We talk to the author of a new book on our compromised environment – and strategies to deal with it
By Adam Smith
Science & communications officer
Toxins: they’re everywhere in our modern world. Every day, almost everyone in the industrialised world eats, breathes in or absorbs a – literally – dizzying range of chemicals, from pharmaceutical drugs to cosmetics and everything in between. That humans didn’t evolve alongside these new-to-nature substances, and therefore don’t possess the mechanisms necessary to remove them effectively, seems to us like the purest common sense. Yet if there is one single thing that distinguishes the philosophy of natural health from mainstream medicine, it’s that helping the body to remove, or resolve, toxins both physical and emotional is crucial to a long and healthy life. Anna Rodgers knows this better than most: she built on her experiences to research and write Toxic World, Toxic People, her magnum opus on the toxic threats surrounding us and the strategies that work to deal with them. We caught up with Anna in an exclusive interview.
Update: an ebook version of Toxic World, Toxic People is now available.
Anna Rodgers, author of Toxic World, Toxic People
ANH: Thanks for speaking with us, Anna. To start with, can you please tell us a little about your background?
Anna: I became sick from a very young age, both mentally and physically: for my whole life, I was very lethargic and displayed unstable mental behaviour. I never wanted to do any sports and felt like I was going crazy because I compared myself with my friends, as all of them seemed normal – but I knew I wasn’t! I was even scared to tell my parents in case they packed me off to see a psychiatrist. I’d broken three bones by the age of 15, and my friends had broken maybe one by that time; I didn’t have the energy to walk very far, I had low lung capacity and couldn’t concentrate properly. It got worse as I got older, so that by age 30 I couldn’t hold a discussion with people because my brain fog was so out of control.
Then, one day, I was thinking about my childhood and remembered something from age 5 or 6. I’d painted myself with housepaint, which at that time of course contained lead, and when I started looking into the effects of lead on the body it was like an epiphany. My mother said I was a happy little girl until about age 5, but by age 13 I was suicidal. When I researched toxins more deeply, I came to wonder whether my body was full of them and that was the source of my problems. I also had a stressful family life as a child and that will have contributed as well – not to mention that I’ve got a doctor for a father and he gave me flu vaccines and all the shots at the appropriate age. Looking back, whenever I got a vaccine I developed a rash on my body with a big red, hard lump at the vaccine site that took weeks to get better.
ANH: How did you recover from your health challenges?
Anna: I first heard about the concept of toxins when I was around 19, when I did a two-day beauty therapy course in Sydney that educated us about the chemicals in beauty products. But I didn’t really get a proper clue until I moved to the UK from Australia in 2006 and began blogging for Lifescape magazine. Doing the research for my articles really opened my eyes to the information that’s out there – sites like ANH, Mercola, Natural News and GreenMedInfo. My health got even worse when I came to the UK, because of the pollution in London and the lack of sun. Then I met a lady with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and when we exchanged stories we found they were almost identical. We both started seeing a mitochondrial specialist from the Czech Republic, a guy who’d worked with the Russian space programme, and he tested me on a heart rate variability machine. He basically said that my body was functioning as if I was 80 years old! He also picked up some heart damage on a 3D scan. I think a lot of people think that toxins just sit in the fat cells, but science is increasingly showing that they can damage the heart. After 3 months of taking a mitochondrial supplement, I went back and had another 3D heart scan and the damage was all gone. I know it had worked because my strange heart palpitations stopped. A year and a half later, I was quite a different person – not 100% cured and I’m still not, because I think that when you’ve undergone so much stress and so much damage, it can be a long process to heal. I’m still working on it! Now, I can handle a lot more physical exercise, but what’s been remarkable is that my mental state is so much more balanced. This is itself is a miracle: I’d had 20 years of being really crazy and taking antidepressants that only made me worse. When I tried to self-harm or commit suicide it was always when I was on the drugs. I had a very tough time getting off them as well, and I write about that in the book.
ANH: What are you hoping to achieve with Toxic World, Toxic People?
Anna: As you can imagine, it was the process of healing from CFS that inspired me to write the book. I got to a point where I realised that most of the world’s health problems stem from toxicity in some form, and that lots of people in the natural health world realise that toxicity is a huge problem. But in a way, I still don’t think they get how enormously bad it is. The world’s become so toxic that, even if you’re eating organic food all the time and drinking clean, healthy water, what can we do about the air we’re breathing in? The nanoparticles in fuel, from what I’ve read, are very difficult to detoxify from. Originally, the book was going to be something I gave away on my website, just a 10-page booklet! [The final version is well over 800 pages long.] The more I researched, the more I felt I just had to tell people about it: about vaccines and psychiatric drugs as well as the chemicals in the environment. Where this book is different is that I realised we’re not just suffering from an epidemic of poisons – we’re suffering from a society where people behave in a toxic way. I’ve tried to tie that together, to encourage people to learn more about how personalities are developed, and that it’s down to childhood. I see what’s happening to children as another epidemic: the learning disabilities, the health problems, the way they are behaving...again, it can be pointed back to chemicals but it’s also due to parenting. We’re doing things to our children that aren’t the best in terms of attachment. Kids don’t have their parents at home for very long any more – kids are only at home for an average of 6 months before they go to daycare, and there’s plenty of psychologists saying that kids need to be around their mother or father full-time for at least 2 years. Without this, it creates a lack of trust and kids develop behavioural problems because they’re so stressed that their parents aren’t around. I see the book as a ‘whole life guide’. It’s a book for the individual, because it can prepare you for parenthood, but it can also help if you’ve already had children. Even if children aren’t on the horizon for a while, there’s so much information in there that will help the individual and families as well.
ANH: What reception has your book received?
Anna: I must say that it’s been very interesting! The first press article that I had was in The Sun [a UK newspaper], in a full-page feature called “What’s your poison?” on page 6 on the 10th May. It blew me away! My PR lady sent out a press release and Helen Gilbert, a freelancer, asked for a copy of the book and wrote a feature. I thought the article was pretty spot-on, except for what she wrote about detox as she only really covered juicing and certain foods.
That was Monday. On the Tuesday, I received a message via Twitter and on my Facebook page message from someone calling themselves a ‘food scientist’. They copied in the Sun and said that its article was full of misconceptions and here’s the truth. I clicked on the link they provided and it took me to the Sense About Science (SAS) website. They’d written an article taking the absolute mickey out of the Sun article! They called it The Moon and tried to pull apart everything that had been said in the Sun article. I figured I must be on to something if I prompted that kind of reaction! So I researched SAS’ funding sources and that made it very obvious where they were coming from. The way I see it is that, years ago, SAS would have said that lead is safe and we should stop talking about the concerns, smoking is good for you and thalidomide is safe.
ANH: Are you aware of any public reactions to the book yet?
Anna: My friend put it on her Kindle and her mum started reading it. She apparently stayed up until 5 in the morning! She’s very mainstream but she’s now trying to get off her pain medication, drinking more water, talking about detox and taking more interest in her health. She even wants copies to give to her friends. This is the best feedback I can get! It’s OK preaching to the converted but we need to change people that don’t know much of this stuff. From what I’ve heard, this book could do that.
ANH: What would be your Top Five pieces of advice for people wishing to detoxify their world and their bodies?
Anna: Can we do seven?
Eat whole food and avoid processed food. Realise that energy drinks are nothing but pure chemicals. If you don’t understand the ingredients, you shouldn’t be buying it
Try to make your water as pure as possible, maybe by getting a filter at home
Take supplements that are proven to remove chemicals. I’m a big fan of magnesium, carnosine and zeolite. Zeolite was responsible for sorting out my own brain fog and heavy legs within a couple of weeks
Ditch any toxic cleaning products, as you breathe in the fumes as you’re using them
It’s vital to work on the emotions as well. Most times, this will involve revisiting what caused the problem in the first place. On a day-to-day basis, strategies like meditation and mindfulness are very useful
Pay close attention to skin and body care. In particular, stay away from chemist-type sunblocks and hair dyes. We have to stop covering our kids up as soon as there is a bit of sun!
ANH: Is there anything else you’d like to mention that we’ve not discussed?
Anna: I’d just like to say that I’m living proof of what can happen when you get off antidepressants. The best thing I ever did was not to put my faith in a little pill to sort all my problems out. The main problem we have in the world today is that people want to put their health into other people’s hands, and they don’t want to take any responsibility or learn about their bodies.
In the context of toxic chemicals, it’s important to point out the implications of the European Union’s REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) legislation. REACH is supposed to be all about reducing the burden of toxic chemicals on our environment and ourselves by “mak[ing] industry responsible for assessing and managing the risks posed by chemicals and providing appropriate safety information to their users”. Briefly, chemicals must be registered under REACH before they can be released into the environment, and the registration process is highly strict. However, this is yet another example of Napoleonic law – where something is banned unless it’s specifically allowed by the EU – that plays straight into the hands of big business. While many dangerous chemicals have been restricted, many useful and less-dangerous ones have been lost, since the smaller companies that manufacture them cannot afford the costs of registration.
Similarly, the Biocidal Products Regulation (No. 528/2012) poses exactly the same problems. Only the larger companies can afford the costs of registration, so many useful natural products – including one of the natural world’s most effective biocides, tea tree oil – cannot refer to their biocidal properties, deodorant properties included. We can see the same process at work in all spheres of natural healthcare.