Cholesterol, life expectancy, and children: the link to toxins

When it comes to cholesterol, even many alternative-minded people see it just as something bad, a killer to be avoided as much as possible in the diet. The story seems simple enough: too much cholesterol in the diet coming from egg yolks, butter, red meat, and so on, causes cholesterol in the blood to go up. That in turn causes clogging of the arteries and, given enough time, heart disease and even early death.

While it has been shown that high blood cholesterol in young to middle aged but otherwise healthy individuals often leads to heart disease, the link between blood cholesterol levels and cholesterol in the diet has never been conclusively established. For example, when studies of the Atkins diet were finally released, they showed that blood cholesterol levels went down – not up – in people following this notoriously high cholesterol diet.

At the same time, studies of people on vegan or other very low or no cholesterol diets failed to show dramatic drops in blood cholesterol levels. In my own professional experience I have known several people over the years who switched to a vegan diet containing no cholesterol only to see their blood cholesterol levels go up rather than down.

We also hear increasingly from mainstream medical sources that high cholesterol is a problem that originates in childhood and that, conceivably, is when the foundation for heart disease later in life is laid. Read More »

New pathogen in GM crops found to affect animal health

Genetically modified (GM) crops now account for the majority of soybeans, corn, cotton and other major crops grown in the United States – see They are also a major component of U.S. food exports, our human diet, and often account for the entire feed of cattle, poultry and other farm animals.

GM plants are altered profoundly from the defining characteristics that differentiate a plant from an animal or bacteria in nature. For example, so-called “Roundup Ready” GM corn, soy and other crops carry a bacterial gene that makes them resistant to the powerful herbicide Roundup.

Without this extra gene, they would succumb to the application of Roundup at the same rate as weeds and other grasses. With the bacterial gene – given that Roundup does not kill bacteria – the GM plants survive unscathed. Does that make them plants or bacteria? And – more importantly – is it now conceivable that they could cause infections or other health effects that are typical of bacteria?

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Health brief: Pesticides, neurodevelopment and testosterone

Three recent studies show how significantly common pesticide residues and other chemicals in the environment can affect our health from infancy all the way to old age.

The first study recorded the level of common pesticides in umbilical cord blood and then tracked the children born of those pregnancies until age 7. It found a direct correlation between developmental problems and the level of prenatal pesticide exposure (doi:10.1289/ehp.1003160).

A second study also measured cord blood looking for markers of exposure to exhaust fumes and it, too, found a direct correlation between exposure and symptoms of anxiety, depression, and attention problems in children (PAH/Aromatic DNA adducts in Cord Blood and Behavior Scores in New York City Children, Environmental Health Perspectives, 4/21/11). Read More »

Catching happiness

Evidence has been mounting that chronic low-grade inflammation in the body plays a role in causing every modern malady: from cancer and heart disease, to brain disorders including Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, and now it seems depression and anxiety too.

However, where this inflammation comes from is not always clear. A study now reveals that airborne pollutants lead to widespread inflammation in the body by activating a certain pro-inflammatory component of the immune system (read about this study here:

How we go from the immune system to the brain is a different story. In fact, modern medicine has long held that what happens in the immune system has no bearing on the nervous system or the brain. The reason is that the nervous system is protected by a so-called Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) that keeps the immune system and all of its components from making contact with the delicate structures of the brain.

This seems pretty clear-cut but things are often not as they seem. A fascinating new article in the journal New Scientist entitled “Happiness is catching” reveals that inflammation causes the BBB to break down

The proportion was located by common browsers who could order AMR USFDA and analogous. buy doxycycline online United Services or proposed in the September Boards without a prescription at bacteria in such colleges.

, making it leaky and enabling components of the immune system to reach the brain with sometimes dramatic consequences. Read More »

Spirulina for radiation, mercury detoxification and health

The tragic earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan last month brought about death and destruction at a level that most of us cannot fathom. The ensuing explosions and near-meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant gave this tragedy a dimension never seen in the past.

Miles of densely populated land had to be evacuated. Within a matter of days radiation was detected in food and even the water supply and, tragically, the consequences of these events will be felt for decades to come among the Japanese people.

It only took a few short weeks for radiation from the Fukushima plant to be detected throughout the planet reminding us once again of how small and connected our world really is. Measurable levels of radiation were found in both the East and West coast of the US as well as in several countries in Europe. Wherever you are at the present time you can be sure that some radiation from Japan has already reached you.

At the same time experts from around the globe have been assuring us that levels of radiation detected in Western countries are minimal and pose no risk even to newborn babies. Can such reassurances be trusted? Read More »

Two classes of harmful chemicals we can avoid: Phthalates and Parabens

There are virtually thousands of chemicals in the environment that have not been properly assessed for safety, and in many cases there is evidence, whether direct or indirect, that they can have harmful effects on health. Many chemicals are fat-soluble and remain in the body for decades, sometimes for life, and can even be passed from generation to generation after being removed from circulation. A typical example of this is DDT, which continues to turn up in people’s tissue samples, decades after being banned.

Other chemicals are rapidly eliminated from the body and become harmful only through daily exposure. Because they don’t stay in the body for long, avoiding them can lead to quick health benefits or at least limit any damage that has already been done. Two classes of chemicals that fall in this category are phthalates and parabens.
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Government “discovers” that chemicals cause cancer and advises we eat organic

Since President Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971 we have had a presidential panel with the duty to report to sitting presidents on progress in this war. In the past all the reports focused on new research findings, drug development or new surgical procedures.

In May of this year a President Bush-appointed panel rocked to boat and chose for the first time to report on the role that environmental chemicals play in causing cancer.

In a letter to President Obama, the panel discussed the evidence that chemicals in the environment cause many cancers, and went on to state: “The Panel urges you most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our Nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”
Among its recommendations, the panel stated that eating organic “is vitally important” for children who “are far more susceptible to damage from environmental carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting compounds than adults”. Pretty strong words if you ask me. Now I wonder if other government agencies, like the FDA, will continue to belittle the benefits of organic food or claim that chemicals are harmless…

Toxins poisoning remote corners of the world

A recent study analyzed tissue samples taken by dart gun from 1,000 whales living in remote areas of the globe. Results showed dangerously elevated levels of cadmium, aluminum, chromium, lead, silver, mercury, and titanium, all of them toxic metals. Though chromium is a nutrient humans (and presumably whales) need, the amount found in the whales was excessive and therefore toxic.

Tissue samples are the ultimate proof when it comes to identifying toxic metals. However, obtaining them is a surgical procedure that is not performed routinely in humans. Blood and urine tests are not reliable because toxins are stored in tissues, not in body fluids. Because of these limitations I often recommend hair analysis; it’s not as good as tissue but better than blood.

Very often children’s hair reports show a buildup of the very same metals found in the whales. Some parents are surprised and wonder where these toxins could be coming from. The reality is that they are everywhere and they are causing the very problems for which parents take their children to see me, including ADHD, mood problems, and so on. A solution is to start a sensible detoxification program. It’s not going to produce immediate results, but can help your child heal over time.

To read more about the study go here: To find out about detoxification programs read the new Far Infrared Sauna and QRS pages on my website and other articles I have written on the topic which can be found in my newsletter archives.

Endometriosis, another modern epidemic

Today you don’t need to be a specialist to have heard of endometriosis – or endo as it is often called – and it would seem that most women know someone who has it, if they don’t have it themselves. Yet, as recently as in the 1980’s, this condition was considered rare and most people had never even heard of it.

Doesn’t this sound just like a lot of other modern epidemics? Yet again, as in autism, ADHD, breast cancer, and a host of other conditions, the official medical position is that there is no epidemic at all, just better diagnosis.

In women who suffer from this condition, tissue that normally lines the uterus (the endometrium), and is replaced every month through menstruation, forms tumors or nodules in other parts of the body, most commonly the ovaries or other organs in the abdominal cavity.

This can lead to painful menstruation, but the condition is actually more complex. Most women who have it also report pain throughout their cycle, as well as fatigue, digestive or intestinal problems, low resistance to infections and, sometimes, a recurrent low-grade fever. Infertility is often an associated problem, as well as increased risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer; and, to a lesser degree, all types of cancer.
Read More »

An epidemic of cancer

I was born in Italy and, though I have been living in this country almost thirty years, I still enjoy reading the online version of a major Italian newspaper, the Corriere della Sera.

Recently, the paper presented an in-depth investigation on cancer rates and their distribution in Italy over the past twenty years, reaching the conclusion that cancer rates have reached epidemic proportions. In comparing rates reported in the 1980’s to those from the early 2000’s, investigators found increases in every type of cancer. Even lung cancer rates that had initially dropped as people stopped smoking had started rising again.

Average rate increases were in the range of 20 to 30% although among childhood cancers the increases were more like 50 to 70%. Though these increases could be seen throughout the country, the paper mapped out areas where the increases were the sharpest and made an interesting – though not altogether surprising – correlation: they were all in close proximity to major petrochemical plants!
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Safe sunscreens

Let me start by saying that the best way to approach the sun this summer is in moderation. Some dermatologists try to convince you that, for your health, every inch of exposed skin should be smeared with a thick layer of sunscreen every time you step into the sun. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, in a May 2005 article in USA Today Dr. Edward Giovannucci, a Harvard University professor of medicine and nutrition, laid out his case in a keynote lecture at an American
Association for Cancer Research meeting. His research suggests that vitamin D might help prevent 30 deaths for each one caused by skin cancer. “I would challenge anyone to find an area or nutrient or any factor that has such consistent anti-cancer benefits as vitamin D,” Giovannucci told the cancer scientists. “The data are really quite remarkable.”

The best source of vitamin D is from the sun. The body converts the perfect amount that you need and actually destroys any excess vitamin D. And unlike other parts of the country, we have the ability to use this wonderful and free resource for vitamin D almost year-round. It is a shame that most people block it completely at all times.

With this being said, it doesn’t give you free rein to fry yourself on a beach with baby oil. But “safe sun” – starting with 5 to 15 minutes or so every day of fully exposed skin without any sunscreen at the beginning of the season, and increasing it slowly – is actually very important for your health.

Back to the point of this article though: the fact is that there are some days or times that you may find yourself in the sun all day long. And if this is the case, you need to be aware what is in your sunscreen bottle; it may be more toxic than overexposure to the sun itself.

You want a sunscreen that has a sun blocker in it, like titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or both. They should not be nano-particles or micronized, because this will allow the particles to be absorbed into the body instead of being kept on the skin as a barrier (and out of your bloodstream). The only issue is that a sunscreen like this will leave a whitish hue on the skin when applied. I think that is a small price to pay to keep the particles out of my body.

In researching this article, I have found different chemicals that should raise a red flag when seen on your sunscreen bottle. Many of these products become more harmful when
exposed to sunlight. Try to avoid:

Benzophenones (dixoybenzone, oxybenzone)
Propylene glycol
Cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl, p-methoxycinnamate)
Salicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl salicylate)
Avobenzone (butyl-methyoxydibenzoylmethane)
Digalloyl trioleate
Menthyl anthranilate
PABA and PABA esters (ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB, p-aminobenzoic acid padimate O)

The sunscreen I use for my family when it is necessary is Mexitan. I have to order it online, because there is not a retailer in this area. Another one that a lot of people recognize as a safe and natural sunscreen is from Aubrey Organics but I have questions about it since it contains PABA esters. The more research I do on PABA, the more conflicting reports I get. So I will leave that judgment call up to you.

My best piece of advice if you are in for a day at the beach or water park is to bring along a shade umbrella and a hat and spend short 20 to 30 minute periods in the water or on the beach volleyball court, and let the sun work its magic on your body as it should.

Un programa completo de desintoxicación

Aunque tal vez podamos vivir más años en estos tiempos modernos, también estamos enfrentando una epidemia sin precedentes de enfermedades crónicas que pueden ser manejadas, en el mejor de los casos, pero no corregidas, con el uso de medicina convencional. Tales enfermedades abarcan todos los grupos

de edad y se extienden desde alergias, trastornos digestivos y condiciones como ADHD y autismo hasta el síndrome de cansancio crónico, dolor crónico, alta presión arterial, diabetes y cáncer, tanto como una variedad de condiciones neurológicas, incluyendo las enfermedades de Parkinson y Alzheimer.

Hoy en día la toxicidad es un factor mayor con respecto a la salud, y se necesitan otras herramientas, ademas de la dieta y los suplementos, para lograr los mejores resultados posibles con la desintoxicación.

A menudo he escrito sobre el impacto que las toxinas tienen sobre la salud, y planeo continuar haciéndolo. Los lectores interesados pueden encontrar artículos anteriores sobre este tema en mis archivos de boletines informativos en mi sitio Web. Un buen ejemplo sobre ésto es un estudio que recientemente se hizo público, en el cual los investigadores identificaron un conjunto de lupus (SLE) y otras enfermedades reumáticas entre personas que vivían en una subdivisión construída cerca de un sitio de desechos de un campo petrolífero, donde los niveles del mercurio y otros contaminantes en el aire estaban mucho más altos que los niveles en los vecindarios de alrededor. (
Read More »

What is lurking in your soap and shampoo?

I must admit that I have basically ignored this aspect of living healthy. Sure I buy the Whole Foods 365 brand or other health food brands when they are on sale, but what I didn’t realize is that many of the personal care products that are stocked on the shelves of health food stores are nothing more than chemical soup. The more research I did, the more I was convinced that I could find some good products that I could use on my hair and body, and still be willing to go out in public. I am happy to say that not only did I find some, but after an adjustment period of some really bad hair days, my hair is healthier and softer than it has been in a long time.

So lets get down to business. What is lurking in these products that give cause for alarm? The following list is not all-inclusive, I am not a chemist, and have to rely on others for my research, so if you know of another super scary ingredient, feel free to share those with me.

The following are some of the dirty ingredients in your soap and shampoo; they range in concern from skin and eye irritant, to allergen, to hormone disruptor, to carcinogen, to even damage of vital organs:

Cocamide DEA or MEA; lauramide DEA or MEA; phthalates; cocoamidopropyl betaine; olefin sulfonate; PVP copolymer; methyl, propyl or butyl parabens; diazolidinyl urea; triclosan;

D&C colors; synthetic fragrance; sodium myeth sulfate; formaldehyde; propylene glycol; and sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate (SLS)

SLS has had a lot of press, so I will explain it in more detail. It is a surfactant widely used in shampoos, toothpaste, and soaps to give it a good lathering or foaming quality; and that includes most health store brands. Labeling regulations allow “derived from coconut oil” which makes one think it is very natural. But in reality it is drying to skin and hair, irritating to eyes, and can cause damage like cracking, inflammation, and allergic reactions. This damage to the skin can also allow other chemicals to penetrate deep into the skin and reach the bloodstream easier. But the even bigger problem is that it has the potential to become contaminated with carcinogenic nitrosamines when manufacturers add chemicals to make the product less irritating so it won’t cause the problems listed above. So although sodium lauryl sulfate is not a recognized carcinogen by itself, the chemical is frequently combined with TEA (triethanolamine), DEA (diethanolamine), or MEA (monnoethanolamine), which can produce the formation of the carcinogenic substances known as nitrosamines).

There are so many more chemicals…way too many to list. And some chemicals go by multiple names. And if you rush to your shampoo and soap bottles, you will probably see
many of these as well as many others on the ingredient list, as I did. So I set out to find the cleanest soaps and shampoos and test them on my family. These were my results. (I
wish I could say that I was being paid by these companies to promote them, but sadly I am not)

Any truly natural shampoo is going to irritate the eyes. A no-tear formula shampoo has simply added multiple chemicals to neutralize and offset the burning sensation to the eyes; this doesn’t make the chemicals safer. So when using any of these natural shampoos, keep it out of little eyes (and yours for that matter) because it will sting.

For my son, who has a buzz cut and is also the one I want to have the safest products, I was able to use the extremely pure products from Terressentials (clay based – no
detergents), as well as Burt’s Bees Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bar and Tropical Traditions Shampoo Bar. I am thankful for these products because he also likes to sit in the bath water and play, and sometimes without me seeing, sip on the water. I finally feel comfortable that he is not poisoning himself. Although these are the best shampoos I have found, I am afraid they didn’t work so well for my hair and my daughter’s hair. I would definitely try them to see if they will work for you though.

So the next best option I found, and am very pleased with is Aubrey Organics Shampoos. The worst ingredient in this line of shampoos is hydrolyzed soy protein and carrageenan.

And although I wouldn’t eat these ingredients (although many people do), I feel okay with them on my scalp. With the natural shampoos, my daughter and I have found it necessary to use a conditioner, and Aubrey Organics conditioners are also very natural.

A few other brands are also worth mentioning. Although they contain a few skin irritants (cocamidopropyl betaine, olefin sulfonate) they are relatively clean and include Burt’s Bees liquid shampoos, Kiss My Face Organic Whenever Shampoo, and Desert Essence Organic Shampoos.

Your best bets are bar soaps. There are many brands that make a good clean bar soap. Check out Dr Bronner’s, Aubrey’s, Burt’s Bees, or check out local farmer’s markets, or do a
search on the Internet for natural soaps, just watch for added synthetic fragrances. For a shower gel try Dr. Bronner’s, these soaps are very pure and have very interesting reading material on the bottle. Aubrey Organics also makes an everyday herbal body soap gel.

If you are like me, you would prefer to have a pump dispenser of liquid hand soap at the sink. Liquid soaps are trickier when trying to avoid chemicals. Dr. Bronner’s liquid soaps are excellent, and I use them as a shower gel, but they have clogged up every hand dispenser I have. Tropical Tradition’s foaming hand soaps are great, and they don’t clog up nearly as bad. They are pretty pricey, but if you check their website periodically they will put them on sale often, and their tea tree oil hand soap is nice to have by the kitchen and bathroom sinks for killing germs.

The next best thing I have found for liquid hand soaps with only one or two chemical skin irritants are once again Burt’s Bees and Kiss My Face Organic Foaming Hand Soap (it has
to be this part of their product line, many of their other products have multiple chemical problems).

Remember, if you try these products and you are highly sensitive, some of the essential oils used in the natural soaps might be irritating to your skin. If that is the case try unscented varieties.

Now that I am done reducing chemicals in family’s personal cleaning, I am working on other ways to lighten my home’s chemical load, and have found some great alternatives to chemical home cleaners. Stay tuned next month.

A comprehensive detox program

Although we may live longer in these modern times, we are also facing an unprecedented epidemic of chronic illnesses that can be managed, at best, but not corrected using conventional medicine. Such illnesses span all age groups and range from allergies, digestive disorders, and conditions like ADHD and autism to chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer, as well as a variety of neurological conditions including Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.

Toxicity is a major factor in health today and other tools, aside from diet and supplements, are needed to achieve the best possible results with detoxification.

I have often written about the impact of toxins on health and plan to continue doing so. Interested readers can find past articles on this topic in my newsletter archives on my website. A good example of this topic comes from a just-released study in which researchers identified a cluster of lupus (SLE) and other rheumatic diseases among people living in subdivisions built near an oil field waste site, where levels of air mercury and other pollutants were well higher that those in surrounding neighborhoods (

If, as I believe, cases like these are becoming the norm rather than the exception, then detoxification is clearly a key to maintaining or regaining health. This observation, combined with years of experience overseeing various forms of detoxification, led me to develop an in-office detox program.
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Obesity, chemicals and detoxification

You may have thought you had this whole story figured out, and so did I at one time: people eat too much, they gain weight, and some even become obese. However, to me this explanation never adequately matched what we see happening today.

How is it, for example, that obesity only became an epidemic around twenty years ago, and even more so in the past ten years? While Americans are not known for their stellar
eating habits, these have not changed that much in the past few decades and, according to some estimates, they have actually improved.

And why does obesity increasingly affect children, even babies and toddlers? Is it plausible that an obese toddler got that way because of poor eating habits? Finally, what about the many people who suddenly gained weight or even became obese without changing their diets or exercise regimens? Some gained weight because they developed a thyroid condition, but in my experience this only encompasses a minority of cases.

The first in-depth review I found of possible causes of obesity other than overeating is contained in an interesting article published in 2002 in the Journal of Alternative and
Complementary medicine (J Alt and Comp Med. 2002 Apr;8:185-192).

The article, entitled “Chemical Toxins: a hypothesis to explain the global obesity epidemic,” reviews decades of related research leading the authors to formulate the theory that environmental chemicals – not overeating – is the real cause.

Thousands of chemicals in our environment have simply never been evaluated for safety. For some, studies were performed to assess the risk of major toxic effects, like cancer, and it was assumed that if common exposure levels did not cause cancer these chemicals were otherwise safe.

However, a number of animal studies have shown that chemicals can cause cancer only at extremely high exposure levels but can have all sorts of other harmful effects – including obesity – at much lower, and sometimes even minuscule, levels.

Implicated chemicals include heavy metals, solvents, polychlorinated bisphenols, phthalates, organophosphates and bisphenol-A. These are everywhere in our environment today and we are all exposed to them to some extent. Not only can they cause obesity, they are also known or strongly suspected of disrupting hormones, affecting brain development and function, and causing other harmful health effects – including lower sperm counts, impotence, infertility, and so on.

More recent research has focused mainly on bisphenol-A, a chemical that is ubiquitous in today’s environment as it is used to make “safe” plastic (polycarbonate) bottles, even baby bottles, and many other food containers.

Frederick vom Saal, professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the author of much of this research. In his view, studies to assess safety of this chemical have been industry-sponsored and largely inadequate, completely missing low-dose hormone- disrupting and other harmful effects.

According to Dr. vom Saal, if exposure to bisphenol-A occurs early enough in life it can actually modify expression of a person’s genetic makeup, thus programming the body for
obesity. In his words, an individual exposed to this compound “could eat the same thing and exercise the same amount as someone else but become obese while the other person
remained thin.”

The reason why we do not all become obese at the same rate when exposed to bisphenol-A has to do with genetic and other individual differences, but in no case can genetics be blamed for today’s obesity crisis. Read about Dr. vom Saal’s research here:

Bisphenol-A and all other implicated chemicals share one common feature: they are fat-soluble, meaning they are stored in fatty tissues of the body. The body has no mechanism to get rid of them once stored – as long as they are present in the body they exert a metabolic effect and can continue to trigger weight gain or interfere with attempts at weight loss.

Studies have shown that body fat is saturated with chemicals, and weight loss leads these chemicals to be released into bloodstream, from where they can end up lodging themselves in the brain, heart or other organs of the body (see Obesity Reviews 2003; 4: 17-24). Could it be that weight loss programs fail so often because people simply feel unwell when chemicals are released at such high rates?

Whatever the reason, if chemicals cause weight gain, then ridding the body of chemicals could be the only way to enable metabolism to normalize and reverse the problem. The only means found to effectively detoxify body fat is through far-infrared saunas, which produce a penetrating heat that draws toxins out of fat stores and into sweat. Find information on the detoxification effects of this type of sauna here: and on the Newsletters page of

But is there any evidence that far-infrared saunas promote weight loss? Interestingly, two of the studies performed on far-infrared saunas focused on cardiovascular risk factors (J Am Coll Cardiol 2001;38(4):1083-8, J Am Coll Cardiol 2002;39(5):754-9). Both studies found improvements in a broad spectrum of risk factors, even for people suffering from chronic heart failure (but this is a separate topic that deserves more in-depth coverage in a future newsletter).

Of interest here is that both of these studies found that people who did regular sauna therapy lost weight, though not specifically dieting. Although there are many theories on how sauna therapy can trigger weight loss, one likely possibility in my view is that once chemicals like bisphenol-A are gone, metabolism can return to normal and weight tends to
normalize naturally.

Lead: a bigger problem than meets the eye

While a great deal of attention has been focused on the damaging effects of mercury, at least in alternative medicine circles, the other major toxic metal – lead – may have been
overlooked. Recently, two very interesting articles on this topic were published in the journal Alternative Medicine Review. The abstracts for both articles can be found at PubMed by searching under Altern Med Rev. 2006 Mar; 11 (1): 2-22 and Altern Med Rev. 2006 Jun; 11 (2): 114-127. To obtain the full articles with citations, contact the publisher at The following piece will summarize parts of these articles while adding some of my personal observations and experiences, but no citations are included.

The thought of lead toxicity evokes images of lead in paint and gasoline, and since both of these were phased out decades ago, it is only understandable that many of us think of lead as a problem of the past. It is also a fact that since lead was removed from gasoline and paint blood levels of lead in Americans have dropped markedly, further suggesting that this is no longer a health issue. However, on closer inspection it is apparent that blood levels tell only part of the story and that the problem of lead toxicity is still very much a reality.

If we only consider the leaded paint still present in older homes, the EPA recently estimated that as many as 25% of American children are exposed to a significant hazard from leaded paint. Much of this paint is deteriorating to the point where it now releases more lead than it did previously, leading to contamination of dust and soil in surrounding areas – including backyards where children play.

Lead is also a persistent environmental toxin. This means that, once released into the environment, it stays there almost indefinitely. As an example, lead released into the air over the years before leaded gasoline was banned is doing nothing other than continuing to spread through the environment and turning up in the most unexpected places. An article I recently read in an Italian online newspaper described the high concentrations of lead found in the deep Mediterranean waters surrounding Italy. Through highly sophisticated analysis, it was concluded that this lead had originated from gasoline. Though lead from gasoline would normally precipitate and not dissolve in seawater, in this case it had fully dissolved through environmental action spanning decades.

Lead also continuesto be released, as a result of various industrial processes, through imported products like toys or vinyl miniblinds that were mislabeled or not properly inspected or through old lead water pipes still in use and new plumbing components in which limited amounts of lead are still allowed.

As it turns out, much of our nation’s drinking water supply is contaminated with lead to varying degrees. To deal with this situation, municipalities add a decontaminating chemical that causes lead to precipitate so that city water can pass inspection. However, this same chemical then leaches more lead from lead pipes or other lead components in the plumbing system, resulting in high lead content where it really counts: at the tap.

To get an idea of the extent of the problem, consider that drinking water in schools in the Seattle area was found to be contaminated in 2005 even after positive tests performed in
2004 had triggered major investments to replace drinking fountains and fixtures. In 2004 in the DC area, the EPA reported that the water in 23,000 homes known to have lead service pipes was contaminated. In some cases, the amount of lead found was 20 times higher than the EPA’s action levels. According to the EPA this represents only a fraction of the problem because there are “many public water supplies where water is not being tested, or if it is tested, where the information is not promptly or fully communicated to consumers.”

In my opinion, everyone should use simple and inexpensive home testing kits available online (I also have them at my office) to test the water in their homes even if they don’t drink it but use it for cooking and other purposes. When I did this test at my office, which is in a duplex built in the 1930’s, I got a clear positive result. Much to my surprise, I also got a positive result, although weaker, in my home that was built in 2001.

The mother of a child who continues to test positive for lead even after more than a year of treatment recently also got a clear positive result when she tested tap water in her home.

Although she and her family do not drink the tap water, they use it for bathing and her son has a habit of always swallowing some of the bath water. As it turned out, city authorities were aware of the lead situation in her part of town, but had taken no action because in city-sponsored tests the lead levels were a fraction below EPA limits.

Part of why the impact of lead on health is widely underestimated is that blood tests are the only medically recognized means of identifying exposure to lead. Children in America are screened this way at regular pediatric check-ups, but this method of testing has clear limitations.

First of all, it is well known that, following exposure, lead remains in blood only briefly before being stored in organs and tissues where it does its damage over time. Clearly, there are two ways in which toxic levels of lead can be attained: through high-level exposure, which will produce transiently high blood levels, or through prolonged low-level exposure where blood levels are never abnormally high. The latter is what’s happening in most cases today.

Another problem is that the threshold for lead toxicity was arbitrarily set at 10 mcg/dl in blood for children and even higher for adults. This was based on decades-old research, but new studies are revealing beyond any doubt that much lower blood levels can be equally toxic – sometimes even more so if sustained over time.

A better test – though not a perfect one – is a challenge test, where a product that draws lead from tissues and causes it to be excreted is administered intravenously or orally and then urine levels are measured. An impassioned endorsement of this form of testing is contained in the book “Turning Lead into Gold.” However, this testing method has never been accepted as a valid medical test and I hear that some physicians who use it routinely are being threatened with disciplinary action and even loss of license.

You may wonder why there is so much opposition to this test. One criticism leveled against it is that there are no clear standards or broadly accepted normal ranges. This is a valid (though weak) argument, as it seems to me that a group of resourceful professionals should have little trouble coming up with adequate standards. Maybe what’s really lacking is a will to acknowledge the extent to which lead is affecting our health.

Once in the body, lead is harmful for every aspect of health and at every age. A new study that can be downloaded in its entirety from is entitled “Fetal Lead Exposure at Each Stage of Pregnancy as a Predictor of Infant Mental Development.” Researchers measured blood levels of lead in pregnant women at every trimester of pregnancy and at birth in umbilical blood. They later found a direct relationship between levels of lead in mothers’ blood and deficits in children’s neurological development. In fact, researchers identified a continuum of adverse effects beginning at levels of lead that were barely measurable. In addition, the earlier on in pregnancy lead was found, the more profound its effects.

In children, chronic low-level exposure to lead has been linked with hyperactivity, attention deficit, poor impulse control, lack of coordination, inability to follow sequential directions, lowered IQ, and more. These behaviors are exactly what millions of children are treated for with amphetamines and other synthetic drugs merely to control their symptoms, while no consideration is given to possible causes (including lead exposure).

In adults, the first and most widely researched symptom of low-level exposure to lead is high blood pressure, a problem most Americans seem to be developing as they age. Yet, no one is told of a possible link to lead, and no effort is made to identify those who might have built up toxic levels of this metal. It could be all of us!

But the damaging effects of lead go far beyond high blood pressure. Lead induces oxidative damage to tissues, increasing the risk of every “disease of aging” including heart disease, stroke, cancer, and more. It also damages peripheral nerves, causing tingling or loss of sensation in the extremities. Lead has been linked with kidney disorders, impotence, depression, anxiety, and even osteoporosis. New Japanese research found that low-level exposure to lead can be the hidden cause of high cholesterol (see

70% or more of the lead we are exposed to is stored in our bones, from where it leaches out at a very slow rate that can go on for a lifetime if steps to remove it are not taken. The remaining 30% is stored in the brain, liver, kidneys and other organs.

Treatment to reverse or lessen the effects of lead should be directed at both removing the lead and using specific nutrients to counter or mitigate its adverse health effects and
promote recovery of damaged organs.

Removal of lead from the body has traditionally been achieved primarily with two pharmaceutical products, EDTA and DMSA. Both of these are well-researched, safe and effective. Not only that, their effectiveness can be measured and monitored through regular pre- and post-testing. Although these products are not universally tolerated, at least one of them usually is, and side effects are rare when used appropriately under competent guidance.

By contrast, the internet is replete with claims that products of every kind can produce almost miraculous results, cure cancer, and more. Most of these products simply do not work and are promoted heavily based on questionable testimonials without even the most basic research to support their effectiveness. However, one natural product I like and recommend is called Pectasol Chelation Complex. It contains modified citrus pectin, a fiber that has been shown in various studies to remove lead and other toxic metals from the body. In a recently published study this product was shown to increase lead excretion an average 500% (Phytother Res. 2006 Jul 11; find under PMID: 16835878).

The process of removing lead and other toxic metals from the body is known as chelation (pronounced key-lay-shun). While this step is essential, if not implemented correctly it can itself be harmful because at the same time as lead is taken out of the body minerals that are essential for health are also lost.

As noted above, removing the lead is simply not enough. Targeted nutrients should be taken to lessen the harmful effects of lead and repair the damage it causes. Nutrients that have been shown to have beneficial effects include antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E, beta-carotene, as well as melatonin, grape seed extract, alpha-lipoic acid, and more. Amino acids, including taurine, have also been shown to neutralize some of the damaging effects of lead on the brain and should be considered as part of a balanced program.

Toxic chemicals study results

In a recent study, ten Washington State residents from all walks of life were tested for various classes of toxic chemicals, all of which are known to have adverse health effects of
some type. Read about the study, meet the participants and find out what chemicals were found on this website: Allyson Schrier is one of the study
participants you can read about. She tested positive for 30 of 39 chemicals tested. Among these, researchers found DDT, a pesticide that was banned more than 30 years ago.

More evidence links mercury exposure and autism

While it becomes more and more evident that the relationship between mercury in vaccines and autism is valid, other sources of mercury appear to be implicated as well.

In a study performed right here in Texas (Health Place, 2006 Jun; 12 (2): 203-9 or online in its entirety at, investigators tried to determine if there was any link between mercury released from coal-burning power plants and the number of autism diagnoses. Coal-burning power plants are the primary source of mercury released in the atmosphere, although it is not the same type of mercury used in vaccines.

Researchers from the University of Texas used data from counties across the state to establish how much mercury was being released and the number of children diagnosed with autism or enrolled in special education classes in the same community. They concluded that for every 1,000 lb of mercury released in the environment there was a 43% increase in the rate of special education services and 61% increase in the rate of autism. Clearly they found a smoking gun!

Meanwhile, another interesting study was performed in Denmark, a country where people eat plenty of fish. Researchers measured the amount of methyl mercury – the type of mercury found in contaminated in fish – in the umbilical cord of newborn babies. They then checked these same children at age 7 and concluded that the amount of mercury at birth was an excellent predictor of neuro-psychological problems later in life.

Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Jul; 113 (7): 905-8

Our Chemical World

I have often written about the harmful effects of chemicals on health and the importance of detoxification. A recent article provides a thought-provoking account of how pervasive
chemicals have become in our environment and how challenging it can be for authorities to conclusively prove cause and effect and take action in the face of huge commercial
interests. The article can be read in its entirety (although registration is required) at

It discusses bisphenol-A (BPA), possibly the most ubiquitous chemical in our environment. BPA is classified as a “plasticizer.” It is used to make polycarbonates (clear shatter-resistant plastics), as well as coatings that line food containers, dental sealants and so on. We come in contact with it every day in baby bottles, tin can linings, CD’s, car interiors and the list goes on.

Industry sources continue to hold that BPA is safe. However, many of the studies they quote are more than 15 years old and are the same ones that led to the approval of this
chemical in the first place. These studies found no evidence that BPA leaches in the body only because they were performed before the technology to spot tiny amounts of chemicals was developed.

However, newer studies are not only finding BPA in people, they actually found it in as many as 95% of Americans. New studies are also showing conclusively that BPA crosses the placenta where it is capable of affecting fetal development.

To get an idea of how complicated this research can be, consider that the amount of BPA found in humans is so tiny it is measured in parts-per-billion. However, unlike even the worst of natural poisons, scientists are finding that BPA can have harmful effects even at smaller concentrations than that. In fact, animal studies show that concentrations in the parts-per-trillion range are sufficient to cause harm.

In rat studies, BPA causes an increase in both prostate and breast cancer rates – two cancers that are reaching epidemic levels in our society. In addition, when rats are exposed to BPA early in life they tend to become overweight. Could it be that the dramatic growth of obesity rates is not just a result of more food being available? Finally, rats exposed to BPA during gestation tend to become hyperactive and slow to learn.

When it comes to news like this, it is very difficult to draw any practical conclusions. We simply can’t insulate ourselves from a chemical like BPA, and even if we could there are thousands more everywhere in our lives. There are a few things we can do to help protect ourselves, such as eating well, avoiding chemicals when possible, and being sure we are not deficient in vitamin D.

Healthy Scented Candles

by Janice Welch

As we head into the holiday season you can’t help but be bombarded with fragrances in every store or home you enter. The rooms are filled with artificially scented cinnamon,
pumpkin, apple, etc. I don’t wish my home to smell like these places, yet I do yearn for a different smell in my home besides steamed broccoli and cauliflower (my son’s favorite
vegetables). Essence of Cabbage is not my idea of a Holiday Scent.

So in my quest for a delicious natural-smelling house, I have opted for the scents of essential oils. There are many great little oil heaters and ceramic rings for the oils, but none of these fit in well with my personal taste. I love candles. The warmth they add to a room at the holidays is unparalleled in my opinion.

The problem with candles is that 99% of what you find in stores is made from paraffin. Paraffin is the leftover by-product from the petroleum refining process. This petroleum by-product releases harmful carcinogens into the atmosphere when burned. It produces toxic black, sticky petrol-carbon soot, which I am sure you have noticed when a candle is burned next to a white wall. This same soot is also inhaled into your lungs. Couple this with the fact that many wicks are made with lead or zinc, neither of which should be inhaled, and you have your own health hazard.

Now if you find yourself fretting that you will never have the ambiance of a candlelit dinner, don’t despair. There are alternatives. Although I have not found many at stores (Whole Foods has a few), the Internet is full of healthy candle makers. I have ordered 100% soy, palm and beeswax candles and been very pleased with all of them. They all have either 100% cotton or hemp wicks, and they are very clean-burning with no oily soot emissions.

Many of these candles are sold already scented. Steer clear of artificial fragrances; inhaling these chemicals is not good for you either. If you truly want a scented candle try one scented with 100% essential oils. The only problem I have found with these is that they are not good at holding their essential oil fragrance and therefore are not very effective at scenting a room.

So my favorite way to scent a room naturally and enjoy my candles for the holiday season is to create my own scented candle. Simply purchase an unscented, undyed soy candle (or other vegetable wax candle) with a cotton or hemp wick. Burn the candle for at least five minutes or until there is a pool of wax at the wick and snuff out the candle. Add some drops of your favorite essential oils into the melted wax and carefully relight the candle with a match (not one of those powerful handheld lighters; they can ignite the oil). It is very important to add the oil to the melted wax, because the oils are very flammable and will burn immediately if added directly to the flame.

This process lets you control the scent and the strength of the scent every time you light the candle. My favorite combination this time of year for my living area is equal drops of
cinnamon, clove, and peppermint oils.

Citrus oils are the easiest to burn, so you may want to stick to only the spicy and minty scents for candles. But feel free to use citrus or any of the essential oils in other simple
ways. For instance, add some drops to a cotton ball and drop in the bottom of the wastebasket, or in your dresser drawers, or add some drops to an old (but clean) washcloth and put it in the dryer with your clothes. Happy Scenting!