5 Environmental Toxins To Avoid & What To Do If Exposed

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Unfortunately, it’s a sad fact of modern life that toxins are present almost everywhere in one form or another.

As a result, it’s near impossible to avoid all exposure but armed with knowledge you can go a long way towards minimising the impact on your body and health.

Even with growing consciousness about the hazards and dangers of many artificial chemically-based substances, for the most part, companies continue to include them as ingredients or in manufacturing processes and as a result, a large proportion of these not only end up in some of the products you buy but also into the environment.

Additionally, there are also threats originating from electromagnetic as well as biological sources which can be equally menacing to your health and wellbeing…

What are Environmental Toxins?

Environmental toxins are a broad name given to hazardous substances present in air, water, food and manufactured products. Although they often involve human-made chemicals they also include naturally-occurring compounds as well.

Although small doses of these substances might be classified as ‘safe’ by governing bodies, the reality is, and many studies are now concluding that prolonged exposure over time can lead to serious health consequences ranging from auto-immune issues to neurological disorders and cancer.

These substances and threats fall under several broad categories:

Endocrine Disruptors

These are typically chemicals that can negatively affect the body’s endocrine system and cause developmental, reproductive, neurological and immunity issues.

Carcinogens

A carcinogen is a substance either artificial or biological that can cause cancer or contribute towards it developing.

Learn more in Cancer-Causing Chemicals in Supermarket Foods

Biohazards

These include microorganisms, plants, animals or other biological materials and or their byproducts that can threaten the health or wellbeing of living organisms including humans.

EMF

Electromagnetic fields (EMF) emit radiation which can not only disrupt the natural functioning of your body’s biological processes but also negatively affect your moods and emotions.

1. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

VOCs is the name given to a group of carbon-based chemicals that evaporate and contaminate the air:

  • Acetone
  • Benzene
  • Ethylene glycol
  • Formaldehyde
  • Methylene chloride
  • Perchloroethylene
  • Toluene
  • Xylene

They can be encountered both indoors and outdoors.

Outdoor sources primarily come from motor vehicle emissions, industry and fires.

Whereas the ones most likely to be present indoors usually come from consumer products and common household materials. Off-gassing is a term commonly used to describe VOCs seeping off building materials, carpets and furniture.

As a result, indoor air quality is particularly affected. Compounding the issue is that many indoor environments are often totally enclosed or poorly ventilated meaning that levels can be up to 10 times higher than outside.

Symptoms and health effects depend on the VOCs present in an environment as well as the quantity breathed in, in addition to the duration of exposure.

Symptoms & Potential Health Issues

  • Asthma
  • Cognition & Memory Problems
  • Dizziness
  • Eye, nose & throat irritation
  • Headaches
  • Respiratory Issues

Common Sources

  • Motor Vehicle Emissions
  • Industry
  • Fires
  • Building materials
  • Paints & Varnish
  • Household Cleaning Products
  • Plastics
  • Cosmetics
  • Deodorants
  • Dry-cleaned clothes
  • Furniture
  • Bedding & mattresses

Tips To Protect Yourself & Reduce Exposure

  • Avoid aerosols & chemically-based cleaning products
  • Use plant-based personal care products
  • Leave a window open whenever possible, use ceiling fans or invest in an indoor air purifier
  • Allow plenty of time for paint to dry & leave new furniture outside for a few days to off-gas

2. Heavy Metals

Although often present in trace amounts, when exposed over time they tend to accumulate in the body which can cause serious problems.

There are 4 heavy metals in particular classified as ‘systemic toxicants’ that even at low levels of exposure can adversely affect cells and body systems, leading to DNA damage, organ failure and a host of other health issues:

Arsenic

Common Sources: Pesticides & industry

Symptoms & Health Issues: Headaches, drowsiness, confusion, seizure, nerve damage, gastrointestinal issues, anaemia, hypertension

Cadmium

Common Sources: Electrical batteries, vapour lamps & solder

Symptoms & Health Issues: Fatigue, nausea, vomiting, fever, respiratory issues, elevated heartbeat, kidney & liver issues

Lead

Common Sources: Deteriorated paint, industry, batteries, certain pipes & plumbing materials, petrol

Symptoms & Health Issues: Abdominal, muscle & joint pains, headaches, nausea, vomiting, seizures

Mercury

Common Sources: Dental amalgams, fish & shellfish, vaccines (containing Thimerosal)

Symptoms & Health Issues: Anxiety, depression or nervousness, irritability or mood swings, tremors, insomnia, weakness, twitching, headaches, thyroid dysfunction

Tips to Protect Yourself & Reduce Exposure

Although not as prevalent as they used to be in industry, pharmaceuticals and dentistry the biggest threat these days tends to come from older products or accumulations in the environment such as water and soil in certain areas or seafood so do your best to avoid these potentially contaminated sources.

3. Molds & Mycotoxins

Despite molds being naturally occurring organisms, certain types of this fungus can definitely be considered biohazards.

Molds are commonly found indoors, especially in damp or water damaged environments.

Mycotoxin is the name given to toxins excreted by certain types of molds in the form of spores which can trigger inflammation, allergies and immune dysfunction in many people and pets.

One particular type is the most notorious for causing often debilitating symptoms and health concerns - Stachybotrys chartarum, also commonly referred to as “toxic black mold”.

Greenish or black in colour, this mold will often grow on wood or wood product surfaces which contain cellulose.

Symptoms & Potential Health Issues

  • Autoimmune Responses
  • Aches & Pains
  • Blurred Vision
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Concentration & Memory Issues
  • Confusion & Disorientation
  • Excessive Sweating & Night Sweats
  • Headaches
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Joint & Muscle Stiffness or Weakness
  • Learning & Memory Issues
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Metallic Taste in Mouth
  • Mood Swings
  • Numbness, Tingling or Tremors
  • Red Eyes
  • Sinus Issues

Common Sources

  • Bathrooms
  • Basements
  • Ceilings
  • Cupboards & Wardrobes
  • Kitchens
  • Leaky buildings

Tips to Protect Yourself & Reduce Exposure

If you discover toxic black mold in your living or work environment the best thing you can do is remove yourself from the environment until the source of the water damage or damage can be addressed. It’s also recommended to get professional mold removers in.

If you do it yourself make sure you wear a respirator and facemask and cover all parts of your body to avoid contact with the spores. The following natural substances are effective at cleaning up black mold when combined and diluted with water:

4. Pesticides & Herbicides

By design, pesticides and herbicide are designed to kill biological organisms and as a result are toxic to humans as well!

Aside from the residue affecting most commercial produce, the use of pesticides in the environment is also potentially harmful as they can contaminate both the air and soil.

The risks are elevated if you administer them yourself, live close to an area where they are used, or come into regular contact with the sprayed areas.

The dangers or regular exposure have recently come to light as the result of a groundskeeper in the U.S.A. being awarded a huge sum of punitive damages after successfully suing a major pesticide manufacturer. The case alleged that his constant exposure to their product caused his terminal cancer and a lot of scientific evidence supported this claim.

Symptoms & Potential Health Issues

  • Blurry Vision
  • Contracted Eye Pupils
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive Sweating & Salivation
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea

Tips to Protect Yourself & Reduce Exposure

  • Avoid areas that have recently been sprayed such as farms, orchards, gardens and public parks
  • Eat only organic produce or rinse conventional produce with water and Apple Cider Vinegar

Learn more in Organic Versus Non-Organic

5. Electromagnetic Radiation

Due to the rapid pace of technological development especially in the for information and communication technologies (ICT) our modern world has been inundated with both electrical equipment and electromagnetic fields in the form of radio waves and wireless communication networks.

There’s a lot of research indicating that magnetic fields from electrical sources such as power lines, wiring, appliances and mobile devices and networks can negatively impact the human body and cause long-term health concerns.

Recently a lot of attention has been given to a new generation of cellular mobile communication technology called 5G. There are legitimate concerns that the radio wave frequency that it uses is particularly disruptive to the human body and its systems.

Symptoms & Potential Health Issues

  • Sleep Issues
  • Tinnitus
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Compromised Immunity
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches or sense of pressure
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Irritability & Mood Swings
  • Anxiety & Depression
  • Skin Irritations & Rashes

Common Sources

  • Cell Towers
  • Household Appliances
  • Microwave Ovens
  • Mobile Phones
  • Power Transmission Lines
  • TV, Computer & Digital Screens
  • X-ray Systems
  • Ultrasound Equipment
  • WiFi

Tips to Protect Yourself & Reduce Exposure

  • Turn off your mobile and wifi while sleeping
  • Limit screen time & use of electrical devices

Other Tips

There are many more environmental toxins and threats in addition to these 5.

It may seem like they’re inescapable and insidious but the truth is every step you take to reduce your exposure along with embracing the 7 Principles of Health will contribute to helping your body to detoxify.

Ensure you're getting plenty of clean, moving outside air as much possible away from toxic environments.

At home, ensure the windows are open allowing the air to circulate regularly.  Always sleep with the windows cracked and/or with a ceiling or box fan which will ensure you're breathing electrified air when you sleep. 

If you work in an office where the windows don't open, as often as you can, get outside for 5 minutes and breathe some clean, moving air.  This will oxygenate your cells and restore your focus. 

Learn more in 5 Signs You Need To Do A Detox Cleanse & Where To Start

Once you’ve taken steps to minimise and reduce your exposure its recommended to then do some form of detox cleanse to get as many of the toxic substances out of your body and give it a chance to recover and heal.

For more information about the options, see our Detox & Heal section.

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