Toxicologist Steven G. Gilbert, PhD, DABT, a regular guest who is helping us understand the toxicity of common chemicals we may be frequently exposed to. Dr. Gilbert is Director and Founder of the Institute of Neurotoxicology and author of A Small Dose of Toxicology- The Health Effects of Common Chemicals.He received his Ph.D. in Toxicology in 1986 from the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, is a Diplomat of American Board of Toxicology, and an Affiliate Professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington. His research has focused on neurobehavioral effects of low-level exposure to lead and mercury on the developing nervous system. Dr. Gilbert has an extensive website about toxicology called Toxipedia, which includes a suite of sites that put scientific information in the context of history, society, and culture. www.toxipedia.org
The MP3 of this interview has been lost, but will be placed here if we can find a copy.
LISTEN TO OTHER SHOWS WITH STEVEN G. GILBERT, PhD, DABT
- Toxics in the Air We Breathe—Indoors and Outdoors—and How it Affects Our Health
- Toxic Solvents and Vapors
- How Pesticides Can Harm Your Health
- Why Do People Doubt the Science Behind Toxics?
- There is No Safe Level for Lead Exposure
- Why We Shouldn’t Have Nuclear Power Plants
- How Mercury Affects Your Health
- Persistant Bioaccumulative Toxicants
- How Endocrine Disruptors Disrupt Our Endocrine Systems
- The Dangers of Exposure to Radiation and How to Protect Yourself
- Toxics Throughout History—Exposure to Toxic Substances is Not New
- The Ethics of Toxics
- How to Determine Your Risk of Harm From an Exposure to a Toxic Chemical
- The Basic Principles of Toxicology
- Meet a Toxicologist
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
Fewer Chemicals Make Healthier Babies
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Dr. Steven G. Gilbert PhD
Date of Broadcast: November 12, 2014
DEBRA: Hi, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world and live toxic-free. Today is Wednesday, November 12th. This year is going by so fast. It’s almost Thanksgiving and almost Christmas, I can’t believe it.
Anyway, today, we’re going to be talking about babies and children and conception and toxic chemicals, how toxic chemicals affect life from the very beginning.
My guest today is toxicologist, Dr. Steven Gilbert. His website is ToxiPedia.org. I have him on every month because he just has so much information. He’s the author of a book called A Small Dose of Toxicology, which you can download for free at his website or you can just go to ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com and click on the cover of his book you’ll see there and it’ll take you right to the page where you can download it.
So hello, Dr. Gilbert.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Hi. How are you doing, Debra?
DEBRA: I’m doing well. How are you doing?
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Very good. We’re having a beautiful day in Seattle. It’s fairly sunny out and my solar power system is churning almost 4000 watts of power, which I’m hoping is reducing the need for coal-fired utility plants in the Washington state.
DEBRA: I’m hoping so too. Bravo for you for doing that.
So, all life depends on reproduction and development. I mean, if I get sick as an adult, then maybe toxic exposures are affecting me for the rest of my life. But when toxic chemicals affect the life at the beginning, at reproduction and development, then the child is affected for their entire life from the beginning.
I think that we’re seeing in our world today that children have illnesses and health problems that children never had before and that they’re having them in greater numbers and we know that they’re being exposed to toxic chemicals. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
So where would you like to begin with this?
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: I’d actually like to start off with a little bit of ethics because I think we have an ethical responsibility to ensure that our children grow and develop at an environment where they can reach and maintain their full potential.
DEBRA: I agree.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: And we are exposed to thousands of chemicals. Reports vary, but the report from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology says that a pregnant woman is exposed to like 43 chemicals and the child is exposed to that.
So I think we have a real obligation to be very deliberate about bringing children into the world and to think pre-conception. So plan pregnancies very carefully from pre-conception through pregnancy and development and post-natally.
There are a lot of things that go on during that period of time and we’re exposed to a lot of chemicals. So it’s really important to try to reduce our chemical exposure to ensure that children can reach and maintain their full potential.
There are many places we can start. We can start with a little bit of history or we can…
DEBRA: Let’s start with a little bit of history.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: The history is really important because initially, fetal development is concerned with growth malformations. For example, there’s a conjoined twin figurine discovered in Turkey at 6500 B.S. So there was a concern about malformation a long time ago. Drawings of twins were discovered in Australia 4000 B.C. In 2000 B.C., the Tablet of Nineveh described 62 malformations that might predict the future.
And unfortunately, the 15th and 16th century were very tumultuous times. Malformations were considered to be caused by the devil and both mother and child were killed. Thank goodness we’ve moved beyond that.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: But they’re really looking at and just trying to understand what environmental agents cause developmental difficulties, development malformations. It was not until the 1940s where Josef Warkany worked on these issues.
And I think that there’s another really good examples that we understood this. These gross malformations they were concerned about gradually evolved so that presently, we’re much more concerned about the effects on target organs or effects on developing nervous system or potential for agent exposure early in life that cause cancer later in life.
One example of malformations that really opened up changes in regulation and our understanding of chemical exposures in the 1960s (actually, in 1956) was thalidomide. Some of your listeners would be familiar with thalidomide because it was always consumed in pregnancy. During organogenesis, when the limbs are developing, it causes phocomelia, foreshortening of the arms – a very tragic consequence.
Fortunately, in the United States, the FDA did not release this drug into wide circulation because of a woman named Frances Kelsey. It was a really important move on her part, very good. She looked at the data. That was unfortunately released in Europe and Australia.
But this is really an eye-opening, really startling development because it changed the rules and regulations. There was a lot more testing of chemicals consumed with these drugs for this period of time.
In 1950s, we had mercury. We learned that from [inaudible 00:06:21], that the placenta is not a barrier to these chemicals and the fetus is exposed to many chemicals during pregnancy, that the mercury caused many malformations as well as total changes in neural development.
That was really the major development. That placenta was not a barrier to many chemicals as it was once thought to be to protect the fetus.
And mercury is a great example. Actually, the fetus has a higher concentration of mercury than the mom does. So the fetus actually [inaudible 00:06:52] for mercury. And this is so true and we need to be very conscious even now of the fish we consume because of mercury put out in the environment.
DEBRA: I didn’t know that.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Alcohol was really [inaudible 00:07:03] until the ‘70s. We really looked at fetal alcohol syndrome in the 1970s. It really showed that alcohol had dramatic effects on development.
DEBRA: So there’s I think different time period and different ways that the fetus can be affected going back to the changes in DNA from mutagenic chemicals. And then there are chemicals that the mother would be exposed to during pregnancy. Would you explain those differences?
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: So if you look at the developmental timeline, the different organ systems develop at different times. The central nervous system is really developing pretty much throughout gestation. But during different periods, there are different peaks in system development where the gonads develop at different times from the auditory system to the visual system, from the organs that develop.
So you look at these different things, you can make some guesses of what might be affected given exposure to chemicals. Thalidomide was very vulnerable as to a child’s organ system or limb systems were developing. This was a really critical window of development.
A lot of testing of drugs and for example some pesticides really took advantage of that so that during animal tests, they do have certain windows of development to look at potential for malformation. So this is a very critical period.
But really, you want to make sure you start thinking about pre-conception because you want to reduce the amount of chemicals in your body prior to conceiving a child so that those chemicals will not affect the child during those windows of development.
DEBRA: I completely agree with that. And so I think it’s a good idea, not only young women, but also young men who are about to be in child-bearing age to really pay attention to this issue.
I think that so many people in that age group are not focused on their health so much because they’re young and they’re feeling good and yet, this is exactly the time when they should be concerned, so that they don’t get a build-up of the toxic chemicals or they should be doing things to detox their bodies like remove heavy metals and things like that well before it’s time for them to conceive.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Absolutely! You’re absolutely right, Debra. You want to make sure both males and females are looking at it. It’s not just women’s responsibility. Men should be there helping having good nutrition, the household. They need to be thinking about nutrition and then thinking about development prior to thinking about getting pregnant. So pregnancy should be well-planned.
And this is just a sign of the times. We have 80,000 chemicals in commerce. We have over 3000 chemicals produced, over a million pounds a year. We’re exposed to a wide range of chemicals from methylmercury to lead to pesticides to endocrine-disruptors like bisphenol a and other chemicals.
We really have to be more thoughtful and deliberate about making sure that we are consuming good, nutritious food or wash our hands, take our shoes of when we come to the home and really be thoughtful about trying to reduce exposures to developing organisms.
DEBRA: Good! We need to go to break. But when we come back, we’ll talk more about the kinds of chemicals that can be affecting our future children at different times in their development.
You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd and my guest today is toxicologist, Dr. Steven Gilbert PhD. I think this is so important because this is the future of human Homo Sapiens. It’s the future of Homo Sapiens. We’ll be right back.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is toxicologist, Dr. Steven Gilbert. He’s been on many times on the show because he has so much to tell us. His website is ToxiPedia.org. There’s so much information on the website. He really looks at toxic chemicals not only from a toxicity viewpoint, but historically, what’s going on, social implications. He’s just got them from every angle.
You should download his book called A Small Dose of Toxicology, which is just I think the best introduction to toxicology written in a very easy to assimilate way.
Dr. Gilbert, before we go on about how the babies are affected, let’s just talk about infertility for a minute because that’s maybe at the beginning, the first thing that toxic chemicals do, prevent conception at all.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah, that’s a good point. There has been a decrease of fertility in general. And this is both due to changes in males and females. Some data say that impaired fertility have increased between 1982 and 2002 from 8.4% to 11.8% in women – so a huge change in that. In men, the sperm motility has changed. [inaudible 00:15:09] has increased and the number of sperm available for conception has also decreased in males.
So this is a very serious issue. Some of these can be laid on endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect reproductive organ systems. This is a really important aspect of fertility and making sure we can’t conceive. It really drives couples into infertility clinics and much more anxiety and stress about conceiving a child.
So it’s very serious and I think we need to look at prevention. I think prevention is the keyword here. You want to prevent exposure to chemicals that are unnecessary. I just wanted to say that you really got to be thinking about planning your pregnancy ahead of time to reduce chemical exposure with these pesticides and metals or endocrine-disrupters such as phthalates or flame retardants.
We’ve just inundated our environment with chemicals that are not conducive to ensure that a child can reach and maintain their full potential.
I’ll just give you a little more statistics there.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Autism has increased from 6.4/1000 to 11.4/thousand between 2002 and 2008. Hypospadia, which is a malformation of the penis, this is really an important one. It increased from 20/10,000 to 37/10,000 between 1970 and 1993 and this will continue to go up.
So we’ve got lots of data to show that we have our reproductive/environmental issues. This is one of the potential causes, because we are exposed to a lot more chemicals than we were before.
DEBRA: Wow! These numbers are just – you know, while you were talking about how we need to reduce our exposure, what flashed in my mind was a science fiction movie – I mean, just an imaginary one, not one that I’ve ever seen, but a science fiction movie where the storyline would be that there’s a clinic where the parents have to go and undergo extreme detox before the government allows them to reproduce.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah.
DEBRA: That’s what’s going on now.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: It is!
DEBRA: I mean, not that the government is limiting reproduction, but the thing is that we are in that situation where seriously, people do need to remove the toxic chemicals from their bodies before they conceive because the chances of having problems, whether they’re extreme problems or more subtle problems, the chances of having problems if you get pregnant today is very, very high. It’s very high.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah, it surely has increased. And you know, there are some conditions during pregnancy that cause these problems too. I just want to mention caffeine for a minute.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: We’ve talked about caffeine before. Caffeine is a wildly consumed drug. And during pregnancy, actually, your metabolism caffeine actually decreases. So [inaudible 00:18:07] caffeine, it’s usually around three to four hours. It usually metabolize very quickly. But during the second and third trimester of pregnancy, its metabolism slows down, so the [inaudible 00:18:18] of caffeine increase to seven to eight hours. So you’re increasing the amount of exposure to caffeine and the length of time for exposure.
So we metabolize caffeine, which is 1-3-7 trimethylxanthine metabolized to a dimethylxanthine and this distributes to our total body water. So the fetus is actually swimming in caffeine that’s metabolized during development.
I think that one thing to remember is that there’s a lot of change during pregnancy – respiration increases, blood volume increases, urine output increases. There are a lot of very subtle changes that can increase exposure and increase potential toxicity compounds.
The gut changes, so a woman that’s pregnant will absorb more lead than when they’re not pregnant. So when they’re not pregnant, they absorb about 10% of lead because lead substitutes for calcium. During pregnancy, they’ll absorb about 50% of that lead.
So there’s some really important change that occur that you have to be aware of, which just argues again for trying to reduce exposure to chemicals.
DEBRA: I remember a few years ago (I’m sure you know this study that was done by Environmental Working Group) where they measured the chemicals in – I think it was the umbilical cord blood of babies never born…
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Right.
DEBRA: They found all these chemicals that the baby had gotten from the mother. At the time when that study came out, I remember thinking, “Oh! Well, this is now a new occurrence” until I read Silent Spring (which I didn’t read in 1964, I was only nine years old or something, but I read three or four years ago). And when I read that book, there was something in there about how they knew in 1944 that toxic chemicals, particularly pesticides, DDT and things like that were already ubiquitous in the environment, that they were already in the blood of penguins in the North Pole and things like that.
And so I kind of put two and two together and realized that when I was born after 1944, I was already one of those babies who had a mother who had toxic chemicals in her blood and I was already one of those babies that was – I mean, who knows? She was probably drinking coffee too. I know she wasn’t drinking alcoholic beverages, but I know she drank coffee.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah.
DEBRA: And who knows what else she was being exposed too. While she was pregnant, she was working in a little shop in downtown Oakland, California right there on a busy street with lots of car exhaust and all that car exhaust was coming in her shop all day long while she was pregnant with me.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah, that car exhaust during that period of time would have lead in it as well as other things. And you bring up car exhausts, that’s particulate matter. There had been numerous studies that show that inhalation of particulate matter, particularly lower income people that lived along highways are more vulnerable to exposure to these chemicals.
Pumping gasoline, for example, during pregnancy or if you’re thinking about getting pregnancy, you just stop pumping gasoline. Just ask somebody else to do that because that gasoline has polyurethane or hexanes in it and other benzene, other solvents that are hazardous to developing organisms…
DEBRA: We need to go to break.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: You always need to be thinking about what you might be exposed to…
DEBRA: Wait, wait, wait. Wait, wait, wait, wait. We have to go to break. We have to go to break. Otherwise, the commercial is going to start playing right over you. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. When we come back, we’ll have more from Dr. Steven Gilbert who has so much to tell us about this subject. We’ll be right back.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is toxicologist, Dr. Steven Gilbert. His website is ToxiPedia.org. If you go there, you can sign up for his newsletter, which I just received during the break and the very first story is about Dr. Gilbert being on Toxic Free Talk Radio and it lists all his past shows too. Thank you very much for that.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: You’re welcome. I think you’re doing a great service with what you’re providing, Debra.
DEBRA: Thank you. Thank you very much. My cellphone is ringing. Anyway, I have to turn this off, so it doesn’t ring. That was such a surprise because my cellphone never rings. Okay, so my cellphone is off now. It’s a fair distance away from me.
So, let’s go on with what you were saying before the break.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: We were talking a little about DDT and other similar chemicals like that, some of the older pesticides. I think the important thing about DDT is it’s stored in the fat in the body. And during pregnancy, you mobilize that fat because a kid is really a giant source of need for energy.
And post-natally, if you’re breastfeeding the child, you’re mobilizing more fat. When you mobilize that fat, you mobilize compounds that are dissolved in the fat especially like DDT, PCDs. And those are in very small amount in the breast milk, but the kid is very small, so it’s a big dose. So if it’s a small exposure, but big dose based on their body weight.
And there’s another example if we were thinking about pre-conception is reduced intake of any source of these chemicals. This also goes phthalate, these endocrine-disrupters, bromate, flame retardants, which are also storing fat. So it’s just a wide range of chemicals that unfortunately, we have to be conscious of because we spread them around the environment and not done a good job of regulating potentially harmful exposures.
DEBRA: Would you just give an overview? I’m looking on – there’s a page on ToxicPedia.org where you talk about pregnancy and development and you list the chemicals. What I want you to do is give some more details about some of the major ones, but let’s just go over the list so that people have an overview and then we’ll get more details about some of them. So do you want to go over and tell people what they are?
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah, there’s a wide range of chemicals. For example, we touched a little bit on methylmercury. You got to worry about methylmercury because it shows up in fish. Some fish has higher concentrates of methylmercury – some tuna fish, sharks, swordfish. The high-end food eaters in the ocean that has more methylmercury in their body than other fish.
You really want to consume fish. Fish is really important because it’s a really important source of protein, but it’s also potentially a hazard to developing organs.
So you want to consume fish that are low in mercury such as scallops. You can get a list of these things on a variety of websites about what fish should be consumed.
And mercury is really a compound that we added in coal and coal-fired utility plants. It produce mercury into the environment, then mercury turns into methylmercury, absorbed and moved up the food chain. So it’s bioconcentrate and biomagnified in fish in particular when we consume that.
So mercury is one of them. Solvents are a big deal. For example, gasoline. But there’s also solvents in cosmetic products and cleaners. So it’s very important to be conscious of what cleaning agents and cosmetics are being used.
And I think this also speaks to what we don’t know that is in lot of our products. I very strongly feel that we have the right to know what chemicals we’re being exposed to off of the ingredients. They’re not listed in these products. For example, a lot of fragrances will have phthalates as carriers to the fragrance in the product. So you have to be very careful of exposure to things like that.
DEBRA: One of the products that I think people are not aware as an exposure of solvents is permanent ink markers. They’re just sold all over the place and they’re advertised. If you can smell the marker, it’s got a solvent in it. It used to be that just professional artist markers were that way, but now, just most of the markers that are sold – you really have to look to find one that isn’t a solvent-based marker.
And so that’s just something that probably everybody has in their house except for me because I know this. Most people just buy those markers and they don’t think twice about it. And especially if you’re pregnant or if you want to get pregnant, don’t buy those markers.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah, that’s a great example of simple, little products that you want to avoid. And by and large, you want to avoid things with fragrances in them because they have carriers like phthalates in them.
So it really is a matter of trying to reduce overall. I think it’s good for general health to just reduce the chemicals that we’re exposed to and try to choose products with the fewest chemicals in them.
I think there’s more availability on websites for that. The Environmental Working Group has got a lot of information, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACON). They have that great report, ACOG. My website has got materials. You can download the chapter on pregnancy and development as a PDF file as well as a Powerpoint presentation that summarizes a lot of these information.
So there’s a lot of good information out there and we got to just continue to be aware to try to eat organic food. Pesticides, there’s 1.2 billion – I just read on a site now – 1.2 billion pounds of ingredients and pesticides that are used in the United States in 2001. I’m sure that’s gone up. And this does not address the inert ingredients, the carriers.
So it’s important to try to reduce the use of pesticides. Some of the [inaudible 00:32:37] have actually banned the cosmetic use of pesticides. I would go along with that. I don’t think pesticides should be used in home environment. There are alternatives to that [inaudible 00:32:47] pest management.
So we need to pick past and reduce exposure and to reduce the use of coal, for example and shipping of coal. We’ve talked about that with mercury.
But how do we, in general, reduce our immediate use of chemicals in our daily lives?
DEBRA: Well that, there’s a lot of information on my website and in these Toxic Free Talk Radio interviews about just that thing. I know that sometimes, we can start thinking that, “Well, what are the specific chemicals that cause harm that we need to be watching out for?” I actually gave up that thinking a long time ago because as I started researching the health effects of these chemicals, these chemicals are affecting every body system. And so you just need to be reducing them, every chemical that you can overall.
And of course, there are some that are very specific. I think that pregnant women and women who want to become pregnant should watch out for those specifically like the heavy metals and the pesticides. I mean, even if all you did was eat organic food, that would reduce it a lot. Even if all you did was do something to remove the heavy metals from your body, that would help a lot.
But these things, everybody should be doing them. I would say across the board, if you want to get pregnant, if you are pregnant, mother or father, you need to do this. You just need to do this. Of all the segments of the population where it’s important, I think this is the one.
We need to go to break now, but we’ll be right back. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd and my guest today is Dr. Steven Gilbert from ToxiPedia.org and we’re talking about how toxic chemicals affect children before they’re even born, before they’re even conceived. We’ll be right back.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is Dr. Steven Gilbert. He’s the author of A Small Does of Toxicology. You can get that at his website, ToxiPedia.org. You can download it for free and also see all the other incredible information. He’s got so much information on his website that really put toxics in perspective.
Dr. Gilbert, what about x-rays for women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant?
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Well, x-rays are important to be used. But also, if you’re thinking about getting pregnant, you definitely do not want to expose you to x-rays or the energy from x-rays. There’s lots of data that show that they’re potentially harmful.
So that’s another reason to be deliberate. You go to the dentist’s office and get an x-ray, you really want to be careful with that to make sure you have your protection or to make sure your dental visits are preconception and post-delivery of the child.
So I think it’s very important to be thinking about that. It’s another good reason to be conscious and make your pregnancy deliberate.
I also want to mention, we went through a lot of [inaudible 00:39:55] on the individual, but I think also, we need to have better chemical policy reform. We need a better overview of this information, so we have transparency.
We have laws that are broken like TSCA, Toxic Substance Control Lab. I urge your listeners to engage their politicians and encourage them to enact legislation that guarantees we have access to information and guarantees and look into the safety of these chemicals we’re exposed to and make sure we’re not exposed to the wide range of chemicals we are, that we are exposed to only chemicals that we need and are the least toxic chemicals possible.
I think it’is very important to address this problem from a regulatory standpoint, from broad government perspective like banning bisphenol a in other products, from baby toys and things that could be used for babies like water bottles and things like that. So we need to look at this broadly as well as individually.
DEBRA: I completely agree. Did you see the article that was just in this week about how the European Union is wanting to ban this phenol a and they’re getting all this opposition from…
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah.
DEBRA: Talk about that because I think that this is – I mean, it’s all well and good to say that the government should do this. And I agree. But it’s so difficult for the government to do it if all the sectors aren’t aligned around this. And I really don’t understand why people just across the board can’t understand, “This is a toxic chemical, we shouldn’t be using it.”
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah, it’s a very frustrating problem. It’s very frustrating for the United States. They’re not taking more leadership in this. Europe has a program called REACH and they’ve been more aggressive about trying to ban chemicals, they’ve done more work on endocrine-disrupters; bisphenol a is one of them.
There’s many use of bisphenol a. It’s produced in billions of pounds per year. It’s used in all kinds of products and plastics. That’s a primary use of them.
It’s also in cash registry receipts. And if you’re in pregnancy, don’t touch the cash registry receipts. Just stay away from them. I try to keep my granddaughters away from cash registry receipts. I go that far. We’re trying to reduce exposure to them. One of my grandchildren like to put things in her mouth. I’m constantly, “Do not put plastics in your mouth.”
So little things like that that are really important. Bisphenol a, we just don’t need to use it in the volumes that we use it. There are certainly some good uses for it. But I really commend what’s going on in Europe where they take a more precautionary approach. The precautionary approach is the industry needs to demonstrate safety.
Now, in the United States, the burden is on the government (which is us) to demonstrate harm instead of industry demonstrating safety because of these industrial chemicals that we’re being exposed to.
So we need to turn it around. We have a very precautionary approach putting new drugs on the market where they go through live testing. We use a consumer approach to industrial chemicals that are widely used and we’re exposed to.
DEBRA: I think that would be wonderful. I just would like to see – you know, I’ll pat myself on the back and say I’ve done a pretty good job over the years of reducing my own chemical exposure and being able to identify toxic chemicals that are in consumer products, but it’s so difficult because companies are not required to put on the label what they’re actual ingredients are. And so how are we supposed to know?
And when I first started doing this work 30 years ago, I had to go to industrial publications to find out what they were using because you can’t get it on the label. And then you can’t even know from product to product to product. So the best we can do is to find out — if we can find out if there’s toxic chemicals in it, then we can say, “Yes, there’s a toxic chemical, so let’s not use this one even if we don’t know everything that’s in it” or we can go to the other extreme and say, “It’s certified organic” or something like that where we’re being told that there are no toxic chemicals in it.
But what we need is this across-the-board, we need the information about what is in the product, so that as consumers, we get to make a choice and we don’t have that. Even if none of the chemicals were banned, if we had the information, I think it would change the marketplace because I think that if people really knew what was in a product and they could go look it up and find out what are the toxic effects, that they would not buy these products.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah, I agree, Debra. I think that would be a huge step in the right direction. It would make a lot more transparency over what chemicals are in what products and how much of those chemicals and more deliberate use of these chemicals.
I think this also comes back to the environmental justice issue. It’s really discouraging to me that people with low income have a tough time buying food that’s organic, that is more expensive. We really got to subsidize the right products. So we’re not subsidizing the corn syrup and large soda drinks and things like that. We need to be subsidizing the right kinds of food and ensuring that people have a healthy start to life.
DEBRA: Right! I so agree, I so agree. Well, we only have about five minutes left out of the show so I want to make sure that you get to say anything else that you’d like to say that you haven’t yet said.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Well, I just want to emphasize again being deliberate about pregnancy. For example, alcohol consumption. You really want to be deliberate because if you don’t know you’re pregnant, you might consume alcohol (in a lot of states now, marijuana is legal). So what are the effects of alcohol or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana?
So you really want to be conscious of bringing a child into the world so it can reach and maintain their full potential. That means creating an environment that has the fewest chemical exposure possible and being really thoughtful about all that.
As I remember, alcohol is one of the most highly consumed drugs and it produces fetal alcohol effect and fetal alcohol syndrome, which is a more dramatic effect. But fetal alcohol effect is low level exposure and it causes neurodevelopmental disorders.
But I think the other thing I just want to emphasize is that it is about timing and dose response. We’ve studied more chemicals as we’ve developed. We learned that very small doses like bisphenol a, there are subtle effects to small doses exposure to these chemicals. So it’s not just consuming a large amount, it’s very low level exposure to these chemicals.
And be conscious of the fish you eat. Try to eat fish that are lower in mercury and look for the labels on that, look for advice from the government and other agencies, some of the non-governmental agencies that provide advice on fish consumption.
And I just want to touch too on workplace exposures. A lot of people working, for example, at nail salons – very important. Cosmetics that are used in those, nail polish and nail removers, they have solvents in them.
So it’s very important to be thinking about your occupational exposure, what chemicals you might bring home from working in an industrial environment. You’ve got lead on your clothing and track at home – so your lead exposure to workplace, solvent exposure in the workplace. So it’s very important to be thinking about workplace exposures.
DEBRA: You know, when I go to the mall, you could smell those nail polish solvents all the way 50 feet away. And so even if you’re walking by the nail salon, you’re going to be breathing those chemicals.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: You could imagine what those people that are working in those nail salons are breathing. And that’s on an 8-hour work shift. They’re inhaling a lot of solvents from those.
Again, we need to know what’s in those solvents, what kind of solvents should be used, what chemicals are in the nail polishes and what we should be thinking about as far as exposure goes.
DEBRA: So if you’re pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, you shouldn’t go to a nail salon and get your nails done. In fact, you shouldn’t do your nails at home either because that’s a big source of…
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Yeah, I would say that too. And no alcohol consumption, no marijuana use and no cigarette smoking, really being thoughtful about that.
And we know a lot more about potential low level effects from epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of those changes in the expression of DNA. We have a good mechanism of action for subtle changes that are detrimental to the child’s development.
Wendy: Good! Well, as always, this has been a very informative show. There’s just so much information to know and so much – I really think that people, to be alive today and to stay healthy, we all need to be toxicologists. We all need to understand where the chemicals are and how they can affect our bodies, so that we can make those proper choices. And that’s why…
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Go to your representatives. We need chemical policy reform.
Wendy: We do, we do. I totally agree. Okay! So, thank you so much for being with us.
DR. STEVEN GILBERT: Thank you, Debra.
Wendy: You’re welcome. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. You can go to ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com and all these shows are now being transcribed. It takes a few days to get them. But usually by Monday or Tuesday of the following week, I have the transcript up for the show. I already have a number of them already done. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks.
But also, if you have shows that you would like to get a transcript for, you can request – I have so many back ones to do, but you can request that back shows be transcribed sooner or later if you go to the website and see what they are.
Again, go to ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com. I’m Debra Lynn Dad. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. Be well.