Terrible Toxins 1
Competency # 18 TOXINS
Reference: The Body Toxic by Nena Baker, Published by Farrar, Strauss 2008
Ever heard the phrase, “Better Living Through Chemistry?” Of course you have. I’ve said it many times to myself as I gulp a Tylenol for a sore back. Have you ever been concerned that some of our chemicals may not be safe? Have you heard about persistent chemicals that remain in your body and have long-term effects? I want to learn this stuff so that I can keep my body safe and my family protected from hazards. What are the hazards? Here goes a series on toxins. I’ll give you the basic concepts first.
First of all, what’s a toxin. A poison, right? Take cyanide and in a few minutes you are dead because it poisons your cell’s ability to use energy. The dose is the problem. The larger the dose, the faster you get in trouble. Same with snake venom, or carbon monoxide. Get enough of it and you get much sicker, faster. That’s not the whole truth. If you focus on dose alone, you will miss some key concepts you need to understand. Toxins can act in other ways. They can change your gene action by acting like one of your hormones. In that way, you aren’t exactly poisoned in a few minutes, but down the road bad things happen to you because of hormone action. That’s called endocrine disruption. The chemical involved may not be used as a hormone, but its long-term action may result in a hormone-like effect on you.
Secondly, there is bioaccumulation. Some chemicals get concentrated up the food chain. That’s how DDT got us in trouble. It was sprayed on crops to kill pests. It got into the water supply, was absorbed by tiny organisms that were then eaten by larger and larger fish or insects or birds until eventually it got to the top of the food chain and had extremely toxic effects. Wisconsin almost lost all its eagles because DDT made the egg shells become too thin and break easily. Banning DDT saved our eagles.
Aren’t we meant to be protected by our government? Well, yes, we thought so. But we aren’t. In fact, the well-intentioned TSCA (Toxic Substance Control Act) of 1976 gave the FDA supposed authority to review the 62,000 chemicals that we are all exposed to everyday. The devil was in the details: language that said that the FDA could not act unless the FDA could show that the benefits of restriction outweigh the costs of such restriction on business and society. And chemical companies were not required to find out if their chemicals were toxic. The burden of proof was on the FDA to find it, and then prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. And as a result, the FDA has not banned one chemical since 1989. So 62,000 chemicals got grandfathered in with no testing at all. We have to find problems, one by one.
Europe is now doing it differently. Their new legislation is called REACH. What it requires is that chemical companies may sell a chemical only if they can prove it is safe first. The onus is on the chemical company to prove it. Not the FDA to find it after the fact. It’s brilliant. We are behind in America. Is that a problem? Big time!
WWW: What Will Work for Me? I thought I was being protected. I’m not. More about this next week. We need to learn this together. It’s you in the crosshairs…