What You Don’t Know, or Assume Is Safe, Might Hurt You
In my past two articles, I have explored the various reasons why it is essential for one to be aware of the negative health effects of living in a toxic world. By educating the public on these concerning associations, it is my hope they will make more empowering choices to mitigate the risks of these ubiquitous environmental exposures. Since these substances can impact all areas of health, including cognition, mood disorders, and hormonal balance, I feel it is imperative that my clients support their natural detoxification capabilities in a holistic and integrative way.
In both articles, I provided one solution to decrease pesticide and chemical exposures and lessen harm through choosing organic foods and natural products. I also acknowledged that the accessibility to these options is a problem and offered solutions. You can access a summary of my previous articles here. *
In this post, I will review more reasons why we need to consider our total body burden, the total amount of chemicals and pollutants that are in the body at any time. (source, source, source, source, source, source, source) I will also explore why you cannot assume that products that you use every day are safe.
*Note: If you are struggling with orthorexia or recovering from eating disordered patterns, you may want to just skim over the information on organic foods and wait until you are recovered so it can be within a healthy, intuitive eating, HAES perspective.
Those Sneaky, Hidden Chemicals That Could Harm You
When looking at detoxifying and cleansing from a holistic, HAES perspective, we must consider more than just “greening” the products we clean with and consuming less pesticide-ridden food sources.
These chemicals are everywhere, in our air, in our food and water, in our personal care products, and even in the dust in our homes. Ideally, hydration would be a means used to dilute toxins and improve health. Yet, even water from the tap is not safe when it is riddled with various disinfection products, impurities, and heavy metals.
Furthermore, when we are feeding our children, we may not realize that their “natural” baby cuisine, even those that are labeled as pesticide-free, could have other hidden contaminants. Just recently, the news reported that many trusted baby foods have been found to contain heavy metals! Metals have been linked to cardiovascular disorders, neuronal damage, renal injuries, and an increased risk for cancer and diabetes.
According to Consumer Reports:
You’ve probably heard that lead has been found in drinking water, that certain kinds of fish contain high levels of mercury, and that worrisome amounts of arsenic have been found in rice. But you may not know why that’s a problem—or that these elements (and others, such as lead and cadmium), commonly known as “heavy metals,” are also in many other foods. This includes foods made just for babies and toddlers, such as popular snacks, cereals, prepared entrées, and packaged fruits and vegetables.
Over time, exposure to heavy metals can harm the health of adults and children. One of the biggest worries: cognitive development in very young children.
“Babies and toddlers are particularly vulnerable due to their smaller size and developing brains and organ systems,” says James E. Rogers, Ph.D., director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports. “They also absorb more of the heavy metals that get into their bodies than adults do.”
Dying to Be Beautiful
Our cosmetics and our personal care products are also not as regulated and as safe as many assume. In the second part of my Natural Path series, Why You Must be Vigilant and Not Rely on Companies, nor the Government, to Keep You Safe from Toxic Chemicals, I detailed how the oversights and assumptions of “safe until proven deadly” are very dangerous operating procedures for human health.
According to the FDA website:
Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with FDA.
… FDA is not authorized to order recalls of cosmetics, but we do monitor companies that conduct a product recall and may request a product recall if the firm is not willing to remove dangerous products from the market without FDA’s written request…
Even more concerningly, supposed independent monitoring is also lacking quality safety data. I further detailed this in the above mentioned article:
According to a 2005 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) was formed in 1976 by the Cosmetics, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association. The role of the CIR is to perform independent, expert reviews to determine the safety of ingredients found in cosmetics. The CIR staff bases their monograph safety summaries on available and requested data, as well as public comments, and submit them to publication in the International Journal of Toxicology.
Of the 1194 ingredients said to be addressed, many ingredients’ safety assessments had specific qualifications, insufficient data, or were nonconclusive based on synergistic ingredients and conflicting studies. (source)
Another issue is that these “independent” reviews may not be as unbiased as one could hope. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website:
In the absence of government authority, the safety of personal care product ingredients is evaluated through a voluntary industry program known as the Cosmetic Ingredient Review process. Not only is this program run by the very industry it is intended to oversee, but compliance with CIR recommendations is totally voluntary. The CIR has reviewed less than 20% of the FDA estimated 12,500 chemicals used in cosmetics, and of those the CIR has reviewed, they have found only 9 chemicals unsafe for use in cosmetics. What safety data does exist focuses on acute reactions to products, such as skin rashes or allergic reactions, as opposed to studies that look at chronic health effects from chemicals in personal care products, like cancer, reproductive or nervous system effect that are driven by genetic susceptibility, the timing of exposure, and aggregate exposures over a lifetime.
This is a profoundly serious problem and a very underappreciated component of the chronic health conditions that are so prevalent today. According to the Environmental Working Group:
Chemicals and contaminants linked to cancer can be found in food, water and many other everyday products. However, no category of consumer products is subject to less government oversight than cosmetics and other personal care products. Although many of the chemicals and contaminants in cosmetics and personal care products likely pose little risk, exposure to some has been linked to serious health problems, including cancer.
Since 2009, 595 cosmetics manufacturers have reported using 88 chemicals, in more than 73,000 products, that have been linked to cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm.
Many of these chemicals should be banned from cosmetics, as proposed in California Assembly Bill 2762, the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act. Among the toxic chemicals that should be banned are:
- Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.
- Paraformaldehyde, a type of formaldehyde.
- Methylene glycol, a type of formaldehyde.
- Quaternium 15, which releases formaldehyde.
- Mercury, which can damage the kidneys and nervous system.
- Dibutyl and diethylhexyl phthalates, which disrupt hormones and damage the reproductive system.
- Isobutyl and isopropyl parabens, which disrupt hormones and harm the reproductive system.
- The long-chain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances known as PFAS, which have been linked to cancer.
- M- and o-phenylenediamine, used in hair dyes, which irritate and sensitize the skin, damage DNA and can cause cancer.
All of these toxic chemicals have been banned by the European Union and many other nations, and many have been slated for removal from the store brands of major U.S. retailers, including Target, Rite Aid, Walgreens and CVS Health. (The list of known and probably carcinogens can be found here.)
Now that I have depressed the heck out of you, what can we do?
Now, for Some Cheery News: What Can You Do?
It is my hope that by educating you on all that is out there, though not pretty, it will motivate you to take steps to reduce the negative outcomes that would occur if you remained unaware.
I previously provided a list of options for finding safer cosmetics, filtering your water, and ways to avoid major chemicals in everyday products. Click here to access it. In the conclusion to this series, I will give additional resources and summary points on how to stay informed and make wise purchasing choices that support, rather than deteriorate, your health.
It is important to realize that with mitigating risk, such as eating only organic foods, you will decrease body burden, but it isn’t perfect. As we’ve seen, in today’s environment, regulations may not always be as stringent as we would like. We must be educated consumers and dedicated to taking care of ourselves and our planet.
Sometimes, it can be helpful to have a guide who is versed in environmental medicine. Many naturopathic and functional medicine doctors have had training in this area. For example, I always include naturopathic and functional medicine detoxification and cleansing approaches in my clients’ wellness programs to ensure that we are addressing all aspects that can impact their health.
Now that I’ve addressed the toxic issue on an individual level, I will next explore the economic and societal issues that must also be addressed in order to truly create a caring system of health. This would mean assessing current regulations and coming up with better policies and educational opportunities. I will dive deeper into this in part four.
Mental Health Resources
*If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and/or are suicidal, please seek professional mental health support:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) — Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line — Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor
- Lifeline Crisis Chat — Chat online with a specialist who can provide emotional support, crisis intervention and suicide prevention services at www.crisischat.org
Other Helpful Resources
Below are some of the highlights of the many free resources on this website:
- Four Essential Oils Blends for Supporting the Mind-Body and Easing Tension
- VIDEO: How Your Brain and Body Suffer with Too Much Stress & Naturopathic Medicine Tips for Calming the Mind and Relieving Overwhelm
- Video Recap: Essential Oils to Ease the Stress & Anxiety of Back to School
- The Importance of Fun, Music, & Play for Mental Health
- Video Recap: Essential Oils for Brain and Mental Health & Soothing Stress
- 10 Natural Ways to Relieve Stress and Calm the Mind-Body During Trying Times
- Video: A Naturopathic Doctor’s Approach to Thyroid Health Using Essential Oils: Video Recap & Additional Resources
Additional Supportive Techniques & Tools
- The Tapping Solution, A Technique to Lower Cortisol and Reduce Stress- Podcast interview by Dr. Kara Fitzgerald with Nick Ortner.
- Stress management tips and resources
Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)
According to experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no approved standard of care treatment, cure, or preventative for COVID-19. Supportive measures and containment are in full force as a result. Please see the CDC website and your state’s website for more information and updates. They also state when to contact your physician related to symptoms and travel history, exposures. Please read my more detailed article on this subject here.
This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.
Thanks Pixabay and Canva.