Invaded by Poisons

Yes, “poisons” – “toxics” is too weak a word. The distinction is whether a person dies quickly from a single dose of a poison, such as arsenic, or dies slowly from very, very small doses of toxics that continuously seep into our bodies from the environment.

Dieing prematurely is probably a better description than dieing slowly. However, both are appropriate descriptions for cancer – the dreaded and seldom curable disease. We have a word for this kind of a poison/toxic: a carcinogen.

But we lack words for the other health-degrading conditions caused by ubiquitous toxic substances that damage our hormone systems, our immune systems, our reproductive systems, and our nervous systems. Perhaps the creation and use of such words would wake us up to the dangers that we, and especially pregnant women, face.

You may wonder, “Why is our environment flooded with hundreds of poisonous substances?” There are several answers. Some are unintentional by products; others are intentionally designed to accomplish a purpose, for example, make a better plastic. Chemists are accomplished at designing new molecules that do a particular task, and chemical engineers are accomplished at building manufacturing processes to economically make large volumes of the new molecules. Let’s review these intentionally made chemicals.

• Phthalates, for vinyl leather and children’s squeeze toys

• Bisphenol-A (BPA), for some plastics ware and coating on interior of food cans

• Flame retardants, in bedding and furniture foam cushioning

• Fluorinate molecules (PFOA), on carpeting and microwave popcorn bags

• Insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, on fruit and vegetables

All these substances achieve their intended purposes, but they are also insidious poisons that degrade our health and shorten our lives.

Unintended toxic substances are:

• Ozone, in the smog of major cities world-wide

• Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), in diesel soot from trucks, tractors, and trains

• Mercury, from coal-fired power plants

• Dioxins, from waste incinerators that decompose PVC waste plastics

This has been a review of sorts; for detailed information see earlier articles.

What is the message? Stay awake to the subtle dangers around you, and act to avoid exposures.


About donlouis

The author has long had a keen interest in staying healthy and fit, and in doing whatever I can to keep the natural environment unpolluted and a healthy space for people and all animals. As a former Board Member of a municipal water district, I regularly had to deal with the issue of water quality. I first became aware of radiation hazards from toxic materials while working on uranium for nuclear reactors. During the 1960s I was tuned into the global hazard from Strontium 90 raining down from atmospheric testing of nuclear bombs. While working in the chemical industry in later years I became aware of the many forms of chemical contaminants entering the environment every day, and resolved to do something about it. I am able to make sense out of the voluminous descriptions of common toxic chemical because of my training in chemistry, with a Ph.D. degree and several decades of research and development work in the chemical industry. My training and experience enables me to present to readers reliable and current information on the topic of chemical hazards in the environment, and their threats to human health. All my life I have loved hiking and camping in nature. Skiing, river kayaking, and tennis have been my favorite physical activities. Nature photography is my artistic passion.
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