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This is rarely mentioned, but there is research showing that commonly used chemicals that we are exposed to, such as bisphenols (BPA, BPS), phthalates, persistent organic pollutants (e.g.flame retardants, nonstick cookware), heavy metals (e.g. lead), and some pesticides (e.g.chlorpyrifos, glyphosate), all have an impact on the gut microbiome in animals and humans.

For example, these chemicals may alter levels of certain microbial species, or alter the variety (diversity) and type of species in the gut, or increase intestinal inflammation. These alterations are associated with health effects, and the effects may be different depending on the stage of life. Yikes!

The human gut microbiome is the huge and complex community of microbes (fungi, bacteria, viruses) that live in our intestines and play important roles in our health. Trillions of microbes, hundreds of species. The presence of certain microbial species in the gut are associated with health, and the presence of certain other species are associated with disease. We know that what we eat and drink, whether we exercise, and other lifestyle factors can influence the gut microbes, but it appears we also need consider exposure to chemicals in the environment around us.

A recent study by University of Illinois researchers reviewed the environmental chemical and microbiome research, and found that many chemicals have an effect on the gut microbiome. They point out that humans are constantly exposed to hundreds of chemicals in the environment, and many get into humans (through inhalation, ingestion, absorption through the skin). Currently more than 300 environmental chemicals and their metabolites have been measured in humans (e.g. in blood and urine).

Many of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors, and many are associated with adverse health effects, including male and female reproductive and developmental defects, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular effects, liver disease, obesity, thyroid disorders, and immune effects.

By the way, gut microbiome effects are currently not considered by the EPA when regulating chemicals.

From Science Daily: Environmental contaminants alter gut microbiome, health

The microbes that inhabit our bodies are influenced by what we eat, drink, breathe and absorb through our skin, and most of us are chronically exposed to natural and human-made environmental contaminants. In a new paper, scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign review the research linking dozens of environmental chemicals to changes in the gut microbiome and associated health challenges.  ...continue reading "Some Common Chemicals Alter the Gut Microbiome"

organic grains, oatsAchieve dramatically lower pesticide levels in your body in a few days! No need for "colonics" or "detox regimens". All one has to do is eat organic food to lower pesticide levels! And the more organic food in the diet, the better.

We ingest small amounts of pesticides when we eat and drink conventionally grown foods, and these pesticides can be measured in our urine and blood. Studies have found that switching to an organic diet lowers the amounts of pesticides (e.g. chlorpyrifos, 2,4-D) in the body, and now glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) can be added to the list. This is because glyphosate is used to grow conventional foods, but it is not allowed to be used on organic crops or in organic food production.

A recent study found that eating an all organic diet lowered glyphosate and AMPA (glyphosate metabolite) levels, in both adults and children, more than 70% in 6 days. The study measured glyphosate and its metabolites (in the urine) in members of 4 families who typically did not eat organic food, and who lived in different parts of the US. During the organic phase lasting 6 days, all the food the 16 people ate was organic - it was provided to them.

Before the organic phase of the study, both glyphosate and AMPA (glyphosate metabolite) were detected in more than 93.5% of urine samples in the study participants. Glyphosate and AMPA levels were substantially higher in children than in their parents, and this was true in both the conventional and the organic diet phases of the study, even after levels went down. The researchers thought that perhaps children were getting more environmental exposures (parks and school grounds), or perhaps they metabolize the pesticide slower than adults. (It's unknown why.)

Glyphosate has been linked to cancer, to effects on the kidneys and liver, endocrine disruption, and alteration of the gut microbiome. The overwhelming majority of people have glyphosate or its metabolites in their bodies. We get pesticides into our bodies through inhalation, absorption through the skin, and we ingest them in foods and beverages. As more and more glyphosate is used each year on crops, the levels in our bodies have been increasing. ...continue reading "Lower Your Pesticide Levels By Eating Organic Foods"

For years scientists have warned of breast cancer links to some pesticides, while the EPA and the chemical industry pooh-poohed these associations. Just a coincidence, not true, studies poorly done, and ignore or attack were their common responses. Seeing a mismatch between scientific evidence and what the EPA was saying led researchers at the respected Silent Spring Institute to examine EPA pesticide documents and studies.

The big question: was the EPA deliberately ignoring evidence that some pesticides can cause mammary tumors (the equivalent of breast cancer in humans)? In other words, was the EPA ignoring evidence of some pesticides being carcinogenic when they were determining how to classify a pesticide and its risk assessment?

Their finding: Yes, the EPA was ignoring evidence for a number of pesticides causing mammary tumors. And because of this some pesticides are not labeled as cancer-causing (carcinogenic) by the FDA. Another problem they (and others) found is that the EPA is ignoring evidence about endocrine disruptors, and evidence that some chemicals have a bigger effect at smaller doses than big doses. The old view: the dose makes the poison, but now we know that doesn’t apply to endocrine disruptors which may have a bigger effect at smaller doses.

The scientists identified 28 pesticides that produced mammary tumors in studies, but the EPA acknowledged tumors only in nine, and dismissed the rest. The scientists strongly suggested that the EPA reassess cancer risks for some commonly used pesticides, including malathion, triclopyr, atrazine, propylene oxide, and 3-iodo-2-propynyl butylcarbamate (IPBC).

Another concerning problem (and not addressed at all by the EPA) is that 10 pesticides had reported effects on the mammary gland (other than tumors). For five of these pesticides (atrazine, chlorpyrifos, malathion, methoxychlor, and parathion) exposure during pregnancy or early life altered mammary gland development. What does this mean long-term? Will there be effects on lactation (breast-feeding)? (Some research suggests yes).

From Medical Xpress: Dozens of pesticides linked with mammary gland tumors in animal studies

In an analysis of how regulators review pesticides for their potential to cause cancer, researchers at Silent Spring Institute identified more than two dozen registered pesticides that were linked with mammary gland tumors in animal studies. The new findings raise concerns about how the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves pesticides for use and the role of certain pesticides in the development of breast cancer.

Several years ago, a resident on Cape Cod in Massachusetts contacted researchers at Silent Spring looking for information on an herbicide called triclopyr. Utility companies were looking to spray the chemical below power lines on the Cape to control vegetation.  ...continue reading "EPA Needs to Look At Breast Cancer Risks From Pesticides"

Many studies find differences between organic and conventional foods, with more favorable results for organic foods (e.g. better nutritionally, lower pesticide residues). A study by Emory University researchers that analyzed samples of conventional and organic milk from different regions of the US adds to the list. They found  that the samples of conventional milk contained pesticides, antibiotics, and synthetic growth hormones, but none of these were found in organic milk.

The pesticide levels in the conventional milk varied among the samples, but included frequently used pesticides such as atrazine, permethrin, cypermethrin, chloroyrifos, and diazinon. Chlorpyrifos, found in 59% of the conventional milk samples, is the pesticide that scientists absolutely want banned because of its neurotoxic effects, especially on developing babies and children.  They also found that antibiotic residue levels in conventional milk samples surpassed federal limits for amoxicillin (3%), and illegal sulfamethazine (37%) and sulfathiazole (26%). Yikes!

These are important findings because milk is a staple in the diet of many people, especially children. By the way, international milk also can have pesticide and drug residues (e.g. Israel).

But not all organic milk is equal. Unfortunately a number of big so-called organic dairy farms (15,000 to 20,000 cows) are basically factory farms (e.g. Aurora Organic Dairy, Horizon) - they exploit loopholes in organic regulations, as well as deliberately not follow some organic standards. However, even low-quality organic milk has been shown to contain no residues of antibiotics and toxic pesticides - it's just that their milk nutritional profile is different than that of grass-fed organic cows.

Organic milk cows are supposed to be outside grazing during the growing season, at least 120 days a year - thus real organic milk is from "grass-fed" cows. Grass-fed cows (but not conventional and factory-farm organic cows) tend to produce milk with elevated levels of two types of fat: conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fat known as alpha-linolenic acid. Both have been associated with health benefits in humans, although the amounts found in milk are relatively small. Another type of fat called linoleic acid, (an omega-6 fat), tends to be lower in milk that is from pasture-fed cows.

The Cornucopia Institute has dairy scorecards and rankings of major organic milk brands, as well as other organic foods (e.g. poultry, cereal, eggs). Cornucopia is an organic agriculture watchdog group - an excellent resource to help you choose organic foods.

Some excerpts from the Jean A. Welsh et al. study in the journal Public Health Nutrition: Production-related contaminants (pesticides, antibiotics and hormones) in organic and conventionally produced milk samples sold in the USA

Conclusions: Current-use antibiotics and pesticides were undetectable in organic but prevalent in conventionally produced milk samples, with multiple samples exceeding federal limits. Higher bGH and IGF-1 levels in conventional milk suggest the presence of synthetic growth hormone. Further research is needed to understand the impact of these differences, if any, on consumers.   ...continue reading "Organic Milk Does Not Contain Toxic Pesticides Found In Conventional Milk"

Dogs exposed to lawn pesticides develop similar cancers as humans exposed to lawn pesticides, but in dogs the cancers appear with a much shorter time lag - only a few years. In contrast, human cancers can take decades to appear. This is why dogs can be viewed as "sentinel species" - they show risks or dangers due to chemical exposures in the environment earlier than humans.

This is why this study having both humans and dogs wear silicone monitoring devices to measure chemicals (pesticides, flame retardants, and phthalates) they are exposed to in the environment is so interesting. Both dogs and humans showed similar exposure levels to the chemicals. Think of it - whatever our pet dogs are exposed to in the environment, we also are exposed to it. And if something causes harm, we probably also are being harmed by it.

From Science Daily: Monitoring environmental exposures in dogs could be early warning system for human health

Man's best friend may also be man's best bet for figuring out how environmental chemicals could impact our health. Researchers from North Carolina State University and Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment used silicone dog tags as passive environmental samplers to collect information about everyday chemical exposures, and found that dogs could be an important sentinel species for the long term effects of environmental chemicals ...continue reading "Are Our Dogs Early Warning Systems For Harmful Chemical Exposures?"

Worried about the effects of persistent pesticides, flame retardants, and the chemicals used in non-stick pans (e.g.Teflon) on human health? An interesting small study from researchers at New York University looked at whether there is a link between having higher levels of these chemicals and celiac disease (a digestive disorder in which there is an abnormal response to foods with gluten). And yes, they found one.

Certain pesticides, flame retardants (PBDEs), and nonstick chemicals (PFASs) are known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). They are known to be endocrine disruptors (meaning they disrupt the hormonal system). The researchers think that because there is an interplay between endocrine and immune systems, then perhaps these chemicals may contribute to the development of celiac disease in people who are genetically susceptible to it.

Thirty children and young adults newly diagnosed with celiac disease were compared to 58 individuals without the disease.  Higher levels of these chemicals were found in the blood in those with celiac disease, when compared to those without celiac disease.

More reasons to avoid non-stick pots and pans, avoid flame retardants, avoid using pesticides on lawns, and to eat organically raised foods.

From Futurity: CELIAC DIAGNOSIS MORE LIKELY WITH HIGHER BLOOD LEVELS OF PESTICIDES

Children and young adults with high blood levels of pesticides—and with high levels of pesticide-related chemicals called dichlorodiphenyldichlorethylenes—were twice as likely to receive a new diagnosis of celiac disease than those without high levels, report researchers.  ...continue reading "Certain Chemicals Linked to Celiac Disease"

Did you know that our modern lifestyle is exposing us to thousands of harmful chemicals? All of us are exposed to many harmful chemicals daily - in ordinary household products, at work and school, in our food, and in the air and water around us. These chemicals are found in plastics, in stain resistant finishes, non-stick cookware, flame retardants, fragrances, pesticides, water resistant finishes, and antimicrobial products.

All these chemicals have made our lives easier in many ways, but they have a dark side. The chemicals leach out of the products and get on us and in us, and can be measured in our blood and urine.

They are linked to all sorts of health problems (reproductive effects, infertility, neurological effects, lower IQs, immunological problems, cancers, etc.) and the list is growing annually. Many are hormone (endocrine) disruptors. Developing children and fetuses are especially vulnerable, and the effects can be life-long.

We all have many of these harmful chemicals in our body. No one can totally avoid all these chemicals, but we can lower our exposure to many of them quite a bit. These chemicals get in us various ways: we ingest them (in food and water), we absorb them through the skin, and we breathe them in (e.g. in household dust and in the air).

Many chemical levels can be reduced quickly - within a few days or weeks (for example, by switching to different personal care products, switching to organic foods, and not eating canned foods).

It is especially important to lower exposures to these harmful chemicals if you are considering conceiving a child, are pregnant, or have children. Many of these chemicals are linked to fertility problems for both men and women, and researchers think this is why male fertility is dropping so rapidly over the past few decades.

Yes, it does require a life-style change, and it does require reading labels, but it is worth it. Following these tips should also have the added bonus of improving your gut microbial communities. It's all related.

HOW TO REDUCE EXPOSURE TO HARMFUL CHEMICALS:

IN GENERALTry for a more “natural and non-toxic” lifestyle, and reduce use of plastics (including vinyl) and pesticides.

  • Read labels of personal care products, household products, and clothing. Avoid products with parabens and oxybenzone. Avoid products that are antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-odor, anti-stain, anti-mildew, and nonstick.
  • Use unscented or fragrance-free products, including personal care products. Avoid fragrances or scented versions of products.
  • Don't use air fresheners, dryer sheets, scented candles, incense, essential oils.

FOOD

  • Buy foods and beverages in glass bottles and jars whenever possible.  Store food in glass, stainless steel, or ceramic containers. Avoid plastic bottles and containers.
  • Avoid canned foods, including aluminum cans - they are all lined with plastics containing BPA or equally bad BPA alternatives. Canned foods are a major source of endocrine disruptors.   ...continue reading "Tips For Reducing Exposures to Harmful Chemicals"

Please, only buy or use sofas and upholstered chairs that do NOT contain any flame retardant chemicals. Be sure to look at the tags attached to the furniture that are required by a California law since 2015 (called Technical Bulletin 117-2013) to be on each new sofa and upholstered furniture. It will tell you if it contains flame retardant chemicals or not.

This is especially important if at some point you are thinking of having a child, if you are pregnant, or if you have children. The problem is that the flame retardant chemicals, which were added for decades to the foam in upholstered furniture, migrate out and so get into us (through the skin, inhaling, or by swallowing). Unfortunately, almost all of us have flame retardants in our bodies.  Where they can cause health problems.

Two new studies were published recently showing harms from exposures to flame retardants. The first found an association between flame retardant chemicals before birth (when the pregnant woman is exposed, it gets to the developing baby) and later reading problems.

The second study found that exposures to pesticides and flame retardants have overtaken  lead and mercury as leading contributors to IQ loss in children.

The researchers looked at exposure to major groups of endocrine disrupting chemicals during pregnancy and effects on the children. Yes - once again, chemicals frequently found all around us are hormone disruptors, and these chemicals also negatively affect neurological development. One result with higher exposure is that it lowers IQ. The 4 groups are: flame retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs), certain pesticides (organophosphates), mercury (methymercury), and lead. Exposures to the first three have the biggest effect during pregnancy (they cross the placenta and so get to the baby).

The researchers found an interesting result: organophosphate pesticide (such as chlorpyrifos) exposure and IQ loss attributed to it has increased since 2003. And that since the EPA did not ban chlorpyrifos (widely used on crops), then organophosphate pesticide "levels will continue to climb in the United States population due to ingestion of chlorpyrifos-treated crops". NOTE: these pesticides are allowed on conventional crops, but NOT organic crops.

How to avoid exposure? Hard to totally avoid exposure to these chemicals, but you can lower your exposure. Eat as many organic foods as possible. Try to avoid buying or having flame retardant sofas, upholstered chairs, and other upholstered furniture in your home. [Note: if they say that they use "safer" replacement chemicals - still avoid that furniture. The replacements are similar chemicals and may be just as bad or worse.] Frequently open windows to "air out" the home.

Excerpts from Science Daily: Prenatal exposure to flame retardants linked to reading problems   ...continue reading "Flame Retardant Chemicals Have Harmful Effects Before Birth"

Uh-oh, these research findings are not a surprise. A study conducted in 6 U.S. metro areas found that as income levels go up, peer pressure to apply pesticides on lawns increases. As well as to irrigate lawns and apply fertilizers. One can definitely see this in the NYC metro area - the wealthier the neighborhood, the more monochromatic fake-looking lawns. Some even keep their pesticide lawn signs on the lawn for days as a status symbol.

This has an incredibly large environmental impact because lawns can be thought of as the biggest crop in the USA. Lawns cover the most area (ahead of corn) and many lawns have intense chemical management (many have pesticides applied every month for most months of the year). Yikes!

Unfortunately, every year more evidence is accumulating of the harmful health effects of pesticides - in humans, pets, wildlife, water, air, and soil. Harmful effects include neurological and immunological effects, endocrine disruption, cancers, and birth defects. Fertilizers and water irrigation of lawns (sprinkler systems) also have a set of problems, including algae blooms in water and depletion of fresh water resources. [See posts on pesticides.]

And of course, last, but not least, pesticides disrupt the microbial life of the soil, as well as kill insects and worms. I will never forget young children in a classroom being shocked by all the worms found in good soil (in a bucket of organic dirt from my yard) - they had never seen them in their chemically managed yards.

Bottom line: Be a trend-setter in your neighborhood and embrace the natural wildflowers weeds in your lawn. Think of it this way: clover and dandelions can't give you cancer, but pesticides can. In addition, studies find that untreated lawns result in diversity of grasses growing in the lawn and are also important bee habitats for all sorts of bee species. All positive.

From Beyond Pesticides: High Income, Peer-Pressure Correlated With Chemical Intensive Yard Care Practices  ...continue reading "As Income Levels Rise, Chemical Use On Lawns Increases"

Pesticides are harmful to developing brains, especially during pregnancy. A number of studies have already found that higher exposure to organophosphate pesticides during pregnancy is linked to poorer cognitive functioning and behavior problems in children. A recent University of California study actually looked at the brain activity in 95 teenagers while they were doing a number of mental tasks. Using advanced brain imaging, they found altered brain activity in those teens who had the highest organophosphate pesticide exposure prenatally. These teenagers live in Salinas Valley, California - an agricultural area with many farms.

The researchers point out that "Over 800 million pounds of pesticide active ingredients are applied in the United States each year, with organophosphates (OPs) the most commonly applied class of insecticides. Exposure to OP pesticides, which are endocrine-disrupting compounds, is widespread in the US population, including among pregnant women and children." [PLEASE NOTE: Conventional farming uses organophosphates. Organic farming does not allow the use of organophosphates.]

The main way people get exposed to organophosphate pesticides is diet - especially pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. Also, if people live near farms where such pesticides are used, or live with a person who works on a farm. They bring home the pesticides on their clothes. People also breathe breathe in pesticides when they are applied on nearby farms or properties due to pesticide drift.

Chlorpyrifos is one example of an organophosphate pesticide. It is considered so dangerous to the developing fetus and children (lower IQs, neurological effects, behavioral effects) that the EPA was going to ban it in the United States. However, the Trump administration overruled the ban (chemical/pesticide lobbyists at work!). Since then, several states (NY, Hawaii, California) have enacted legislation to ban all use of chlorpyrifos in those states, but it will take several years for the bans to become fully in effect.

From Science Daily: Prenatal pesticide exposure linked to changes in teen's brain activity   ...continue reading "Certain Pesticides Linked to Altered Brain Activity In Teenagers"