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We're Living a Toxic Life

Recent studies show that Americans are absorbing toxic chemicals in their bodies as part of everyday life. We're ingesting low levels of chemicals simply by eating, drinking, breathing and touching things. There are more than 70,000 chemicals used in the U.S., with 2,000 new compounds introduced every year. Almost everything we use, from carpets to cosmetics, is filled with toxins. Chemicals get into our bodies through pollution, food additives, pesticide residues, and consumer products from paints to plastics, as well as from many of the building materials in our homes and offices.

Volunteers were tested by the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York for the presence of 210 chemicals in their bodies, which are commonly found in consumer products and industrial pollutants. Tests on their blood and urine found an average of 91 industrial compounds, pollutants and other chemicals, with a total of 167 chemicals found in the entire group. They didn't work with chemicals in their jobs or live in industrial areas. A much larger study was done by the Centers for Disease Control, with the same results.

Researchers have found the risk of breast cancer increases significantly with increasing levels of the pesticide dieldrin in women's blood. Methyl parathion, a pesticide that should never be used indoors, has been found inside thousands of homes in at least seven states and led to the deaths of two children in Mississippi. Trihalomethanes, chemicals that evaporate easily into the air, have been linked to birth defects, bladder cancer, and colorectal cancer. They're formed during the water sanitation process, and are often found in drinking water. Cotinine, a chemical formed by the breakdown of nicotine from cigarettes, has been found in the saliva, blood, and urine of nonsmokers. Dioxin, PCBs and phthalates, which are found in plastic packaging, have been linked to infertility in males and spontaneous abortion in women.

Children are the most affected?they have twice the levels of certain pesticides in their blood, higher levels of cotinine and higher levels of chemicals used in soft plastic toys. Adolescents have high levels of phthalates from personal care products, and Mexican-Americans have three times the levels of the DDT. "Just because chemicals are found present in the body doesn?t mean there?s cause for concern, but only that an internal metabolic process has occurred," says Jennifer Biancaniello, of the American Chemical. "CDC hasn?t come out and said there's cause for health concern."

Simple dietary changes can reduce one's exposure to chemicals. A recent study found that feeding children organic food reduced their exposures to pesticides by 6 to 9 times and another study that found that eating less fish decreased blood levels of mercury. Mercury in expectant mothers can cross the placenta and reach her unborn child.

Chemicals are rarely banned in the U.S., although they have been in other countries, such as when Sweden recently found traces of a fire retardant in women's breast milk. Jeannie Rizzo, of the Breast Cancer Fund, says, "I would have liked CDC to call for more policy changes and make a more urgent call for research. We're walking around with these chemicals in us but with a process (for protecting us) that doesn't have to be this slow."

Maybe we'd better concentrate on creating a physical body that can have greater spiritual experiences.

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