The American Lung Association now estimates that 4 million American children and 20.3 million adults presently have asthma. That is three times more victims than just twenty years ago. Once again, environmental factors are under strong suspicion. Most Americans spend 80 to 90% of their time in air-tight buildings, most with less than adequate ventilation. One study concluded that the majority of the 400,000 annual emergency room visits for severe asthma attacks are brought on by poor indoor air quality. Each year, asthma claims the lives of over 4,000 people and costs Americans over 6 billion dollars in medical costs and lost time from work and school.
Doctors know that irritation of the lungs by chemicals can trigger asthma attacks. Long-term exposure to chemicals can contribute to the development of asthma. This is especially true with children. A child's immune system is not fully developed until she is twelve years old. A one-year-old has practically no detox system at all.
Out of germ-phobia, some parents constantly spray disinfectants into the air and on all surfaces int heir baby's nursery. What they may not realize is the are exposing their children to formaldehyde, cresol, phenol, ammonia, ethanol, and chlorine. It takes much less of these chemicals to harm a baby than an adult. Babies' bodies are much smaller and they breathe at ten times the rate of adults. The average child visits the doctor twenty-three times in the first four years of life, with the most common complaint being respiratory ailment. When babies get sick, the last thing they need is to have irritating chemicals filling their lungs.
Central Nervous System (CNS) disorders can range from headaches and dizziness to Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, and Alzheimer's Disease. We know that many chemicals that appear in our household products are neurotoxins. Some act as depressants, some as stimulants, and some cause mood swings. Others act similar to alcoholic, leaving a person lethargic, unable to concentrate, and with a loss of balance.
It's important, once again, to remind you that only 10% of the chemicals that appear in household products have been tested for negative effects on the nervous system. And we know nothing about the long-term effects of exposure to these chemicals.
We do know that young people are destroying their brains by abusing aerosol products and inhaling their deadly fumes. In fact, aerosols are the drug of choice for many of these people. This is very frightening.
Doctors have also identified a condition known as toxic encephalopathy, brought on by repeated exposure to solvents over several years. Symptoms include memory loss, behavioural changes, emotional instability, confusion, inability to concentrate, neurological and personality changes, and problems with manual dexterity. Chemicals that cause this condition are in household products. They include chlorinated hydrocarbons, aromatic hydrocarbons and aliphatic hydrocarbons. You need to remember that the amount of chemicals a person is exposed to is not as important as the strength of a person's detox system. Extremely small amounts of chemicals can have severe effects on certain individuals.
Alzheimer's Disease receives so much attention because it is so prevalent and yet remains such a mystery. Around 4.5 million people currently suffer with Alzheimer's. Although we have known about this disease for some time, recently the number of cases has grown dramatically. Approximately 7.7 million people will have the disease by the year 2030, and it may surpass cancer and stroke numbers as a cause of death.
Although there seems to be a genetic link to the cause of Alzheimer's, scientists admit it is too weak to explain the prevalence of the disease. Most research points to environmental factors. Aluminum, a known neurotoxin, is the number one suspect. However, researchers are looking at other toxins and their possible link to this horrible disease. Hopefully, science will find the answers.
Not every CNS problem is as dramatic as Alzheimer's, but some can be almost as debilitating. Betty J., of Albuquerque, New Mexico, suffered from severe migraine headaches for years with major attacks occurring every 6 to 8 weeks. Unfortunately, the medication she was taking was as disabling as the headaches. She would spend a week to ten days in bed until the migraines finally passed and the medication wore off. As you can imagine, this caused great hardship for her, especially with regard to her work.
After doing a little investigation, Betty decided to rid her home of toxic chemicals. She threw out everything she had purchased at the grocery store and used only natural, environmentally sensitive products. Her life changed dramatically. She no longer needed to take painkillers to get out of bed and the recurring migraine attacks stopped.
Disbelieving her own success, Betty purchased a bottle of bleach to see if chemicals were indeed the cause of her problem. Within minutes of opening the bottle, she had another migraine headache. Betty became a true believer in the need to rid your home of toxic, chemical-laden cleaners.
Attention Deficit Disorders And Other Learning Disorders
By 2000, 8 million children in America were taking Ritalin so they can sit still long enough to learn to read and write. Ritalin is a "Class 2" narcotic. What could be wrong? Why do we need such a powerful drug to help control our children's behaviour? Most veteran teachers will tell you that he increased use of Ritalin is not the result of the increased awareness in ADD, as some would argue, but an increase in the actual number of cases. Think back to when you were in school. Was half of your class our of control? Were most of your friends taking medication for hyperactivity? Again, we must find our just what is wrong!
The problem is that many young people are being misdiagnosed. According to Doris Rapp, M.D., and expert on the treatment of environmental illness, as many as two-thirds of the millions of children on Ritalin are actually suffering from acute allergic reactions to environmental agents. Removal of certain chemicals or a profound change in diet could solve the problem. These children do not need powerful drugs.
Young people are exposed to so many chemicals that many of them develop sensitivities. This happens because their detox system burns out even before it fully develops. Then they become susceptible to the effects of even traces of chemicals. I want to state one more time that when it comes to toxins, the amount of exposure is not as important as how sensitive a person is. Children need much less exposure than adults do to develop negative symptoms.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), or Environmental Illness (EI) are the names for an assortment of problems that can affect any part of the human body. Chemicals found in cleaners, personal care products, food, plastics, and even water, can cause this condition. Persons suffering with MCS lack the ability to adequately detoxify their bodies. Symptoms include: headaches, severe fatigue, hyperactivity, muscle pain, joint pain, stomach and bowel problems, constant congestion, muscle twitches, and behavioral problems, depression, loss of memory, and inability to learn symptoms, and having their sensitivities confirmed.
I have read the accounts of many victims, and personally spoken with dozens more. Most were very sensitive to chemicals in cleaning and personal care products. They had debilitating body aches, headaches, depression and other nervous disorders. Thankfully, the majority I have talked to received nearly complete relief by switching to people-friendly household products.
Dr. William Rea, a world-known environmental doctor in Dallas, Texas, reports that of all the patients he has seen with MCS, only 13% report developing the condition after a one-time acute poisoning. Sixty percent report developing the condition as the result of long-term slow poisonings involving minimal amounts of toxins. Only 28% of the cases he has documented are work-related. A staggering 72% of the cases are people who have been exposed to chemicals at home or at other places.
Dr. Rea sites the following factors as influencing the onset of MCS.
- Total Toxic Body Bruden - This is the sum of all toxins in the body. When the accumulation overloads a person's detox system, MCS can occur.
- Nutritional State - The most nutrient- depleted a person's body is, the more likely they are to develop MCS.
- Synergisms - This means the combination of the different chemicals in the body will have a stronger effect than individual toxins.
- Bioaccumulation of Toxins - This refers how less dense tissues, like fat cells, can actually absorb and accumulate chemicals. Without the time and nutrition for the body to cleanse itself, the accumulation level can be dangerous.
Nancy, a young vibrant, well-trained teacher, developed MCS over a period of 8 years. She became fatigued, experienced muscle aches, constant ear ringing, difficulty concentrating, blackouts, and severe depression. She became so sensitive that even the nuance of chemical odor made her ill. Scents in her body lotions, make-up and hair spray made her so confused that she could not tell time or recall the names of her students. A whiff of perfume caused her to laugh uncontrollably and twitch.
During a leave of absence, she was too tired to get out of bed, take a shower, or prepare a snack. Her condition was traced to, among many things, phenol in the disinfectants used in the bathroom near her classroom. After two years of therapy, she began to feel better, but she still carries a charcoal filter mask everywhere she goes and fears a total relapse.
Sister Martha, a dedicated teacher, was assigned by her school to tutor students who needed extra help. Unfortunately, the only available room was a converted custodial closet located between two bathrooms. The vapors from cleaners, disinfectants and deodorizers from the bathrooms constantly filtered into this room through vents in the walls.
After tutoring for a while in this room, Sister Martha developed a persistent, nagging cough, joint stiffness and swelling, facial spasms, excessive mucus, and vision problems. She was able to find a doctor who began to treat her sensitivities. Even after extensive treatment, she still lives with many limitations. Although she has eliminated toxins in her home, she cannot remain in a public place like a mall for more than a few minutes. She still needs to take an anti-allergy extract and can drink only purified water.
Both of these stories represent extreme cases of MCS. Most people who suffer with MCS do not have such profound symptoms, but rather experience symptoms like recurring headaches, muscle aches, depression, and chronic fatigue.
Hopefully, more will be learned about MCS and treatments will improve. However, I think the focus be on prevention. By reducing the amount of toxins in your home, you can help to reduce the risk for MCS in a loved one.