By: Clifford Sonnie, M.D.
This past weekend was so beautiful. The sun was shining and the weather was dry. Unfortunately, it also presented an opportunity to start cleaning up the yard from a long winter. As I was raking up leaves and debris from my yard, my neighbors had also joined in the fun. One was spraying a weed killer. Another was spreading a fertilizer/ weed killer. Still another had a bug exterminator’s truck in their driveway. It hit me that perhaps a quick word on what in our world could be harming us on a daily basis.
According to the EPA we use about 100,000 different chemicals in our daily lives. In fact, at least 20,000 of these chemicals are produced in amounts exceeding 5 tons a year. The problem is that the EPA has only screened or tested a small fraction of these chemicals. They rely heavily on manufacturers testing their own products and reporting these hopefully accurate findings to the EPA. In the late 1980’s the National Academy of Science found that 78% of all chemicals had undergone only minimal or no testing. Not only that, literally none of these chemicals had been tested in any type of combination. Think of all the endless combinations those 100,000 chemicals could from.
So what! Well, everyone can remember something that has caused them to cough, make their eyes water, cause a mild rash or itched their skin and even driven them from the area the chemical was being used. We all exclaimed “wow that stuff is nasty” and merrily went on our way. Let’s take a little closer look as to what may have happened inside the body down at the level of the cell. I’ve always said when the cell doesn’t work right, the organ doesn’t work right. When the organ doesn’t work right the body doesn’t work right and we call that disease.
Of those 100,000 chemicals it is known that about two thirds can actually cross the cell’s protective membrane or coat if you will. This means it can infiltrate any cell anywhere at any time. Yes, for those pregnant mothers, this also includes the placenta. In any case this invasion can affect any part of the cell. The two parts I worry about is the mitochondria and the DNA. The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. It pretty much has the job of producing the energy needed by the cell to perform all of its various functions. If the furnace doesn’t work, the machine dies and so does the cell. The DNA is the blueprint from which the cell depends on to not only produce what it is supposed to, but its also needed when that cell divides and reproduces another cell. Mess up the blueprints and the final product (the cell) is not similar to the starting product and doesn’t work.
I can hear many of you saying that you’ve used chemicals in the past and you’re fine. You’re right. However, it is the long-term low-level accumulative problems that constant exposure causes that concerns me. Now let’s look at a couple of these culprits.
Pesticides and herbicides are organophosphates. Sorry, science. These are substances that can cross the membrane of the cell very easily and really mess with both the mitochondria and the DNA. Problem is that almost all of them are used in the production of food. Additionally, they are also in surprising stuff like shampoos, paints, mattresses, carpets, disposable diapers and yes even contact lenses. Anyway, when this junk is sprayed on plants, residue remains. Fish and animals will eat it, are exposed and then we eat them. Yuck! Think about this too. For those of us who like golf and like me are spending more time than the average duffer on the course because we consider a quadruple bogey to be par, the exposure to herbicides and pesticides are enormous. Did you know that the incidence of breast cancer for women on the WPGA is much higher than the national average?
Another culprit is toxic heavy metals. These include mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, nickel and few others. Even though the EPA has cut down on the use of these products, they are still out there. Consider mercury fillings, old leaded paint, old long forgotten land fills containing God knows what that leach into water tables. Since the industrial revolution we’ve been pumping these toxins into the air in buckets. Here is the big issue. Once these substances get in your body, they are almost impossible for the body to get rid of, even harder than those pesky pesticides. They get into the cell and can destroy the membrane. They produce free radicals which themselves are dangerous. Some seek out cells that utilize sulfur containing enzymes and inactivate them so that the machinery of the cell grinds to a halt. Toxic metals are my specialty and I believe are the cause of much of our ills today. It will definitely be the subject of another article.
Even inside we are not free. Exposure to deodorants, dry cleaning solvents, carpet and carpet glue, fumes from gas heaters, cleansers and degreasers, home deodorizers, older furnaces producing low levels of carbon monoxide and cigarette smoke all have been linked to disease and cancer. In fact, indoors we are in a confined space and the danger is increased.
Ok here is a few things that can help but really when you think about it, most of this is pure common sense. Don’t smoke indoors. Use a room air filter. Don’t spray pesticides or herbicides near children and keep them away from household products. Use natural alternative to chemicals (see below). Wash your foods before eating and something mom used to yell at me about, wash your hands before eating. If you are exposed outside, shed your contaminated clothes before you come inside and wash them separately. There is a great book out there. I am sure you can get it at any bookstore. The title is “1001 All-Natural Secrets to a Pest Free Property” by a Dr. Myles Bader. Some of the stuff is pretty weird but it does work. Also, I mentioned this in a previous article but have your home checked for radon (call 800-767-7236).
If you have any questions, we at the Balance of Life Clinic would be more than happy to sit with you and figure out a way to not only get rid of the junk you may have already accumulated but how to keep from getting more. The smart health care consumer is informed and aware.
Clifford M. Sonnie, M.D., M.P.H. is a physician at the Balance of Life Clinic.