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I am writing today’s post both as a Health Coach and a concerned mother. I first became aware of the impact that toxins have on our health when I was researching for a way to heal my daughter’s severe eczema way back in 2014. Till then I had absolutely no idea how much these hidden chemicals in our environment (inside our homes and outside) impacted our health. I had no idea that by simply breathing, walking and eating we are exposed to thousands of chemicals every single day! 

When I got to know that companies can introduce chemicals into the environment without any test to show that they are safe, it took my sense of disbelief to a different level. Add this to the fact that neither is it possible to review the potential effects of all the different chemicals nor does everyone have the same detoxification capabilities and you actually start to get a sense of the real picture. It is indeed truly alarming!

Unfortunately for most of us, toxins are like the “elephant in the room”. It takes up a lot of space and has a HUGE impact on our lives including our health but we are often unaware of exactly HOW. In fact, our children are particularly vulnerable since their organs are still developing. 

I hope that by sharing this information with you I am able to increase your awareness about this really important topic and help you and your family make healthier choices to minimise your exposure.

(In the second part to this post, I will show you exactly how. I will also share a handout on some non toxic and eco friendly brands that are available in the market today.

In this post, however, I go deep into some of the toxins that are we are most often exposed to in our houses and elsewhere. Toxins are a scary word for most of us. It originally means a “poison of plant or animal origin” and for most of our history our bodies have dealt with this and we have evolved over time to metabolise and eliminate most of these toxins naturally.

However, with the advent and explosion of man-made chemicals in the 21st century, our bodies do not even recognise most of the toxins and are not equipped to deal with them. We have now landed in the midst of a global health crisis of sorts. And our children are bearing the brunt of it. 

Toxins may be ingested through food, inhaled and applied to our skin. These are substances found in pesticides and fertilisers, health and bathing products, industrial pollutants, preservatives and additives in processed food, petrochemical fuels and solvents, cookware and other plastic products used at home. Even in minute doses, many of these can wreak havoc on our hormones, immune system and nervous system. And when these build up over time they can eventually overload our detoxification system leading to various chronic health conditions including cancer. 

Infact, just as modern medicine has almost eradicated erstwhile childhood diseases like rubella, measles, mumps, polio, tetanus we are now grappling with modern childhood diseases like eczema, allergies, asthma, autism.

Does this sound familiar to you? Does your child or another child you know suffer from any of these? 

Infact, some of the common symptoms that children (and adults) can exhibit (but certainly not limited to) connected to toxin exposure are

  • Sinus congestion
  • Allergies and eczema
  • Gut issues like constipation, diarrhoea, poor digestion
  • Difficulty concentrating, attention deficit hyperactivity
  • Development effects on the nervous system
  • Sleep problems
  • Obesity in children (and adults)
  • Puffy, dark circles under the eyes

Environmental toxins can result in obesity in children and adults by interfering with the process of glucose and cholesterol metabolism thereby inducing insulin resistance. This is a direct precursor to rising rates of obesity in babies (who are still breastfeeding) and children across the world. Indeed, many toxins can and do act as an endocrine disruptor in children and interfere with their natural hormones as they are capable of mimicking those very hormones. As a result, we now see early breast development and onset of puberty in young girls especially if they are also overweight. Rising cases of allergies, asthma and skin conditions like eczema can also be at least partly attributed to higher levels of toxin exposure through inhalation and application on the skin.

But before I get into what the most common toxins are you also need to understand HOW exactly they can affect your health (Source credit: The Toxin Solution by Dr Joe Pizzorno)

  • Toxins poison enzymes so that they don't work. Since every physiological function in our body depends on these enzymes, toxin damage has a huge impact on our bodily function
  • Toxins displace structural minerals leading to weaker bones
  • Toxins can damage nearly all the organs and systems
  • Toxins damage DNA leading to premature ageing and degeneration
  • Toxins modify gene expression leading to individual health problems and that of future generations
  • Toxins damage cell membranes so that respond properly and are unable to get important messages
  • Toxins interfere with hormones and cause imbalances by mimicking, blocking and inhibiting and inducing hormones
  • Toxins also impair the body's ability to detoxify leading to further issues

A few of the common toxins that we are exposed to are given below-

Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP): These toxins enter the body when we eat the foods prepared on these surfaces. These are mainly Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) like PFOA and PFTE which are found in non-stick, stain resistant and water repellant surfaces in cookware, water-resistant clothing, pizza boxes, microwavable popcorn bags, food wraps, paint and cleaning products. When non-stick cookware is heated, these toxic chemicals like PFOA and PFTE are released which are likely carcinogens, are contributors to weight gain and obesity apart from other health concerns.

BPA, BPS (bisphenols): These are chemicals which disrupt our endocrine system thus wreaking havoc on our hormones and subsequently has an adverse impact on the development of reproductive organs of children. This can cause weight gain and obesity, neurological disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity in children and other health conditions. These are usually found in storage items like plastic bottles, food cans, containers, baby bottles, soothers and plastic microwaveable plates and dishes just to name a few.

Phthalates: Phthalates are also found in a host of products like plastic food containers and children’s toys. Hence it becomes very important to be aware of the toy quality especially if the children are young and teething. They are also routinely found in cosmetic, makeup and personal care products which contain artificial “fragrances” and “parfum”.

Parabens: These are another group of chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties especially as far as estrogen is concerned. Parabens are used in countless personal care products lotions, perfumes, anti deodorants, shampoos and conditioners to name a few. It works as a preservative and inhibits the growth of bacteria, yeast and mold and amongst other health issues have now been associated with wheezing and eczema in children.

Triclosan: It is yet another endocrine-disrupting chemical and is routinely found in antibacterial soaps. These are just a few of the many thousands of chemicals that our children are routinely exposed to in the modern world. It is indeed alarming and I do not want to mince words while saying this since it will not serve anyone at all, least of all our children.

However, having said this, it is in our hands what we want to do with all this information. We can fall into despair or we can do something about this starting with our homes and immediate environment. I really hope that you will choose the latter.

As someone wise had said, “We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change”.

Resources for further reading

Healing the new childhood epidemics by Dr Kenneth Bock and Cameron Stauth

The Toxin Solution by Dr Joe Pizzorno

Children and environmental toxins by Philip Landrigan