What is a canary in a coal mine?
In case you are not familiar with this saying..Wiki gives this definition:
An allusion to caged canaries mining workers would carry down into the tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide leaked into the mine-shaft, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners.
A great talk on People’s Pharmacy over the weekend mentioned this reference in relation to toxins found in breast milk. That is correct, nature’s perfect food, the one most suitable for nurturing the next generation, is highly toxic.
Is this our modern day canary? A warning sign- we need to make changes?
Let me give you some background.
1. Breast milk is very high in fat. We store pesticides in fat. (As an aside, this is one reason why many of us struggle to lose weight– the body does not want to release stored fat toxins into the blood stream. The body has a protective solution–Hold on to the fat stores– Your body is actually protecting itself by not allowing you to lose body fat.)
2. Breast milk is also very easy to obtain and analyze (extracting human fat cells would be invasive), which is why we are “picking on” breast milk (versus other body tissue like blood, fat, etc.)
3. Like cord blood (also now heavily contaminated), breast milk acts as a filter– removing harmful contaminants before they get to baby. Cord blood and breast milk, in my mind, are sacred. Once they have reached measurable levels, we have pushed the system for too long. Two parts of the body responsible for removing toxins, now found toxic, sounds like a canary to me…
4. Breast milk was first analyzed and found toxic back in the 50’s. It is only getting worse.
Now….let’s put it all together.
Breast milk remains the perfect food for a newborn. Yes, even though it is likely to carry persistent toxins like DDT (yes, still today you will find DDT, even though DDT was banned in the 70’s), arsenic, flame retardants, dioxins, and BPA, it remains the perfect food.
But…here is the take home message.
This is not about breast milk being dangerous. Our environment is toxic. Our bodies are toxic. Breast milk represents the increasingly toxic world we live in.
There is never a question about whether to breastfeed or not, in fact , breastfeeding may be the great savior for a developing child in a toxic environment. Research is clear on this. Breast-fed babies are healthier (less autoimmune disease, less allergies, stronger immune systems, better IQ’s, etc) despite the toxins found there.
Any toxic chemical found in our body, fat, blood, urine, breast milk, tells a story…a chemical story. The dry cleaners you worked at in college, the home renovations you did last year, the moldy apartment you lived in…They show up in your system. Let’s change the story–together.
Love this quote by Florence Williams in her book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History. “Our bodies, I learned, are not temples. They are more like trees. Our membranes are permeable; they transport the good and the bad from the world around us.”
Let’s get proactive, get angry, demand change! We should not have to worry about passing a toxic environmental load down to our children.
I suggest– limiting your exposure to the chemicals that you have control over–cosmetics, cleaning supplies, new clothes, furniture and carpeting.
Clean water, fresh air, clean food, movement and sunshine: The 5 foundations– are they on your daily list?
Choose a cleanse/detox program that resonates with you and your family. A program does not have to be drastic to make a difference.
Make conscious choices– as consumers, we have the ability to demand change– with our dollars. Your money is a choice.
Small changes make a Big difference- Trust me.
Resources I want to share with you:
Interview highlights from People’s Pharmacy