The Toxin Solution

Chapter 2. The Causes of Toxic Overload

How Toxins Damage Health and Cause Disease

Throughout The Toxin Solution, I speak up as a scientist about the health impacts of chemical exposures. I was a chemistry major in college and intended to enter that field. Like everyone back then, I was entranced by DuPont’s “Better Living Through Chemistry,” an advertising slogan disseminated in magazines and television well until the 1980s. Once in graduate school, I discovered that chemists’ work in labs regularly exposed them to industrial chemicals. Then I read a shocking study that revealed that chemists have a twenty-year shorter than average life span! I realized that if I pursued that career, I was essentially volunteering as a human guinea pig and shortening my life expectancy. My response was: No, thanks! And yet in a certain sense we all are part of a giant experiment. Is the human organism able to adapt rapidly enough to carry ever increasing loads of toxins without compromising health? So far, the answer is no. Yet science is just beginning to reveal the health impacts of exposure to this vast soup of toxins.

It’s vital to distinguish between avoidable and unavoidable toxins. The avoidable ones you will learn to stay away from on this program. In order to deal with the unavoidable ones, it’s vital for everyone to periodically repair their detoxification organs and undergo active detox—as you will be doing over the next nine weeks. Don’t forget that although many toxins enter your lungs, skin, and stomach uninvited, there are some that you ask to come in. Not intentionally, of course. Who among us would knowingly invite tar to enter our lungs? Or welcome phthalates (chemicals added to plastics to keep them soft)— which increase the risk of breast cancer and birth defects—to penetrate the skin? If you understood the consequences, who would want to eat a sweetener that raises the risks of heart disease and diabetes? But when you smoke, or use certain cosmetics, or drink diet soda, you invite these harmful chemicals along for the ride. There is little point in detoxification if you keep putting new toxins back into your body.

Over 6.5 billion pounds of chemicals are released into the air every year. While I can’t offer a comprehensive review of all of them, in this chapter, I will focus on the most important chemicals and metals. You will have ample opportunity to acquaint yourself with others throughout this book.

Taken one by one, many chemicals seem relatively harmless, but if they accumulate in your body they can build to a dramatic toxic load that drains away your health and vitality. During the Eight-Week Toxin Solution, you will access the key bodily mechanisms that neutralize and release toxins. Still, I can’t emphasize this enough: it’s always better if you don’t take them into your body to begin with. Remember table 1.3 in chapter 1, which shows how some toxins take years to eliminate: don’t let them in! In this chapter, I’ll orient you to the ones you can and can’t avoid. I will also offer a basic plan to cut down on avoidable toxins, which you can follow while undergoing the Toxin Solution, and perhaps even lifelong.

Once you get the full picture, you will understand why I recommend that everyone periodically (or regularly) both reduce his or her toxins and undertake the Toxin Solution. And of course, I do that myself.

This survey will help you become aware of the specific ways that toxins may be entering your body. While it’s not possible to calculate how toxic you actually are (without the more sophisticated lab tests I’ll discuss in this book’s appendix), the Toxic Troubleshooter will help you pay attention to toxic exposures you may have overlooked.

Toxic Troubleshooter: Have You Been Exposed to Toxins?

1. Do you regularly eat processed foods?

2. Do you regularly eat conventionally raised produce, meat, and dairy?

3. Do you eat farm-raised fish?

4. Do you eat large (i.e., mercury-contaminated) fish?

5. Do you consume high-fructose corn syrup?

6. Do you use more than two health and beauty products per day?

7. Do you live in a house that contains lead pipes or copper plumbing soldered with lead (built prior to 1978)?

8. Are your home, home furnishings, or home finishes (like paint and sealants) new and outgassing chemicals?

9. Do you or your family come into contact with flame-resistant clothing or furnishings sprayed with products to prevent stains?

10. Do you live in a house or work in a building that has mold?

11. Do you have mercury amalgam fillings? How many?

12. Are there mercury-emitting coal-using plants or cement manufacturing plants in your region?

13. Are there fracking wells and/or pipelines in your region?

14. Is there a nuclear power plant in your region? Does it have a poor safety record?

15. Are the water and air in your region polluted? Go to www.scorecard.org to check out your region or to www.thetoxinsolution.com.

16. If you currently have symptoms, when did they first start?

17. What happened to you in the months prior?

18. When did you last feel well?

19. What makes you feel worse?

20. What makes you feel better?

21. What about medications? Did your symptoms begin shortly after you started taking a new medication?

Reconstruct a time line between possible exposures and any declines in your well-being. To do this, go to my website (www.thetoxinsolution.com), where I provide two free tools: 1

1. A questionnaire that includes all these questions (together with additional ones), which will help you determine your toxic score.

2. A very helpful time-line tool that helps you easily enter, first, your toxic exposures, and next, your health challenges, in order to see the relationship between them. Figure 2.1 shows how this works.

Low-grade toxic load may first become noticeable through minor symptoms that develop over years. Some people will first observe novel symptoms weeks or months after moving to a new home or starting a new job. It can be a real detective story: When did the black mold start in your bathroom? When did you change dry cleaners and notice that your clothes now smell of chemicals? Did you put new carpeting into your home? How about that new kitchen-cleaning product that was advertised so convincingly on television?

Even if you aren’t able to figure out all your most immediate toxic exposures, by beginning to ask certain questions, you will get on the right track. The first step is noticing toxic sources—both in the past and going forward.

Figure 2.1. Relationship between toxic exposures and health challenges, by age

Reducing Your Toxic Load

The two easiest ways to reduce your toxic load starting today are to reduce your consumption of toxin- contaminated foods and your use of toxic health and beauty aids (HABAs). Obviously, you can, and in certain cases must, do a lot more. But unless your health is already seriously undermined, by doing the most basic toxic avoidance and following my program, you will quickly begin to see real health results. Thousands of people, including many who were told they had an “incurable disease,” have flocked to my clinic, often as a last resort. Yet once they followed the same protocols you will find in this book and reduced and released their toxins, they felt much healthier and experienced the resolution of a wide range of different diseases.

Mildred’s Story

When she came to see me, Mildred had suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis for thirty years. She was fortunate that there was not much distortion of her joints, but the analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs she used to control her symptoms no longer worked. Plus, she was experiencing a range of side effects such as fatigue, allergies, and stomach upset. Although the conventional drug commonly prescribed for her illness (sulfasalazine) only suppresses symptoms rather than addressing the underlying causes, such drugs inevitably produce side effects, like depression, immune suppression, and disruption of intestinal function. These were becoming a serious problem for Mildred.

In assessing Mildred’s health (through asking the very same questions offered in the Toxic

Troubleshooter on chapter 2 to help you assess your own toxic load), I was able to determine that she had a very high toxic load. In her case, this derived from both the drugs she was taking and a toxic lifestyle. But Mildred had no idea that the foods she ate and the common pesticides and herbicides she used to maintain the bright green lawn and well-cultivated flower garden that surrounded her home were regularly exposing her to an array of chemicals.

Mildred’s approach to nutrition was nothing to write home about, either. She regularly consumed (and fed her family) sweetened soft drinks and juices, canned vegetables, soup and gravy mixes, packaged mashed potatoes, and nitrate-loaded meats like hot dogs, along with ample amounts of junk food and candy.

I put her on an earlier version of the nine-week detoxification program I will be guiding you through in this book, and helped her improve her diet. Over two months of the program, her arthritis symptoms improved by 75 percent, and she decreased her use of drugs by over 50 percent. Ironically, at the time I considered myself a failure because I was not able to totally eliminate her arthritis, as total cure was my standard for success, but Mildred saw it quite differently. She was very grateful that I had helped improve her health and decrease her disease burden so much that she was able to lower drug dosages to levels where she no longer experienced those uncomfortable side effects.

What I want you to take way from Mildred’s story (along with the many other cases I will share throughout this book) is that what are identified as specific diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease, may all share a similar contributing root cause: toxicity. By reducing the toxin load, you give your body a chance to heal, you can alleviate the disease symptoms, lessen (or eliminate) the disease itself, and reduce your need for drugs that only suppress the symptoms while causing undesirable side effects.

So let’s move on to look at some easy ways to reduce your toxic load immediately.

In this chapter, you will first eliminate toxic health and beauty aids. In the next, you will begin the Two-Week Jumpstart Diet, which eliminates toxins in food. If you do nothing else on the program, doing just these two things will make a major difference. Of course, there are other things that I will recommend that you address as well, but these are the basics.

Health and Beauty Aids (HABAs)

Many people slather on lotions and potions to enhance attractiveness, mistakenly assuming that the skin is an impermeable barrier. According to the Collaborative on Health and the Environment, “The average woman in the U.S. uses about 12 personal care and cosmetic products daily. The average man uses about 6.”1 The chemicals they contain easily pass from the skin into the body within minutes of their application. Studies find them in the bloodstream, and in body tissues like the breasts.2

Recently, a Missouri jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $72 million to the family of a woman whose death from ovarian cancer was associated with the daily use of talcum-based Johnson’s Baby Powder and the company’s Shower to Shower products.3 This is not the first such case.

Most people don’t think twice about what the face creams, aftershave, shampoo, antiperspirants, and cosmetics they use on a daily basis actually contain: petroleum by-products, cancer-causing chemicals, and hormonally disruptive fragrances, to name just a few. Although they are widely sold and advertised, seemingly benign personal-care and cosmetic products contain nearly ten thousand untested and unregulated chemicals, according to the Center for Environmental Health (CEH).4

You might think that reading the label will tell you everything that is in the product (especially since the list of chemical ingredients is typically very long). But manufacturers aren’t required to disclose fragrances or other chemicals that are defined as “trade secrets.” Yes, that big loophole allows a lot of toxic exposure without disclosure.

Many chemicals go by innocuous-sounding abbreviations. In table 2.1, I list some of these chemicals, what they are used in, and how they cause problems. This is most definitely not a full list. The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database contains data on many products with toxic ingredients—as well as healthier options. With the Think Dirty app (www.thinkdirtyapp.com), cocreated by the CEH and the Breast Cancer Fund, you can scan the barcodes of products to determine what they contain. In the next section, I will cover a group of these chemicals with particularly strong disease associations—phthalates.

Table 2.1. Chemicals Found in Health and Beauty Aids

CHEMICAL

PURPOSE

TOXICITY EXAMPLE

Acrylates

Artificial nails

Cancer, fetal damage

Aluminum

Antiperspirant

Controversial connection to Alzheimer’s disease

Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)

Solvent and preservative for coloring agents and fragrances

Endocrine disruption, diabetes

Diethanolamine (DEA)

Moisturizer

Converted to cancer-causing nitrosamines, skin cancer

Parabens

Preservative and fragrance

Endocrine disruption, breast cancer

Phenylenediamine (CI+number)

Hair dye

Derived from coal tar, resulting in a wide range of toxic contaminants

Quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, etc.

Preservatives

Release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen

Triclosan

Antimicrobial

Endocrine disruption

Phthalates

Phthalates, which I mentioned earlier, are a family of organic chemicals used to solubilize and stabilize fragrances in cosmetics. They are also used in many other products as plasticizers (to increase flexibility, transparency, and durability). Diethyl phthalate and dibutyl phthalate are especially common in health and beauty aids—except in Europe, where they have now been banned. But if you eat foods that have been packaged or stored in plastic containers, that is also an avenue of significant exposure, because fatty foods like milk, butter, and meats readily absorb these chemicals.

Phthalates are called endocrine disruptors because they play havoc with human hormones. They do this by interacting with the endocrine receptor sites located on every cell in your body. In this way they can indiscriminately increase or decrease hormone-mediated cell activities. For example, men who use aftershave, cologne, deodorants, or body washes to make themselves smell “sexy” are actively decreasing testosterone activity and thereby making themselves less manly. Although being a man is about more than sexual performance, the very products a man might purchase to supposedly increase his attractiveness could lower his energy and undermine his sexual performance. That’s just one example. Here’s another — one that’s even worse: a recent study of a group of women found that children born to women who had the most phthalates in their bodies have an IQ that is lower by 6.7 points!5 The same study showed that the damage to their intelligence had not resolved by age seven, suggesting that it is permanent.

During the critical time window during which a baby’s brain forms the growing and interconnecting neurons that determine brain function and intelligence, children are especially susceptible to toxins. IQ depends on the number of neurons, and even more on the interconnections of the neurons. These are stimulated by a factor known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor. Exposure to phthalates such as those found in nail polish, perfumes, and plastic wrap turns down the activity of the genes that produce this critical brain-development molecule.6

Figure 2.2 very effectively shows how HABAs increase phthalates in direct proportion to their use. Figure 2.2. Cosmetic use and dramatic increase of phthalates in the blood

As you can see, a person who uses all the common cosmetics has levels of these poisons in his or her blood about thirty times higher than someone who uses none of them!

Lead

Public health officials removed lead from gasoline and house paint, but they left it in lipstick. Go figure. In 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (www.safecosmetics.org) tested thirty-three lipstick brands and found that 61 percent contained lead, with levels ranging up to 0.65 parts per million (ppm). Both drugstore brands and high-end brands (like Dior) contained lead. A follow-up study found lead levels ranging from 0.09 to 3.06 ppm in all lipstick brands studied, with the worst culprits being those produced by Procter & Gamble, Maybelline, and Revlon. Although it may seem that a single application is harmless, there is no safe exposure level for lead, and there are many sources of everyday exposure. Women apply these products daily over many years. “Unfortunately, nobody is watching the store,” notes Stacy Malkan, founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Companies in the U.S. are allowed to put ingredients into personal care products with no required safety testing, and without disclosing all the ingredients.”7

Sending Your Body a Consistent Message

During the Nine-Week Toxin Solution, you will be asking your body to release toxins. You will get the best results if you don’t send your body mixed messages—telling it to release toxins while at the same time continuing to take them in. That is why I invite you to limit your exposure to the toxins in health and beauty aids over the next nine weeks. Here’s how.

1. Cut down your daily use of HABAs to one to two products for men and two to three products for women.

2. Read the labels of the products you plan to use, and become aware of what they actually contain.

3. If your must-use products contain questionable ingredients, such as those I list in table 2.1, replace them with healthier ones. You can usually find these at health-food stores, but make sure to read labels. HABAs are not currently regulated. That means that the label “natural” is meaningless. Buying organic products is your safest bet. But you can also find healthy products that aren’t necessarily organic by choosing ones with minimal and safe ingredients. For example, coconut oil would not even count as a HABA because it is food grade. It can be used as a face and body moisturizer, a makeup remover, even a hair conditioner. Similarly, an unscented soap made of coconut oil can be used for cleansing, or as a shaving soap.

Nearly every product you use has a safer alternative; you can use the Think Dirty app to find it.

Can cutting down on these products really lower your toxic exposure? Yes, it can. The HERMOSA study8 helped a group of one hundred Latina students reduce exposure to endocrine disruptors (EDCs) in beauty products. For three days, study participants replaced their usual personal-care products with ones that were free of parabens, phthalates, triclosan, and oxybenzone (used in sunscreen). Measurements of EDC levels in urine before and after the intervention showed much lower levels afterward. Most of the products selected were widely available health-store brands.

Just cutting down on the number of products is a great beginning. Bottom line: decrease toxic exposure whenever you can.

But what about the toxins you can’t so easily avoid? Why are they out there? As you will see, though it’s possible to eliminate your exposure to lead and phthalates in consumer products, that doesn’t mean you’re home free.

It’s Hard to Avoid Toxins

Have you ever moved to a home or apartment where you had to sign a “lead paint disclosure” form? Since lead is so dangerous, these forms are standard in most residential contracts to ensure that a home purchaser (or renter) does not come back later to sue the seller (or landlord) for lead’s damaging health effects. Houses painted with white paint before 1978 have high lead levels. Houses built or remodeled before 1984 often have lead in the pipe solder. Instead of studying and routinely eliminating harmful substances before they reach the public, industries, legislators, and regulatory agencies have it set up so that toxins are put out there until a mass outcry gets them removed. The public health measures that got lead out of gasoline and paint were effective: since the ban, levels of lead in human blood have dropped substantially. However, from prior use, lead-based paint and gasoline are still present. Nor were these the sole lead sources. To this day, lead is used in aviation fuel, lipstick, and elsewhere. Although many people, myself included, would like to see the government allow citizens the freedom to make their own choices, it’s not possible for us as individuals to simply avoid every toxin out there on our own. This is one place where science and government can work together to keep toxic ingredients out of products (or at least to fully disclose the ingredients). So far, they have not done such a great job of it.

When it comes to a substance so toxic that it is not safe at any level (especially for children), how do we wind up allowing it and calling it safe?

In general, most “safe” levels for toxins are defined as the levels seen in 95 percent of the “normal” population. Since the “normal” population carries a heavy toxic load and suffers poor health and a lot of chronic disease, that is not a healthy baseline. As we’ve seen, due to the failure to undertake studies, along with chemical-industry lobbying, decades can pass before the regulators figure out how (and have the fortitude) to ban or limit an unsafe substance.

For example, the “safe” blood lead levels (BLLs) used to be 60 µg /dL (micrograms per deciliter) of blood. But researchers found many health problems below that level, so about every decade the regulators kept dropping the “safe” level. With that level now at 10 µg /dL, research still shows an increased incidence of death from all causes—including cardiovascular disease and cancer—in people with lead in the range of 5.0 to 10.0 µg /dL.9 In other words, scientists try to agree on a benchmark for safety, but some things should be considered unsafe at any level. Because they are. (In figure 2.3, the open dots are the level considered safe and the filled dots are the average level in the population.)

In July 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that lead in the range of 10.0 to 5.0 µg /dL is highly problematic for children. Does that mean that children beneath the lowest end of BLLs are safe? No. Children who have whole-blood lead concentrations of less than 5 µg /dL (supposedly safe) have a measurably lower IQ. Twenty-four million U.S. children have BLLs between 5.0 and 9.9 µg/dL.10

Figure 2.3. “Safe” and average blood lead levels, 1965-2010 I

I built my life on what I had the privilege to learn. I built an educational institution to teach others— and to help millions more. What I cover in this book is based on learning, practice, and research. Incapacitating the intelligence of the next generation is no minor matter. Table 2.2 shows the symptoms in children and adults as lead levels increase. What do a selection of the symptoms covered sound like to you?

 Decreased learning and memory

 Decreased verbal ability

 Impaired fine motor coordination

 Low IQ

 Impaired speech and hearing

To me, they describe a coming generation of Americans who at best will have serious learning incapacities. It is not lead alone that damages the brains and the bodies of the unborn and of children.

 Phthalates decrease the production of the key molecule in the brain that helps neurons evolve and interconnect.

 Organophosphates (commonly used in agriculture) were developed as neurological poisons for chemical warfare in World War I.

 GMOs were designed to allow excessive use of the weed killer glyphosate, which increases cancer risk.

How did we come to accept the idea that putting these poisons in our food is a good thing?! As discussed elsewhere in this book, not only do these toxins decrease IQ in children; they also double the incidence of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and behavioral problems.

Table 2.2. Symptoms as Lead Levels Increase

LEVEL OF TOXICITY

BLOOD LEAD CONCENTRATION (pG/DLl

CLINICAL PRESENTATION

CHILDREN

ADULTS

Asymptomatic or impaired abilities

<10

Decreased learning and memory, decreased verbal ability, impaired fine motor coordination, signs of ADHD or hyperactivity, Lower IQ, impaired speech and hearing

 

Mild

10-39

Myalgia or parasthesia, irritability, mild fatigue/ Lethargy, occasional abdominal discomfort

 

Moderate

>40-50

Arthralgia, difficulty concentrating, general fatigue, headache, muscular exhaustibility, tremor, weight Loss, vomiting, constipation, diffuse abdominal pain

Fatigue, somnolence, moodiness, Lessened Leisure interest, impaired psytho metrics, chronіc hypertensive effects, reproductive effects

Severe

>70-80

Lead Lines (blueish black appearance on gingival tissue), colic [intermittent, severe cramps], parasthesia or paralysis, encephalopathy

Headache, memory Loss, decreased Libido, insomnia, metallic taste, abdominal, pain, constipation, myalgia/ arthralgia, nephropathy

Severe .acute

>100-150

Encephalopathy, seizures, anemia, nephropathy

Encephalopathy, various CNSeffects, anemia, nephropathy

Connie’s Story

I don’t often treat patients with serious emergencies, so I was surprised to get a call from Connie, who wanted to see me immediately about her sudden loss of vision. I rushed her into my exam room. Connie was a healthy-looking thirty-year-old woman. For the past few days, she had been experiencing progressively greater difficulty reading, and the world was starting to look blurry. That morning, she had experienced sudden complete loss of vision in her right eye, which prompted her call. She also had some pain, which was worse when she moved her eyes, and she was starting to feel tired and weak. As you might expect, she was quite frightened.

Before these symptoms appeared, Connie was healthy. She ate a whole-foods organic diet and exercised regularly. Although the results of my neurological exams were normal, I saw worrisome swelling in the back of her eye and conducted a blood test. I found something seen in only a few diseases (basophilic stippling, for the technically minded), in certain kinds of anemia, and in toxicity from arsenic or lead. Hmm . . . time for some detective work.

I learned that Connie lived on a houseboat at the end of a dock on Lake Union. A new water pipe had recently been installed, and I immediately suspected lead exposure from the solder used. It turned out that Connie loved tea and drank a dozen cups a day.

“Do you empty out the tea kettle every time, or do you simply keep adding water?” I asked. Her answer was the latter. This meant that she was basically concentrating lead in her tea kettle as the water evaporated off. When the water content in a teapot lowers, most people simply add water to refill. Boiling turns that water to steam and it evaporates. Unfortunately, if the water contains even minimal amounts of lead (as was true in Connie’s water supply), that lead does not evaporate. Instead it concentrates in the water. What’s more, many commercial teas are also contaminated with lead, especially tea from highly polluted China, which produces about one-third of the tea consumed in the United States. Although in general, scientific research studies one chemical at a time, in reality, people are exposed to many different toxins simultaneously and sequentially. Without realizing it, Connie was absorbing a double dose of lead from the water and the tea.

Her condition was so severe that I asked her to move out of her home. Given the high concentrations of lead in Connie’s water supply, it was absolutely crucial that she eliminate exposure to any possible source of lead whatsoever during her detox and recovery. Although the government has not yet defined sufficiently protective safety standards for absorption via inhalation (which occurs when showering) and skin contact (which occurs when bathing or washing dishes), these are two additional pathways through which toxins (like lead) can enter our bodies. During her recovery, I sought to make sure that Connie strictly avoid the lead-contaminated water, which could also be absorbed (albeit in minuscule amounts) through showering, washing, or wearing lead-contaminated clothing, as well as through cooking with, drinking from, or using utensils that could convey additional doses of lead into her system. I also immediately started her on an aggressive lead-detoxification program using the same strategies you will follow in the Toxin Solution.

Since she was otherwise healthy and led a healthy lifestyle, Connie responded quickly to treatment. Within about a week, her vision was back to normal. It took several more weeks for her energy to return completely. After her recovery, Connie began to look into a remediation plan for her home water supply to bring an end to any potential for reexposure.

With the right medical support, exposure to a single toxic substance (as in Connie’s case) can be mitigated. But many people don’t know what is afflicting them, and most conventional doctors don’t either.

Exposure to lead is not as rare as most of us would like to believe. And as the American public learned recently, toxic exposures to substances like lead can occur even on a mass scale.

Mass Exposures

Consider the 2014 Flint, Michigan, disaster. The state government decided to save money by replacing Lake Huron as a water source. Instead, they used water from a local river but did not address the problem of its being corrosive. Inevitably, the city’s pipes corroded, causing lead to leach into Flint’s drinking water. Houses built with leaded-copper water pipes added to the leaching of lead by the corrosive water. And when people drank that water, the lead entered their bodies. When public officials make cavalier decisions that fail to address public safety, people will suffer the ill effects. Along with other practitioners, I worked with public health officials to offer health support to the people of Flint. Millions of Americans are drinking water with lead levels above the public health limits.

Sadly, in most cases, communities do not find out about the toxins rampant in their area for years. The website Grist recently reported that “across the country, nine counties report that 10 percent or more of their population tested positive for lead poisoning, according to 2014 CDC data. Research by public health advocacy groups show that 11 New Jersey cities and two counties have higher lead levels than those in Flint, Michigan.”11 Nor does money earmarked to help always go to the afflicted families. Even though a percentage of paint sales in New Jersey was dedicated to helping families undertake lead remediation, the state’s governor blocked the funding.12

You don’t need to live in a house or community that has lead-contaminated pipes to be affected. Simply living under the flight paths of an airport can contaminate you, since lead is in 70 percent of U.S. airplane fuel, causing the release of over five hundred metric tons of lead a year.13

Although I use the example of lead, a supposedly banned substance, to illustrate the pervasiveness of exposures, the same is true of many other toxins. In helping me with the research for this book, a work colleague of mine discovered that a glass-making company just a few blocks from her home in Portland, Oregon, had been spewing arsenic and cadmium into its surroundings for forty years! The air quality across the street from the facility was found to be 49 times above the safe level for cadmium and 159 times above the safe level for arsenic. As you can see from figure 2.4, virtually the whole Portland area is deeply contaminated. This means more diabetes, lung cancer, osteoporosis, heart attacks—to name just a few of the diseases caused or aggravated by these toxic metals. You can bet there are a great many unrecognized areas of contamination like this one throughout the country, since widespread industrialization results in substantial local pollution.

While there now exist better safeguards limiting toxin release, the damage has already been done. The key point here is that virtually everyone is being constantly exposed to toxins without being aware that this is happening. In Portland, although the people living in the immediate area are the most exposed, simply driving through the city on Interstate 5 entails exposure to cadmium and arsenic. This is happening all over the country—Flint is not an isolated example.

Water supplies throughout the United States are contaminated not only with lead but also with arsenic, fluoride, industrial chemicals, carcinogens from fracking, and many other hazardous substances. Toxins enter our bodies through so many routes that we rarely think about them. A few examples:

 Inhalation: The transformer on your neighborhood electrical line may leak oil contaminated with PCBs.

 Ingestion: Foods you eat may be manufactured in facilities that use plastic equipment that leaks plasticizers.

 Topical absorption: Consumer products of all sorts contain toxic ingredients that you absorb through your skin.

As I stress many times, the most effective method of detoxification is to keep the toxins out. However, despite great care, you are going to be exposed to toxins and must consciously do everything you can to get them out, as well as encourage our elected officials to enact regulations that protect people from contamination.

PCBs

Figure 2.4. Arsenic and cadmium found in moss in Portland, Oregon

Some chemicals used in industry are both harmful and hard to avoid, even when banned. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were manufactured from 1929 until they were banned in 1979. Why worry about chemicals banned thirty-eight years ago? Because food, lubricants, plastic containers, and carbonless copy paper manufactured before 1979 still contain them. Recently, the city of Portland, Oregon, sued the Monsanto Corporation for contaminating local bodies of water with PCBs, joining six other West Coast cities—Seattle, Spokane, Berkeley, Oakland, San Diego, and San Jose—in filing suit.

Ongoing Exposure

Even with the ban, nearly a half century later, PCBs continue to build up in people’s bodies. They are very hard to remove. Later on, I’ll delve further into PCBs’ health impacts, but for now, I’ll just give a general picture: PCBs damage the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems. These manmade chemicals have been used in many buildings and hundreds of industrial and commercial applications. Even if, as a consumer, you have not intentionally purchased PCB-containing products, you might still be exposed to PCBs from:

 Paints, plastics, and rubber products.

 Pigments, dyes, and carbonless copy paper.

 Electrical equipment including voltage regulators, switches, reclosers, bushings, electromagnets, transformers, and capacitors.

 Old appliances.

 Oil used in motors and hydraulic systems.

 Fluorescent light ballasts.

 Cable insulation.

 Thermal insulation material including fiberglass, felt, foam, and cork.

 Adhesives and tapes.

 Oil-based paint.

 Caulking.

 Plastics.

 Floor finishes.

Don’t get me wrong: banning PCBs did benefit public health. The ban helped to lower blood levels in the U.S. population. (See figure 2.5.) Nevertheless, products made before 1979 have been leaking PCBs right up to today. The older a person is, the more PCBs he or she has accumulated. (See figure 2.6.) Why? The body can quickly release some substances, but not others. PCBs are one class of chemicals that the body can’t readily get rid of. So with each exposure you receive, you add to your existing PCB load. Over a lifetime, this load builds up.

Figure 2.5. Banning PCBs resulted in the lowering of their blood levels

I sometimes pessimistically wonder if the national average blood levels of these chemicals are decreasing mainly because older people, especially those with the highest levels, are simply dying off and so are no longer averaged with the rest of the population.

What Happens to the PCBs You Absorb?

PCBs inhibit the production of thyroid hormones, so people with elevated PCB levels feel fatigued all the time. But worse, PCB levels are now so high that they appear to cause a totally preventable 24 percent of all heart attacks!14 Yes, you’ve been told elevated cholesterol is the problem. But did your doctor tell you that cholesterol levels go up in proportion to the level of PCBs in your body? Cholesterol is normal, healthy, and required for health. PCBs are not. Rather, they and other toxins oxidize healthy cholesterol to unhealthy oxLDL (oxidized LDL) cholesterol, which is what actually damages arteries and causes heart attacks.

Figure 2.6. PCBs accumulate with age

Fish are a common food source of PCBs. This is of real concern for women planning to have children. The more fish a woman eats (as measured by omega-3 fatty acids in her blood), the higher her level of PCBs. Unfortunately, a woman’s PCB load doesn’t stop with her. The good news is that breast-feeding lowers the mother’s blood levels of PCB, OCPs, and other toxins. PCBs concentrate in breast milk, so nursing rids her body of these toxins. The bad news is that when her baby drinks that milk, the child takes in those toxins.

Why are fat-soluble toxins like PCBs so troubling for parents? Because they can:

 Be excreted into a mother’s breast milk.

 Be passed to the baby.

 Accumulate in the baby.

Perhaps one reason women who breast-feed have lower breast-cancer rates is that they are getting rid of these poisons.

Figure 2.7. Breast-feeding decreases a woman's chemical toxin load

How Do PCBs Build over a Lifetime?

Without carefully looking at the scientific data, it is very hard for anyone to connect today’s toxic exposure to long-range health effects. You might think, Well, it’s just one fish sandwich. How bad could that be? Let’s delve a bit deeper and look at some data. Over a period of twenty-three years (now there’s a long-term study!), researchers measured the effects of PCBs.15 (See figure 2.6.)

What did the researchers focus on in this study? Two things:

1. PCBs levels

2. Blood-sugar markers

Blood-sugar markers indicate how well the insulin system is functioning. They provide a snapshot for where you are on the diabetes spectrum. (As I mentioned in chapter 1, research finds strong correlations between toxic load and blood-sugar dysregulation—that’s not surprising, since many chemicals are insulin-receptor-site poisons.)

This study looked at young adults over a twenty-three-year period to determine the long-term impact of PCB exposure.16 From the outset, the study included only participants who were not diabetic when it began. The researchers found that until the study participants reached the age of fifty, there were essentially no differences to be found between those with the lowest and highest PCB levels. In other words, the increasing toxin load appeared to have no discernible impact on younger people. But wait: the research also found that as the subjects aged past their mid-forties, their ability to adapt started rapidly decreasing with age. By age fifty, all the measures showed a very strong toxin-dose response: the higher the PCBs levels, the more impaired the blood-sugar regulation.

Figure 2.8. Toxin effects with aging

This finding reveals something that I believe applies to the overall understanding about toxic load and its impacts. Our wonderful bodies have a remarkable—but limited—ability to keep us healthy. After enough years of toxic overload, the body’s adaptive capabilities eventually become too damaged. Basically, aging and its accompanying accumulated toxic load damage the DNA, resulting in progressively lower enzyme function. Over time, you lose your ability to adapt to this toxic environment.

The secret strength of naturopathic medicine, the medical philosophy I follow and teach, is twofold: our understanding of why people are sick and our knowledge of how to help them become healthy. The nine-week program I offer in the next chapters of this book will help you:

 Understand how toxic burden has become a primary cause of disease and ill health.

 Upgrade your detox capacity.

When I travel and lecture, I find that many physicians all over the world want to know more about detox. I’ve seen the scientifically validated detox program that I offer in this book help thousands of people reverse illness, get off medications, and reclaim their quality of life.

The program will get you off to an excellent start. But let’s face it: avoiding toxins isn’t something you do just occasionally, or only after reading this book or an alarming article. It is something you must consciously pay attention to every day for the rest of your life. The bottom line here is quite clear: even if you are in good health right now, toxins are still a problem for you. When you are young and don’t yet have symptoms or disease, your body can easily bounce back. However, the invisible damage accumulates. The earlier you start toxin avoidance, the better the results. But regardless of your age and disease burden, getting rid of toxins will certainly help you. That is why, whatever your age, you can’t wait another day to reduce your toxic load.

Toxic exposures drain your life energy, increase your risk of disease, and make you age more rapidly.

You can’t hold your breath to avoid inhaling the higher levels of mercury released by industrial activity. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, like me, you can get toxins from coal burning as far away as China.

In the next four chapters, you will access protocols to release the toxins you have absorbed. But beginning right now, and as you undertake the Nine-Week Toxin Solution, please limit your exposure.

Lessons from Four Generations

I am fortunate to be from a family that is relatively long-lived—one in which all my male ancestors that I am aware of outlived their wives (some had more than one wife!) by five to fifty years. In the photograph of my great-grandfather, grandfather, and father, the grumpy-looking kid at the end of the line is me. (See figure 2.9.) I had the chance to see what happens generation after generation as my forebears went from eating a healthy, nutrient-dense Mediterranean-type diet in a low-toxin environment to eating a poor- quality standard American diet, with no awareness of the importance of avoiding toxins. In fact, there was a growing load of toxin exposure from multiple sources, along with a progressive decrease in nutrient content of the foods we all were eating.

My great-grandfather lived to age ninety-five with no apparent health problems. He emigrated from the foothills of the Italian Alps in his forties and continued the diet and lifestyle he grew up with. He never saw a doctor in his life, walked briskly with no apparent pain or limitation, and would play strategy card games with me and never lose. This was quite frustrating for me, since as a precocious ten-year-old I would always beat all my friends playing strategy games. How could this old guy be beating me?! The answer is simple: his brain continued to work perfectly—no dementia, loss of short-term memory, or mental fogginess here.

After living alone independently for five years after his wife’s death, he announced to the family that he was done with a great life, stopped eating, and was dead one week later. I don’t know about you, but that is how I want to go—fully functional until the very end, and then finishing life on my terms. As near as I can tell, he ate nutritious foods and had very little toxin exposure his whole life.

Figure 2.9. The author with (from the left) his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father

My grandfather was kind of halfway between my great-grandfather and father, having immigrated at age seventeen with my great-grandfather. He ate mostly, but not entirely, a Mediterranean-type diet, but with the poorer-quality foods grown in the United States (i.e., lower nutrient content and more toxins), he experienced, during the last twenty years of his life, the same growing toxic load all Americans are exposed to. He also lived to age ninety-five (and outlived two wives) but was in a nursing home his last ten years, with a modest amount of early chronic disease. Not debilitated, but not nearly as robust as his father.

And then there was my much-loved dad: Proud to “leave the old country behind,” he ate the standard American diet, freely used the wonders of modern chemistry in his garage for maintaining the family house and property, and believed in prescription drugs for anything that ailed him. He also smoked for twenty years, but wisely decided this was bad for him and his family and simply quit cold-turkey one day. My dad developed dementia by age eighty-three and died at age eighty-eight, debilitated and suffering multiple serious chronic diseases. His living as long as he did was a testament to modern medicine and remarkable genetics. Heart disease, osteoporosis (requiring hip replacement), osteoarthritis, loss of short-term memory—the list of his health problems was long, as was the list of drugs his doctors prescribed for him. His problems didn’t start suddenly when he “got old.” By age sixty-five he already had significant osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and heart disease. The first sign that his mental faculties were starting to deteriorate was that by his mid-sixties he could no longer drive safely at night.

As I write this, I am now older than that, and as seen in the photograph (figure 2.10), I tour all over the world on a motorcycle, with my wife on back. In many places, such as Australia, where this picture was taken, I have to drive on the left rather than on the right side of the road, where all my driving reflexes and experience developed.

Figure 2.10. Author motorcycle-touring Australia in 2015  I

I became interested in nutrition when I graduated from college, and have eaten essentially organically since then. And while it is impossible to avoid all toxins anymore, I have led a relatively high-nutrition, low-toxin life since my early twenties.

Guess which of my forebears I am trying to emulate? Which of my forebears do you want to emulate? This is why this book is important to you and why you need to start my nine-week plan today. Maybe tomorrow. In any case, soon. Please, for the sake of your health and that of your children or children to be, don’t delay.