Growing Up Healthy in a Toxic World – Detoxing for Optimal Wellness

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Helke Ferrie’s great grandchildren, Sophie and Omar, enjoy a healthy lifestyle in the countryside

In the late 1990s, a scientist from the World Health Organization (WHO) presented a computer model at a conference in Toronto on infertility issues, showing that if the then-current pollution trends continued, the human race would go extinct in about 500 years (15 generations). In fact, the survival of our species may even be as precarious as that of the loon, a bird whose eggs can’t hatch in heavily polluted waters or in environments with dramatically changing gas compositions in the air.

Today, sperm counts, motility, and quality are still problematic, and the statistics of two decades ago still hold: In Western countries, about 25% of people under the age of 25 are infertile, and human sperm count is half the level of the early 1960s (since pesticides and synthetic chemicals began to spoil air, water, soil, food, and medicines).

As well, we can add the birth control pill to the list of items with disastrous effects, a list that includes DDT and other “gender bender” pesticides and herbicides which interfere with the normal development of the next generations’ sperm and eggs. Hormone-disrupting chemicals can also be found in plastic wrap, vehicle exhaust fumes, PCBs, and meat and dairy products from cows fed antibiotics and hormones to increase their bulk before slaughter.

To save the human race from extinction by increasing the rate of healthy babies being born, we will need a number of interventions, especially broad access to organic food and the avoidance of synthetic chemicals and antibiotics. A key component of this is also, of course, the restoration of the human gut microbiome. (See my articles of March 2016, July/August 2016, and February 2017, currently archived on Vitality’s website, for further information.) [1][2][3]

These steps require us to make choices that are both environmentally friendly and kinder to animals.

Nature is Not for Profit

Margaret Somerville, founding director of McGill University’s Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, observed in her famous book, The Ethical Canary: Science, Society, and the Human Spirit (2000), that science, law, the economy, and social policy do not travel at the same speed – each has its own priorities. “Nature time” is at odds with human concerns … but “nature time” always wins. Nature encompasses both slow geologic shifts as well as rapid biological mutations that are potentially disastrous when humans disregard ecological and genetic imperatives.

“Business time” (which wants profits and growth every quarter), “science time” (which wants no cautionary limits set on its curiosity), and “social policy time” (which always reacts after the fact) are all on a collision course with “nature time” which cares nothing for profit and theoretical curiosity, and is unforgiving of tardy social policy.

The classic 1989 study by Mark Nathan Cohen, Health and the Rise of Civilization, provides a magisterial survey of the evolution and origins of infectious disease and chronic illnesses starting two million years ago. The first experiments with agriculture, 10,000 years ago, reduced food diversity to reliance on just a few staples and resulted in those foods becoming less nutritious through domestication. Osteoporosis followed, while cancer and infectious disease gained a foothold in bodies that genetically had not changed – we are still Paleolithic people today.

Research Reveals Nutritional Causes of Disease

In the 1930s, dentist Weston A. Price conducted a study to compare the development of teeth and facial bone structure between cultures all over the world, over several generations, and corresponding that with their traditional diets. This research uncovered what essential nutrients were present in the diets of those “primitives” who were totally healthy.

Price also discovered that those Western societies which had adopted a refined carbohydrate diet (today called the standard American diet or SAD), showed a high prevalence of bad teeth and chronic illness. This is considered the beginning of the study of nutritional medicine as a science.

Subsequent research has shown that hunter-gatherer societies get a minimum of 60,000 mg vitamin C per day from their diet, while modern Western diets are often virtually devoid of this essential vitamin.

In 1983, two researchers affiliated with Cornell University began a groundbreaking 20-year study that compared the disease burden of Chinese and American peoples. The results showed that the “diseases of affluence” include cancer, leukemia, diabetes, and coronary disease – all triggered by a lack of essential nutrients that are refined out of our food. The “diseases of poverty” are infectious diseases, tuberculosis, and parasites due to malnutrition from overall calorie and protein scarcity.

As in Dr. Price’s research, the results also show that once food intake became adequate, optimal health depended on the same set of essential nutrients, and illness was associated with our denatured SAD (see Campbell and Campbell, The China Study 2005).

At a conference in May 2003 at Mount Sinai’s School of Medicine in New York co-hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), researchers examined the so-called “Barker hypothesis” named after a British physician who noted that “exposures and risk factors encountered early in life can predispose an individual to the development of disease later in life.” Today we call such illnesses epigenetic (for more on this see my feature published in the February 2017 Vitality)[3], and chief among these are Parkinson’s, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

How the Environment Affects Kids’ Health

At the WHO conference mentioned earlier, we learned that when a fetus or child is exposed to environmental neurotoxins (such as pesticides or solvents), “silent damage is inflicted” on the brain that contributes much later to overwhelming damage. These include the following:

PESTICIDES AND DENTAL FILLINGS – The development of Parkinson’s is significantly correlated with postnatal exposure to pesticides, which diminish the number of neurons that maintain appropriate levels of dopamine responsible for all fine-motor movement. If a person is re-exposed later to even low levels of pesticides, dopamine production erodes.

The same process is at work in predisposing children to heart disease via mothers’ exposure to various environmental toxins, including those in her teeth (mercury amalgam) and diet. The overall conclusion was that environmental toxins “induce effects that can be transgenerational” because “exposure to environmental agents in the womb can alter gene expression in the developing fetus.”

Because kid’s immune systems mature over their first few years, exposure to pesticides during that time sets them up for all kinds of immune disease later on (World Resources Institute study by R. Repetto, 2000).

Furthermore, the effect of pesticides on brain development was graphically illustrated by Elizabeth Guillette’s two-decade study of children’s drawings. She observed the development of Mexican children born and raised in a village where pesticides were used liberally, and compared them with children in a foothills area where no pesticides were ever used. The perceptual and mental skills of the valley children not only lagged dramatically behind those of the foothills children, but were beyond repair (Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), June 1998).

This study demonstrated the staggering implications of these chemicals for the future. At the WHO conference, Dr. Philip J. Landrigan pointed out that even a five-point shift in the average IQ of a population (caused, for example, by prenatal exposure to pesticides) almost doubles the number of brain-damaged children and halves the number of gifted ones.

CHLORINE AND DDT – If there are to be healthy children in humanity’s future, immediate action is needed to address our exposure to various toxic compounds. A September 2003 article by Hauser et al. in Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) showed that chlorine’s damaging effects start with sperm. Similarly, maternal exposure to DDT (banned in North America since the 1970s, but still present in foods arriving from Asia and Africa) can cause neurological damage in offspring.

PHTHALATES AND PLASTIC – Phthalates can, due to their estrogenic effect, cause a shortening of pregnancy, thereby priming the low-weight, premature baby for various health risks throughout life (EHP, Nov. 14, 2003).

(Ed note: Phthalates can leach from food storage containers and food wrap into foods – particularly those foods that are oily or that have a high fat content – on contact and when heated or microwaved. Sucking or chewing soft plastic/vinyl products also causes phthalate release.)[4]

FLAME RETARDANTS – Commercial flame retardants used in electric appliances, upholstery fabric, and building materials are highly carcinogenic. Yet they are being found in 37% of breast milk in North America, thereby setting up nursing children for later cancer.

FLUORIDE – As reported in the National Post on October 6, 2016, Ontario’s Liberal government opined how useful fluoridation is, citing that dental health in Calgary declined when water fluoridation was stopped. However, dental health declines dramatically in the presence of sugar in all its forms, from pop to candy; fluoride not only doesn’t prevent dental carries, it increases neurological damage and the risk of cancer.

Fortunately, nature is stubbornly resilient. In a 10-year feline study, Dr. Francis Pottenger showed in the 1930s the following: Healthy cats fed a diet similar to our standard American diet produced offspring with chronic illnesses by the second generation; and the third generation was mostly infertile. However, those few who were able to reproduce had perfectly healthy cats three generations later, after all three generations were returned to a nutrient-rich diet.

So, where do we go from here? We have the knowledge to make good choices. Consider the results of a National Institutes of Health study (EHP, Oct. 31, 2002) which showed that simply by feeding children organic food, those neurotoxic and carcinogenic pesticides were dramatically reduced in all body fluids and tissues.

11 Strategies for Raising Healthy Kids

  1. If you are planning a baby, go to a naturopath first and ask them to supervise a year-long detox program for you – a general detox of each parent’s body is well advised.
  2. Avoid carcinogenic, benzene-containing, perfumed toiletries, and ensure that toothpaste does not contain neurotoxic and thyroid-damaging fluoride and phenols.
  3. Invest in a water filtration system that removes fluoride, chlorine, pesticides, etc.
  4. Use cornstarch-based body powders instead of talcum (which is now known to trigger ovarian cancer). (Editor’s note: In October 2016, “For the third time, Johnson & Johnson was hit with a multimillion-dollar jury verdict over whether the talc in its iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.” (CTV News)[5]
  5. Use environmentally friendly laundry detergent for cleaning your clothes, and rinse with vinegar for its water softening and anti-cling effects. Conventional detergents have been linked to cancer. Tide®, for example, contains a lengthy list of carcinogenic and neurotoxic ingredients, all of which are identified as such by the EPA. For a detailed discussion, see Dr. Mercola’s Dec. 21, 2011, article: “Are you poisoning your household with this chore?”[6]
  6. Healthy and eco-friendly laundry detergents (i.e. Nature Clean, Simply Clean, EcoMax, etc.) are available in health food stores. They are free of sodium lauryl sulfate and 1,4-dioxane, and are biodegradable so they don’t pollute our waterways. This recommendation to switch is now backed by more than 16,000 formal studies!
  7. Organic baby food is now available in glass instead of plastic, fortified with essential fatty acids and B vitamins, and free of hydrogenated vegetable oils.
  8. Protect against future diabetes by cutting out the soft drinks, refined sugars, and refined baked goods – as the WHO guidelines urge.
  9. Make sure your dentist does not put carcinogenic and neurotoxic mercury amalgam into your child’s mouth – and have those fillings removed if needed. Refuse or remove any root canals. (See https://www.
  10. Avoid the flu shot, due to its high mercury content.
  11. Don’t use pesticides, especially not Roundup. Its active ingredient, glyphos-ate, is now known as a carcinogen; it suppresses the detoxification enzymes of the liver’s cytochrome P450. (It also kills bees and butterflies.)

Life survives our most enormous stupidities, misjudgments, and appalling acts of arrogance – at a horrendous cost, yet unstoppably so. May we take comfort in nature’s determined intelligence.


  • Price WA. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. 50th Anniversary Edition. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, 1989
  • Simontacchi C. The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children. New York: TarcherPerigree, 2000
  • Steingraber S. Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Mother-hood. New York: Perseus, 2001
  • On autism and vaccines: Visit:
  • Hammond P. Why are sperm rates falling? The Telegraph, March 17, 2014.
  • Samset A, Seneff S. Glyphosate’s Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases; Entropy 2013;15:1416-63.
  • Campbell & Campbell. The China Study. BenBella Books, Inc., 2005

[1] Helke Ferrie, March 2016: “Health News Roundup”,

[2] Helke Ferrie, July 2016 “The Link Between Obesity and the Human Microbiome”,

[3] Helke Ferrie, February 2017, “The Human Super-organism – Born of a Love Affair Between Our Genes and Our Microbes”,

[4] “Phthalates – The Everywhere chemical” (Zero Breast Cancer):

[5] “Does Baby Powder Cause Cancer? Another Jury Says Yes.


Helke Ferrie is a medical science writer with a master's degree in physical anthropology. Her specialty lies in investigative research into ethical issues in medicine and the politics of health. She started her investigative journalism career in the mid-1990s, looking at issues of medicine and environment. She has been a regular contributor to Vitality Magazine ever since. Helke has also authored books on various subjects including: "Ending Denial: The Lyme Disease Epidemic", "What Part of No! Don't They Understand: Rescuing Food and Medicine from Government Abuse", and "The Earth's Gift to Medicine".

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