Just returned from the Bioneers conference in San Rafael, CA. Founded in 1990, Bioneers is a nonprofit organization that promotes practical environmental solutions and innovative social strategies for restoring the Earth and communities. The Bioneers explores the interconnected nature of life and the fundamental intelligence of nature. The conference brings biologists, farmers, scientists, social justice activists, students and health care workers together to explore ways to help learn from nature in order to preserve and restore our planet.
The most common question I hear from clients is, “What does that have to do with breast health?” Our website focuses on creating breast health using the best of energetic medicine and western knowledge. It is becoming increasingly clear that known toxic chemicals are showing up in our blood supply.
The sign of problems with chemical contamination has been evident in nature for some time. In 2004 MSNBC reported on Male Fish Becoming Female, saying that fish in Colorado rivers are being born with both male and female genitals. It is believed to be because of hormone mimicking chemicals in the water.
It is now becoming more evident in humans. A Wall Street Journal article in October 2005 mentions exposure to phthalates and decreased genital size in boys.
A recent study from the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) and Commonweal (www.commonweal.org) tried testing umbilical cord blood. This process, called biomonitoring tests human body fluids to monitor the amount of chemical contaminants in our bodies. The
EWG study found “an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. Tests revealed a total of 287 chemicals in the group. The umbilical cord blood of these 10 children, collected by Red Cross after the cord was cut, harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.” (Taken from the EWG website.) These toxins are affecting even the most vulnerable members of our society.
We are also finding it in our breast milk! Many of these carcinogens are fat-soluble compounds. That is to say, they like to be stored in fatty tissue. As we age, our breast tissue to fat tissue ratio in our breast changes, our breasts become more fatty. As we age our risk for breast cancer also increases. (That is one of the few facts about breast cancer that everyone seems to agree on.) The more we collect these toxic chemicals in our breasts, the more likely they are to cause a mutation – or so the theory goes.
Breast Milk toxicity is an increasingly alarming issue. Breast milk samples show signs of a variety of these fat-seeking chemicals. There is an effort to watch how many toxic chemicals are stored in our bodies AND track how that increases the risk of disease. To learn more about toxins in breast milk, check these two sites.
National Resource Defense Council at http://www.nrdc.org/breastmilk.
Also try the Environmental Working Group at www.ewg.org/reports/mothersmilk.
The controversy here is around two main points. First, we must ask the question: Is it a problem to have these carcinogens in the breast tissue? Can it be proved that they cause the cancer to develop?
How come some women with known exposure to toxic chemicals get cancer and others don’t? This become further complicated by the fact that many of these fat seeking chemicals actually mimic estrogen in the body. They are referred to as xenoestrogens. The more xenoestrogens in the breast are thought to effect estrogen levels. Most breast cancers are estrogen related. This theory is still just a theory and has not been widely accepted.
One of the ideas that environmentalists are promoting is the precautionary principle. That is, until we know it is safe, don’t put it on the market. If these chemicals are causing harm in our bodies, let’s stop putting them in the environment. Carolyn Raffensperger, executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, spoke at the Bioneers conference about this important issue. To learn more about this idea go to her website at http://www.sehn.org/precaution.html.
The second controversy about chemicals in the breast tissue is whether we can do anything about it. Can we get these chemicals out of the body? Most environmentalists and western medical doctors do not know of effective ways to clean the tissue from toxins. There is very little evidence to show what is most effective at pulling specific chemicals out of the body.
What we do know is that the body has a system designed to clean itself. The liver has two detoxification pathways. There are hundreds of articles (mostly in naturopathic journals) about helping these pathways work better. Strong evidence shows that certain nutrients can help improve the body’s ability to detoxify chemicals and render them neutral. The evidence is poor in offering precise evidence about specific chemicals and effective treatment protocols. One of the main problems is that the tests for these chemicals are cost prohibitive. Heavy metals are an exception; there is adequate evidence that natural chelation is effective to help excrete heavy metals.
The naturopathic community believes there are non-toxic ways to help the body eliminate toxins. The Chinese and Ayurvedic medical communities believe there are natural and non-toxic ways to remove toxins from the body. Energetic theory believes there are non-toxic ways to remove chemicals from the body. The lymphatic massage community is built on the belief that lymph helps to remove toxins from the system. These ideas need to be tested using scientific methods to see whether they really work AND what protocols are most effective.
Using the same idea of the precautionary principle, we at the Breast Health Project believe that we must not wait for the western medical community to accept the idea of detoxification before it is seriously researched. If monies are being spent to monitor toxicity in humans, part of it should go towards finding a solution on how our bodies can best manage this new amount of toxicity.
The Bioneers conference brought many key people who are researching these issues together. We hope to work with people we met at the conference to further this research agenda. This was the most positive and hopeful conference I have been to in a very long time. There are thousands of bright people very committed to making this planet safer and less toxic. The Bioneers community has become a central meeting place. Please take a look at the Bioneers website, check out their radio program or read the newsletter. We are all connected and when we all work together for the greater good, we become unstoppable! Visit them at www.bioneers.org.