I am joined today by author Randall Fitzgerald, the author of "The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine are Destroying Your Health," a groundbreaking new book that you would do well to pick up and read. Thanks for joining me today, Randall.
Randall Fitzgerald: Well thank you Mike. It is a real pleasure and honor to be with you.
Mike: Likewise. Your book was sent to me recently. I began reading it and was absolutely amazed at how well you explain the threats -- to our health, our way of life and even our future -- that are posed by the use of synthetic chemicals in foods, drugs and even things like personal care products. What was your intention behind writing this book?
Fitzgerald: I wanted to spotlight some trends and patterns that I had noticed in my circle of friends and among members of my family. I had noticed health problems, illnesses and diseases occurring at younger and younger ages among people I knew, and I was concerned about that. I wanted to find answers as to why these sorts of problems -- neurological diseases, Parkinson's, MLS, MS, the whole range of illnesses, and especially cancer -- were occurring in people that I knew at ages that, two or three decades ago, would have only been occurring in elderly people. So I began informally talking with people and trying to find out about their eating habits and about the sorts of chemicals that they were exposed to, because intuitively, I felt there might be some linkage between the health problems, their diet and synthetic chemicals.
I must add that prior to this time, which was about two years ago, I had never really written about or investigated the subject of health or synthetic toxins. I had always been an investigative reporter who dealt with government agencies and investigated trends pertaining to government corruption; and the way that federal agencies performed their duties; waste, fraud and abuse involving tax dollars. Health had never really interested me, frankly -- unless I was in poor health, and I have always been in good health -- so I never really had much reason to give the subject attention until I just began noticing that there was this pattern among my friends and relatives. I just wanted some answers to questions I had.
The evidence of harm emergesMike:
In your research, do you believe that you have found many of those answers? What kinds of links were you able to substantiate and present in the book?
Fitzgerald: I feel like there were some patterns that stared me in the face once I began looking at the evidence from medical science. There are so many studies out there from not just the United States, but from countries worldwide, that indicate a pattern in which synthetic chemicals have increasingly played a role in the types of illnesses and diseases that we are beginning to see at very alarming levels. If you chart on a graph the production of synthetic chemicals, especially since World War II, and you compare that graph to the increase in certain diseases -- for instance, neurological disorders and cancer -- the graphs are almost one on top of the other in sequence, and synchronized.
That led me to believe, even more than just my intuition, that there was something here that needed to be examined in more depth. Once I compared statistics on the production of synthetics to statistics on the increase in diseases, I began looking for the evidence, the so-called "smoking guns" in the studies done by medical science. I found that those studies indeed exist. They are out there, and they just had never been brought together at one place, at one time, before.
Mike: Your book, I think, does an excellent job of translating all of that science into everyday language that people can pick up, without needing a technical background, by the way.
Fitzgerald: I appreciate that.
The lies told by chemical, food and drug companiesMike:
Let me play the skeptic with you for a second here. As consumers in the Western world, we are being continually assured by food corporations, petrochemical companies, drug companies and even government regulatory bodies like the FDA, that all of these chemicals are perfectly safe. There are even allowable limits of many of these chemicals, which the EPA says are perfectly safe. Why should a consumer believe that he or she needs to read your book if all of these chemicals are advertised as being safe for us?
Fitzgerald: There are two big -- and by big I mean monumental -- problems with the argument and the perspective taken by federal regulatory agencies and by the manufacturers of foods and medicines. The argument is that trace levels of these chemicals do no harm to human health. What that argument ignores is the cumulative effect of hundreds, if not thousands, of these chemicals entering and then mixing within the human body. This is known as the "body burden." We each carry a "body burden" of these synthetic chemicals.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, starting in 1999, began testing the blood of thousands of Americans to determine what synthetic chemicals are being carried in their blood, their body fat and their body organs. The results of these tests -- more than 10,000 people have been tested so far -- is that every single person tested was found to carry hundreds of these synthetic chemicals. The problem here is that our bodies do not recognize these synthetic chemicals, most of which have been invented, patented and produced since World War II. Our livers, which are the main detoxifying organs of our bodies, do not recognize these synthetic chemicals, and as a result, do not metabolize them. Instead, the chemicals are either pushed off into the far reaches of the liver, to be stored, or sent into body fat and body organs to be stored. As these toxins accumulate, they begin to interact with each other. This is where the problem -- that regulatory agencies and manufactures want to overlook -- becomes a health disaster for us.
That is the problem of synergies; the synergistic reactions of two or more chemicals in the body. When they interact, it is much more powerful than any one individual chemical can do on its own. It may be true -- manufacturers and regulatory agencies insist that it is true -- that these chemicals, in trace amounts on their own, may be harmless to human health. I have a question about that, but I don't really deal with that in-depth in the book. Instead I look at what happens when all of these chemicals accumulate in the human body and they interact with each other to create toxic synergies. This, I believe, is the key to the explosion in human illness and disease levels that we have seen since World War II.
Chemical interactions heighten toxicity, even in foodMike:
So these interactions create the really scary chemicals? For example, in soft drinks, sodium benzoate is a preservative?
Mike: I think you cover this in the book. When that mixes with citric acid, it can sometimes create benzenes?
Fitzgerald: We looked at some of the studies done in the later part of 2005, examining the synergistic reactions between aspartame -- the synthetic sweetener that is found in thousands of products now -- and MSG, along with two common food colorings. This was a study done in England at a university in the later part of 2005. The result was found that when MSG, aspartame and these two food colorings were mixed together, they create a synergy that kills nerve cells. It causes neurological damage. We are only now at the threshold of medical science beginning to do any systematic examination of synergies.
Mike: Just to put in a real-world example of that, I would like to add that you can get that combination by drinking a Diet Pepsi and eating a bag of Doritos.
Fitzgerald: Absolutely. It is a children's meal. In fact, these researchers, at the University of Liverpool, wanted to examine what children commonly consume every day. That is why they picked aspartame, MSG and these two food colors, because they are so commonly found in all of the junk drinks and foods that children consume. The results should alarm us all.
A mutant speciesMike:
Where do we go, Randall, if we as a global community don't wake up and come to our senses about this ongoing synthetic chemical pollution of our bodies, our land, our rivers and our streams? What is the bottom line if we don't make changes?
Fitzgerald: We will become a mutant species. In fact, we are becoming a mutant species.
Mike: That is a very strong statement. Can you explain? What do you mean by a mutant species?
Fitzgerald: Starting about two decades ago, wildlife biologists began noticing -- in lakes, rivers, the ocean and in swamps like the Everglades -- that fish and amphibian species, in particular, were becoming mutants. Hermaphrodites were emerging in numbers never seen before. Alligators in the swamps of the Everglades were developing both male and female sex organs. Fish off of the coast of California were developing both male and female sex organs. Fish in the great lakes began developing both male and female sex organs. The Potomac River, outside of Washington, D.C., has been documented, over the last few years, as having ever-greater numbers of hermaphroditic fish. We see it in frogs. We see it numerous wildlife species.
What is the common denominator in all of these changes that at are creating mutants in the wild? It is synthetic chemicals. It is pesticides, in particular along with other synthetic chemical contaminants in the water, that are being spewed out by waste water treatment plants, which do not have the technological capacity to remove these synthetic chemicals. The result is these chemicals are being excreted by humans and by industrial processes into our waterways. They are ending up in the bodies of fish and animals and producing hybrids, which I call a mutant species. In turn, humans are consuming many of these wildlife mutants, including the fish.
We are recycling, through our drinking water and through many of the foods we eat, these chemical toxins into our body. The water purification plants, much like the wastewater treatment plants, are not technologically sophisticated enough to remove these synthetic chemicals. We are recycling them in ever-greater quantities through our bodies and through nature, because more than 1,000 new synthetic chemicals are being created and introduced into the marketplace every year. Not only that, but more than 100,000 synthetic chemicals are already in wide use in the marketplace. The quantities of those individual chemicals being produced are increasing by the rate of every decade, doubling, and in some cases, tripling, in the manufacturing capacity.
Even scientists have no idea what's safeMike:
Is it true that there are chemicals being manufactured today that would be illegal to dump into a river or stream, but are perfectly legal to put into the food supply or medication?
Fitzgerald: Yes, that is true, but let me change the focus of your question a little bit. That is the question of, "What is safe? Does the government even really have any practical idea about what is safe, by way of chemicals in our foods and medicines?" The answer I found, and document in this book, is "No." We do not have the technology to measure the synergistic effects of chemicals to determine what is safe, and we do not have the technology to even measure, in the wild, the presence of most of the synthetic chemicals that have already been created in the laboratory, introduced into products and industrial processes, and then released into nature.
Mike: We don't even know the scope of this problem, is what you are saying?
Fitzgerald: We are only beginning to realize that we don't know the scope of this problem.
Mike: Okay, I have a couple of questions on that one, but let me get to the book for a second here. What does book provide to a reader? What are they going to walk away with after reading "The Hundred-Year Lie"?
Fitzgerald: The book is scary. The book is frightening. The book is a wake-up call. The intention of writing the book, and my intention for the reader, is not just to frighten; not just to wake you up to the toxic threat that exists within us and around us. It is also a prescription, or steps and strategies to take, where any individual can go through a practical detox program and begin to eliminate some of the chemicals from our bodies.
At the end of the book, the last few chapters are concerned with detox strategies. One of them I experimented with myself. I had my blood drawn and then tested at the Accu-Chem laboratory in Dallas to determine the extent to which I was contaminated with several dozen chemicals, including common pesticides. After I had my blood test results, I went into a detox facility, located in Palm Beach, Fla., called the Hippocrates Health Institute. I spent three weeks in their program, going through a detox that involved daily infrared saunas. It involved raw, organic foods. It involved exercise, and it involved taking some supplements, the primary one being chlorella. At the end of three weeks, I had my blood tested again, at the same laboratory in Dallas, and it was found that the synthetic chemicals that I had focused on eliminating from my body, especially the pesticides, had almost been totally eliminated. So I know it is not a hopeless, helpless, situation for readers of the book. There are tried and proven strategies where we can bolster our immune system while eliminating the toxins that depress our immune systems, and make us more susceptible to the triggering of a genetic predisposition to illness and disease.
The link between chemicals and degenerative diseaseMike:
How much do you think these chemical toxins account for today's most common degenerative disease conditions? Do you think this is an 80 percent factor, or is it something less than that?
Fitzgerald: I'm just an investigative journalist. I am not a health specialist, or authority. So the answer I'd give is simply based on my interpretation of what the data, the medical science data, so far seems to indicate. My guess would be at least 75 percent of the explosion we've seen in degenerative diseases since World War II can be attributed to contact with synergies of synthetic chemicals in our foods, medicines and consumer products.
Mike: Do you find it strange that the commonly accepted treatments for most of these degenerative conditions, like cancer or diabetes, involve the introduction of additional synthetic chemicals into the body?
Fitzgerald: It's a vicious cycle. The synthetic chemicals in pharmaceutical drugs, by the admission of the pharmaceutical industry, are designed to treat symptoms and buy time for our own immune systems to kick in and actually heal ourselves, to the extent that we can be healed in the face of some of these illnesses and diseases. The irony is that many of these synthetic chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs, over time, end up either creating toxicity, which must be treated by more synthetic chemicals or drugs, or in depressing the immune system to the point that we become even more susceptible to other illnesses and diseases. It is a vicious cycle, and it is a cycle that can only be broken if we focus our attention on eliminating, as much as possible, our contact with synthetic chemicals and going through our own personal detox programs. We are all guinea pigs in a vast chemical experiment. It is up to us, individually, to take responsibility for navigating the minefield of synthetic chemicals in our lives and creating, through experimentation, our own regimen for health.
Mike: Do you cover in the book the synthetic chemical content of personal care products, like shampoo, lotion, perfume and that kind of thing?
Fitzgerald: Yes, I do.
Mike: So what is your take on that, because a lot of these manufacturers say that the skin is a barrier?
Fitzgerald: Many of these products contain enhancers -- chemicals that open up the pores of the skin -- to allow deeper penetration of these products. Hand lotions and body lotions are good example. These enhancers have been introduced over the last decade in order to make these products "more effective." The result of these enhancer chemicals, in many personal care products, is that toxins are driven ever deeper into our body tissues. What happens when these toxins are driven deeper? They accumulate in those tissues and joints. Other toxins, which are being introduced through our air, our water and our food, once again set up a chain reaction in which synergies can occur.
Dispelling common mythsMike:
You also cover some of the sacred myths that we in Western society believe, and have believed for quite sometime, but you explode those myths. Can you give us one example of a myth that you cover?
Fitzgerald: Sure. We have been led to believe, and most of us have chosen to believe, over the last few decades, that chemicals and the toxicity of chemicals are all determined by the dose we receive. What we are finding through medical research is that new mixtures of chemicals are being absorbed by us that have never entered the human body before. These are substances that break down very slowly in the body, and sometimes these molecules of chemicals are even indestructible. They don't follow the old public health rules of what is generally know to be risky or a danger to human health, so the poison is no longer just in the dose.
Mike: That message there -- exploring that myth -- and many of the other sections in your book, really attacks the foundational defenses of many of the most powerful corporations in the world. Do you expect to be heavily criticized by those companies? Or do you think your message will be able to withstand the backlash from those companies?
The five flawed arguments of chemical producersFitzgerald:
I certainly believe the message can withstand the backlash and the attack that will be made on me, because I am an investigative reporter and I am not a medical professional. However, the point the book makes -- I think most persuasively -- is that the entire foundation on which our public health standards are based is a flawed foundation. If you will give me just a moment, I will explain the five areas in which I think these flaws can no longer be ignored by manufacturers, by the regulatory agencies or by the public.
The first is that the animal studies that have been used for decades, which test whether chemicals in our foods and medicines are safe for human health, no longer work. We now know that animal studies are not reliable predictors of harm to human health. We know that because thousands of people sicken and die every year from chemicals that animal studies predicted were safe. Such studies are suggestive, but they are not predictive. If aspirin were introduced into the marketplace for the first time, and was tested on animals, most animal species would sicken and die. Aspirin is toxic to animals, but obviously, for most humans, aspirin isn't toxic. We find many examples -- and it cuts both ways -- where a chemical that is safe for animals turns out to be toxic to humans, and chemicals safe for humans turn out to be toxic for animals, and yet we have based our entire public health foundation on animal studies.
The second point, as I indicated earlier with you, is that wastewater treatment and water purification plants are supposed to filter out chemical toxins. We now know these plants are not technologically sophisticated enough to remove most of the synthetic chemicals that show up in our foods, our medicines and our consumer products. A U.S. geological survey has done testing of ground water throughout the Western states, and found Ritalin, Prozac and other pharmaceutical drugs along with industrial chemicals; chemicals from personal care products. These chemicals are being recycled through us, and right now there is nothing that industry or government can do about it.
Mike: Real quick on point two, you are saying that we are all -- or many of us -- are being medicated with trace amounts of these pharmaceuticals?
Fitzgerald: All the time. Absolutely. And think about this: Since the water purification plants can't remove these synthetic toxins, the beverage industry, which uses tap water to create beverages in this country -- the soft drinks and the beers -- are simply recycling many of these toxins along with chlorine and fluoride into synergistic combinations that no one has even begun to test the problems with.
Fitzgerald: Third point. To the extent that chemicals are tested for safety at all, they are only tested individually and it gets back to the earlier point I made about synergies. The real looming threat to public health is from chemical synergies; the combinations of these chemicals stored in our bodies.
Fourth point. The human umbilical cord, we have been told by medical science for decades, would protect fetuses from chemical harm. We were told that the human liver would filter out these synthetic toxins, but we now know from tests of umbilical cord blood that fetuses are absorbing the chemical "body burdens" of their mothers, and fetuses are even more susceptible than children and adults to these toxins. We have seen this in the "body burden" test done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These toxins are overwhelming our livers. Our livers cannot store these toxins, and the consequences for human health are totally unpredictable.
Fifth point. The FDA was supposed to ensure that our pharmaceutical drugs are safe by requiring drug companies to conduct safety studies after the drugs were approved for human use. The last few months we have been told by the FDA that 63 percent of these studies that had been promised by pharmaceutical companies had never been performed.
Mike: These are the follow-up studies, right?
Fitzgerald: No, the original. Many of these drugs were approved by the FDA without any studies. Many were approved with the promise that there would be follow-up studies on the long-term health effects. The FDA has now conceded, and this was conceded two months ago, that 63 percent of the studies, over all these years, were never performed. Now, my conclusion from this is that is one reason why more than 100,000 Americans sicken and die each year from adverse reactions to prescription drugs. That is a statistic from the AMA. Imagine, Mike, the outrage, if 100,000 Americans were dying in airplane crashes every year caused by faulty engines. Why don't we hear that outrage about what our foods and medicines are doing our health? The reason is because most people have chosen to believe the lie.
FDA fails to protect consumersMike:
The FDA though, claims that it is the "gold standard" of evidence-based medicine, and that it only approves drugs that have gone through a rigorous testing program; that we, the American public, can be assured that those drugs are perfectly safe, even for long-term use. So you are saying that is hogwash?
Fitzgerald: The FDA's "gold standard" is radioactive.
Mike: A little bit of regulatory alchemy going on, perhaps?
Fitzgerald: The only alchemy that's going on is the public relations spin that is being cast on the health of the American public and the levels of toxins in our foods and medicines. We were sold the idea that synthetics are an improvement over nature.
Fitzgerald: That belief has become a health care disaster.
The myth of better living through chemistryMike:
I know I am playing the skeptic frequently in this interview, but here is another one for you. People walking around, shopping for groceries, just on the street, look at themselves and they look at other people and they say, "Well, I don't look any sicker than anybody else. We all look about the same. We can't be doing that bad." But isn't it true that as a population we are all equally diseased? Compared to healthy people 100 years ago, we look pretty bad, don't we?
Fitzgerald: There is a myth that people are living longer because they are healthier. In actuality, what I have found is that, on average, people are living longer because of technology. Technology in the form of kidney dialysis machines. Technology in the form of heart pacemakers. Technology in many forms that are, indeed, extending people's lives. However, what I also found is that this life extension doesn't translate into healthier lives. Just the opposite. We may be living longer because of technology, but the quality of our life, the quality of our health, has deteriorated markedly since World War II. A big reason for that is the premise, a foundation on which the Hundred-Year Lie book is based, which is that synthetic chemicals have alarmingly and rapidly led to the degeneration of our health.
Mike: Sometimes, Randall, I say we are not living longer, we are dying longer. That seems to make sense to a lot of people.
Fitzgerald: That is a good way to put it.
Creating a healthier, non-toxic futureMike:
Let me ask you then, what do you hope to see happen? If you had all the power in the world and you could make the changes, what would you like to see change in terms of companies, consumption and a manufacturing? What would be ideal for us as a civilization to move forward?
Fitzgerald: I would like to see the toxins manufacturers constantly pressured to remove some of the more noxious individual toxins from their products. That can only be done as a result of public scrutiny and public pressure. Sometimes it does work. I am reminded of what happened last year at the San Francisco breast cancer fight, and the campaign for safe cosmetics pressured some cosmetics manufacturers to purge their products of certain chemicals that individually had been shown to cause cancer, birth defects and infertility, and these were voluntary actions. These actions can occur with more regularity if people simply begin refusing to buy products that contain some of these toxins. That doesn't address the problem of synthetic chemical synergies. That is going to require a public health effort, a medical science effort, equal to the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb.
Fitzgerald: There are other suggestions I would make. For one, I believe we need a naturally occurring standard for products. Especially for foods and medicines, and for vitamins and mineral supplements. It would be a standard, much like the organic standard, but going far more deeply into the problem. That would demonstrate which companies are producing products that are taken directly from plant or botanical sources, and do not contain any synthetics at all. I believe a naturally occurring standard needs to be implemented in such a way to where we have more choices available to us. The problem with labeling right now -- and this is a whole separate area of the book -- is that under trade secrecy laws, the ingredients of many products, of foods and medicines and consumer products, are hidden from public view. You'll find "natural" on products, but that listing doesn't mean that these products are really natural.
Fitzgerald: It's simply a heading under which synthetic chemicals are hidden. Just like "flavorings." "Flavorings" is another general category in which product manufacturers can hide synthetic chemicals from view. Its all done in the name of trade secrecy, but the only people for whom the truth is being hidden are the consumers, because the competitors of these companies are well endowed enough and technologically sophisticated enough to reverse-engineer all products to determine what the synthetic chemical ingredients are. So the trade secrecy laws are a joke.
Mike: They only harm the consumer, but they don't protect the intellectual property.
The takeover of organics by chemical companiesMike:
Even the term "organic" has now been somewhat re-appropriated. There's a lot of debate now about what is organic...
Fitzgerald: "Organic" as a term to inform consumers has been diluted and the threat exists every year that it will be diluted more as a result of actions by the U.S. Congress and by the agriculture department, because, as you well know, the organics industry has been infiltrated and to some extent taken over by the large corporations that also produce synthetic chemicals in a wide range of products. It is to their best interest for the organic label to be as general and as diluted as possible so they can begin to sneak more synthetic chemicals in the form of preservatives, colorings and so forth into products that are labeled organic.
We also find the problem of pesticide contamination of organic products. Every organic product tested contained some level of pesticide residue. It may well be much less by a factor of 5, than other products that are produced with pesticides, but there is still a residue of pesticides in organics, and the reason for that is that pesticide chemicals do not respect boundaries, they do not respect geographical boundaries. The molecules of pesticides attach themselves to dust particles and go everywhere. Pesticides are being found in the Artic, in the bodies of polar bears, so we cannot escape synthetic chemicals, especially pesticides. Not only that, but anytime soils absorb pesticides, those residues remain in the soil. They leech into the roots of plants, and they end up in the food crops. So if soil, even if it goes organic, has ever used in its farming practices a pesticide, there's going to be some contamination.
We've polluted ourselves on this planet and in our bodies to an extent that we can't escape these contaminates, even if we are living on a deserted island in the Pacific, or if we are living in the Artic. These toxins come and find us.
How to minimize your exposure to toxinsMike:
How much of this toxicity load is under the direct control of the consumer through food choice and medicine choice and personal care product choice, and so on? I mean, some of it they can't escape, but how much do they control?
Fitzgerald: We can eliminate two-thirds of the toxic contaminants that go into our body simply by eating organic whenever possible, by limiting our exposure to synthetic chemicals in our personal care products, and in the way we live our lives. That means we each have to take an inventory. We must sit down and look at everything we come in contact with in the course of a normal day, and write down all of the synthetic chemicals and ingredients in the products that we use and what we absorb, they types of water that we use, especially tap water. Once you take an inventory, you discover -- and for most people it's very alarming -- we are in contact with hundreds if not thousands of these chemicals every day. Yet we can make choices about what we put on our bodies, in our bodies and around our bodies simply by being mindful of alternatives to the conveniences of modern life.
Mike: Laundry, too. I have to mention laundry, because most people are just bathing their clothes in toxic fragrance chemicals and then throwing them in the dryer with more toxic chemicals in the dryer sheet.
Fitzgerald: Yes indeed, and that's true with dry cleaning as well, and bringing home those plastic-insulated chemicals on our dry-cleaned clothes, and then opening them up in our heavily insulated bedrooms and closets and getting a whiff of all of these fumes. It's true with the new car smell and the smell of vinyl, which is really the off-gassing of chemicals such as formaldehyde, and we take a breath of it and get a high. Some people are even addicted to the "new couch" smell or the "new car" smell. As soon as we smell it we should realize that we are contaminating ourselves with these chemicals we are breathing -- these molecules of toxins -- into our bodies, absorbing it into our body tissues.
Staying informed via the webMike:
Well said, Randall. Now, we are about to wrap this up, what I'd like to ask you as a last question here to maybe give our readers a brief about your website, www.HundredYearLie.com
. That's a fantastic resource. Can you tell people what they can find there?
Fitzgerald: The website has summaries of many chapters in the book, but it also has resources that people can refer to in order to educate themselves about what alternatives to synthetic chemicals are available, and which organizations are involved in making these alternatives available. We don't promote any products on the website but we do promote ideas and strategies on the website to enable people to protect themselves.
Mike: So again, that's www.HundredYearLie.com and the book, by Randall Fitzgerald, is "The Hundred Year Lie: How Food and Medicine are Destroying Your Health." I want to thank you again for joining me today, Randall.
Fitzgerald: Mike, it's been a great pleasure and I very much admire and appreciate your work.