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Environmental Toxins... should we really be worried??

Updated: Oct 25, 2023

So many people I speak to, when I talk about the work I do, say either they don’t need to know about hormone disrupters because they’re finished with fertility (um, hormones are more than just fertility!)… or that they don’t really ‘believe’ it’s an issue…

Or they say:


what I can really do about it – we’re all going to die of something I guess.. and I trust that someone, somewhere checks most things – they can’t be THAT bad…

And then there are the ones who say, yeah I keep hearing about it... but it feels really scary and I don’t know who to believe!


I'm sure if you're reading this blog - you fall into one of these categories!


The thing is, that more and more people are needing to turn to Fertility Clinics in order to conceive, sperm counts globally are declining at alarming rates, and studies have shown that if we carry on the way we’re currently going, by the year 2045 (not that far away!) the average sperm count will be so low that EVERYONE will need IVF to reproduce.


pretty scary thought....

Fine if you're an IVF clinic (or have shares in one!), not so fine if you're currently a primary school student (or the parent of one!).


They’re blaming it, at least in part, to environmental chemical exposures – in pre-conception, in utero, in childhood and in adulthood... and it’s quite frankly, pretty terrifying to think that by the time my kids are thinking about starting families, they may not be able to….


By now, you’ve likely seen news articles or stories about things like toxic chemical spills, cancer-causing chemicals in active wear, sunscreens, and deodorants, water contamination, and the toxic effects of air pollution.



There’s no question that we’re living in toxic times!


Most of the news articles, headlines, and TV segments on this topic focus on the dangers associated with these toxic chemicals but rarely provide clear, actionable steps for people to take, and the result is that people are anxious and overwhelmed.


If that’s you, you’re not alone!


This anxiety is one of the reasons I have put together the DetoxWTF program... a 6 week step-by-step program to calm that anxiety and leave you with clear, actionable steps to systematically lower your toxic exposures, all without turning your life upside down…


But in this blog, I want to start by laying the foundation for just how important this work is by zooming out and looking at the bigger picture when it comes to environmental toxicant exposures.


I will leave you with some things that might keep you thinking, and perhaps even changing some of your every day behaviours that I KNOW are going to help you feel better.


In providing the support that I do to my clients seeking help with infertility over the last 20 plus years, I have ALWAYS wondered WHY so many people end up needing intervention into their fertility.


Many studies are now saying that by the year 2045, the average sperm count will be TOO LOW for people to conceive without help. That the incidence of PCOS and Endometriosis is rising. That the average 25 year old now is LESS FERTILE than her grandmother was at 35...


These are alarming statistics, and there are lots of theories as to WHY this could be….


Most prevalent of them, is exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals.


I have spent years now helping people to create a more fertile life - so that they maybe DON'T end up as part of these statistics by talking specifically about hormone disrupting chemicals.


One of the big hurdles I come across is people saying – "oh but that can’t be true... is it ‘PROVEN’ yet??" and "Correlation isn’t causality" … and whilst this is true – just because two things are correlated doesn’t mean that one caused the other...


But I view it much the same as the climate debate in the 90s…. was it humans who caused it, can we reverse it??… we could spend another 20 years trying to ‘prove’ it…


or


we could just investigate the suggested changes and see which ones we want to make!


First, let’s start with some context so we’re all on the same page when it comes to toxic chemicals.


When most people hear the phrase “environmental toxin” or “environmental chemicals”, they will think of things like air pollution from factories or car exhaust, oil spills, ocean pollution, soil pollution, etc.

These are all considered toxic environmental exposures, and many of them are directly linked to serious health issues, including heart disease, cancers, and fertility problems. but these are what I call “out there” exposures - things that are happening in our broader environment, they're not really what I'm talking about here.


People tend to overlook completely the tiny amounts of toxic exposure we get every single day just by living our regular, normal lives. These exposures happen through our food, the products we use to cook and store our food, the things we use to clean our homes, our personal care products, and even the air we breathe. These are what I call “in here” exposures.


“In here” exposures are ones that, as individuals, we have far more control over than the “out there” exposures from car exhaust or oil spills. While we can’t control every exposure we get, we do have a greater amount of control when we’re looking at these everyday items and behaviours in our homes


The other thing people think a lot about when they hear “environmental toxin”, “environmental chemical”, or “toxic chemical” are the acute exposures - the kind that might send someone to the emergency room with vomiting, seizures, or something like skin blistering or swelling. These things can happen, but the types of exposures that result in an emergency are pretty rare for the average person.


In this conversation we’re going to be talking about what are called “chronic exposures” - typically very low levels of exposures that rarely result in immediate, acute health issues but can, over time, lead to or contribute to things like heart disease, infertility, allergies, learning disabilities, obesity, cancers, immune system issues, and more


Often the way they do this is through endocrine disruption – or interrupting how your endocrine system or your hormones work, which is the crossover between environmental chemicals and endocrine disrupters… I tend to focus a whole lot more on endocrine disruption…


Hormones

Our bodies have LOADS of hormones and they work like a messenger system around our bodies, released from one organ to send a message to another – like adrenaline, released from your adrenal glands that makes your heart beat faster (amongst other things).


Many people, when they hear the word ‘hormones’ think immediately of oestrogen, progesterone or testosterone, but actually there are over 50 hormones that have so far been identified.


These are produced in crazy low amounts in the body, but even in these teeny tiny amounts, they have the power to change us. They are responsible for pretty much everything from how we feel, how we digest our food, how we sleep, lactation, stress, growth, reproduction, learning, puberty, immune health .. literally EVERY function in our bodies is controlled by hormones


All hormones work like a lock and a key… so the organ that needs the information has the lock on it and the hormone is the key that fits perfectly into that lock and provides that organ with the information it needs.


If you think of the organ that needs the message as having a ‘lock’ or a docking station on it for the hormone that carries the message it needs… and the hormone is the ‘key’ that fits exactly into that lock.


The endocrine disrupters either:

  • Mimic’ the naturally occurring hormone – by fitting into the ‘lock’ and inappropriately ‘turning on’ or activating the hormone response (like BPA)

  • Bind’ to the receptor (or docking station) blocking the natural hormones from binding - the normal signal fails and the body doesn’t respond the way it should.

  • Block’ the way the natural hormones are made or controlled…


Now, lots of you will have heard the phrase ‘it’s the dose that makes the poison' – everything is harmful if you have enough of it… yes?


While you might naturally think that the low levels of chemical exposures we get from say, our shampoo, laundry detergent, or perfume aren’t at all meaningful, there is substantial research showing that, at least when it comes to some chemicals - specifically ones that can interfere with our hormones - those tiny exposures DO matter, a lot!


This is covered in much greater depth inside the DetoxWTF program.


Worldwide, there are an estimated 350,000 chemicals and mixtures of chemicals registered for production and use[1]. In Australia, the AICIS is where these chemicals are listed and they state on their website that over 75% of the chemicals listed on their database have NEVER been tested for their effects on Humans. So that means that less than 25% of the listed chemicals hae been tested. and even then, they are only tested for ACUTE impacts, and very rarely (if ever) tested for chronic, long term exposures.


Not all of these chemicals are toxic. In fact, many chemicals have improved our lives - they’ve made things safer, better, and easier, so we’re not demonising chemicals here. What we are doing is examining the opportunities to lower exposure to some of the chemicals that we know have the potential to cause harm to our health.


And also, it’s important to state that, technically speaking, everything is a chemical! What we’re focused on in this course are chemicals that are known or suspected to cause or contribute to some health issues.


Want more of this information? join the DetoxWTF program today - read more here:


Author: Lucy Lines B.Ag.Sci., P.G.Dip.Repro.Sci

Bio: I am an experienced embryologist, supporting individuals currently in the depths of infertility with independent fertility education and guidance, as well as working to support future fertility




[1] Toward a Global Understanding of Chemical Pollution: A First Comprehensive Analysis of National and Regional Chemical Inventories. (2020). Retrieved June 19, 2023, from Environmental Science & Technology website: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/acs.est.9b06379

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