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Yup, you knew it was coming. Or even if you didn’t, you’re probably not surprised to see it. Bedbugs, it seems, are no longer just the stuff of childhood rhymes. From Cincinnati to New York to Atlanta, the tiny critters are chomping their way across the U.S., and experts remain baffled as to what triggered the sudden infestation. They worry, however, that since bedbugs spread so easily, the number of sightings will continue to rise.

So what exactly is a bedbug? They are (and a warning to the squeamish: You may want to stop reading at this point) small, parasitic insects that just happen to prefer human blood as their main source of sustenance. Members of the family Cimicidae, they are commonly referred to as “bedbugs” because, quite simply, that’s where they like to hang out—in beds, mattresses, sheets, and all sorts of snug-as-a-bug nooks and crannies where they can take cover and wait for an unsuspecting meal.

As you may have heard, a typical bedbug is about the size of an apple seed. What you may not have heard, however, is that bedbugs are essentially harmless. As insects go, they’re pretty clean. They don’t transmit any nasty diseases. And most of the time you wouldn’t even know if you were bitten by one. Still, there’s a hidden health threat associated with bedbugs that may come as a surprise to a lot of folks: toxins.

Back in the 40s and 50s the standard response to a bedbug infestation was a nifty little thing called DDT. You know, the synthetic pesticide banned by the EPA for its not-so-pleasant effects on the environment and human health? The problem is, those highly toxic chemicals seem to be the only thing that works on the almighty bedbug (think Superman vs. kryptonite), and despite our best efforts to come up with an environmentally friendly (not to mention human-health friendly) way to send the bloodsucking bugs packing, the end result will almost always involve chemical treatment.

Still, there are preventative measures you can take to keep bedbugs at bay, like taking fewer trips overseas, always checking hotel room bedding and mattresses, and keeping your own home (especially the bedrooms) clean and free of clutter. If you suspect bedbugs are present—common signs are blood/fecal stains on bed linens and tiny brown exoskeletons left behind when bedbugs shed their skin—do a thorough cleaning. Wash and dry all clothes and bedding on high heat, check dresser drawers and other bedbug-friendly spaces, and be sure to vacuum every possible crevice. Then, call in the kryptonite.

And that brings us back to toxins. The government may have banned DDT, but thousands more chemicals moved in to take its place, and today there is just no escaping the reality that no matter where we live our bodies are exposed to countless toxins that can contribute to poor health and disease. The key is to take a proactive stance when it comes to fighting back—one that includes reducing our daily exposure by choosing natural over synthetic products whenever possible, eating organically grown meats and produce, and cleansing regularly with a natural herbal detox program. Small steps, yes, but they can have a big impact—not unlike our tiny friend the bedbug.

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It’s something that none of us ever wants to hear: that every day our bodies encounter scores of dangerous toxins that can contribute to one of the deadliest diseases in history. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States, and an alarming new report from the President’s Cancer Panel brings to light the shocking truth about the impact of environmental pollution on cancer rates in the United States.

The report, entitled Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now, outlines the sources and types of environmental contaminants and their significant impact on our overall health—emphasizing in particular the risk to pregnant mothers and infants. The PCP urges government officials to take a stronger position on regulating harmful chemicals and provides a comprehensive list of recommendations to help reduce our exposure to environmental contaminants. That list includes:

  • Choosing organically grown foods to reduce exposure to pesticides and chemical fertilizers
  • Eating free-range meats to reduce exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones and toxic runoff from livestock feed lots
  • Buying environmentally-friendly home/garden products to reduce exposure to hazardous toxins
  • Avoiding hard plastic bottles/containers made with endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as BPA
  • Reducing exposure to occupational chemicals by removing shoes before entering the home
  • Filtering home tap or well water to reduce exposure to numerous known/suspected carcinogens
  • Storing and carrying water in stainless steel, glass or BPA- and/or phthalate-free containers
  • Microwaving food in ceramic or glass instead of plastic containers

Still, this isn’t new news to natural health experts, who for decades have warned of the dangers of toxic exposure and advocated for stronger government regulations. The reality, however, is that of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently being used in the U.S. (with over 1,000 new chemicals introduced each year), only a few hundred have actually been tested for safety. Not only that, but according to the PCP report many known or suspected carcinogens are not regulated at all.

Says natural health and detox expert Brenda Watson, “I can’t stress enough how important it is that the danger of toxin exposure is finally receiving the attention it should. My hope now is that more people will take responsibility for their health—and the health of our planet—by taking steps to reduce toxins in their daily lives.”  

For more information about environmental toxins, their impact on your health, and how you can take steps to reduce your daily exposure, visit Brenda Watson’s Detox Strategy website.

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‡These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The material on this page is for consumer informational and educational purposes only, under section 5 of DSHEA.

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