FX Medicine

Home of integrative and complementary medicine

We Are Bathed in Toxins

rebeccaguild's picture


It’s a fairly well accepted notion these days, that we are more exposed, to more chemicals, pollutants and toxins than ever. 

But have you ever stopped and tallied up your average daily exposure?

We are quite literally “bathed” in potential toxic elements, every hour, of every day. From the moment we wake up, to the moment we go to sleep, and all throughout that sleep too! 

We inhale them, drink them, consume them and come into contact with them via our skin - Twenty-four-seven!

Take a trip with me, through daily common daily exposures…


On waking, you’ve just spent a good 5-10 hours with up to 50% of your body, or more, touching the surface of your bed. Your body has been cloaked in the sheets, that have been washed, bleached, and possibly fabric softener treated, leaving their residues behind. You’ve been absorbing these elements into your skin, all evening, and inhaling them too. 

Next up; perhaps there are flame retardants and the materials your bedding is made of. Whether synthetic or natural, they’ll each have their own subset of trace chemicals. Whether it’s a polyester, feather or microfibre quilt, or a memory foam, bamboo or other fibre pillow, those too carry residual chemicals. 

Along with all that, is dust, skin cells, pet hair - even air fresheners or bug spray you may have sprayed in your room. Do you burn a candle, or incense in there for ambience? That too - carries the possibility of an array of chemicals - don't let the enticing scent and the “all natural” tag fool you. 

Are you feeling sufficiently queasy yet? This is only one-third of your day…. Conservatively, maybe we’re sitting somewhere from 20 to 120 elements you have already been exposed to.

Example ingredients in cleaning products from leading brands**


Washing Powder:

Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Sulphate, Sodium Silicate, Sodium dodecyl benzene sulphonate, Sodium aluminosilicate, C12-14 alcohol E0 8:1, Sodium anionic terpolymer, Lauryl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride, Enzymes, Antifoam compound, CI fluorescent brightener, Fragrance

Fabric Softener:

Water, Quaternized Triethanolamine Diester, Fragrance, Isopropyl Alcohol, Quaternary Ammonoum Acrylate/ Acrylamide, Aminotrimethylene Phosphoric Acid, Preservative, Dyes

Pre-Wash/ Soaking/ Bleaching:

Sodium Chloride, Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Carbonate Peroxide, Pentasodium Triphosphate, Sodium Dodecyl Benzene Sulfonate, C12-15 Pareth-8, Disodium Distyrylbiphenyl Disulfonate, Sodium Aluminosilicate, Fragrance, Enzyme, Sodium Bicarbonate

Dishwashing Liquid:

Water, C12-14 Alcohol EO 2:1 Sodium Sulphate, Lauramidopropyldimethylamine Oxide, Magnesium Sulfate Heptahydrate, Sodium Chloride, Myristamidopropylamine Oxide, Poloxamer 124, Citric Acid, Fragrance, Isothiazolinones,Dyes,Tetrasodium EDTA



Okay, you’re up and at ‘em now… Time to get moving….

You might stop at the toilet - what do you clean the toilet with? What do you spray in there? The surfaces you come into contact with, all carry residual chemicals and toxins from your cleaning products and air freshener. What is your toilet paper made of? Maybe it’s been bleached and treated with other fragrances? Sealed at the end with a puff of air freshener.

Moving on to wash your hands - what is the list on your soap like? Is it simply a bar of soap? A hand pump? Or one of those foamy ones, that is more “hand sanitiser” than actual soap. Do you have a mixture of both? How many “ingredients are there in that?

Next up, you might brush your teeth? A toothpaste could be a simple five ingredients or less - or it could have a very long list of complicated chemicals in it, that no person knows how to pronounce!  What’s your total there? Anywhere from 5 to 20 more chemicals? …And what about your water supply? What’s in that? Town water has all kinds of chemicals in it, from the “sanitation” process - such as chlorine, deodorisers and antimicrobial agents. You water may also be treated with inorganic forms of minerals, like fluoride? What about what your pipes are made of? Copper? Plastic perhaps? What about the tapware delivering the water to the basin?

Of course, to wake up completely, you're going to need to have your morning shower. Water comes on, you’re totally immersed in it. There they are; those cleansers, deodorisers and antimicrobial agents to help make your water “safe”. More Soap, some shampooo and conditioner - they really bump up the list of chemicals. You might exfoliate, shave and thus open up the skin’s exposure even further. Then you've got to dry off with fluffy towels cleaned with the chemicals from your laundry.

Ladies, here’s where we surge ahead of the men of our world. 
Hair: Blow dry, straighten - what do you apply? Balms, serums, gels, wax, hair spray - now you’ve further exposed your scalp and potentially inhaling more chemicals. How many ingredients can you add to your tally with that one little task?

Make Up: Each item in your make up routine might contain upwards of 10-30 ingredients, mostly chemical. Moisturiser, sunscreen, compacts, foundations, eye liner, mascara, blush, primers… worst of all, this proximity to eyes, nose and mouth means you might also ingest and inhale your chemical cocktails. Bringing them in direct contact with your mucosal immune system.

But we’re not done yet. Perfume? Deodorant? Sunscreen? Fake Tan? Bronzer? Nail Polish? Nail Polish Remover? 

Gents; Hair gel & waxes, antiperspirants, after shave form the basis of most men’s routine. Maybe some moisturiser, or a sunscreen too?

One of the major issues with personal care products aside from the quantity and frequency of their use, is the "blocking" effect they have. For example, an antiperspirant effectively shuts off sweating, thus depressing a key eliminatory function. Creams and sunscreens, block the breathability of pores, not to mention blocking our exposure to light, and affecting our vitamin D status.

Common inclusions in everyday personal care items:

Toothpaste:  [1]

Water, Hydrated Silica, Glycerin, Sorbitol, Flavor, PVM/MA Copolymer, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Hydroxide, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Saccharin, Mica, Titanium Dioxide, FD&C blue no.1, D&C yellow no.10, Carrageenan

Deodorant: [2,3]

EXAMPLE 1 (CREAM/ ROLL ON): Active Ingredient:Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex GLY (18.5%).Other Ingredients:Cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone, C18-36 acid trigliceride, microcrystalline wax, silica, glycerin, fragrance (parfum), dimethicone crosspolymer, sunflower oil, vegetable oil (olus), glyceryl oleate, propylene glycol, BHT, t-butyl hydroquinone, citric acid.
EXAMPLE 2 (SPRAY/ ANTI-PERSPIRANT): Active ingredient: Aluminum Chlorohydrate (20.2%). Inactive ingredients: butane, hydrofluorocarbon 152A, cyclopentasiloxane, isobutane, PPG-14 butyl ether, fragrance, helianthus annuus seed oil, disteardimonium hectorite, C12-15 alkyl benzoate, propane, BHT, octyldodecanol, propylene carbonate, dimethiconol, glycine soja oil, tocopheryl acetate, calendula officinialis flower extract

Shampoo & Conditioner: [4,5]

SHAMPOO EXAMPLE: Water (Aqua), Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Glycol Distearate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Chloride, Fragrance (Parfum), Glycerin, Dimethicone, Dimethiconol, Acrylates/Beheneth-25 Methacrylate Copolymer, Styrene/Acrylates Copolymer, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Citric Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Amodimethicone, DMDM Hydantoin, PEG-45M, TEA-Dodecylbenzenesulfonate, Cocamide MEA, Lysine HCl, Arginine, PEG-9M, Cetrimonium Chloride, PPG-9, Propylene Glycol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Mica (CI 77019), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Yellow 5 (CI 19140), Red 33 (CI 17200).
CONDITIONER EXAMPLE: Water (Aqua), Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Stearamidopropyl Dimethylamine, Behentrimonium Chloride, Fragrance (Parfum), Glycerin, Dipropylene Glycol, Lactic Acid, Amodimethicone, Potassium Chloride, Disodium EDTA, DMDM Hydantoin, Cetrimonium Chloride, Arginine, Lysine HCl, Propylene Glycol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Yellow 5 (CI 19140), Red 33 (CI 17200).


Aqua, Octocrylene, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinamate, Benzophenone-3, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, VP/Elcosene, Copolymer, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, Stearyl Alcohol, Adipic Acid/Dimethylene Glycol/Glycerin Crosspolymer, Dimethicone, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Triethanolamine, Methylparaben, Cetyl Palmitate, Polyglycerol-3 Diisostearate, Silica, Carbomer, Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben, Trisodium EDTA, Aloe Barbadensis, Tocopherol, Oxybenzone


Following on from all of the above, and the assault you’ve already conducted on your skin, hair and body, you then need to have breakfast. Depending on your food and beverage choices, there could be a slew of other chemical cocktails hidden deceptively amongst this sustenance. Preservatives, flavour enhancers, colours, flavours, artificial sweeteners - are you reading your labels?


So now you’re through the morning routine, it’s off to work. Most people are going to either drive, or use public transport. Bringing you into contact with any number of substances from exhaust fumes, heavy metals and other forms of pollution, to germs - bacteria, viruses and fungi shared from other commuters. If you have a brand new car, you could be riding to work in a chemical soup, from all the flame retardants and other treatments applied to the interior and air conditioning. 

Your occupation itself can also have a significant impact on your exposure levels too.
Occupational exposure can account for another third of your day. Ranging from chemicals from the tools of our trade, to other exogenous substances we come into contact with in our work environments - all place significant demands on our buffering and detoxification systems. 

What are some of the professions with high levels of exposure?

Miners can come into contact with a significant number of chemicals - depending on what they’re mining. Some of the most common include lead and cadmium. This will be skin contact as well as inhaled exposures.
Hairdressers constantly have their hands exposed to an abundance of chemicals from dyes, colours, shampoos, stripping chemicals, balms and sprays to name a few. Some of these chemicals are also quite pungent, and this combined with perhaps, a nail bar, within the salon and the inhaled exposure can creep right up too. 

Tradesman. No matter what trade you’re in, your exposure is constant too. Plumbers, will be exposed to copper, plastics and effluent on a regular basis. Carpenters can be exposed to treated timbers, cladding and other building materials, as well as the glues and sealing agents. If they’re cutting these building materials, there’s also a risk of inhaled exposure, or into eyes and noses.

Mechanics are exposed to engine oils and lubricants consistently. Electricians to the various compounds of their wiring, as well as fun stuff found in ceiling and wall cavities. 

Farmers, Gardeners and Pest Control. You would think the humble farmer or gardener would have it the best. Out in nature, getting fresh air and sunshine? However some of the things we use in and on our plants and soils to keep them “under control” are downright dangerous. The chemicals contained in fertilisers, weed sprays and pest control in particular, can exert an impact on skin and the nervous system, particularly with ongoing chronic exposure. 

Every occupation carries with it, exposure. Doesn't matter if you sit at a desk, or you’re a life-saver, or a police officer. There’s a unique signature of chemicals you come into contact with, each and every day, and your body has to adapt and buffer the effect.


The final source of chronic exposure to an array of chemical is the food we eat. There are so many touch points in our food supply whereby the very food you eat for health and sustenance can carry with it a residual toxic burden. 

There is a growing body of evidence for making the choice for organic wherever financially possible. Food in its “natural” state - such as fruit, vegetables and livestock are also exposed to any human interventions in the growing/raising process, as well as whatever surrounds the land area they hail from.  

The genetic adaptations of food to increase yield, reduce pestilence, improve flavour, colour and visual appeal - are now so insidious and accepted in our food supply, there’s almost no getting away from it. Imported goods are irradiated. Fresh produce can be stored, frozen, or sprayed and coated with substances to prolong shelf life. Meat and poultry are fed interesting cocktails of substances from antibiotics and growth hormones to fatten them up, increase yield, tenderise meats or make them more succulent and juicy. All of these imprint upon these foods, which we then go on to consume. 

Furthermore, there’s also the “food-like-substances”. Foods that have little connection to a “fresh” ingredient. Who’s labels are filled with numbers and flavours, colours, additives and goodness knows what else, because the labelling of food doesn't have to reflect the ingredients 100%. The refining of food - such as sugars and flours, for example, to improve palatability. Also the division of science called “food technology”, employed by large corporations to stitch combinations of chemicals and additives together in such a way, that their product lights up your reward and comfort centres in your brain, so that you go on to crave them on an ongoing basis. 

All of these things, we ingest, and the body has that subset of chemicals and toxins, sometimes completely foreign, to figure out what it needs to do with - particularly, when it’s of no nutritive value. The body is on an ongoing quest to store, use or excrete all that which we are exposed to or ingest. These ongoing, rapid assaults we deliver to our body machinery daily requires astute surveillance and problem solving skills at a cellular level. Your immune & nervous system works with your organs of detoxification and elimination to remove threats and to nourish and serve the host. For the most part, the human body, is doing a remarkable job.


The rise in the sheer amount of chemicals in existence today, and the ways in which we’re exposed to them, is almost certainly occurring faster than we’re evolving to cope with. Going back  two or three generations, think about the amount of things that we have now, that we didn’t have one hundred, or two hundred years ago?

Computers, the internet, mobile phones, 3G, 4G, televisions, electricity, air travel, cars, heated swimming pools, ATMs, social media, round-up, coca-cola, medicines…. the list could go on and on. Exposure now is at an almost catastrophic level, and our inherent mechanisms that are typically used to offset and buffer that, have not adequately adapted in such a short period of time. Therefore, taking a step back and working to mitigate risk of exposure through better choices and becoming hyper-aware of them at each touch point throughout your day is an important factor in minimising illness risk.


The information provided on FX Medicine is for educational and informational purposes only. The information provided on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional advice or care. Please seek the advice of a qualified health care professional in the event something you have read here raises questions or concerns regarding your health. 

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