Survival strategies for four top environmental toxins

The four top environmental toxins are air pollution, bisphenols, phthalates, and perfloroalkyl substances, said Lyn Patrick, ND, at the 2019 Integrative Healthcare Symposium in New York City.

There are 9 million global deaths annually attributed to toxins we breathe in, said Patrick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals tracks chemicals found in people and divides into percentiles, which indicate the levels of concern. The reports offer real-time data related to the chemical burden in free living adults and children in the U.S.

Practitioners need not memorize the information in the database, Patrick says, but should use the data to help educate themselves and their patients. It is better to use this database when interpreting toxin levels in people and comparing reference ranges that labs generate.

“Even though you can’t use the data to diagnose, if you have a patient who has a level in a specific percentile, the CDC [report] will indicate if it’s a level of concern,” said Patrick. “The difficult thing about environmental medicine is you have to know this stuff to interpret lab results.”

Patrick walked through the top four environmental toxins and offered avoidance measures for each.

Avoidance measures for indoor air quality:

  • Do not wear shoes indoors
  • Do not have combustion going on indoors, such as smoking, incense, candles, and natural gas
  • No scents, such as deodorizers
  • No carpeting
  • No off-gasing materials

When you see patients who have respiratory issues especially, Patrick says, educate your patients on these measures.

Patrick offers what experts often call the “holy trinity” to remediate air quality at home. This will make significant difference in clinical outcomes for patients affected by air pollution, Patrick said:

  1. Getting air ducts cleaned
  2. Air filters
  3. Air purifiers

“We kind of have to get real,” said Patrick. “In urban areas where we have high particulate air, it counts.”

Avoidance measures for bisphenols (BPA):

  • Switch to stainless steel and glass food storage and drink containers
  • Move foods to ceramic or glass food containers before microwaving
  • Consider a coffee filter or percolator for coffee
  • Eat out less, especially at restaurants that do not use fresh ingredients
  • Avoid canned food consumption.
  • Where possible, replace with fresh produce or cardboard or tetra pack packaged alternatives
  • Choose fresh fruits and vegetables when possible, and frozen if not
  • Soak dried beans for cooking rather than tinned

BPA is found in many sources, including plastic containers, plastic water bottles, plastic kitchen implements, some coffee makers with plastic water tanks, and even on receipt paper, Patrick said. Personal care products are another culprit, she said, and often contain levels of BPA.

Many foods contain BPA as well due to packaging containers. Tinned foods, canned drinks and juices, fast food from commercial outlets, packaged fruit and vegetables, convenience and ready-made meals, chocolate, and ice cream have been shown to contain BPA.

Avoid all bisphenols, Patrick said:

  • No BPA-free containers of any kind
  • Do not let water sit in any hard-plastic container (coffee machines, etc.)
  • Differentiate between stainless steel and aluminum water bottles
  • Do not accept receipts
  • Use tetra packs for all prepackaged soups and beans

Avoidance measures for phalates:

  • Dust control in the home
  • No or minimal plastic products in the home
  • No heating food in plastics
  • Avoid storing foods in plastics
  • No fast foods
  • Avoid all scented personal care products
  • Use soap instead of body wash

Avoidance measures for perfloroalkyl substances:

  • Dust control: indoor air (primary source)
  • Scotchquarded fabric in the home
  • Gore Tex clothing in the home
  • Cooking with Teflon pans
  • Food: breastmilk, seafood, red meat, poultry 
  • Microwave popcorn

Water in areas where PFCs are manufactures, and where they have been used in firefighting foam, etc.

 “We were in denial that these pollutions were problems,” said Patrick. “We’re not in denial anymore.”