Environmental Medicine

We are living in an increasingly toxic world. New chemicals seem to be introduced into consumer products almost daily, and they are often hard to avoid. Many of these chemicals have been found to cause infertility, asthma, migraines, fibromyalgia, ADD, and cancer.

The complicated thing about these chemicals is that their effects can take years or even decades to appear. The chemicals build up over time and interact with each other resulting in problems unpredicted by “single chemical” testing.

In addition to the environment, there is also your own genetic predisposition to consider. If you have genes that cause a slower detoxification of solvents, then you will most likely experience headaches when you are around perfumes or strong smells like paint or car exhaust. You may others have other inherited genes that may have less obvious expressions but can still have serious physical effects.

You may know that you were exposed to a toxic chemical at some point in your life or you may not be aware of exposure. However, you do know that you experience symptoms of toxin exposure like getting headaches when you sit in traffic, or feeling sick in the laundry aisle at the grocery store, or never feeling well since you moved into that house.

Testing

Your body works hard to keep toxins out of your direct circulation, so they are often tucked away in your bones, soft tissue, brain, fat, and kidneys. In order to test and figure out what you have built up, we need a way to get them out of storage and into circulation. Depending on the toxin, this is done in different ways. Saunas and exercise will move fat-soluble toxins out of your fat and into your bloodstream. A chemical chelator will bind heavy metals and pull them out of storage and into your bloodstream and urine. In order to determine what might be causing your symptoms we start with a very detailed environmental questionnaire. From there we can determine which tests are appropriate to give you.

Genetic Predisposition

Why does one person get a headache around cigarette smoke and another person not? Why does one person feel asthmatic in the cleaning product aisle at a grocery store and another person doesn’t even notice? Genetic variability and toxic load.

We all have inherited enzymes that help us to detoxify substances. Some of us have inherited genes for these enzymes that are not as efficient. That means that when you are around a certain chemical, it won’t get broken down & removed from your body as quickly as it would in someone else. The longer it lingers, the worse you feel. And the longer it lingers, the more likely your body is to tuck it away in storage.

Toxic Load

Over time we have all built up a toxic load in our bodies. [And sadly, we are passing these chemicals on to our children. The Environmental Working Group did a study on newborn infants and found over 228 toxic chemicals in their umbilical cord blood – before they had even taken a single breath at birth.


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When your toxic load builds up, it gets harder to neutralize new toxins that you are being exposed to. Your detoxification pathways get overloaded, and you can begin to feel sick, or develop new conditions that are now being linked with toxins, such as allergies, asthma, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, ADD, cancer, heart disease . . . and the list goes on.

Unfortunately, it is not always the best thing to go on a detoxification cleanse. This can lead to your toxins moving out of storage and around in your body and make you feel sick. Essentially you are re-poisoning yourself. So the detoxification must be done carefully.

Cleansing

It is important when cleansing to do it in a safe way. You do not want to increase the circulation of toxic chemicals; you want to get them out of your body. We want to understand how your body is working, what your inherited genetic detoxification tendency is, your potential exposures, and your current symptoms. This all comes together to guide us as we make a plan for you to get the toxins out.

Firefighters and Environmental Exposures

My connection with the fire department began in 2000 when I moved to NYC with my then one-year-old son. One of our regular outings was to visit the fire station and enjoy the fire trucks and chat with the firefighters. We had two stations within about five blocks of our apartment.

On September 11, 2001 we stood on a street corner in lower Manhattan and watched the towers burn and fall. On that day, one of “our” stations lost all but one firefighter. The other lost 13.

As the days turned into weeks, and then months, and the tower site continued to burn and smoke, I knew that we would see many deaths from illnesses developed years later. And in May of 2014, 12.5 years later, it was announced that the number of police officers who have died from “9/11 related illnesses” has now exceeded those who died on the day of the attacks.

In 2011 I began working with a 49 year old firefighter who had developed lung cancer. He had never smoked cigarettes, was extremely active and fit, and worked for more than 20 years as a firefighter. Enough studies have been done that it is now known that firefighters face a greatly increased risk of developing cancer.

Why?

The amounts and types of toxins that firefighters are being exposed to has vastly increased over the past 30 years. Homes have computers and televisions which have various heavy metals, flame retardants, and plastics. Houses have plastic water pipes, vinyl siding, and vinyl windows. Decks are often made with arsenic-laden pressure-treated lumber. Homes are filled with asbestos, lead, and flame retardants. Basements are full of pesticides, insecticides and chemical cleaners. When all of this burns, the chemicals interact and can get even more toxic. Ask any firefighter what they notice after going on a fire and they will tell you of smelling smoke for days afterwards in their sweat, in their urine, and on their breath.

I want to reduce the risk of cancer in firefighters. And it starts with all of us. We need to look around our own homes and get rid of toxic chemicals. When remodeling we need to use non-toxic building products like wood windows in place of vinyl and copper pipes in place of plastic ones. Our homes actively pollute us as well, so this green remodeling benefits everyone living inside, even if you never need to call the fire department.

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