The possibility that toxins in our environment/foods may somehow build up in our bodies and poison our mitochondria leading to decreased ATP production and fatigue certainly sounds like a plausible and attractive model for CFS. A quick google search shows that the internet is full of Business Models that work on basis that i) You have been poisoned by your Westernized life-style and ii) You can be treated (and cured) using Our Detox program/products/supplements/etc/etc. The arsenic example suggested above is clearly is a mitochondrial poison that is highly toxic. But the current restricted use of arsenic together with its known historical use combined with the known epidemiology of CFS make it highly unlikely be a causal (or even a contributing) factor to mitochondrial toxicity in CFS patients.
In my opinion, the 'everyone is toxic' concept, is an 'easy sell' that lacks adequate scientific evidence. Most often, the toxin argument lacks any specific claims that can be independently verified by high quality clinical evidence. Which toxins? From where? What organelles can they be found in? What are the consequences to cell biochemistry?
Even if we accept that we are exposed to more 'toxins' today compared to 60 years ago, what is the clear solid scientific evidence that shows the 'toxins bombarding and poisoning our our bodies' are causative of increased disease rates. Just to take one example. Benzene is a nasty chemical. Highly toxic. Exposure to benzene has been clearly shown to increase the likelihood of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). But the age-adjusted incidence rate for AML has changed very little over the last 60 years. Surely the toxin argument should mean that with benzene-derivatives being used so widely in our Westernized lifestyles, the age-adjusted incidence for AML should sky-rocket. But it hasnt. There are many other examples where a specific chemical has been shown to have a causative role in a specific cancer but the age-adjusted incidence rate has changed very little over the last 60 years.
Now of course, we should avoid as many toxins in our environment/diet as possible, particularly with CFS. But apart from some obvious exceptions (asbestos and mesothelioma, or cigarettes and lung cancer just to name a couple), the actual epidemiological data suggests that, in general, we are not succumbing to an overload of toxins which results in (or contributes to) CFS.
Also, to state the obvious, some individuals have diagnosed chemical sensitivities that can cause a whole range of serious heath issues. Clearly, such individuals need to be vigilant in avoiding chemicals and toxins. But it is not really valid to try and extrapolate observations from disease groups with diagnosed chemical sensitivities to a widespread chemical toxicity being responsible for significant numbers of CFS patients.
What is perplexing to me is that simply declaring 'toxins' to be the culprit is often seen as a 'QED moment'. 'Toxins' seem to be a self-validating argument where critical analysis and evaluation of the data is not necessary. "Of course its the toxins, right?" A 'practitioner' will tell a patient that they have a 'build up of toxins' and they need to embark on a whole range of 'detox treatments' in order to cure themselves. The uncomfortable truth that toxins may not be responsible is often countered by 'practitioners' ordering in-house non-accredited tests for 'toxins' and heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and lead (which very often come back positive). And a positive toxin report is all that is required to re-assure the patient that they need to embark on a detox program. Some detox programs advertised on the internet dont even make sense medically with claims that include 'inadvertently mobilizing toxins', 'detoxify in order to adapt and rebuild', 'timing detox to coincide with liver diurnal cycles', 'entering super detox mode' and so on. Rarely are such advertising descriptions backed by any sensible scientific description or publications.
Again, there are some important exceptions. For example, NAC is used clinically to detox overdose patients. The ability of NAC to increase Glutathione in the liver and reduce free radical damage may have important therapeutic benefits in at least some CFS patients.
But, I do agree: There is something intuitively appealing about the 'detox model'. For many the idea that we could take some natural herbs to gently help the liver to detox and free our bodies of toxic burdens..... well........ it just seems to make sense. But, in assessing different treatments, perhaps one consideration might be to recognize that while some 'pre-packaged concepts' might satisfy our intuitive beliefs, they may not make much scientific sense.
Anyway, I guess no matter what our theories, we all know that the nature of the 'CFS beast' involves many treatment failures and very few treatment successes.
Food for thought