Top 12 Common Toxins and What They Do To You

The following are the top 12 most prevalent toxins (or groups of toxins) in our air, water and/or food supply, their sources and health risks. This list is by no means all-inclusive, as thousands of other toxins are also circulating in our environment.

1. PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls): This industrial chemical has been banned for decades, yet is a persistent organic pollutant that’s still present in our environment.

Risks: Cancer (higher with liver cancer), impaired foetal brain development
Major Sources: Farm-raised salmon and seafood

2. Pesticides: According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 60 per-cent of herbicides, 90 percent of fungicides and 30 percent of insecticides are known to be carcinogenic. World Health Organization estimates that synthetic pesticides poi-son 3 million people each year, resulting in 20,000 fatalities among agricultural work-ers while children face even higher risks.  Pesticides interfere with our sex hormones in similar ways as they interfere with sex hormones of the pests.  Pesticides can be avoided.  Organic farms use natural alternatives and implement crop rotation to avoid using chemical pesticides.

Risks: Cancer (highest in relation to reproductive organs), Parkinson’s disease, miscarriage, nerve damage, birth defects especially with the genitals, blocking the absorption of food nutrients, infertility
Major Sources: Food (conventional fruits, vegetables and commercially raised meats), bug sprays

3. Mold and other Fungal Toxins: One in three people have had an allergic reaction to mold.  Mycotoxins (fungal toxins) can cause a range of health problems with expo-sure to only a small amount.  Dehumidifyer and a natural mold spray are useful.

Risks: Cancer, heart disease, asthma, multiple sclerosis, diabetes
Major Sources: Contaminated buildings, food like peanuts, wheat, corn and alcoholic beverages

4. Phthalates: These chemicals are used to lengthen the life of fragrances, skin care and soften plastics.  Very prevalent but it is not required to be listed.  Shop for reliable organic brands when it comes to skin care.  Avoid using soft plastics.

Risks: Endocrine system damage (phthalates chemically mimic hormones and are particularly dangerous to children), lowers sperm count
Major Sources: Plastic wrap, plastic bottles, plastic food storage containers. All of these can leach phthalates into our food.

5. VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds): VOCs are a major contributing factor to ozone, an air pollutant. According to the EPA, VOCs tend to be even higher (two to five times) in indoor air than outdoor air, likely because they are present in so many household products.  An effective air purifier is necessary.  Choose natural paint and furnishing materials next time you refurbish your home or office.

Most prevalent and harmful: Formaldehyde

Risks: Cancer, eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment
Major Sources: Drinking water, carpet, paints, deodorants, cleaning fluids, varnishes, cosmetics, dry cleaned clothing, moth repellants, air fresheners, dyes, fab-ric softeners

Another common VOC: Benzene

Risks: leukemia, cancer
Major Sources: cigarette smoke, car exhaust fumes, petroleum based products (home use solvents) and soft drinks

6a. Dioxins: Chemical compounds formed as a result of combustion processes such as commercial or municipal waste incineration and from burning fuels (like wood, coal or oil), also formed from chlorine (bleaching agent)

Risks: Cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, chloracne (a severe skin disease with acne-like lesions), skin rashes, skin discoloration, excessive body hair, mild liver damage
Major Sources: Animal fats: Over 95 percent of exposure comes from eating commercial animal fats.  Also present in cigarette smoke and chlorine bleaching (e.g. bleached tampons)

6b. Chlorine: This highly toxic, yellow-green gas is one of the most heavily used chemical agents.  Use  a good water filter to absorb chlorine residues in your drinking water.  Choose non-toxic household products.

Risks: Sore throat, coughing, eye and skin irritation, rapid breathing, narrow-ing of the bronchi, wheezing, blue coloring of the skin, accumulation of fluid in the lungs, pain in the lung region, severe eye and skin burns, lung collapse, reactive air-ways dysfunction syndrome (RADS) (a type of asthma)
Major Sources: Household cleaners, drinking water (in small amounts), swimming pool, air when living near an industry (such as a paper plant) that uses chlorine in industrial processes.

7. Asbestos: This insulating material was widely used from the 1950s to 1970s. Problems arise when the material becomes old and crumbly, releasing fibres into the air.  Related diseases kill 10,000 Americans each year.  Check the building you live in if in doubt.

Risks: Cancer, scarring of the lung tissue, mesothelioma (a rare form of can-cer)
Major Sources: Insulation on floors, ceilings, water pipes and healing ducts from the 1950s to 1970s.

8. Heavy Metals: Metals like arsenic, mercury, lead, aluminum and cadmium, which are prevalent in many areas of our environment, can accumulate in soft tissues of the body.  Limit eating local fish.  Consider alternatives to vaccination – ask about homeopathic vaccinations with your homeopath.  Or ask us for recommendation of doctors who can help you make your choice.

Risks: Cancer, neurological disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels
Major Sources: Drinking water, fish (esp tuna, swordfish, mackerel and shark, vaccines, pesticides, preserved wood, antiperspirant (aluminium), building ma-terials, dental amalgams (ask IMI for recommendation to safely remove), chlorine plants, vaccinations

9. Chloroform:
 This colorless liquid has a pleasant, nonirritating odor and a slightly sweet taste, and is used to make other chemicals. It’s also formed when chlorine is added to water.

Risks: Cancer, potential reproductive damage, birth defects, dizziness, fatigue, headache, liver and kidney damage.
Major Sources: Air, drinking water

10. Parabens:
 a group of low cost chemicals widely used as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. Common form: Methylparaben.  Found to  mimic female estrogen.  Choose paraben-free personal care products.

Risks: Breast cancer, skin irriatation
Major Sources: over-the-counter shampoos, moisturizers, shaving gels, cleans-ing gels, topical pharmaceuticals and toothpaste. They are also used as food addi-tives.

11. Bisphenol-A (or BPA)
 – chemical compound widely found in food contains, known to mimic estrogen in human

Risks: lowered sperm count and precursor to breast cancer, higher risk from can lining than polycarbonate plastics
Major Sources: plastic lining in metal cans (for canned food and beverages, and including baby formula), polycarbonate plastic containers (“PP” hard plastic) and PVC

12. Fluoride –  reactive substance prevalent in water (believed to prevent tooth de-cay when it was first introduced) and in most toothpaste.  Respectable medical pro-fessionals and scientists have since challenged the benefit of adding fluoride in drink-ing water.  Unicef and WHO have also warned of its negative effects.

Risks: flurosis (tooth and bone decalcification leaving tooth and bone more brit-tle – teeth showing up a mottled effect), cancer, brain damage, children more at risk (learning disabilities, lower IQ)
Major Sources: drinking water in many parts of the world, toothpaste and oral hygiene products

Most of the above substances are considered harmless in low doses, except PCB’s and Asbestos which are now banned.  The problem is by the time sufficient evidence has emerged to prove their harmful effect on HUMAN health (after numerous animal studies) the toxins are already widely present and prevalent in the environment, and many of these toxins are bioaccumulative and take a long time to eliminate from the body once exposed.

This article has been modified from original by Dr. Joseph Mercola with Rachael Droege (from

For more information about environment toxins and health: visit
For more information about health risks of fluoride,

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