April 21, 2024

Do Toxins Surround Us? An Overview

Written by our expert

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Manisha B K

MPH (James Lind), MBA, CTAA, 200 RYT Yoga

Do Toxins Surround Us? An Overview
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What are Toxins and Where Do We Find Them?

Toxic substances are found everywhere in our environment. There are various toxic agents in the environment like metals, greenhouse gases, microplastics, and chemicals released from miscellaneous industrial processing. 

Toxic wastes are microparticles or nanoparticles found in soil, air, and water. The ecosystem is an output of abiotic and biotic factors that work together. And the ecosystems are always dependent on each other. 

The ecosystem works in a cyclical pattern. Industrial wastes dumped into lands enter the soil and this can run into the waters nearby, contaminating the ecosystem. Industries, automobiles, and other wastes can emit polluted air that can lead to the greenhouse gas effect and climate change. (Ecosystem Toxicology - an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics, n.d.) 

How do Toxins Enter Your Body?

Toxins might enter your system through the air that you inhale, through the food you eat, and through the water you drink. We are all well versed with the word ‘contamination’. Toxicology is another word for contamination that is elaborately used in environmental science. 

What are Toxic Wastes? 

With the advancement of science and technology, numerous chemicals are used as opportunities for industries and businesses. Chemicals are used as a precaution to avoid bacterial and fungal growth. Chemicals are also used to enhance the working of an instrument or a technology. 

While exploring science is a blessing, the overuse of chemicals and irresponsible ways of waste management calls for concern. 

The root causes of toxic wastes running into soil, water, and air are:

  1. Ill-managed industrial wastes
  2. Deforestation 
  3. Urbanisation and
  4. The greenhouse gas effect

What are the Various Toxic Metals Found in our Day-to-Day Lives?

Lead, Arsenic, Mercury, Cadmium, Nickel, and Chromium are some of the toxic metals that are found in our environment like in foods, pigments, cosmetics, preservatives, dyes, electronics, etc.

Microplastics are found in industrial wastes, disposed of plastics, plastic manufacturing, beverage, and food manufacturing industries. Ill-disposed hospital wastes are also causes of concern for the environment. (Chemicals in Food | EFSA, n.d.)

Most of the toxicity is camouflaged as xenobiotic metals and chemicals in your:

  • Nonstick pan
  • Chemical hair treatments and dyes
  • Cosmetics
  • Preserved, smoked, and packaged food products
  • Fragrances
  • Tobacco products
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Pesticides
  • Synthetic fabrics
  • Exposure to radiation, asbestos, electronic manufacturing
  • Plastics and more

Chronic exposure to chemicals like lead, arsenic, mercury, chromium, nitrosamines, cadmium, nickel, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons can be carcinogenic. This means exposure to such chemicals might lead to cancers (both benign and malignant). 

(Carpenter & Bushkin-Bedient, 2013)

WHO, EMA (Environmental Management Agency), and EEA (European Environment Agency) have set permissible amounts for chemicals and metals that can be found in the body:

  • Mercury – 0.0016 mg/kg body weight
  • Lead – 0.025 mg/kg body weight
  • Cadmium – 0.007mg/kg body weight 
  • Arsenic – 0.015 mg body weight.

(Witkowska et al., 2021)

Are Toxins Found in Protein Powders?

A recent study examined 36 brands of protein powders that include both herbal and dietary supplements. An observational analysis of the most popular brands sold in India has shown that most of these supplements have false claims with poor-quality protein information. 

14% of these supplements contained samples of harmful fungal aflatoxins and pesticide residue, and 8% of the supplemets contained liver-toxic botanicals. 

Toxicology and Risks to the Human Body

Human beings pay a hefty price for being exposed to toxic agents. Ecotoxicology has a greater impact on human health in a negative way triggering not just the epigenetic factors but also the DNA mutations. 

Heavy metals are potentially toxic metals that accumulate Reactive oxygen species, destroying the cellular membrane, lipids, proteins, and DNA molecules. 

Heavy metals decrease sensitivity to treatments and support carcinogenesis. 

Metal ions can bind to the protein binding sites causing problems in the transport of some molecules and catalysis of chemical reactions. 

  • Metal-mediated protein-protein interactions: Metal selectivity is different for each protein, and this is called metal-mediated protein-protein interactions. How a metal binds to a particular protein binding site decides the future of the DNA alterations and oxidative stress. This leads to many oncogenic transformations in the human body in both genders. 
  • DNA damage: Heavy metals and xenobiotic chemicals found in the human body imply damage to the DNA. These dividing cells go through mutations leading to carcinogenic effects. 
  • Epigenetic changes: Chronic exposure to toxic substances also triggers epigenetic factors by stimulating DNA methylation, histone modifications, and ncRNA expression. 
  • Mitochondrial apoptosis: Exposure to some metals destroys the mitochondrial functions and triggers apoptosis (cell death). 
  • Metalloestrogen activation: Some toxic metals stimulate oncogenic transformations by activating oestrogen receptor alpha in the absence of oestrogen leading to breast cancer development. 

(Witkowska et al., 2021)

Do Toxins Trigger Diseases?

Some non-communicable and communicable diseases are not just genetic but have been triggered through chronic toxic exposure.

Environmental toxicity results in inhibition of mitochondrial activity, excess oxidative stress leading to neuroinflammation, and promoting apoptosis and neuronal cell death.

These environmental toxins interfere with the normal physiology of the cells leading to:

  • Respiratory disorders
  • Reproductive damage and prostate cancers
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Renal dysfunctions
  • Hemopoietic issues
  • Gastrointestinal changes
  • Cancerous developments
  • Nervous system damage and 
  • Disturbed metal homeostasis in the body. 

Some metals also have a risk of entering the blood-brain barrier inflicting damage to the brain. (Aggarwal et al., 2022)

Nutritional Science and Toxicology

Toxic agents bind to certain minerals leading to accumulation and an altered nutritional status. Proteins with high cysteine content bind to toxic metals. 

  • Cadmium ions inhibits calcium-ATPase activity. The metal lead blocks the activated calcium channels.
  • Zinc deficiency accelerates ‘Lead-promoting oxidative stress’ and decreased neuronal cell viability.
  • Lead ions lead to apoptosis (cell death).
  • Mercury leads to neurological disorders, kidney impairment, and infertility.
  • Cadmium is mainly found in vegetarian diets that is entered through the soil. It binds to magnesium, zinc, and calcium. 
  • Cadmium leads to breast cancer development by stimulating the oncogene activity. 
  • Chromium is found in drinking water, leather tanning, and wood preservation.
  • Arsenic toxicity diminishes ATP formation.
  • Nickel inhibits the repair and replication of DNA.

(Kordas et al., 2007)

How can we Avoid Toxic Waste?

Education and awareness: Public communication and awareness are the keys to cautious behaviours. Educating people about environmental toxins and encouraging forest preservation will help. 

Extensive research on environmental health science: Research, and clinical trials on environmental science should be given primary preference to avoid further damage to the ecosystems. Bioremediation and phytoremediation must be encouraged. 

Clinical detoxification: Treatments and clinical detoxifications help the public to identify their health crisis and the impact of the toxic chemicals on their bodies to work on it with medical support. 

Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes like avoiding plastics, chemical-coated vessels, parabens in cosmetics, preserved food, and safe industry practices can be very helpful. 


Chemicals and metals are a part of human life, our human bodies also need metals. However, chronic exposure to dangerous metals and chemicals in higher concentrations leads to damage to health.

Life on Earth has inevitable chances of meeting with the most dangerous toxic agents, and all we can do is practice a better lifestyle and educate the next generations about the dangers of using harmful and unnecessary chemicals. 


  1. What toxins are released after a massage?

Ans: Lactic acid, cortisol, histamines, endorphins, and environmental pollutants are released after a massage session.

  1. What toxins are released after a chiropractic adjustment?

Ans:  The toxins released during chiropractic adjustments are unique to you. Potential toxins include pollutants in the air, water, chemicals, metals, and even processed foods. 

There is no proper scientific evidence to prove that massage can release toxins but massage therapists believe that deep tissue massages provide the needed relief to their clients by releasing toxins. 

(Waters-Banker et al., 2014)


Aggarwal, V., Mehndiratta, M. M., Wasay, M., & Garg, D. (2022). Environmental Toxins and Brain: Life on Earth is in Danger. Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, 25(Suppl 1), S15. https://doi.org/10.4103/AIAN.AIAN_169_22

Carpenter, D. O., & Bushkin-Bedient, S. (2013). Exposure to Chemicals and Radiation During Childhood and Risk for Cancer Later in Life. Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(5), S21–S29. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.JADOHEALTH.2013.01.027

Chemicals in food | EFSA. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2024, from https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/chemicals-food

Ecosystem Toxicology - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2024, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/ecosystem-toxicology

Kordas, K., Lönnerdal, B., & Stoltzfus, R. J. (2007). Interactions between Nutrition and Environmental Exposures: Effects on Health Outcomes in Women and Children,. The Journal of Nutrition, 137(12), 2794–2797. https://doi.org/10.1093/JN/137.12.2794

Waters-Banker, C., Dupont-Versteegden, E. E., Kitzman, P. H., & Butterfield, T. A. (2014). Investigating the Mechanisms of Massage Efficacy: The Role of Mechanical Immunomodulation. Journal of Athletic Training, 49(2), 266. https://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-49.2.25Witkowska, D., Słowik, J., & Chilicka, K. (2021). Heavy Metals and Human Health: Possible Exposure Pathways and the Competition for Protein Binding Sites. Molecules, 26(19). https://doi.org/10.3390/MOLECULES26196060

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