Exposure to environmental toxins is so intrinsic to our way of life that no biologic being is free from body burden of toxins. Any environmental chemical, heavy metal or other compound that is foreign to the body that triggers a harmful reaction of any kind is considered a 'toxin'. Functional medicine practitioners work to promote wellness by focusing on the fundamental underlying factors that influence every patient’s experience of health and disease to include environmental exposure to toxins.
The insidious rise in exposure to toxins is escalating, rendering children, the poor, the elderly, and those with a weak or impaired immune system the most vulnerable toxic effects.
For purposes of this introduction on environmental toxins, lets focus on one in particular, bisphenol A otherwise known as BPA. BPA is a plastic component and it acts as a synthetic estrogen, which classifies it as an Endocrine disruptor. These are substances that "interfere with the bodies fundamental physiologic processes synthesis of natural hormones in the body that are crucial for development, behavior, fertility, and maintenance of all functional cell metabolism.
In 2004, The Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C., public interest organization, released a study of the umbilical cord blood of 10 randomly selected newborns where nearly 300 types of chemicals were detected. In 2009, laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group detected BPA in umbilical cord blood of American infants. Nine of 10 randomly selected samples of cord blood tested positive for BPA, an industrial petrochemical. BPA has been implicated in a lengthening list of serious chronic disorders, including cancer, cognitive and behavioral impairments, endocrine system disruption, reproductive and cardiovascular system abnormalities, diabetes, asthma and obesity.
In January 2010, the FDA issued a report indicating that, due to findings of recent studies that used novel approaches in testing for subtle effects, both the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health as well as the FDA have some level of concern regarding the possible effects of BPA on the brain and behavior of fetuses, infants and younger children.
It has been estimated that some 6 billion lb. (2.7 billion kg) of the chemical are produced globally each year. Remember from above that BPA also acts as a synthetic estrogen, and plastics made with BPA can break down and percolate into the environment when washed, heated or otherwise stressed, which allows the chemical to be reduced small enough to leach into our food and water and then into us. As you can imagine, this is happening to all of us. The CDC has found BPA in the urine of 93% of surveyed Americans over the age of 6. If you don't have BPA somewhere in your body, you're not living in the part of the world with a zip code.
Here are two resources (Local & National) to learn more about environmental toxins and actions you can take to promote your health and the health of your family and community:
Alaska Community Action on Toxins