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Greater Tulsa Reporter

Environmental Toxins Pose Serious Health Risk

By Dr. Paul Harris
Contributing Writer

Governments and industry have failed to control the spread of dangerous chemicals around the globe. So widespread are manmade hazardous chemicals in our environment, in our homes and in the products we use everyday, that we are constantly exposed to polluting substances. As a result even our own bodies are contaminated.

A study by The British Medical Journal says that 75 percent of most cancers are caused by environmental and lifestyle factors. A report by the Columbia University School of Public Health estimates that 95 percent of cancer is caused by diet and environmental toxicity; in addition, most Americans have between 400 and 800 chemicals stored in their bodies, typically in fat cells.

The production, trade, use, and release of many synthetic chemicals is now widely recognized as a global threat to human health and the environment. Yet, the world’s chemical industries continue to produce and release thousands of chemical compounds every year, in most cases with none or very little testing and understanding of their impacts on people and the environment.

Heavy metals and Xenobiotics (pesticides, herbicides, and industrial wastes) cause a wide variety of adverse health effects.
The term heavy metal refers to any metallic chemical element that has a relatively high density and is toxic or poisonous at low concentrations. Renowned medical journalist Dr. Morton Walker, D.P.M. writes, “The ingestion of toxic metals destroys the brain tissues and nerve cells by increasing cellular membrane permeability, allowing for leakage of nutrients out of the cells, and inhibiting enzyme production which, in turn, depresses the body’s chemical reactions. There will be lowered energy in all physiological parameters so that chronic fatigue of the downhill syndrome becomes inevitable.”

Examples of heavy metals include mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), arsenic (As), chromium (Cr), thallium (Tl), and lead (Pb). These toxins accumulate in the body and are capable of interfering with many bodily processes.

When these substances are constantly present, our body’s natural detoxification systems become less effective. In fact, the ability to remove these dangerous toxins becomes diminished and they are stored in adipose (fat) tissues. The EPA states all humans harbor chemicals; 100 percent of human fat sampled contains stored dioxins, PCBs, dichlorobenzene, styrene and xylene.

There are three primary areas affected by heavy metals in our bodies: The nervous system, the cardiovascular system and the immune system. Heavy metals such as mercury and lead disrupt nerve cell growth and metabolism. They have been implicated in a variety of nervous system disorders.

Recently, it has been discovered that mercury is elevated in the brains of Alzheimer patients. Previously, it was thought that aluminum caused the brain lesions associated with Alzheimer’s, but it now appears that mercury may be the main neurotoxin.
All of these chemicals are more and more pervasive in the air we breathe, water we drink, and the food we eat. Not a day goes by when we don’t silently add to our overall body burden or chemical load. The EPA concludes that we are truly a polluted population—there is no question environmental chemicals persist throughout the human body.

No one can predict the effect of the load or combination of the hundreds of chemicals stored in each person. The problem is that once these toxins enter the body, we do not have the metabolism to get rid of them. We build up a toxic load until we finally reach that crucial amount which damages body chemistry and triggers a symptom or disease. Bioaccumulation of heavy metals is dangerous to human health.

Lead, cadmium, cobalt, nickel, and mercury can affect the formation of blood cells. The build-up of heavy metals can cause malfunctions in the liver, kidneys, the circulatory system (responsible for the circulation of blood throughout the body), and the movement of nerve signals. Some heavy metals may also play a role in the development of various cancers.

For example, lead. The lead atom (an atom being the smallest component of an element having the chemical properties of the element) is similar in size and shape to the calcium atom. Lead can substitute in the body for calcium, particularly in bone. In children, where bones are still developing and the child is not taking in the required amount of calcium, the lead can become stored in the bone. If the lead gets out of the bone, as can happen when a child gets a suitable amount of calcium, the free lead can cause damage to nerves and to the brain.

Mercury, especially the form methyl mercury, is very dangerous to people. Methyl mercury is produced by microorganisms that live in the water. A lengthy exposure to mercury (such as can occur when mercury-containing fish are eaten) can damage the liver and cause brain damage.

If a pregnant women takes in too much mercury it can cause birth defects in her child. Another problem is that chemicals use up or deplete essential detoxification nutrients that could or should have been used to protect us from all disease and aging.
For the parts of these toxic compounds that are successfully detoxified by the body, the biological half-lives of these substances are not days nor months, but years. This leads to steady accumulation with unknown added affects from the combination of multiple compounds that are dangerously synergistic.

Updated 07-24-2006

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