How does your "Chemical Burden" affect your health?

Al: I’m certainly not one to dramatise blog posts just to grab peoples attention, but when you hear about the chemicals floating around in today's environment and what they can do to you, it gets a little worrying.

I think our take home message from this week's One Minute Magic video is this; you really do have to be proactive when it comes to your own health.

The above video is 1.12 minutes long.

Watch the full interview below.


Jillian Exton - cancer survivor and founder of Chemical Free Community

We spend 30 minutes with a someone who knows the honesty of surviving cancer, Jillian Exton.  We tap into her experience to find out how she managed her illness and how, by lowering our chemical burden, we can live a long and heathy life.

Our special guest today is Jillian Exton. Jill is the real deal. Having survived her "cancer adventure" she has now taken a path to help all people avoid the same fate. It has lead her to reevaluate the way she lives to lower any possibility of a repeat occurrence. Through this journey she has found that we have thousands of chemicals in our environment that are contributing chronic disease and ill health. By founding the Chemical Free Community, she hopes to create the awareness needed to lower our personal chemical burden, something I found both fascinating and a little scary.

The one thing that was clear from this interview is that Jiil is passionate, determined and  a wealth knowledge. Sit back and enjoy as she helps us improve our quality of life so we can enjoy greater health and a longer life.

Full Interview: How we can manage our Chemical Burden and enjoy long and health lives.


In This Episode:

  • Estrogen mimicking chemcials and how they confuse your body
  • The "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean 15" - a great way to eat chemfree
  • Where the toxic chemicals are in your home
  • Monsanto, Round Up and gut bacteria...
  • How to lower your baby's chemical burden
  • How to find products that are chemfree
  • Personal insights from a cancer survivor.

Get more from Jillian Exton:

Chemical Free Community Website


Full Transcript:

Al: Well good morning and today… I feel honoured actually to have our guest on today which is Ms. Julian Exton from Chemical Free Community and today we're going to talk about, I guess Jill's journey in a lot of ways, but also I guess her passion for everything chemical free. Good morning Jill how are you?


Jillian: Morning Alistair thank you for having me, it's great to be with you.


Al: It's good to talk, probably the best way to start off would be, you're pretty passionate about this whole chemical free thing. Where does that come from you? Could give us a bit of a background of your journey to this point.


Jillian: Sure, happy to do that. Chemical Free Community came about from a cancer adventure that I had 5 years ago, so I'm actually a breast-cancer graduate and obviously that was a turning point for many things in my life. And one of them was the introduction to the chemicals in the environment and it was very interesting Alistair, because I had a background of physical education. I was always fit and healthy, but never actually focused on my health at a cellular level and that's actually where the education was for me.

So I guess coming out of that I was very much focused on how I can minimize the reoccurrence of cancer, because I realized that if my body was in a situation where it was able to foster the growth of cancer cells then I actually needed to change that internal environment and so what did that entail? There was the whole immune system; how do I boost my immune system to cope with that better? But also hormones played a big part of it particularly for breast cancer and mine was a hormone driven breast-cancer, type of cancer. So I looked at oestrogen and progesterone and look at how I could balance my hormones and then realize that there is a whole bunch of things out there in our environment that are called Xenoestrogens, which are chemicals that act as oestrogens and when they come into our body; our body perceive them as oestrogen and that also puts our hormones at an imbalance.


Al: So by looking at these chemicals, the body is fooled, I guess, into thinking that it should do particular things?.


Jillian: Exactly, yes, so your body then starts to function in a very high oestrogen dominance situation and that's typically what breast-cancer is and prostate cancer is and a few other things.


Al: Is it?


Jillian: Yes, but also... I mean chemicals are also carcinogens, so there's a double wammy when you look at chemicals. So one is they impact your hormone balance, the other is they are also carcinogens and they are all around us. So I started to think, well how do I minimize my toxic intake or my body burden? So what am I taking into my body, but also how am I getting it out of my body? And that's really why I conducted Chemical Free Community. I was looking at hairdressers, like what hairdressers do I go to? Because hairdressing products are notorious for being full of chemicals. Who can clean my house that doesn't use chemicals? So they are the kind of services that I started looking for in my post my cancer adventure and realize that they are out there, but they are not that easy to find. So if I was having some difficulty finding them then maybe I should share what I had and I ended up coming across a business partner from Deloitte where I used to work and he offered to help workshop it for me and suddenly Chemical Free Community was born. It was focused on food and products and services. So it is about the hairdressers and the beauticians and the pest controls and the holistic industry. Where can I get my dry cleaning done that doesn't use PERC? Where can I send my kids to school that doesn't use chemicals? And what parks are councils not using glyphosate in that I can go on the weekend and take my family to?


Al: I've always felt that there have been a lot of chemicals in the community, do you find it restrictive in a sense of living in a normal way to be chemical free? Is this something that you feel better with? I mean obviously with your journey with cancer it's not really an option for you now I gather, but what are your thoughts on that? Is it a tough gig or what do you think?


(00:05:01). Jillian: I think you've got a live in the real world and it's very difficult to be completely chemical free and we actually have a lot of people say “you can never be chemical free” and it is absolutely true, there are chemicals that we need in our body. But our intent when we talk about chemical free is to be living in a state of mind of chemical free, which means if I am purchasing something or wanting a service then what is the less toxic option that decreases my body burden and my family's toxic exposure? So if I'm about to get my carpets cleaned rather than going for the cheapest, let me have a look at what are the options out there from an environmentally friendly perspective, who doesn't use chemicals and you can pretty much get a similar job done for one that is less toxic...


Al: Just picking up on the expensive aspect, I hear that argument all the time Jill, people saying that because it's organic or whatever it's going to cost you more. What's your feelings on that?


Jillian: I don't think it is always, I think there's a little bit of marketing at the moment, but to be honest I live on the sunshine Coast in Queensland and there is obviously a burden globally, but even on our little patch of the turf we've always been a fairly organic in this area and there are more and more popping up, there are stalls and once you get to know your farmers there are farmers gates. And I can seriously buy a bag of groceries now for around 15 dollars of fresh produce. Surely that same bag might cost 20 are 30 in other places it depends where you shop, but as you get into that whole environment you start to find all those people around you and I think the more people that buy organic and the chemical free then obviously the cost will come down.


Al: Just bringing it back here, do you think you would've arrived at this point, I mean I've got some friends that I've known that had a battle with cancer, but do you almost feel that you have to have a point like that in your life to activate that way of thinking or was it something that you were always aware of? What are your thoughts there?


Jillian: I guess that's what I was saying earlier that I was always focused on health and fitness but I never never realized what the implications were of my environment and yes so I believe I needed a trigger and I believe most people probably needed a trigger. Now that doesn't always need to be health, it might be someone close to you having health issue, but it also might be a pregnancy and suddenly you're having a family and I think that's probably the biggest trigger, the most common trigger at the moment, and because there are so much information available on the Internet and as new parents know, getting close to having their family they are starting to realize that they are responsible for the health of this child. Once you start to read a couple of things they do go, oh my God what am I doing.


Al: Yes it's funny you almost need something like that to happen, I've got a young family and you do you become more aware I think and I don't like to judge people because I think people do the best that they can and I often find the argument is have I got to be 100% chemical free or... Do you think you can be partial on this sort of stuff? What do you think?


Jillian: It is always a journey and I'm new to this I've only been on this process for the last 5 years and I think, I don't know if you can ever be unless you're living completely off the grid, you can't and the way we've actually approached Chemical Free Community is as a supplier we enable you to identify your chemical status. So you might have an entire shop of products and you can have 25% of your product is chemical free or organic... whatever that may be you profile that.

So as a business as well as the user it is a journey. Once you start on this you think, what's one product I can change? And you might see a product on the shop, I will use a less toxic shampoo, there will be a shampoo that says no parabens, and you pick that up thinking okay that's a non-toxic option; once you get it home and you turn it over and you read the ingredients list what you don't realize is that they haven't disclosed everything, they have still got some nasties in there. So they have actually marketed that to say they have no X, Y and Z, but they haven't told you about A,B and C. So that's actually like the next step you go, "alright I'm going to use this, but next time I'm going to be a little bit more savvy and look at the back of the label and I'm going to get something that is less toxic." So you slowly inch your way towards the non-toxic and then you continue.


Al: Well I'm going to! Actually I'm just thinking in the background here but I am going to fast-track a little bit, what are the common ones in your mind like if you were talking to somebody in the street, what do you think a fairly common product area to go and have a look for this kind of stuff , where significant nasties are? Where would you start? How would you do it?


Jillian: I think...


(00:10:01) Al: Where should I look I guess?


Jillian: Food is the most obvious and then a lot of people will start with food and then once they have managed to do this for their food and have decreased their processed foods they're buying fresh produce that's spray free and so far organic wherever possible. And then obviously there is also the clean 15… the dirty dozen and the clean 15, if you've heard of that?


Al: No I haven't...


Jillian: You must Google that it's actually.... It's quite easy there's many many things on the internet about that but basically they have identified the top 15 products in terms of fruits and vegetables that can absorb the most toxins from the pesticides etc. so they are the ones that you buy organically...


Al: what are they?


Jillian: celery, strawberries...


Al: Wow.


Jillian: ... are usually on the top


Al: And I guess they have more capacity to absorb more chemicals and it doesn't matter how much you wash them? What's the go there?


Jillian: There is more chemicals used in the growing of those produce.


Al: Oh, ok.


Jillian: So yes and there is multiple reasons why they absorbed more or there is more used, but yes so I have identified the dirty dozen and the clean15. It’s those foods and vegetables that absorb less so there are the ones that you can buy conventionally, so it's about a balance. So food is obviously the big one and then there's products, because food is what you put in you and then you've got to look at what you put on you. What are your little shampoos and your personal products that you use, because you obviously absorb all of those toxins. So that's the next area that...


Al: So what sort of things would be in a shampoo for example that you'd be worried about or a skin product?


Jillian: Sulfates, Parabens those sorts of things, and a lot of those are oestrogen mimics or the xenoestrogens. And the baby products too. As a child up until the age of 7 your body's ability to detox is quite limited or non-existent and therefore...


Al: Is it? Is it that they just don't have the capacity to do that or..?


Jillian: Yes, so the importance of decreasing your body's burden for your children at that age is quite high and I think you know we touched on earlier what those triggers are and I think there are a number of triggers particularly in families where you've got kids with ADD and allergies and those sorts of things, so I think that's certainly on a much larger scale than it has been


Al: Because you hear, and I am not saying there’s a conspiracy theory, but you hear all these things about “that's causing that’s” or… in your experience even with child bearing and things like that, is there any particular issues with chemicals in that space, what your experience there?


Jillian: We had the joy of supporting an organization called MADGE, mothers against demistifying genetic engineering, its a bit of a mouthful. They brought over some speakers from the US and the UK, a genetic scientist from the UK, he's very much into decreasing glyphosate which is the ingredients pesticides and Round Up. There is also a paediatrician from the US and we were with them for 3 weeks in Sydney and Melbourne. I heard their talks, you know, time and time again, everytime I learnt something new. An example there is a Round Up that's used on a number of things, on farming, around livestock, your home garden, you know, domestically, commercially it is everywhere. The Council sprays it in every park and Round Up is actually impacting your gut health, so historically they've been saying it doesn't impact ourselves or there's a particular process in our body and therefore it doesn't impact us, but in fact our bacteria in our gut are affected so it's actually impacting our gut bacteria. So that's why a lot of kids are falling into allergies, because they are getting leaky gut? You would have heard the term leaky gut?


Al: Yes


Jillian: And that's where your gut ends up with holes in it and as you eat food you will have a food element or protein or something leaks through your guts and into your bloodstream, your body then identifies that as a foreign element whether peanuts or whatever it might be and it starts attacking it and suddenly you have a child with peanut allergy.


Al: Right, ok.


(00:15:01) Jillian: So all of that can be tracked back to pesticides and Round Up and glyphosate is actually the chemical that does that. So yes, you know there is a direct link and it's getting more and more obvious as more and more research is being done. So the products that we use are very important. I'm just going to come back and finish that answer because I spoke about how you can actually impact yourself. So food is the easiest one to touch on, products is the second, but services is the one that everyone forgets about and it's incredible how things like dry-cleaning, dry-cleaning uses a chemical which is 20 syllables long and I won't even…


Al: Yes you kind of smell it as you go pass those sort of shops and you go, "holy moly" …


Jillian: It's PERC, short name is PERC. So there's a huge implication with PERC and you now see that there are some dry cleaners that are not using PERC and using less toxic or non-toxic options. There is a franchise in Melbourne, there is a whole franchise in Brisbane that you can use that doesn’t have PERC. So not only is it bad for the workers and the people that live in the area around that drycleaner, the minute you take your dry-cleaning home and, you know, you take that plastic often you get that aroma so that is also infiltrating your house. So dry-cleaning is a service. You know, if you think about the lounge that you're sitting on at the moment right behind you.


Al: Yes, okay….. (nervous!)


Jillian: My question there is have you got flame retardant a protective…?


Al: Well, we've got it scotch guarded…


Jillian: Scotch guard is a flame retardant, but it's a chemical that are put over products and I think in a lot of countries, it's mandatory to have that or it has been the past I don't know… it's very much been challenged in California at the moment. But contrary to beliefs, there has been some information that fire retardants actually don't stop products from igniting. But what happens is as you sit on your couch and your kids play on your coach and any other soft furnishing the chemicals or the protective layer of the flame retardants actually these little particles float into the air and you inhale them, but they also then sit around on the floor and as the kids run around the floor and play they are picking them up on their hands and their knees and then there popping them in their mouth and then your vacuuming and your sweeping and then those particles end up in your rubbish and then they end up in our waterways and so particles of flame retardants and chemicals in flame retardants are being found everywhere in the world. You know even in polar bears in the Arctic...


Al: They've got chemicals?


Jillian: They have flame retardant chemicals found in them, so it's quite amazing. You know that's a chemical that you know, particularly for children, not all, there are actually a number of companies that are not putting flame retardant on car seats for children and in strollers. You know there's a growing demand for that.


Al: Do you get a bit angry about the stuff? You know I'm just talking about the personal aspect not all these technical things, but given your history and the sort chemicals flying around. What are your thoughts on this? I think once you've been there and see what's going on, what are your thoughts about this? Is this why you're doing what you're doing?


( 00:20:01) Jillian: I have many - oh my God! moments; one is the other day we were watching the movie Fed up and obviously I am familiar with the movement that's happening with Monsanto and they are now 19 countries in the Eurozone that have band Monsanto. Are you familiar with Monsanto in India and with the implications of Indian farmers and the number of suicides?. So once you start on that track it's quite amazing what these corporations can do. But Fed up on the other side, was looking at the sugar industry and we finish that movie thinking wow! The sugar industry is almost is as powerful and manipulative as Monsanto. So it helps you… I guess it makes you think twice about anything that you hear on statistics, reports and you have to ask “who is actually funding that information” and who is been bought out and who is being paid and when you think the number of doctors that are actually supported financially by the pharmaceutical companies is incredible. It gives you just a more realistic view of “don't assume everything you hear”, read it to see is accurate, and do your homework and just make a decision that you feel intuitively is right for you.


Al: I think that's a good word I think, I mean, just growing up in my youth, … I think everybody's got an idea when they're talking about sugar, “don't eat too much sugar or it will rot your teeth” or “not too much red cordial because it will make you a bit hyper” and it was always something that we laughed off. There is an intuitive aspect that people can bring to this. I think one part of this is “I'm hearing this information and I'm thinking gosh you know this is pretty heavy”, you know, I’m feeling not very optimistic about it. There seems to be a bit of a movement for making better choices or just being a little bit more informed. How do you recommend someone get more informed about this sort of stuff?


Jillian: I would recommend jumping on the Internet. There are a number of fabulous talks on YouTube's and videos and we've actually collated a whole bunch of those and thrown them on Chemical Free Community in our library. We actually wanted to be a point of reference so people who think “I know I should, I know I want to, I know I need to but I haven't no idea where to start”. They jump on to the library and do your research and watch the video, read an article are do one of those a week or one a month or whatever time frame works for you to fit into your busy lifestyle. You can't undo what you then know, and it is a progressive education and that education will go on till the day I die! I don't think I'll ever know everything.


So it's just start somewhere and once you start to learn something, then look at what you're purchasing and as you make wiser choices and it's not just about the environment. I have some fabulous friends who work in sustainability and lecture in sustainability and they are very focused on that side of the environment which I'm totally for. What they are missing though I think the starting point is actually “let’s save us first”.


Al: I was going to say we’re part of the environment, we're actually on this planet as well and we are interacting with the same stuff…


Jillian: Exactly, but how many people out there will recycle and look at environmental issues but still eat pesticide laden foods? And put parabens on themselves and burn candles that are made from paraben wax and put toxins in the air? So all of that your starting point. “Let me minimize and reduce mine and my family's toxic exposure and then, by default, we’re saving the planet”. But we’re all living in a much healthier state, so the starting point needs to come back to our families.


Al: Maybe just bringing it full-circle for me and given the journey you've had, and there is a lot of incidences of cancer and chronic diseases, that we need to be informed on this. Is that the opinion that you’ve formed? I mean, I try and do the best I can for my family, and in some ways, I'm sure there's more I can do like anybody. And we’re trying to do organic. Do you believe people have an option to ignore these sort of stuff or do you think we we've got to get on with it..?


Jillian: There is always an option and, as we've spoken earlier, there need to be some sort of trigger or a willingness to learn and that there are many people that just go, "I don't think it's important" and I think as historically we’ve the trust into the government and the food producers to think why would anyone put a bunch of chemicals that they know are not good for us into a product, I mean that just doesn't make logical sense.


Al: And I think a lot of the time it's quantity as well the dose, there are a lot of regulations around this sort of stuff but…


(00:25:01) Jillian: Yes and you trust in those regulations but as you get into learning more and more you realize there are these windows that people can sneak in and do things and there are a lot of chemicals that haven't been tested and yet they are allowed into products. So I think we've trusted in the system and the more you learn it you go, "maybe I shouldn't be trusting in the system or maybe I need to take more accountability for what I eat and what I use." So it's really, “where do you sit?”. Are you still trusting or are you a little more sceptic? But not everyone is ready to hear this information and you must be ready to hear it and go, “okay”, but what often happens is "oh my God this is so overwhelming I can't do it ", then you kind of get a handle on it and say "you know what I'm just going to do one thing at a time" this is okay and then something will happen and I do the same I go, "oh my God I’ve been doing that”. But then you have to stop and go, “you know what, I am doing the best that I can”.


Al: Well actually you're doing a bit better than you were yesterday, I think some of it can be overwhelming but just to try and make it, as you say, a journey. I guess that is the way to approach it.


Jillian: You’re not going to be there overnight and you may not even be there in the evening you may not be there in 10 years, but you know every step in that direction is a positive step for decreasing the toxic burden on your family.


Al: And, this is a bit personal, but you look well now Jill. Has this been something that has made you feel well in yourself? And do you feel the results are there for you? Because people will ask, you've done all this effort, really are you getting the benefit from it?


Jillian: Yes I believe I am. Obviously menopause… because I was pushed into menopause through some treatment that I have, so these are the implications around that as well. So managing the chemicals and menopause and all of that its… yes it's a constant awareness, but it comes a way of life and it's a healthy way of life.


Al: Well I think that's a really good place to wrap it up, thanks for your time. You've got me thinking and I hope some people have taken some info from our chat. But good luck with it and I think what you're doing with the chemical free, the awareness in places, its important. I think there's a bit of a movement going on but hopefully if you keep aware, this sort of thinking will get going.


Jillian: Yes, that's right I think certainly it's a global movement happening and it's wonderful to see.


Al: Alright well thanks to you a lot I really appreciate your time and hopefully we'll catch up again.


Jillian: Great to see you,

Alistair Schuback
Alistair Schuback