Children and Total Load Theory

Children are some of the more vulnerable members of society. Existing standards were designed for minimum protection of adults in industry. Until recently, there has been remarkably limited knowledge in general use about children’s Environmental Health and Safety. It is wise to exceed existing indoor environment quality standards where children are involved.

For strong and lasting changes, principals, teachers, custodians, board members, maintenance managers, officials of various government departments, politicians, and other parents all need to know more and to do what is necessary.

Health, behavior and learning ability are all influenced by school Indoor Environment Quality. Clean air and a comfortable, healthy environment are as important to education as are a good curriculum and good teaching.

Total Load

Total load (body burden) is defined as the sum of all the factors that place strain on our bodies and undermine our health. Some of these factors are toxins, irritants, stressors or triggers, and come from our environment, our lifestyle, and our internal environment (body).

Allergies, Sensitivities Tobacco Smoke
Endocrine Dysfunction Inadequate Diet, Sleep
Vitamin, Mineral Deficiency Lack of Exercise
Yeast Overgrowth Drug Usage
Pregnancy Stress Home, Job
Genetics Major Event, Accident
  Divorce, Death, Lottery
  Chemicals in Food, Water
Outdoor Pollution:– Asthma, Arthritis, Eczema
Pesticides Infections, Irritable Bowel
Dust, Pollens, Weeds Mood Swings, Fatigue
Virus, Bacteria, Mold Abdominal Bloating, etc.
Heat, Cold, Humidity  
Indoor Pollution:–

Scented Products



Cleaning Chemicals  

The immune, neurological, endocrine, and detoxification systems work constantly to balance total load in an effort to maintain health.

When there is an accumulation or repetition of stressors, there can be an imbalance or exhaustion of our systems, and reactions or symptoms can develop. These symptoms are the first indicators that something is out of balance and needs to be addressed.

Symptoms can range in severity from mild, low grade (sneezing, itching, nausea) to moderate (headache, fatigue, infections, brain fog) to severe and disabling symptoms (migraine, arthritis, depression, prolonged fatigue) which can affect the quality of life.

Reaction to and severity of stressors depends on the person’s total load at the time of additional exposure. This is why one does not always experience the same reaction to the same irritant. People don’t always catch a cold or flu when exposed. If one’s load is low, the body is able to fight the virus. The heavier the daily load the more likely symptoms and/or illness will develop.


Each person has a unique genetic make up with individual strengths and weaknesses inherited from parents.

We also have a biochemical individuality which dictates how a person’s body responds to toxins or irritants. As a result some people are able to handle many of these stressors, while others can be negatively affected by exposure to smaller amounts of toxins.

We also need to look at what is the sum total of chemical/toxic exposures during your life time. Dr. Sherry Rogers states, “You breathe into your lungs approximately two heaping tablespoons of assorted chemicals and particulates every day. You ingest chemicals from your food and water, and absorb them from your skin. When the Environmental Protection Agency examined human body tissue, scientists found more than 400 chemicals”. (1)

Our bodies have a detoxification system to remove toxins from our system. “Too many toxins will finally overwhelm the detoxification pathways and the build up of toxins begins to silently cause cumulative damage”. (2)

Another factor to be examined is current nutritional status, which includes the quality of one’s diet, and present nutritional state. (Is your body getting the nutritional requirements necessary to maintain body processes?)

Each person has a different target organ predisposition. Upon exposure to the same irritant, one person may experience headache, another intestinal symptoms, while another may experience cerebral or behavioral symptoms.

Other additions to total load are metabolic conditions such as diabetes, hormone deficiencies and pre-existing medical conditions.

Physical and emotional stressors either on a regular basis (conflict at work or home, pregnancy, etc.) or from a major event (accident, marriage break up, death, etc.) as well as negative emotions and attitudes can add to your total load, causing it to overflow.


Corrections can be made to reduce overloading stressors so that the energy the body produces can be rerouted to perform all of its functions well. Total load can be lightened by:

– cleaning up your environments – reducing chemicals and irritants at home & work
– avoiding exposures to known allergens
– improving the quality of the food and water consumed
– getting adequate amounts of sleep, exercise, and fresh air
– reducing stress, doing relaxation exercises, and balancing lifestyle


Special consideration should be given to reducing children’s total load. Because of their growing bodies, immature systems, and higher metabolic needs, they are more vulnerable to injury from environmental and lifestyle stressors and toxins, than are adults. (See articles pages 23-30.)

A. Degaust – Education Director – Canadians for A Safe Learning Environment


1,2 Are Chemicals Making Me Sick, A Primer on Chemical Sensitivity, Dr. Sherry Rogers,
Phillips Publishing Inc., 1997.

3 Free To Fly, A Journey Towards Wellness, Judit Rajhathy, New World Publishing, Nova Scotia, 1996.

Allergies: Disease in Disguise, Carolee Bateson-Koch, Alive Books, British Columbia, 1994.



Canadians for A Safe Learning Environment