Arsenic, Lead, Mercury and then some more: read why we’re exposed to them now more than ever, and what this exposure does to our brains & bodies.
There are several substances that constantly endanger humans, wildlife, and our ecosystems alike.
Here are thirteen of them worst neurotoxic offenders.
Let me say one thing in advance: we can avoid some of them by making wiser choices, but with some others we’re in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say – part of a highly toxic, unsustainable system – and can only get out of it together.
Looking at the neurotoxin effects on our intelligence might lead to the bitter belief that we might not have the brains anymore to figure out how to do just that.
But that’s not true. Let’s not be scared social media chicken, yell for an hour and then forget about it.
Let’s get a little wiser.
What it brings: memory loss, dementia and Alzheimers; organ damage
Where it comes from: food, meds (anti-reflux medication, vaccination), body care
The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment – BfR – is a leading authority in the field of consumer health protection.
It reports to the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, but acts independently in regards of scientific research.
In March 2014, the BfR have published a recommendation stating that:
1. There was too little data about topical application of aluminium and its long-time effects
2. …but a deodorant applied to possibly damaged skin (=shaving) would mean a higher risk than a product applied to healthy skin
2. The oral intake of aluminium with most people is already quite high, coming from naturally occurring aluminium, aluminium found in tap water, aluminium-based ingredients largely used in industrial foods (anticaking agent in salt, anyone?), aluminium cookware.
3. Given that many foods we consume daily already contain aluminium, the BfR suggests that an additional aluminium exposure in cosmetics – deodorants, eye shadows, lipsticks, toothpaste – is completely unneccessary and has to be avoided.
4. Aluminium intake is being discussed as the major culprit for the development of the Alzheimer disease and dementia.
Avoiding aluminium salts in deodorants is made easy these days – but don’t forget to read your labels to find out about other cosmetics, particularly those applied to damaged skin and mucosa.
And what about food?
From what I understand, we have to avoid aluminium cookware and food containing following E numbers:
Aluminium-based colouring E173,
stabilising agents: E520, E521, E523,
separating agents (silica): E554, E555, E556, E598.
In an interview with the Franco-German network arte, British aluminium expert Chris Exley stated that aluminium is just as toxic as lead or asbestos.
It hasn’t “arse” in it for nothing, you guys!
Most damaging form of arsenic (inorganic) occurs in: tap water; polluted air; rice
Arsenic is highly poisonous, cancirogenic, can induce miscarriage, diabetes, epilepsy, mental problems and cardiovascular diseases.
High consumers of rice and algae, as well as children under three years of age have the highest nutritional intake of arsenic.
Researchers recommend that dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic needs to be reduced.
Yeah, I’m in, so… well – thanks, I guess?
[Sources and bibliography: EFSA; BfR/PDF opens in new window]
A toxic insecticide – so learn how to avoid it
(Buying organic food is a good idea)
This insecticide is linked to persistent autoimmune and neurological damages and disorders.
It is allowed for agricultural but banned for residential use in several countries. In the EU, its admission for agricultural use expires on January 2018.
It is highly toxic to wildlife – fish and bees.
4. DDT/ DDD
A genotoxic insecticide – while it’s prohibited in some countries, it’s still used in others.
An endocrine disruptor; wildlife damaging.
In Europe today, animal products are likely to be contaminated.
Is hard to metabolise and to break down; damages wildlife. In the past DDT/ DDD have caused eggshell thinning with birds, wiping away whole populations.
“Wait, isn’t it just – booze?” Yup. Cheers!
I’ll just list all the horrifying long-term effects, okay?
(By the way, if you’re drinking alcohol on a daily basis – even one glass of red in the evening “to unwind” – lemme tell ya, Bridget Jones, this is alcoholism.)
Mental health problems – panic disorders, depression, brain damage, dementia etc.
Coronary heart disease
Premature aging and skin disorders
Arthritis and osteoporosis
Yet there is some research backing wine consumption – red wine enjoyed in moderation (150ml maximum daily dose for women, and double the dose for men) is said to protect against cancer, heart disease and even kidney stones.
Fatally toxic and yet widely used for dental health
Fluoride is naturally found in several foods, such as brewed black tea, raisins and wine, lamb and carrots, sometimes ground and tap water.
The maximum safe daily consumption of fluoride is 10 mg for an adult.
A neurotoxin. Comes from: Contaminated soil and food (game – believe it or not, from lead in the bullets); consumer products, cosmetics (lipstick; khol) and paint; air and water.
Leading us to: Nowhere, except to miscarriages, anemia, brain and blood disorders.
As a neurotoxin, lead can damage each system in the human body.
And if you thought urban agriculture was the best green fad since they’ve invented the bicycle:
Urban agriculture is a potential source of lead in the produce.
(Not Magnesium. Nothing to do with comics)
A tricky one: Essential for human health, excessive exposure can be toxic
The condition that occurs after an excessive exposure to Manganese is called Manganism.
But where does that extra shot Manganese actually come from? Contaminated water, poor workplace safety, exposure to specific pesticides.
What it does: makes us infertile – and less intelligent
Where it comes from: mining (gold, too) and burning of fossil fuels; food
“Humans have tripled mercury levels in upper ocean”, researchers report.
Researchers state that mercury exposure damages the fertility of some fish and birds, and, up the food chain, negatively affects IQ and neurodevelopmental issues with new born children.
What can be done to avoid it though?
Industries need to change. Consumers and brands need to re-evaluate what they (read: we) do, produce, demand, support, buy…
You might want to check out the Factor 10 philosophy to get an idea of a more extreme attempt at a solution.
One thing You can do – well, with a little help of your dentist friends:
check and safely remove amalgam fillings.
10. PBDEs or Polybrominated diphenyl ethers
Where they come from: furniture & electronics treatment
What they do: hormone-disrupting effects (watch your estrogen and thyroid hormones)
PBDEs are neurotoxic flame retardants – their industrial production is restricted (Stockholm Convention).
Research suggests that PDBEs are all about liver toxicity, thyroid toxicity, and neurodevelopmental toxicity.
There are several bans, but they haven’t been completely removed from production everywhere.
11. PCBs or Polychlorinated biphenyl:
Were used in: industrial coolant fluids, transformer oil, plasticizers, PVC additives, flame retardants, oil lubricants, woof floor finishes, paints, surgical implants…
Enviromentally toxic, mutagenic, cancirogenic endocrine disruptors, PCBs are banned, banned and banned again, but due to the wide area of use, this toxic substance can leak anytime. And it does.
Where from: dry cleaning
Does what: group 2a carcinogen, irritant; suspected to cause Parkinson’s disease
How to avoid? Actually, you could stop buying garments that require dry cleaning with Tetrachlorethylene. If you already own precious fashion pieces that need careful approach, ask your cleaner for alternatives.
I’ve discussed the topic of dry cleaning earlier in this post on fast fashion, so I will not dwell on it now.
Also, check out Toxic Free, a book on ‘detoxing’ your lifestyle that I’ve reviewed in Bookshelf Monthly.
13. TOLUENE (formerly Toluol)
Used as: paint (and nail polish) thinner, solvent; fuel
Dangers: if inhaled, can lead to presenile dementia, brain dysfunctions and lesions…
…up to unconsciousness and death if the exposure is insense within a short time.
It’s considered teratogenic (=dangerous to the unborn).
Unless you’re constantly painting with toluene-based paints or breathing in toluene fumes, you’re rather safe.
Also, since we’re here in a blog coming from the beauty world, one word regarding nail polishes.
By now, there are a lot of nail polish brands that have eliminated toluene from their lacquers.
Just you read your labels 🙂 or go water-based.
A 100% eco and non-tox nail polish is yet to be invented.
If you wonder what my favourite nail polishes are, it would be – with links to my reviews and posts – Korres (they are conventional, but whopping 11-free and come in a sweet colour range), water-based & peelable Suncoat and water-based Scotch Naturals.
Congratulations if you’ve made it to here, Adventurer.
I know it’s been a long read, and not a very pleasant one.
However, I truly believe that we must know the risks to understand the global picture. Yes, some toxins are banned in Europe and the US – but are they banned worldwide? Yes, they might be even banned worldwide – but can they leak anyway? What will happen if we continue to pollute the oceans with microplastics and mercury? What can we do? Is “voting with our money” enough – and do enough people flex their conscious consumer muscle?
Today, dear Adventurer, I’ll leave all these questions to you.
I know, ignorance does feel like a bliss, sometimes. Not making any decisions. Not knowing. Not worrying. Playing the innocence card or sporting the “but this is reality, kid” stance.
Well, we can agree that freedom is hard work.
Do you believe that our generation(s) are the Chosen Ones to finally turn the tables?