By Rob Verkerk PhD, founder, executive and scientific director
The problem: too many unknown chemicals and risks
For those who’ve reached a certain level of awareness about the factors that make for healthy, vital bodies and long lives, not overloading your body with unnecessary chemicals is often high on your list of priorities. Being responsible for young ones can make that desire even stronger.
But what do you do when checking lists of ingredients in the shopping aisles, or online? Do you know what some of the less obvious ingredients (that may have more of a technological function than a health function) do when you consume or expose your skin to them?
The fact is that most of us—81% of Europeans, says a Eurobarometer survey from 2012—are worried about chemicals in our food, personal care and cleaning products. Call it a survival instinct if you like.
The problem is that there are a wide range of ingredients in consumer products and especially foods, that most people don’t know much about. Possibly more important is that each chemical doesn’t act individually; they act together, as mixtures. We’re all exposed to thousands of different industrial chemicals every day and while small proportions have been assessed as isolated compounds for safety in humans (and often in animals too), most have not. In the EU, that’s what the REACH programme is trying to address—but it will take years to complete and will only give us limited information.
It’s the total chemical load on our bodies that really counts. And yet we have so few data on this area, almost zero from the government authorities that green light the industrial chemicals in the first place. The more we understand about our sometimes fragile and often over-burdened bodies, the more we begin to appreciate how important this overall chemical burden is to our health and how it can place undue stress on the body. For some, it may be one acute exposure too many that breaks the camel’s back. Then it’s often too late. If you’re lucky, you’ll get help from a knowledgeable and experienced healthcare practitioner who can help you minimise your environmental exposures, improve your diet and rebuild your gut microbiome and function, as well as your detoxification and immune systems. You might even get a label, such as ‘chemical hypersensitive’. In years gone by, and still sometimes today, the norm was for doctors to consider such conditions, or multiple chemical sensitivities, as being of psychosomatic origin. Doctor’s unable to evaluate the functional impairment in such patients have of course limited value in today’s chemical world.
Given either chronic or acute chemical exposure, some might also succumb to other conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or fibromyalgia, which may all be associated with chemical overload in a given, genetically susceptible individual.
Grassroots evolution of Toxxscan
Around 3 years ago, a colleague and friend in Sweden with whom we’ve campaigned and worked to help keep nutritional products on the Swedish market, approached me. Ingrid Franzon, herself a clinical nutritionist and functional medicine practitioner—and a chemical hypersensitive who has helped hundreds of patients with similar conditions over the years—has been at the forefront of raising awareness about environmental chemical hazards in Sweden. She set up a website called Yellow Canaries, she wrote a book and established the NGO, EnvirohealthMatters.
Ingrid told us of her idea to create an app that consumers could use to help them find out more about the potential hazards associated with foods, cosmetics, toiletries and cleaning products. These are products you either put in your mouth or on your skin - oral and dermal routes being the two most important forms of exposure to environmental chemicals.
The rest, you could say, is history. Toxxscan was born. We joined forces with another non-profit, the independent Ramazinni Institute in Italy, and we’ve worked diligently on developing algorithms and pulling together data from around 12 different databases to provide both consumers and manufacturers with information. We hope this will improve the quality of their decision making at the time of purchase or product development. While the database relies on information that is theoretically publicly available, it is very difficult to navigate and usually only accessed by boffins in universities or government regulators. It seems that too many people still feel that if governments don’t ban a compound, they must know it’s safe. How wrong can one be!
Toxxscan Indiegogo appeal
We are now at the final stage of development of Toxxsscan. Yesterday we issued a press release that points to the launch of our non-profit crowdfunding appeal on Indiegogo so that we can fund the final development and building of the user-interfaces for Toxxscan.
We know governments won’t fund projects of this type, because they’re not in the interests of the big corporations that appear quite happy to adulterate our foods, personal care and household products. That’s why non-profits like ourselves and grassroots crowdfunders like you get to make things like this happen.
Check out the Toxxscan website, watch the two videos in this story and if you want to see this technology come to fruition in under 4 months from the time our €100,000 target has been achieved, please consider donating whatever you can afford via our Indiegogo page.
One more thing: please share this far and wide with people who might be interested too (#crowds4change). Thank you.