There are many articles on the internet debunking detoxification. I agree that many of the fad diets and products out there may not do much to detoxify the body. But many of these articles say there is no proof that toxins stay in the body. This blog is quoting various government agencies and scientific articles to show that this is not true: toxins can stay in the body and cause harm.
The New York State Department of Health website states the following:
What is a toxic substance?A toxic substance is a substance that can be poisonous or cause health effects. People are generally concerned about chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxin which can be found at some hazardous waste sites. Products that we use daily, such as household cleaners, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, gasoline, alcohol, pesticides, fuel oil and cosmetics, can also be toxic. Any chemical can be toxic or harmful under certain conditions.
Health effects: toxic or hazardous?Chemicals can be toxic because they can harm us when they enter or contact the body. Exposure to a toxic substance such as gasoline can affect your health. Since drinking gasoline can cause burns, vomiting, diarrhea and, in very large amounts, drowsiness or death, it is toxic...
ToxicitySome substances are more toxic than others. The toxicity of a substance is described by the types of effects it causes and its potency.
- Types of Effects: Different chemicals cause different effects. For example, Chemical A may cause vomiting, but not cancer. Chemical B may have no noticeable effects during exposure, but may cause cancer years later.
- Potency: Potency (strength) is a measure of a
chemical's toxicity. A more potent chemical is more toxic. For example,
sodium cyanide is more potent than sodium chloride (table salt) since
swallowing a smaller amount of cyanide can poison you.
The potency and, therefore, the toxicity of a chemical can be
affected by its breakdown within the human body. When a substance is
absorbed into the body, its chemical structure may be changed or
metabolized to a substance that is more toxic or less toxic. For
example, carbon tetrachloride, once a commonly used solvent, is changed
by the body into a more toxic chemical that causes liver damage. For
some other chemicals, metabolism changes the chemical into a form that
is more easily eliminated by the body.
- Exposure: A chemical can cause health effects only when it contacts or enters the body.
- Routes of Exposure: Exposure to a substance can occur by inhalation, ingestion or direct contact...
- Dose: The amount of a substance that enters or
contacts a person is called a dose. An important consideration in
evaluating a dose is body weight. If a child is exposed to the same
amount of chemical as an adult, the child (who weighs less) can be
affected more than the adult. For example, children are given smaller
amounts of aspirin than adults because an adult dose is too large for a
child's body weight.
The greater the amount of a substance a person is exposed to, the
more likely that health effects will occur. Large amounts of a
relatively harmless substance can be toxic. For example, two aspirin
tablets can help to relieve a headache, but taking an entire bottle of
aspirin can cause stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, convulsions
- Exposure medium: Exposure to chemicals occurs when
we breathe, eat or touch soil, water, food or air that contains
chemicals. The amount of a chemical in the medium is called its
concentration... A person's dose can be determined by multiplying the concentration of
the chemical times the amount of the water, air, food or soil that a
person takes in. For example, the average adult drinks about 2 liters
(roughly quarts) of water and breathes about 20 cubic meters (roughly
cubic yards) of air a day. If drinking water contains 1 milligram of
lead per liter, then the person would take in a total of 2 milligrams of
lead in a day.
- Length of exposure: Short-term exposure is called
acute exposure. Long-term exposure is called chronic exposure. Either
may cause health effects that are immediate or health effects that may
not occur for some time.
Acute exposure is a short contact with a chemical. It may last a few
seconds or a few hours. For example, it might take a few minutes to
clean windows with ammonia, use nail polish remover or spray a can of
paint. The fumes someone might inhale during these activities are
examples of acute exposures.
Chronic exposure is continuous or repeated contact with a toxic substance over a long period of time (months or years). If a chemical is used every day on the job, the exposure would be chronic. Over time, some chemicals, such as PCBs and lead, can build up in the body and cause long-term health effects. Chronic exposures can also occur at home. Some chemicals in household furniture, carpeting or cleaners can be sources of chronic exposure.
Chemicals leaking from landfills (dumps) can enter the groundwater and contaminate nearby wells or seep into basements. Unless preventive measures are taken, people may be exposed for a long time to chemicals from their drinking water or indoor air.
SensitivityAll people are not equally sensitive to chemicals, and are not affected by them in the same way. There are many reasons for this.
- People's bodies vary in their ability to break down or eliminate certain chemicals due to genetic differences.
- People may become allergic to a chemical after being exposed. Then they may react to very low levels of the chemical and have different or more serious health effects than nonallergic people exposed to the same amount. People who are allergic to bee venom, for example, have a more serious reaction to a bee sting than people who are not allergic.
- Factors such as age, illness, diet, alcohol use, pregnancy and medical or nonmedical drug use can also affect a person's sensitivity to a chemical. Young children are often more sensitive to chemicals for a number of reasons. Their bodies are still developing and they cannot get rid of some chemicals as well as adults. Also, children absorb greater amounts of some chemicals (such as lead) into their blood than adults...
What can happen if you are exposed to a chemical?A chemical exposure can produce a health effect directly at the site of contact (local) or elsewhere in the body (systemic), and that effect can be either immediate or delayed.
- Area of the Body Affected: Chemicals can affect any system in the
body, including respiratory (nose, air passages and lungs), digestive
(mouth, throat, stomach, etc.), circulatory (heart, blood), nervous
(brain, nerve cells) and reproductive (sperm, egg, etc.). Some
chemicals, like acids, are nonspecific and cause damage on direct
contact. Other chemicals, like gasoline, can be absorbed into the blood,
and carried throughout the body. Some chemicals affect only certain
target systems or target organs.
Every organ system has different functions and physical
characteristics. So the effect of chemicals on each system has to be
evaluated slightly differently. As an example, consider three ways that
chemicals can affect one system: the reproductive system.
First, chemical exposure can affect a man's or woman's reproductive system by making the production of normal sperm or eggs more difficult.
Second, the chemical may act directly on an unborn baby (fetus). Since chemicals can be transferred from the mother's blood to the unborn baby's blood, the fetus can be affected when the mother is exposed to certain chemicals. A pregnant woman who drinks alcohol can have a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome. The health effects can range from birth defects to learning disabilities.
And finally, some chemicals can have indirect effects on the development of the fetus. For example, smoking during pregnancy can reduce the amount of oxygen to the fetus. The lack of oxygen can affect the baby's growth.
Not all chemical exposures affect reproduction, but it is best to minimize exposure to all toxic substances during pregnancy.
- When Health Effects Will Occur Immediate health effects happen right
away. They can occur directly at the site of contact or elsewhere in
the body. For example, inhaled ammonia can irritate the linings of the
nose, throat and lungs. Alcohol can cause dizziness. Immediate health
effects are sometimes reversible and may disappear soon after the
exposure stops. However, some immediate health effects do not go away;
acute exposure to a corrosive substance, such as battery acid, may cause
permanent damage to skin or eyes.
Delayed health effects may take months or years to appear and can
result from either acute or chronic exposure to a toxic substance. The
delay between the exposure and the appearance of health effects is
called the latency period. Delayed health effects can be reversible or
permanent. Permanent effects don't go away when the exposure stops. For
example, breathing asbestos over a period of time may cause lung
disease. Once the lung disease begins, it will continue even if the
exposure stops or decreases.
Cancer is an example of a delayed health effect. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells in the body. There are many kinds of cancer. Cancer can be caused by a number of things, including exposure to toxic substances, ultraviolet sunlight and ionizing radiation. Exposure to some chemicals, such as benzene and asbestos, can produce cancer in humans. Some chemicals produce cancer in animals, but whether they will in humans is unknown. Because cancer may not appear until 5 to 40 years after exposure, determining the cause of cancer is difficult.
What you know can help you!
Protect YourselfEven though chemicals we use or are exposed to every day can be toxic, you can protect yourself and your family from chemical exposures. No matter how toxic a substance may be, if you are not exposed to the substance, it cannot affect your health. The important rule to remember is: minimize your exposure.
- Before you use a product, read the label carefully and follow the instructions. Pay attention to warnings on the label.
- Use proper ventilation. Ventilation means getting fresh air into your home or workplace. When using strong chemicals, open your doors and windows whenever the weather permits. When you use a toxic chemical indoors, you may wish to blow air out the window with a fan. Have another window or door open to let fresh air into the room. If you use chemicals in your hobbies, use them outdoors or in a well- ventilated area away from your living space.
- Wear appropriate protective gloves when handling chemicals. If you use substances that are harmful to breathe (like fiberglass which can lodge in the lungs), use an appropriate mask.
- Store chemicals safely and out of the reach of children. Label all containers and do not store liquids in commonly used household containers such as soda bottles or food cans.
- If clothes become soiled while handling chemicals, change the clothes as soon as possible to reduce exposure. Wash soiled clothes separately; then run the machine through a rinse cycle to clean it before washing more clothes.
- If you must use a toxic substance, buy only the amount needed so there will be less material left for storage or disposal.
- Try to avoid using a toxic substance. If that is not possible, choose products that have less toxic ingredients. For example, water-based paints are generally less toxic than oil-based paints.
- Indoor air can contain chemicals from outside air, soil or water. Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, can affect your health. It enters homes through holes or cracks in basement floors or walls. Learn how to test for radon. If the radon levels in your home are elevated, take corrective steps as soon as possible.
- Drinking water can contain harmful chemicals. Lead can leach from (dissolve out of) lead pipes or lead solder. Reduce the amount of lead in your water by using cold water and by running the water for a minute or two before using it for drinking or cooking. Filters can take out some chemicals from drinking water. Filters should only be used when necessary; be sure that the one you use takes out the chemical you are concerned about, and maintain the filters regularly.
- If you are concerned about chemicals in water, indoor air, household
products, landfills or factories, the following agencies may be able to
provide information and assistance:
- your local county or city health department, or a district office of the New York State Department of Health;
- your regional office of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation;
- the New York State Department of Health's Center for Environmental Health. To contact the Center, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 518-402-7800 and leave your name, telephone number and a brief message. Department of Health staff will respond promptly to your call.
Heavy Metals and the Environment
Heavy metals are naturally occurring elements that have a high atomic weight and a density at least 5 times greater than that of water. Their multiple industrial, domestic, agricultural, medical and technological applications have led to their wide distribution in the environment; raising concerns over their potential effects on human health and the environment. Their toxicity depends on several factors including the dose, route of exposure, and chemical species, as well as the age, gender, genetics, and nutritional status of exposed individuals. Because of their high degree of toxicity, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, and mercury rank among the priority metals that are of public health significance. These metallic elements are considered systemic toxicants that are known to induce multiple organ damage, even at lower levels of exposure. They are also classified as human carcinogens (known or probable) according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. This review provides an analysis of their environmental occurrence, production and use, potential for human exposure, and molecular mechanisms of toxicity, genotoxicity, and carcinogenicity.
From the National Organization of Rare Diseases:
General DiscussionHeavy metal poisoning is the accumulation of heavy metals, in toxic amounts, in the soft tissues of the body. Symptoms and physical findings associated with heavy metal poisoning vary according to the metal accumulated. Many of the heavy metals, such as zinc, copper, chromium, iron and manganese, are essential to body function in very small amounts. But, if these metals accumulate in the body in concentrations sufficient to cause poisoning, then serious damage may occur. The heavy metals most commonly associated with poisoning of humans are lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium. Heavy metal poisoning may occur as a result of industrial exposure, air or water pollution, foods, medicines, improperly coated food containers, or the ingestion of lead-based paints.
Signs & SymptomsThe symptoms of heavy metal poisoning vary according to which type of metal overexposure is involved. Some specific examples are: [Descriptions from symptoms related to multiple heavy metals is given. Go to website to see.]
This are just a sampling of multiple studies showing how chemical and heavy metal exposure should be taken seriously. The next blog will discuss what ways of detoxifying the body work and which may not.
Until we meet again,