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10 environmental toxins to avoid

by | Oct 29, 2009 | Archives

This article was recently posted By Marie Oser. It is full of useful information. 


While still in the womb, children are exposed to chemicals that can impair normal growth and development. This internal pollution persists as we are exposed to environmental toxins throughout life. Chemicals accumulate and interact within the body, causing illness¹.

The range of maladies include, autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), epilepsy, Tourette syndrome, and cerebral palsy. All are believed to be the outcome of some abnormal process that unfolded as the brain was developing in utero or in the young child.

A new study published in the October issue of Pediatrics estimates the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder to be 1 in every 91 children in the U.S,² an increase from the current estimate of 1 in 150. This ongoing and dramatic increase has many experts investigating the extent of the role environmental toxins may play.

The idea that substances in the environment can damage the nervous system is not a new concept. Lead has long been recognized as a neurotoxin. More than 2,000 years ago the Greek physician Dioscerides wrote, “Lead makes the mind give way.”  Since the ancients first recognized neurotoxins, many other substances have been added to the list.



1. Heavy metals: Mercury, lead, arsenic, aluminum, and cadmium

Risks: Cancer, Alzheimer’s, neurological disorders, arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm), decreased red/white blood cell production.

Sources: Drinking water, fish, vaccines, pesticides, preserved wood, antiperspirants, building materials, and dental amalgams


2. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls): Industrial chemical banned in the U.S. for decades, however PCBs are still found in the environment.

Risks: Cancer, impaired fetal brain development

Source: Farm-raised salmon


3. Pesticides: According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the overwhelming majority of pesticides are known carcinogens.³ Pesticide residues have been detected in 50 to 95 percent of foods.

Risks: Cancer, Parkinson’s, nerve damage, miscarriage, birth defects

Sources: Food (produce and meats), bug sprays


4. Mold, fungus: Mold (Mycotoxins) cause a range of health issues for 33 percent of people exposed to very small amounts.

Risks: Cancer, asthma, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, diabetes

Sources: Buildings, foods: peanuts, wheat, corn, and alcohol



5. VOCs (volatile organic compounds): Pollute the air.

Risks: Cancer, eye/respiratory problems, headache, impaired memory

Sources: Water, carpeting, cleaning fluids, paints and varnishes, deodorants, cosmetics, dry cleaning, air fresheners, moth repellents


6. Phthalates: Chemicals found in fragrances and plastics.

Risks: Endocrine system damage (phthalates mimic hormones; especially dangerous to developing children and teens)

Sources: Cosmetics, plastic wrap, bottles, food storage containers


7. Chlorine: Highly toxic gas and chemical agent with variety of uses.

Risks: Sore throat, wheezing, fluid in lungs, rapid breathing, burns to skin/eyes, Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS) type of asthma

Sources: Household cleaners, breathing air near industry (such as a paper plant), drinking water (small amounts)


8. Dioxins: Chemical compounds from combustion processes, waste incineration, and burning fuels such as, wood, coal, or oil.

Risks: Cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, skin rashes, skin discoloration, chloracne (severe dermatitis with acne-like lesions) excessive body hair, mild liver damage

Sources: Animal fats: More than 95 percent of exposure is animal fats.



9. Asbestos: Insulating material widely used from 1950s to 1970s. Asbestos fibers are released into the air as material ages.

Risks: Cancer, scarring of lung tissue, mesothelioma (a form of cancer)

Sources: Insulation in ceilings, floors, water pipes, and healing ducts


10. Chloroform: Chlorine added to water becomes chloroform. A colorless liquid with a slightly sweet taste and pleasant odor, chloroform is used in the production of many other chemicals.


Risks: Cancer, reproductive damage, birth defects, dizziness, fatigue, headache, liver and kidney damage.

Sources: Industrial effluent, municipal waste treatment plant discharges, hazardous waste sites and spills



  1. Developmental neurotoxicity of industrial chemicals. Lancet. 2006 Dec 16;368 (9553):2167-78
  2. Kogan, Michael D., Blumberg, Stephen J., Schieve, Laura A., Boyle, Coleen A., Perrin, James M., Ghandour, Reem M., Singh, Gopal K., Strickland, Bonnie B., Trevathan, Edwin, van Dyck, Peter C. Prevalence of Parent-Reported Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children in the US, 2007 Pediatrics 2009 0: peds.2009-1522
  3. Alavanja, Michaeland Hoppin, Jane (2004) ‘Health Effects of Chronic Pesticide Exposure: Cancer and Neurotoxicity’ Annual Review of Public Health. (25)pp. 155-197.


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