It’s Your Health: A look at environmental toxins - Part III

Most of us are storing between 400 to 800 chemicals in our bodies, mainly in fat cells. Last week I discussed menacing neurotoxins— those most detrimental to the brain— but many other hazardous toxins have short and long-term effects such as:

*Hormonal imbalance, enzyme dysfunction, altered metabolism

*Reproductive and endocrine disorders

*Nutritional deficiencies and obesity

*Headaches, fatigue, muscle and vision complications

*Low stress tolerance

*Allergies and asthma


The following ubiquitous toxins are possibly permeating our air, food, and water:

*Asbestos: Unfortunately, not yet eradicated, this insulating material was a staple from the 1950s through the 1970s. When old material crumbles it releases contaminative fibers into the air.

Risks: Lung scarring, cancer, mesothelioma (a rare form of cancer).

Source: Old insulation in ceilings, floors, heating ducts, and water pipes.

*Chlorine: This yellow-green highly toxic gas is heavily used.

Risks: Skin and eye irritation, coughing, wheezing, sore throat, rapid breathing, lung fluid, pain in the lung area, lung collapse, critical eye and skin burns, bluish skin color, reactive airways dysfunction syndrome or RADS, a form of asthma.

Source: Small amounts in drinking water, household cleaners, and air if you live near a place that uses chlorine in industrial processes (paper plant).

*Chloroform: A sweet taste and non-irritating odor mask this colorless liquid that is used to make other chemicals. It’s also formed when chlorine is added to water.

Risks: Headache, dizziness, fatigue, reproductive damage and birth defects, cancer, liver and kidney damage.

Source: Food, drinking water and air could contain chloroform.

*PCBS (Polychlorinated Biphenyls): An industrial chemical banned in America for decades, an organic pollutant still alive in our environment.

Risks: Impaired fetal brain development and cancer.

Source: Farm-raised salmon that are fed meals of ground-up fish that have absorbed PCBs from the environment.

*Dioxins: The combustion process of commercial and municipal waste incineration, burning fuels such as coal, wood, or oil, form these chemical compounds.

Risks: Skin rashes and discoloration, chloracne (acne-like lesions compound this serious skin disease), excessive body hair, reproductive and developmental afflictions, mild liver damage.

Source: Over 95 percent is from eating commercial animal fats.

*Phthalates: These chemicals soften plastics and extend the life of fragrances.

Risks: Endocrine system damage.

Source: Plastic wrap, plastic bottles, plastic food storage products. All can leach phthalates into our food.

*VOCS (Volatile Organic Compounds): VOCS are a primary contributing factor to ozone (a colorless unstable gas with a pungent odor and powerful oxidizing properties). The Environmental Protection Agency thinks VOCS tend to be higher in indoor air than outdoor air, probably since they are in so many household products.

Risks: Headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, memory impairment, cancer.

Source: Cosmetics, deodorants, air fresheners, dry cleaned clothing, moth repellents, varnishes, carpet, paints, cleaning fluids, and drinking water.

*Mold and other fungal toxins: One in three people have an allergic reaction to mold. Mycotoxins (fungal toxins) can cause a plethora of health maladies with minimal exposure.

Risks: Asthma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, cancer.

Source: Contaminated buildings, various foods such as wheat, corn, peanuts, and alcoholic beverages.

It is impossible to avoid all environmental toxins, however, you can limit your exposure.


Kay Sager is a certified fitness and aquatic specialist living at Port of the Islands. She is a personal trainer using land and water fitness and teaches swimming. She also has written articles for Physician and Sports Medicine among other publications. Kay can be reached by e-mail:

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