The Good Life – Living With Toxins

As reported on November 15 of last year by Environment News Service (, a 2005 study conducted by Environmental Defence found 60 different toxic chemicals in the bloodstreams of average people living in various places across Canada. The chemicals they found include “stain repellents, flame retardants, mercury and lead, DDT, and PCBs.” The executive director of Environmental Defence, Dr. Rick Smith, stated, “If you can walk, talk and breathe, you’re contaminated.”

According to the web site of the Healthy Children Project (, a project funded by the Learning Disabilities Association of America, the chemical group known as dioxins contains some of the most harmful carcinogenic chemicals. They are found in the air we breathe, the water we swim in and drink, and the food we consume. The most significant sources of these toxins are industrial and residential waste incineration processes, and the manufacture of paper using chlorine bleach. By far the most significant way in which we ingest these chemicals is via consuming them in animal fats, accounting for some 95% of our total exposure. Some of the known effects of exposure to dioxins include cancer, endometriosis (a disorder of the female reproductive system), developmental and learning disabilities, IQ disorders, and hyperactivity in children. Due to the way their metabolisms work, children are more vulnerable to most forms of ingested toxins than are adults.

Although none of us are immune to exposure, as the web site points out, we are not completely helpless. There is action we can take to help improve our environment and reduce the extent to which our families and each of us are exposed. Some of the measures suggested by The Healthy Children Project include: lowering your intake of saturated fat, eating leaner cuts of meat and more fish, removing the skin from chicken and other poultry, using less butter, washing fruits and vegetables, and rotating your children’s diet “to provide them with a variety of lean proteins.”

According to an article posted on by Lucretia Schanfarber, “From the PVC-laden “rubber ducky” floating in the bathtub to the mercury-laced tuna noodle casserole on the dinner table, invisible toxins have infiltrated our homes and all aspects of our daily lives.” Schanfarber offers some advice about ways to protect our bodies from these environmental poisons. One way is to minimize our exposure to toxins. The first step, she says, is “to raise our toxin awareness level by learning to identify the hidden sources of toxins in food, common household products, and our environment.” She recommends paying close attention to product labels, choosing locally and organically grown foods, and even taking such simple steps as removing your shoes when coming indoors to avoid tracking pesticides and other such things throughout your home.

There is a wealth of valuable information available out there about how to reduce our exposure to, and limit the harmful effects of, a variety of chemicals. In this column, I will periodically provide specific summaries of ways in which we can become more aware of the hazards that surround us.

So, where do we go from here? On a more socially activist level, it is up to each of us to step up to the plate and help make a difference in the world. The first step is to educate ourselves about the source and effects of these chemicals, and then take action such as boycotting products and companies that add to the levels of poison in the world around us. On a larger level, we must put pressure on our politicians to make a difference. We must do all of those small things -(e.g., writing letters to the newspaper, taking up placards, attending political rallies, teaching our children) that sometimes can feel so insignificant, but are actually the most powerful tools we have to change the world.


“¢ Environment News Service (2005, November 15). Lab tests find 60 toxic chemicals in Canadians’ blood. Retrieved from
“¢ Healthy Children Project (n.d.). Exposures. Retrieved from
Schanfarber, L. (2004, March). Reduce your toxic load. Alive, issue 257. Retrieved from