Great Smokies Medical Center of Asheville

Archive for the ‘Environmental Health Issues’ Category

Fluoridation of Health: Bad to the Bone

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Fluorine/Fluoride
Fluorine (F) is a gaseous element in the periodic table. It is a halogen (Latin for ?salt former?) along with its halogen cousins: chlorine, bromine, and iodine. Fluorine?s small size contributes to its being the most reactive of all elements. Fluoride is formed when fluorine binds to minerals. The mineral fluorspar, calcium fluoride (CaF2), is the most abundant fluoride salt on earth.

Uses of Fluoride
Fluoride is used in glass etching, in the manufacture of synthetic fabrics (including Gore-Tex?), in the smelting of all metals (e.g., steel, aluminum, gold), and in the plastic and phosphate (fertilizer) industries. Some prescription drugs are fluoride based, including Prozac, Cipro, Prevacid, Paxil, Crestor, Lipitor, Celexa, Celebrex, Diflucan and several general anesthetics. Fluoride is essential for the enrichment of uranium needed for nuclear power reactors. It is in rat poison, pesticides (Cryolite?, 82 percent of which is used on grape crops, and sulfuryl fluoride), Teflon?, military nerve gas, and is added to municipal water, toothpaste, and mouthwash.

A Concerned Physician
Armed with passion for the well-being of people and the truth, Danish physician Kaj Roholm documented numerous toxic effects of industrial fluoride pollution in Europe in a 364-page paper published in 1937. He recommended that industry leaders protect people from fluoride?s devastatingly toxic effects on the brain, skin, lungs, bone, teeth, glandular, and digestive systems. Roholm said, ? The once general assumption that fluorine is necessary to the quality of enamel rests on insufficient foundation . . . the enamel organ is electively sensitive to the deleterious effects of fluorine.?

Concerned Industrialists
After the turn of the century in the United States, workers in aluminum and phosphate industries and animals grazing on land downwind from industries? fluoride-rich stack emissions got sick. Industrialists were naturally concerned. In an effort to offset paying settlements from an onslaught of lawsuits by injured workers, industrial leaders needed to convince the public that fluoride exposure was not only harmless but beneficial.
In 1945, a ten-year long study began when fluoride was artificially added to the municipal water supply of Newburgh, NY. Children aged seven to 14 who drank the treated water were monitored for dental effects, growth, hemoglobin levels, and joint health. There is now evidence that several concerning effects of fluoride never made it into the whitewashed final public report. Ongoing evaluation of the original data and also of additional data collected during the ensuing years reveals no significant general or dental health benefits of fluoridation, but documents health concerns from fluoridated water.

Government Experts
Industrialists and their attorneys strategized correctly that the general public would likely rely on doctors? authority to help them form opinions on fluoridation. By creating a media campaign that touted fluoride?s safety, industrialists were also tipping the odds that jury members in a trial of fluoride litigation would uphold fluoride?s reported safety in a courtroom. After all, didn?t the government add it to drinking water? The orchestrated campaign that resulted in fluoride being dispensed to the public was very effective.
Unquestioning endorsement of fluoridation became the norm, despite criticisms from leading scientists who pointed out that fluoride is extremely toxic and that its therapeutic benefits had never been established. While 98 percent of western European cities have banned fluoridation of water, currently more than 66 percent of municipal water supplies in the United States are now fluoridated.

Toxic Sludge Is Good For You
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found fluoride to be toxic to farmlands and crippling to animals, and mandated stack scrubbers to decrease the amount of fluoride spewing into the environment. Compliance cost industries millions of dollars. Fluoride-rich stack sludge was bound to silica and thus had little value in the marketplace. However, the red ink on the books suddenly turned black when toxic fluoride was collected, concentrated in ponds, pumped into tanker trucks and sold to cities following government sanctioned fluoridation of water following the Newburgh study.

Testing to determine the safety of fluoride was performed on sodium fluoride (NaF). However, more than 90 percent of the fluoride added to public water supplies today is unrefined hydrofluorosilic acid (H2SiF6), toxic sludge, largely from Florida?s phosphate industry. This sludge contains not only fluoride but arsenic, beryllium, lead, cadmium, and other toxins.

Concerned Courts
In the 1970s, three legal cases were heard about the dangers of one part per million (ppm) fluoride in drinking water. All three trials concluded that water fluoridation increased cancer death rates and found no convincing evidence of benefit. At each trial the defense?s fluoridation expert was asked to name a single valid broad-based, double-blinded scientific study with results suggesting a significant reduction in permanent tooth decay from the addition of fluoride at one ppm to public drinking water. Each time the expert was unaware of any such study. All three courts determined that fluoridation was not beneficial and actually harmful. Each decision was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court.

Sources of Fluoride Exposure
Sources of fluoride include toothpaste (half a tube can be fatal to a small child), mouthwash, topical dental solutions, Teflon-coated pans, black and green teas (decaffeinated and instant being the worst offenders?up to 7.7 ppm), wine (from Cryolite??sodium aluminum fluoride? a pesticide used by grape growers), chewing tobacco, infant formulas reconstituted with fluoridated water, reconstituted foods including juices (42 percent of juices tested exceeded EPA limits, white grape juice being the most toxic), sodas (varying in fluoride content according to regional bottling water sources), industrial exposure during arc welding, fumes from coal burning, and manufacture of aluminum, steel, phosphorus, freon and glass. Airborne industrial fluoride emissions contaminate downwind food crops and pasturelands.

Health Concerns
Fluoride is absorbed through contact, inhalation, and ingestion. Infants, children, the elderly, and people with impaired kidney function and nutrient deficiencies (especially calcium and Vitamin D) are more vulnerable to the poisonous effects of fluoride. Fluoride?s chronic health effects are cumulative. Scientists worry that the increasing exposures to fluoride have already surpassed the EPA recommended maximum exposure limits.
Acute fluoride toxicity can cause nausea and vomiting. Fatal cardiac arrhythmias from severely lowered serum calcium levels can occur.

The adverse health effects of chronic fluoride toxicity include dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis, and immune dysfunction from inhibition of white blood cell activity, in addition to neurological, pulmonary, dermatological, endocrine, renal, and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Dental fluorosis first appears as opaque white flecks in dental enamel. As the toxicity becomes more severe, the staining becomes yellow, and eventually brown. Dental fluorosis affects nearly one-fourth of American children.
Approximately 80 percent of ingested fluoride is absorbed from the digestive tract. About half of that enters the skeleton, and the other half is excreted in the urine. Skeletal fluorosis from excess fluoride exposure results in dense, brittle bones, skeletal pain, crippling deformity, and rigidity. Calcification of spinal ligaments may compress the spinal cord. Micro-fractures of the brittle leg bones can result in lower limb pain.

A study published in 1990 by the National Toxicology Program determined that rodents which were fed water containing one ppm concentration of fluoride (the amount approved to be added to municipal water) had a higher incidence of osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. A subsequent study by Harvard?s Elise Bassin, Ph.D., confirmed that the incidence of osteosarcoma in children was five times higher than that in non-fluoride-exposed children, a conclusion supported by numerous other studies during the past 30 years.
Roger Masters, Ph.D., from Dartmouth University, did a study of over 400,000 children and found that ingestion of one ppm of fluoride decreased IQ test scores and magnified lead?s toxicity ten fold.

In 1958, the medical use of fluorine in treating hyperthyroidism was discussed in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology. Today, fluoride?s effect of inhibiting thyroid function is known to occur because of fluorine?s ability to out-compete its halogen cousin, iodine, and interfere with the pituitary?s production of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).

In 1995, Harvard neurotoxicologist Phyllis Mullenix, Ph.D., showed that rats treated prenatally with fluoride showed behavior patterns associated with hyperactivity, and rats dosed after birth showed hypoactivity. Shortly after, Mullenix was dismissed from her job.

Innocent Victims
In a heart-wrenching saga, champion quarter horse breeder Cathy Justus of Pagosa Springs, CO, lost five prized horses to a variety of mysterious crippling maladies including Equine Metabolic Syndrome, deformity, coughs, infertility, lameness, wasting, and neurological disorders. Justus consulted Lennart Krook, D.V.M., Ph.D., Professor of Pathology at Cornell University, to determine the cause of the animals? deaths. Post mortem analysis of one horse?s exhumed leg bone confirmed fluoride toxicity. The surviving horses were also diagnosed with fluorosis and each improved when their drinking water was changed. Ultimately, Pagosa Springs chose to stop fluoridating its water.

7,000 Concerned EPA Scientists
Following revelations of an alleged cover-up of data from Harvard School of Dental Medicine that linked fluoridation with an elevated risk of osteosarcoma, more than 7,000 environmental and public health professionals called for a moratorium on municipal water fluoridation in 2005. They asked the EPA to recognize that fluoride poses a serious cancer risk.

Scientists in the prestigious National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded that the current allowable level of fluoride in tap water conflicted with public health and should be lowered.

Reducing Fluoride Exposure
In summary, the benefits of fluoride are overstated while the risks are understated. Avoiding excessive fluoride exposure is prudent. Familiarize yourself with known sources of fluoride and limit your exposure. Stopping the intake of fluoride can reverse some of the its toxic effects. Use non-fluoridated toothpaste. Deionization and distillation of water are the most effective methods of removing fluoride from drinking water. While deionization is more costly, distillation removes both toxic and essential minerals. Reverse osmosis is partially effective at removing fluoride. All filtration systems need maintenance to perform optimally.

Sources of More Information
The Fluoride Deception by investigative reporter Christopher Bryson is a tell-all expose of the history of fluoridation. More information can be found at: www.fluoridealert.org, www.ewg.org (enter search word ?fluoride?), and www.fluoridation.com.

Assisted Detoxification

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

Self-Cleaning Models?
Wouldn’t it be nice to simply push a button and burn off years of accumulated toxins, much like a self-cleaning oven?
Well, there’s good news. People are "self-cleaning." They detoxify through six major pathways: the liver, colon, skin, lymph, kidneys, and lungs.
The bad news? The amounts and types of toxins in the environment now exceed most bodies’ ability to detoxify. (Refer to the Jan/Feb 2006 Health Matters for a list of diseases and conditions associated with toxicity.)
Hiding the Evidence?
A body geared toward survival will protect vital organs from acute toxin exposure by shuttling toxins away and hiding them in fat. Once hidden, toxins can adversely affect health from their fatty outpost as their presence stimulates immune responses that result in chronic symptoms and, given enough time, organic disease.
This toxicity-induced immune activation often occurs below the exposed person’s level of awareness. All he knows is that he was a little lightheaded while stripping furniture or that he just hasn’t felt quite right since getting new carpet in his home. Just as likely, he feels off his mark but doesn’t know why, and attributes it to stress or aging. If he mentions how he feels to his doctor, he may find that his all-too-often equally clueless physician is apt to assign a diagnosis to his ailments that best addresses the symptoms (the tip of a very large iceberg) and prescribe drugs, perpetuating the cover-up.
Ancient/Modern Wisdom
Historically, various methods of assisting detoxification have been used including East Indian Ayurvedic cleansing, Finnish saunas, South American native herbs, enemas (likely first used in Egyptian culture), and Native American sweat lodges. In modern times, the popularity of European spas speaks to the apparent need and desire to rejuvenate health through detoxification. In the United States, the Gerson method of detoxification successfully treated numerous chronic degenerative diseases in the 30’s and 40’s, and the Hubbard Purification method of detoxification was popularized in the 70’s. Since then, they and similar programs have been used to safely detoxify hundreds of thousands of people.
Most people undergoing clinically supervised detoxification programs in a medical facility have had work-related chemical exposures that necessitate close medical supervision. Severe symptoms can develop when stored toxins are mobilized and re-enter the circulation on their way out of the body.
It’s a Sign
Signs and symptoms of toxicity vary widely because each of thousands of toxins has its own toxic profile. Commonly reported are headaches, body aches and pains, mental and physical fatigue, dizziness, halitosis, body odors, arthritis, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart arrhythmias, lethargy, rashes, itching, mood disorders, excess mucus, digestive problems, brain fog, exercise intolerance, stress intolerance, and difficulty breathing.
Post 9/11 Health Problems
Many people were exposed to toxins during the aftermath of the 9/11 World Trade Center (WTC) disaster and paid the high price of developing altered neurological function, difficulty breathing, depression, lowered thyroid function and reduced IQ test scores. A group of 484 people (63 of whom left the program before completion) aged 20 to 77, mostly uniformed officers, underwent a detoxification regimen for an average of 33 days that involved 2 1/2 to 5 hours of sauna per day and specific nutrient supplementation and support. According to the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, all of the 484 patients studied (most of whom were firefighters) reported feeling better, and 84 percent were able to discontinue drugs taken to manage their post-9/11 exposure symptoms. Seventy-two percent of those who took pulmonary drugs had better pulmonary function off their pulmonary drugs following detoxification than they had on their drugs before detoxification. Cognitive function showed improvement, as did vestibular function (i.e. balance), reaction times, and IQ test scores. Neurological testing showed continued improvement months after the detox programs were completed.
Although the WTC 9/11 pollution levels resulted in the rapid development of symptoms, making the cause obvious, most people have a far less dramatic story to tell. Their toxins have taken years to accumulate and are, as such, much less likely to be identified as the cause of their health problems.
Tools of the Trade
Today, assisted detoxification may utilize several practices including infrared saunas, conventional dry saunas, organic diets, exercise, various cleansing programs, rebounders, liver and gall bladder cleanses, coffee enemas, acupuncture, acupressure, supplementation of specific nutrients, juicing, Epsom salt baths, colonics, massage, specific detoxification of known toxins (e.g., heavy metal chelators), chiropractic, dieting or caloric restriction, homeopathy, ionic footbaths, lymphatic massage, alkalinization, and passive lymph exercisers.
Assisted detoxification is especially effective when various methods are used in combination, for example following moderate aerobic exercise with saunas and massage intended to detect and massage slightly swollen or "textured" areas in body tissues that denote toxin storage. These modalities can be further assisted by the use of niacin (vitamin B3) to help create cellular energy, dilate capillaries and mobilize fat, thus helping to release toxins from their fatty storage depots. Taking cold-pressed, organic polyunsaturated oils (sunflower, avocado, walnut, safflower, etc.) helps prevent the re-absorption of mobilized toxins.
Garbage In, Garbage Out
When actively detoxifying, it is important to keep the detox pathways open by avoiding constipation and drinking adequate fluids. Most people will initially experience increased symptoms as toxins are rousted from storage sites in the body and re-enter the circulation on their way out of the body. The passing of various toxins and the presence of foul odors routinely result as toxins are mobilized and exit the body.
Nutritional Support
Detoxification is accomplished by cellular work that requires specific nutrients. A person needing assisted detoxification may be depleted in the very nutrients that support the removal of toxins from the body. Supportive nutritional supplementation is thus recommended, including but not limited to essential fatty acids, antioxidants, niacin, fiber, enzymes, electrolytes, probiotics, enzymes, vitamin C, herbal support of organs of detoxification, amino acids, oils, alpha ketoglutaric acid, magnesium, silymarin, glutathione, glucuronic acid, bentonite, and activated charcoal. Similarly, balancing immune system function by treating allergies and infections that stress immune function helps pave the way for successful detoxification.
Home Safe Home
People who have home and work environments relatively free of toxins and who eat organic diets detoxify to a greater degree than those who do not. Since the average person spends more than half his life in his house and nearly a third of his life in his bedroom, keeping one’s home and bedroom as free as possible from toxins can help create a healing oasis. A sparsely furnished bedroom with tile or wood floors and minimal window coverings is easy to keep clean. Chemicals such as cleaning products, art supplies and all but a couple of books should be stored outside the bedroom. Natural lighting, air purification, natural non-toxic cleaning products, ventilation, dehumidification, and natural fiber bed linens that can easily be laundered regularly in hot water are recommended.
Dentally Retarded?
Because mercury is one of the toxins that can be mobilized through detoxification and because it can retard the body’s ability to detoxify, mercury-containing "silver" (gray colored) dental fillings should be removed by a specially trained dentist (www.iaomt.org) prior to starting a course of assisted detoxification.
So Warned
Assisted detoxification is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women (an increase in circulating toxins can harm fetuses or babies who are more vulnerable to the effects of toxins than adults), anyone severely underweight, or young children and additionally, for patients with kidney failure, seizures, anorexia, and bulimia. People stopping recreational or prescription drugs require physician-monitoring. Drinking alcohol and using tobacco products (both known toxins) negate efforts to detoxify.
Some toxins that are released from their storage depots could be carcinogenic, necessitating customized nutritional support during detoxification. Such support is beneficial for all, or can be considered essential for sicker or more nutritionally depleted patients, as is monitoring minerals, electrolytes, and other parameters by laboratory testing.
Easy Does It
Though assisted detoxification has been safely and successfully carried out by thousands of people, not everyone is a candidate. If disease has affected an organ of detoxification (liver, lungs, kidneys, etc.), backlogged toxicity can be so great that even a gentle effort to detoxify is simply not tolerated. Very toxic or weakened persons should be detoxified only under direct medical supervision where they can be "rescued" should they have severe detox symptoms.
A person eager to recover lost health can push detoxification to an extreme, having detoxification symptoms that are not tolerable or risking nutrient depletion. One’s tolerance or intolerance of assisted detoxification can serve to guide the pace of a detox program. A relatively healthy person may benefit from cleansing two or three times a year, while a more toxic person may require a daily regimen. Persistence is rewarded.
Detoxification is a process, not an event. The use of detoxification methods in synergistic combination with each other is better than the single, protracted use of one method. Alternating detoxification with periods of rest is beneficial and more effective. Rest and relaxation also help create an internal environment which favors the release of cellular toxins.
Prevention
Exposure to even everyday background environmental toxins impacts health. People interested in disease prevention or health maintenance would be wise to consider an ongoing program of assisted detoxification.
Overview
The goal of assisted detoxification is to help a person function and feel better by addressing the underlying cause of his health problems. Detoxifying is health-smart because it addresses the causes of toxicity while decreasing immune stress and enhancing the ability of the body to repair itself (homeostasis).
Accurately determining the cause of symptoms provides autonomy and can result in people feeling they have some control over their health. Genetic variability accounts for some people having significant recovery of function and health from assisted detoxification, while others do not.
Assisted detoxification is not a panacea and it is generally not recognized, understood, or accepted by mainstream medical doctors who dismiss its reported successes as merely anecdotal. Even when the underlying cause of disease is toxicity, surgery or other mainstream medical interventions may still be required. Medical supervision of assisted detoxification is recommended.

Fragrances: Feel the Romance

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006

While some natural ingredients in the perfume industry cost up to $40,000 per pound, their synthetic alternatives can cost less than $10 per pound, explaining why 95 percent of perfume ingredients are synthetic chemicals. You won’t find them listed on the label either, as there can be more than 500 ingredients in one formulation that are deemed to be “trade secrets.” These chemical brews are added to shampoos, soap, detergents, and many other personal and household products, perpetuating health risks from multiple daily exposures.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recognizes more than 800 chemicals in fragrances that are capable of causing cancer, birth defects, muscle and joint pain, rapid heart beat, depression, asthma, and widespread chemical sensitivities. If just one of these chemicals was intentionally sprayed on a fellow citizen, a visit from the HazMat team and assault charges could result. Yet these chemicals are part and parcel of everyday life, leaving some people sick . . . sick and clueless to the cause of their many symptoms.
Some of the not-so-romantic sounding ingredients in perfumes are: musk ambrette (causes degeneration of the nerve’s protective myelin sheath), benxophenones (can cause hives), linalool (causes poor coordination, depression and respiratory problems), and methyl ethyl ketone (can induce stupor, liver congestion, and numbness of extremities).

Maybe that dizzy-headed feeling you’ve been having isn’t really love after all.

People having “mysterious” symptoms can do a one month trial of avoidance of fragrances and products that contain them to determine the role, if any, that chemicals in fragrances play in contributing to their health problems. The answer may often be apparent only when fragrances are re-introduced at the end of the period of avoidance.

GSMC recommends that all public facilities such as hospitals, clinics and schools strive to provide fragrance-free environments that do not interfere with health or the ability to learn.

Chlorination of Municipal Water

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006

In the U. S., public water supplies were first chlorinated in 1908. Since then, federal regulations have resulted in the chlorination of nearly all of America’s municipal water. Chemical additives can be added to hide chlorine’s odor. Chlorine is an industrial waste product that is added to water supplies to kill dysentery, cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis. Chlorine does not kill parasites and it has known adverse effects on human health. Both equipment and human errors routinely result in chlorine levels exceeding those allowed by the EPA.

Chlorination destroys vitamin E and contributes to hardening of the arteries, skin rashes, and headaches. It irritates the skin, eyes, and lungs, and interferes with the beneficial roles of cholesterol. In addition, it kills beneficial organisms (lactobacillus, etc.) in the digestive tract, thereby harming immune function and accelerates aging. Chlorine combines with organic matter present in water to result in the formation of trihalomethanes (THMs, including chloroform) that contribute to the incidence of cancer (particularly bladder and rectal cancers) and the risk of miscarriage.

Swimming in, showering in, and drinking chlorinated water all result in significant chlorine exposure. Sucralose (Splenda) is chlorinated sugar.

Ozone and hydrogen peroxide treatment of water are safer and less costly alternatives to chlorination.
Water testing performed by county health departments for the potability of water checks only for the presence of bacterial contamination and not for toxins. GSMC provides kits on request for testing a comprehensive panel of toxins, minerals, and bacteria.

This information is extracted, in part, from the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, an alternative medical publication: http://www.tldp.com.

Better Living Through Chemistry?

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2006

Picture this Ozzie and Harriet moment. A woman sporting a newly permed and sprayed hair-do and a freshly ironed frock is happily creating clouds of air freshener in her home to take care of those, well, little embarrassing odors. She pauses to gaze fondly through the window at her husband, who is doing his manly job of applying herbicides to some pesky dandelions. He notices his adoring wife and stops long enough to smile lovingly and wave. In the distance, the stacks of a coal-fired power plant rise majestically above the horizon. Life is good.

Or not. Scientific evidence now tells us that all is not well in our modern chemical paradise.

In July 2005, the not-for-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) released results of a study of umbilical cord blood collected by the Red Cross from 10 randomly selected babies born in August and September 2004 in U. S. cities. Of 413 chemicals tested, the lab detected 287 in the blood samples. Each infant’s blood had between 159 and 234 chemicals. Of the chemicals found, 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animals.

Although the chemicals have long, complicated names like polyaromatic hydrocarbons and polybrominated dibenzodioxins, we all know them better as common household and industrial toxins: plastics, pesticides, solvents, methyl mercury, flame retardants, and numerous toxins that form when trash is burned. Many of the detected chemicals have been determined by the EPA to cause cancer, birth defects, thyroid disease, infertility, neurological problems, kidney damage, liver damage, and disrupted hormonal function. Chemicals interfere with health by either blocking or stimulating bio-chemical processes. For example, pesticides (in addition to interfering with nerve transmission) have been dubbed "birth control for men" because of their ability to feminize men by reducing sperm counts and decreasing the number of male births —all through disruption of endocrine function. Adverse health effects can occur at concentrations of 25 parts per trillion when vinyl chloride (plastics) or chlorine-treated paper is burned, forming the very toxic chemical compound dioxin.
The EWG cord blood study is concerning not only because of infants’ inability to detoxify chemicals and their long life expectancy that allows years of opportunity for health problems to manifest, but also because it is a sobering statement about the current toxic state of planet Earth.

If we start life with this toxic burden, how toxic must we be as adults after a lifetime of exposure? It is no wonder that our children are suffering from learning and developmental abnormalities, while the incidence of chronic degenerative diseases is affecting the quality of life of more and more adults.

The University of Massachusetts Lowell released a report in September 2005 that links dozens of environmental and occupational exposures to nearly 30 types of cancer. The report reveals that many cancer cases and deaths from cancer are caused by involuntary (background) exposures. These include: bladder cancer from the primary solvent used in dry cleaning, breast cancer from endocrine disruptors such as bisphenol-A (a byproduct of plastics), lung cancer from residential exposure to radon, non-Hodgkin¹s lymphoma from solvent and herbicide exposure, and childhood leukemia from pesticides.

Coal-fired energy plants are the single largest contributor of mercury released into the air. Ninety-eight percent of our nation’s energy-related production of methyl mercury, a known neurotoxin and contributor to common childhood behavioral disorders, comes from coal-fired energy plants, as does 96 percent of sulfur dioxide, 88 percent of carbon dioxide, and 93 percent of nitrous oxide. If you are on the electric power grid in the United States, you are likely reliant on coal burning, an industry that results in ecologically harmful soot, smog, global warming, and acid rain. Heart attacks, asthma, emphysema, strokes, multiple sclerosis, and developmental delays of children are the price paid for using aging coal burning facilities that are far more polluting than their newer counterparts. Airborne mercury from coal-fired energy plants that isn’t inhaled ends up falling on soil and bodies of water, polluting crops and, especially, fish (which bio-accumulate mercury prior to their being consumed as food). Mercury is the toxin responsible for 70 percent of all fish consumption advisories.
The use of solvents (e.g., toluene, acetone, isopropyl alcohol) in dry cleaning, nail salons, medical labs, and in garages and homes across America results in reduced or abnormal ability to smell, neurological symptoms, mucus membrane irritation, memory loss, and lowered IQ.

You don’t need to ingest or inhale a chemical for it to be absorbed and impact your health. The skin, our largest organ, is very efficient at absorbing toxins on contact.

The glues, paints, vinyl, plastics, and fabrics in new cars emit chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can trigger headaches, sore throats, nausea, and drowsiness. Older cars emit lower levels of chemicals but should be checked for mold that can produce mycotoxins, gaseous toxins that can profoundly disrupt immune function.

Petrochemicals used as fuels, in paints, and in cleaning products cause numerous health problems involving the digestive tract, skin, brain, and lungs.

You may hope that you can retreat to the safety of your home to escape this chemical soup. Unfortunately, energy efficient building techniques result in poor ventilation (fewer air exchanges per hour), in effect concentrating the chemicals found in buildings. Products used in decorating, furnishing, cleaning, and personal care also contribute to poor indoor air quality. Many homes, new and old alike, have structural problems that trap moisture, fostering toxic mold growth.

More than 80,000 synthetic chemicals have been invented since WWII, and their ability to disrupt biochemistry in all living things often surpasses the ability of any organism to adapt to them. Exposure to occupational, environmental, and household chemicals is and will continue to be a significant determinant of health risks. Though the adverse health effects from environmental chemical exposures, though immediately apparent to sensitized individuals, are just as often not obvious to the exposed person and may become apparent only after years or even decades of exposure.

You can learn about chemical pollutants in your area by entering your zip code at: www.scorecard.org.

The next issue of Health Matters will discuss strategies for staying healthy in the midst of a complex chemical environment.

Tips to Prevent Mold Growth

Monday, September 12th, 2005

Thoroughly inspect any home for mold contamination before buying it. Mobile homes are particularly vulnerable to mold growth.
Treat mold contamination by addressing conditions that support mold growth: lack of ventilation, darkness and, especially, moisture.
Ventilate high moisture areas: the kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry. Use fans to exhaust moisture from the laundry, bathroom, and kitchen to the outdoors, not the attic or crawl space.
Insulate windows and doors, pipes, walls, and attics to prevent condensation. Dehumidify basements and other damp areas to attain 50-55 percent relative humidity.
Provide ample drainage of water around the foundation of a home by using drain tile and rain gutters, backfilling the foundation, and sloping the land away from the house. Install vapor barriers and assure adequate cross ventilation in crawl spaces. Because water seepage through concrete and cement block may be imperceptible, avoid flooring and wall covering that prevent evaporation of moisture.
Air conditioning reduces the humidity in a home. Molds grow best between 77-86 degrees Fahrenheit, though they can grow at temperatures as low as 32 and as high as 95 degrees. Open closets to air condition (and dehumidify) them when you are not home. Keep clutter (old shoes, books, rags, etc.) at a minimum. Keep condensation trays for dehumidifiers, refrigerators, and air conditioners clean to prevent mold growth.
In the event of a flood, spill, or leak, clean up the water within 24 hours and use dehumidifiers, fans, and ventilation to thoroughly dry wet areas. Determine and correct the cause of the flood or leak, when possible.
To prevent mold growth and to clean up a moldy area: Keep it clean, keep it dry, air it out, and disinfect it. Some believe that stachybotrys-contaminated penetrable materials such as wood cannot be adequately treated by surface disinfecting. Therefore removal, disposal, and replacement of such molded materials may be required. Severely affected homes may be permanently uninhabitable.
Remove and replace heavily contaminated materials. Clean surfaces with a stiff brush and hot soapy water and rinse with clean water. Then use a 10 percent bleach solution to clean surfaces. Allow to dry thoroughly. Do not mix bleach with ammonia. Use good ventilation and respiratory and skin protection when using any cleaning solutions.

Is Your Moldy Home Making You Sick?

Monday, September 12th, 2005

We’ve all seen the dramatic footage on the evening news. An entire family finds themselves homeless, prohibited from entering their dream-home-turned-moldy-toxic-EPA-nightmare.
Could molds be putting your health at risk? For more and more people across the nation, the answer is yes.
More than 200,000 species of molds have long been associated with health problems, the most common of which include respiratory illnesses (coughing, asthma, and bronchitis) and skin problems (ringworm, athlete’s foot and fungal disorders of the skin and nails).
Molds reproduce by releasing spores, which land on surfaces and thrive when the conditions are right: the right material combined with poorly ventilated, dark, warm, and moist environments.
Molds require organic matter (straw, soil, paper, dry wall, wood, food, leather, tile, natural fibers, etc.) for growth. They may be visible as green, black, orange, white, or gray discoloration, and may have a slimy or dry, fuzzy visible surface growth. Molds emit an unpleasant, musty odor.
Even more toxic than molds are 400-plus toxic chemical metabolites produced by mold called mycotoxins. The impact of one agricultural mycotoxin, aflatoxin, on humans and livestock is well researched. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) routinely monitor aflatoxin levels of crop foods. Produced by the mold Aspergillus flavus that infests many crops including corn and peanuts, aflatoxin causes liver and kidney toxicity and is a known potent liver carcinogen.
Indoor molds and mycotoxins that result from tighter, energy-efficient residential construction practices are also a concern. Such practices cause decreased air exchange, trapped moisture, and recirculation of contaminated air.
Between 1993 and 1998, physicians in Cleveland saw an unprecedented 37 cases of pulmonary hemorrhage in infants. Nearly all required intensive care and artificial ventilation for breathing difficulties. Because the symptoms recurred when the infants were returned to their homes, researchers suspected that something in the homes was responsible for their symptoms.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers found evidence that the homes were contaminated with Stachybotrys chartarum, a mold known to produce numerous mycotoxins. Stachybotrys, called "black mold," requires low nitrogen, high cellulose materials for its growth. Dry wall, paper, dust, lint, fiberboard, and wood are thus ideal substances for stachybotrys’ growth. Researchers hypothesized that mycotoxins from stachybotrys contributed to the respiratory ailment that ultimately resulted in the deaths of 12 of the infants. Varying susceptibility of individuals who are exposed and the volatile nature of mycotoxins make their study difficult.
Symptoms of stachybotrys exposure result from immune system suppression: coughing up blood, non-traumatic nosebleeds, memory loss, cognitive changes, hair loss, sore throat, infections, muscle aches, nausea, rashes, headache, mood disorders, and fatigue.
Many other molds affect indoor air quality. For example, Cladosporium is a common indoor and outdoor mold that grows on paint, textiles, plants, soil, and the fiberglass liners of ductwork. It is allergenic and a well-known cause of asthma. Chronic exposure may contribute to emphysema.
Several species of Aspergillus are suspected carcinogens and contribute to fungal nail infections, ear infections, kidney and liver disease, and aspergillosis, a serious fungal lung infection.
To determine if your house is making you sick, take a weeklong trip to a non-moldy environment and see if your symptoms decrease. The answer may be apparent only upon the return of symptoms when re-entering your home.
Seek the opinion of a certified environmental specialist before making costly remediation decisions, keeping in mind that the best solution may be relocation. If necessary, consult a physician who understands the roles molds play in health problems.

Pesticides Linked With Infertility and Parkinson’s Disease

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

Pesticides have actions that interfere with the way hormones work and are thus called endocrine disruptors. Wildlife studies of infertility and physical abnormalities of gulls, deer, terns, fish, frogs, whales, porpoises, alligators, and turtles link environmental contaminants with disturbances in the production or action of sex hormones.

Humans have not escaped the effects of pesticides in the environment. People who contact pesticides don’t go belly up like insects only because they are bigger than insects and don’t get a fatal dose. But they are maimed.

In 1999, the Lancet reported on a study that looked at infertile couples seeking in-vitro fertilization (IVF), more commonly known as test tube fertilization Sperm from men with high on-the-job pesticide exposure had a 78 percent decline in in-vitro fertilization success rates when compared with sperm from men without occupational pesticide exposure. In comparison, men having a history of moderate on-the-job pesticide exposure had a 48 percent decline in sperm production.

A study at Stanford University’s School of Medicine looked at 496 people who were newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Those who had been exposed to pesticides in the home (where they disintegrate less quickly than outdoors) were found to be 70% more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease than people who did not have pesticide exposures.

As reported in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, women with breast cancer were more than five times as likely to have detectable levels of DDT as the healthy women. Farmers also have a higher incidence of prostate cancer than the general population. More research is needed to understand the cause and effect between pesticide use and reproductive cancer.

It is prudent to avoid contact with pesticides, especially indoors. You can read about safer solutions to bug problems in many books and websites including the site www.beyondpesticides.org and click on Info Services and Living Healthy in a Toxic World, by David Steinman, et al.

Are Pesticides and Herbicides Bugging You?

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

Three legged frogs. Bluebird eggs that don’t hatch. Infertile male alligators with female reproductive organs.

Futuristic headlines? Afraid not. The lyrics “Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it . . .” may be relegated to a time when they could do it.

Pesticides and herbicides belong to a group of chemicals called “endocrine disruptors” that interfere with hormone biochemistry. Their effects go beyond the red eyes, burning skin, nausea, and dizziness routinely experienced with acute pesticide exposures. The developing fetus is especially vulnerable to pesticides. Fetal or maternal exposure to pesticides is statistically linked to cancer risk in childhood and later in life. Exposure to pesticides and herbicides during pregnancy should be strictly avoided.

Researchers have found that DDE, a breakdown product of the banned pesticide DDT, has found its way into almost all living tissue, where it disrupts the function of reproductive hormones in mammals. Wildlife studies of infertility and physical abnormalities of gulls, deer, birds, fishes, frogs, whales, porpoises, alligators, and turtles link environmental contaminants with disturbances in the production or action of sex hormones.

In 1996 in Idaho, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported that more than 30 million pounds of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides were used on 410,000 acres of potatoes.

Judith Hoy, an animal rehabilitator from the Bitterroot Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Montana, examined 254 accident-killed and injured male deer. Regardless of age, approximately 33 percent were normal; the remaining 67 percent showed varying degrees of apparent genital developmental anomalies, specifically mispositioned and undersized scrota and testes, rendering the deer unable to reproduce. The deer also exhibited other signs of poisoning: reddened eyes, the inability to digest food, and emaciation. Researchers link these abnormalities in male deer to the interference with male hormones resulting from contact with pesticides and herbicides.

A direct hit of pesticide or herbicide is not required. Drift of agricultural chemicals accounted for 44 percent of reported pesticide and herbicide poisoning cases in California during the mid 1990s, according to California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation.

A class of chemicals called chlorophenols or dioxins are especially damaging. One of them, Agent Orange, the herbicide used as a defoliant in the Vietnam War, kills plants by causing sudden uncontrolled plant growth (similar to cancer) for two weeks before the foliage dies.

It’s a good thing people have escaped the fate of wildlife, right? Afraid not. In addition to congenital defects and infertility, human pesticide exposure has been linked with Parkinson’s disease; myasthenia gravis; prostate, testicular, and breast cancers; leukemia; lymphoma; asthma; thyroid disorders; and chronic fatigue. Seems we have met the enemy and, no surprise, it is us.

What can you do? Don’t depend on pesticide manufacturers or companies who apply them for information about toxicity. Seek out less toxic solutions or less toxic methods of pesticide application. If the entire city of Toronto can implement a ban on the unnecessary use of pesticides (as they did in 2003, supported by 72 percent of the city’s residents), so can you in your little corner of the world.

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