(NaturalNews) A common mantra of the "skeptics" crowd purports that industrial and environmental chemicals are not necessarily a threat to humans, because these chemicals exist at levels so low that their toxicity is moot. But a new study published in The FASEB Journal suggests otherwise, having found that exposure to even very low levels of chemicals is dangerous, particularly due to their synergistic toxicity.
Researchers from the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) say the proof is in the data, which they collected on two separate groups of obese mice fed identical diets but exposed to different chemical pollutants. Both groups of mice were fed a diet enriched with high amounts of fat and refined sugar in the form of sucrose, but one group was also exposed to a cocktail of pollutants at low levels from birth all the way into adulthood.
Compared to the group not exposed to the pollutants, mice in the pollutant group were observed to have experienced certain breakdowns in their physiological capacity and function. Female mice in the pollutant group, for instance, were observed to have undergone a deterioration in glucose tolerance, which suggests they had developed a defect in insulin signaling. These same mice also had reduced estrogen activity in their livers.
Similarly, the male mice were also affected by exposure to pollutants but in different ways. According to the data, the males showed signs of cholesterol synthesis and transport malfunction, wherein they were more prone to develop diabetes and certain other metabolic diseases. This is quite telling, as both groups of mice ate diets traditionally associated with poor health and disease, but only the pollutant-exposed group developed these problems.
"This report ... confirms something we've known for a long time: pollution is bad for us," says Dr. Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal.
Individual chemicals may be deemed 'safe' at certain levels, but what happens when these chemicals combine?
But are individual chemicals the problem? Not necessarily. As it turns out, it is the synergistic effect of chemicals in combination with one another that poses the highest risk. And yet existing toxicology assessment protocols fail to look at how individual chemicals affect humans when they combine with other chemicals.
"Indeed, one pollutant could have a different effect when in mixture with other pollutants," adds Brigitte Le Magueresse-Battistoni, one of the study's researchers.
Dr. Weissman agrees, having stated that "'safe' levels of contaminants and pollutants act together," making them unsafe in ways that are not adequately understood using current assessment models. Based on these findings, the entire toxicology paradigm needs to shift in order to fully understand the impact on human health, as there are literally tens of thousands of chemicals now present throughout the environment.
"This study adds evidences for rethinking the way of addressing risk assessment especially when considering that the human population is widely exposed to low levels of thousands of chemicals, and that the health impact of realistic mixtures of pollutants will have to be tested as well," adds Magueresse-Battistoni.
"Our data also bring new light to the understanding of the impact of environmental food contaminants in the development of metabolic diseases," reads the study's abstract.
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