Archive for Category: News

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  • Cadmium and Health Effects

    cdThough trace amounts of many metals are essential for the health of living things, there is no scientific evidence showing a nutritional role for cadmium.

    Is cadmium harmful to humans or ecosystems?

    Humans can be harmed by a single large exposure to cadmium, and by long-term exposure to higher-than-usual concentrations. Until the mid-1900s, cadmium had few industrial uses. People were rarely exposed to concentrated doses of cadmium and the metal was not recognized as a health concern. But as new uses for cadmium were found, and as the industrial processes that produce the metal increased worldwide, the toxic effects of cadmium began to surface.

    Some of the earliest cases of cadmium poisoning were reported in Belgium in 1858 in workers who inhaled cadmium dust as a result of polishing silver with cadmium carbonate. This kind of exposure can cause severe respiratory distress, emphysema, and even death.

    Public awareness of cadmium’s toxic effects rose with the post-World-War-II outbreak of the “Itai-Itai” Disease (“Ouch-Ouch” Disease) in Japan, which had been caused by a release of cadmium into the run-off water from the Kamioka mine. Farmers in the region used the run-off to irrigate rice patties and other crops. Cadmium quickly became concentrated in the crops, and before long local women began to experience pain in their bones and joints, which eventually became so excruciating that they were bed-ridden. The cadmium, it was later found, had interfered with calcium metabolism, leading to reduction in calcium content and the density and strength of their bones. Simple movements, in some cases, caused the weakened bones to break. Removing cadmium from industrial wastewater halted the incidence of this extremely painful type of chronic cadmium poisoning and no new cases have been recorded in Japan since. (Itai-itai occurred primarily in post-menopausal women who had several children and was probably related as well to vitamin D deficiencies, hormonal status and other factors.)

    The toxicity of cadmium is attributed, in part, to its ability to accumulate in living things. Cadmium is rare in nature and consequently plants and animals have not evolved with efficient means of metabolizing large amounts of the metal. Small amounts of the metal are bound up by the protein metallothionein and are removed from the body, but since organisms are unable to isolate and remove large amounts efficiently, long-term exposure to high levels can result in accumulation in body tissues. Under these conditions, cadmium can remain in the body for years. Most of the metal accumulates in the bones, liver and kidneys, where it can damage the functioning of those organs.

    Cadmium can also bioaccumulate in the ecosystem. Crops treated with cadmium-containing fertilizer or commercial sludge can accumulate above-normal cadmium concentrations and pass them on through the food web to higher organisms such as livestock and humans as in the case of the Kamioka mine in Japan.

    Some organisms absorb cadmium better than others. Among plants, staple foods such as wheat, rice and potatoes have been shown to accumulate higher amounts of cadmium. The overall highest levels of cadmium in food can be expected in the livers and kidneys of animals and in shellfish such as oysters and clams.

    How does cadmium harm living things?

    Cadmium is known to accumulate in the kidneys, and some scientists believe that damage to kidney tissue may lead to kidney disease, high blood pressure and heart disease. Calcium related kidney damage leads to calcium deficiencies in the rest of the body, particularly in the skeleton. As the “Itai-Itai” syndrome made clear, in extreme cases cadmium can contribute to aching bones and joints, progressing to extreme deformities and brittleness of bones. Some humans with high blood pressure have been found to have abnormally high amounts of cadmium in their urine, and animals given cadmium in food or water developed kidney and liver disease, high blood pressure, iron-poor blood and nerve or brain damage. Fortunately there have been no reported cases of Itai-Itai since the 1960s.

    Excessive cadmium exposure may weaken the body’s immune system, and it is also believed to be linked to lung cancer. Some studies suggest it causes prostate enlargement. Some scientists suspect that cadmium may be a reproductive toxin. Some studies have found that animals exposed to high levels of cadmium had a higher incidence of premature birth, low birth weight, stillbirth and spontaneous abortion. Animal studies also suggest that cadmium exposure is linked to behavioral problems and learning disabilities.

    People whose diets are deficient in zinc, copper, iron, calcium and vitamin D may be at higher risk for health complications from cadmium. These elements, which look and behave in a way that is chemically similar to cadmium, can be replaced by cadmium when the essential elements are in short supply. Bodily proteins that capture and metabolize essential metals can also absorb cadmium particles due to its similar chemical behavior.

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  • Arsenic and our Health

    arsenicStudies in animal species provide strong evidence that arsenic is an essential trace element – at least for birds and mammals. When researchers completely eliminated arsenic from the diets of animals in experiments, the animals became ill; some developed reproductive problems. The offspring of these arsenic-deprived adults were born with developmental problems. Putting a small amount of arsenic back into the animals’ diets completely reversed these effects.

    Dietary requirements for arsenic in humans are still controversial. There are trace amounts of arsenic in almost all food and water, air and soil, so it is difficult to find humans who are isolated from all sources of arsenic. There are no known human health effects of arsenic deficiency, if such exist, and the effects observed in arsenic-deficient animals would be hard to detect and characterize in humans. Most investigators believe that it is likely that we receive all the arsenic we need from a normal diet, and there is currently no recommendation for a daily dietary intake for humans.

    Nutritionists and toxicologists find themselves on opposite sides of an interesting question when they consider the human health effects of elements such as arsenic. In many cases an element can be toxic at one dose and healthful, even essential for health, at another. If it were somehow possible to eliminate from the environment all traces of elements known to have toxic effects, would this have a negative effect on human health? Because arsenic is ubiquitous in the environment, this question is likely to remain moot.

    How does arsenic harm living things?

    Arsenic’s toxic effects largely depend on its chemical and physical form and how one is exposed. A large single dose that produces an immediate effect is called an acute exposure; a smaller amount over a long period of time that produces a gradual or delayed effect is called a chronic exposure.

    At acute exposures, such as in accidental or intentional poisonings, arsenic can displace elements involved in the fundamental chemical processes of cells. For example, arsenic has an affinity for binding to sulfur. Certain enzymes involved in metabolism use the sulfur atom of a cysteine amino acid to carry out their function. If arsenic binds to the sulfur at these sites, the enzymes can begin to behave in abnormal ways or lose their ability to function. Arsenic, in the form of arsenate, can also resemble phosphate, which is used by cells for energy and signaling. By displacing phosphate in enzymes or signaling proteins, arsenic can block energy production and normal cell signaling.

    At lower chronic exposures, such as in most environmental or occupational exposures, arsenic appears to indirectly modify the way cells communicate. Recent studies at Dartmouth suggest that arsenic may act as an endocrine disrupter by binding to hormone receptors, interfering with normal cell signaling of hormones through those receptors. Disruption of these endocrine receptors by arsenic in this way may contribute to the development of diabetes, cancer and vascular disease.

    Other Dartmouth researchers have found that arsenic may interfere with molecular signals that prompt the cells lining heart and blood vessels to grow. The subsequent build-up of these cells can narrow the passage inside blood vessels, restricting the flow of blood. This may be one of the mechanisms that enable arsenic to contribute to cardiovascular disease and other blood vessel diseases.

    Dartmouth researchers are also trying to understand other ways in which arsenic increases the risk of certain kinds of cancer. Unlike many other known chemical carcinogens, arsenic does not cause damage to DNA or cause mutations in genes. Instead, it appears to indirectly modify the way cells behave in ways that increase their probability of becoming cancer cells, perhaps in combination with other carcinogens such as cigarette smoke or other environmental contaminants.

    What makes some forms of arsenic more harmful to humans?

    The effect arsenic has on living things is strongly governed by its form or species. Although metals are simple elements, metal atoms can combine into different forms that vary in chemical and biological properties. Some forms of arsenic are highly toxic; others are essentially non-toxic. The reasons are rooted in basic chemistry.

    Atoms are made up of a nucleus – a mixture of positively charged particles called protons and neutral particles called neutrons — around which negatively charged particles called electrons orbit. The positive, negative or neutral charge on an atom, called its “ionic state,” is governed by how many electrons it has circling around it balancing the positive charges of its protons. Atoms can gain or lose electrons to change their ionic charge, and the sharing of electrons is primarily how atoms bond together to form molecules.

    The most common and stable forms of arsenic in nature are arsenite, also called or arsenic (+3), and arsenate, or arsenic (+5). Arsenic (+3) is arsenic with three fewer electrons than protons, giving it a plus three positive charge; arsenic (+5) is arsenic with five fewer electrons than protons, giving it a plus five positive charge. These two forms can be readily converted back and forth both in nature and inside our bodies depending on the local chemical environment – such as changes in acidity (pH), the presence of oxygen or iron, and what other molecules are present. Arsenite is believed to be slightly more toxic than arsenate, but since they are so easily inter-converted, both forms are considered a health risk.

    Once arsenic (+3) or arsenic (+5) atoms combine with other elements to form molecules, the molecules acquire chemical and biological properties of their own. When arsenic binds to elements such as sulfur, oxygen, and chlorine it forms molecules known as inorganic compounds; when arsenic binds to molecules containing carbon it forms organic compounds. Inorganic forms of arsenic are, in general, more toxic to humans since they are less stable and may allow arsenic to interact with important cellular molecules.

    Both the inorganic and organic forms of arsenic are readily eliminated from the body through the urine. When we are exposed to inorganic arsenic, the body routinely changes, or metabolizes, it into one or more organic forms by successively adding carbon atoms to it. Scientists once believed that this process – known as methylamine – was a natural arsenic detoxification process for both humans and other animals.

    But new findings have challenged that idea. Animal species that do not methyl ate arsenic are not only able to excrete inorganic arsenic efficiently but appear to be no more sensitive to its toxic effects than animals that methyl ate. More recently, scientists have found that a simple ethylated form of arsenic called mono-methyl arsenic (III) can cause cancer in animals. On the other hand, fish and other animals contain a highly ethylated form of arsenic called arsenobetaine or “fish arsenic” which is essentially non-toxic and is readily eliminated by our bodies. So although fish may have high amounts of arsenic in them, it is primarily in a form that is not a health risk to humans.

    There is evidence that humans and other animals can build up tolerance to the toxic effects of arsenic. A society of “arsenic eaters” who deliberately consumed arsenic-laden soils in their religious practices developed a high tolerance for arsenic. Rasputin was reported to regularly ingest arsenic to build tolerance and to protect him from poisoning.

    What amount of arsenic is toxic to humans?

    Like any other poison, whether an exposure to arsenic is harmful largely depends on its chemical and physical form and how one is exposed. Toxicologists use the terms dose, duration and route of exposure, meaning the amount of a substance taken in, the period of time the exposure lasts, and the way the substance enters the body. One way of being exposed to arsenic is by breathing it in as a dust. This primarily occurred in workplace settings where arsenic or products containing arsenic were used, and before new knowledge led to the development of modern worker safety measures. There is normally little or no uptake of arsenic through the skin at environmental levels, though it was of concern in previous workplace exposures (such as long-term use of arsenic-containing pesticides) or through use of arsenic-containing medications applied directly to the skin. The route of exposure of most concern today is ingesting arsenic, particularly through drinking water contaminated by inorganic arsenic.

    The concentrations of arsenic found in the heavily contaminated drinking water of Bangladesh are between 170 and 1500 micrograms per liter (A microgram is a millionth of a gram). By contrast, a person would have to ingest more than 70,000 micrograms of arsenic all at once to be fatally poisoned by a single dose. Nevertheless, exposure over a long period of time to concentrations of arsenic such as those found in Bangladesh is associated with a wide range of illnesses.

    Much of the world’s current safe drinking water standards for arsenic are based on risk estimates using data on people exposed to very high levels of arsenic through their occupations or through drinking water in areas such as Bangladesh, Taiwan and parts of South America. Few studies have examined the effects of lower doses on people over long periods of time.

    Dartmouth researchers are conducting epidemiological studies to determine the health effects of drinking water containing arsenic at the elevated levels found in certain regions of the United States. These levels -typically between 50 and 200 micrograms per liter – are much lower than those of Bangladesh but are still considered high enough to be of concern

    Can arsenic cause cancer?

    Like many chemicals, arsenic’s effects on cancer at first appear paradoxical. On the one hand, arsenic is one of a handful of chemicals that is well established as a human carcinogen based on direct evidence in human populations. In fact, this was evident in humans long before there was evidence for arsenic’s cancer-causing effects in laboratory animals. On the other hand, arsenic has been shown to be effective as a cancer chemotherapy drug and can be used to induce complete cures in certain forms of cancer.

    The evidence that arsenic is a carcinogen comes primarily from studies of disease in regions of Taiwan, South America, India, and Pakistan where drinking water contains elevated levels of arsenic. These studies have demonstrated a strong association between high levels of arsenic in drinking water and the risk of lung, skin, bladder and other cancers. Interestingly, these studies have suggested that arsenic is unique in being the only known agent that increases lung or skin cancer risk where ingestion is the only route of exposure.

    Surprisingly, it has been difficult to demonstrate that arsenic can increase the incidence of cancer in animals despite the strong human epidemiological data. This is also true of several other carcinogenic metals including chromium, cadmium and nickel. The reasons are unclear, but one view is that these agents act indirectly, by increasing the risk of cancer from other factors. This would not be evident in experiments in which animals are raised in a relatively pristine laboratory environment and exposed only to the metal in question.

    Beginning around the 1970s, the Chinese began to systematically experiment with the use of arsenic to treat certain cancers. Most of these studies were published in the Chinese medical literature, which did not become accessible to the western world until the late 1980s. In particular, the Chinese demonstrated that use of arsenite -inorganic arsenic trioxide – was highly effective in treating certain leukemia. Arsenite was particularly useful for people whose leukemia were resistant to chemotherapy treatment using retinoic acid, a derivative of vitamin A. The results of these arsenic studies were recently confirmed in a small U.S. cancer trial as well. These studies suggest that arsenic may prove to be an effective anti-cancer agent for other malignancies in the coming years.

    Arsenic’s paradoxical behavior as both cause and treatment for cancer is an example of an often-repeated maxim attributed to Paracelsus, a physician and alchemist who lived 500 years ago: “the right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy.”

    What are the symptoms of arsenic poisoning?

    Arsenic has been the poison of choice since antiquity because it is difficult to detect in food and water and because the symptoms of poisoning by arsenic can be mistakenly attributed to many other ailments.

    The effects of arsenic poisoning differ depending upon whether the exposure is acute – a large dose in a short period of time – or chronic – lower doses over an extended period of time.

    At a very high, single dose arsenic can cause severe shock, general paralysis, delirium and then death within a few hours. At a somewhat lower dose the primary symptoms are nausea, headache, intense gastrointestinal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. This can be followed by extensive gastrointestinal bleeding, loss of blood pressure and a decrease in brain function followed by death. These effects are rare except in cases of intentional poisoning or suicides.

    Workers and others who have been exposed to arsenic over long periods of time, principally by breathing it or ingesting it, can exhibit symptoms that include melanosis, a change in pigmentation of the skin similar to freckling; hyperkeratosis, an extensive thickening of the skin, especially the palms of the hands and soles of the feet; damage to heart and blood vessels; a decrease in both red and white blood cell production; and severe inflammation of the liver.

    These symptoms are also seen in people who live in regions where drinking water contains between 100 and 1,500 parts per billion of arsenic.

    Drinking-water arsenic at these levels is also associated with an increased risk of diabetes mellitis (type 2 or adult-onset diabetes), with damage to heart and blood vessels and, in some areas of the world, a condition called Blackfoot disease. This causes the feet or sometimes hands to lose circulation and to turn “black.” There is also a strong association between arsenic in drinking water and an increased risk of lung, skin, bladder and other cancers.

    Arsenic is cleared from the body quickly, so the most important remedy for arsenic poisoning is eliminating exposure. The most serious effects of arsenic, such as cancer and diabetes, are believed to require long, continuous exposures perhaps lasting 20 years or more.

    In cases of extreme poisoning, chemical compounds called chelating agents can be used as an antidote. Chelating agents such as “British anti-lewisite” (BAL) and other more modern therapies work by binding arsenic tightly in complexes, making it inactive. This can help remove arsenic from a person’s body, averting severe toxicity and death.

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  • Heavy Metal Sources and Effects

    Toxic metals symptons

    ALUMINIUM – alum, aluminum foil, animal feed, antacids, aspirin, auto exhaust, baking powder, beer, bleached flour, cans, ceramics, cheese, cigarette filters, color additives, construction materials, cookware, cosmetics, dental amalgams, deodorants, drinking water, drying agents, dust, insulated wiring, medicinal compounds, milk products, nasal spray, pesticides, pollution, salt, tap water, tobacco smoke, toothpaste, treated water, vanilla powder.

    EFFECTS: ALS, Alzheimer’s, anemia, appetite loss, behavioral problems, cavities, colds, colitis, confusion, constipation, dementia, dry mouth, dry skin, energy loss, excessive perspiration, flatulence, headaches, heartburn, hyperactivity, inhibition of enzyme systems, kidney dysfunction, lowered immune function, learning disabilities, leg twitching, liver dysfunction, memory loss, neuromuscular disorders, numbness, osteoporosis, paralysis, Parkinson’s disease, peptic ulcer, psychosis, reduced intestinal activity, senility, skin problems, spleen pain, stomach pain, weak and aching muscles

    ARSENIC – burning of arsenate treated building materials, coal combustion, insect sprays, pesticides, soils (arsenic rich), seafood from coastal waters, especially mussels, oysters and shrimp

    EFFECTS: abdominal pain, anorexia, brittle nails, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, chronic anemia, burning in mouth / esophagus / stomach / bowel, confusion, convulsions, dermatitis, drowsiness, enzyme inhibition, garlicky odor to breath / stool, hair loss, headaches, hyper-pigmentation of nails and skin, increased risk of liver / lung / skin cancers, low grade fever, mucous in nose and throat, muscle aches / spasms / weakness, nervousness, respiratory tract infection, swallowing difficulty, sweet metallic taste, throat constriction

    BERYLLIUM – coal burning, manufacturing, household products, industrial dust

    EFFECTS: disturbance of calcium and vitamin D metabolism, magnesium depletion, lung cancer, lung infection, rickets, vital organ dysfunction

    CADMIUM – airborne industrial contaminants, batteries, candy, ceramics, cigarette smoke, colas, congenital intoxication, copper refineries, copper alloys, dental alloys, drinking water, electroplating, fertilizers, food from contaminated soil, fungicides, incineration of tires / rubber / plastic, instant coffee, iron roofs, kidney, liver, marijuana, processed meat, evaporated milk, motor oil, oysters, paint, pesticides, galvanized pipes, processed foods, refined grains / flours cereals, rubber, rubber carpet backing, seafoods (cod, haddock, oyster, tuna), sewage, silver polish, smelters, soft water, solders (including in food cans), tobacco, vending machine soft drinks, tools, vapor lamps, water (city, softened, well), welding metal

    EFFECTS: alcoholism, alopecia, anemia, arthritis (osteo and rheumatoid), bone disease, bone pain in middle of bones, cancer, cardiovascular disease, cavities, cerebral hemorrhage, cirrhosis, diabetes, digestive disturbances, emphysema, enlarged heart, flu-like symptoms, growth impairment, headaches, high cholesterol, hyperkinetic behavior, hypertension, hypoglycemia, impotence, inflammation, infertility, kidney disease, learning disorders, liver damage, lung disease, migraines, nerve cell damage, osteoporosis, prostate dysfunction, reproductive disorders, schizophrenia, stroke

    COPPER – birth control pills, congenital intoxication, copper cookware, copper IUDs, copper pipes, dental alloys, fungicides, ice makers, industrial emissions, insecticides, swimming pools, water (city / well), welding, avocado, beer, bluefish, bone meal, chocolate, corn oil, crabs, gelatin, grains, lamb, liver, lobster, margarine, milk, mushrooms, nuts, organ meats, oysters, perch, seeds, shellfish, soybeans, tofu, wheat germ, yeast

    EFFECTS: acne, adrenal insufficiency, allergies, alopecia, anemia, anorexia, anxiety, arthritis (osteo & rheumatoid), autism, cancer, chills, cystic fibrosis, depression, diabetes, digestive disorders, dry mouth, dysinsulinism, estrogen dominance, fatigue, fears, fractures, fungus, heart attack, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Hodgkin’s disease, hyperactivity, hypertension, hyperthyroid, low hydrochloric acid, hypoglycemia, infections, inflammation, insomnia, iron loss, jaundice, kidney disorders, libido decreased, lymphoma, mental illness, migraines, mood swings, multiple sclerosis, myocardial infarction, nausea, nervousness, osteoporosis, pancreatic dysfunction, panic attacks, paranoia, phobias, PMS, schizophrenia, senility, sexual dysfunction, spacey feeling, stuttering, stroke, tooth decay, toxemia of pregnancy, urinary tract infections, yeast infections

    IRON – drinking water, iron cookware, iron pipes, welding,. foods: blackstrap molasses, bone meal, bran, chives, clams, heart, kidney, leafy vegetables, legumes, liver, meat, molasses, nuts, organ meats, oysters, parsley, red wine, refined foods, shellfish, soybeans, wheat germ, whole grains

    EFFECTS: amenorrhea, anger, rheumatoid arthritis, birth defects, bleeding gums, cancer, constipation, diabetes, dizziness, emotional problems, fatigue, headache, heart damage, heart failure, hepatitis, high blood pressure, hostility, hyperactivity, infections, insomnia, irritability, joint pain, liver disease, loss of weight, mental problems, metallic taste in mouth, myasthenia gravis, nausea, pancreas damage, Parkinson’s disease, premature aging, schizophrenia, scurvy, shortness of breath, stubborness

    LEAD – ash, auto exhaust, battery manufacturing, bone meal, canned fruit and juice, car batteries, cigarette smoke, coal combustion, colored inks, congenital intoxication, cosmetics, eating utensils, electroplating, household dust, glass production, hair dyes, industrial emissions, lead pipes, lead-glazed earthenware pottery, liver, mascara, metal polish, milk, newsprint, organ meats, paint, pencils, pesticides, produce near roads, putty, rain water, pvc containers, refineries, smelters, snow, tin cans with lead solder sealing (such as juices, vegetables), tobacco, toothpaste, toys, water (city / well), wine

    EFFECTS: abdominal pain, adrenal insufficiency, allergies, anemia, anorexia, anxiety, arthritis (rheumatoid and osteo), attention deficit disorder, autism, back pain, behavioral disorders, blindness, cardiovascular disease, cartilage destruction, coordination loss, concentration loss, constipation, convulsions, deafness, depression, dyslexia, emotional instability, encephalitis, epilepsy, fatigue, gout, hallucinations, headaches, hostility, hyperactivity, hypertension, hypothyroid, impotence, immune suppression, decreased IQ, indigestion, infertility, insomnia, irritability, joint pain, kidney disorders, learning disability, liver dysfunction, loss of will, memory loss (long term), menstrual problems, mood swings, muscle aches, muscle weakness, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, myelopathy (spinal cord pathology), nausea, nephritis, nightmares, numbness, Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathies, psychosis, psychomotor dysfunction, pyorrhea, renal dysfunction, restlessness, retardation, schizophrenia, seizures, sterility, stillbirths, sudden infant death syndrome, tingling, tooth decay, vertigo, unintentional weight loss

    MERCURY – adhesives, air conditioner filters, algaecides, antiseptics, battery manufacturing, body powders, broken thermometers, burning newspapers and building materials, calomel lotions, cereals, congenital intoxication, cosmetics, dental amalgams, diuretics, fabric softeners, felt, floor waxes, fungicides, germicides, grains, industrial waste, insecticides, laxatives, lumber, manufacture of paper and chlorine, medications, mercurochrome, paints, paper products, pesticides, photoengraving, polluted water, Preparation H, psoriasis ointment, seafoods (especially tuna and swordfish), sewage disposal, skin lightening creams, soft contact lens solution, suppositories, tanning leather, tattooing, water (contaminated), wood preservatives

    EFFECTS: adrenal dysfunction, allergy, alopecia, anorexia, anxiety, birth defects, blushing, brain damage, cataracts, cerebral palsy, poor coordination / jerky movements, deafness, depression, dermatitis, discouragement, dizziness, drowsiness, eczema, emotional disturbances, excess saliva, fatigue, gum bleeding and soreness, headaches (band type), hearing loss, hyperactivity, hypothyroidism, forgetfulness, immune dysfunction, insomnia, irritability, joint pain, kidney damage, loss of self-control, memory loss, mental retardation, metallic taste, migraines, nervousness, nerve fiber degeneration, numbness, pain in limbs, rashes, retinitis, schizophrenia, shyness, speech disorders, suicidal tendencies, tingling, tremors (eyelids, lips, tongue, fingers, extremities), vision loss, weakness

    NICKEL – butter, fertilizers, food processing, fuel oil combustion, hydrogenated fats and oils, imitation whipped cream, industrial waste, kelp, margarine, nuclear device testing, oysters, stainless steel cookware, tea, tobacco smoke, unrefined grains and cereals, vegetable shortening

    EFFECTS: anorexia, kidney dysfunction, apathy, disruption of hormone and lipid metabolism, fever, hemorrhages, headache, heart attack, intestinal cancer, low blood pressure, muscle tremors, nausea, oral cancer, skin problems, vomiting

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  • Sources of Heavy Metals

    In the previous email that you received a few days ago entitled “Heavy metals and Health” I talked a little about what heavy metals were and how prevalent they are in today’s society. Perhaps you have been asking yourselves, “where do all these heavy metals come from,” given that they are everywhere around us, even up in the North and South poles?

    Remember that we mentioned that heavy metals have been implicated in various research studies to cause as many as 20% of learning disabilities, 20% of all strokes and heart attacks, and in certain areas to be a factor in over 40% of all birth defects – these are really nasty metals!

    Sources of Toxic Metals
    A source of toxic lead is from paint chips, drinking water, fertilizer, food, auto and industrial emissions, and dust. Cadmium is found in regions with high emissions from incinerators, coal plants, or cars, as well as in shellfish and cigarette smoke. Other common sources include rural drinking water wells, processed food, fertilizer, and old paint. Aluminium is found in aluminium cookware, antiperspirants, cheese and other processed food. Nickel, which is highly toxic, is commonly seen in dental crowns and braces, along with jewellery, etc. (Nickel and inorganic mercury frequently produce allergic type autoimmune reactions and associated problems). Manganese and other metal exposure can come through welding or metal work.

    Mercury is another major issue – the most common significant exposure for most people is to mercury vapour from amalgam fillings.  Dental amalgams usually emit 1-10 ug/day; the amount of mercury found in the brain is strongly correlated with the number of dental fillings.  Researchers have shown that chewing gum can double the mercury levels in the blood and triple the levels in urine for those that have amalgam fillings.

    Seafood contaminated with mercury is another issue of concern – generally larger fish have most mercury, due to bioaccumulation in the food chain. The HIGHEST levels of mercury have been found in the following fish, with mean mercury levels in parts per million (ppm);

    Tilefish (Golden bass or Golden snapper), 1.45; Swordfish, 1.00; Shark, 0.96; King Mackerel, 0.73 and Grouper (Mycteroperca) 0.43.

    LOWER levels have been found in the following fish:

    Tuna (fresh or frozen) 0.32; Lobster Northern (American) 0.31; Halibut 0.23; Tuna (canned) 0.17; Crab Blue 0.17; Scallop 0.05; Catfish 0.07; Salmon ND; Oysters ND; Shrimp ND (ND = not detectable).

    During the spring of 2001 the State Department of Health (DOH) issued a fish-consumption advisory for women of childbearing age and children under age six, due to high levels of mercury in certain breeds of carnivorous fish such as shark, swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and tuna.

    Another major exposure source to infants is from thimerosal, a water-soluble, cream-colored crystalline powder used as a preservative in vaccines that contain 49.6% mercury by weight. It is present in over 30 licensed vaccines in the US, in concentrations of 0.003% to 0.01%. In the human body, thimerosal is metabolized to ethylmercury and thiosalicylate which are highly toxic substances.

    The EPA safe limit for mercury exposure is one-tenth of a microgram (0.1 mcg/kg) but it is common for most children to be vaccinated on the day of birth with the hepatitis B vaccine which contains 12 mcg of mercury (30 times the safe level). At 4 months, they are again vaccinated with the DtaP and HiB vaccine on the same day, which provides a further 50 mcg of mercury (60 times the safe level). At 6 months they receive the Hep B, Polio with a further 62.5 mcg of mercury (78 times the safe level). These figures are calculated for an infant’s average weight in kilograms for each age. By age two, American children have received 237 micrograms of mercury through vaccines alone, which is thousands of times more than the EPA safe limit.

    Mercury in the thimerosal preservative in vaccines is 50 times more toxic than liquid mercury because injected mercury is far more toxic than ingested mercury and converts to ethylmercury, which has a natural affinity for brain cells and nerves. The fact that babies do not have a blood-brain barrier makes penetration easier. Moreover, infants have difficulty excreting mercury, as they do not produce bile, which is required for proper excretion. If the nurse giving the injection did not shake the vial according to directions before drawing out the vaccine dose, there is a chance that the child receiving the last dose could get as much as 10 times the usual amount of mercury in one dose.

    So you see, toxic metals are literally everywhere – in our food, our water, the air we breathe as well as the medications we take thinking that these are good for our health. The question that requires answering is how do we protect ourselves and our loved ones from these toxic metals, and what health problems do they really cause?


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  • Fish: Do I Eat, Do I Not Eat

    What’s so healthy about eating fish?

    Fish is a high-protein, low-fat food that provides a range of health benefits. White-fleshed fish, in particular, is lower in fat than any other source of animal protein, and oilier fish contain substantial quantities of omega-3s, or the “good” fats in the human diet. In addition, fish does not contain the “bad” fats commonly found in red meat – called omega-6 fatty acids.

    Are fish contaminated?

    Despite their valuable qualities, fish can pose considerable health risks when contaminated with substances such as metals (e.g., mercury and lead), industrial chemicals (e.g., PCBs) and pesticides (e.g., DDT and dieldrin). Through increased testing, many of our oceans, lakes and rivers are now known to be surprisingly tainted. As a result, some fish are sufficiently contaminated that Environmental Defence recommends limited or no consumption.

    Fish 2

    Where do contaminants come from?

    Contaminants enter the water in a variety of ways. Industrial and municipal discharges, agricultural practices, and storm water runoff can all deposit harmful substances directly into the water. Rain can also wash chemicals from the land or air into streams and rivers. These contaminants are then carried downstream into lakes, reservoirs and estuaries.

    Fish take in these substances in several ways, and their contaminant levels depend on factors like species, size, age and location. Mercury, for example, is naturally converted by bacteria into methylmercury. Fish absorb methylmercury mostly from their food, but also from the water as it passes over their gills. Generally, larger and older fish have had more time to bioaccumulate mercury from their food and the water than smaller and younger fish. In addition, large predatory fish (like sharks and swordfish) near the top of marine food chains are more likely to have high levels of mercury than fish lower in marine food chains due to the process of biomagnification.

    Fish can also absorb organic chemicals (such as PCBs, dioxins and DDT) from the water, suspended sediments, and their food. In contaminated areas, bottom-dwelling fish are especially likely to have high levels of such toxins because these substances run off the land and settle to the bottom. These organic chemicals then concentrate in the skin, organs and other fatty tissues of fish. Wild striped bass, bluefish, American eel, and seatrout tend to be high in PCBs, since they are bottom-tending fish often found in contaminated rivers and estuaries.

    What are the risks of eating seafood contaminated with industrial pollutants?

    Contaminants such as mercury, PCBs and dioxins build up in your body over time. Health problems that may result from eating contaminated fish range from small, hard-to-detect changes to birth defects and cancer. It can take 5 years or more for women in their childbearing years to rid their bodies of PCBs, and 12-18 months to significantly reduce their body burden of mercury. Mothers who eat contaminated fish before becoming pregnant may have children who are slower to develop and learn. Developing fetuses are exposed to stored toxins through the placenta. Women beyond their childbearing years and men face fewer health risks from contaminants than children do. Following the advice below will minimize your exposure and reduce the health risks associated with these contaminants.

    What about mercury in canned tuna?

    The two most popular types of canned tuna – white and light – vary greatly in their average mercury content. Canned white tuna consists of albacore, a large species of tuna that accumulates moderate amounts of mercury. Consequently, Environmental Defence recommends that adults and children limit their consumption of canned white tuna.

    Canned light tuna usually consists of skipjack, a smaller species with approximately one-third the mercury levels of albacore. Therefore, Environmental Defence only recommends that young children (ages 0-6) limit their consumption of canned light tuna. However, recent news reports suggest that some canned light tuna actually contains yellow fin tuna, a species that is similar in size and mercury content to albacore. These products are sometimes (but not always) labelled ‘gourmet’ or ‘tonno’, and their consumption should be limited by adults and children. Overall, it’s best to exercise caution in how much tuna you (or especially your children) consume.

    Do the health benefits of omega-3s outweigh the risks associated with contaminants in seafood?

    There is no definitive answer to this question, but the information provided here can help you decide for yourself. For young children and women of childbearing age, consumption of mercury-contaminated fish can severely impact a child’s development. However, other sub-populations (older women and men) may find it an acceptable trade-off to exceed recommended seafood meal limits to increase their omega-3 intake. For our advisories concerning PCBs, dioxins and pesticides, the cancer risk (1 in 100,000 – the level recommended by the EPA) may not outweigh the benefits of omega-3s for people at high risk of cardiovascular disease. However, these chemicals are known to cause serious health problems besides cancer, so the trade-offs are not simple.

    What about natural toxins in seafood?

    Besides industrial pollutants and other human-made contaminants, some seafood may also contain natural toxins if fish eat harmful algae or bacteria. In warm tropical waters, a toxin called ciguatera can work its way up the food chain and be present in toxic levels in large, predatory fish. Cooking does not destroy the toxin, and consumption of ciguatoxic fish can cause intense flu like symptoms.

    In addition, fish like tuna, mackerel, bluefish and mahimahi begin decomposing soon after capture. If not stored properly, they may develop histamine called scombrotoxin. Eating fish (even cooked fish) with high concentrations of scombrotoxin can cause an allergy-like reaction, which is treatable with an antihistamine.

    Uncooked shellfish may contain disease-causing bacteria, viruses or parasites. Raw oysters, clams and other shellfish pose a particular risk since they are filter feeders – straining tiny particles from the seawater for food. If the seawater contains disease-causing microorganisms, these accumulate in the shellfish. The Norwalk virus, which causes intestinal illness in humans, is often associated with eating raw oysters and clams. For this reason, it is important to get raw shellfish from a reliable source, or ensure that your shellfish is cooked thoroughly.


    How can I reduce the risks?

    Fish consumption is the primary route of exposure to contaminants like mercury and PCBs. Since these substances can damage developing nervous systems and impair learning, seafood contamination is a particular concern for young children and women of childbearing age. The best ways to reduce exposure are:

    • Reduce consumption of fish known to be high in contaminants.
    • Prepare your fish in a way that cuts down on toxins.
    • Eat sport fish from a variety of water bodies, and try not to eat the same species of fish more than once a week.

    How can I cook fish to reduce toxins?

    Unfortunately, there are no cooking methods that will reduce mercury levels in seafood since it binds to proteins in fish tissue (including muscle). However, levels of PCBs, dioxins and some pesticides can be reduced by the following cooking methods, since these chemicals build up in fatty tissue.

    Before cooking, remove the skin, fat (found along the back, sides and belly), internal organs, tomalley of lobster and the mustard of crabs, where toxins are likely to accumulate. This will greatly reduce the risk of exposure to a number of hazardous chemicals.

    When cooking, be sure to let the fat drain away, and avoid or reduce fish drippings.

    Serve less fried fish. Frying seals in chemical pollutants that might be in the fish’s fat, while grilling, broiling or poaching allows fat to drain away.

    For smoked fish, it is best to fillet the fish and remove the skin before the fish is smoked.

    How can I avoid getting sick from eating seafood?

    Check fish carefully before buying. Bruises, brown spots and cloudy eyes all indicate decomposition, and possibly bacteria. Buy fish that was frozen or refrigerated immediately after capture.

    Cook fish and shellfish thoroughly. Handle raw fish as you would handle other raw meat products. Take care not to cross-contaminate cooked food or vegetables with the utensils used to prepare raw fish, and wash utensils and hands thoroughly in-between handling.

    Avoid shellfish from untraceable sources, particularly if eaten raw.

    What fish should I avoid?

    Low-contaminant fish are an important part of a healthy diet, and Environmental Defense encourages people to include such fish in their diets, especially if they are caught or farmed in an environmentally responsible manner. However, there are certain species that people (especially women of childbearing age and children) should eat in moderation or avoid altogether.

    What can I do to protect myself and my family?

    You will need to detoxify these heavy metals and other contaminants using a heavy metal chelator, but a natural one that has been tried and tested during scientific trials called HMD.

    Read More
  • What are Heavy Metals

    Heavy metals have nothing to do with Rock and Roll music or bands – they are non-essential toxic metals that damage your health. Examples of these include aluminium, arsenic, antimony, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, thallium, uranium, polonium and others.

    Heavy metals are associated with many health problems – one of the main ways that they cause problems is by producing free radicals – nasty molecules in the body that damage cells, tissues and organs, as well as provoking the cell to mutate, possibly into cancer cells.

    Toxic metals are everywhere – in vaccinations we find mercury, aluminium in the water supply, cadmium in cigarettes, mercury in amalgams and fish, arsenic in chickens used as animal growth promoters, as well as pesticides, lead in the atmosphere and even radioactive metals such as polonium-210, thallium and uranium being found on airplanes sitting on Heathrow’s runways!


    The answer to this question is a categorical “yes!” It is an irrefutable fact that we live in a toxic soup of over 100,000 toxic chemicals and heavy metals. These are found all over the planet right up to the North and South Poles. Even Inuit Eskimo newborns in the North Pole have been found to have mercury, lead and pesticide residues in their blood, with American newborns having an average of 287 toxins in their blood, so what are the chances of an adult being squeaky clean? None!

    Even though we do not get large amounts every time we consume water, food, chew with amalgams and breathe in from the atmosphere – these metals do accumulate in the body over time and can reach very toxic levels that can lead to degenerative diseases.

    If you have amalgams in your mouth, the World Health Organization says that you could be absorbing a hugely toxic dose of up to 120 micrograms of mercury daily. Mother’s breastfeeding their children are inadvertently giving them large doses of this toxic mercury. Most drinking water contains aluminium; fish contains mercury; chickens could contain arsenic and travellers beware of radioactive metals. Yes, we live in this toxic soup so the question is not ARE we toxic but just HOW toxic we are!



    Well, there are the common symptoms ranging from unexplained irritability, frequent periods of depression, skin irritation and itching, unexplained fatigue, bloating, memory problems and constipation through to chronic diseases such as heart disorders, arthritis, migraines, IBS and even chronic weight issues by disrupting your hormonal system.

    Check out a list of the most common symptoms that are found in people that are known to be toxic in heavy metals and check out your own levels of toxicity by taking the HOW TOXIC AM I TEST? Online NOW! – (link this to the test questions that determine toxicity).

    Symptoms of Heavy Metal Toxicity

    1. Unexplained irritability
    2. Constant or very frequent periods of depression
    3. Numbness and tingling in the extremities
    4. Frequent urination during the night
    5. Unexplained chronic fatigue
    6. Cold hands/feet even in warm weather
    7. Bloating feeling most of the time
    8. Difficulty remembering or use of memory
    9. Sudden unexplained/unsolicited anger and advice
    10. Constipation on a regular basis
    11. Difficulty in even making simple decisions
    12. Tremors or shakes of head, hands or feet, etc.
    13. Twitching of face and other muscles
    14. Experience frequent leg cramps
    15. Constant or frequent ringing or noise in the ears
    16. Get out of breath easily
    17. Frequent or recurring heartburn
    18. Excessive itching
    19. Unexplained rashes, skin irritation
    20. Constant/frequent metallic taste in the mouth
    21. Jumpy, jittery, nervous
    22. Constant death wish or suicidal intent
    23. Frequent insomnia
    24. Unexplained chest pains
    25. Constant or frequent pain in the joints
    26. Tachycardia
    27. Unexplained fluid retention
    28. Burning sensation on the tongue
    29. Get headaches just after eating.
    30. Frequent diarrhoea



    Most health conscious people will be detoxifying on a regular basis – part of this programme will also include a heavy metal detox too. It is best to use a gentle heavy metal detox such as HMD™ (Heavy Metal Detox) which is a natural dietary supplement that is available without prescription and can be taken by all age groups without side effects.

    HMD™ has been scientifically tested with 350 people in a double blind, placebo controlled trial and has been shown to be effective at removing many different kinds of heavy metals without side-effects. It will also not remove the essential or good minerals from the body, as many other pharmaceutical chelators tend to do.

    It is also affordable – the daily dose would cost you less than the price of an average chocolate bar and cheaper than a cup of coffee. It can also be taken by all the family, including children for eliminating heavy metals, or simply as a preventative measure as you would take your daily multivitamin and antioxidant.

    Best effects will be obtained if you take it for 3-6 months. Many children are using it for autism and learning difficulties which the Centre for Disease Control in the US say that heavy metals are responsible for over 20% of learning difficulties in children. As one mother puts it:

    • “Alex is doing beautifully on the HMD™. I have been able to raise the dose. His speech is more frequent and clearer. His teacher reports “great” days at school. He is pretty regular and seems to actually be stimulated to move his bowels after his daily dose of HMD™ most times. There are other changes such as: singing with me, just knowing the words all of a sudden to songs, understanding us better, hearing better, etc.”

    Other testimonials from using HMD™ include:

    • “Your work is brilliant and put my mind at ease about most of what is on the market that I’ve been thinking about trying next. I know I haven’t been wrong to take my son off all the other products we tried at the first sign of autoimmune response. The other products were not “whole” and were very, very hard on him”.
    • “A nurse practitioner in private practice and very experienced with detox has reported that the HMD™ is very gentle. She usually gets terrible cracks in her tongue when she detoxes and does not have any with the HMD™. Our Doctor of Oriental Medicine has seen urine tests from one family who trialed zeolite, NDF, and HMD™. The NDF and HMD™ pulled three times the heavy metals than zeolite, and the HMD™ was much more tolerable and gentle than the NDF. Clay baths and a form of metabolic NAET were used to support the chelators in all instances, a crucial step for detoxing children with autism as their excretion power is much diminished by the time they get help”.
    • “Oh, the gains are wonderful for us as a family on this HMD™! We are having to change how we act with Alex, he is so much more into us now and wants to do so much more with us. We were used to just ignoring him when we did certain things because he was just not as plugged in to the family routines”.
    • “We are having great results without detox stimming, etc., on HMD™. It’s very cheap, gentle, and effective. I will be posting our son’s hair/urine/fecal tests and mercury is showing on urine/fecal for the first time in four years. We are only about 1/4 through the first $59 bottle. Also we are all of a sudden seeing URANIUM big time in my son’s fecal test! My network of doctors/parents/etc. is also seeing a sudden rise in uranium in testing. I think you know what that means for us all ….”


    I am certain that you are more aware of the dangers of heavy metals now. These insidious, nasty metals are everywhere and we must get them out of our systems before they do damage. It is almost certain that everyone, even young babies have heavy metals in their body, so the best thing to do is take a natural heavy metal chelator that eliminates toxic metals from the body. This can be taken preventatively by all the family on a daily basis, much like you take a multivitamin or antioxidant.

    HMD™ is one of the only scientifically researched natural chelators that can protect you from heavy metals, without side effects – it is safe for all age groups. So why not add this wonderful natural chelator to your daily intake of nutritional supplements and see the difference in energy, gut function, anti-aging, clearer mind, better memory and I.Q., less irritable, less skin problems and a whole lot more health benefits.

    Also see the following benefits as heavy metals are gradually reduced in your body:

    ELIMINATE unexplained irritability

    ELIMINATE constant or very frequent periods of depression

    ELIMINATE numbness and tingling in the extremities

    ELIMINATE frequent urination during the night

    ELIMINATE unexplained chronic fatigue

    ELIMINATE cold hands/feet even in warm weather

    ELIMINATE bloating feeling most of the time

    ELIMINATE difficulty remembering or memory problems

    ELIMINATE sudden unexplained/unsolicited anger and advice

    ELIMINATE constipation

    ELIMINATE difficulties in even making simple decisions

    ELIMINATE  tremors or shakes of head, hands or feet, etc.

    ELIMINATE  twitching of face and other muscles

    ELIMINATE  frequent leg cramps

    ELIMINATE  constant or frequent ringing or noise in the ears

    ELIMINATE  getting out of breath easily

    ELIMINATE frequent or recurring heartburn

    ELIMINATE excessive itching

    ELIMINATE unexplained rashes, skin irritation

    ELIMINATE constant/frequent metallic taste in the mouth

    ELIMINATE being jumpy, jittery, nervous

    ELIMINATE constant death wish or suicidal intent

    ELIMINATE frequent insomnia

    ELIMINATE unexplained chest pains

    ELIMINATE constant or frequent pain in the joints

    ELIMINATE tachycardia

    ELIMINATE unexplained fluid retention

    ELIMINATE burning sensation on the tongue

    ELIMINATE Getting headaches just after eating.

    ELIMINATE frequent diarrhoea

    This data was taken from the Toxic Element research Foundation, Colorado Springs, Colorado. The database was composed of 1,320 patients who had completed the most current questionnaire format used by the Huggins Diagnostic Center for patients that were seeking treatment for heavy metal toxicity
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  • Poisoning our Children

    The World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) biomonitoring survey in 2003 demonstrated that irrespective of where we live or what we do, we are all contaminated with a cocktail of toxic man-made chemicals. Some of these chemicals can adversely affect the brain and the peripheral nervous system. The most well-known are the ubiquitous pollutants, now banned, such as PCBs and DDT. Unfortunately, the chemical industry does not seem to have learned its lesson: there are many other man-made chemicals still being produced and used today in everyday products in the home and workplace.

    A report from the World Health Organization concludes:

    “Exposure (particularly prenatal exposure) to certain endocrine disrupting chemicals (e.g. PCBs) can have adverse effects on neurological development… and behaviour – delays in.cognitive development have been found to be associated with neonatal PCB exposure..”

    Data suggests that these may cause learning and behavioural difficulties. In humans, the brain and nervous system are very vulnerable because development takes place over a long period. It begins early in the womb and continues through puberty. The developing brain is uniquely sensitive, and effects on brain function and coordination can occur in children at levels that would not cause permanent effects in an adult.

    Unless we take action now, it may be that our children won’t be as intelligent as they might be because of man-made chemicals. Worse still, they may develop behavioural problems. Our children are our future and our future is under threat.

    Sources of toxins

    Most of these toxins that can affect the intelligence and behaviour of our children occur in many, sometimes surprisingly familiar places:

    • INCINERATORS, POWER STATIONS AND FACTORIES – all sources of dioxins and furans.
    • OLD TRANSFORMERS, PAINTS AND FRIDGES – until the 1970s, a lot of electrical components that we had in our houses contained chemicals called

    polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).  These PCB’s have been found in fish and fish oils, meat and animal fats, and milk and dairy produce.

    • COMPUTERS, TVs, FURNITURE, CARS AND VIDEOS – can all contain brominated flame retardant chemicals used to prevent fire starting or rapidly spreading.
    • BOTTLES, CAN LININGS AND FILLINGS – many tin can linings, clear plastic re-usable water containers, baby feeding bottles and white dental fillings contain another hazardous chemical called bisphenol A (BPA). Of particular concern is the leaching from baby feeding bottles that can lead to direct exposure of very young infants. BPA also leaches into food contained in tins lined with an epoxy-resin coating.


    Serious Impact on Our Children

    Man-made chemicals are affecting our children’s intelligence and behaviour, compromising their ability to make sense of the world and affecting their movement skills. What are some of these specific mental health effects on our children?



    Effects on brain development associated with PCBs first came to light about 20 years ago when scientists began to see impacts on children born near Lake Michigan in North America. These children had been affected not by anything they had done, but by what their mothers had done. Their mothers had eaten fish contaminated by PCBs and this had affected the brain development of their children.

    Visual Recognition and PCBs

    Effects on visual recognition were seen in babies exposed to higher levels of PCBs in the womb and later tests showed that at four years of age these children did less well in short-term verbal memory tests predictive of learning ability. Studies elsewhere in the Great Lakes region backed up this data and found that PCBs were affecting children’s mental development and intelligence. When the children from around Lake Michigan were re-examined at age 11, those with higher exposure to PCBs were three times as likely to have low average IQ scores and twice as likely to be at least two years behind in reading comprehension.

    Thyroid Disruption and PBDE’s

    The increasing levels of these chemicals found in humans and wildlife underline the concerns regarding the reported effects on brain function and thyroid hormone action. Studies in Sweden showed that the sum of PBDE concentrations in breast milk increased 57-fold between 1972 and 1997 from 0.07 ng/g to 4.0 ng/g lipid, such that every five years the levels doubled. Levels have since declined in Sweden, but reports of work carried out at Lancaster University in the UK suggest much higher levels may be found in UK breast milk, with levels ranging from less than 1 ng/g to 69 ng/g lipid, with more than half the women having levels of 6ng/g or more.

    Many pesticides have also been associated with effects on brain function and with thyroid disruption. The pesticides which are particularly under the spotlight with regard to neurotoxic effects include the organophosphates, DDT, pyrethroids and paraquat. A study in Mexico has shown startling effects in children believed to be exposed to high levels of pesticides in an area with intensive agriculture. A range of symptoms was seen, including poor hand and eye coordination, diminished memory, decreased physical stamina and decreased ability to draw a person, which is used as non-verbal measure of cognitive ability.


    I was recently interviewed by a journalist here in Cyprus and towards the end of the interview she casually commented that there was a shortage of “real men” as they all seem to be feminized! It’s interesting that I have heard this comment on a number of occasions, but also for the shortage of femininity in women.

    In addition to compromising children’s ability to process information, chemicals may be affecting the developing nervous system in other ways. As well as affecting intelligence, it seems that dioxins and PCBs are also tampering with the male and female behaviour patterns of children. Such effects might be due to the ability of PCBs and dioxins to disrupt the sex hormones, as both these chemicals are known to have sex hormone-disrupting properties.


    Masculine and Feminine Play

    The sex hormones not only influence reproduction, but also non-reproductive behaviour that shows sex differences. In Europe, researchers studying Dutch children exposed to background levels of pollution found that the effects of prenatal exposure to PCBs were different for boys and girls. In boys, higher prenatal PCB levels were related to less masculinized play, whereas in girls, higher exposure was linked with more masculinized play. On the other hand, higher prenatal dioxin exposure was associated with more feminized play in boys as well as girls. While this work is controversial, these effects are alarming and warrant more research to verify and understand the full implications.

    BPA is also known to have oestrogen (female sex hormone) mimicking properties, and as such is a hormone-disrupting chemical. In addition to effects on the uterus in animals, it is reported to cause reduced nursing behaviour, more masculinized play behaviour in females and increased aggression in males, and to abolish the sex differences in open-field behaviour.


    Scientists now suspect that man-made chemicals may be contributing to a range of learning disabilities, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD manifests itself as several symptoms including problems with paying attention and difficulty in controlling impulsive behaviour. It has been suggested that although many factors are liable to be implicated in causing ADHD, neurotoxic chemicals may also contribute to its incidence.

    This is particularly worrying because the disorder known as ADHD is estimated to affect around one in 20 children in the US, and in a significant number of individuals, some symptoms may persist into adolescence and adulthood. In Britain, prescriptions of the drug Ritalin, used to treat ADHD, increased markedly during the latter part of the 1990s.

    3d text ADHD disorder

    The European Commission has registered its concern, and has warned that:

    “the occurrence of developmental disabilities, such as learning disabilities, intellectual retardation and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is certainly large enough to constitute a significant public health problem.”


    Some studies suggest the involvement of chemicals. For example, response inhibition is frequently impaired in children with ADHD, and studies have shown a dose-dependent

    association between PCB levels in children and an inability to prevent inappropriate behavioural responses which might be a predictor for ADHD. Brain (MRI) scans showed that children with sup-optimal development of certain areas of the brain seemed more vulnerable to the effects of PCBs. The smaller the splenium, (the back part of the bundle of fibres joining the two brain hemispheres) the larger the association between PCBs and response inhibition.

    Indeed, measurable effects on the brain seem to occur with ADHD and patients with ADHD have been found to have smaller brain volumes than normal children. This gives weight to the suggestion that ADHD is a real, biologically-based phenomenon, and not just a disorder conjured up by .neurotic parents.


    There is a concern that autism may be partly linked to chemical exposures, and that this developmental disorder has increased in recent years. Autism, a brain condition that is evident prior to three years of age, affects a person’s ability to form relationships and to behave normally in everyday life. There are no medical tests to determine whether a person has autism and diagnoses are based on observed behaviour. Autism is the term often used for the more severe cases, whereas the term autism spectrum disorders (ASD) includes milder forms of autism such as Asperger’s.

    Studies of identical twins confirm a genetic component, and there is certainly a predisposition to autism condition in some families. Recent findings point to the possibility that the disorder spectrum is caused by a gene-environment interaction. Thus, it may be that to produce autism, it is necessary to have both susceptible genes, as well as some environmental (e.g. chemical) assault on these genes. Many chemicals have been mentioned as possibly playing a role. These include metals, some organochlorine and organobromine compounds, and some pharmaceuticals.

    One suggestion is that chemicals might cause damage around the time of neural tube closure in the womb, perhaps by disrupting retinoids. Other researchers consider that differences in metabolism may be important. Mercury has been the focus of much concern, both with regard to infant exposure, due to its use as a preservative in vaccinations, and with regard to exposure in the womb, largely due to mothers eating fish contaminated with mercury, and particularly because it seems that mercury levels in the umbilical cord of newborns are higher than in their mother’s blood.

    The increase in the frequency of the disorder certainly supports the suggestion of an environmental component. It seems that genetics loads the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger. Many studies have suggested that rates have risen over the years, although some reviewers caution that increased recognition of the disorder, coupled with other factors, may account for some of the increase. Nevertheless, it does appear that autism spectrum disorders are more prevalent than previously thought, and may be found in around six children per 1,000 or one in 166 children. The National Autistic Society suggests it may be nearer one in 110 children and points out that two thirds of teachers surveyed in England and Wales felt there were now more children with autism spectrum disorders than just five years ago. Translated nationally, around half a million people may suffer from autism spectrum disorders. The rates of autism itself are lower and estimated to be 16.8 per 10,000, or one in 600 children.


    The accumulating research over the past decade or so is clearly showing that hazardous industrial chemicals dramatically affect our quality of life. We really should be fighting for our children’s rights were we can buy them toys, food and water that are safe and harmless.

    In the past, many persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals, such as DDT and PCBs, have been banned too late to prevent damage. Now there is an ever more urgent need for action.

    Many more persistent and bioaccumulative chemicals, which take a very long time to break down in the environment and build up in living things, are in use today. Such chemicals should be phased out, irrespective of their currently known toxicity, because it is almost impossible to predict and test for the long-term effects of low-level exposures that may take years to appear in humans and other long-lived animals. If we get it wrong, it is our children who will pay the price.

    The EU is negotiating new chemical legislation to regulate industrial chemicals. This is a once in a generation opportunity to create a safer future for our children and wildlife. The World Wildlife Fund is calling for the legislation to:

    • phase out chemicals that are persistent and bioaccumulative;
    • phase out endocrine-disrupting chemicals;
    • substitute these chemicals with safer alternatives and allow their continued use only where there is an overwhelming societal need, where no safer alternatives exist, and where measures to minimize exposure are put in place.

    While the legislatures are battling this out, there are also many things that we can do directly to protect our children. We can begin buying more certified organic food which is far less toxic than food that is sprayed or fed with chemicals. We can also stop buying foods loaded with chemicals, E-factors, preservatives and colourings.

    We can also help our children, and ourselves to eliminate these chemicals from our bodies. There are now natural chelators that have been tried and tested that can be used on a regular basis with no harmful effects – see


    Read More
  • Mercury – Multipotent cytotoxins

    Mercury is a multipotent cytotoxin that intervenes in the primary processes of the cell by bonding strongly with sulfhydryl and selenohydryl groups on albumen molecules in cell membranes, receptors and intracellular signal links, and by modifying the tertiary structure. The structure of albumen molecules is genetically determined, and this leaves ample scope for genetic polymorphism to manifest itself in varying sensitivity and types of reaction to mercury exposure. Mercury is toxic because it induces production of free oxygen radicals and modifies the redox potential of the cell.


    Toxicity caused by excessive mercury exposure is now becoming recognized as a widespread environmental problem and is continuing to attract a great deal of public attention. A National Academy of Sciences study published in July, 2001 estimates that up to 60, 000 children born in the USA each year may be affected by mercury toxicity, and in March of 2002 an environmental group had charged the FDA of failing to warn the public of the dangers of mercury contamination from eating tuna, which contain high levels of mercury.


    World Health Organization reports that the amount of mercury-absorbed daily by the average human body is 0.3 micrograms (mcg) from water and air, 2.61 mcg from fish, and 17 mcg from dental amalgams (silver fillings). Uptake of up to 100 µg daily has been observed in extreme cases. Research points out that mercury vapor is 80% absorbed into the blood, and that in animal studies, mercury vapor goes directly from the nose to the brain, following nasal nerve pathways. Amalgam fillings release mercury for as long as 70 years. Someone with 8 amalgams could release 120 mcg into the saliva per day.

    The maximum allowable by the EPA is less than 0.1 mcg per kilogram of body weight per day, to be absorbed into the human body.

    Elemental mercury is found in liquid form, which easily vaporizes at room temperature and is well absorbed through inhalation. Its lipid (fat)-soluble property allows for easy passage through the alveoli into the bloodstream and red blood cells. Once inhaled, elemental mercury is mostly converted to an inorganic divalent or mercuric form by catalase in the red blood cells. This inorganic form has similar properties to organic mercury. Small amounts of non-oxidized elemental mercury continue to persist and account for CNS toxicity. Elemental mercury, as a vapor, which escapes from fillings, penetrates the blood-brain-barrier and enters the CNS, where it’s ionized and trapped, attributing to its significant toxic effects. It is not well absorbed by the GI tract and, when ingested, is only mildly toxic. Inorganic mercury is highly toxic and corrosive and is the most destructive form, but its destruction is limited to where it’s located. It doesn’t have the ability to move through tissues like other forms. It gains access orally or dermally and is absorbed at a rate of 10% of that ingested. It has a nonuniform mode of distribution, secondary to poor fat solubility, and accumulates mostly in the kidney, causing renal damage.

    Although poor lipid solubility characteristics limit CNS penetration, slow elimination and chronic exposure allow for significant CNS accumulation of mercuric ions and subsequent toxicity. Chronic dermal exposure to inorganic mercury also may lead to toxicity. Excretion of inorganic mercury, as with organic mercury, is mostly through feces. Renal excretion of mercury is considered insufficient and attributes to its chronic exposure and accumulation within the brain, causing CNS effects. Organic mercury can be found in 3 forms, aryl and short and long chain alkyl compounds. This is 100 times more toxic than the ionic or vapor forms. Bacteria in the mouth, stomach and intestines, or in the blood, through a process called methylation, converts mercury vapor and ionic mercury into deadly methylmercury.

    Organic mercurials are absorbed more completely from the GI tract than inorganic salts are; this is because of intrinsic properties, such as lipid solubility and mild corrosiveness (although much less corrosive than inorganic mercury). Once absorbed, the aryl and long chain alkyl compounds are converted to their inorganic forms and possess similar toxic properties to inorganic mercury. The short chain alkyl mercurials are readily absorbed in the GI tract (90-95%) and remain stable in their initial forms. Alkyl organic mercury has high lipid solubility and is distributed uniformly through the body, accumulating in the brain, kidney, liver, hair, and skin. Organic mercurials also cross the blood brain barrier and placenta and penetrate red blood cells, attributing to neurological symptoms, teratogenic effects, and high blood-to-plasma ratios.

    Confirmation of the escape of mercury vapor and ions from amalgam dental fillings is provided by The World Health Organization (WHO) Environmental Health Criteria 118 document (EHC 118) on inorganic mercury. It clearly states that the largest estimated average daily intake and retention of mercury and mercury compounds in the general population, is from dental amalgams, not from food or air. Mercury vapor inhaled into the lungs is absorbed almost 100 percent and immediately passes into the bloodstream. It takes approximately four minutes before mercury is converted or oxidized into an ionic state from its elemental vapor state. While in its elemental form, mercury vapor is lipid (fat) soluble and readily passes through the blood-brain barrier or the placental membrane.

    It can also accumulate in other organs and tissues of the body. The estimated average daily intake of mercury from dental amalgams is 3.8 – 21 micrograms per day. Two-thirds of the body burden of mercury is derived from the mercury vapor released from amalgams. The static, unstimulated release of mercury vapor from amalgam fillings, which goes on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, is a major contributor to total mercury body burden. Large amounts of mercury vapor are released during chewing. After only ten minutes of gum chewing, there is an average increase in mercury release of 15.6 times more than during the resting state in test subjects. That converts to a 1,560% increase in mercury release.

    “The World Health Organization has calculated that the average human daily dose of mercury from various sources are: Dental amalgam = 3.0-17.0 mg/day (Hg vapor) Fish and Seafood = 2.3 mg/day (methylmercury) Other food = 0.3 mg/day(inorganic Hg) Air & Water = Negligible traces (NOTE mg = Micrograms)” (World Health Organization Figures, from Environmental Health Criteria 118: Inorganic Mercury, Geneva, 1991. These figures confirm Amalgam as #1 average source for Environmental Mercury exposure.)

    “You wouldn’t take a leaky thermometer, put it in your mouth, and leave it there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Yet that’s exactly what happens when an amalgam filling is installed in your mouth.”–Dr Michael Ziff.

    Mercury readily mixes with food and is swallowed with it. The body uptake from inorganic mercury, swallowed with saliva, can be as much as hundreds of micrograms per day for individuals with a large number of amalgam fillings. Urinary excretion is a common indicator of mercury toxicity, even though fecal excretion of mercury is twenty times greater than the corresponding urinary excretion. There is a statistical correlation between the mercury concentration in saliva and the number of amalgam fillings. The United States government has determined and ruled that the continual exposure to mercury from amalgam fillings is not without risk to patients. We are concerned over picograms and micrograms of mercury in apples and are looking the other way when milligrams, one million times more, are being implanted directly into a child’s mouth. There is a phenomenon that occurs in the mouth that can contribute to the release of mercury, and is called corrosion. Corrosion is similar to “rust” and means that surface particles of the filling material are being chemically broken down and released into the oral cavity.

    Mercury toxicity

    Mercury vapor is released when you chew or grind. Additionally, minute rusted particles of the amalgam are being abraded and taken up by your food or saliva and swallowed. Intestinal enzymes and bacteria both produce methylmercury, an even more toxic form than elemental mercury, may act upon these minute particles of mercury filling. Although several sources contributing to the domestic mercury concentrations have been identified, human wastes (feces and urine) from individuals with dental amalgam fillings are believed to be the most significant source–greater than 80 percent. Conventional amalgam was routinely placed until 1976, when the new state-of-the-art amalgams (50% mercury and 30% copper) were introduced. They emit up to 50 times more mercury than the earlier, conventional amalgam fillings. That means that every new high-copper amalgam filling placed today has the effective toxic equivalent of fifty of the older amalgam fillings. If other fillings are in the mouth, such as gold crowns, nickel crowns, and removable bridges or braces, the mercury emission further increases from the amalgam. This is due to the electrical current generated by the presence of dissimilar metals in an electrolyte such as saliva. Heat will reliably increase the rate of escape of mercury vapor from amalgam fillings. Vapor detectors, held above amalgams, revealed an increase from 3 micrograms to over 500 micrograms ten seconds after a hot drink was swallowed.

    “Worldwide there are over 4000 research papers indicating mercury is a highly toxic substance. How can dentists be so thoughtless as to place one of the deadliest toxins in existence *two* inches from our brain?”–Tom Warren

    “The mercury uptake from amalgam is the dominating source for inorganic mercury in the central nervous system and is the major source of total mercury uptake in the population.”–Maths Berlin, a leading Swedish toxicologist

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  • Mercury: The Global Disaster

    Scientists around the world have shown how low levels of mercury toxicity is directly related to illnesses like cancer, heart disease and a host of neurological problems like Alzheimer’s, MS, ALS, autism spectrum disorders. It could also be playing an important role in the rapid increases we are seeing in diabetes – mercury attacks sulphur bonds in both insulin and insulin receptor sites.

    One only has to do a preliminary search of the literature and find 358 papers exemplifying the relationship between cardiovascular disease and mercury with a further 643 showing the correlation between cancer and mercury. However, degenerative neurological diseases top the list with over 1,445 publications demonstrating a relationship with mercury.

    The Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the CDC, and a long string of other medical organizations are certifying mercury as safe for use in vaccinations when there is a plethora of research to suggest the opposite. This safety of mercury is being proposed on the one hand, while on the other the dangerous pandemic of one child in 166 being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and as many as one in six children diagnosed with a developmental disorder are blasted across the media.


    These figures convert to about 24,000 children born each year in the U.S. alone will be afflicted with autism related to mercury, while perhaps over 600,000 children will suffer from mild to severe learning disorders due to neurological damage of delicate brain cells.

    There are many other damaging effects of mercury – here is a list that is backed by scientific research and well referenced:


    • Dental Amalgam contains about 50% Mercury
    • Mercury has been scientifically demonstrated to be more toxic than Lead, Cadmium, or even Arsenic
    • Mercury leaves dental amalgam continuously throughout the lifetime of the filing
    • Mercury vapour is the main way that mercury comes out of amalgam
    • Mercury vapour is absorbed at a rate of 80% through the lungs into the arterial blood
    • Mercury is cytotoxic. Ie. It kills cells
    • There is NO harmless level of Mercury Vapour Exposure
    • Mercury from amalgam binds to -SH (sulphydryl) groups. These exist in almost every enzymatic process in the body. Mercury from amalgam will thus have the potential of disturbing all metabolic processes
    • Mercury from amalgam is transported freely via the blood
    • Mercury vapour is absorbed directly into the brain
    • Mercury from amalgam will result in a slow build up of mercury in body tissues
    • Mercury crosses the blood brain barrier
    • Mercury is implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s Disease
    • Mercury from amalgam is stored in the foetus and infant before the mother
    • Mercury from amalgam is stored in the breast milk and the foetus up to 8 times more than the mother’s tissues
    • Mercury (Mercury Vapour / Methylmercury) crosses the placenta
    • Mercury Crosses into breast milk
    • Mercury will severely reduce reproductive function
    • Mercury rapidly depletes the immune system
    • Mercury will induce a number of Auto Immune Diseases
    • Mercury will cause an increase in number and severity of allergies
    • Mercury from amalgam is stored principally in the kidneys, liver and brain
    • Mercury from amalgam (shown in animal experiments) causes kidney damage
    • Mercury from will cause a 50% reduction in Kidney filtration as shown in a study of sheep after amalgam placement
    • Methyl Mercury is more toxic than elemental Mercury
    • Mercury from amalgam is methylated in the mouth
    • After chewing, Mercury Vapour levels will remain raised for at least another 90 minutes
    • Mercury from amalgam will migrate through the tooth
    • This rate of migration is increased if a gold crown is placed over a tooth filled with amalgam
    • Teeth are living tissue and are a part of our bodies
    • Teeth have a massive communication via blood, lymph and nerves with the rest of the body
    • Mercury from amalgam is absorbed into the body at a rate of 3 to 17 mcg / day
    • Mercury release is increased by; increases in temperature, friction & increase in electrical currents
    • Mercury from amalgam will enter the body as: Elemental Mercury, Inorganic Mercury, Vapour, charged Mercury ions
    • In the Brain, Mercury from amalgam is stored preferentially in the Pituitary Gland and Hypothalamus
    • Micro-Mercurialism is principally characterised by Neurological symptoms
    • Mercury is transported along the axons of nerve fibres
    • Mercury from amalgam may be stored in every other cell in the body. Each area affected will produce its own set of symptoms
    • Mercury binds to haemoglobin in the red blood cell thus reducing oxygen carrying capacity
    • Mercury damages blood vessel reducing blood supply to the tissues (micro-angiopathies)
    • Amalgam fillings produce electrical currents which might be injurious to health. These currents are measurable in Micro Amps. The Central Nervous System (Brain) operates in the range of Nano-Amps this is One Thousand times less than a Micro Amp
    • Dissimilar metals in the mouth [eg Gold & Amalgam] will produce higher electrical currents
    • Mercury from amalgam (shown in animal experiments) will induce Antibiotic Resistance and Mercury resistance in bacteria in the mouth and Gastrointestinal tract
    • Brain levels of mercury are in a direct linear proportion to the number of Surfaces of amalgam fillings in the mouth
    • The level of Mercury, in brain tissue of foetus’s, new born, and young children, is proportional to the number of amalgams in the mother’s mouth
    • Mercury will cause single strand breaks in DNA
    • Mercury levels in the body can not be assessed by either blood or urine levels
    • Mercury from amalgam fillings is the single
      greatest source of dietary mercury for the general population
    • Dental personnel are severely effected by exposure to mercury

    The Solution
    As you are all probably aware, there are a number of synthetic and natural products that can chelate mercury. Most of the natural products have not been tested in double-blind, placebo controlled trials except for HMD™ which has been shown to eliminate 448% more mercury in the post-urine sample compared to baseline in 56 people.

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  • Killing Ourselves with Xenobiotics

    Toxic chemicals, otherwise known as “xenobiotics” (Gk: foreign to life) which are scattered all over our planet from the North Pole to the South Pole, are being constantly researched, and the conclusion is that they are extremely toxic to humans as well as wildlife. Even though some chemicals have been taken off the market, those that remain are even more noxious than the ones already banned. Bioaccumulation in soils, water supplies and the tissues of animals and humans is a real problem which results in these chemicals lingering for many, many years even after they have being banned. DDT, for example, has been banned for more than 25 years in the Western world, yet it is still being found in the tissues of wildlife in the arctic, as well as humans in many different countries.

    A recent study noted that only five organochlorine compounds and mercury were found in marine mammals in the 1960s. Today over 265 organic pollutants and 50 inorganic chemicals have been found in these species.1

    Recent research has focused on how chemicals affect the thyroid and pituitary systems. Some chemicals have been identified as endocrine disrupters because they can interfere with the body’s own hormones, which are secreted by the endocrine glands.

    It is also emerging that endocrine disrupters can have many physiological effects not directly associated with the primary system. For example, the thyroid system is well known to regulate metabolism, but it is also a crucial component in foetal brain development in mammals, and too much or too little thyroid hormone at crucial points can do permanent damage. The immune system is also vulnerable to hormone-mediated disruption. Chemicals can cause neurological problems, reproductive and developmental abnormalities, and cancers as well. And researchers are only just beginning to disentangle the questions about the effects of chronic low-level exposure (as opposed to brief high doses of chemicals), combinations of chemicals, and interactions between chemicals and other physiological and environmental factors.

    Let us take a brief look at some of the more common xenobiotics chemicals that that have detrimental effects on humans as well as wildlife.

    Perfluorochemicals (PFCs)

    These compounds are chains of fully fluorinated carbon atoms of varying lengths, yielding chemicals that are extremely resistant to heat, chemical stress, and that repel both water and oil. Because of these properties PFCs, or chemicals that degrade into PFCs, have been widely used since the 1950s by industry as surfactants and emulsifiers and in commercial products, including stain or water protectors for carpet, textiles, auto interiors, camping gear and leather; food packaging; folding cartons and other paper containers; floor polishes; photographic film; shampoos; dental cleaners; inert pesticide ingredients; and lubricants for bicycles, garden tools and zippers.

    Their persistence is extreme, particularly perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)  – there is no evidence that they ever fully degrade, and they have been found in animals, humans and ecosystems worldwide.

    The first public indication that PFOS and PFOA were problematic came on May 16, 2000 when 3M, the primary global manufacturer of many perfluoroalkanesulfonates and PFOA, announced plans to phase out by the end of 2001 the production of perfluorooctanyl chemistry that underpinned their extremely successful Scotchgard™ and Scotchban™ product lines.2

    A 2002 European study of PFCs has detected these compounds in bottlenose, common and striped dolphins, whales, bluefin tuna, swordfish and cormorants in the  Mediterranean, and in ringed and grey seals, sea eagles and Atlantic salmon in the Baltic.3

    Other research shows that this chemical is now contaminating many wildlife species around the world, including polar bears in the Arctic, seals in Antarctica, dolphins in the river Ganges in India, albatrosses from Midway Atoll in the Pacific, turtles in the United States, gulls in Korea, cormorants in Canada,4 and fish in Japan.5

    Fluorinated telomers are used to keep grease from soaking through fast food containers such as pizza boxes, French fry holders, and food wrapping paper. The digestive system can break telomers down into PFOA and related chemicals. Newly revealed tests conducted by 3M showed that a metabolite specific to the telomers was found in 85 per cent of the children tested.6

    Red Cross blood banks, conducted by a team including scientists from the 3M Company, estimated the average concentrations in humans to be 30-40 parts per billion (ppb), with males having higher levels.7 By comparison, levels in wildlife have been measured at 940 ppb in common dolphin liver; 1100 ppb in ringed seals from the Bay of Bothnia; and 270 ppb in long-finned pilot whale liver from the North Thyrrenian Sea.8

    Health Effects of Perfluorochemicals (PFCs)

    In 1979, 3M administered four doses of PFOS to monkeys and all the monkeys in all treatment groups died within weeks. Typically, when a study like this is conducted, the researchers predict that the lowest dose will not cause any harmful health effects.9

    In 1981 both DuPont and 3M reassigned women of childbearing age working in their production plants after they learned that PFOA caused developmental abnormalities in laboratory animals. Within weeks of this discovery, DuPont found PFOA in the women’s blood.

    It was known as early as 1975 that fumes from hot pans coated with polytetrafluoroethylene can kill pet birds,10 and broiler chicks have died after exposure to polytetrafluoroethylene-coated light bulbs.11 Laboratory experiments reported in 2003 showed that in rats, PFOS exposure can lead to loss of appetite, interrupted oestrus cycles, and elevated stress hormone levels. PFOS was found to accumulate in brain tissue, particularly the hypothalamus, suggesting that PFOS crosses the blood-brain barrier and may interfere with reproductive hormones through the pituitary-hypothalamus process that stimulates their production.12

    Recent laboratory studies with PFOA involving rats show low birth weight, small pituitary gland, altered maternal care behaviour, high pup mortality, and significant changes in the brain, liver, spleen, thymus, adrenal gland, kidney, prostate, testes and epididymides.13

    Several studies indicate PFOA increases estrogens and leads to testosterone dysfunction in males. There is even more evidence that PFOA as well as chemicals that metabolize to PFOs and PFOA lead to underactive thyroid; thyroid dysfunction during pregnancy can lead to many developmental problems, including faulty brain development and neurological and behavioural problems that affect not only infants and young animals (or humans) but continue into adulthood. The EPA considers both PFOS and PFOA to be a carcinogen in animals, with testicular, pancreatic, mammary, thyroid and liver tumours most frequent in exposed rats.

    All studies to date indicate perfluorinated compounds damage the immune system. In one experiment, a chemical very similar to PFOA called PFDA resulted in such atrophy of the thymus gland, (the source of T cells that attack bacteria, viruses and cancer cells) that the gland was undetectable upon clinical examination.


    Phthalates are a group of chemicals used as softeners in a variety of plastic products, including the ubiquitous polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Products containing phthalates include medical devices (intravenous tubing, blood bags, masks for sleep apnea devices), building products (insulation of cables and wires, tubes and profiles, flooring, wallpapers, outdoor wall and roof covering, sealants), car products (car under-coating, car seats etc.) and children’s products (teething rings, squeeze toys, clothing and rainwear). They are also used in some lacquers, paints, adhesives, fillers, inks and cosmetics.

    The most common phthalate in the environment is di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), which comprises half of all phthalates produced in Western Europe, with 450,000 tonnes used per year. Concern about children’s exposure to phthalates prompted the EU to ban six types of phthalate softeners in PVC toys designed to be mouthed by children under three years of age.

    Both humans and wildlife may be exposed to various phthalates. For example, a 2003 study of two groups of pregnant women, one in New York City and one in Krakow, Poland, compared the levels of four phthalates in the women’s personal ambient air and measured the levels of the metabolites of these phthalates in the urine of the New York women.14 All four phthalates were present in all the air samples, but air concentrations of DBP, di–isobutyl phthalate and DEHP were higher in Krakow than in New York. The study found that air was a significant source of exposure, that some women receive doses high enough to cause concern, and that there was a correlation between air and urine levels of some phthalates.

    Other studies in the EU have also raised concerns with regard to current exposure levels. A recent study in Germany, for example, has concluded that exposure to DEHP may be far higher than previously thought. It reported that in 12 per cent of the Germans studied, phthalate levels exceeded the tolerable daily intake (TDI) used by the EU Scientific Committee for Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment. Exposure to DBP and BBP was also ubiquitous.15

    Health Effects of Phthalates

    Some phthalates appear to exert endocrine disrupting effects, and can act against the male hormone, androgen, through pathways other than binding to androgen or estrogen receptors. While there is little research on the effects of phthalates on wildlife per se, some studies suggest that there may be serious consequences for both wildlife and humans. Of particular concern is phthalate exposure in pregnant females: some researchers have proposed that the antiandrogenic properties of phthalates might be linked to testicular dysgenesis syndrome, the manifestations of which range from birth defects in males, including undescended testes, to low sperm counts and testicular cancer.16

    Numerous Laboratory studies underpin the concern. For example, a study has shown that DEHP, BBP, and DINP administered to pregnant rats induced feminized breasts in the male offspring, as well as other reproductive malformations, including small testes in the case of the DEHP and BBP.17

    There are also worries that exposure to manmade chemicals with hormone disrupting properties may be affecting the age of puberty. A study of Puerto Rican girls with premature breast development suggested a possible association with exposure to certain phthalates.18 U.S. researchers recently reported the effects of DEHP on Leydig cells (testosterone-producing cells in the testes) in rats.19 They found that prolonged exposure to DEHP caused the number of Leydig cells to increase by 40 per cent-60 per cent while simultaneously reducing testosterone production. At the same time, blood levels of both testosterone and estrogens increased by 50 per cent. It is known that males with high levels of serum testosterone and luteinizing hormone (a hormone that triggers testosterone production) are at higher risk of early puberty and testicular tumours.

    With regard to cancer, a recent study supported other research associating DEHP with liver cancer in rodents.20 A 2003 Harvard study suggested another mechanism for carcinogenic effect of phthalates. The researchers measured levels of eight phthalates in subjects and found an association between monoethyl phthalate (MEP) and increased damage to the DNA in the subjects’ sperm.21 This is the first study showing that phthalates can induce such damage at levels presently found in the environment.

    Other studies with phthalates show that additive effects can occur when there is exposure to more than one phthalate.22 This underlines the growing concern with real life exposures to multiple pollutants, and the increasing realisation that current regulatory practices, based on testing chemicals in isolation, may not be protective.

    Phenols, Bisphenyl A and Nonylphenol

    Evidence for endocrine disruption by the widely used phenol compounds bisphenol A (BPA) and nonylphenol is mounting. BPA is mostly used to make polycarbonate plastic, which has a diverse range of application in making bottles, computer and electronics shells, CDs, crash helmets, and many other consumer products.

    Certain compounds that can leach BPA are also used in the plastic linings of food cans and in dental fillings, through which people can ingest small quantities. In December 2003, concerned about BPA in the plastic linings of food cans, the EU reduced the amount of BPA migration permitted by 80 percent to 0.6 milligrams per kilogram of food.23 However, BPA remains widely distributed in consumer products.

    Nonylphenolic compounds have been used in degreasing solutions, and in leather and textile processing, as well as in de-icing fluid, paints, plastics, and pesticides. The EU has imposed restrictions on the marketing and use of nonylphenol and nonylphenol ethoxylates to a certain extent in cleaning products, textile and leather processing, agricultural teat dips, metal working, pulp and paper, cosmetics including shampoos, and personal care products except spermicides.24

    Health Effects of Phenols

    Fish have been shown to be susceptible to the endocrine disrupting effects of both nonylphenol25 and BPA.26 Exposure to either of these chemicals can cause male fish to make vitellogenin (an estrogen-regulated protein produced by female egg-laying vertebrates and not normally produced by males or juveniles), and can also affect the formation of sperm. Before improved regulation, male fish in the river Aire in England were found to be feminised downstream of a wastewater treatment plant discharge containing alkylphenol ethoxylates from the textile industry. Many male fish were found with egg producing cells in their testes, and reduced testis growth rate and size.27,28

    Aquatic invertebrates seem particularly sensitive to these chemicals. For example, nonylphenol affects the freshwater algae, Scenedesmus subspicatus at levels of 3.3 micrograms per litre.29 Molluscs in particular have shown effects at very low dose levels. For example, in the mollusc Potamopyrgus antipodarum, BPA and octylphenol, as well as a mixture of these and other chemicals in treated sewage effluent, stimulated egg and embryo production at low doses and inhibited such production at high doses.30

    This work supported a 2000 study by some of the same researchers showing that extremely low levels of BPA and octylphenol triggered malformed genitals of female ramshorn (freshwater) snail, Marisa cornuarietis, and the (saltwater) dogwhelk Nucella lapillus.31 In some of the freshwater snails, the excessive growth of the female glands and the egg masses ruptured the egg tube, and the snails died. This syndrome was referred to as superfeminisation. A number of other adverse changes were observed in both species. Another important finding was that in the freshwater snails, the medium doses of octylphenol produced more changes than either the highest or lowest doses.

    Other researchers have shown that a single 48-hour exposure to 1 microgram per litre of nonylphenol, comparable to environmental levels, altered the sex ratio of oysters, reduced the survival of offspring, and caused some oysters to become hermaphroditic.32

    A 2001 study exposing barnacles to concentrations of nonylphenol similar to those in the environment (0.01-10 micrograms per litre) disrupted the timing of larval development.33 In addition to fish, other vertebrates also show effects when exposed to BPA. For example, in 2003, researchers reported that BPA at environmentally comparable doses resulted in sex reversals and altered gonadal structures in the broad-snouted caiman, an alligator relative native to mid-latitude South America.34 In another study, the offspring of pregnant mice exposed to BPA showed changes in ovarian and mammary gland tissues and disrupted fertility cycles as adults.35 BPA was reported for the first time in 2001 to induce reproductive malformations in birds – specifically, in female quail embryos and male chicken embryos. The female embryos’ oviducts developed abnormally, and the males’ testes were feminized.36

    The exact mechanism by which BPA and nonylphenol exert their effects is not clear, but a recent in vitro study demonstrated a molecular mechanism by which BPA and nonylphenol interfere with both the activation and function of cellular androgen receptors.37 In a 2002 study, nonylphenol tested on barnacle larvae induced DNA damage, possibly including mutations, and the authors speculate that this effect may be a mechanism by which higher level reproductive abnormalities are caused.38

    Despite evidence from these and other studies, the low dose effects of BPA are still in dispute. Regulators in the EU have been reluctant to act, and further studies have been demanded.

    Polybrominated Flame Retardants

    Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in furniture, building material, and clothing have become a serious concern, as their levels are showing sharp increases in living organisms. The first BFRs were taken off the market in the early 1970s after a spill led to poisonings of livestock and farm families in Michigan.39 Three BFRs now dominate the market: TBBPA, the most widely used, primarily in printed circuit boards and in some plastics; HBCD, and the deca-BDEs. The other commercial PBDEs (octa-BDE and penta-BDE) have been banned in the EU as of August 2004,40 and the state of California has taken similar action. However, because of their alarming spread and rate of accumulation in humans and animals, Europe’s ban does not provide complete reassurance, particularly regarding the penta-BDE form used as a flame retardant in polyurethane foam elsewhere in the world.

    Researchers recently reported levels of PBDEs in U.S. breast milk.41 Forty-seven Texas women had an average level of 73.9 ng/g lipid; such levels are sharply higher than those found in European studies. There are serious concerns about the transfer of BFRs to nursing infants, and some scientists are worried that BFRs might affect foetal development, including disruption of the thyroid system’s role in foetal brain development.42 In 2003 a WWFUK biomonitoring program found deca-BDE in the blood of seven per cent of those tested.43

    New research from Sweden has found high levels of several brominated flame retardants in the eggs of peregrine falcons from 1987-1999. The eggs of falcons living in the wild had significantly higher concentrations of the essentially unregulated deca-BDE than eggs of captive falcons. The fact that deca-BDE was found in eggs demonstrates that the chemical can cross cell membranes, contrary to what scientists had previously thought. The peregrine study represents the first time that the deca formulation has been found in wildlife.44

    In 2002, one research team predicted that within 10 to 15 years, concentrations of BFRs in Great Lakes herring gull may be higher than those of PCBs.45 BFRs have also been found in sperm whales,46 ringed seals from the Canadian Arctic,47 mussels and several kinds of fish in Norwegian waters, and harbour seals in San Francisco Bay,48 among other wildlife. Essentially, BFRs are being found wherever we look.

    Health Effects of BFRs

    Laboratory studies show that certain BFRs are highly toxic to aquatic animals (crustaceans),49 and suggest effects on pubertal development, thyroid and liver in rats, as well as developmental neurotoxicity in mice.50 A recent paper reported behavioural effects in mice pups at a relatively low dose.51 In 1999 Swedish researchers reported that PBDEs and HBCD may have health effects similar to those of DDT and PCBs because of their ability to induce genetic recombination.52

    While there are no published epidemiological studies on effects of BFRs on humans, the possible thyroid effects, based on tissue culture and animal studies, are a red flag. As with other chemicals, anything that affects foetal development merits particular study because of the profound, long-term, and often irreversible influence that early exposures have on the entire life of an organism.

    What Can We Do To Protect Ourselves?

    The answer to this question is two-fold; first we can push for legislation to ban a lot of these harmful chemicals that have been researched and are known to be detrimental to animals and humans. Second, we need to be able to detoxify our bodies in order to eliminate many of these chemicals. Given that we are exposed to these literally daily, this process must be an ongoing one. It is not safe to use chemical chelators on an ongoing basis, but natural ones can be used instead, much like a supplement on a daily basis. HMD™ can be used safely over long periods of time with no side effects – it is presently being tested to see its efficacy in eliminating some of the xenobiotics mentioned in this article.


    1 O’Shea, T.J., Tanabe, S., Persistent ocean contaminants and marine mammals: a retrospective overview. In: O’Shea, T.J. et al. (Eds.), 1999. Proceedings of the Marine Mammal Commission Workshop Marine Mammals and Persistent Ocean Contaminants, pp 87-92. (cited in Tanabe, S. Contamination and toxic effects of persistent endocrine disrupters in marine mammals and birds. Mar Pollut Bull 2002;45:69-77.)

    2  3M. (2000) 3M phasing out some of its specialty materials, May 16, 2000 press release.

    3 Kannan, K., Corsolini, S., Falandysz, J., Oehme, G., Focardi, S., Giesy, J.P. Perfluorooctanesulfonate and related fluorinated hydrocarbons in marine mammals, fishes and birds from coasts of the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas. Environ Sci Technol 2002 Aug 1;36(15):3210-6.

    4 Geisy J.P. and Kannan K. Global Distribution of Perfluorooctane sulfonate in wildlife. Env Sci Technol 2001, 35:1339-42.

    5 Taniyasu, S., Kannak, K., Horii,Y., Hanari, N.,Yamashita, N. A survey of perfluorooctane sulfonate and related perfluorinated organic compounds in water, fish, birds and humans from Japan. Environ Sci & Technol 2003, 37:2634-2639.

    6 Fields, S. Another fast-food fear. Environ Health Perspect 2003: 111:16:A162.

    7 Olsen, G. W., Church, T.R., Miller, J.P., Burris, J.M., Hansen, K.J., Lundberg, J.K., Armitage, J.B., Herron, R.M., Medhdizadehkashi, Z., Nobiletti, J.B., O’Neill, E.M., Mandel, J.H., Zobel, L.R. Perfluorooctanesulfonate and other fluorochemicals in the serum of American Red Cross adult blood donors. Environ Health Perspect 2003:111:1892-1901. doi.10.1289/ehp.6316 via

    8 Kannan, et al., 2002.

    9 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (2002) Hazard Assessment of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and its salts (November, 21 2002). ENV/JM/RD(2002)17/FINAL. Available online at:

    10 “PFCs: A Family of Chemicals that Contaminate the Planet,” Part 6: PFCs in Animals Worldwide. Environmental Working Group, 2003.  Accessed 3 January 2004.

    11 Ibid.

    12 Austin, M.E., Kasturi, B.S., Barber, M., Kannan, K., MohanKumar, P.S., MohanKumar, S.M.J. Neuroendocrine effects of perfluorooctane sulfonate in rats. Environ Health Perspect 2003:111:12:1485-1489.

    13 Thayer, K., Klein, J. Gray, S., Houlihan, J.,Wiles, R., Greenleaf, T., PFCs: A Family of Chemicals that Contaminate the Planet. Environmental Working Group 2003.  Accessed 5 January 2004.

    14. Adibi, J.J., Perera, F.P., Jedrychowski,W., Camann, D.E., Barr, D., Jacek, Ryszard, Whyatt, R.M. Prenatal exposures to phthalates among women in New York City and Krakow, Poland. Environ Health Perspect 2003:111:14:1719-1722.

    15 Kock et al, 2003. An estimation of the daily intake of di(2-ethyl) phthalate (DEHP) and other phthalates in the general population. International Journal Hygiene and Environmental Health.

    16 Sharpe R.M. (2003). The oestrogen hypothesis – where do we stand now? International Journal of Andrology 26:2-15; Skakkebaek, N.E. et al., (2001) Testicular dysgenesis syndrome: an increasingly common developmental disorder with environmental aspects. Human Reproduction 2001:16:5:972-978.

    17 Gray, L.E. Jr., Ostby, J., Furr, J., Price, M., Veeramachaneni, D.N., Parks, L. Perinatal exposure to the phthalates DEPH, BBP, and DINP, but not DEP, DMP, or DOTP, alters sexual differentiation of the male rat. Toxicological Sciences 2000:58:350-565.

    18 Colón, I., et al., Identification of phthalate esters in the serum of young Puerto Rican girls with premature breast development. Environmental Health Perspectives, 108(9): p. 895-900.

    19 Akingbemi, B.T., Ge, R., Klinefelter, G.R., Zirkin, B.R., Hardy, M.P. Phthalate-induced Leydig cell hyperplasia is associated with multiple endocrine disturbances. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2004 (Early Edition). , accessed 31 December 2003.

    20 Seo, K.W., Kim, K.B., Kim,Y.J., Choi, J.Y, Lee, K.T., Choi, K.S. Comparison of oxidative stress and changes of xenobiotic metabolizing enzymes induced by phthalates in rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2004 Jan;42(1):107-14.

    21 Duty, S.M., Singh, N.P., Silva, M.J., Barr, D.B., Brock, J.W., Ryan, L., Herrick, R.F., Christiani, D.C., Hauser, R. The relationship between environmental exposures to phthalates and DNA damage in human sperm using the neutral comet assay. Environ Health Perspect 2003 111:9:1164-1169. , accessed 6 January 2004.

    22 Foster, P M. Turner K J, Barlow N J. Anti-androgenic effects of a phthalate combination on in utero male reproductive development in the Sprague-Dawley rat: additivity of response? Toxicologist 2000 Mar; 66(1-S), 233.

    23 Environmental Data Services, Ends Daily 15th Dec 2003.

    24 DIRECTIVE 2003/53/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 18 June 2003 amending for the 26th time Council Directive 76/769/EEC relating to restrictions on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations (nonylphenol, nonylphenol ethoxylate and cement), Official Journal L 178 17-7-2003

    25 Jobling S., Sheahan D., Osborne J., Matthiessen P., Sumpter J. (1996). Inhibition of testicular growth in rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) exposed to oestrogenic alkylphenolic chemicals. Environ. Toxicol. Chem., 15, 194-202.

    26 Sohoni et al, Reproductive effects of long term exposure to bisphenol A in the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas), Environ Sci Technol 2001:35: 2917-2925.

    27 Environment Agency of England and Wales 1998; Endocrine Disrupting Substances in the Environment. What Should Be Done? The EA Bristol.

    28 Commission of the European Communities. Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council relating to the restrictions on the marketing and use of nonylphenol, nonylphenol ethoxylate and cement. COM (2002) 459, 2002/0206 (COD).

    29 Kopf W. Wirkung endokriner stoffe in biotests mit wasserogranismen. In Stoffe mit endokriner wirkung in wasser. Bayerisches landesamt für wasserwirtschaft, Institut für Wasserforschung München (ed) Oldenbourg (1997) (as detailed in the European Union Risk Assessment Report (2002) 4-NONYLPHENOL (BRANCHED) AND NONYLPHENOL, CAS Nos: 84852-15-3 and 25154-52-3 EINECS Nos: 284-325-5 and 246-672-0, Joint Research Centre, European Commission).

    30 Jobling, S., Casey, D. Rodgers-Gray, T., Oehlmann, J., Schult-Oehlmann, U., Pawlowski, S., Baunbeck, T., Turner, A.P., Tyler, C.R. comparative responses of molluscs and fish to environmental estrogens and an estrogenic effluent. Aquat Toxicol 2003 Oct 29;65(2):205-20.

    31 Oehlmann, J., Schulte-Oehlmann, U., Tillmann, M., Markert, B. Effects of endocrine disruptors on Prosobranch snails (Mollusca: Gastropoda) in the laboratory. Part I: Bisphenol A and octylphenol as xenoestrogens. Ecotoxicology 2000 9:383-397.

    32 Nice, H.E., Morritt, D., Crane, M. Thorndyke, Long-term and transgenerational effects of nonylphenol exposure at a key stage in the development of Crassostrea gigas. Possible endocrine disruption? M. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 2003 256:293-300.

    33 Billinghurst, Z., Clare, A.S., Depledge M.H. Effects of 4-n-nonylphenol and 17beta-oestradiol on early development of the barnacle Elminius modestus. J. Exper. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 2001: Mar 15;25(2);255-268.

    34 Stoker, C., Rey, F. Rodriguez, H., Ramos, J.G., Sirosky, P., Larriera, A., Luque Munoz-de-Toro, M. Sex reversal effects on Caiman latirostris exposed to environmentally relevant doses of the xenoestrogen bisphenol A. Gen Comp Endocrinol 2003 Oct 1;133(3)287-96.

    35 Markey, C.M., Coombs, M.A. Sonnenschein, C., Soto, A.M. Mammalian development in a changing environment: exposure to endocrine disruptors reveals the developmental plasticity of steroid hormone target organs. Evol Dev 2003 Jan-Feb;5(1):67-75.

    36 Berg, C., Halldin, K., Brunstrom, B. Effects of bisphenol A and tetrabromobisphenol A on sex organ development in quail and chicken embryos. Environ Toxicol Chem 2001 Dec;20(12):2836-40.

    37 Lee, H.J., Chattopadhyay, S., Gong, E-Y, Ahn, R.S, Lee, K. Antiandrogenic effects of bisphenol A and nonylphenol on the function of androgen receptor. Toxicological Sciences 2003 75:, 40-46.

    38 Atienzar, F.A., Billinghurst, Z., Depledge, M.H. 4-n-Nonylphenol and 17-beta estradiol may induce common DNA effects in developing barnacle larvae. Environ Pollut 2002;120(3):735-8.

    39 Dunckel (cited in Birnbaum, L., Staskal, D.F. Polybrominated flame retardants: cause for concern? Environ Health Perspect 2004:112:9-17. doi10.1289/ehp.6559. available via Accessed 5 January 2004.

    40 Official Journal of The European Union, L 42/45 Feb. 15, 2003.

    41 Schecter, A. Pavuk, M. Papke, O., Ryan, J.J., Birnbaum, L., Rosen, R. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in U.S. mothers’ milk. Environ Health Perspect 2003:111:14:1723-1724.

    42 Accessed 5 January 2004.

    43 Accessed 8 January 2004.

    44 Lindberg, P., Sellström, U., Häggberg, L., and de Wit, C.A. Higher brominated diphenyl ethers and hexabromocyclododecane found in eggs of peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) breeding in Sweden. Environ Sci Technol 2004:38;(1): 93-96.

    45 Norstrom RJ, Simon M, Moisey J,Wakeford B,Weseloh D.V. Geographical distribution (2000) and temporal trends (1981-2000) of brominated diphenyl ethers in Great Lakes herring gull eggs. Environ Sci Technol. 2002 Nov 15;36(22):4783-9.

    46 De Boer, J.,Wester, P.G., Klamer, H.J.C., Lewis,W.E., Boon, J.P. Do flame retardants threaten ocean life? Nature 1998:394:28-29; doi:10.1038/27798

    47 Ikonomou et al., 2002a (cited in Birnbaum & Staskel, 2004).

    48 Birnbaum & Staskal, 2004.

    49 Birnbaum & Staskal, 2004.

    50 Birnbaum & Staskal, 2004.

    51 Darnerud, P.O. Toxic effects of brominated flame retardants in man and in wildlife. Environ Int 2003 Sep;29(6):841-53.

    52 Helleday, T., Tuominen, K.L., Bergman, A., Jenssen, D. Brominated flame retardants induce intragenic recombination in mammalian cells. Mutat Res 1999:Feb 19;439(2):137-47. Adapted by the article written by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) entitled “Cause for Concern: Chemicals and Wildlife.

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