Colds And Benzene
Colds and Heart Disease
Scientists from University College London examined the fitness and attendance records of 10,000 workers over ten years.
The results, announced last week, showed that between 30 and 40 percent of those who continued to work when ill -- even when afflicted by a minor complaint such as the common cold -- later suffered twice the rate of heart disease. Professor Sir Michael Marmot, head of the survey, said that the damage caused by working when unwell was not affected by drinking or smoking.
So What Does this Mean?
It probably says less about colds than it does about stress. In other words, if you think of both fighting a cold AND going to a job you can't stand as major stress factors on the body, then the increased incidence of heart disease is easy to understand.
With that in mind, the study would have been more interesting if they asked one additional question, "Do you like your job?" It would be fascinating to see if people who liked their work (in other words, people who were less stressed by it) had a lower incidence of heart disease than those who didn't following a cold. Keep in mind, as I mention in Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, "Statistically, it turns out that more people are likely to die on Monday morning before going to work than at any other time of the week. There has been much speculation as to why this happens; but in general, most people agree it's something along the lines of: 'Most people have heart attacks on Monday morning, because they are stressed that they are heading back to jobs they can't stand after a weekend off.'"
In any case, you have four options:
- Stay home from work and rest up for five or six days if you have a cold. Of course, most employers won't appreciate this solution (although your fellow workers who won't be exposed to your cold might like it).
- Build up your immune system and wash your hands regularly with regular (not antibacterial) soap.
- If you get a cold, don't just suppress the symptoms with decongestants and aspirin; aggressively attack it with immune boosters and pathogen destroyers.
- Take some cold capsules and go to work...and suffer twice the risk of heart disease.
Personally, I'd vote for options number 2 and 3. For more information, check out the following two articles.
Benzene and Bone Marrow
Scientists have known for some time that workers in industries like oil and shipping who are exposed to high levels of benzene in the air (1 ppm or higher) run an increased risk of developing leukemia. But the potential dangers from smaller amounts of the chemical have been unclear. Now, the results of a new study just published in Science Magazine and conducted by researchers from the US National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, and the University of California, Berkeley strongly suggests those dangers might be very real.
The bottom line is that workers exposed to low levels of benzene had, on average, 15% to 18% fewer granulocytes and B cells than did unexposed workers. These cells are produced in the bone marrow and play a key role in the body's ability to fight off infection and disease.
The researchers then went on to say that although these workers showed no signs of ill health, the findings "suggest" that low doses of benzene may have a damaging impact on bone marrow which could lead to health problems, including leukemia. Although the connection to leukemia may be a bit tenuous, the fact that exposure to low levels of benzene negatively impacts the immune system is not. But what does that have to do with you?
The problem is that benzene has many sources outside of heavy industry, including: second-hand cigarette smoke, gasoline vapors, air pollution, and oh yes, the toxic vapors given off by man-made carpet fibers in your house.
Our exposure to toxic chemicals in the industrialized world is unprecedented in human evolution. In a sense, depending on your perspective, it amounts to either a "grand experiment" or a "dangerous gamble." In either case, studies like the one on benzene, although not conclusive, certainly can be viewed as "canaries in the coal mine," warning of significant health problems coming down the pike.
So what can you do about it?
Well, from the avoidance side of things:
- As much as possible, limit your exposure. If you smoke, stop smoking (as if you needed another reason). And avoid exposure to second hand smoke.
- Get several air ionizers or carbon air filters working in your house. They will clean up the air in your home environment (especially important for those with new "non-wool" carpet).
- If possible, get an ionizer working in your office environment. If you don't work at a desk, but are moving about in a toxic environment, they now make personal ionizers that you can wear around your neck like the Wein 150mm. They may not be as effective as their larger cousins, but they're better than nothing if you work in a potentially toxic environment.
And on the more proactive side:
- Boosting your immune system to counter the immediate effects of the lowered white cell count (see the links above).
- Detox regularly -- intestinal and especially the liver, since the liver takes the brunt of dealing with toxic chemicals such as benzene.
- Which segues me right into a plug for the group liver detox that we're doing in January. Look, I understand it's inconvenient and not the most fun thing in the world to do (although after you've done a couple of them, you really just coast right through them). And I also understand that the liver and blood tinctures are the nastiest tasting formulas I make. But then again, I kind of enjoy the olive oil and garlic drink in the morning (it tastes like a spicy Orange Julius) and the detox tea (it smells like Christmas). The bottom line, though, is that coming off the excesses of the holidays, the liver detox is one of the best things you can do for your health -- and will help you drop some of that extra weight you just put on.