Are you guilty of thinking, "Oh. this isn't a big deal. It's just a little bit"? Or feeling like those people who constantly talk about toxins and chemicals are akin to Chicken Little squawking about the falling sky?
If so, you're not alone and in fact, this way of thinking has been around a long time.
If you read conventional science and medicine, many detractors of the concept that synthetic chemicals are toxic and are making us sick, will often use the phrase “The Dose Makes The Poison” (attributed to a guy named Paracelsus back in the 1500’s), suggesting that small amounts of certain synthetic chemicals do not cause us any harm and thus, pose no threat to our health.
Many times people will say things like “Drinking too much water can kill you, so is water a toxin,” to help prove their point.
Let me tell you, they are wrong.
Now, it is not their fault. In fact, research suggesting otherwise is pretty new, being not much more than 10 years old.
But the research coming out on the toxic effect of LOW doses of certain synthetic chemicals suggests that in many cases, the dose DOESN’T make the poison. In other words, what we previously believed to be true, is wrong.
Allow me to briefly explain.
In the world of toxicology, where people study the effects of chemicals and thus the amounts that are considered safe or dangerous, use what is called a Dose Response Curve (Figure 1).
You can see here by this graph that comparing the X axis (“Increasing Dose”) with the Y axis (the line on the left with “Percent Individuals Responding”), that the higher the dose of a given chemical, the more people respond, presumably unfavorably, to the given toxin.
Based on this information, researchers set two limits, the No Observable Adverse Effects Level (NOAEF) and the Lowest Observable Adverse Effects Level (LOAEF) (Figure 2).
In other words, using the figure above, a dose of around 10mg/kg doesn’t cause anyone any negative effects, and a dose of around 19mg/kg causes adverse effects in about 20% of the people studied.
This is how researchers and companies determine what a “safe” level of a given chemical might be.
At least, that was until new information became available.
Low Doses Are Just As Damaging As High Doses
Based on recent research studies, failing to look at what the effect low doses have on people was a grave mistake. It turns out that low doses are just as damaging as high doses, which is especially true of endocrine disrupting chemicals – the ones that impact how well our hormones work.
It is called a “non-monotonic dose response” (NMDR) and is characterized by a “U-shaped” curve (Figure 3).
As you can see here, the typical Dose Response Curve, only highlighted part of the situation. But when you step back and look at the bigger picture, the starting-point doses used in research were only safe when administered at certain levels. But below that – the dose that many of us may be exposed to in our environment – there is just as big an adverse response as higher doses.
Can you say, “Yikes”?!?!
This throws a HUGE wrench in what we all thought about toxic chemicals. But don’t take my word for it, let’s take a quick look at a couple recent research studies.
In this study, researchers said that low doses causing adverse effects wasn’t even considered a possibility, but in light of newer studies, many chemists see it as a toxicological reality:
“Until recently, NMDR relationships were not considered plausible, and thus they were not published, reported, or interpreted as relevant biological phenomena. An increasing number of scientists think that NMDR relationships represent a toxicological reality.”
Here’s another study where researchers suggest that this low-dose theory is particularly true in endocrine disrupting chemicals and is no longer theory, but a reality that is contributing to disease in humans:
“Importantly, our review of the literature finds that NMDRCs are common in the endocrine and EDC literature. In fact, it is plausible that, considering the mechanisms discussed below, NMDRCs are not the exception but should be expected and perhaps even common.
“We illustrate that non-monotonic responses and low-dose effects are remarkably common in studies of natural hormones and EDCs. Whether low doses of EDCs influence certain human disorders is no longer conjecture, because epidemiological studies show that environmental exposures to EDCs are associated with human diseases and disabilities.”
I don’t know about you, but this is huge. The implications of this and the exposure we’re all likely getting on a daily basis, including the connection between these hormone disrupting chemicals and disease, is scary.
Until we learn more about this topic, if low doses are just as toxic as high doses, now more than ever we need to reduce our exposure to as many synthetic chemicals as possible, and our cosmetics, make-up, and cleaning products are one of the best places to start.
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