Toxins in Our Environment - Part 2

Savannah Helm

By: Alicia Jerome MS, RDN

In our last blog, we explored the topic of toxins in our food supply. While the topic was not exhausted, it did provide some practical ways we can lighten our toxic load as well as fortify our body’s barriers and elimination systems with protective foods.

In this blog, we are going to take an abbreviated look at toxins in our environment.

Polluted Living Space

Taking precautions in the places we work, ride, and rest can serve to decrease the number of pollutants we ask our body to metabolize or deal with each day.

In your home or shared living space, eliminate all smoke which contributes the highest source of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX) to the air.1 Obviously, there is the elimination of smoke by quitting and limiting the amount of secondhand cigarette or cigar smoke but there is also one simple way to improve air quality. Use pleated electrostatic furnace filters with a minimum MERV rating of 7 or higher to provide proper dust control.2

For those who physically go into an office, we don’t always get a say where our work is located geographically, what office we are assigned, or how the office is maintained. Inquire about your workspace before you begin and make sure there isn’t mold. A condition called sick building syndrome (SBS) can present symptoms of difficulty concentrating, irritated eyes, ears, and nose, dizziness, fatigue and more.3,4 It is telling that these symptoms often improve when away from work.

Let’s not overlook the commute to work too. Those who sit in traffic often may want to consider an alternate plan. Inquiring about working-from-home, part-time, and avoiding traveling during peak traffics times can limit our exposure to the single greatest source of air pollutants damaging to our health: vehicle exhaust.5

Beauty Products

In our youth-seeking culture, parabens, an endocrine disrupting chemical, is a common ingredient in roughly 80% of personal care products (PCPs).6 Specifically, skin-lightening creams, such as those for dark spots, contain mercury.7 Many all-natural skin and body-care products are emerging in the market that provide the same, if not better, quality. According to Grand View Research, sales of natural beauty products reached $6.7 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow more than 6% over the next 7 years.8


Use of prescription drugs can overload our liver and open the door for new chronic diseases. Did you know that 39% of adults aged 65 and older are being prescribed greater than five prescriptions?9 Also, antihypertensive drugs, like thiazide diuretics, may increase the odds of developing new-onset type 2 diabetes while proton pump inhibitors increase the risk of vertebral fractures due to decreased intestinal absorption of calcium.10,11 Are there certain medications that could be eliminated or reduced with a healthy diet and lifestyle thereby avoiding the risk?


Phthalates are commonly used by industry to make plastics more flexible and resilient. Common plastic products would include shower curtains, IV tubing, and even the coating on certain medications.12 These phthalates can sneak into our bodies through plastic wrapping on food and food preparation gloves. They can slip into the air we breathe with the vinyl flooring and wall coverings in our houses. Unfortunately, phthalates play a role in increasing the rates of obesity and diabetes by disrupting mitochondrial function.13

As you can see through this and the previous blog, there are many offenders in our food and environment. Yet, we live in a good period of time, where there are more and more options presented that provide better ingredients, cleaner construction materials, and improved outcomes to our health. If you want to find out more about drugs, toxins, food and water contaminants, etc. consider reading, Clinical Environmental Medicine and taking its exam for 15 or 30 CPE hours credit.



  1. Wheeler, A.J., Wong, S.L., Khouri, C., & Zhu, J. (2013). Predictors of indoor BTEX concentrations in Canadian residences. Health Reports, 24(5), 11-17. PubMed PMID: 24258095.
  2. Stephens, B., & Siegel, J.A. (2013). Ultrafine particle removal by residential heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning filters. Indoor Air, 23(6), 488-497. PubMed PMID: 23590456.
  3. Redlich, C.A., Sparer, J., & Cullen, M.R. (1997). Sick-building syndrome. Lancet, 349(9057), 1013-1016. PubMed PMID: 9100639.
  4. Middaugh, D.A., Pinney, S.M., & Linz, D.H. (1992). Sick building syndrome. Medical evaluation of two work forces. Journal of Occupational Medicine, 34(12), 1197-1203. PubMed PMID: 1464788.
  5. Air Quality Expert Group. Particulate Matter in the United Kingdom. London; Defra: 2005. (Accessed Mar 1, 2023.)
  6. Kirchoff, M.G., & de Gannes, G.C. (2013). The health controversies of parabens. Skin Therapy Letter, 18(2), 5-7. PubMed PMID: 23508773.
  7. Chan, T.Y. (2011). Inorganic mercury poisoning associated with skin-lightening cosmetic products. Clinical Toxicology, 49(10), 886-891. PubMed PMID: 22070559.
  8. Natural skin care products market report, 2022-2030. Natural Skin Care Products Market Report, 2022-2030. (n.d.). Retrieved March 3, 2023, from
  9. Kantor, E.D., Rehm, C.D., et al. (2015). Trends in prescription drug use among adults in the United States from 1999-2012. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 314(7), 1818-1831. PubMed PMID: 26529160.
  10. Mancia, G., Grassi, G., & Zanchetti, A. (2006). New-onset diabetes and antihypertensive drugs. Journal of Hypertension, 24(1), 3-10. PubMed PMID: 16331092.
  11. Roux, C., Briot, K., Gossec, L., et al. (2009). Increase in vertebral fracture risk in postmenopausal women using omeprazole. Calcified Tissue International, 84(1), 13-19. PubMed PMID:19023510.
  12. Why phthalates should be restricted or banned from consumer products. News. (2021, March 17). Retrieved March 3, 2023, from
  13. Stahlut, R.W. van Wijngaarden, E., Dye, T.D., Cook, S., & Swan, S.H. (2007). Concentrations of urinary phthalate metabolites are associated with increased waist circumference and insulin resistance in adult US males. Environmental Health Perspectives, 115, 876-882. PubMed PMID: 17589594.

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