You're entire family visits your sister on Sunday who has a cold... In 24 hours, your youngest child begins showing cold symptoms as well. What's interesting.... none of your other 3 children got sick. It may not be coincidence..... Over the weekend you installed new carpeting in your youngest child's bedroom, you also bought a new mattress for his bed (containing flame retardants), along with that you painted his room (vinyl compounds) and installed a plug-in fragrance in his wall (containing dozens of chemicals including phthalates). Your neighbor had their lawn sprayed for bugs and weeds and you left your child's window open.
It is well documented that many of these chemicals alone can negatively impact immune system function. Simultaneous exposure to many chemicals can be far worse (in a process known as synergism). This situation happens everyday across the country and not much thought is given to it. Illnesses today are typically blamed on non-washing of hands etc.
The chemicals didn't cause the "cold," however, they did set up a situation in which the immune system was put into a weaker than normal state. This results in the body not being able to rid the virus faster than its growth rate - thereby resulting in symptoms the body uses to help eliminate the cold virus. For example, if a single virus cell is inhaled (from your sister's cough), and in turn, entered a nasal cell and began replicating, in approximately 20 minutes, a group of 100 new viruses would be born and enter the blood stream. However, when the immune system is working properly, when the nasal cell is invaded, it produces a chemical known as "interferon" (to interfere with virus growth), that warns other lung cells in the area to close up and literally prevent the virus from entering. Unfortuntely, some petroleum based chemicals impairs the ability of infected cells to make interferon... The consequences would then be obvious.
The field that studies the ability of compounds in the environment to weaken the immune system is known as "immunotoxicology."
Currently, chemical companies such as DOW, DUPONT, UNION CARBIDE, MONSANTO and others are not required by the EPA to test their chemical products for subtle or gradual harmful effects upon the immune system. However, independent research has found immune system problem can occur from exposure to home and lawn/garden pesticides, disinfectants, cosmetic product chemicals, plastics, vinyl copounds, alcohol, car exhaust, electro-magnetic radiation (EMR), mercury (as in mercury/silver amalgam fillings and other sources. What is very worrisome is the fact that when an individual receives exposure to many of these sources simultaneously, the harmful effects upon the immune system are sometimes far greater (1 + 1 = 3). This is a process known as "potentiation."
Health effects resulting from a weakened immune system have now been found to include - increased frequency of colds and flu, allergies, asthma, autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, arthritis, lupus and others. Of particular concern is new research showing how cancer cells can multiply and kill the "host" at a much faster rate when some immune system cells are in lower numbers (i.e, Natural Killer Cells). This fact provides some of the strongest logic to date on the importance of identifying and removing all environmental sources with a potential for suppressing a child's immune system.
For the average person, one cubic millimeter of blood contains approximately 7,000 white blood cells. This can range between 4,000 and 10,000 for 95% of the population who are given the label of "normal," although it has been found that people in the low-normal range have increased infections and high normal have reduced infections.
LEARN ABOUT IMMUNE SYSTEM FUNCTION
Personal Care Products Contain Immune System Weakening Phthalates
Phthalates are a chemical added to perfume and personal care products as a solvent or to prevent the product from becoming brittle. It has been found to weaken the immune system (see below) and has been banned in some European countries (but not the U.S.) Scientists examined phthalate levels in 48 diferent personal care products purchased stores in Washington, DC. This included perfume, deodorant, hair spray, hair gel, nail polish and remover, body wash, and lotions. The following table summarizes their findings regarding the presence of phthalates:
Two types of phthalates, diethyl phthalate (DEP) and di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP), were found at higher concentrations than other phthalates. All perfumes and one nail polish had the highest concentrations of phthalates . Unfortunately, phthalates are exempt from being listed under ingredients which prevents the consumer from knowing whether the chemical has been added.
Scientists studied the air and urine concentration of phthalates in 186 inner-city women during pregnancy. Women reporting perfume use had 2.3 times higher livels of a urine metabolite formed after phthalate exposure. The scientists conclued their study with the statement,
"Results suggest that perfume use is a significant source of DEP (Diethyl Phthalate) exposure."
Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health
How Paints & Plastics Weaken the Immune System
The chemical tributyltin (TBT) is used in antifouling paints, as a catalyst and in marine applications. It is also used in common PVC (polyvinyl choride) plastics. The chemicals effect on the immune system of laboratory animals was studied at the University of California and reported in the 1990 journal Environmental Research. Their investigation found that laboratory animals fed even very small levels of the chemical (10 and 100 parts per billion) for only one week caused a 38% and 46% reduction of Natural Killer cell activity (Natural Killer cells attack virus infected cells and cancer cells). The researchers stated this inhibition of immune activity may "predispose the animals to malignancy." PVC is made flexible by the addition of chemicals called plasticizers. Plasticizers are used in many vinyl products including shower curtains, vinyl flooring, couches, artificial leather, wall paper, flexible toys and car interiors. A 2004 joint Swedish-Danish research team found an significant association between allergies in children and indoor air levels of two plasticizers DEHP and BBzp (butyl benzyl phthalate). These are used in vinyl flooring. This study was reported in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 112(14):1393-1397. The Japnese car companies Toyota, Nissan, and Honday have eliminated PVC in their car interiors beginning in 2007.
Another very toxic chemical group is called halogenated polyaromatic hydrocarbons - a fancy name for chemicals such as dioxin, PCBs, PBBs, hexachlorobenzene and pentchlorophenol. Dioxin has been found as a by-product in some pesticides such as the common lawn fungicide Daconil and also forms when plastics containing chlorine are burned. Dioxin is also a routine contaminant in many products "whitened" by chlorine treatment such as paper towels, toilet paper coffee filters and tampons. PCBs were used as a coolant in electrical transformers. Hexachlorobenzene was once used as a disinfectant in hand soaps and pentachlorophenol is presently used to make pressure treated wood. In 1973 an accident happened where the chemical PBB contaminated cattle feed in Michigan. Local farmers and Michigan residents who consumed these dairy products were found to have PBBs in their blood. Immune system investigation found that 34% of farm workers and nearly 60% of PBB manufacturing workers had a reduction in T-cell lymphocyte numbers.