Emma Mentel is a Functional Medicine Practitioner, a Dietitian, a Scio Practitioner, and an all round beautiful person, concerned with the health and well-being of the people she treats.
Having joined Nu-Eco in our quest to better inform people of the health benefits of using natural cleaning products in their homes, Emma has contributed the following Blog post to our site.
Coming Clean with Emma
Over the past 60 odd years, tens of thousands of chemicals have been created and it goes without saying that we have been and continue to be exposed to a chemical soup that is our environment as we know it. I have also learnt to appreciate the saying: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
It is especially true in this context, when we understand and appreciate that the chemicals that we are exposed to on a daily basis, over long periods of time, have varying adverse health effects on the brain, body and environment.
I have become increasingly interested in how environmental toxins impact on someone’s state of health. When we consider diseases such as Parkinson’s, MS, Auto immune disorders, cancers, fibromyalgia, and various other chronic diseases, it is important to study the relationship between the exposure to toxins and how these diseases present. Or let me rather say it like this – if we ignore the exposure to toxic chemicals when we look at these diseases, we would also be limiting our ability to address the root causes in many instances.
Grim statistics such as the fact that 82,000 synthetic chemicals are allowed on the market without safety testing, explain why studies have shown that over 280 chemicals are found in babies before they are born. Experts in the field of medicine have also pointed out that genetic factors only account for around 30-40% of neurodevelopmental disorders in infants and children. The ‘silent pandemic’ of exposure or toxic chemicals is affecting children worldwide, contributing to concerns such as hormone imbalance, ADD, Multiple sclerosis (MS), headaches, eczema.
Many years ago I attended a health seminar where nutrition expert, Patrick Holford mentioned at the time that the average adult would be exposed to around 70kg of man-made chemicals every year.
Example: the pesticide DDT, which has been banned decades ago, because of the increased risk for breast cancer in women (we see a four fold increase in the incidence of breast cancer when someone is exposed in utero). We also know that these types of pesticides will continue to persist in the environment for long after they were used.
What is toxic burden?
A clear factor in one’s toxic body burden is exposure. How many toxics and over how long a period of time, is entering the body. Now one might argue that the exposure for some is minimal, but we often forget that it is not necessarily the only type of toxin that finds its way into our bodies. Small amounts of various harmful cocktails of various chemicals, over time, can start to cause great harm. It can make us sick.
A individual chemical may not be particularly toxic in super low doses, but should an individual be exposed to that that chemical every day for decades, and in doing so, in combination with various mixtures of countless other chemicals, this can surpass a threshold beyond which these chemicals can become toxic.
Our exposure to these can be via air (pollution) food (think of residues of pesticides on fruit and vegetables, preservatives, chemical colourants, flavourants, and other additives) drinks (eg artificial sweetener, colouring agent) skin (chemicals in our personal care products).
Some plant and animal products can also be harmful or poisonous, but for this discussion, I will be referring to manmade chemicals or toxins, that we may be exposed to in small amounts over months or years, without knowing that the exposure might be harmful.
The body burden of toxins is therefore really the net result of what comes in over time, how it is processed or metabolized, and to what extent it is eliminated.
I also remind myself and my clients that our livers, responsible for making harmful substances less harmful or dangerous, has to deal with a great toxic burden over and above its daily primary role. Because of the load over time, this organ might become sluggish. And it does not always know how to metabolise man-made chemicals. Some of these might then be stored in the fat to hide it from places such as our brains, where these toxins might cause havoc. Relying on our livers to do a great job of metabolising all the toxins we are exposed to, might not be sufficient. Say for example, someone takes pain killers regularly over years, and on top of that, we add some of the daily ‘normal’ toxic burden that we inhale, apply on our skin, eat, drink, and inhale. Suddenly it is not so simple to maintain great health.
What do we need to change and how do we do it?
If we start becoming mindful of what we use in and around the home, as well as opting for natural personal care ranges that do not contain harmful substances, we can, over time, reduce our (and the environment’s) exposure immensely.
Whatever we use at home to wash our dishes, clothes, floors, bathrooms, dishes etc, ultimately land up somewhere in our environment. The oceans and rivers become toxic from all the chemicals that find their way into these. Soil also stores some of the chemicals over many years.
Where do these toxic substances show up?
Think of your own home - how many of these harmful cleaning products
do you use?
- LIQUID BLEACH - Vapours have been shown to interfere with brain function.
Vapours have been shown to aggravate heart conditions and asthma. Suspected
to affect reproductive system.
- TOILET CLEANER - Vapours have been shown to interfere with brain function and
produce asthma-like symptoms. Can cause muscle spasms, damage to blood
tissue and reproductive disorders.
- FURNITURE POLISH - Contains phenol, petroleum distillates, heavy naptha.
Repeated exposure has been linked to cancer, birth defects, heart, liver, kidney
and central nervous system (CNS) damage.
- STAINLESS STEEL CLEANER - Contains methyl chloride, carbon dioxide.
Repeated exposure has been linked to central nervous system damage. Vapours
can induce heart attacks.
- AEROSOL DUSTING SPRAY - Propellants are butane and propane. Exposure can cause central nervous system (CNS) disorders. Can irritate lungs, triggering
- OVEN CLEANER - Contains lye, ammonia. Fumes have damaged the lungs and
reproductive systems of laboratory animals. Can cause brain damage, kidney
damage and reproductive disorders.
- BRASS, COPPER, SILVER POLISH - Contains benzene, ammonia and petroleum
distillates. Possible harms include central nervous system (CNS) disorders, cancer
and asthma-like symptoms.
- CARPET SHAMPOO - Contains 2-butoxy ethanol, formaldehyde,
perchlorethylene. Long-term harm includes cancer, liver damage, kidney damage,
bone marrow damage, CNS disorders.
- CARPET AND UPHOLSTERY STAIN REMOVER - Contains 2-butoxy ethanol,
formaldehyde, perchlorethylene. Long-term harm includes cancer, liver damage,
kidney damage, bone marrow damage, CNS disorder.
- DISINFECTANT CLEANER - Contains phenol, 2-butoxy ethanol, formaldehyde.
Harms include cancer, CNS disorders, liver damage,
reproductive disorders, kidney damage.
- POWDERED BLEACH - Long-term exposure to dust can cause sensitivities,
chronic lung irritation and asthma-like symptoms.
- AEROSOL AIR FRESHENER - Contains butane, propane, ammonia, phenol and formaldehyde. Linked to cancer, CNS damage, liver damage and tumours.
- WINDOW CLEANER - Contains ammonia and 2-butoxy ethanol. Linked to
reproductive disorders, kidney damage, liver damage, bone marrow damage and
- ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER - Contains ammonia, 2-butoxy ethanol and phenol.
Linked to cancer, reproductive disorders, kidney and liver damage. Can cause
chronic lung irritation.
- BASIN, TUB & TILE CLEANER - Contains 2-butoxy ethanol, ammonia. Liked to
tumors, CNS disorders, liver damage, kidney damage, reproductive disorders.
- TILE/HARD WATER SPOT REMOVER - Contains lye, bleach, various acids. Linked
to chronic lung irritation, asthma, bronchitis. Vapours can affect the nervous
system and trigger heart attacks.
- FLOOR CLEANER - Contains petroleum distillates, ammonia. Linked to cancer,
CNS disorders, tumours, kidney damage, liver damage. Fumes can produce
- SCOURING POWDER WITH BLEACH - Contains bleach and quartz silicate.
Inhalation of quartz silicate is known to cause cancer. When wet, this product
releases chlorine gas, which is toxic.
- DRAIN CLEANER - Contains, bleach, lye. Vapours can cause central nervous
system depression; can aggravate heart conditions, asthma and bronchitis.
- AUTOMATIC DISHWASHING LIQUID - Contains ethyl alcohol, bleach and heavy
fragrances. Vapours can cause depression of the nervous system, nausea, lung
irritation and in severe cases, coma and death.
Kitchen: Bisphenol A (BPA)
Bathroom: Skin care products can contain hormone disruptors such as parabens and dioxins
Household cleaners: Phthalates: endocrine disruptors as well as being associated with ADD, autism, developmental delay and reduced verbal intelligence
HOW TO become a more conscious shopper and consumer: Consider the following -
AIR - what is the quality of the air you are breathing?
Is there mould in your home?
If you are using chemical cleaning products, insecticides and sprays in and around the home, does it cause irritation to your eyes and nose?
Do you work with bleach or chlorine often?
TAP WATER -
Do you use filtered water to drink ? Concerns with chlorine and heavy metals from the water pipes.
Skincare and personal care items can contain parabens (preservative): (hormone disruptors); Estrogen mimicking toxins, otherwise known as xenoestrogens, can be absorbed through the skin and bind to estrogen receptors on the cells. This changes estrogen levels and function in the body
Fluoride in toothpaste: contrary to popular belief, this is not a great ingredient. It may cause cognitive impairment, interfere with thyroid function and cause lower IQ.
Phthalates: affects memory, risk of asthma and autism, endocrine disruptors
Sodium lauryl sulfate
INSECT / MOSQUITO REPELLENTS -
DEET, formaldehyde, aluminum, toluene, propylene glycol: DEET is a neurotoxin.
When is toxic exposure dangerous?
During pregnancy and childhood, exposure is especially risky, but any exposure during your lifetime is a potential problem. I will go as far as saying, that any exposure in childhood may continue to harm an individual’s cognitive function later in life. Almost everyone has multiple exposures and our bodies do not know what to when there is over exposure. Excess chemicals are stored in the fat and bones. When we go on weight loss diets, or women reach midlife and bone loss occurs, these stored toxins are released in our blood stream.
Our bodies and brains build up stored toxins from our environment (food, water, consumable goods and air) slowly each day. As we educate ourselves and become more informed about the choices we make when it come to choosing the products we use in and around our home, we will also be reducing our exposure to harmful chemicals in the long run. That, as well as helping to create a greener and safer environment and planet.
Emma can be reached for a face to face or online consultation at :
email : firstname.lastname@example.org
mobile : +27 835 587 166