Body Burden and Chronic Disease and Detox
CNN's Anderson Cooper did it.
So did David Duncan for National Geographic.
And Bill Moyers of PBS did it.
All had their "body burden" tested and were dismayed to learn they are loaded with chemicals.
The Chemicals Inside Us
"Body burden" is the term that describes the heavy load of environmental chemicals that can be found in the average person - the result of lifelong exposure to plastics, metals, pesticides, fire retardants, and more.
They undertook a highly complex – and very expensive – blood test. CNN's Anderson Cooper was tested for 246 synthetic chemicals. He tested positive for more than 100 of those chemicals that he had absorbed in the course of leading a normal life.
Moyers was tested for 150 chemicals; he turned up positive for 84 including 31 different types of PCBs, 13 different dioxins, and pesticides such as DDT.
They are sounding a warning about the mostly unseen, mostly unheralded dangers of life in our modern, industrial world.
Let's look at just two of the chemicals for which they tested positive:
Pesticides are increasingly linked with health problems, including breast cancer. After World War II, scientists discovered that insects were more sensitive to nerve gases than humans and it was felt that humans wouldn't be harmed by relatively low applications of the chemicals. According to a recent report by the EPA's Office of Inspector General, however, later studies showed that some pesticides can easily enter the brain of fetuses and young children and may destroy cells in the developing nervous system.
Pesticides can also kill outright. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates today – in figures that are widely accepted to be underestimates – that 200,000 people are killed worldwide, every year, as a direct result of pesticide poisoning, up from 30,000 in 1990. The WHO further estimates that at least 3 million persons are poisoned annually, many of whom are children. The US has no mandatory reporting for pesticide poisoning.
Children face unique hazards from pesticide exposure. They take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults in the food they eat and air they breathe. Their developing organ systems often make them more sensitive to toxic exposure.
The transfer of pesticides to a new child starts in the womb and continues on into infancy through the beast milk.
In the last fifteen years, evidence has emerged demonstrating that many chemicals, including pesticides, have hormone-like effects in biological systems, effects that were previously unsuspected as occurring on such a wide scale.
Pesticides also act as neurotoxins, meaning they alter brain chemicals and nerve functions as shown on brain scans. Pesticides are extremely well absorbed through the skin, eyes, mucus membranes and lungs, as well as the digestive tract. Even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy on pesticides states that "no pesticide can be considered safe" and it is illegal to even make such claims, it is legal to make widespread use of pesticides. For example, Maricopa County and other municipalities routinely spray pesticides to assuage constituent fears about mosquitoes. In some communities within the United States and Canada, concerned persons have mobilized to pressure cities and counties to limit human exposure to pesticides.
These make plastic soft and supple. They also keep substances evenly dispersed in liquid so you don't have to shake before using. Phthalates are in lotions to help them penetrate and soften skin. They make nail polish more flexible and resistant to chipping. And remember that new car smell? Or the smell of a new soft plastic shower curtain? That is likely phthalates evaporating into the air from the supple vinyl. Phthalates are found in baby teething rings and rubber duckies, many plastic bottles, kitchenware, toys, medical devices, personal care products and cosmetics.
The European Union and at least 14 other countries banned phthalates. So too did the State of California: as of 2009, "any product made for young children that contains more than one tenth of one percent of phthalates...cannot be made, sold or distributed in California."
Phthalates can mimic human hormones and disrupt the endocrine system. Research suggests even low-level phthalate exposure may contribute to infertility in men, to breast cancer in women, and to early puberty in children.
Pesticides and phthalates are part of a broad group of chemicals called POPs, meaning persistent organic pollutants. They can last in the environment for many years.
POPs enter the food supply, bioaccumulate in body tissues, and have significant impacts on human health and the environment, even in low concentrations. They have been found in locations as remote as the Arctic Circle.
POPs fall into three broad categories:
In 2003, the Environmental Working Group, in collaboration with Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and Commonwealth, examined nine volunteers - individuals who were neither exposed to chemicals in their work environment nor lived near an industrial facility. They discovered an average of 91 industrial compounds, pollutants, and other chemicals in their blood and urine and a total of 167 chemicals. Of the 167 chemicals found, 76 cause cancer in humans or animals, 94 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 79 cause birth defects or abnormal development. 
- Pesticides (DDT, chlordane, etc)
- Industrial chemicals (benzene, PCBs, lead)
- Byproducts and contaminants (hexachlorobenzene, dioxins, furans)
In 2005, the EWG group found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. Tests revealed a total of 287 chemicals in the group. The umbilical cord blood of these 10 children, collected by Red Cross after the cord was cut, harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.
In 2009, EWG looked again at umbilical cord blood, this time from all from minority mothers. For the first time, bisphenol A (BPA) was found, the synthetic estrogen used in plastics that has been linked to breast cancer and hormonal problems; it was found in 9 out of 10 samples. For the first time, synthetic musks from perfumes were found; they are known to cause hormonal changes. All 10 samples had lead, mercury, perfluorochemicals, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, polychlorinated naphthalenes, polychlorinated biphenyls, and chlorinated dioxin.
The bodies of virtually all U.S. pregnant women carry multiple chemicals, including those used in non-stick cookware, processed foods, and personal care products, according to a 2011 study from the University of California at San Francisco.[31a] Chemicals can cross the placenta and enter the fetus, and other studies tell us a number of chemicals measured in maternal urine and serum are found in amniotic fluid, cord blood and first bowel movements.
A growing body of evidence in the US and Britain suggests that chemicals are wreaking havoc in the lives of our kids. They're the main cause behind the alarming trend toward increasing "precocious puberty" – little girls prematurely growing breasts, pubic hair, and going through all the other confusing changes that come with puberty.
Research published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that American boys are also hitting puberty earlier than in the past. A significant number of boys as young as eight showed signs of premature genital development.
Recent research suggests POPs are a contributing factor to the rise in obesity. Researchers found a strong dose response relationship between type II diabetes risk and a body burden of six POPs. Five of the six have highly significant associations when examined singly. The association is especially strong between diabetes risk and an estimate of the summed exposure to all six POPs studied simultaneously.
Mainstream nutritionists tell us that high-fat diets are to blame for obesity, but high-fat diets were common in the 19th century while heart disease and other chronic diseases were rare. Meanwhile, the steady growth of disease rates throughout the 20th century parallels the steady increase in the use of POPs.
"At a minimum, the American people have a right to know the substances to which they and their children are being exposed and to know everything that science can tell us about the hazards.
"It is now clear that we waited too long to ask the right questions about the CFCs that eventually attacked the ozone layer, and we are going too slow in addressing the threat of climate change. We certainly waited too long to ask the right questions about PCBs, DDT, and other chemicals, now banned, that presented serious human health risks."
Vice President Al Gore
The Federal Toxic Substances Control Act of 1979 allows for synthetic chemicals to become part of the many products we use without any testing for potential human health problems. Since 1979, more than 70,000 chemicals have been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Only a small percentage has undergone testing; most of those produced in large quantities are rarely tested at all.
The global expansion of the organic chemical industry has been phenomenal, with total production in the 1950s estimated at around 7 million tonnes , compared to more than 250 million tonnes by the early 1990s (CEC,1992). Both the sheer volume of chemicals used and the variety of chemicals have increased dramatically. By some estimates, 80,000 chemicals are currently in widespread use.
Until recently, no one had measured levels of exposure within people. No regulations require it. Only a few labs have the technical expertise to detect the trace amounts involved, and it is expensive to do so. National Geographic paid for reporter Duncan's tests - about $15,000.
Some common everday exposures include:
Some of the "living better through chemistry" compounds are so much a part of our daily lives, we never give them a thought. Formaldehyde makes fabrics look strong and beautiful, gasoline makes automobiles run, aluminum hydroxide makes our sweat glands stop functioning so no one can see us sweat at that big meeting.
- build-up of environmental contaminants in the food chain - like mercury in fish
- breathing air and drinking water
- being around carpet glues and pressure treated backyard decks (treated with arsenic), and furniture or insulation made with formaldehyde
- ingesting chemicals and dyes used in food packaging and in processed foods
- absorbing chemicals through the skin from cosmetics
- ingesting prescription drugs like prednisone and cholesterol-lowering medications that interfere with liver function – the body's detoxification organ
- absorbing heavy metals like mercury, for example, from dental fillings, vaccines, power plant emission, floor waxes-polishes, fungicides, mercurochrome, photoengraving, psoriatic ointments, skin lightening cream, tanning leather, tattooing, wood preservatives, and from eating contaminated fish
But there is a price to pay. When chemicals get into the body, they can slow down or completely stop many important cellular processes leading to fatigue, symptomatic illness, and even to autoimmune disease.
Many manmade chemicals are fat soluble and the body cannot readily break them down. These chemicals are then stored in body fats, and build up to dangerous levels. Man is at the top of the food chain so he is consuming the big fish or animals that eat the little fish or animals that eat the seaweed or grass or plankton that accumulate the toxins.
Women then "offload" a considerable portion of their toxic load both to their fetuses in the womb and to their newborns through breast feeding. In a recent Australian study looking at the first bowel discharge (meconium) of newborns many synthetic chemicals were detected. These included lindane in 78% of samples, PCP 43%, Chlorpyrifos 59%, Malathion 34%, Chlordane 16%, DDT 52% and PCB in 27% of the 44 babies tested.
Body Burden Increasingly Linked to Chronic Disease
There is growing acknowledgement that patterns of illness in children in the developed world drastically changed in the 20th century. Many of the old infectious diseases are gone, replaced by new chronic and disabling conditions that have been termed the 'new pediatric morbidity'. For example, asthma mortality has doubled, leukemia and brain cancer have increased in incidence, nervous system dysfunction including autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and neurodevelopmental delay has significantly increased. The incidence of hypospadias (displaced urethral opening) has doubled.
According to the World Health Organization, chronic diseases have now surpassed infectious diseases as the major cause of death and disability worldwide. Noncommunicable conditions, including cardiovascular diseases (CVD), diabetes, obesity, cancer and respiratory diseases, now account for 59% of the 57 million deaths annually and 46% of the global burden of disease.
"The human race is now contaminated with hundreds of synthetic chemicals, which were not found in our ancestors. Exposure in the womb to these contaminants can cause birth defects and affect our children's future ability to reproduce and their susceptibility to diseases, including cancer. In some cases, developmental problems can result, such that the affected children may never reach their full potential."
The Body Burden Community Monitoring Handbook, an initiative of the Community Monitoring Working Group of the International POPS Elimination Network
Although research linking environmental toxins to chronic disease just keeps coming like bill collectors chasing a deadbeat, many voices deny or simply do not make the connection.
Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health, told CNN, "My concern about this trend about measuring chemicals in the blood is it's leading people to believe that the mere ability to detect chemicals is the same as proving a hazard, that if you have this chemical, you are at risk of a disease, and that is false," she said. Whelan contends that trace levels of industrial chemicals in our bodies do not necessarily pose health risks.
Richard J. Hodes, M.D., Director of the National Institute on Aging testified to the U.S. Senate in April, 2007 about the burden of chronic disease, a critical issue for our older citizens. He spoke of osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's. His speech was absent any mention of chemical buildup.
The World Health Organization likewise does not mention the body burden: "A relatively few risk factors – high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and alcohol – cause the majority of the chronic disease burden."
But many others have made the connection and are speaking out.
Dr. Leo Trasande, assistant director of the Center for Children's Health and the Environment at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, is one.
"We are in an epidemic of environmentally mediated disease among American children today. Rates of asthma, childhood cancers, birth defects and developmental disorders have exponentially increased, and it can't be explained by changes in the human genome. So what has changed? All the chemicals we're being exposed to."
The Milken Institute issued an important benchmark report October 2, 2007 recommending a major overhaul of how America deals with chronic diseases. Among the report's findings:
Doctors and other health care providers should be paid to manage and prevent chronic illnesses, instead of getting most of their income from treatments, the report recommended.
- More than half of all Americans suffer from one or more chronic diseases.
- The top seven chronic diseases are cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, mental disorders and pulmonary conditions.
- By 2023, the nation could face a 42 percent increase in cases of the seven chronic diseases.
- There has not been a significant focus on estimating the costs that could be avoided through efforts to reduce the prevalence and burden of chronic disease. The tops seven chronic diseases cost the nation $1.3 trillion annually, with $277 billion spent on treatment and $1.1 trillion lost due to lower productivity.
What's Inside of You?
What's your body burden? Unless you have $10,000 or more to find out for sure, you can take an initial stab at it through an on-line test provided by the Oakland Tribune: http://extras.insidebayarea.com/bodyburden/bodyburden.html
You can check out how the Milken Institute rated Arizona (and all 50 states) for levels of chronic disease:
Many of the chemicals we are exposed to every day are found in our own homes. Synthetic chemicals can be found in everyday items like strawberry milkshakes and nail polish, baby toys and shampoo.
What can you do to limit your body burden? Here are 10 fundamentals:
And most important of all - learn more about how your body comes into contact with chemicals and what's in the products you use. We've listed a few websites at the end of this article to get you started.
- Filter the water in your home. You can absorb as much chlorine in the morning shower as you could by drinking 8 glasses of tap water. Municipal water can contain pesticides and fluoride.
- Use household cleaners that do not have chlorine beach, butyl cellosolve, glycol ethers, ammonia, and perfumes – even perfumes are often made from carcinogenic chemicals.
- Reduce the toxic load in the personal care products you use. Sodium laurytheth sulfate (SLS) or SLES or SMS is in almost every shampoo for example; the MSDS says SLS is damaging to the immune system, especially within the skin; can become carcinogenic when combined with other chemicals. Aluminum is in just about every antiperspirant, yet it is implicated in brain dysfunction. Read up on fluoride's brain dumbing effects and consider switching to fluoride-free toothpaste.
- Search the Valley and the Internet for safe toys that are made of wood and other natural elements instead of plastic. You will be pleasantly surprised at the variety available.
- Go organic in your diet. Grass-fed beef is free of most toxins and contain higher levels of COQ10, CLA, and other nutrients that support human health. Wild-caught fish are free of the chemicals supplied to farm-raised fish. Organic fruits and veggies should be free of pesticides and perhaps grown in soil that is higher in nutrients.
- If organic meats aren't available, trim off the fat. Animals, like humans, tend to store their horded chemicals in their fat. If organic veggies aren't available, use a commercial wash or use distilled white vinegar to remove pesticides.
- Choose foods that come in glass containers instead of plastic.
- Don't microwave foods packaged in plastic or covered in plastic wrap.
- Toss out any aluminum or non-stick cookware you have and use glass, stainless steel, or porcelain-covered cast iron.
- Choose no- or low-VOC paints, natural fiber carpets, and seal the raw edges of any particle board furniture you buy.
Emptying the Body Burden
At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, we find a great number of health problems substantially benefit from detoxification. And increasingly, this is true for children.
What to look for in children
Years ago, we accepted the evidence of how lead damages children. Today, we must look at the impact of the body burden newborns received in their mother's womb. Childhood patterns are emerging that appear to link the chemicals inside to the symptoms outside:
What else to look for
- Apparently normal infants develop infections that require antibiotics or other medical intervention.
- Within the first weeks of life gastrointestinal problems show up - feeding problems, colic, gastroesophageal reflux, poor sleep patterns, skin rashes and/or eye infections. These can progress into recurrent infections which in turn initiate poor sleep patterns, irritability, constant crying, failure to thrive, excessive activity levels and asthma.
- As the child grows, behavior can become a major problem, often accompanied by learning disorders. Depending on the severity of the problem, speech therapy and remedial teaching may be necessary to deal with the problem. Uncontrolled aggression may also be present. Look around you at the many kids today on Ritalin and similar stimulant drugs.
- Fatigue, constant complaints of headache and abdominal pain become common, with repeated episodes of gastroenteritis dismissed as a virus or food poisoning. Meanwhile the gut is often bombarded with soda pop, sugar, hormones and steroids in commercially processed beef – all the foibles of the typical diet.
- If behavior and learning problems are not effectively treated, these young people are at significant risk of becoming teenagers with behavior problems, depression, bipolar or other psychiatric disorders. They can progress to become substance abusers, teenage suicides or go on to have a lifetime of psychiatric problems or some other disability.
If we are ill, and are unable to find an easily fixable cause, then we should consider that our body may be so full of pollutants it cannot remain healthy. Some signs that detoxification is needed:
Diagnosis of autism
Diagnosis of attention deficit (hyperactivity) disorder
Diagnosis of any chronic disease
Unexplained pain – headaches, back pain, etc
Poor or failing memory
Lack of energy, mild depression (or even severe depression)
Brittle nails and hair
Abnormal body odor, coated tongue, bad breath
Unexplained weight gain (remember, your body stores many toxins in fat)
Psoriasis, other skin diseases
Chronic hormone use, chronic steroid use
The detoxification process
The body detoxifies in two steps.
Some people have a genetic problem with detoxification. They do not have the enzymes needed to conduct Phase l and Phase II detoxification. These people can be much more easily damaged by levels of toxins which would not affect people who have the enzymes.
- Phase I: the compound is made water-soluble by attaching the toxic chemical to a molecule which itself is water-soluble. In this state it is occasionally more toxic than the parent compound.
- Phase II: the water-soluble compound is attached to a molecule which renders the compound harmless. It is then eliminated from the body, most often in urine or stool and sometimes in the sweat. As long as there is sufficient water in the system, the compounds can be safely eliminated. If water is lacking, the compounds can precipitate in the kidneys (causing kidney stones or even kidney failure), or in the gall bladder (causing gallstones).
Autistic children are an example of genetic predisposition to development of toxicity. They often have problems with their methylation or sulfation pathways. These may be the ones who clearly developed their disease after vaccination – the addition of a viral load plus a dose of toxic mercury in the thimerosal was enough to overwhelm their detoxification systems, and the result was the development of autism. Not every child develops autism after vaccination. But some children do, even after the thimerosal preservative was substituted by an aluminum preservative. Could they be sensitive to the neurotoxic aluminum as well?
Sometimes a person is simply overwhelmed by an excessive body burden – not just one toxin, but of the layering of different toxins. For example, severe stress for a long time, combined with long time exposure to an airborne chemical like formaldehyde, can result in toxic overload that manifests as chronic fatigue syndrome or, in the worst case scenario, inability to live easily in the world because of symptoms like syncope, Raynaud's disease, wheezing, brain fog or other physical manifestations of chemical sensitivity.
Remember that metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPS) are only part of the story. We also need to treat the gut, since many unhelpful or even actively harmful bacteria can take up residence there. Harmful bacteria can produce toxins which we then absorb, and which can cause significant disruption of normal metabolic processes – irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, allergies like skin rashes[20,21], and asthma, immune disorders, arthritis[22,23,24]. Some of the antibodies which we produce against these bacteria may cross react with our own body structure, leading to auto-immune diseases like thyroiditis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis.
The approach depends on what we are dealing with - chemicals, heavy metals, sensitivities, your genetic makeup, and your commitment.
Nutrition becomes extremely important during detoxification. Almost every chronic disease is characterized by imbalances in the gut's terrain, and the resulting failure to digest and absorb nutrients. Much of the therapy is dietary. Before you can "dump toxins," your organs must be ready to deal with them.
- Diet - No point in cleaning out the car if you're going to keep putting dirty gasoline in the tank. Learning to "just say no" to non-nutritious foods is much harder than it sounds – you can probably name a dozen failed diets you've tried plus the contradictory books you've read from "experts." We use FirstLine Therapy to help people make a successful transition to a better diet.
- Remove – It takes lots of water to clean out the car. We want to empty the large intestine and make adequate amounts of urine. Colon hydrotherapy can be very effective to cleanse the large intestine. Treatment with chelation may be useful to trigger the departure of heavy metals and other foreign matter from tissues. Phosphatidylcholine for example helps detox brain tissues by improving the health and flexibility of the cell membranes. We have a number of nutrients and techniques we can use to facilitate removal.
- Restore – Antibiotics and unhealthy GI function altered the GI terrain so we work to "reset" it with digestive enzymes, probiotics, bile salts, and hydrochloric acid if the stomach is unable to produce it. Antioxidants are used to repair DNA damage and give energy to trillions of cells.
- Repair – We want to feed the organs nutrients so they can regenerate. Silymarin and dandelion and for example help repair the liver. FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides) and L-glutamine can help repair the lining of the gut for example.
Many people find detox products at the store and attempt to detox on their own. And many times, the effort is ineffective because the products do not provide the means to carry the toxins out of the body once they are freed up. Many released toxins are routed to the intestines where they must connect with some kind of chelating agent, or some kind of fiber to prevent enterohepatic reuptake of the toxins.
Our detox protocol uses medical foods, vegetable juices, colon cleansing, and sometimes bioenergetic therapies. We monitor liver enzymes and kidney function periodically, and levels of heavy metals are tested periodically to monitor progress.
When the body is functioning poorly, the brain suffers as well. Deficiency of neurotransmitters, destruction of neural pathways by exposure to mercury or other heavy metals, deficiency of nutrients because of poor gut function – all these affect the function of the brain. Brain training, in conjunction with the metabolic work, is extremely helpful in re-establishment of neural pathways, helping the brain's nerves to heal themselves.
Often the build up of heavy metals has disrupted the neural pathways in the brain and depleted the neurotransmitters. Disorganization of thoughts, problems with planning and short-term memory disturbances can continue to be an issue. Chelation is an effective way to pull heavy metals out of the body
At the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine, we recognize that the mind and body work together and both must be considered for healing efforts to be successful.
A Successful Ascent to Health
Finally, let me share one success story... One September I evaluated an extremely bright 9-year old boy (he recited the alphabet backwards to his parents one night, because he was tired of having it read forwards to him). His social skills were those of a 3-year old, and his attention span was that of a gnat. Members of his extended family had Asperger's syndrome and learning disabilities, so it was pretty clear that there were detoxification issues. He was taking Concerta for his diagnosis of AD/HD, and his diet was extremely poor – mostly refined foods and sugars – when he ate at all. Testing showed reactions to gluten (the protein in wheat) and sugar (both cane and corn). He started a course of neurotherapy. His diet was changed to a healthy one with no gluten or sugars. We added supplemental vitamins and fish oils. He came off his Concerta, regained his appetite, began to pay attention and behave better in school. After a few behavioral bumps in the road (worsened by cheating on the diet), by March he was fully functional in school, gaining new friends, and beginning to learn social skills. Two years later I received a letter from his mother, in which she said:
"I just wanted to give you an update on how well my son is doing. He is graduating the 6th grade this year and moving onto middle school. He was on the honor role every quarter. This quarter he has all A's. In the past he was in the CD program (communication disorder) at his school and normally would have continued onto a middle school farther from our home. But since the CD program is no longer needed, we can move him to our school where he belongs. We need to go on Oprah or something to get the word out about the great work that you do."
Inquiring Minds Want to Read More
Resources for learning more about the chemicals in our world:
Environmental Working Group - http://www.ewg.org
Not Too Pretty - http://www.ewg.org/reports/nottoopretty
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics - http://www.safecosmetics.org
Pesticide Action Network North America - http://www.panna.org
Commonweal - http://www.commonweal.org
Pesticide Action Network International - http://www.pan-international.org/
International POPs Elimination Network - http://www.ipen.org
IPEN's Body Burden Community Monitoring Handbook - http://www.oztoxics.org/cmwg/bb_introduction.html
Fluoride Action Network - http://www.fluoridealert.org
Chemicals in Breast milk versus formula – http://www.nrdc.org/breastmilk
Our Stolen Future - http://www.ourstolenfuture.org
Food Intolerance Network - http://www.fedupwithfoodadditives.info
Organic Consumers Association - http://www.organicconsumers.org
CNN's Anderson Coopers' Body Burden Testing - http://www.cnn.com...cnnSTCVideo
National Geographic - http://www7.nationalgeographic.com...plasma.nationalgeographic.com