Dr Dingle's Blog / toxic

Toxic chemicals in your home

Toxic chemicals in your home

Sources of chemical pollutants include direct use of chemical based products like laquers, varnishes, cleaning products and aerosol cans as well as off gassing form materials. Offgassing is a form of evaporation which occurs with solid materials. Many manufactured materials contain chemicals which are not stable and these are slowly released into the surrounding air. Pressed wood products, plastics, vinyls and adhesives are common sources of chemical offgassing. Because these contaminants are in a gaseous form they too pass through the thin membranes of your lungs into your bloodstream. From here they circulate throughout your body to your brain, liver, kidneys and other organs. Only 30% of the contaminants inhaled are again exhaled - the remaining 70% must be broken down by your liver or otherwise dealt with by your body.

The resting adult breathes 10,000 to 20,000 litres of air daily. Every day we breathe a largely unknown and unmeasurable cocktail of various chemicals in a gaseous or particle form. Sometimes these emissions are quite obvious in their odour and immediate effects. We may be alerted by a strong smell and suffer irritation of eyes, nose and throat, headaches or nausea. More often than not however, there is no ‘alerting’ odour and as a result we do not take steps to avoid the exposure. In some cases we may even relate the smell to pleasant sensations such as a new car, house or carpet not realising the effects are insidious and that over a long period such exposure may affect our health.

Chemical indoor air pollutants which have been identified as causing health problems are: 


volatile organic compounds (VOC's) such as:











 methyl acetate

This problem of chemical cocktails is exacerbated by the ever-increasing number of chemicals which are introduced into the market place. Many of them have not been well studied and there is scant toxicological information available. There is even less information available on some of the older chemicals which have been around for years.

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Personal care products and at risk populations

Personal care products and at risk populations

Some people are more likely to have health problems as a result of exposure to cosmetics and personal care products than others, even when the amounts of contaminants present are seemingly quite low. However, when the studies are done, the focus is on one ingredient and its exposure to a healthy animal fed a well-balanced nutritional diet. As individuals, we each have different levels of resilience and tolerance to toxic chemicals based on our genetics and our current level of health, nutrition and even lifestyle factors.

Susceptible groups include:

  • The developing foetus
  • Infants and newborns
  • Pregnant mothers
  • Asthmatics
  • People who are already sick or immune-compromised
  • Chemically sensitive individuals
  • The aged
  • Genetically susceptible individuals
  • Lower socioeconomic groups
  • Stressed individuals

… to list the obvious.

Asthmatics have particular sensitivities. Any chemicals, gases or particulates that cause irritation of the respiratory system’s mucous membranes will aggravate an asthmatic’s condition. Allergy-prone people who already show sensitivity to a substance with reactions such as sinusitis, hay fever, atopic eczema and other forms of atopic dermatitis are likely to react with heightened sensitivity to indoor air pollution. They may experience an aggravation of their allergies or develop additional sensitivities. The increasing number of people who suffer from 21st-century diseases such as chronic fatigue and multiple chemical sensitivities will also react to even very low levels of these chemicals.

Pregnant women, who may themselves enjoy robust health, are at risk because some of these contaminants pass over the placenta to the foetus. People under stress are more at risk because their immune systems are often not functioning at optimum levels. Other factors determining susceptibility include gender, genetic makeup, pre-existing health conditions and predisposition to disease, as well as lifestyle considerations such as work, diet and exercise.

There is little doubt that our kids have a greater susceptibility to toxic chemicals than we do. The younger they are, the more vulnerable they are. Every day we expose our children to hundreds of different chemicals in personal care and cosmetic products and yet remain puzzled as to why they get sick and why the rates of childhood asthma, allergies and cancer are higher than ever. Childhood leukaemia and brain tumours are leading causes of death of children in most developed countries and many studies are now showing a link between these conditions and increased toxic chemical exposure.

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The Drawbacks of Cooking

The Drawbacks of Cooking

Cooking and processing food is something that is widely accepted, but many of us don't realise that there may be nutritional drawbacks. High heat, as well as many of the cooking processes, alters the physical and chemical structure of food, changing how it is digested and the nutrients that are available to be absorbed. Enzymes are destroyed and nutrients can be lost from almost all forms of cooking, depending upon the type of cooking, temperature, pH, oxygen content and type of food. In addition, the processing of foods may add toxins, which can build up in the body, causing a negative effect on health.

Vegetables, provide a good example of how cooking reduces the amount of valuable nutrients. With vegetables, cooking by means of boiling or steaming produces three composition-changing actions: shrinkage due to the extrusion of vegetable juices; leaching by either boiling water or condensed steam; and hydration.

Leaching produces a higher loss of water-soluble nutrients in vegetables, which increases with duration of boiling and the quantity of water used. Between 70 and 80% of vitamins and minerals including vitamin C and B group (such as thiamine and folate), and potassium are lost during the boiling process. Steaming vegetables does not result in the loss of anywhere near as many nutrients into the water as with boiling; however steamed vegetables still may lose up to 30% of their water and water-soluble nutrients. As the nutrients leach into the cooking liquid, that full value of the vegetable can only be maintained, if this is consumed as well as the solid food.

In experiments, the boiling of spinach and broccoli removed between 51% and 56% of folate. Thiamine (B1) has one of the highest losses by cooking—up to 80% with complete loss from oven-roasted food, while boiled legumes had 50% thiamine loss. Riboflavin (B2) losses tend to be less but still significant; roast chicken retained only 22% of its riboflavin after cooking.

The fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K, are not lost whilst boiling, because they are not water-soluble, though they are still prone to oxidation damage, through high heat. However, other cooking processes can certainly have a big impact on the levels of the fat-soluble vitamins. Oven roasting lamb chops decreased the vitamin A content by 58%. Similarly, baking fish reduced vitamin A content by 37%. Many foods lose between 19 and 57% of the carotenoids, beta-carotene and xanthophylls when cooked.

The minerals that form the most soluble salts, potassium and sodium, have the highest loss using wet (boiling and streaming) cooking methods. In an experiment, boiled fish lost 25% of its potassium and 60% of its sodium. Pressure-cooking resulted in losses of 51% of sodium and 71% of potassium in mangrove seeds. Boiling of some vegetables (mushrooms and asparagus) reduces their selenium content by between 29% and 44%.

Protein loss through cooking, is minimal, appearing to be around 13%. However, after cooking, proteins become harder to digest as they form cross-links with reducing sugars, meaning the body has to work harder to break down, which may lead to the fermentation of raw meat in the digestive system. Raw meat, such as steak tartare and sushi, are much easier to digest, although they are an acquired taste. 

Cooking increases acidosis

Cooking food, alters its natural state, and therefore the way it interacts with the body. Ideally the body should have a neutral pH level, around 7.2 to 7.4, but heavily processed foods and cooked animal proteins can increase the acidity of the body. As a result acidosis (increased acid in the body) decreases the body’s ability to absorb minerals and other nutrients, energy production in the cells and the body’s ability to repair damaged cells.

Heat produced toxic compounds

The higher the cooking temperature, the more food is altered, sometimes into toxic compounds. One study found close to 3,800 heat-formed chemicals in cooked food, including a number of carcinogens. Toxins developed from cooked and processed foods include acrylamide, heterocyclic amines, nitrosamines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s). These substances are all carcinogens. Carcinogens such as acrylamide, which is found in cooked and processed foods, are not found in raw foods. PAH’s, the burnt bits of food (for example, from barbequeing meat or toast), are known to be carcinogenic and are the oldest known chemical carcinogens. In food, more than 10 out of 20 PAH identified have been shown to be carcinogenic in experimental animals. Oral administration at various concentrations in rodents have resulted in stomach, ovarian, lymphoid, mammary and hepatic tumours. The major sources for PAH in food is during heat processing (grilling, smoking, toasting). The formation of PAH is minimal below 400oC, however the amounts increase linearly in the range 400-1000oC or when foods are in direct contact with flames. Smoking also forms a variety of other toxic compounds including nitrogen oxides which can form nitrites and are able to react with amines and amides, yielding N-nitroso compounds (Nitrosamines and Nitrosamides). Formation of these compounds occurs optimally around pH 3.5 and is catalysed by high temperatures. A significant portion of nitrosamines produced during the frying of food is also found in condensed vapours and may be breathed in by people doing the cooking. These nitroso compounds are well known cancer causing chemicals in both human and animal studies.

Various mutagenicity (pre cancer cells) tests also showed positive results related to amino acid pyrolysis (protein cooking) products and are considered potent liver carcinogens in rats and mice. Frying at 143oC for 20 minutes only produced low activity, whereas 191oC and 210oC for up to 10 minutes gave much higher mutagen activities. In meat it appears that only low levels of TA98 mutagenic activity are produced when ground beef is microwaved, stewed, simmered, boiled or deep fat fried. Baking, roasting and broiling produce moderate activity, while frying produces the highest activity.

Increases in time and temperature of cooking have been shown to increase advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are shown to increase inflammation, particularly in diabetics. AGE products do considerable damage in the circulatory system and are increasingly associated with a range of adverse health effects from which diabetics suffer, including those leading to gangrene and blindness.

Plastics in heating, cooking and Microwaves

Unfortunately a lot of people do not realise that plastics leach out toxic substances in the food and the rates of this release is often dependent on heating and the type of food. So putting hot food into plastic containers or heating food in plastic containers, which is common with microwave cooking, increases the release of different toxic plastic compounds such as PVC, BPA (Bisphenol A) and plasticizers like and phthalates (DEHA).

DEHA is a phthalate like chemical added to plastics to make them more pliable is a known endocrine (hormone) disruptor and causes testicular and reproductive defects in rats. In studies conducted on rats, DEHA has been known to cause androgenic effects. It was also found to have caused developmental toxicity in rat foetuses.

BPA has been found to cause oestrogenic effects in rats in low exposure, a change in maternal instinct in rats at one fifth the level considered safe and that it causes aneuploidy (extra or missing chromosones) in mice. Aneuploidy is the cause of spontaneous miscarriage in humans, and causes between 10 and 20 percent of birth defects, including Down's syndrome. This implicates BPA in a suite of health problems.

“Microwave safe” is not a health claim and has no bearing on the movement of chemicals into the food. Instead it is a warning that the plastic will not physically deteriorate if exposed to microwaves. That is it will not melt. Many of the microwave safe products use polyethylene instead of other plastics such as PVC as polyethylene has no plasticizers. PVC is a known liver cancer causing agent.

A common piece of cookware in most kitchens, teflon cookware is a high temperature cookware that is made with material that enable’s it to heat consistently at a lower temperature to prevent burning, and is more resistant to damage caused by sudden temperature changes, and maintains a non-stick surface. Teflon cookware is formulated from Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and Perfluorooctanoic acid (POFA), both being toxic substance which are released into the food and into the air.

Cooking with Teflon enables these gases to be released and penetrate the alveoli creating respiratory problems, causes direct damage to cell membranes of the lungs, elevates cholinesterase activity and increases levels of inorganic fluorides in the human body. Although research on the effects of PTFE on human health is limited, extensive animal studies have shown inhalation exposure to produce adverse health effects in several organs and at higher concentrations even death. Rats exposed to high concentrations developed hemorrhages, edema, fibrin deposition in lungs and damage to the proximal tubule of the kidney. Most alarming however, PTFE releases toxic pyrolysis products in the air that can cause rapid death of birds. Exposure of budgerigars to PTFE pyrolysis products in the air for only 9 minutes produced severe clinical signs, lesions and death of 31 of 32 birds. A similar effect on five cockatiels was also observed in an incident where all five had died within 30 minutes of exposure to an over-heated frying pan containing PTFE.

Of additional concern to the manufacturing of Teflon cookware is the inclusion of Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in its’ non-stick coating. Perfluorooctanoic acid is linked to damaging the human immune system, altering the endocrine system, causing infertility, damaging children’s health and producing development problems, and to be carcinogenic. One study found PFOA production workers in the U.S. have a three-fold increase in developing prostate cancer. The U.S. EPA state that not only is PFOA a likely cancer carcinogenic, exposure to the chemical also impairs the fertility of women. While exposure to PFOA in utero (to the fetus) has been linked with reductions in newborn birth weight and adverse effects on the skeletal and organ development of the baby. Exposure to POFA from Teflon cookware alters the endocrine system including decreased levels of reproductive hormones and disrupted thyroid hormone regulation.

Other than the emissions from Teflon cookware into the air lesser known side effect of cooking is the creation of indoor combustion air pollutants. Carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and particulate matter (PM) are harmful air pollutants that pose significant short- and long-term health risks. These same pollutants are also some of the most common contributors to unhealthy air inside homes, due in part to cooking. Researchers now understand that the process of cooking food and even simply operating stoves—particularly gas appliances—can emit a cocktail of potentially hazardous chemicals and compounds. Within our homes, these pollutants are less diluted than they are outdoors, and in the absence of proper ventilation, they often are trapped inside. Literally millions of people are routinely being exposed to air pollutants at levels that we don’t allow outdoors

Cooking and Weight gain

Cooking is a universal human behaviour that has been proposed to function partly as a mechanism for increasing dietary net energy gain and Research shows that cooked foods are a major contributing factor to the epidemic weight gain and obesity crisis we see now. A long time ago farmers found out that animals eating raw food put on a lot of lean mass but not much fat or the weight needed to make good profits. So farmers started processing the food to get bigger weight gains. On experiments feeding mice processed grains put on significantly more weight and became obese compared to mice fed whole grains in their natural unprocessed form.

An explanation for this is that processing and cooking increases the energy gained from carbohydrate, protein and fat sources. In fats the cellular structure of many foods constrains their digestibility. For example, Oilseeds have cell walls composed mainly of indigestible non-starch polysaccharides and store their lipids in oil bodies, intracellular, spherical organelles coated by oleosin proteins. These features hinder digestive lipases from accessing the encapsulated lipids which may explain why unprocessed (raw/whole; RW) nuts and other oilseeds have high measured lipid and energy content, but display lower digestibility. Cooking and/or mechanical processing tears cell walls and disrupts oil bodies, promoting lipid release which shows that processing could increase lipid digestibility, because, unguarded by cell walls and oleosins, the freed lipids are likely more accessible to lipases.

Prebiotics through the metabolism of the gut microbiome have also been linked to satiety effects and foods that contain fiber, protein, and plant-based fat tend to be the most filling. These nutrients slow down digestion and the absorption of nutrients, a process that helps you feel physically full for longer, and also means lower blood sugar and insulin spikes. While all unprocessed plant sources are rich in prebiotics leeks are rich in fructan and cellulose fibers (types of prebiotics) are long enough to survive all the way down the GI tract. However, cooking shortens the fiber chain, so it should be eaten raw or lightly cooked.



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Dangerous Beauty?

Dangerous Beauty?

For the last 50 years we have been brainwashed into thinking we need to apply more and more chemicals onto our skin and hair to make us look healthier and younger without even a second thought for what those chemicals are and they are really doing to us. In today’s technological advancements the increased use of chemicals in our homes and environment is out of control.

The majority of consumers are not concerned with the ingredients they are using, they trust the Governments who they think carefully regulate these chemicals and the manufacturers and the suppliers to provide safe products or they simply do not recognise the chemical substances written on the labels. Public awareness about the potentially harmful formulations of cosmetics is very poor

While the cosmetic industry and other funded agencies continue to justify using chemicals that potentially cause adverse health effects by stating these are at significantly low levels and do not pose a threat to human health and Consumers are led to believe the ingredients have been adequately tested and safe for use. In reality, most of the chemicals that are in these have been barely tested and the magnitude of their potential adverse effects is unknown. And this is without mentioning the increasing occurrence of asthma or our increasing affliction with twentieth-century diseases: multiple chemical sensitivity, auto-immune disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome and allergies. These questions will not be answered for a very long time, as the study of toxic substances is still in its infancy. It relies on the crude method of using test animals and extrapolating these results to humans. Even if we could do all the tests we needed, it would take us hundreds of years and unimaginable amounts of money just to carry out the testing we do at present, on existing chemicals.

Many of the ingredients used in these products are also industrial chemicals, solvents and petroleum by‑products which have safety warnings about their use and exposure. It is not just the chemicals of concern but we are using more and more of these products, from an earlier age and for a longer period of time. With each successive generation exposed to the media we apply more chemicals more times than ever before in human history.

Our exposure to personal care products and cosmetics continues to increase each year. According to the Environmental Working Group, woman will have around 185 chemicals on her skin daily, and a man will have around 85. A study on how much we use these products found today's usage of personal care products and cosmetics around 6 times more than in 1983 and it is likely to be even higher now. The average woman now uses around 12 cosmetics and up to 25 different products, with more than 25% of women using 15 or more a day exposing themselves to more than hundreds of different chemicals every day. While the average male uses half this. The study found for example that liquid foundation is applied daily by 68.7% ‑ 74.8% of woman and 23.4% of woman applied the product twice a day on a daily basis. 65.3% ‑ 82.9% of people use shampoo daily and 26.6% use it twice a day.

Right now, research shows that these products can be produced with lower and lower toxicity. They can also be designed to work - to have real benefits without causing harm. In fact, some manufacturers are already committed to these principles. Buy safer products or stop buying hazardous ones. This may force the big multi-nationals to respond by manufacturing with safer ingredients, gradually removing the most toxic; but only if we, the consumers, use our market pressure, and take our money elsewhere. Ironically, we hold the ultimate power. Knowledge, and positive action based on that knowledge, is the way towards creating the changes we want. I did my PhD on formaldehyde exposure in the early 1990’s. It was clear then that this chemical caused a lot of problems and caused cancer in animals and probably humans. It was not until around 2013 that most of the big manufacturers said that they were now going to remove this chemical more than 20 years too late. In large, this can be attributed to the self-regulating nature of the cosmetic industry and the inadequate government regulatory bodies to protect the welfare of consumers.

The cosmetic industry is one of the largest and most profitable enterprises around the world generating large profits. Despite economic difficulties in the world, profitability of the cosmetic industry has been steadily increasing by about 5% each year and it has been predicted that this trend will continue into the future. Cosmetics and personal care products have become an essential part of the daily grooming routine of millions of people around the world. Personal care products are a 40 billion dollar industry in the United States, and worldwide worth more than $200 billion each year and increasing. This success can be explained by the use of powerful marketing techniques to influence the general public into buying cosmetic products. The cosmetic industry has played a significant role in shaping and reinforcing societal perceptions of physical appearance and personal hygiene. As a multibillion dollar industry, companies’ fork out massive expenditures on advertising, harping on the idea that one must be image conscious, and thus continue to consume cosmetic products. The modern market for personal care products is all-inclusive from females to males, from infancy to old age. With the ubiquitous availability of products that come in an overwhelming amount of different types, indulging in cosmetics has become a necessity, or so we are led to believe by the industry.

Unfortunately, with so much money and profits at stake the cosmetic and personal care industry is not without its greed and lack of scruples. To highlight this In September 10, 1997 hearings on the FDA reform bill (HR 1411), Senator Edward M. Kennedy stated: "The cosmetic industry has borrowed a page from the playbook of the tobacco industry by putting profits ahead of public health." Consumers are generally misled by advertising campaigns and fancy packaging as to what chemicals are contained in their skin care products. Many ingredients are promoted to improve the condition of the skin whilst their harmful effects are omitted.

The regulators whose job it is to protect our health play down the actual and possible effects of cosmetics and personal care products as they have to tow the bureaucratic line. They may acknowledge that some people react to chemicals in products and that the numbers affected are probably increasing. They may also acknowledge that some of the ingredients ‘might be toxic’. The regulator’s position is that these chemicals are safe until it is proven that they are doing harm. This extraordinary position has failed people who are already seriously ill and will continue to protect the manufacturer, not the consumer.


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