We live in a world where hundreds of toxic industrial chemicals have the potential to harm us. The chemicals mainly of concern are fat-soluble, so have the potential to become concentrated in the brain, but the fact that we might inhale toxins as fumes or drink or eat them is equally worrying.
Various studies have pointed to pesticide use being implicated in neurological conditions and mental illness. Findings however are not always consistent and although we know a good amount about high-level exposure to pesticides, there is insufficient information on the effects of low-dose, long-term exposure.
Most patients reporting symptoms of depression are very unlikely to be tested for exposure to chemicals, unless through their work the symptoms appear to be related. If however you have concerns about environmental issues and how these might affect mood, there are some things you could consider doing.
Professor Jane Plant and Janet Stephenson provide what they describe as a ‘guide to detoxing’, which they believe greatly reduces exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.* Here are a few of their suggestions:
Consume organic foods as much as possible. "Eating organic can lower body burdens of pesticides in weeks."
Never use garden chemicals and never buy cut flowers as they have probably been doused in pesticide.
Golf courses, cricket pitches and similar facilities keep the grass looking good by regular spraying with pesticides. Avoid spray days and if you live nearby, close windows during spraying. Watch out for crop spraying too.
Surround yourself with green house plants: they help to remove toxins from the air.
Fragrances, including room sprays contain man-made chemicals.
Simple soap is healthier. Try to use natural crystal deodorants and baby shampoo. Use simple eco-friendly household cleaning products.
Try to avoid plastics as these can contain really damaging chemicals. Use stainless steel, ceramics, heat-resistant glass and wooden spoons for cooking and try to avoid non-stick pans. Store food in glass or earthenware or foil rather than in plastic.
- Plant. J. & Stephenson. J (2008) Beating Stress, Anxiety and Depression. Piatkus.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.