Biomagnification and its impact on our health
Elementary school introduced us to the phenomenon of Biomagnification. Some of us got quite alarmed by it that time, but then quickly forgot about it too. Today if you ask what is Biomagnification, one might feel that it is something magnificent, sounds like it, doesn’t it? It really isn’t!
So, what is Biomagnification?
Biomagnification is a process by which toxins get accumulated in the bodies of plants, animals, and humans; the quantity amplifying as we move up the food chain.
In simple words, veggies grown with chemical fertilizers are eaten by animals which are then eaten by us. That is, we end up consuming these poisonous fertilizers!
A question that may pop up here is that the tiny amount of meat one eats in every meal, how is that going to make an impact on a healthy person? It does, by Bioaccumulation. The elements that occur naturally in our environment get digested by our body readily. The digestive chemicals in our body work day and night to break these materials down into very tiny elements that can easily be absorbed by our body, if beneficial, or be discarded when we visit the washroom. Sometimes, the harmful chemicals are also discarded through sweat when we workout. The catch is, most of these are naturally occurring chemicals, and mostly water-soluble. They mix up in water and get removed as sweat, urine or feces. What happens when we consume chemicals that our bodies are not aware of, that our bodies are not able to get rid of naturally? These chemicals stay, like unwanted visitors. Think of a poultry farmer feeding his chicken the veggies grown with industrial chemicals (like inorganic fertilizers). The chicks can’t digest those chemicals, neither can their bodies really get rid of it. It keeps accumulating. Then the same chicken is served at your dinner table. You end up consuming those trace elements of chemicals every now and then, because you obviously eat more chicken, than the veggies your chicken ate. Also, you eat these chemically grown veggies too!
More and more chemicals get accumulated in your body. This is bioaccumulation.
In the larger frame, this is how biomagnification works:
The inorganic substance cannot be broken down by natural environmental processes. Hence it stays in the environment – like soil, water bodies etc.
The substance cannot be digested or excreted readily from the body. This happens mainly because these substances are insoluble in water.
Food Chain Energetics – the substance’s concentration in the body of the being increases as we move up the food chain.
And why does it matter to us?
Biomagnification and the accumulation of toxins through bioaccumulation is a cause of concern for us because these toxins end up harming us in more ways than one. Skin irritation is an early sign of increasing toxicity in the human body. Increasing respiratory problems is another tell-tale sign of a toxic environment and toxic foods. Heavy metals accumulated in food like Cadmium, cobalt, lead, mercury and nickel interfere with the formation of blood cells, adversely affect the blood-circulation system, deteriorate nerve cells, cause kidney and liver problems. These toxins can sometimes also cause vision and hearing issues, impaired sense of body-balance and movement, and difficulty with speech. Toxins ingested in pregnant women can harm the physical and mental growth of their fetus inside their bodies, as well as while breastfeeding. Some heavy metals are also known to cause cancer.