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Are You Being Poisoned by Toxic Substances?

Updated on January 23, 2018
parrster profile image

Among his varied other writing interests, Richard Parr aspires to creating interesting and inspiring stories about life.

So what's your poison?

Chemical pollutants, industrial waste contaminants.

For many, toxic substances are a daily reality of work that could be robbing years off their lives.

A toxic substance can be defined as any material able to cause systemic damage to living organisms - in other words 'poison'. They can enter the body many ways: Ingestion, inhalation, absorption, and injection. And for many this may be occurring daily without them even realising. And for some the result will be illness.

Ancient Egypt was the first to use chemicals, soda for making mummies!

Today chemical production occurs on an enormous scale. In the US alone over 200 million tonnes are produced every year. In the UK there are several single plants that produce in excess of 500,000 tonnes per year.

In Australia the chemical industry began with the production of gas from coal and its by-products at Sydney in 1841. In 1860 the manufacture of phosphate fertilisers began for our fast growing agricultural regions. And back then, even more than today, the hazards of working with chemicals were very present.

As example, at the turn of the century, bleach packers were not provided with protective clothing and instead made do with old sacks. Many suffered horrible burns when the bleach was spilt.

The hundreds of millions of tonnes of toxic substances produced worldwide are used for purposes as diverse as household cleaners and fly sprays, from jet-fuel additives to industrial production processes. And many of them are poisonous to humans.

Even domestic chemicals can pose serious health hazards

Be too free with the fly spray around your aquarium and you’ll kill the fish. Inhale that insecticide you so lovingly protect your plants with and you could be hospitalised.

And that’s just the home based sporadically used chemicals, what of the commercial and industrial chemicals many expose themselves to on a daily basis?

A growing number every year are claiming occupational poisoning, with symptoms ranging from skin rashes to serious respiratory disorders and brain damage.

Their work varies from commercial cleaners, nurses, painters, printers, and ceramic tilers… The only common denominator for many of them is that they didn’t know the dangers, or the precautions taken were inadequate.

One such is an Australian named David (surname kept for privacy). A Queenslander Involved in pest-control for 10 years, David is now a victim of Non-Hodgkins indolent grade four lymphatic cancer, and he attributes it to the chemicals he once worked with.

When asks whether he took any precautions, he says, 'Yes, but the precautions laid out by the regulating authorities back then by five separate acts of Parliament are today considered inadequate'. He adds, 'Medical authorities world wide list pesticide exposure as one cause of my illness.'

Unlike many ailments however, chemical poisoning is less easily proven, with symptoms often occurring many years after working with the guilty chemical.

Cumulative Poisoning

Toxicity due to single event exposure, where poisoning is obvious and immediate, is also easier to prove than short term (acute toxicity) and long term (chronic toxicity) multiple exposures, where the cumulative effects of the substance gradually poison the individual over years.

Recent research has shown that some common dementias may be induced by environmental factors. However, symptoms often don't show until later in life, then the natural loss of nerve cells and brain tissue tips the balance and symptoms appear; tremor, weakness, loss of interest, forgetfulness and senility.

One sufferer, a friend of mine and a man in his fifties, had no idea his depression, irritability, and lack of concentration was due to solvent-induced neurotoxicity. Although a printer for 30 years, it had only been in the past few that his symptoms had reached crisis point.

His wife, worried by his strange behaviour and often-vacant expression, had suspected Alzheimers or Parkinson's disease, but it was a union representative who finally recognised his symptoms as a classic case of chemical poisoning. Sadly the man committed suicide after quitting his job.

In many areas of industry and with unacceptable regularity, successive generations are enduring the oversights and mistakes of ‘beneficial’ discoveries of the past, and in no area more-so than the realm of chemical innovation.

The Cost

The cost has too often been human misery taking second place to the accrued profits of big business; many Corporations fighting to the bitter end before acknowledging that the substances their company used were indeed harmful. To mention but a few, DDT, Asbestos, formaldehyde, and even tobacco additives.

A case in point: CFC's were once considered wonder compounds because of their non-toxic, non-flammable, non-reactive properties. Now they are a banned. But the damage to the Ozone layer has already been done, with unforeseen consequences for us below.

And many are those now suffering because of asbestos poisoning. The National Occupational Health and Safety Commission reporting that Australia has a very high and increasing incidence rate of Malignant mesothelioma, a cancer of the outer covering of the lung or the abdominal cavity.

They report that, 'In the past, exposure to asbestos within Australia was very high in some industries and jobs. It is not surprising then that Australia suffers a mesothelioma epidemic of a severe nature.' Formerly rare, it is increasing in incidence and is usually fatal.

Surprisingly, Australia still imports about 2,000 tonnes of chrysotile fibre and some asbestos products per year. Though the handling of asbestos is now subject to strict controls.

However, as the NOHSC support, 'When talking about toxic substances, we must always bear in mind that although potentially dangerous they also perform useful roles in the modern world.'

And this is true; chemicals now being an integral part of our every day lives. In fact we have become dependent on them for our health, food supply, and lifestyle. Directly or indirectly these chemicals have greatly influenced our experience of life.

But, as Dr Micheal Kamrin of the Institute for Environmental Toxicology says, 'In recent years, the contamination of the environment by toxic chemicals has become an increasing problem.' In other words, we're living longer but getting sicker. And in some cases the illnesses being acquired are irreversible in their course.

The National Occupational Health and Safety Commission reports Silicosis is one such disease. Non-reversible and sometimes fatal, it is an illness caused by over exposure to airborne crystalline silica; a substance found in concrete and many cement based products. However, a tour of the construction sites reveals that few if any workers wear masks when working in environments where cement dust is present. How many of these will end up with silicosis is a question only time will reveal.

Although the potential harm of man made substances cannot be denied, the NOHSC says 'If we are to live safely with them, we need to minimise the risks they present - and we can only do this if we understand them.'

But, of course, to understand them means we must be told about them. But in this the question is 'how can we be sure what we are told is accurate', technical innovation always seeming to run several laps ahead of the later to be discovered dangers. And that is of concern, because toxic substances play an ever-increasing role in our world.

© 2010 Richard Parr


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    • Melis Ann profile image

      Melis Ann 

      8 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

      If we've learned anything from the past, it's that we will continue to learn of everyday exposures that are harmful to our health. It seems obvious in retrospect, but as a society we are still too free to accept chemicals in our food, water, homes, medicines, etc. More awareness, as you've created in this hub, helps others to see the possibilities. It becomes more complicated to identify how people are becoming sick as there are too many sources of exposure today. Minimizing these exposures is a full-time job. Thanks for SHARING!

    • Maraiya Storm profile image

      Maraiya Storm 

      8 years ago from Prescott, Arizona

      I couldn't agree with you more. This issue has deeply concerned me for many years. I try to keep my food as pure as possible and avoid any toxic products. What's hardest, however, is avoiding toxic environments. Every building at work or at home is full of toxins; the air we breath has toxins; materials, beds, products in work environments, flooring, carpeting, paint, everywhere! I don't see how we can avoid all of it. Some are building nontoxic green homes, and that's a good trend, but I wonder if they know everything to do to make a home totally nontoxic. I'm in America, and it's very bad here, too. I would like to comment, also, that this is all just craziness and if people developing products would just be able to follow their intuitive and divine guidance, they would see these things are harmful to themselves, others and the planet and would not use those chemicals and harmful products in the first place. Some things going are are about greed and not caring if what they do harms others and the environment. Some of it is lack of knowledge and awareness about toxins. But some things going on, like these prescription drugs with extreme side effects that cause other major illnesses, well, it almost seems as if they are doing it on purpose to kill us all off...but what kind of conspiracy would that be, anyway? It seems like more than just greed, it seems like they want us to get sicker and die?

    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      9 years ago from Australia

      @ Bud ~ Appreciate you comment, thanks. I've had enough friends and acquaintances seriously affected by chemical poisoning to know it's a real threat. Like you, I try to live as toxic-free as possible. It's getting ever harder though.

    • Bud Gallant profile image

      Bud Gallant 

      9 years ago from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

      I couldn't agree with you more. Very good hub, and I hope it wakes some people up. The fluoride issue, especially, is a vital one for people to become educated on. I'm a firm believer in going through life as unpoisoned as possible, and these days that's harder and harder to do.

      Thankfully a lot of good natural alternatives are emerging to the toxic products we've gotten accustomed to. I run things through the database maintained by the "Environmental Working Group" and get the toxicity ratings on products before I decide to use them. It's good to be aware, because while individually these products might not do a lot of damage, it sure can add up overtime.

    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      9 years ago from Australia

      @Darknlovely ~ thanks for stopping by to comment and the vote up. Hope to see more of you.

    • Darknlovely3436 profile image


      9 years ago from NewYork

      Thank you very much for sharing, so well put

      on this hub, however, it the world in which we lived

      and as the saying so, Man is going to destroy this world, not "God...

      vote up to this

    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      10 years ago from Australia

      @Habee ~ thanks for popping by Habee. Yes, modern life is not as carefree as we might expect. technology has done us no favours in some regards.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      10 years ago from Georgia

      Great research and info here! Scary stuff, though!

    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      10 years ago from Australia

      @elayne001 ~ Great comment Elayne. Sadly a lot of people don't realise the cause of their ill health until it is too late. They languish for years before being overcome. Glad to hear your not one of them.

      @Dolores Monet ~ Scary stuff indeed! Thanks for stopping by

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      10 years ago from East Coast, United States

      That's pretty scary. I know that if you buy goldfish, you should not place them right away in tap water. You have to allow the water to sit for 24 hours or else you will kill the goldfish. And we drink that stuff!

    • elayne001 profile image


      10 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      I gave up using cleaning products cause they nearly killed me - natural is best. Great article.

    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      10 years ago from Australia

      @lovestoread ~ Thanks for the great comment. Repeatedly in modern history our penchant for convenience & instant gratification (the quick fix) has paid us back hard. Now combined it with commercialism & big business, it has become the recipe for potential disaster.

    • Loves To Read profile image

      Loves To Read 

      10 years ago

      Great hub Parrster, if more people were to look into what goes into our foods, water, medicines etc they would be appalled. A good friend of ours is a Bio-Chemist and an EPA rep. He was telling us that they knew 30 years ago that the fluoride in our water would indeed cause problems as it makes our platelets sticky and breaks down our immune systems. The same goes for food additives, colourings, preservatives etc. They use a quick fix now for an epidemic 20 years down the line.

    • equealla profile image


      10 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      One solution is to start living like Adam and Eve again. That sounds horrible, giving up this new comforts.

      Pity though, we learn by all the mistakes. If we could only have had all this info right from the start.

      Or better still, if we could only have had all the aquired knowledge of the future, Then we can start doing everything right as from today.

      I'm just glad that there is a global awakening towards action and effect. We, at least can start our tomorrow from there.

    • Momma Mia profile image


      10 years ago from North Carolina

      This is absolutely what I and my 20 year old daughter practically preach th others!! Kudo's to you!! Keep up this very informative style......Knowledge is power.....and ignorance will make us all weak and disabled!!! Thank you for this hub!!


    • Truth From Truth profile image

      Truth From Truth 

      10 years ago from Michigan

      Excellent hub, great information. There are a lot of threats out there.

    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      10 years ago from Australia

      ~Micky dee~

      Yes, the world is not what it once was. Thanks for feedback.

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 

      10 years ago

      GReat hub. Our food, air, and water are compromised. We cannot get the "added" nutrition we need in our "standard food supply. That is why I supplement. Thanks for a great hub.

    • parrster profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Parr 

      10 years ago from Australia


      No problem. Godspeed to you too.


      All too often true. Thanks for feedback.

      ~Alya Rose~

      Yes, it is often what we don't know that kills us. thanks for visiting.

    • Alya rose profile image

      Alya rose 

      10 years ago from From beyond the reeds

      Whoa,wake up call, i never realized the dangers all around us,and i live in a ruddy apartment, i will be sure to persuade my mom to have our home environment checked.Thank you very much.

    • woodamarc profile image

      Marc Woodard 

      10 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Man made bad... Put here by God good for mankind.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      10 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Wow, thank you so much for this valuable information,thank you for sharing. Godspeed. creativeone59


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