Breathing, walking, eating, sleeping - you can't escape the invasion of ambient toxins courtesy of decades of policy-makers who don't care a fig about how businesses foul the world.
Environmental Defence's study Toxic Nation, based on testing the blood of a sample of Canadians, reveals that we're stewing in DDT, PCBs, stain repellents, flame retardants, mercury and lead. And that's not all. There's tons of conjecture and some very hard data that nasties in the air, earth and water can trigger terrible maladies like respiratory disease, heart disease and cancer.
So, along with joining the green movement and fighting to reclaim our earthly right to a pristine environment, is there an immediate way to lessen these dastardly effects?
what the experts say
"Toxins such as lead and zinc, which can accumulate in the fat cells, as well as pesticides and herbicides decrease with sauna therapy. Skin is a big organ of detox; you have to make sure you are allowing it to breathe, so don't put a lot of stuff on it. Use a special natural brush or loofah, brushing from the soles of the feet all the way up to your heart. This activates the lymphatic system and increases blood flow. Do it in the morning and at night before you go to bed.
GISELLE LILY LEFEBVRE, naturopath, Toronto
"Make sure you have lots of antioxidants in your diet, lots of vegetables and fruits, especially dark-coloured ones. Some of the vitamins you're looking for are C, E, beta carotene and selenium. If we eat organic we can avoid some toxins, though we can't avoid breathing the air. Radiation and chemicals cause damage to our cells, and the chlorine in drinking water causes free-radical damage. Some antioxidant supplements are grapeseed extract, pine bark extract and milk thistle . Onions and garlic supply the sulphur your body needs to make the amino acids is uses as antioxidants."
DEBBY HANSEN, director, Edison Institute of Nutrition, Fredericton
"Some studies have shown that patients with asthma related to grass pollen or ragweed who are exposed to ozone have a magnified response. A link has also been made between the development of asthma in children and their exposure to ozone [from smog]. Ozone spreads long distances. In some cases, levels were higher in summer camps outside the city than in the city. Hydrocarbons [in smog] also spread long distances, and nitrogen oxides can form from agriculture with fertilizer. Other than staying indoors, you can't really avoid this."
SUSAN TARLO, respiratory physician, University Health Network, Toronto
"The best way to combat nasty air pollutants is to eat seasonally and practise daily hygiene. If you eat a mango in the wintertime, you are ingesting both the pesticides and travel pollution, too. Neti cleansing is also helpful: using salt water to cleanse your nasal passages works like a filter. Spices like tumeric, cumin and nutmeg neutralize toxins in food.
ISMAT NATHANI, Ayurvedic practitioner, Toronto
"In the city, most of our pollution is from exhaust and industry, and most of the by-products are heavy metals. Minerals such as zinc, which chelates out heavy metals, and calcium are helpful. The philosophy is that if you're getting enough minerals elsewhere, you won't build up toxins from heavy metals.
MARCIA DIXON, herbalist, Toronto
"Based on a patient's diagnosis, we can prescribe ways to strengthen the immune system. These may include acupuncture, where the needle points help repel the evil pollutants that enter your body. Chinese herbs and exercise like tai chi can also help repair energy imbalance [due to toxins]."
MARY WU, president, Toronto School of Traditional Chinese Medicine