everyday environmental toxins you can easily avoid

Mercury

Mercury is toxic and detrimental to health at any dose in a myriad of ways, but especially so to the nervous system. The longest half-life is estimated around 3 years. The long half-life implies that it works in an accumulative and subtle "poisoned for life" manner, rather than that you notice any immediate ill effects from being poisoned, unless a single dosage is so high that it borders lethality. This is a characteristic that is replicated by aluminum, lead, dioxins, PCBs and PFAS as well. People who are poisoned by those substances largely remain oblivious of the fact, as they are unable to draw any causal connections between their behavior and symptoms. Those symptoms tend to creep in so slowly over time, that they escape any sort of recognition as such in the first place and are attributed to other factors instead. This also makes them almost impossible to recognize in scientific studies, in which exposure was not extreme. Mercury accumulates in the brain and is extremely neurotoxic. But also a large part of the intestine accumulates mercury, as cells try to remove the toxin as fast as possible from the blood. But these cells then may release it again slowly over time to varying degrees when detoxifying themselves. Mercury like other heavy metals, is by far most detrimental to children and the developing brain (orders of magnitude worse than in adults) and can cause or worsen a wide range of developmental issues, such as autism, low IQ or learning disabilities, impaired growth, immune function, gut health, etc. But also in adults and at a lower threshold of harm, it can cause a wide array of "everyday issues" such as increased fatigue, worsened gut and organ functioning, increased frequency of headaches, susceptibility to disease, decreased stress tolerance and mental performance, anxiety, depression, low self-confidence, apathy, bad memory, irritability, and so on and forth.

Sources:

  • some vaccines
  • silver amalgam dental fillings
  • seafood from contaminated regions, such as fish but esp. algae
  • fluorescent lightbulbs (includes energy-saving lightbulbs)
  • Ayurvedic medicine (Rasashastra)
  • foreign skin bleaching creams
  • old thermometers

Aluminium

The longest estimated half-life is 7 years. Aluminium is almost identical in neurotoxic effects to mercury. The main difference is, that aluminium is about 100x less potent than mercury, that the absorption rate from food is about 100x lower, and that it doesn't have as high of an affinity to distribute into fatty tissue, i.e. the brain. However, the half-life is higher, its use in food packaging still persists to this day, and it is sometimes injected directly into the body bypassing low absorption rates. This is why it is such a considerable health concern, just as mercury is. Its longer half-life also amplifies the effect, that you can be poisoned for life by this substance, commonly without even immediately noticing anything at all. Regardless it is just like mercury toxic and detrimental at any dose that reaches the bloodstream. Especially so if you somehow genetically or otherwise lack the capacity to eliminate it as effectively as other people.

Aluminium automatically forms an protective oxide barrier on the outside. We usually only encounter it in solid chunks or chemically inert forms within soil, which makes it very very safe to handle. However acidity from food or heat can weaken this barrier and dissolve elemental aluminium into the foodstuff.

Sources:

  • almost all vaccines
  • food packaging
  • cooking ware that has eroded, esp. if it was not manufactured by iodization
  • dust or welding fumes from workplace exposure

Lead

Lead has historically been used for a wide range of applications, such as water pipes and their solder, kitchen wares, paint and as a gasoline additive. Sometimes we still are exposed to these sources, albeit lead has been outlawed to be used for most of these purposes for 30-50 years. Lead shares many of the neurotoxic and ill effects of mercury, but differs in a few aspects, such as potency, absorption dynamics and symtoms. It accumulates in the bones for a lifetime (30+ years), and may constantly reabsorb from there into the bloodstream. Leaded gasoline has been described as the biggest crime against human health of all time. Plants and animals largely do not accumulate lead in the edible parts.

Sources:

  • lead solder fumes (electronics)
  • airports (old engines are still allowed to use highly leaded fuel)
  • food that has been grown on contaminated soil, especially tea (low-growing plants with high surface area have much more lead)
  • the soil under old large steel structures, such as electric towers (lead-oxide anti-rust paint)
  • in some countries, all sorts of paint e.g. used for homes and the soil beneath it
  • any sort of soil, esp. surface dust (due to historic leaded fuel use and certain industry, all soil is somewhat contaminated with lead)
  • older or foreign espresso or coffee makers (lead solder)
  • copper (lead solder) or lead water pipes
  • Ayurvedic medicine (Rasashastra)
  • rainwater from rooftops (many are fitted with lead sheets)

BPA

Bisphenol A has historically been in widespread use for the manufacture of certain plastics, and still is used today for this purpose, as awareness about it is rather new and low. It is also an essential component of epoxy resin, where it is for the most part chemically converted, and otherwise encased and thereby rendered inert. BPA is a xenoestrogenic endocrine disruptor. It has detrimental effects on the developing brain, and can result in (or contribute to) developmental disabilities as well as feminization and other disturbances of normal sexual development. A wide range of other issues such as cancer, and autism, obesity or diabetes and impaired immune function are also associated with BPA exposure. As it is rendered mostly inert within solid plastics, it is only released when the plastic is allowed to chemically react with foodstuff. This is especially so if heat or acid are at play, or if the plastic is chewed upon. The acute toxicity to adults by comparison is very low and it does not stay in the body for long. So BPA primarily concerns infants, children and to some degree adolescents.

Sources:

  • baby bottles in the US and some other countries (not Germany)
  • certain often brittle and heat-resistant plastics, such as found in water cookers, some reusable water bottles or plastic kitchen ware
  • recycled food packaging and other plastics
  • epoxy lining inside metal food cans
  • sometimes plastic toys
  • workplace exposure from pouring, sanding or cutting epoxy resin

Dioxins and PCBs

Dioxins and PCBs have been released into the environment by a wide range of industrial activity, such as manufacturing paper, pesticides or smelting. They are found everywhere, as sediments in rivers, sea and in the soil, but the most so in populated and industrialized regions. The Baltic sea for example is so contaminated, that you cannot safely eat any fish from it. However fish in the Norwegian sea have virtually no contamination. The foods highest in dioxins are dairy products, followed by fish and (fatty) meat. Dioxins and PCBs are cancerogenic endocrine disruptors, can damage the immune system and accumulate in the bodies of animals over time, including humans. Their half-life overall is estimated to be around 10 years. So ill effects and symptoms are usually not recognized and attributed to them, like it is the case with mercury, lead, aluminium and PFAS.

Sources:

  • fish and seafood from contaminated regions
  • liver meat and liver oils
  • fatty animal foods (dairy, meat), but also to a lesser extent animal foods in general (esp. relevant if region is contaminated)
  • burning certain common plastics, such as found in furniture, building materials, commercial packaging, textiles, etc.
  • ingesting soil or unfiltered river waterfrom contaminated region

PFASs

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances are long-lasting chemicals quite similar to dioxins in most ways. The main difference is that they are not just an unwanted pollutant released into the environment, but specifically produced to serve industrial applications, such as Teflon in frying pans. Their detrimental health effects have only recently been recognized and studied and there is a lack of laws to regulate their use. This is why they may or may not be found in a wide range of commercial products. I am not an expert on PFASs, so I am not sure if they accumulate in animal tissues in a similar way to dioxins (liver, then fat), but I would suppose so. As they are less omnipresent than dioxins, they are easier to avoid and less of a general concern.

Sources:

  • environmental pollution (e.g. fish, water wells)
  • non-stick cooking ware
  • parchment paper
  • stain-resistant coatings for fabrics
  • some brands of dental floss
  • some cleaning products
  • teflon grease and chain oils
  • sometimes food packaging
  • ski wax, water or stain repellant or other similar products

Fluoride

In almost all of the world, fluoride does not occur naturally in drinking water or food to any significant degree. This is why the human body is not really adapted to fluoride in the environment, and it essentially mistakes the element for calcium. Calcium is not only involved in bone and teeth formation, but also integral part of the nervous system. This is why high doses of fluoride can not only result in malformation of bones and teeth, but also lowered IQ, learning disabilities and other mental issues. However, as fluoride still functions to a certain extend in a similar way than calcium does, the doses required for a measurable effect are extremely high (about 10-50x higher than what is added to drinking water in the US). Fluoride is therefore very very weak and rather harmless compared to all the other substances in this article. Regardless it makes no sense at all for you to consume fluoride, however benign it might be in low enough amounts. Studies have shown that fluoride does not have any measurable advantage over calcium on teeth or health. To the contrary, if too much of it is consumed, e.g. when doing lots of exercise and drinking too much fluoridized tap water, it only results in health disadvantages, such as dental fluorosis.

Sources:

  • toothpaste
  • tap water in the US
  • pesticides
  • tea

This page or post was last modified on 2023-11-13 .