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Parallel Detoxification Systems for Planet Earth and the Human Body

The human body has a fairly efficient and resilient system for eliminating the toxins it encounters on a daily basis. The substances the body must detoxify include chunks of pork rinds and other byproducts of digestion; toxins you breathed in or ingested, such as air pollutants, picture of a barrel of toxic waste pesticide residues on food, or toxic elements in water; and excess human hormones that the body no longer needs. As the list suggests, some of the toxins are unavoidable side effects of the body's day-to-day operations; others come from external, undesirable sources.

Planet earth exhibits a certain parallel to this. It has processes that (over time) can eliminate, denature, or bind both natural and manmade toxins in a way that reduces the exposure that living organisms have to them.

OK, back to us hoo-mans. In the case of acute or chronic (long-term) chemical exposure in the human body, the body's detoxification system may ultimately get overwhelmed and be unable to keep up with the incoming load of toxins. Disease is usually the result.

Similarly, the earth's filtration system can get overwhelmed. This can occur locally—for instance, near a toxic-waste site—so that the area becomes dangerous for living organisms to inhabit. The contamination can also be at a lower level but spread out over a much wider area, resulting in slow but chronic degradation of organisms' health.

System capacity can also be considered globally: What total level of pollutants can the earth's detoxification system handle? The planet's environment is, for the most part, a closed system. Whereas the human body can usually completely rid itself of wastes by excreting them, the earth cannot do the same. It must either convert them into non-toxic nutrients that can be reused by the global ecosystem, or it must store them somewhere within its system (at least until the government's "Big Rocket Ships Full of Toxic Waste" program gets underway.)

We're dumping billions of tons of hazardous waste each year into System Earth. When will we reach the point where earth's detoxification systems can't keep up anymore? That's a big scary unknown. Since long-term overload of the human body's detoxification system usually results in disease or a visit from that Skeletal Hooded Guy You'd


The World Watch Institute (WWI) points out that, according to the US EPA, there are more than 850,000 industrial facilities that use hazardous or extremely hazardous chemicals in the US. In 1999, the last year for which complete figures are available, these plants were responsible for the release of 7.7 BILLION pounds of toxic chemicals into the nation's air and water. While this figure is sufficiently worrisome, WWI points out that it does not include toxic contributions by small- and medium-sized facilities, which are not required to report on their activities; nor does the figure include some unmonitored industrial chemicals.

Rather Avoid, a more cautious approach on how we produce, use, and dispose of chemicals and other toxics on earth might not be a bad idea. Except for those pork rinds—we will keep eating those no matter what! (Yeah, right.)

Let's make every day Earth Day.

Publish date:
22-APR-2004 (EARTH DAY)

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  book cover for The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program, 1999

Given the everyday onslaught of chemicals in our modern lives, it's possible that your body burden has you operating at less that peak performance levels. If you've been feeling listless, fatigued, or downright lousy for a while now, "The 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Program" may help you get back to that vigorous, upbeat you. (by Jeffrey S. Bland)

  book cover for Environmental and Chemical Toxins and Psychiatric Illness, Mar-2002

Psychiatric illness is, in a basic sense, due to one's central nervous system malfunctioning. Scientists have a long way to go before fully understanding the causes of such malfunctioning, but it is becoming clearer that CNS problems can be caused by agents such as insecticides, lead, polybrominated and polychlorinated compounds, chemical weapons, and radiation. Read all about it here. (by James S. Brown)

  book cover for Living Downstream, Sep-1998

A Scientist's Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment

The author traces the high incidence of cancer in her hometown and other communities, documenting high levels of environmental toxins in high-cancer areas. With the precision of a scientist and the elegance of a poet, she weaves together the facts of her personal struggle with cancer and the threat to all of us from our toxic surroundings. (Sandra Steingraber)


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"Let every individual and institution now think and act as a responsible trustee of Earth, seeking choices in ecology, economics and ethics that will provide a sustainable future, eliminate pollution, poverty and violence, awaken the wonder of life and foster peaceful progress in the human adventure."

— John McConnell, founder of International Earth Day


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