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How Many Potential Toxins
Are Found in Your Blood?

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Article printed in the January 22-23, 2005 issue of
The Mississauga News under the feature: Health & Wellness, Medical Matters.
Portrait of Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, supplied 2005
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan

We are what we eat, we are what we breathe, and we are what we expose ourselves to. Thank goodness that the good Lord and evolution built in so many safeguards that keep us functioning despite ourselves. In 2001, a U.S. study looked to see what evidence, if any, could be found to substantiate build-up of environmental toxins within our bodies. They looked at the levels of 27 different chemicals in over 5,000 individuals. It was no great surprise to discover that most of us have detectable levels of pesticides, plastics and metals in our systems. A toxin is any substance that can produce adverse effects. Now, this is not a new concept to modern society. Our ancient relatives also were not as healthy as we may think. They accumulated various toxins in their lives as well. In those days, you had to burn stuff all day long to get anything accomplished. Thirty years of breathing in toxic smoke and being covered in dirt and soot was enough to consider 35 as being old age. In a few hundred years, only the sources and toxin types have slightly changed. I like to think that I live a healthy lifestyle. Simply driving along the 403 in the morning makes me wonder what effect do those vehicle emissions have on me? And how much oil actually drips off those car chasses into our environment? And what about all those tires spinning aerosolized rubber and silicon into the air that I breathe?

Another sobering thought is the parks that our children play in. When I was a 6-year-old lad growing up in the Village of Swansea, it was standard practice for the gang to hang out in that fascinating world of mysterious objects which lay just beyond our backyard fences, called a dump. Only many years later did I learn that the gooey black resin on our feet that was often handled turned out to be toxic PCB laden oil leaking from discarded transformers. Swansea became part of Toronto while the dump had a thin layer of sod and grass laid over it, and was renamed Rennie Park. Sometimes I wonder whether we would have as many parks as we do without all those former dumps.

The best current estimate is that over 80,000 regulated industrial chemicals are in use today. But that does not even begin to include any by-products, radioactive fallout, etc. In a study to highlight this, 40 randomly selected members of the European Parliament representing 17 countries had blood samples drawn to look for 101 different types of testable toxins. Analysis revealed an astounding 76 toxic chemicals to be present in at least trace amounts. The median number of toxins in any one person was 41 while one person showed 54 different toxins. Thirteen of the toxins showed up in every single politician. That might make one start to wonder, but I digress. The point was to draw attention to strengthen laws governing human exposure to these agents in both the manufacturing and disposal process. Regulation of new agents involves the independent review of each one, and does not take into consideration interactions with other agents. There is real concern over how various agents accumulate in our bodies. Some like DDT are attracted to fatty tissues in such locations as prostate and breast where the fat can hold them for long periods of time. Others that stay in circulation stand a better chance of being eliminated by the kidneys or detoxified by the liver. In the U.S. study, tobacco smoke, lead and seafood mercury were still common, but phthalate has also emerged strong. Phthalate is a chemical in plastics and cosmetics with the potential to produce birth defects. Regulations exist in many industries which require workers to be tested from time to time. Minimum safe levels are known, but the cross-over and synergistic effects with other safe level agents are largely unknown.

So, what is one to do? I would not suggest running out to get your blood tested, since OHIP will not cover the tests. Some private labs will test for certain specific agents at a price. There is no point in buying one of the hundreds of snake oils which supposedly magically detoxifies you. In my view, this only adds to the toxin load. The liver does not need to be detoxified since its function is to detoxify. It has the bonus of being able to self-clean and regenerate. But I would like to see some investment in Canadian research to produce our own data. I use to like to smell a new consumer product coming out of its packaging whether it was as small as a new electric gadget or as large as a car or a new house, but now I tend to think twice.


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