IT’S A CHEMICAL WORLD
We live in a world full of chemicals. Contact with them is often difficult, if not impossible, to avoid. Some chemicals are endocrine disruptors. They interfere with the functioning of endocrine glands like the thyroid, pancreas, adrenals, ovaries, and testes. Some have been linked to birth defects and cancers, especially breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers. Here’s a list of the top 12 offenders:
- Bisphenol A (BPA) – has been used in the manufacture of plastics and resins since the 1950s. Often substituted for with BPF or BPS, both of which are nearly as toxic. Found in plastic water bottles, food containers, inside coating of metal cans, and water supply lines. Use glass or metal bottles instead, avoid canned fruits and vegetables, and look for BPA-free labels.
- Atrazine – used in herbicides and found in ground, surface, and drinking water. Usage banned in the EU since 2004, but still widely used here. Found in corn, sorghum, sugarcane, macadamia nuts, lawns, and by the sides of roads and railroad tracks. Buy organic fruits and vegetables and use a water filter certified to remove it.
- Dioxins – produced by industrial wood and oil combustion. The EPA estimated that 90% of human exposure is through the intake of meat, dairy including milk, eggs, and butter, fish, and shellfish. Avoiding dioxins is challenging.
- Phthalates – found in plastic food containers, children’s toys, plastic wrap made of PVC, some personal care items, and anything with fragrance added. Use glass, fabric, or metal food containers, read labels on toys, avoid plastic wrap, and avoid products with added fragrances.
- Perchlorate – an oxidizer in rocket fuel, government data shows that it now contaminates most produce and milk supply. Found in explosives, flares, and fireworks. Use a reverse osmosis water filter.
- Arsenic – naturally occurring metal found in soil and groundwater. Highest levels can be found in seafood, rice, rice cereal, mushrooms, poultry, and fruit juices. Online maps show areas with the highest levels of arsenic. Use a good home water filter.
- Fire retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) – very pervasive, found in carpets, furniture, children’s pajamas, automotive seat cushions, pillows, adhesives, and paints and varnishes. As much as possible, allow new carpets, furniture, and mattresses to remain outdoors to “off gas” before bringing them into the house. Check clothing labels and use a HEPA filter on your vacuum to cut down on toxic dust.
- Glycol ethers – organic solvents widely used in inks, dyes, paints, brake fluids, liquid soaps, cleaning products, cosmetics, sunscreens, and pharmaceuticals. Read labels, look for natural cleaning products and cosmetics.
- Organophosphate pesticides – used as insecticides in agriculture, homes and gardens. Found in flea and tick collars, pet products, garden products, and fruits and vegetables. Buy organic and read labels.
- Perfluorinated chemicals – they are everywhere and resistant to biodegradation. Will be around for many years despite three chemicals in this category being banned in 2016. Found in non-stick cookware, grease-resistant paper and cardboard, water and oil repellants, stain- or water-resistant clothing, and cleaning products. Avoid non-stick cookware, “stain” and “water-resistant” clothing, eat fresh foods and avoid processed and fast foods, and read labels.
- Mercury – naturally occurring but neurotoxic metal released into the air and water mostly by burning coal. Found in practically all fish and shellfish. Larger fish that prey on smaller fish and are higher in the food chain contain the most mercury (tuna, sharks, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel). Limit consumption of these larger fish and eat smaller fish like shrimp, sardines, salmon, and cod. Because it is toxic to the fetus, pregnant women should avoid seafood.
- Lead – highly toxic to almost every organ system in the body. The most common source is exposure to house paints (lead-based paint was banned in 1978). Also found in cosmetics, old water pipes, imported canned goods, and children’s toys, especially those made in China. Keep your home clean, be careful of crumbling paint, especially in older homes. Wash children’s hands often. Get a good home water filter, certified to remove lead. In older homes, run the cold water before using it and don’t use hot tap water for cooking or to make baby formula.
You may wonder how these toxic substances still remain in our environment. There is no single answer to this. Some are naturally occurring substances that are impossible to ban, for example mercury and arsenic. Mercury and arsenic were byproducts from early manufacturing processes and were dumped into waterways. Back then, the extent of their toxicity was not known. Likewise lead, which was used in early water supply lines because of it’s ease of use. Its toxicity wasn’t known then.
Other compounds remain key ingredients in some manufacturing processes and finding non-toxic replacements would be very expensive. Sadly, in other instances it’s just cheaper to continue using these substances. At any rate, the consumer needs to be aware of these issues and must take steps to protect his/her family from harm.
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By Peter Galvin, MG