schools and workspaces. Research has shown that possibly up to 40% of homes have significant levels of mold growth. For the few individuals who are hypersensitive to mold (due to their genetics or total body burden), these places can be the primary cause of their mysterious and chronic health symptoms.
Common symptoms of mold include chronic cough, weakened immune system, brain fog, memory loss, neuropathy, nosebleeds, sinusitis and congestion. Mold has also been shown to be linked with some autoimmune conditions.
Electric & Magnetic Fields (EMF) & Electro Magnetic Radiation (EMR)
EMF and EMR are found everywhere in our modern society. Every electronic and wireless device (e.g. wifi, cellphones) emit these fields and electromagnetic radiation. Research is slowly mounting up on the seriousness of health effects that these may have on biological tissues in the long term.
Common symptoms reported of EMF and EMR exposure by electrosensitive individuals are neurological in nature. Some research is further exploring the possible link between these exposures and some cancers.