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According to Janice Wittenberg, R.N., toxins are defined as “poisonous manmade compounds, or those occurring in nature, or found in the body in the form of microorganisms that have an adverse impact on immune function.”

Dr. Elson Haas, M.D. adds in Staying Healthy With Nutrition, that toxicity occurs on two levels, external and internal and that we acquire toxins from our environment by breathing them, ingesting them or touching them. We eat and drink them and “impose them on ourselves repeatedly and regularly.”

Where Do External Toxins Come From?
Internally our bodies produce a variety of toxic wastes just through the process of our own metabolism. We have the mechanisms and pathways in place to handle the load.

Externally, we get toxins from just about everywhere and in amounts that far exceed anything in history. “Each week approximately 6,000 new chemicals are listed in the Chemical Society’s Chemical Abstracts, which adds up to over 300,000 new chemicals each year.

On average we consume 14 pounds each year of food additives, including colorings, preservatives, flavorings, emulsifiers, humectants, and antimicrobials. In 1990, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimated there were 70,000 chemicals commonly used in pesticides, foods, and prescription drugs… the use of pesticides and herbicides to limit crop loss has skyrocketed over the past thirty years.

"The average person consumes one pound of these chemicals [pesticides, herbicides] each year. ” Digestive Wellness by Elizabeth Lipski, M.S.,C.C.N.

Some Minerals Are Toxic
Dr. Elson Haas lists toxic minerals as being aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, antimony, barium, beryllium, bismuth, bromine, thallium and uranium, the most toxic being cadmium and mercury.

“It’s estimated that over 25% of the U.S. has heavy metal poisoning.” Elizabeth Lipski, M.S., C.C.N. We get most cadmium from a multitude of sources including food, water pipes, cigarette smoke and industry.
Mercury is toxic and widespread. It’s widely used in industry, agriculture and health care. Not that long ago it was used by doctors to treat disease. Toxic metals have polluted our atmosphere, water, soil and our food chain.

Crude Oil Chemicals (petrochemicals) Are Everywhere
Thousands of chemicals are made from crude oil. Among those well known would be DDT and others used to kill insects. "Because the petrochemical toxins are fat-soluble, they permeate all biological membranes, including human skin and the skins of fruits and vegetables.

Toxic chemicals saturate our food, the newspapers that we read, the cars that we drive, and the computer chips that drive our office machinery…. Poisons are sprayed everywhere…

Large Corporations and Government
Candidly, the heads of large corporations admit that cleaning up properly will lower their profit margins and cause them to raise prices. Some feel that operating a non polluting plant does not make any difference since the average citizen doesn’t really care about environmental quality.” Dr. Bert Berkson, The Alpha Lipoic Acid Breakthrough

Janice Wittenberg, R.N. and author of The Rebellious Body states, “Consumers have placed trust in industry and the government to regulate and act prudently to ensure their safety by selling products that are ostensibly safe.

Their trust is being betrayed as occupational, environmental, and accidental exposures are on the rise. According to the National Academy of Sciences, 37 million Americans suffer from Environmental Intolerance. They estimate that as many as 15% of Americans can no longer live comfortably in our postindustrial world.”

Most of the toxins produced by petrochemicals can be classified as xenoestrogens because they mimic certain effects of estrogen. This is a big deal. [see Hormones]

Some Everyday Common Toxic Contributors
All kinds of cleaning products like:
Spray starch – formaldehyde
Dry cleaning spot remover – solvents
Oven cleaner – lye aerosols
Furniture polish – nitrobenzene, napthalene, phenols
Silver polish – petroleum products
Air fresheners – phenol, cresol, ethanol, xylene
Germ killing disinfectants – cresol, phenol, ethanol, formaldehyde
Personal products like:
Toothpaste – phenol, cresol, ethanol
Cosmetics and mascara- plastic resins, formaldehyde, PVP
Talcum powder – some contain asbestos
Aerosol hairspray – PVP, formaldehyde
Antiperspirants and deodorants – aluminum chlorohydrate, ammonia, formaldehyde
Permanent press clothing – resins, formaldehyde
Synthetic fibers – nylon, polyester, acrylic- which are all plastics
Things we use:
Non-stick pans, ironing board covers, etc. – teflon; irritant to skin, eyes and respiratory tract (bird owner alert!)
Insecticides – all kinds
Prescription Drugs – “All drugs are toxic to some extent.” Eli Lilly 
[Reference: Dr. Elson Haas, Staying Healthy with Nutrition

What Is “Outgassing”?
Notice that new office carpet, new car, new paint, new computer, new furniture, new house smell? That’s outgassing. Almost everything synthetic [and natural things with glues, finishes, etc.] does it and it continues long after, even years after, the smell you notice fades away. These are vaporized chemical fumes emitted from solid substances that contribute to your toxic load.

Should You Drink Your Water, Or Run From It?
Another source of toxic accumulation is drinking water. One of the biggest concerns in regards to chemical pollution is water. Third world countries have problems with bacterial contamination.

This sort of contamination is obvious, immediate and resolvable. Our water problems are more subtle, almost invisible and long range. They’re a result of industrial productivity combined with vast amounts of waste accumulation, mostly chemical. Chemical wastes make their way in and through our rivers, lakes and streams and your drinking water before finding their eventual way to the sea.

Dr. Jesse Stoff says, “Half the toxins in the water come from what they add to it to neutralize the other toxins already there, or to confer some ill-conceived health benefit.”

One example of that “health benefit” would be the fluoride added to water and other products to give us stronger teeth and bones. It’s a waste product of the aluminum and phosphate fertilizer industry and an enzyme inhibitor.

Food Irradiation – Another Use of Industrial Waste
We have tons of stored highly radioactive waste that has a life span of about a quarter of a million years. The nuclear weapons and energy industries are stuck with it and it contains some of the most toxic chemicals ever created.

A flourishing “food irradiation” industry would be helpful in eliminating those storage issues. Using radiation on food kills bacteria which is of particular value to the meat packing industry. It kills the bacteria but leaves their toxic residue, and produces free radicals and toxic waste for your body to deal with.  [see Radiation]
Reference: Diet for a Poisoned Planet by David Steinman

Chemotherapy is a single chemical, or collection of chemicals, used by medical professionals to kill cancerous cells. These highly toxic drugs are chosen because of their ability to kill fast growing cells.

Cancer cells are fast growing cells. There are other cells in the body that are naturally fast growing cells, like hair follicles, cells in the gastrointestinal tract and cells in the bone marrow. Immune system cells originate in the bone marrow.

Unfortunately, these drugs can’t distinguish between the fast growing cells you don’t want (cancer), from fast growing cells that you do – hair, digestive function and an immune system.

Dr. William Clark says in At War Within, “ In chemotherapy, because the drugs used for treatment circulate freely throughout the body, not much can be done to protect the marrow, so the amount of the drug given must be tailored to what the marrow can tolerate, rather than what is needed to eradicate the tumor. This is a constant source of frustration to medical oncologists.”

Due to the ability of chemotherapy to suppress immune function, it is also used to treat autoimmune conditions.

It’s Not The Same Food Your Parents Ate
Genetically engineered foods. There are many issues associated with this topic well beyond toxins. In relationship to toxins, however, those against the development of these foods maintain, among other things, that there will be new and higher levels of toxins plus unforeseen and undetected toxins associated with them.

Drs. Laura and Robin Ticciati state in their book, Genetically Engineered Foods, Are They Safe? You Decide, [ISBN: 0-87983-967-8] “Many plants naturally produce a variety of compounds that are toxic to humans or alter food quality. Generally, these are present at levels which do not cause problems.

Combining plants and animal species in genetic engineering may create new and much higher levels of these toxins. Corn and potatoes engineered to produce toxins that kill insects are now classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as pesticides, rather than vegetables.

In 1989, a genetically engineered form of the food supplement tryptophan contained toxic contaminants. As a result, 37 people died, 1,500 were permanently disabled, and 5,000 others became very ill.”

In 1998 there were over thirty genetically engineered product sources approved for commercial distribution including three varieties of soybeans, eleven varieties of corn, five varieties of tomatoes, and five varieties of cotton. [Reference: Genetically Engineered Foods, Are They Safe?]

More Is Too Much
Our body is designed to detox itself. Isn’t that process still going on? Dr. Theron Randolph, the father of environmental medicine, believes that “ many toxic chemicals are fat-soluble and stored in body fat, capable of remaining in the body for years, and as a result, chemical exposures can have a cumulative effect.”

Dr. Jesse Stoff suggests, “Our bodies produce a variety of toxic wastes routinely, and for this reason we possess well-developed enzymatic detoxification pathways. Unfortunately, these pathways can be overwhelmed when external sources of toxins are added to those found naturally in the food supply and to by-products of our own metabolism.” External toxins add to the “total body load”.

Evolution Is Slow
Our bodies can’t evolve quickly enough to handle the types of toxins and additional toxic load as a matter of course. “Our ancestors were not routinely exposed to the types of poisons that we encounter in our daily environment, and consequently we have not evolved the proper physiological machinery to bread down these toxins.” Dr. Bert Berkson

Immune Systems Are Struggling
The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back
Your immune system is part of the machinery that protects you from toxins. It is constantly struggling to keep up. Toxins cause free radicals that bind to cytokines [information pathways] causing a breakdown in vital immune information flow. Dr. Berkson states that, “

There comes a time when a person’s immune system just can’t handle any more insults and becomes completely overwhelmed. This point is related best by ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ concept. When your toxic threshold is reached, the poisons and microbes start having their way.”

“It is impossible to avoid contact with damaging agents.” Janice Wittenberg, R.N.
The material on this web site including toxins is offered to you for informational purposes only and is not meant to be interpreted as medical advice to diagnose, treat or cure any immune system disorder. You should consult with a qualified health professional whenever your health is in question.
Copyright Benjamin Associates All Rights Reserved
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Immune System focus: immune system information, the immune response, immune system support, what you need to be aware of when you boost the immune system, toxins, combating immune system stressors, what weakens the immune system, what strengthens the immune system, immune system deficiencies including auto immune disorders and how you can help the body heal.
Toxins & The Immune System
Immune Stressors
Immune System
See also Immune 101

Fast Facts
  • Toxins are poisons produced by your body’s own processes, or those occurring in nature, or obtained from manmade sources. Manmade sources come from pesticides in your food, gas given off by your new carpet, chemicals in your water, that new car smell, toxic minerals used by industry and tons of other sources including prescription drugs and chemotherapy. 6,000 new chemicals get added each week to the chemical pile up. Environmental intolerance is a big issue.

  • Many toxins produced by petrochemicals are xenoestrogen’s, meaning that they mimic estrogen in the body and contribute to hormone imbalance with subsequent immune suppression.

  • The body is designed to detoxify itself. However, when external sources of toxicity are added to the mix those normal detoxification processes become overwhelmed. External toxins add to the “total body load”. The liver is the body’s main organ of detoxification. A fully functional liver supports immune system function. The immune system is part of your body’s detoxification arsenal.

  • It’s not possible to avoid environmental toxins.

  • Toxins cause free radicals that destroy cells in the body and bind to cytokines (immune system information pathways) damaging those immune system pathways resulting in reduced immune system function.