September 25, 2023

The Impact of Environmental Chemicals on Your Health

Chemical exposure is unavoidable in modern life. Chemicals make up the clothing we wear, the items we furnish and decorate our homes with; the cars we drive and the computers we work and play at every day. Chemicals are present in the water we drink and the food we serve our families. We swim in toxin-contaminated water, and we breathe poisoned air. The animals and plants we eat contain chemicals that have migrated up the food chain by way of ingestion and reproduction.

When we say “chemicals”, what does that mean exactly? There are several classifications of chemicals that adversely affect our health and the health of our planet. These include the following:

Dioxins are a by-product toxin of the manufacture, molding, or burning of organic chemicals and plastics that contain chlorine. Many people are now familiar with the term “dioxin” after having learned that plastic water bottles, when exposed to heat (such as in the car on a hot summer day), leach dioxin into the water that we consume which contributes to breast cancer

Organochlorines, or PCBs as they are more commonly known, began leaching into our environment with the manufacture of electric equipment. Although their use has since been banned in the US, PCBs remain present in our aquatic life due to millions of gallons of PCB oil having polluted the water as a result of manufacturing accidents.

Pesticides are used by humans to kill insects, fungi, and rodents. They are dangerous toxic chemicals that distrupt our endocrine system which effectively botches hormone function. Without proper hormone production, not only can we not reproduce, but our organ systems cannot function.

According to a recent article published on, A July 2007 study conducted by researchers at the Public Health Institute, the California Department of Health Services, and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health found a sixfold increase in risk factor for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for children of women who were exposed to organochlorine pesticides.

Pesticides are responsible for hormone imbalance, infertility, miscarriage, birth defects, neurological impairment, and cancer of the thyroid, bone, brain, blood, breast, liver.

In February 2009, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry published a study that found that children who live in homes where their parents use pesticides are twice as likely to develop brain cancer versus those that live in residences in which no pesticides are used.

Pesticides that exist in our immediate environment, are sprayed on the produce we eat, and leach into our drinking water are transmitted to our growing babies by way of human breast milk. We use them to rid our homes of bugs and pests. The clothes and home furnishings we purchase have been sprayed with some form of pesticide to protect them while in storage and transport. Even the antibacterial soap that we scrub our children’s hands with, contains Triclosan, a trace pesticide that is marketed as being able to inhibit the spread of germs.

Petrochemicals are derived from petroleum. Some petrochemicals come from the burning of coal or natural gas, as well as renewable sources such as corn or sugar cane. Petrochemicals are rampant in the environment, comprising the majority of consumer products. They are present in plastics, resins, lubricants, gels, fibers and elastomers. They also make up solvents, detergents and adhesives. That new carpet you bought at Home Depot is made of petrochemicals. So is the liquid detergent you wash your family’s clothes in.

Heavy metals. A heavy metal is “any metal or metalloid of environmental concern.” This includes mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic and many more. Accumulation of heavy metals occurs by way of mining and industrial wastes; vehicle emissions; lead-acid batteries; fertilizers, paints and treated woods. The use of leaded gasoline until the 1970s resulted in a concentration of lead in the environment that continues to remain, and negatively impact our health and cognitive function.

Once a heavy metal enters the body, it is not easily processed and eliminated. Accumulation of heavy metals in the human body has resulted in carcinogenic, central and peripheral nervous system and circulatory effects. Acute response to heavy metal exposure includes diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, lung inflammation, gastrointestinal bleeding, red blood cell destruction, renal failure and neuropathy. Heavy metals such as mercury and aluminum are present in the vaccines we have doctors administer to our children to protect them against illness.

Long term effects of heavy metals accumulating in the body include kidney damage, lung failure, softening of bones, kidney disorder, neurotic disorder, encephalopathy, palsy, diabetes, hypopigmentation, nonspecific kidney disease, and cancer.

Now that we have a general overview of what types of chemicals affect our bodies and how, we can explore ways to lessen the environmental chemical load in our homes and everyday lives.

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