Exposure to environmental toxins can result in direct neurotoxicity, increased oxidative stress, inappropriate microglidal activation, mitochondrial damage, and methyl group depletion.
For example, 10 percent of public water in the U.S. show trace amounts of arsenic, and only half are tested, said Pizzorno. Mercury exposure is also common, and can be found in dental fillings, fish, water, and some air exposure. Pizzorno estimates the chemical exposure breaks down to 60 percent from food, 10 percent of water, 10 percent on house and yard chemicals, 10 percent from health and beauty aids, and 5 percent of air.
There are two types of chemicals in our environment, which Pizzorno differentiates as persistent and non-persistent. Persistent organic pollutants are difficult to break down in the environment and, as a result, are difficult to break down in the body. A common example is BPA. They accumulate in our bodies as we age and can be detrimental to our health.
Prenatal exposure to toxins is particularly harmful, said Pizzorno. Studies show a drop in intelligence quotient (IQ) and working memory in children due to organic phosphate pesticide exposure. Children diagnosed with attention deficit disorders were found to have a higher amount of chemicals in their blood stream. Further, the PON1 gene reduces ability to break down toxins.
Today, the percentage of disease due to chemical exposure can be determined using the public health attributable fraction calculator. Pizzorno and his colleagues are researching toxins, toxin classes, and various chronic diseases, as well as those who are at risk for exposure and at risk for disease. Thus far, the research has focused on attention deficit disorders, juvenile IQ, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease, all of which are affected by exposure to environmental toxins. The specific comprehensive research is available via the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
The worst toxins can be identified using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data as well as clinical importance. Clinically, the worst toxins are arsenic, DDT, phalates, PBDEs, PAHs, PCPS, mercury, lead, and glyphosate.
When addressing toxin exposure with patients, practitioners should use direct measurement, body load and historic exposure, and indirect evaluations. Blood and urine evaluations are standard, but Pizzorno recommends challenge testing, which measures toxic load affect on the tissues.
For intervention, practitioners must educate patients on how to avoid toxins and faciliate detoxification. Start with a few simple steps.
- Eat organically grown foods.
- Use homemade or glass containers, and avoid plastic
- Use fewer health and beauty aids, or find safe alternatives
To facilitate detoxification, it comes down to food, said Pizzorno. It has to be properly prepared and not contaminated. A Mediterranean diet slows aging and prevents neurological diseases. Fiber decreases POPs and can facilitate detoxification. A standard dose of colestimide reduces PCBs. Sweat gets rid of cadmium and other pollutants, so encourage patients to exercise and sweat more.
Pizzorno recommends dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) to assist in toxin detoxification. NAC decreases need for recycling glutathione.
“Toxins are ubiquitous in the industrial world,” Pizzorno said. “And they’re the primary driver for chronic disease.”