We hear a lot about the condition of our arteries because their poor condition, arteriosclerosis, leads to heart attacks – the leading noninfectious killer. But we hear nothing about the quality of blood flowing through the body’s 60,000 miles of vessels! Clean, healthy arteries carrying contaminated blood is not a good prescription for health.
The pulsating flow of blood goes to every cell in the body, carrying erythrocytes (red cells), five types of leukocytes (white cells), glucose, salts, oxygen (in the red cells), amino acids, fatty acids, proteins, hormones, , platelets, and more. It is an amazing liquid mixture whose composition is finely tuned to the body’s needs at the moment. Ideally, the blood carries nothing else, that is, no interfering foreign substances.
But in a polluted environment, it carries foreign substances: nicotine if you are a smoker and polyaromatic hydrocarbons if you breathe diesel fumes from trucks or farm tractors. In metropolitan areas it is much worse: blood typically contains over one hundred toxic chemicals from pesticides, plastics, household products, and various coatings. Consider just one such foreign substance, Triclosan*, an antimicrobial added to household products such as hand soaps, cosmetic products (e.g., skin lotions), and some toothpastes (!). It is so common that the blood of a typical person carries about 100 micrograms, and the blood of five percent of people contains up to 2500 micrograms.
So, you may ask, Is that a lot or hardly any, and does it matter? Because Triclosan is a know hormone disrupter, it does matter. It interferes with estrogen metabolism in women and can disrupt a vital enzyme during pregnancy. We will make a comparison between the number of Triclosan molecules and the number of red cells in the blood. There are approximately 25 trillion red cells in the blood. 100 micrograms of Triclosan would correspond to 300,000 trillion molecules – about 10,000 molecules of Triclosan for every red cell – surely not a prescription for healthy blood!
More cogently we can compare the molecules of Triclosan and the number of molecules of adrenaline, a vital hormone. Blood typically contains about 5 micrograms of adrenaline, corresponding to about 10,000 trillion molecules. These crucial hormonal molecules could be overwhelmed by 30 times as many molecules of Triclosan.
Multiply this scene by the hundred or more toxic chemicals known to be coursing through our veins and arteries, and we get a scary picture. Picture yourself (a very small self) swept along in the great river of life-sustaining blood: like being in a swollen flood-stage river, you and the fish and their food would be awash in dangerous debris.
The message is simply this: Trace amounts of foreign chemicals in the body matter. These invaders readily give rise to more toxic molecules than red blood cells and hormones, and this cannot be a healthy situation. Like a spider unaware that it is about to be squashed underfoot, we are unaware of the blood’s burden of toxic, foreign molecules.
* It is easy to avoid Triclosan: read the labels. Fortunately, there is mounting national pressure to ban its widespread use. The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing this issue.