Wellness

The 12 Major Toxins That Threaten Our Brains

 

According to the report from The Atlantic:

Leading scientists recently identified a dozen chemicals as being responsible for widespread behavioral and cognitive problems. But the scope of the chemical dangers in our environment is likely even greater. Why children and the poor are most susceptible to neurotoxic exposure that may be costing the U.S. billions of dollars and immeasurable peace of mind.

Forty-one million IQ points. That’s what Dr. David Bellinger determined Americans have collectively forfeited as a result of exposure to lead, mercury, and organophosphate pesticides. In a 2012 paper published by the National Institutes of Health, Bellinger, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, compared intelligence quotients among children whose mothers had been exposed to these neurotoxins while pregnant to those who had not. Bellinger calculates a total loss of 16.9 million IQ points due to exposure to organophosphates, the most common pesticides used in agriculture.

To further elaborate on just what these chemicals do to our brains, take a look at the list below of the common neurotoxins you may not even be aware you are being exposed to.

Image by Jackie Lay

1. Manganese: 

According to the EPA, 0.5 milligrams/liter is the upper limit of manganese in water supplies, based on odor and taste of the water. However, the amount of manganese accumulated by breathing in shower vapors has not been considered, and even at 0.5 milligrams/liter researchers say manganese could cause brain injury.

“Inhaling manganese, rather than eating or drinking it, is far more efficient at delivering manganese to the brain,” Spangler said. “The nerve cells involved in smell are a direct pathway for toxins to enter the brain. Once inside these small nerves, manganese can travel throughout the brain.”

Health Risks of Manganese

High levels of manganese are toxic to the nervous system and can cause:

  • Learning and coordination disabilities
  • Behavioral changes
  • Parkinson’s-like disease
  • Permanent brain injury
  • Slow and clumsy body movements

2. Fluoride:

Take a look at the 50 reasons why to avoid fluoride, and what this poison does to you by clicking here.

3. Chlorpyrifos:

Chlorpyrifos has been around for fifty years and has, till very recently, been passed off by the company that manufactures it as being safe for human health. Dow Chemical Company, USA has been distributing its products under the brand names Lorsban and Dursban around the world. When it was constrained from supplying it to homes for indoor and garden use, it continued selling it for agriculture and commercial use. In fact, in developing nations, it expressly states that it has an established record of being absolutely safe for humans and animals. This, however, is a blatant falsehood as in the nineties, Dow was pulled up and fined for suppressing reports that showed that the chemical was responsible for poisoning.

Chlorpyrifos is actually a neurotoxin and ingestion can cause a disruption in the transmission of nerve impulses. This can result in dizziness, headaches, loose motions, increased urination and salivation. When the ingestion is excessive, it could lead to paralysis, convulsions and even death. Chemicals like these are endocrine disruptors and their effects on the body can be disastrous as they also interfere with the regulated functioning of the hormonal system, making things run awry in the body.

Other effects and results that have been observed are instances of asthma, mental development problems when it affects children, ADHD in children, and lower birth weight when it affects a pregnant mother. It also affects the muscles and this could therefore have ill effects on the heart, the respiratory and the intestinal systems. Depending on the amount of chemical that is ingested, there could be any kind of effect from a muscle twitch or spasm to convulsions.

How does Chlorpyrifos enter the system? It could be through any kind of household insecticide – from termite control when the foundations of the house are being laid to controlling pests like fleas or cockroaches to agricultural produce which has had it sprayed on the crops or working in soil where it has been sprayed. You could even just be in a place where Chlorpyrifos has been sprayed and it could enter your system through your breathing. Pet flea collars also pose a threat to both humans and pets.

4. DDT/DDE:

Eating food with large amounts (grams) of DDT over a short time would most likely affect the nervous system. People who swallowed large amounts of DDT became excitable and had tremors and seizures. They also experienced sweating, headache, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. These effects on the nervous system went away once exposure stopped. The same type of effects would be expected by breathing DDT particles in the air or by contact of the skin with high amounts of DDT. Tests in laboratory animals confirm the effect of DDT on the nervous system. Read more about DDT/DDE by clicking here.

5. Tetrachloroethylene:

Tetrachloroethylene is widely used for dry-cleaning fabrics and metal degreasing operations. Effects resulting from acute (short term) high-level inhalation exposure of humans to tetrachloroethylene include irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, kidney dysfunction, and neurological effects such as reversible mood and behavioral changes, impairment of coordination, dizziness, headache, sleepiness, and unconsciousness.  The primary effects from chronic (long term) inhalation exposure are neurological, including impaired cognitive and motor neurobehavioral performance.  Tetrachloroethylene exposure may also cause adverse effects in the kidney, liver, immune system and hematologic system, and on development and reproduction. Studies of people exposed in the workplace have found associations with several types of cancer including bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma.  EPA has classified tetrachloroethylene as likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

6. PBDEs

Riverside, California – Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), chemicals used as fire retardants, can be found in numerous items in the home, such as the television, computer, toaster and the sofa.

Now, they are being found in alarming concentrations, in human blood and breast milk – a potentially major concern for human health. In addition, these industrial chemicals have been associated with cases of feline hyperthyroidism, a potentially fatal condition in cats.

7. Arsenic:

Consumer Reports published results of their tests of 88 samples of apple and grape juices. Nine samples had more arsenic than the federal government allows in drinking water

In a separate analysis of government nutrition data, researchers commissioned by Consumer Reports also found that Americans who reported drinking apple or grape juice had arsenic levels in their urine that were 20% higher than people who didn’t drink those juices.

Similarly, researchers at Dartmouth Medical School found that pregnant women who reported eating rice had higher levels of arsenic in their urine than women who didn’t eat rice.

Eating just half a cup of rice a day, the researchers reported, could expose someone to just as much arsenic as if they had been drinking water at the government’s maximum allowable limit.

At very high levels, arsenic can be fatal. At lower levels, arsenic can cause nausea and vomiting and decrease the amount of red and white blood cells produced by the body. It also causes abnormal heart rhythms, may damage blood vessels, and causes a pins and needles sensation in the hands and feet.

However, far less is understood about what happens to people when they are exposed to low levels of arsenic over a long period of time.

“This is a relatively new area of research,” says arsenic expert Ana Navas-Acien, MD, PhD.

It’s clear that arsenic is associated with higher rates of skin, bladder, and lung cancers, says Navas-Acien, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

“When a substance is a carcinogen, it’s generally a carcinogen through the whole range of exposure levels,” she says.

At lower levels, it probably causes fewer cases of cancer, though the risk is still there.

Beyond cancer, she says, more evidence suggests that low to moderate levels of exposure — just about the U.S. standard for drinking water of 10 parts per billion — may cause cardiovascular disease.

Chronic arsenic exposure may also affect the lungs, leading to breathing problems.

In children, Navas-Acien says emerging evidence suggests that arsenic may cause problems with brain development.

Arsenic may also contribute to problems with pregnancy like miscarriages and low birth weight.

8. Lead:

Lead exposure may sound like an old-fashioned health threat, like polio or scurvy. But getting a dangerous dose is more common today than you realize — thanks to sources you’d never expect, such as ceramic dishes, art supplies, and even vegetables grown in city gardens. And although average blood lead levels are way down, new research shows that even low amounts can be harmful, says Ellen Silbergeld, PhD, a professor of environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

Just 4 ug/dl (micrograms per deciliter) can double your risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke, and similar levels may also cause memory loss, says Eliseo Guallar, MD, PhD, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins.

Here are seven hidden risks — and simple fixes to protect you and your family.

Brass faucets
Homes built before 1986, when a law largely banned the use of lead in plumbing materials, are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures, and solder. However, new homes are also at risk because the law still allows plumbing labeled lead free to contain up to 8 percent of the metal. The most common problem: brass or chrome-plated faucets and fixtures, which can leach  lead.

Protect yourself: Test your water with a home kit (leadtesting.org). If the result is above 15 ug/l (15 ppb), run the tap for 30 seconds first thing in the morning and when you get home at night to clear any lead buildup. Cook with cold water and consider using a filter approved by NSF, a nonprofit certification organization, says Veronica Blette, special assistant to the director, EPA Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water.

Weak bones
When you consume lead, it’s stored in your bones — but because new bone tissue is constantly replacing old, lead cycles into and out of your blood, says Kim Dietrich, PhD, a professor of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. More lead is released during times of high bone turnover: after a fracture, during pregnancy, or at menopause. Studies have linked the rise in blood lead levels in postmenopausal women to high blood pressure and kidney problems.

Protect yourself: Maintain bone mass to keep lead locked in and out of your bloodstream. Menopausal women should get 1,200 mg of calcium and up to 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily. Avoid calcium supplements made from bone, shellfish, or dolomite, which may contain high levels of the metal. Instead, look for supplements labeled USP-grade, which means they’re lead free.

Renovations
“If you’re remodeling a home built before 1978, you should assume you’re dealing with lead paint,” says Dietrich. “Even if you’re not renovating, an older home may be contaminated by metal-laced dust from deteriorating paint.”

“If you’re remodeling a home built before 1978, you should assume you’re dealing with lead paint,” says Kim Dietrich, PhD, a professor of environmental health at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Protect yourself: During construction, seal off the work area by closing windows and vents, and have builders enter and exit through a side door; afterward, do a thorough cleanup. If you worry that you have flaking lead paint, hire a certified tester (800-424-5323) to do a risk assessment. If lead is found, hire a professional removal service: Getting rid of it requires major scraping and sanding.

Ceramic dishes
Recently, two large dishware companies each recalled a pattern due to high lead counts. Some experts caution against eating off older plates (from the ’60s or before) or handmade ceramics.

Protect yourself: Test your everyday dishes with a lead test kit. Until you’re in the clear, microwave in glass rather than ceramics, because heat can increase lead leaching. When buying new dishes, ask the store manager if the products are lead free or call the manufacturer, suggests John M. Balbus, MD, chief health scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. The company should guarantee they meet California standards, which are more stringent than the FDA’s requirements. And if you bought plates while vacationing in other countries, consider them just decorative until you’ve tested them.

City gardens
Gardens in many urban areas have high levels of lead thanks in part to paint chips from old homes that have contaminated the soil.

Protect yourself: Gardening in the city is safe, as long as you take precautions. Wear gloves and keep gardening shoes outside to avoid tracking in dirt. The vegetables you grow may have lead on their surfaces, so wash them thoroughly; toss outer leaves of leafy crops and peel root vegetables. Maintain soil pH levels above 6.5 — that makes veggies less likely to take up the metal. Add compost or topsoil to dilute the dirt and neutralize lead.

Hunting or fishing
Bullets used in hunting rifles can distribute lead fragments throughout the animal’s body and make the meat unsafe to eat, says Mark Pokras, DVM, an associate professor at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. Fishers come in contact with metal dust and salts via sinkers and lures.

Protect yourself: Hunters should clean and leave their gear outside. Go to barnesbullets.com for lead-free ammo, and find places to buy safe fishing supplies at prevention.com/links. If you’re sticking with lead sinkers, either wear gloves when handling or wash hands thoroughly, especially before downing a sandwich on the boat.

Art supplies
Some oil and acrylic paints contain lead to give colors luster and brightness, says Pokras: It’s common in oranges, reds, blues, and greens. Some clays also contain heavy metals, but shiny glazes are the biggest pottery-related risk. Several state health departments have also issued warnings about paint-your-own-pottery studios using glazes with high levels of lead.

Protect yourself: Check labels for lead-free paints and glazes, and make sure you work in a well-ventilated area. Potters should keep clay wet to minimize dust. If you frequent a paint-your-own studio, ask the staff if they use lead-free glazes — and find another store if they don’t.

9. Mercury:

Mercury is a neurotoxin, meaning it has detrimental effects on the nervous system. It can damage the brain and lead to physical and emotional disorders. So whether its presence is natural or anthropogenic, it’s a potential problem for humans. How big a problem depends on the form of the mercury, how much is present, and which humans are being exposed to it.

While exposure to mercury and its compounds can be devastating, it’s not a particularly common occurrence. In this article, we’ll find out where mercury is found, how exposure typically happens and what the consequences can be. We’ll also see what precautions people can take to reduce their risk of coming into contact with the substance.

10. Toluene:

Toluene is found in gasoline, acrylic paints, varnishes, lacquers, paint thinners, adhesives, glues, rubber cement, airplane glue, and shoe polish. At room temperature, toluene is a colorless, sweet smelling, and volatile liquid.

Toxicity can occur from unintentional or deliberate inhalation of fumes, ingestion, or transdermal absorption. Toluene abuse or “glue sniffing” has become widespread, especially among children or adolescents, because it is readily available and inexpensive. Toluene is commonly abused by saturating or soaking a sock or rag with spray paint, placing it over the nose and mouth, and inhaling to get a sensation of euphoria, buzz, or high. Slang names for inhalation include huffing (ie, soaking a sock or rag) and bagging (ie, spraying paint into a plastic bag and inhaling). With bagging, exhaled air is rebreathed and resulting hypoxia and hypercarbia may add to the disorienting effects of the solvent.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has determined the acceptable level of occupational exposure to toluene for people in the workplace. The Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of 200 ppm is considered an acceptable level of exposure as a time-weighted average for an 8-hour workday.[1] Toluene levels of 500 ppm are considered immediately dangerous to life and health.

11. Ethanol

Brain:
Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.

Heart:
Drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including:

  • Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle
  • Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure

Research also shows that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may protect healthy adults from developing coronary heart disease.

Liver:
Heavy drinking takes a toll on the liver, and can lead to a variety of problems and liver inflammations including:

  • Steatosis, or fatty liver
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Fibrosis
  • Cirrhosis

Pancreas:
Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.

Cancer:
Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk of developing certain cancers, including cancers of the:

  • Mouth
  • Esophagus
  • Throat
  • Liver
  • Breast

Immune System:
Drinking too much can weaken your immune system, making your body a much easier target for disease.  Chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than people who do not drink too much.  Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.

12: PCBs: 

PCBs have been demonstrated to cause a variety of adverse health effects. PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals. PCBs have also been shown to cause a number of serious non-cancer health effects in animals, including effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, endocrine system and other health effects. Studies in humans provide supportive evidence for potential carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic effects of PCBs. The different health effects of PCBs may be interrelated, as alterations in one system may have significant implications for the other systems of the body. The potential health effects of PCB exposure are discussed in greater detail by clicking here.

While it may seem that exposure to these detrimental chemicals is unavoidable at this stage of the game, it is important to be informed so you can do your part to avoid contact/ingestion as much as possible. Eat organic, read labels, make sure you get non-fluoridated/filtered water, and try your best to escape these dangers neurotoxins. It may take more effort on our parts, but the effort is worth it in the long run because your health is priceless.

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