Formaldehyde is an organic chemical (consists of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen) that is at the very core of nature and our being. It is observed in far-off galaxies and is a product of our very own metabolism. This chemical has also become a widely pervasive part of our recent world through its many applications in our daily lives. With formaldehyde humankind produces countless substances and items not even dreamed of a short two hundred years ago such as plastic containers; synthetic fibers as alternatives to natural ones for clothing, bed linens, carpeting; glues and resins for simple things like nail polish or lip gloss or more complex industrial uses. So what is the fuss about formaldehyde if it is “natural” to our world?
Your body can perhaps deal with levels you are exposed to naturally through your food and from your body’s daily life activity. The problem and question is: Can your body (especially your liver) deal with the extra burden of continual environmental exposure to this chemical? For how long can your body detoxify this substance at increased amounts before it becomes exhausted? To clear out any toxin from your body requires many nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Constant high demand for your body’s nutrients to detoxify formaldehyde effectively reduces availability of essential nutrients to maintain the healthy operations of all your organs. Therefore you need to supply your body with an increased nutrient input. Do you provide your body with the levels of nutrients in your food choices and/or supplements to enable all your life functions including detoxification to work at high levels on a daily basis? If not you may be wearing down your health a little at a time. Your health may be severly compromised a few years down the road.
We use formaldehyde in this blog as an example of toxic exposure to which you can play a significant role in regulating. This chemical and its derivatives are found in shampoos, hand lotions, nail polish fumes, permanent press fabric ( e.g. bedsheets, shirts, etc.), carpet, construction materials such as pressed wood to identify just a few. Another avenue less obvious is through consumption of sugar-free products that contain aspartame. Your body normally breaks down this sugar substitute into other substances including methanol, also known as wood alcohol. Methanol is converted into formaldehyde which is further modified to formate which then is excreted through the urine. In a previous blog we cited formaldehyde as a hazard to your eyes. Actually it is the formate produced from formaldehyde breakdown that poses the potential harm to your eyes as well as to other parts of your nerve/sensory system. Your concern should be how rapid is your body’s capability to eliminate the formate. You cannot answer this question unless there is a test for this. The real answer is to drastically reduce the sources of this toxin in your life. Period.
Formaldehyde is a biochemical your body continually produces and also has the means to normally cleanse out if the systems for removal are in place and functioning . But you need to look beyond just yourself and your lifestyle. You need to ask yourself if you inadvertently involve the very young who are defenseless when it comes to the kinds of choices you make that expose them to such a toxin as this. For example do you use many household chemicals around the home containing formaldehyde or its derivatives? If you have lots of carpeting do you air out the house regularly? Does your family sleep on permanent press sheets? Examine the kinds of “health and beauty products” you use. Awareness of the possibility of toxic overload especially among the young is essential. Choices to reduce this overload lie in your hands once you have this knowledge. So expand your knowledge of more healthful options instead of following the same old habits. Evaluate these various options that exist and choose wisely. To create a healthful environment with less toxic exposure is one area of your life where you can exert profound positive effects on future health outcomes for you and those about which you care.
Afterthought: There are websites that review the issue of formaldhyde exposure and some of them cite statistics such as normal blood levels of this substance. Some of these sites are actually industry-sponsored that downplay formaldehyde as being a real problem. There are references to research that implies your body readily clears out this substance thus preventing serious accumulation of its potential toxic effects. Some of the research on lab animals is singularly focused on how formaldehyde affects their health and is often on a short term basis. (Do experiments done over a period of a few weeks, a few months or even a couple of years have validity for humans?) Some of this information is public relations stuff designed to debunk the concerns about this toxin.
The point of debate is not that formaldehyde is a naturally-occurring substance. Nor is it about the fact your body has an ability to detoxify it from your system. What needs to be a point of focus are the elevated levels of exposure to this particular chemical in your life. Furthermore what is not discussed or even known yet is the potential hazardous synergy of elevated formaldehyde exposure combined with dozens of other chemicals used in your daily life including toluene, propylene glycol, artificial fragrance, parabens and other volatile chemical. Perhaps the point is that you well may be creating a hazardous or even lethal cocktail of lots of toxins that eventually overwhelms your body or that of a young individual who is innocently exposed.
There has been a recent new report of an extremely high rate of autism in New Jersey. Is this due in part of just such an overload like this? This state is home to many companies that have been producing industrial chemicals or using them in other manufacture for many years. Are the citizens of this state actually the long-term “lab experiment” that is finally showing the true results of decades of long-term toxic exposure? We don’t have definitive answers to this. Medical epidemiologists may take decades to make some “links” to this possibility. By then industry public relations will have sugar-coated or deflected any involvement with the problem. Meanwhile hundreds, perhaps tens of thousands or even millions will have become ticking time bombs of hidden health problems such as cancers, neurological disorders, endocrine malfunctions. The health system will do its best to treat symptoms at a huge cost in drugs, expensive and advanced diagnostic testing, surgical interventions. (Very soon genetic testing may be available to determine just how sensitive you may be to such a chemical as formaldehyde. Great. How much is that going to cost the health care system?) Those still alive will shake their heads and murmur “How sad.” Will the public outcry against poisoning the citizens of this country go unheard or unsung? Do you hear it? You can make your voice heard in many ways including by your choices of products you use in your homes or on your person with awareness and with careful thought? In the end it is really about choices —– your choices. It is your choice to prevent and to put a stop to further toxic exposure.