By Alice Delia —
Ever wonder what happens to all the things we take into our bodies every day?
A lot of the food we eat is metabolized into useful substances, notably proteins, fats and cholesterol. And oxygen from the air we breathe is absorbed into the blood through the lungs while carbon dioxide moves from the blood to the lungs and is exhaled. Dermal (skin) exposure tends to be a lesser mechanism but can be critical in some situations.
Chemical substances enter our body through these exposure pathways and have to be processed in some way. This is referred to as the body’s chemical burden. Most of the chemical body burden is comprised of substances we need to keep us healthy – the nutrients, oxygen, and other essential chemicals that regulate and drive various body functions. However, other chemical substances that enter our body serve no useful purpose or are harmful and are dealt with via the same mechanisms that produce those vital components. These are essentially in competition with the “good” substances for the processing capacity of our bodies. The addition of these harmful chemical substances creates a toxic body burden.
The finite capacity of the body’s chemical conversion system, primarily the liver, compared with the sheer number and amount of substances we come in contact with can have some serious effects. The most common is simply the buildup of these substances in blood, fat, breast milk, etc. Anyone with poor liver function will experience this to a much larger effect. For example, Lyme disease reduces effective liver function so those with that condition have difficulty processing a “normal” chemical burden and therefore will have an even more difficult time with the additional toxic burden.
Some toxins are unavoidable, but many are things we don’t think about as having the possibility of being harmful. One of the most common of these is fragrances. Although those substances which comprise that actual scent are not typically harmful in themselves, they still add to the amount our bodies have to process. And many products contain solvents and additives to enhance their properties and these can sometimes contain substances that have a more toxic effect. One example of overuse of a fragrance product is the air freshener that emits a dose at regular intervals or when a person or pet passes by a sensor. While one “dose” may not be significant, the repeated emissions add to the amount that must be processed significantly.
The Bottom Line
As with so many things in our lives, moderation is key. Look for opportunities to reduce the load your body has to process by removing or minimizing chemical substances that don’t benefit you. This may include things that are pleasant, such as fragrances, but are not necessary. Laundry products are a good example, clothing is close to the breathing zone so fragrances in laundry detergent or dryer sheets will create a perpetual source of additional chemical substances your body will have to process. Here are a few tips to create a less toxic environment.
- Look for “no added …” labels on products.
- Store cleaning supplies in tight containers when not in use; most cleaning products do not seal well and will give off what is termed fugitive emissions even when closed.
- Open windows when using cleaning products if possible and turn on bathroom and range exhaust fans.
- Minimize fragrance products. For most people, having some fragrance products (e.g., candles, air fresheners, etc.) is acceptable but they should be used sparingly. Where added fragrances cannot be avoided, select the mildest fragrance you can find such as “rain” or “fresh laundry.” Avoid fragrance products in small enclosed spaces such as vehicles.
- Replace furnace filter regularly. Use filters with carbon or some other chemical absorbing material, a standard furnace filter only removes large particles.
- In an attached garage, store chemicals as far from the entrance to the home as possible or in a separate building like a shed. Place chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides in a tight-fitting container.