We’ve certainly lost count of all the environmental toxins which are in some way linked to the development of cancer. It seems easier to ignore the potential problem. I did that for many years, with an “I’m just living my life” attitude.
Since my husband was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Follicular Lymphoma in 2019, I’ve practiced more curiosity regarding environmental toxins. I’ve learned that lymphoma is often considered a cancer of toxicity and that all environmental toxins have the potential to damage our cell’s mitochondria in some way.
Damage to our mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles found in cytoplasm of our cells, can lead to DNA damage, leaving us more susceptible to cancer. And the unfortunate fact is that in our modern world, toxins are just about everywhere that people are on the earth, and even some places they are not.
This realization can leave us with a paralyzing sense of overwhelm, or it can spark our curiosity.
- What toxins are we most exposed to?
- Where are they showing up in our lives and environment?
- What can we do to limit our exposure?
We can’t eliminate our toxin exposure completely, but we can take steps to reduce it without stress.
Since pesticides/herbicides in general, and glyphosate, in particular, are so prevalent in our food and water systems, let’s begin there. A recently released study by the CDC shows that the 80% of the urine samples taken from over 2300 men, women and children showed detectable traces of glyphosate, the active ingredient in herbicides used around the world, such as Round-Up™ 80%! (1)
I find it helpful to take a simple two-pronged approach to environmental toxins, again, focusing on curiosity rather than judgement and despair.
Where and how am I being exposed to this toxin?
What steps can I take right now to minimize or eliminate my exposure to this toxin?
What steps might I consider taking in the future? (if they entail more preparation or money.
The main exposure we have to glyphosate is through Round-Up™, the world’s bestselling herbicide. Round-Up™ commonly used in gardens and agriculture and on golf-courses and school fields. It shows up in our water. It’s not really an exaggeration to say that it’s everywhere. A non-selective herbicide, glyphosate is used on both food crops and non-food crops areas.
Exposure to glyphosate has increased considerably since 1997 when Round-Up Ready ™ GMO crops were introduced. These crops, which include corn and soybeans, have been genetically modified to tolerate glyphosate. (2)
Glyphosate is also sprayed on wheat and other staple crops approximately two weeks before harvest to desiccate it or dry it out, making it easier to harvest. Researchers estimate that this practice has doubled the US population’s exposure to glyphosate. (3)
While researchers, courts, and cancer patients continue to debate the carcinogenic effects of glyphosate, it is important to note the courts have found in favor of some cancer patients who have brought suit against Monsanto (NB Bayer bought Monsanto in 2018) and in a couple of cases, have found in favor of Monsanto/Bayer. (4)
For a deep dive into the science and effects of glyphosate, visit the website of Stephanie Seneff, PhD, a brilliant MIT scientist who has done much research and has written the book, “Toxic Legacy, How the Weedkiller, Glyphosate is Destroying Our Health and the Environment.” Her conclusions are not for the faint of heart, but her research is fascinating.
What Can We Do to Limit our Exposure to Glyphosate?
- Buy non-GMO food.
- Even better, buy organic food, which is non-GMO.
- Wash you fruits and vegetables well.
- Avoid processed food, much of which is made from crops sprayed with glyphosate.
- Use natural weedkillers in your garden.
My weed-killer formula:
Mix in a spray bottle:
- 8 cups white vinegar
- 1 cup Epsom salt
- 2 Tbsp Dawn dishwashing liquid
If you’re feeling brave, you can talk to your neighbors about their use of Round-Up™. It’s been around for so long, and its use is so widely accepted as safe, that most people don’t give it a second thought. I have a colleague who successfully petitioned her son’s school to cease the use of glyphosate, citing the effects it has on children’s health.
If you golf, consider the toxicity of the sport and take precautions: Golf shoes come off before entering the house and stay outside or in the garage. Clothes are changed and washed immediately after coming indoors.
If we’re all exposed to environmental toxins, why do some people develop cancer and others do not?
This is a great question and one which, I guarantee you, people with cancer ask. Why me?
Cancer is a complicated disease with many causes, and while a burden of toxins may be a major contributing factor to someone’s cancer, there may be other causes as well, other factors which damaged the cell’s mitochondria, and thus, their DNA.
Genetics could be a factor. Many people have genetic SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) which make it more challenging to detoxify these toxins. The good news is that even with these SNPs, the body can be supported through good nutrition and lifestyle habits. That is the hopeful study of epigenetics, which you can read about here.
Whatever the reason, the goal is to reduce exposure to toxins such as glyphosate to preserve the health of our cell’s mitochondria.
Curiosity instead of overwhelm. Increase your awareness and take imperfect action. Every small step in the direction of supporting your body is a positive one!
Gillam, Carey, ‘Disturbing’: weedkiller ingredient tied to cancer found in 80%of US urine samples, The Guardian, July 9, 2022
Goguen, David, J.D., Round-Up Cancer Lawsuits
Glyphosate Used as Desicant Doubles Human Consumption, The Cornucopia Institute