Consuming what has been called "safe" levels of chemicals in combination at low doses has concerned scientists for decades. While many chemicals are thought to be safe at very low doses tested in isolation, what happens when you ingest a little bit of a lot of different chemicals over time?
When regulators consider consumer risk, they evaluate a compound's safety using laboratory animals and exposing them to an individual chemical in progressively smaller amounts until the chemical no longer demonstrates the ability to trigger negative health effects, including cancers. They use this amount to determine some small fraction they "believe" is potentially safe for people.
However, the assumption that toxicity is dose-dependent is not always true, especially for chemicals that mimic hormones.1 And, regulators are not required to test mixtures of these chemicals to determine what the outcome would be under real-world conditions.
Over your lifetime, you may be exposed to nearly 80,000 man-made chemicals present in your food, water, air and personal care products.2 It only makes health sense to evaluate the effect this chemical soup, ingested or absorbed nearly every day, has on your health. A recent study has found that when even small amounts of chemicals from food, pharmaceuticals and personal care products are combined in your body, you may experience liver damage.3
So-Called 'Safe' Levels of Chemical Mixtures Demonstrate Liver Damage
Outside of a laboratory you are never subjected to just a single stressor or single chemical.4 Recent research has demonstrated low levels of chemicals, considered safe by regulators, are actually toxic when present in the body in mixture. The experiment was designed to evaluate real life situations in a general population exposed to combinations at low doses from environmental sources, food, pharmaceuticals and personal care products.5
Using four groups of Sprague-Dawley rats, the researchers administered a mix of chemicals in their drinking water for a period of six months. The control group received water, which was free from additional chemicals. Of the three treatment groups, the low-dose group received 25 percent of the European Union (EU) acceptable daily intake, the medium dose received exactly the acceptable daily intake defined by the EU, while the high-dose group received five times the acceptable daily intake.6
After six months, the researchers evaluated body weight and biochemistry markers, finding the animal's weight increased above 10 percent in all male groups relative to the controls.7 Modest increases were found in the females who received medium and high doses of the chemicals. Additionally, the researchers found adverse effects in liver testing, especially at the low-dose level and primarily in males.
Overall, the results suggest exposure to low doses may induce liver damage as a result of the combination of different toxic mechanisms. The results of this study support previous research demonstrating the effects of chemical cocktails, even at low levels,8 on the liver,9 and their potential for triggering cancer.10
Do You Consume These Chemicals?
The chemicals tested by the researchers included some that may not sound familiar. As you read through the list, it will become clear it is very difficult, if not impossible to avoid consuming these chemicals. Others included in the study were glyphosate, a commonly used herbicide on genetically modified crops, BPA found in plastic products, the artificial sweetener aspartame, and ethylparaben and butylparaben, which are preservatives used by food, pharmaceutical and personal care manufacturers.
This is a manmade pesticide commonly used to control aphids, fire ants, fleas, ticks and spiders. It is sold under the brand name Sevin by Bayer and brief exposure may result in weakness, dizziness and sweating. Pinpoint pupils, lack of coordination, muscle twitching and slurred speech have also been reported.11
An insecticide used to kill mites and insects systemically and on contact, it is used on aphids, thrips and whiteflies on crops such as apples, corn, grapefruit, lemons, pears, pecans and tomatoes, as well as other vegetables.12
Used as a pesticide since 1968 on field crops such as lettuce, and on oranges, it is extremely toxic when ingested and has been restricted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It may only be used under direct supervision of trained and certified applicators.13
A restricted-use organophosphate pesticide, it is used to control insects by contact or by respiratory action. It is readily absorbed through the skin, and accidental skin contact or inhalation have caused human fatalities.14
This is a fungicide for agricultural use and seed treatment for barley, corn, cotton, oats, rye, sorghum and wheat. Trade names include Amiral, Bay MEB 6447 and Bayleton.15