Environmental Toxin Exposure: what to do when disasters hit

Whether you're in the American West dealing with forest fires, living through a local chemical spill, or an industrial disaster like the current situation in South Africa, it's crucial to take steps during exposure to avoid serious health issues later.

We are not separate from nature, we're a part of it, and we're absorbing our environment through our skin, lungs, and digestive tract 24/7. It's helpful to think of yourself as an air plant - always taking in our surroundings, through every pore of our being.

In this post, you'll learn daily best practices during the disaster, DIY strategies to reduce toxic exposure when supplies are scarce, what herbs can be used for first aid in a pinch, and what supplements are most important for recovery afterward. I've lived through many forest fires and several major chemical exposures - I know how stressful it can be! No matter what resources you have access to, there are always steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.

Special note about forest fires: burning trees release stored toxins and heavy metals that have accumulated from air pollution, herbicides and pesticide use, etc. Flame retardants poured over the fires end up in humans, animals, and water sources. In today's world, forest fires should be considered a chemical exposure, not just a natural disaster. One study showed a 50x increase in lead levels in the atmosphere from wildfire smoke.

The mental and emotional impact is real.

First thing's first: remember to be gentle and kind with yourself and others. Exposure to even a minute amount of toxins can cause a significant drop in your energy and ability to focus. Toxins activate the cell danger response, so our mitochondria stop producing "power" like little energizer bunnies, and instead became warning signallers. We literally have less energy when exposed to toxins!

Anxiety, depression, brain fog, irritability, moodiness, fatigue, and overwhelm have all been linked to environmental toxin exposure. Lower your expectations of your own productivity, keep your calendar clear of unnecessary commitments, and use your favorite anxiety reducing tools for self-care. Resist the urge to self medicate with sugar, alcohol, and other substances during this time, because your body will be less able to tolerate them than usual!

Daily Practices to Reduce Exposure

Start with indoor-outdoor etiquette

Limit your time outside. Have designated outdoor clothes and shoes, and take them off immediately when entering the house. Be meticulous about this! Use hepa air filters or better, if you have them. Vacuum daily or more often if your vacuum has a good filter.

Stop re-exposing yourself in your own home

  • Reduce toxic exposure by pulling pollution out of of your linens and clothing.
    If you have access to activated charcoal or zeolite, use one teaspoon in each laundry load to mop up toxins. Charcoal works great for the darker loads, and zeolite is preferred for the lighter loads. Bentonite clay is also effective. These products can often be found in bulk at gardening stores, so think outside the box if you can’t get access to supplement grade binders! These are cheap and well worth it.

  • Daily detox for the whole family

    • Epsom salt baths daily will pull out toxins that have recently been absorbed into the skin.
    • Apple cider vinegar will break down glyphosate and related herbicides into harmless components that your body can process. Take 1/2 teaspoon twice daily in water, or hide in salad dressing, juice, or tea.
    • HYDRATE with pure water, all day long. The solution to pollution is dilution! If you're not already drinking half your weight in ounces, now is the time to start. Bonus points for going higher. If there are no contraindications, we like to see a 150 lb adult drink as much as a gallon of water a day during periods of toxic exposure. See more on water filtration below.

    Binders are your best friend

    Binders are a type of supplement that chemically and mechanically bond to different types of toxins, so that these toxins can safely get excreted without continuing to cause damage and recirculate in your body.
    Activated charcoal is not my favorite binder for detox, but it is still one of the most widely available and most effective binders for acute poisoning situations like this. Take twice a day away from food, prescriptions, and supplements by at least an hour. It's important to note: activated charcoal does not travel outside of the digestive tract, so it will only mop up toxins that have been ingested, or that your body has already moved to the gut in hopes of eliminating them.
    DIY Activated Charcoal:
    If you can't get access to activated charcoal or my favorite binders listed below, check out this video to make your own activated charcoal. In a toxic exposure situation, anything is better than nothing!
    Best binders:
    For those that can afford it, once people can access supplements, we recommend the CellCore binders ViRadChem, HMET, and Carboxy. They are each specially formulated to pull out a wide range of industrial pollutants, poisons, and heavy metals. Unlike most binders that are confined to functioning in the gut, these work systemically. Do you family a favor, and pick up a bottle of each to have on hand.

    When you're exposed to toxic air and water, but have limited access to supplements

    Fiber and certain starches will mop up a broad range of toxins in the gut. Apples for kids daily, sweet potatoes or potatoes if you can get them. This does not replace supplements, but it is FAR better than nothing. Remember that the recommended fiber allotment for adult females is 25 grams per day, and 28 grams per day for adult males. Dose higher if you can - the internet will tell you how much fiber is in the foods that you can actually access during this stressful time. Keep your bowels moving! Your body prefers to excrete toxins through your bowels, not your kidneys.

    Air filters and plants

    Our favorite air filters include Austen Air and IQ Air.
    Low tech option: if you aren’t able to get an air filter, use damp rags over your vents to filter smoke and other inhalants.
    Check out this genius way to build your own air filter if you have access to a box fan.
    VOCs can get mopped up by spider plants, if you have a lot of them. It may not be practical to buy plants once you're already in the midst of an environmental disaster, but by all means bring your snake plants, spider plants, and bromeliad potted plants inside. They really do make a difference by increasing oxygen exchange and providing some filtration!

    Animal exposure

    If you have animals, remember that cats are more sensitive to your remediation strategies than dogs, and are more likely to ingest the toxins that have collected on their fur and paws. Keep cats indoors as much as possible during smoke and toxic exposure incidents, and wipe them down multiple times a day with a paper towel and water. DO NOT expose your cats to essential oils, because they cannot tolerate them.
    Keep your dogs indoors aside from potty trips. You can wipe down your dog a couple of times a day (especially their paws) with a diluted ACV solution in water. It really doesn’t take much. Dogs generally should not have more than 1 tsp ACV ingested per day, so dilute accordingly.
    If your animal has been directly exposed to chemicals as result of fire smoke or a local disaster, you can dip their paws and sprinkle their coat with bentonite clay or activated charcoal before washing them with mild soap and water. If you are really limited in the materials that you have access to, find the most clay-like soil in your yard, dip your animal's paws and affected areas into that clay, and wash vigorously. Most clays act as binders, and it's far better than nothing in a pinch! Don't let your pet try to clean themselves when exposed to fire smoke or industrial chemical pollution.

    Your 72 hour kit

    Water matters most

    When it comes to natural disasters, local industrial disasters, and disruption to municipal management, the most important resource to stockpile is WATER.
    For peace of mind, get your hands on whatever water filtration you can, because these pollutants will keep making their way into the water supply and treatment facilities are generally not equipped to manage this. Our preference is a water distiller (you can get a small one like this for ~$235 on Amazon here in the US). These will filter out every single kind of toxin: herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, industrial pollutants. It is completely safe to drink for long periods of time (I have been drinking only distilled water for years). The minerals you are filtering out were most likely not bioavailable, and you can supplement later with trace minerals. Right now, the focus is on avoiding poison.
    If you can't get ahold of a water filter, check out this video on how to make your own water filter.
    If you can’t get your hands on any kind of bottled spring water or countertop water filtration system right now, at the very least, stockpile enough tap water for 3 days for every family member and pet.
    I would personally do this anyway. Michael and I live in a region where we are completely dependent on a large infrastructure working perfectly in order to provide us water. We always keep 3 days worth of spring water on hand, just in case there’s a temporary disruption to the system.

    Emergency Essentials

    1. 1 Gallon of water per person, per day.
    2. 3 days worth of food, and necessary utensils. (If canned food is part of your essentials, have a can opener!)
    3. Dust mask to filter contaminated air. If you don't have access to dust masks, use a damp bandana, or rip up old t-shirts in bandana-sized squares and dampen.
    4. Plastic sheeting and duct tape for shelter, repair, etc.
    5. Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties for makeshift restroom needs.
    6. Lighting: flashlights, solar camping lanterns, etc.
    7. Communication: emergency radio, back up battery for cellphone charging, etc.

    Plans protect the family

    Remember that when emotions go up, intelligence goes down, so put your family safety plans in writing. When an environmental disaster or industrial disaster affects your town, it's essential to agree on certain basics within your family. You may not get much notice if the situation escalates beyond a basic safety threshold, so plan in advance:
    1. If we had to leave our home, where will we shelter?
    2. What is our evacuate route, and what is our backup evacuation plan?
    3. What is my household communication plan?
    4. Where do we meet, if home is not an option?

    First aid herbs and materials when you can't access supplements and medicine

    When natural and industrial disasters strike, you may have disrupted access to basic first aid care. Here are a few household herbs and foods that can handle many first aid issues:
    • Aloe Vera: this wonderful plant has internal and external uses. Its mucilaginous nature soothes and protects irritated membranes and inflamed tissues from burns, blisters, or dry, irritated skin.
    • Apple Cider Vinegar: breaks down glyphosate (the most common herbicide) and aids digestion. It also soothes poison ivy and athlete's foot.
    • Arnica: can be used topically for bruising, swelling, pain relief, arthritis, and injuries.
    • Baking Soda: acid neutralizer, drawing poultice for weeping bites, stings, and rashes.
    • Cayenne: internal and external uses to regulate blood pressure and circulation, stops bleeding. Can be administered during a heart attack while waiting for emergency services.
    • Chamomile: internal and external uses for relaxation, more restful sleep, soothing colic, reducing teething pain. Poultice or tea bags can be applied topically to soothe pinkeye.
    • Coconut Oil: carrier oil for other herbs, can be used as a skin salved for rashes, dry skin, and chapped lips.
    • Comfrey: used externally for injuries and broken bones.
    • Epsom salt: relieves sore muscles and pain from sprains, salt baths pull out toxins, and taken internally epsom salt will stimulate bowel movements.
    • Eucalyptus: used in steam or vapor rub for chest congestion and sinus issues.
    • Garlic: antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic
    • Ginger: take internally for nausea, morning sickness, reflux, indigestion, and morning sickness.
    • Lemon: antseptic, high in vitamin C
    • Onion: anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial
        Earache: Heat half an onion in the oven for 15 minutes at 300 degrees F. Wrap the onion in a towel and place on the ear.
          Chest congestion: Sautee a chopped onion with olive oil until translucent. Cool slightly and apply on the chest. Cover with a warm towel for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse and apply a natrual vapor-rub.
            Splinter removal: Place a slice of fresh onion on a splinter to reduce inflammation and draw the splinter to the surface.
              • Raw Honey: use for sore throats, wound care, and allergies. Add to tea or hot water with lemon.


              Toxin excretion: the most crucial stage of any disaster

              Once the emergency is over, it's time to create a long-term detox plan. Your body will take far longer to excrete toxins than it will to absorb them. Think in terms of months, not days.
              Using an infrared sauna can help to excrete a wide range of toxins, including fire smoke, industrial pollutants, herbicides, pesticides, heavy metals, and microplastics.
              When choosing a sauna, please consider the materials used! Do not be tempted by models constructed from fiberglass, treated woods, and other chemical hazards. Our favorite sauna is Sauna Space, and they do have payment plans to make the purchase easier.

              Supplements: binders, mobilizers, and detox system support

              To mop up the toxins that your body has accumulated, we recommend using:
              These binders are each specifically formulated to pull out a wide range of industrial pollutants, poisons, and heavy metals. Unlike most binders that are confined to functioning in the gut, these work systemically. Clinically, we see the best outcomes with these binders over any other brand or type.
              While detoxing, it's crucial to keep your excretion pathways open. You can do that by keeping your bowels moving, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and taking:
              1. Takesumi Supreme
              2. TUDCA
              3. KL Support

                Recovery pillars: a balanced detox creates the best results

                There are so many detox tools to help you safely release environmental toxins! Most "detox" products are not effective because they fail to provide targeted, balanced support. In planning your detox protocol, you'll need to attend to each of these pillars:

                • Energy: Your body will need extra energy support to excrete stored toxins. Support your mitochondria with targeted supplements like this one. Do not skip this step!
                • Anti-inflammatory nutrition: An inflamed body is not a detoxing body! Gentle, inflammation reducing foods with balanced nutrition are essential for successful detox. This can look radically different from person to person, depending on your sensitivities.
                • Detox pathway support: Your liver, kidneys, lymph, digestive tract, and skin are all natural detox systems that can get easily overloaded and out of balance during environmental exposure. To bring them back into balance and get them fully functional again, you'll want targeted supplements that are tailored to your symptoms and needs. This is especially important for the liver and gallbladder, where toxins that get "stuck" in the bile will get encased in cholesterol, and begin to form stones.
                • Binders: Choose high quality supplements that are designed to bind and neutralize toxins until excretion. (See above for a couple of our favorites.)
                • Mobilizers: Toxins don't just keep floating around in the bloodstream once ingested. (Example: 80% of ingested mercury stays in the body!) If toxins can't be successfully excreted right away, your body works hard to tuck them far away from your vital organs. Once you have all of the other pillars in place, it's safe to use targeted agents to mobilize toxins out of storage to get them out of the body! Most toxins end up in fat tissue, glands, the brain, our central nervous system, and a few get stored in our bones (like lead). You'll need to provoke the toxins out of storage at a pace that your body can handle, in order to help your body get relief and reclaim your resilience long-term. 

                I hope this overview helps you through these unfortunate events, and gives you the inspiration you need to take of yourself and your loved ones once the immediate distress has passed. I've lived through many forest fires and several major chemical exposures - I know how stressful it can be! But it does pass. How you handle your health afterwards determines your quality of life for years to come.

                Ready for more support? Hop on the waitlist for our Detox Reset program to give your body a break, reclaim your energy and well-being, and avoid big health problems later!