Practical Advice for Avoiding Environmental Toxins

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Nearly 70,000 industrial chemicals are now found in our everyday products, with 1,000 new synthetic chemicals introduced each year. Only a fraction of these have been tested for safety in humans.1,2 EPA estimates suggest that the average American could be carrying approximately 700 industrial chemicals in their bodies.3 How’s that for TMI?

While it is not possible to completely eliminate toxin/toxicant exposure from all sources, there are ways to minimize it. Here are a few:

  • Limit your exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs). This type of toxin is found in common household items like air fresheners, carpet cleaners and even disinfectants. Purchase products that are labeled as low VOC.

  • Store food in containers labeled as bisphenol A (BPA)-free or phthalate-free. Don’t heat food in plastic containers.

  • Look for organic produce, which is grown without pesticides, and will contain fewer residues than conventionally-produced fruits and vegetables. It turns out that washing food with plain water is just as effective in getting rid of pesticides as produce wash solutions. Peeling skins off of produce may help to further lower pesticide levels; however, the peel contains fiber and important nutrients.

  • Limit your intake of processed foods. Even ones that are free of synthetic preservatives may contain detectable amounts of toxic compounds that were introduced during processing. For example, numerous toxins are produced by the high temperatures used to manufacture some processed foods.4

Let’s be real, people — it’s almost impossible to completely avoid environmental toxins. So besides doing your best to avoid exposure, we also suggest increasing your intake of a few key nutrients for added protection.

Popular Nutrients that Support Detoxification

The good news is that these detox-supporting nutrients are readily available. They aren’t fancy and they’re pretty easy on the wallet as well. Of course, this list is not exhaustive — there are a number of other nutrients that can also help you detoxify. However, for this post, let’s just focus on the ones that just about everyone has heard of and feels comfortable taking.

  1. Polyphenols - These are plant-based antioxidants and have been extensively studied for their ability to increase liver detox pathways.5 A specific polyphenol found in grapefruit is naringenin. It has a lot of good research showing its detox benefits in humans.6 This is why people taking prescription drugs are told to avoid grapefruit juice. Other polyphenols with detox properties include soy protein and theaflavins from black tea.7,8,9

  2. Broccoli - A cruciferous vegetable, broccoli contains isothiocyanates which are reactive sulfur compounds with powerful detox properties. Two isothiocyanates, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol (I3C), are among the most potent natural inducers of liver detoxification.10

  3. Garlic - Contains sulfur compounds that can reverse the depletion of intrinsic liver antioxidants caused by the detoxification of environmental toxins.11

  4. Chlorophyllin - A compound found in leafy green vegetables, chlorophyllin binds and traps toxins in the gut preventing their absorption. In animal models, it’s been shown to lower the bioavailability and accelerate the excretion of several environmental carcinogens.12 In China, 180 people who were exposed to an environmental toxin, aflatoxin, took 100 mg of chlorophyllin three times daily. Urinary levels of aflatoxin dropped 55% compared to untreated people.13

  5. Milk Thistle - This amazing plant has been used for over 2,000 years as a detox agent. It’s even been approved by the German Commission E Monographs for inflammatory conditions, helping to establish it as a respected, safe and effective botanical. Milk thistle is rich in polyphenols, which are plant-based antioxidants. The two most important ones are silymarin and silybinin. Protect Yourself against Dangerous Toxins
Everyone should try to follow these suggestions for avoiding environmental toxins. But as we mentioned earlier, this is easier said than done. This is where the nutrients come into play. They aren’t listed in any particular order, so we suggest just starting out with 1 or 2 that you like.

Here at Life Extension®, we’re genuinely concerned about the effects of all these toxins in our environment. The scope of detrimental health effects they could have on us is scary and ultimately unknown. We do know this though: it’s not good.

If you’d like to learn more on the topic, we dive into some of these potential effects in our magazine article, Protect Your Body Against Today’s Toxic Deluge. Give it a read and let us know what you think!


  1. Geiser K, Commoner B. Materials Matter: Toward a Sustainable Materials Policy. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press; 2001.
  2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. Chemical Hazard Data Availability Study: What Do We Really Know About the Safety of High Production Volume Chemicals? Washington, D.C.: April 1998.
  3. Onstot J, Ayling R, Stanley J. Characterization of HRGC/MSUnidentified Peaks from the Analysis of Human Adipose Tissue. Volume 1: Technical Approach. Washington, DC: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Toxic Substances; 1987.
  4. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2010 Oct;39(2):95-141.
  5. Toxicol In Vitro. 2006;20 (2) : 187-210
  6. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1993; 35, 431-436.
  7. Food Chem Toxicol. 1998;36, 375-382.
  8. Molecules. 2010;15 (9) : 6332-48
  9. Food Chem Toxicol. 2003 Aug;41(8):1141-7.
  10. Altern Med Rev. 2010;15 (4) : 352-362
  11. J Appl Toxicol. 2008;28 (7) : 908-19
  12. Food Chem Toxicol. 2005;43 (1): 31-40.
  13. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2001;98(25): 14601-6.


Josh Harvey said...

Interesting post. I never thought there could be that much toxins on regular household food and stuff.

Living Green Carpet Cleaners LA said...

Agreed. Limiting exposure to VOC carpet cleaning agents is important. Many people get strange itching sensations when walking across carpets that have been cleaned by some of the chemical cleaners that can be purchased at the local grocery store.

Water Damage Fort Myers said...

oh my god, it means we can heat food in plastic container, i used to this things in my oven. Thanks for info, today onwards, i prohibited this style in my kitchen.

Life Extension said...

Water Damage Fort Myers - You're welcome!

Total Carpet Care said...

Also garlic contains natural "antibiotics". The bad part is that while the smell is there, they are active. Once the smell goes away - they've stopped working and it's time for another piece of garlic.

Life Extension said...

Total Carpet Care - Thanks for letting us know!

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