What images come to your mind when you first hear the word “toxin”? For most, it is likely to be along the lines of these images:
It might be surprising, then, that the most typical and abundant sources of toxins in our lives most closely resemble the images below:
The EPA states that “a toxic substance means any chemical or mixture that may be harmful to the environment and to human health if inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin.”
- Inhalation: Poor outdoor air-quality results from carbon monoxide gas from motor vehicle exhaust to sulphur dioxide released from factories, just to name a few (the list could be endless!). Poor indoor air-quality is a result of toxic chemicals found in products and furnishings in the home (or office or wherever else), from VOCs off-gassed from paints and household cleaners to fire retardants in furniture and carpeting. These toxins enter our bodies when we breathe this polluted air.
- Consumption: Pesticides on produce, preservatives and chemical additives in processed foods and drinks, and contaminants (everything from chlorine, ammonia and prescription medications) in drinking water enter our bodies daily.
- Absorption: Many toxins are absorbed through the skin as a result of direct application of personal care items (deodorant, shampoo, etc.) and household cleaners (on accident, I hope!). Others, such as fire retardants in home furnishings and mattresses, are also absorbed by the skin through indirect contact.
As a result, the average adult body contains over 700 chemicals. This is known as “body burden.” Some of these chemicals are even passed from mothers to babies in-vitro, and most newborn babies have over 200 chemicals already in their bodies (even though they have yet to come into direct contact with any of the sources of these toxins!).
Some of these chemicals have very very scary health implications, from cancer to birth defects to ADHD. Many others have not been studied in depth, which is even more troubling.