Yes, we are! But we are too ignorant to realize it or too careless to accept it. To understand the circumstances we are in vis-à-vis poisons or toxic materials, we have to build up a clear understanding of what poison is in the modern context.
We are all aware and careful only about acute poisons – the poisons we have been used to from long ago. They cause death in a few seconds, a few minutes or in a few days. They cause irreversible damage and changes in organs and metabolic processes, completely halting body functions – leading to a quick death. These include substances like cyanide, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, thallium etc. Their toxicity is still measured and expressed by the LD 50 test or similar. The LD50 result is the “median lethal dose’, shortened to Lethal Dose, which is defined in Wikipedia as “the dose required to kill half the members of a tested population after a specified test duration”. The tested populations are usually a batch of laboratory rats or mice.
This test was created in 1927 – 92 years ago! The results may have been expressed then only in grams or milligrams per kilogram of body mass. However, due to limitations in regard to the scope of this test, some other similar tests were created. A few such tests are;
LD 100 - to measure the dose to kill 100% of the test animals
LC 50 - concentration to kill 50% of the test animals
LCt 50 - to cover a wider range of substances like chemical toxins, exotoxins (bacterial = diphtheria, cholera, pertussis etc.), mycotoxins (fungal = aflatoxin, fusarium etc.), radiation etc.
In addition, results came to be expressed in micrograms and nanograms per kilogram too in order to cover highly toxic exotoxins and mycotoxins.
Many people, including professors, are still talking about “the dose is the poison” and LD 50 values. This was especially evident in biased and even careless comments made and articles sent for publication in newspapers, about the so-called “safety” of glyphosate.
The point is that these tests are all outdated and not suitable at all for the current application.
The reason is that after World War 2, many chemicals were gradually introduced into consumer products. Many of them were made in the war years as weapons of chemical warfare. At present, there are about 85,000 chemicals in consumer goods. Only a few hundreds of them have been tested for safety and that testing can by no means be called comprehensive. About 60,000 of them have been arbitrarily declared safe for consumer use simply because they were in use for a few years before safety concerns were raised and consumer safety was demanded. The balance chemicals remain untested but accepted on the basis of half-baked claims of safety and marketing half-truths presented by manufacturers who use them in consumer products.
Acute toxicity versus chronic toxicity
Acute toxicity, as mentioned above, can be felt immediately. It will manifest itself, in its mildest forms as a discomfort, vomiting, pain, paralysis etc. but a very painful death follows soon. In the case of chronic toxicity, the majority of humans do not feel even discomfort. The rest, with mild genetic functional variations, might experience discomfort, suffer skin irritations and hives etc. The majority, though, do not know they are being poisoned. Therefore, they go on unconcernedly doing whatever they should not do. This can be due to ignorance, blind belief in the half-truths and false assurances given by manufacturers, favouring convenience over health, and indulgence of the senses for a fleeting moment of pleasure, sometimes even knowingly but carelessly ignoring adverse health effects.
Chronic toxicity is caused by substances even in concentrations of less than one part per billion, let alone a part per million. Until recently such concentrations were accepted positively as safe. Now regulatory bodies are still trying to face the challenge of determining safe limits, but are quite at sea about it because they have not done the research in regard to toxic action and concentrations of most chronic toxins. Most of the safe limits advised by them are statistically derived, not based on clinical trials and therefore, are unreliable. This has been proved.
Chronic toxins are mild in action. A first dose will cause inflammation. This is the normal reaction of the immune system in life forms. The immune system recognizes a foreign substance unknown to it, an invader, and takes action to destroy it by causing inflammation in its neighbourhood and also bombarding it with biochemical bullets – antibodies.
The problem, however, is that it is difficult to get rid of chemicals by inflammation and antibodies. Most chemical toxins are not completely removed by the body’s waste processing system either. Throughout evolution, the body has learned to get rid of bugs, parasites, bacteria, viruses, fungi and moulds. It does not know what to do with chemicals – a new invader. As such, they get stored in organs, tissue and bones, causing the immune system to keep on causing inflammation.
As more toxins are introduced into the body through food, drinks, pollutants inhaled and absorbed through the skin, they accumulate. Inflammation increases with this accumulation and in a decade or so, the immune system becomes unable to cope with the invaders. Then it transforms from an intermittent state of immune action to a permanent state of immune action. Called autoimmunity, the immune system attacks and slowly destroys the very body it is duty bound to protect. Actually that is the apparent result, but in fact, the immune system is still trying to protect the body though hopelessly overwhelmed. In fact, this is a case of the immune system being provoked to go into autoimmune activity by following injudicious lifestyle habits.
The state of autoimmune action
In this state, the whole body is inflamed, indeed every cell, the basic building block is inflamed. In this state, cells cannot work properly. The DNA does not work smoothly to produce proteins – they make mistakes. The “Mad cow disease” in domesticated animals is a result of such mistakes. The receptors on the exterior of cell membranes to not work properly thereby interfering with hormone initiated metabolic processes - as is the case with insulin and diabetes. This results in a lowered production of energy because the conversion of sugars to energy by the cells gets impaired. Body functions initiated and controlled by hormones and enzymes are disrupted resulting in adversely affected biological functions.
As an example, consider what happens when just a little bit of diesel is added to petrol in a petrol driven vehicle. The engine may not start; if the engine starts, it will be a rough jerky ride. If the vehicle is continued to be so ill-treated, the entire timing system including the tappets, pistons, connecting rods, the timing wheel and so on, can break down; in short, you will have a broken down vehicle and a costly repair. Here, diesel is the equivalent of chronic toxins and the fuel feed system is the equivalent of just one mode of entry of pollution to the body. There the comparison ends because in a vehicle there is just one feed system. In a body, there are many feed systems and hundreds of subsystems. In fact magnesium alone controls over 300 metabolic processes.
However, the bottom line is, while a vehicle can be repaired, biological entities like bodies of life forms cannot be repaired after a total breakdown.
The poisons we use
Aluminium - This is a proven neurotoxin. It is still used in utensils and containers. It is used in foil form in baking, grilling and packing. Aluminium compounds are used as antacids and for minor digestive disorders in favour of magnesium compounds. It is inexplicable why a known neurotoxin is used in place of very beneficial magnesium compounds. Ostensibly the reason is that magnesium compounds cause loose motions. If so, surely any human being can find out by trial and error the dose of magnesium compounds he/she is comfortable with – rather than exposing oneself to a dangerous neurotoxin? Besides, the magnesium compounds are dirt cheap whereas the aluminium compounds cost several hundred rupees. Why this unnecessary economic burden?
In a well organised clinical test of 360 pregnant women, the aluminium content in their urine was tested at a specified time before giving birth; then they were classified into four groups – as those with the highest, next lower, still next lower and lowest aluminium content in urine. Their children were continuously monitored until they were 7-years-old and subjected to an IQ test. It was found that the children of mothers with the lowest aluminium content had an IQ score 7 points above the children of mothers with the highest aluminium content. This is a notable result because the 7 point IQ difference is the difference between all-distinction grade students and all-credit grade ones – equal application to studies considered. In other words, children with a lower IQ will never match the children with a higher IQ – however hard they try to. They will never have a good chance in life because their brains did not develop properly.
Similarly, lead and mercury are chemicals that are strong poisons but act like chronic poisons when ingested in very low concentrations.
Finally, it is reported, even by world renowned doctors practising 21st Century medicine as opposed to 20th Century medicine, that in modern day births, there are about 200 detectable chemicals in umbilical cords. That means an infant too is similarly affected, with chemicals passed on by the mother. Their effects on the growth and development of the child are unknown and unpredictable but include convulsions, autism, and schizophrenia among other brain disorders as illustrated by the foregoing study on IQ count. In fact, some scientists are talking about the Sixth Extinction of the Human Race, animals and plant life. This could not be very far from the truth because humans have wiped out 60% of animal populations since 1970 as reported in The Guardian (UK) and the prestigious British Medical Journal published a landmark, comprehensive study in 1992 that indicated “a genuine decline in human semen quality over the past 50 years, Potential causes are being hypothesized by scientists. A lead researcher and study author, Sydney Chang, suggested the trend may have to do with “chemical exposures or increasingly sedentary lifestyles”.
Whatever the cause, we had better take precautions. Human life is hard to get and too much to lose to carelessness. We must be truly appreciative and worthy of it. If not we might as well be animals that are incapable of doing one-thousands of what a human can do. We in Sri Lanka may not be as badly affected as people in the USA and Europe, but that is very difficult to judge. Therefore, it is best to be very cautious.