An important report on the dangers of low doses of toxins, similar to doses encountered by people in everyday life, has been published in the journal Endocrine Reviews.1 Twelve scientists spent three years compiling the 78-page report on the low-dose effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, also known as hormone disruptors, and their harmful effects that interfere with normal hormone function.
Chemicals analyzed in the report include bisphenol A (BPA), the pesticide atrazine, and dioxins. Lead researcher Laura Vandenberg stated, “We should never assume that because an exposure is tiny that it is safe. For example, a large amount of dioxin would kill you, but a very small dose, similar to what people are exposed to from eating contaminated foods, increases women’s risk of reproductive abnormalities.”2
The report calls for a change in how chemical safety is assessed. The study “suggests that the current regulatory format for testing chemicals, where high doses are fed to rodents and then “safe” lower doses are calculated but never actually tested, is inappropriate—and ineffective—for these compounds. Instead, they should be tested at very low levels in the range of human exposures,” says Vandenberg.3
The study concludes, “Fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination are needed to protect human health.” Toxicologists have long relied on what is known as the hormetic effect to help justify current testing, and even reduction of restrictions on pollutants. Hormesis involves the effects of low doses of stressors—whether toxins, radiation, or even exercise—and the response of the body to stressors that produces a net positive effect. Certain stressors, like physical exercise, are beneficial in the long run despite their initial damage to the body. Although toxins have been suggested as having a hormetic effect at low doses, science is refuting this idea. Studies are finding that the harmful additive effect of toxins is greater than the sum of its parts. This study goes a long way to show that low doses of toxins are not safe.
As the field of epigenetics expands, increasing our understanding of the effects of the environment on gene expression, we will be more accurately able to assess the dangers of the toxins we encounter. Dr. Moshe Szyf, Professor of Pharmacology at McGill University, studies the effects of chemicals on gene expression and states, “It is becoming increasingly apparent that chemicals can cause changes in gene expression that persist long after exposure has ceased.”4
Before you decide to move to a pristine island in the middle of nowhere to avoid the toxic onslaught encountered in everyday life, take a deep breath. Rather than throw your hands in the air concluding, “Damned if I do, damned if I don’t,” there are small changes you can make to reduce your toxic exposure. These small changes can make a difference. Reduce exposure where you can, and support the seven channels of elimination: colon, liver, lungs, lymph, kidney, skin, and blood. And let’s hope studies like these lead to changes in chemical safety testing.
- L.N. Vandenberg, et al., “Hormones and endocrine-disrupting chemicals: Low-dose effects and nonmonotonic dose responses.” Endocrine Reviews. March 14, 2012 er. 2011-1050.
- A.B. Csoka and M. Szyf, “Epigenetic side-effects of common pharmaceuticals: a potential new field in medicine and pharmacology.” Med Hypotheses. 2009 Nov;73(5):770-80.