Toxin, toxout: How to rid our bodies of harmful chemicals

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First aired on On the Coast (6/1/14)

Many Canadians spend money on cleanses and adhere to special diets in an effort to rid themselves of unwanted chemicals. But do they work? Environmentalists Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith set out to answer that question, and they present their findings in their new book, Toxin Toxout: Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World.

In a recent interview with On the Coast, Lourie explained that the book is a follow-up to the pair's previous book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck. In that book, they chronicled the results of experiments they did "measuring chemicals coming into our bodies just through using all kinds of personal care products, food that we eat, and microwaving things in plastic."

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In the course of promoting Slow Death by Rubber Duck, they were often asked what they were doing to get rid of those toxic chemicals. The question came up so frequently that they decided it was worth writing a book to offer answers.

"There are over 80,000 chemicals in commercial use today, and they're in everything from our sofas to fabrics to pesticides on the food we eat," Lourie told host Stephen Quinn. In Slow Death by Rubber Duck, Lourie and Smith looked at "a selection chemicals that are known to cause harm, endocrine-disrupting chemicals and carcinogenic chemicals, and we watched them increasing in our bodies by doing direct experiments. We showed very clearly that these chemicals are getting into our bodies quickly, and then we researched and spoke to experts."

Lourie pointed out that medical experts worldwide are beginning to make connections between toxic chemicals and disorders such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), asthma, thyroid problems and cancer.

In Toxin Toxout, Smith and Lourie also took a hands-on approach, either doing the experiments themselves or finding others willing to do so. One experiment involved "kids that were on a diet of non-organic food." They measured the level of chemicals in the kids' bodies, and then switched them to an organic diet for a period of time. They found "a measurable decrease in the pesticide levels in their bodies" when they were on the organic diet. "So avoidance, it turns out, is one of the best strategies," he said.

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Avoidance is also a useful strategy when when it comes to personal care products like cosmetics. "There's been a dramatic shift in terms of the availability of green products and healthier products on the market," Lourie said. "You need to be a smart consumer and choose the products that are greener."

When asked which methods of detoxification actually work, Lourie cited a therapy called chelation, which involves removing heavy metals from the body. He cautioned that "it needs medical oversight," and involves "running an intravenous fluid through your body." After the treatment, he "saw a dramatic increase in mercury and tin and aluminum coming out of my body."

Lourie also mentioned a low-tech method for ridding our bodies of harmful chemicals. "Through our skin, we sweat out toxins," he said. Whether through exercise, a sauna or steam bath, he added, "you want to be actively sweating on a regular basis."