Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Randy

Increasing exposure to environmental toxins, including those in food, appear to be linked to higher cancer risk and diabetes risk. Children’s pollutant levels may exceed the safety level by a greater margin than the level for adults.

On average, pregnant women have 35 measured chemicals in their bodies including DDT and flame retardant chemicals, and it may be particularly bad in the US. These toxins can be passed on to the baby through breastfeeding. Women may want to consider not eating fish for up to one year before becoming pregnant due to their high level of pollutants.

Industrial toxins build up in animal fat, and feeding meat and bone meal to farm animals may also result in the biomagnification of industrial pollutants. Meat, dairy, eggs, fish, and fish oil (including children’s fish oil supplements) seem to be the primary source of flame retardant chemicals in the U.S. diet. Animal products, especially fish, seem to be the top human exposure source for endocrine-disrupting pollutants called alkylphenols, which may be linked to allergies and can also be found in meat, dairy, and eggs. Animal products are a top source of other toxins such as perfluorochemicals as well.

Xenoestrogens, industrial chemicals with estrogenic effects, have been associated with early onset puberty in girls and lowered sperm counts in males. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in fish may also impair male genital development and result in lower testosterone levels.

Farmed fish, particularly salmon, have been found to have the highest levels of DDT, PCBs, and dioxins (compared to wild caught fish). Dioxins were found in 96% of catfish samples collected in the U.S. Tuna has been found to be especially high in mercury, which may be linked to increased rates of depression and suicide. The neurotoxin, BMAA, concentrates in seafood and may be linked to Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).

The pollutants in the aquatic food chain may explain the link between fish consumption and diabetes risk. Thus, pollution-free sources such as microalgae based DHA may be a better option than fish to get long chain omega-3s

The best way to detoxify the body of industrial toxins may be to not “tox” in the first place by choosing a plant-based diet as vegans may have the lowest levels of pollutants in their bloodstream. A plant-based diet can also help prevent contamination and help detox after contamination, which may take years. Certain plant foods, like canned Chinese bamboo shoots, and high fructose corn syrup may be contaminated with mercury

metalsOther items to be cautious of include scented household products, certain Ayurvedic herbal supplements, (which may be contaminated with lead and mercury), creatine supplements, and protein powder supplements.  Among genetically modified crops, so far, Bt corn seems to be safe. Eating organic foods may reduce our risk of exposure to pesticides and heavy metals such as cadmium.

For substantiation of any statements of fact from the peer-reviewed medical literature, please see the associated videos below.

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