“We seem to be accepting as a society that it’s acceptable to load up our next generation with chemicals in an unregulated manner and hope they’re not bad. We need to change that entire culture.” — Thomas Zoeller, co-author of a joint report by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Program on endocrine disrupting chemicals
When trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle, diet and exercise tend to get most of the attention. But there’s another critical step to living healthier: reducing your intake of toxic chemicals. In particular, chemicals known as endocrine disruptors can confuse your body by crossing wires in your hormonal system, which may in turn causes an increase or decrease in the production of various hormones.
Endocrine disrupting chemical, or EDCs can imitate hormones and interfere with their signaling, contributing to an increasing number of health issues such as cancer, fertility problems, slow cognitive development, changes in metabolism, and immune disorders.
Knowing these risks should inspire you to avoid EDCs, but this isn’t always an easy task. This group of chemicals includes Bisphenol-A or BPA, organophosphate pesticides, mercury, and lead. BPAs are obesogens which alter metabolism leading to weight gain, insulin resistance and obesity. They may sound scary, but these toxins can be found in a surprising number of products you use every day, including face wash, plastic water bottles, perfume, laundry detergent, cleaning products, make-up, dairy, sunscreen, and plastic toys. It may be impossible to live an entirely EDC-free life, but here are some tips to reduce your toxic load.
1. Reduce plastic
Plastics, particuarly the ones with the #7 recycling code, can contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA). This chemical is a serious concern; make sure plastic containers and canned goods are BPA-free. Stick with glass or stainless steel for cooking, baking, and food storage, and switch to a safe, reusable water bottle. Buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastic or canned, since chemicals can leach out of food containers and into the contents.
2. Eat organic — especially for meat, fish and dairy
Buy and eat organic produce and free-range, organic meats to reduce your exposure to added hormones, pesticides, and fertilizers. Rather than eating conventional or farm-raised fish, which can be heavily contaminated with PCBs and mercury, choose fish that is wild-caught and (if possible) lab-tested for purity. With dairy, it’s wise to avoid non-organic products as they can contain the genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST).
3. Upgrade Your Personal Care Products
Avoid antibacterial soaps, and any products that contain phthalates or parabens. Also beware of sweet-smelling shampoos and body washes; they may be full of synthetic fragrance that can come complete with a big dose of EDCs! If you want real fragrance, but want to avoid phalates and other risky chemicals, opt for ones that disclose all of their ingredients, including the fragrance mixture, so that you know exactly what’s in the bottle.
4. Keep It Clean
Buy a high-quality, high-power vacuum- preferably one with a HEPA filter that also seals in dirt and dust to help minimize your exposure when emptying the collection chamber. Turns out household dust and dirt is thought to be a big source of daily EDC exposure.
5. Go green in your living and bedrooms
Did you know that foam cushioning in your couches, easy chairs, love seats and mattresses are often treated with endocrine-disrupting flame retardent chemicals? When shopping for new cushioned furniture, read labels carefully and avoid products that disclose flame retardent use. If you are still unsure, call the manufacturer.
To learn more about environmental toxins, please visit one of my favorite organizations, EWG.org.
To your good health,