Tag Archives: Environmental Health

Solving Childhood Obesity – Part II – Chemical Exposures

In my last blog I spoke about the importance of breastfeeding a child in regards to reducing childhood obesity in this country.  That was the first part in a series of blogs I am writing to help get the word out about the new Let’s Move campaign.  I usually don’t see eye to eye with these kinds of campaigns but after reading the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report to the President I was pleasantly surprised with many of the ideas put forth.  They are very much in line with my philosophy on health care.  In this second part in my series we will be talking about chemical exposures and how it relates to obesity.

Chemicals and Obesity

The evolution of our children...

Chemicals are all around us.  They make our lives easier in some ways (think gasoline) but they also take a toll on human physiology.  Chemicals may mimic human hormones and cause problems in that way.  Chemicals that do this are known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

These EDCs can cause problems in several ways.  They may promote obesity by increasing the number of fat cells, changing the amount of calories burned at rest, altering energy balance, and altering the body’s mechanisms for appetite and satiety.  Some also mimic human sex hormones such as estrogen which also alters metabolism.

Fetal and newborn exposure to these chemicals can cause more weight gain per unit of food gained and less weight expenditure per unit of exercise.  Over time this results in significant weight gain and all of the conditions associated with being overweight significantly increase.  The results these EDCs have on the fetus or young child appear to be permanent and persist well into adulthood.  According to scientists these chemicals change genetic expression and permanently alter metabolism.

Where are we getting these exposures?

Unfortunately, there are many sources of these chemicals.  Below I have listed some very common ones.

DDT – DDT is a chemical that was originally used as a pesticide to control mosquito populations.  It was synthesized during World War II as an alternative to an effective natural pesticide that was exported to the US from Japan.  It was studied very little but approved for civilian use after the war.  As early as 1946, the harmful effects of DDT on bird, beneficial insects, fish, and marine invertebrates were seen in the environment.  DDT has been found in the tissues of animals world wide and has even been found in the polar ice caps and the Himalayas.  This illustrates that it has spread to areas of the world where it was never directly applied.  DDT interferes with reproductive abilities suggesting that it alters human sex hormones and may play into obesity in that capacity.

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) –  PCBs are a class of chlorinated compounds used as industrial coolants and lubricants.  The health effects of PCB exposure have been known since the 1930’s and were seen in the workers who made the product.  Unlike DDT this chemical was not supposed to be applied directly to the environment.  Companies, however, were not responsible in the disposal of it.  Between 1952 and 1977, the New York GE plant had dumped more than 500,000 pounds of PCB waste into the Hudson River.  Again, toxic effects were seen very early on in workers producing the chemical but Monsanto (the largest producer of PCBs) downplayed health issues stemming from it in order to continue making money from its production.  Recent studies show the endocrine interference of PCBs is related to the liver and thyroid and increases childhood obesity in children exposed prenatally.  Additionally, it may increase the risk of developing diabetes.

Bisphenol A (BPA)I have previously written a blog about BPA. If you’re interested please read that as well.  BPA is a chemical that is used in plastic water bottles, the lining of cans, baby bottles, plastic food containers and dental materials.  It has been shown through many studies that even in low levels of exposure it increases the risk of diabetes, breast and prostate cancers, causes decreased sperm count, reproductive problems, early puberty, obesity, and neurological problems.  Fortunately, most responsible companies have stopped using it in their products but the total load of BPA in our environment is likely to remain very high because the breakdown of the products that contain it will continue for hundreds of years.

Phthalates – These are found in some soft toys, flooring, medical equipment, cosmetics and air fresheners.  The main area of concern for phthalates is the disruption of the male reproductive system.  Again, it likely alters sex hormones with can adversely affect metabolism.  Europe and California have banned its use in toys.

So What Can You Do To Protect Yourself  And Your Child?

  1. My advice to patients is always to live as naturally as possible.  Eat foods that are fresh so you can avoid the packaging that contains many of these chemicals.
  2. Don’t use artificial air fresheners.  They do make phthalate free air fresheners these days.
  3. Buy your baby’s toys from companies that are ecofriendly.  Those companies won’t use any of these chemicals.
  4. If you reheat your food or food for your children don’t do it in a plastic container.  Buy glass containers to store your food and use them to reheat your food.  Heating plastics increase the speed some of these chemicals break down.
  5. Use a glass baby bottle.
  6. Avoid generic fish oil.  They have been shown to have high levels of PCBs in them.  Always get your fish oil from a health professional.  (Check out our blog on PCB contamination of fish oil)

It isn’t possible to avoid all exposure.  After all DDT, while not used anymore, can be found even in the farthest reaches of the world.  The goal is to keep exposure to a minimum and keep your body as healthy as possible so it is adequately equipped to fight back.  That means eating healthy, exercising and avoiding unnecessary chemicals like cigarette smoke.  You should also take supplements known to have powerful antioxidant effects.  If you do this, you are providing as much protection as possible.

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Toxins causing ‘grievous harm,’ cancer panel says

Widespread exposure to environmental toxins poses a serious threat to Americans, causing “grievous harm” that government agencies have not adequately addressed, according to a strongly worded report released today by the President’s Cancer Panel, a body of experts that reports directly to President Obama.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 6% of cancer deaths — nearly 34,000 a year — are caused by environmental pollutants.

That number could be much higher, the new report says. Although the report doesn’t give a figure, it says the government has “grossly underestimated” the problem because of a lack of research. Much of the suffering faced by people diagnosed with toxin-related cancer “could have been prevented through appropriate national action,” according to the 240-page report.

The report urges the Obama administration to act, even if the evidence linking cancer and chemicals isn’t definitive. Nearly 80,000 chemicals are used in the country today, many of which are unstudied and “largely unregulated,” the report says.

Children appear to be especially vulnerable, the report says.

The report was produced by cancer specialists LaSalle Lefall and Margaret Kripke, both of whom were appointed by President Bush and who heard from dozens of experts over the past two years. The panel’s third position is vacant.

Reaction to the report was mixed.

Jeanne Rizzo, president of the Breast Cancer Fund, an environmental advocacy group, said the report was “a watershed that could transform federal policy not just on cancer, but on chemicals.”

The American Cancer Society’s Michael Thun called the report “unbalanced” because he said it implied pollution is a major cause of cancer and dismissed prevention efforts. The report “restates hypotheses as if they were established facts,” Thun said in a statement. “It reflects one side of a scientific debate that has continued for almost 30 years.” Thun said he hopes the report won’t confuse Americans about the clearest ways to prevent cancer, such as through healthier living. The American Cancer Society says smoking alone causes far more deaths — more than 168,000 every year.

via Toxins causing ‘grievous harm,’ cancer panel says – USATODAY.com.

Dr. Court’s Comments

I think it’s great that this kind of information is finally starting to get out there.  I routinely recommend that my patients do a bio-detoxification for the reasons mentioned above.

Most of the chemicals that are in our lives have not been studied and no one knows the long term effects of these things.  For every chemical that may be harmless there are likely more that cause cancer.

And what about the chemicals that don’t cause cancer?  What about the chemicals that just affect physiology?  Some cause chronic pain, sensory perception issues, trouble breathing, head aches, joint pain, auto-immune disorders and the list goes on and on.

The fact that these chemicals are all around us makes them very dangerous.  You can’t get away from them.  They get into our soil, water and air.  You eat them, you drink them, and you breath them in.  Over time, some of these chemicals are dangerous and can cause cancer in susceptible individuals.  The problem is there is no way to tell who those susceptible people are.

Also, think about the list of people who don’t get cancer but are destined for a lifetime of suffering with some mystery condition that cannot be figured out because of some chemical exposure.  I routinely see patients who have these mystery conditions and I can almost always attribute it to some environmental exposure.

So the questions is, what can you do to protect yourself?  I always recommend that my patients do a bio-detoxification at least once per year.  Through that program you are able to cleanse you body of many built up toxins.  If you do this regularly, you have less of a chance of these chemicals adversely affecting you.

Secondly, eat a healthy diet.  These chemicals cause cancer by causing free radical damage that alters your DNA.  Free radicals are countered by a diet high in antioxidants.  A diet full of healthy protein, fruits, veggies and nuts will supply you with ample free radical scavenging antioxidants.

Thirdly, take supplements to boost your immunity and antioxidant capacity.  Things like vitamin D, vitamin C, curcumin, and green tea extract have known protective benefits.

Lastly, avoid using necessary chemicals in your life.  Here in the Northeast spring is in full bloom, but that also means the bugs and weeds are out too.  Instead of using the chemical weed and bug killers that are available, use a natural product.  I’ve used both natural weed and bug killer in the past two weeks and they worked great.  The ingredients were nothing more than peppermint, rosemary and thyme oil with a small amount of alcohol in it.

It’s no secret that we are surrounded by chemicals in our daily lives.  We start by getting up in the morning and driving to work in a car fueled by chemicals, printing our daily reports with chemicals and end our day by sitting down and watching our new fancy TVs that are filled with chemicals.  To assume they have no effect is naive.  They not only can cause cancer but also cause other long term health issues.  Do what you can to protect yourself and your family.

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Dangerous Pesticides Found In Tap Water. Find out how to protect yourself

A common herbicide has been found to contaminate the drinking water of millions of Americans.  Now a new study shows that this chemical, called atrazine, causes serious health issues in living organisms.  The issues that occurred were very frightening and were induced in levels that a human could ingest through contaminated drinking water.

The atrazine was found to “chemically castrate” male frogs and turned others into females.  Atrazine is a common weed killer used to control grasses in areas where more desirable crops are grown.  In a recent study, 10% of male frogs exposed actually changed sex and nearly all of the males had low testosterone and sperm count levels. Atrazine has been linked in human studies to low birth weight, premature development, birth defects and low sperm count.

Atrazine has been banned in Europe, but it is still the most widely used herbicide in the U.S. with 76 million pounds applied each year.  Atrazine is a known endocrine disruptor.  Endocrine disruptors are exogenous substances that act like hormones in the endocrine system and disrupt the physiologic function of endogenous hormones.

About 75% of stream water samples and 40% of groundwater samples contain atrazine, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, detected atrazine in 90% of tap water samples from 139 water systems.

The company that makes atrazine denies that it is unsafe stating that its own studies show it has no sexual effect on frogs despite the fact that many studies show the opposite.  This is another instance of a major corporation trying to keeps its product on the market at all costs.  By most accounts this is the most widely used herbicide in the world so it’s a huge money maker for Syngenta, the main producer of atrazine.  You will be surprised to know Syngenta is actually just an arm of the pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca and Novartis.  On their website they state that their name means “bringing people together.”  Seems like a funny name for a company that refuses to admit their products are potentially dangerous for entire populations of people.

Endocrine disruptors like atrazine are a major problem in the U.S.   Atrazine appears to act on animal physiology by mimicking the hormone estrogen.  That would explain how it could change male frogs to female frogs and would also explain the observations of low sperm counts seen in both frogs and humans exposed to atrazine.  Syngenta would have you believe this happens at high levels of exposure but it simply is not true.  Even exposure to low levels of these chemicals can be harmful.  Also take into account that atrazine is not the only endocrine disruptor in our environment.  They are found in plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys and cosmetics.

This chemical is obviously dangerous because Europe has banned its use, but Big Pharma has much too much power for that here in the United States.  Unfortunately, it will continue to be in our water supply until something very serious happens to a large group of people.  There are ways for you to protect yourself.  A simple filter on your faucet will filter out this chemical.  If you have small children or value your own health, it would be wise to consider a filtration system for your home.

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