Chemical Exposure is Widespread
People are facing increasing obstacles to healthy development, from the moment of conception until they themselves attempt to conceive. Problems like premature birth; male genital defects; learning, attention, and emotional disturbances; early puberty; obesity; and low sperm quality have been increasing in the world as a whole over the past several decades, impacting every stage of growth from conception to adulthood.
While a range of factors, from lifestyle to heredity, may contribute to any one of these trends, a growing body of research suggests that toxic chemicals play a significant role. Studies are revealing chemical contamination in human bodies, finding associations between chemical exposure and human disabilities and disease, and demonstrating toxic effects at increasingly lower levels of exposure.
So Many Chemicals!
Human bodies are the repository for countless chemicals encountered in everyday experiences and found in common consumer products. Exposure to these substances during foetal development is unavoidable. Here are some of the more common chemicals that we are exposed to daily:
• Phthalates, used to “plasticize” some food containers, plastic wrap, toys, shampoos, perfumes, and beauty products, are among the most frequently found contaminants in human bodies.
• Flame retardants, added to foams, plastics, and electronics, have been found at exponentially increasing levels in women in California; levels in U.S. women have reached up to 75 times the levels found in Europe and Japan.
• Bisphenol-A, the main ingredient in hard polycarbonate plastics for baby bottles, drinking water bottles, and food containers, has been detected in pregnant women in Germany and Japan. It is one of the top 50 production-volume chemicals in the U.S., and exposure likely is widespread.
• Pesticides and their breakdown products are commonly found in people.
In a recent study, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention found 13 different pesticides in the average American, out of 23 pesticides under consideration.
Chemicals May Hinder Normal Development
Even before their first breath, insurmountable challenges, from premature birth to birth defects, await an increasing number of children.
Premature birth, which raises the risk for reduced intelligence and learning and attention problems throughout life, is 23% more frequent now than in the 1980s in the United States. One potential factor may be phthalates:
• Babies exposed to a common phthalate in utero are born a week earlier on average than babies without exposure.
Birth defects are the leading cause of infant death in the U.S. While the specific causes of most birth defects are unknown, they could be linked to a variety of chemical exposures, including:
• Phthalates. In male lab rats, phthalate exposure in utero leads to undescended testicles and malformed urinary tracts. The frequency of these conditions in baby boys doubled from 1970 to 1993 in the United States.
• Bisphenol-A. In experiments with mice, bisphenol-A can induce the genetic defect that causes Down’s syndrome, at levels comparable to those found in women tested to date.
• Pesticides. One study found an association between miscarriages caused by birth defects and commercial pesticide applications within a nine square mile area around the home. Another study found that boys conceived during the period of most intense application of the herbicide 2,4-D were five times more likely to have a birth defect than boys with no unusual exposure.
Infancy and early childhood is a time marked by rapid growth and learning. However, a growing number of children are suffering from developmental disorders that impair their ability to learn normally. Some of the factors responsible are:
• Flame-retardant chemicals given to newborn mice in small doses permanently impair their learning and behavior, and small doses of bisphenol-A produce hyperactivity.
• The rocket fuel component perchlorate, found in the drinking water sources of 16 million Californians, affects the thyroid hormone system at very low levels of exposure. Children born to mothers with thyroid problems have higher rates of learning disabilities.
Children exposed to agricultural pesticides show deficiencies in intellectual development, stamina, balance, hand-eye coordination, and short-term memory.
As children develop into young adults, they struggle with the rapid changes in their bodies that lead to sexual maturity. However, several unexplained trends suggest that children face additional health challenges at this stage of life, including early puberty and obesity.
In the last four decades, the number of obese adolescents in the U.S. has quadrupled, and girls in the U.S. appear to be reaching puberty six months to one year earlier than in the past, with a small number of girls developing breast tissue when they are as young as three years of age. Both trends could be tied to endocrine-disrupting chemical exposures in utero.
• Rodents exposed to bisphenol-A give birth to female offspring that grow faster, weigh more, and enter puberty earlier. If applicable to humans, these effects could predispose exposed children toward obesity and early puberty.
Finally, upon reaching adulthood, many people choose to have children of their own. However, chemical exposures may be contributing to infertility and other reproductive difficulties.
Sperm density has declined 40% in the U.S. since World War II. Exposure to phthalates, pesticides, and flame retardants may be contributing to this trend.
• Men with high levels of phthalates or pesticides in their urine (including diazinon, heavily used in California agriculture) tend to have low levels of sperm production.
• Male rats exposed to even a single low dose of PBDE flame retardants while in the womb have significantly decreased sperm counts.
It is clear that we live in a toxic world and exposure to these toxins is inevitable and unavoidable. This is why we have to learn to detoxify our bodies regularly, removing this load of toxins before they have a chance to develop degenerative diseases.
There are many ways in which this can be done, including whole body detox using fruits and vegetables for about 15 days, liver and gallbladder cleansing, colon cleansing as well as using natural chelators such as HMD™.
© Dr. George J Georgiou, Ph.D.,N.D.,D.Sc (AM)
Natural Medicine Practitioner & Researcher