Toxins in Our Everyday World

By Betty Peterson

Joel K. Kahn M.D. in an article in Readers Digest February 2014 cautions us on household cleaning products. He writes: Many cleaning products even some green ones, contain chemicals that have been linked to stroke and high blood pressure. When possible, clean your kitchen with items you cook with such as white vinegar, lemon, baking soda and cornstarch.

"Toss your plastic containers," he cautions. Chemicals in plastic, such as biphenyl A (BPA) and phthalates leach into the food in these containers. If enough residue accumulates in your body, it can throw off your hormonal system. Studies have linked levels of BPA in people’s urine to heart disease risks. More than 15 medical papers link phthalates to cardiovascular issues. Use glass, ceramic or stainless steel storage containers instead. Replace those plastic water bottles and use stainless steel, glass and aluminum instead.


Doctor Oz writes: "Often referred to as BPA, this chemical is used to create clear, hard plastics such as reusable water bottles, and line metal cans to protect us from botulism. Unfortunately, animal studies have shown that high levels of BPA lead to obesity, fertility problems, breast and prostate cancers, diabetes and heart disease. Even more troubling, human studies are beginning to show similar results."


Betty Peterson writes: "When researching this subject I became aware of how much of our food comes in plastic; water, juices, breads, prescriptions and so much more. Become aware of this in your next trip to the grocery store. We have been told that much of the BPA has been replaced…but is the replacement proven to be better?"

“In our hands lies not only your own future, but that of all living creatures with whom we share the earth.” Sir David Attenborough

Top 10 most common environmental toxins

The following toxins are among the most prevalent in our air, water and/or food supply, as reported by Dr. Joseph Mercola, a leader in the U.S. wellness movement, New York Times bestselling author and founder of, the second most visited non-governmental health website after WebMD.


The following toxins are among the most prevalent in our air, water and/or food supply, as reported by Dr. Joseph Mercola, a leader in the U.S. wellness movement, New York Times bestselling author and founder of, the second most visited non-governmental health website after WebMD.

1.PCB’s...Polychlorinated biphenyls: This industrial chemical has been banned in the United States for decades, yet is a persistent organic pollutant that's still present in our environment. 

Risks: Cancer, impaired fetal brain development.

Major Sources: Farm-raised salmon. Most farm-raised salmon, which accounts for most of the supply in the United States, are fed meals of ground-up fish that have absorbed PCBs in the environment.

2. Pesticides: According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 60 per cent of herbicides, 90 per cent of fungicides and 30 per cent of insecticides are known to be carcinogenic. Pesticide residues have been detected in 50 per cent to 95 per cent of U.S. foods.

Risks: Cancer, Parkinson's disease, miscarriage, nerve damage, birth defects, blocking the absorption of food nutrients.

Major Sources: Food (fruits, vegetables and commercially raised meats), bug sprays.

3. Mold and other Fungal Toxins: One in three people have had an allergic reaction to mold. Mycotoxins (fungal toxins) can cause a range of health problems with exposure to only a small amount.

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

Major Sources: Contaminated buildings, food like peanuts, wheat, corn and alcoholic beverages.

4. Phthalates: These chemicals are used to lengthen the life of fragrances and soften plastics.

Risks: Endocrine system damage (phthalates chemically mimic hormones and are particularly dangerous to children).

Major Sources: Plastic wrap, plastic bottles, plastic food storage containers. All of these can leach phthalates into our food.

5. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds): VOCs are a major contributing factor to ozone, an air pollutant. According to the EPA, VOCs tend to be even higher (two to five times) in indoor air than outdoor air, likely because they are present in so many household products.

Risks: Cancer, eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment.

Major Sources: Drinking water, carpet, paints, deodorants, cleaning fluids, varnishes, indoor paints, cosmetics, dry cleaned clothing, moth repellants, air fresheners.

6. Dioxins: Chemical compounds formed as a result of combustion processes such as commercial or municipal waste incineration and from burning fuels (like wood, coal or oil).

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

Major Sources: Animal fats: Over 95 per cent of exposure comes from eating commercial animal fats.

7. Asbestos: This insulating material was widely used from the 1950s to 1970s. Problems arise when the material becomes old and crumbly, releasing fibers into the air.

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

Major Sources: Insulation on floors, ceilings, water pipes and heating ducts from the 1950s to 1970s.

8. Heavy Metals: Metals like arsenic, mercury, lead, aluminum and cadmium, which are prevalent in many areas of our environment, can accumulate in soft tissues of the body.

Risks: Cancer, neurological disorders, Alzheimer's disease, foggy head, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels.

Major Sources: Drinking water, fish, vaccines, pesticides, preserved wood, antiperspirant, building materials, dental amalgams, chlorine plants.

9. Chloroform: This colorless liquid has a pleasant, nonirritating odor and a slightly sweet taste, and is used to make other chemicals. It's also formed when chlorine is added to water.

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

Major Sources: Air, drinking water and food can contain chloroform.

10. Chlorine: This highly toxic, yellow-green gas is one of the most heavily used chemical agents.

Risks: Sore throat, coughing, eye and skin irritation, rapid breathing, narrowing of the bronchi, wheezing, blue coloring of the skin, accumulation of fluid in the lungs, pain in the lung region, severe eye and skin burns, lung collapse, reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS) (a type of asthma).

Major Sources: Household cleaners, drinking water (in small amounts), air when living near an industry (such as a paper plant) that uses chlorine in industrial processes.



It's impossible in this day and age to avoid all environmental toxins. What you can do, however, is limit your exposure as much as possible with the following tips:

  • Buy and eat, as much as possible, organic produce and free-range, organic foods. If you can only purchase one organic product it probably should be free range organic eggs.
  • Rather than eating fish, which is largely contaminated with PCBs and mercury, consume a high-quality purified fish or cod liver oil. Another option is to have your wild-caught fish lab tested to find out if it is a pure source.
  • Avoid processed foods -- remember that they're processed with chemicals.
  • Only use natural cleaning products in your home.
  • Switch over to natural brands of toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics.
  • Remove any metal fillings as they're a major source of mercury. Be sure to have this done by a qualified biological dentist.
  • Avoid using artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners or other synthetic fragrances as they can pollute the air you are breathing.
  • Avoid artificial food additives of all kind, including artificial sweeteners and MSG.
  • Get plenty of safe sun exposure to boost your vitamin D levels and your immune system (you'll be better able to fight disease).
  • Have your tap water tested and, if contaminants are found, install an appropriate water filter on all your faucets (even those in your shower or bath).