Toxins: Top Myths and Truths
My goal as an NTP is to strengthen defenses while removing stressors. One of the biggest stressors we all have
to deal with is toxins. What do I mean by “toxins”? I mean exposures to harmful
substances in our environment, that have a direct effect on our health.
The truth is that toxic exposure is a key factor in every single health condition we struggle to overcome today.
Understanding this topic is especially critical to prospective parents. Why? Toxins have
been clearly linked to the following common problems in our childbearing years:
hormonal imbalance, depression, anxiety, weight gain, PCOS (polycystic ovarian
disease), brain fog, endometriosis, fibroids and many, many, other conditions.
Since World War 2 the production of chemicals in the US alone has increased 20-fold. 1
Fertility rates around the world for both men and women are falling at an alarming rate.
Birth defects and learning disabilities are increasing exponentially. We are bombarded
with toxins even before birth. In 2009 the Environmental Working Group tested the
umbilical cord blood of 10 newborns and found: 180 known carcinogens, 217
neurotoxins, and 208 reproductive toxins. 2 Toxins are even more hazardous to children
than adults. Pound for pound, children breathe more air, eat more food and drink more
liquids than adults; while their abilities both to cope with, and eliminate toxins, is not as
According to the American Association of Medical Colleges website, one in four medical
schools require zero education on environmental toxins. The remainder of the U.S.
medical schools require an average of only seven hours. Many nurses, midwives, health
coaches and nutritionists have no formal training in toxins whatsoever. 3 If healthcare
professionals are not learning about the effect of toxins on human health, it is safe to say that it is challenging and
confusing for most people!
In this article I will give you some facts to help you dispel common myths.
Myth #1 Small amounts can’t hurt us; “The dose makes the poison”
Truth: This one is partly true. Some substances do behave this way in our bodies, while
others (for example, endocrine disruptors like BPA) break the rules. 4
Certain drugs to have no effect at high doses, but significant effects at low
levels. 5 Many of the 1500
know endocrine disruptors are documented to affect human health at very low levels;
parts per trillion! Consider pharmacology and endocrinology. It is obvious, in these
fields, that not only do small doses matter, they can have profound effects even in tiny
Traditional toxicology looks for immediate and observable effects of exposure to various
toxins – the kinds of effects that would require a trip to the doctor or emergency room.
It does not look for more subtle, but serious, other effects, such as
changes in: metabolism, immune system, behavior, intelligence or hormone balance. It
does not look at any long-term effects. Most studies
considered the “gold standard” in traditional toxicology, are animal studies lasting only
90 days! In human health, we must consider a lifetime of multiple exposures.
Myth #2 Governmental agencies like the FDA and the EPA protect us from most toxins
Truth: Regulations regarding the allowable limits, on commercial chemicals, in food
and water; the levels the EPA calls “safe” are based on flawed science. Registered
chemicals are assumed innocent until proven guilty. The EPA can only regulate a
chemical if it is proven harmful after being used in humans.
So far, only 5 chemicals or chemical classes have ever been banned or restricted: asbestos
(some products are still for sale), chlorofluorocarbons, dioxin, hexavalent chromium, and
PCB’s. 6 The Toxic Substance Control Act (put in place in 1976!) is considered
a “toothless” law full of many loopholes. Although this act was finally updated in 2016, it will take
decades, or even centuries, to test and change the status of tens of thousands of
Myth #3 The chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products have been tested for
safety by regulatory agencies
Truth: The US Food Drugs and Cosmetics Act has not been updated since 1938! When
the Toxic Substances Control Act was passed, 62,000 chemicals were “grandfathered”
in, essentially given a free pass; presumed safe with no requirement for any kind of
testing. 7 According to a report from the Government Accounting Agency, so far, the EPA has
required testing on fewer than 200 chemicals! Even the chemicals that are tested, are
only tested in isolation, rather than in combination, as we encounter in everyday life.
The combination of various chemicals can be synergistic which can be more dangerous to our health
than any single chemical, especially over a lifetime.
Myth #4 Genetics is the main factor in determining our risk for disease
Truth: According to the National Institutes of Health, only 5-10% of cancers can be
blamed on genetics. 8 The other 90-95% are caused by environmental factors and
lifestyle. It has been well said that “genes load the gun, but lifestyle (including toxic
exposures) pulls the trigger.” The field of epigenetics is rapidly expanding to help us
understand lifestyle and environmental factors roles in health.
Myth #5 It doesn’t really matter much
Truth: The EPA states that the average American spends 87% of their time indoors and
another 5.5% of their total time in a vehicle. 9 The environment where we spend our time has
a strong and direct effect on our health. In human health, everything matters. For some
people, their exposure to toxins is the main thing tearing down their health;
causing them to stay sick. According to the founding president of Bastyr University
and author of the textbook Clinical Environmental Medicine, Dr. Joseph Pizzorno:
“Toxicity is the primary driver of disease.”
Myth #6 It’s hopeless; I can’t do anything about it!
Truth: There are many things we can do about it. Even small changes can make a big
difference! For example: eating a mostly (80%) organic diet has been shown to reduce
the level of circulating pesticides by 80-90% in just one week! 10
To summarize the bad news: even small amounts of some toxins can hurt us, we are
not well protected by the government, personal care product ingredients have not been
tested for safety by any regulatory agency, environmental factors are a major factor in
disease, it does matter what we put in, on and around our bodies.
The good news is: there are many things we can do to make a difference!
In the following series, I will share with you the facts. Learn both the why’s and
how’s of choosing the best food and food packaging, cookware and plastics, household
cleaners and fragrances, personal care products and cosmetics. You will walk away
with simple actionable steps to reduce toxic exposures in your everyday life so you can
make faster progress toward your health goals and protect not only yourself but your
1 USCF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, “Shaping our Legacy: Reproductive 1 Health and the
2 Houlihan, Jane, et al. "Body burden: the pollution in newborns." Environmental Working Group 14 10 (2005).
3 McCurdy, Leyla Erk, et al. "Incorporating environmental health into pediatric medical and nursing 12 education."
Environmental Health Perspectives 112.17 (2004): 1755-1760.
4 Jenkins, Sarah, et al. "Chronic oral exposure to bisphenol A results in a nonmonotonic dose response in 6
mammary carcinogenesis and metastasis in MMTV-erbB2 mice." Environmental health perspectives 119.11 (2011):
5 Fagin, Dan. "Toxicology: The Learning Curve." Nature.com. Nature Publishing Group, 24 Oct. 2012. 5 Web.
6 Haelle, Tara. “Asbestos Still Causes Cancer. Why Is It Still Used?” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 24 Mar. 5 2017,
7 Government Accountability Office: Chemical Regulation: Actions are Needed to Improve the 2 Effectiveness of
EPA's Chemical Review Program GAO-06-1032T: Published: Aug 2, 2006
8 Anand, Preetha, et al. "Cancer is a preventable disease that requires major lifestyle 9 changes." Pharmaceutical
research 25.9 (2008): 2097-2116.
9 Klepeis, Neil E., et al. "The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing 13 exposure
to environmental pollutants." Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology 11.3 (2001): 231.
10 Oates, Liza, et al. "Reduction in urinary organophosphate pesticide metabolites in adults after a week- 81 long
organic diet." Environmental research 132 (2014): 105-111.