The list is extensive and growing - bisphenol A, phthalates, parabens, PBDE’s (flame retardants), PCB’s, dioxins, atrazine, heptachlor, arsenic, mercury, lead among them. Referred to as “endocrine disruptors“(ED’s), a term describing their documented ability to mimic natural hormones and disrupt normal endocrine system functioning, this term certainly understates the myriad of ways in which these synthetic chemicals compromise our health.
Many of these compounds are lipophilic (stored in fat cells). Because women naturally have more fat cells than men, our bodies store more of these cancer-promoting chemicals than do men’s bodies. These chemicals can then be transferred across the placenta to a growing fetus.
While it is likely impossible in our modern industrial world to completely avoid these chemicals, it is absolutely possible to significantly limit our exposure. Following is a list of individual steps you can take to reduce your and your family’s exposure to and bodily absorption of ED’s.
1. Avoid products with added “fragrance” both in your home and on your body. A truly clean (and safe) home is a home without artificial scents. As a non-ED alternative to scented deodorants, try using a deodorant salt (the only safe deodorant during chemotherapy), complemented with a dab of your favorite essential oil just under your arms.
2. Consider replacing your non-stick cooking ware with stainless steel and cast iron.
3. Avoid microwaving or storing warm/hot food or drinks in plastic containers. Better yet, gradually replace plastic food containers, Ziploc bags, and plastic wrap with safe alternatives like Pyrex and stainless steel.
4. Consider alternatives to children’s pajamas as federal fire regulations require that they be coated in carcinogenic PBDE’s (flame retardants). Long underwear, boxers, long t-shirts, or other non-sleep-marketed clothing items work just as well for pajamas.
5. If there’s a solid wood or metal alternative to a piece of plastic or pressed particle board (full of formaldehyde) furniture, it’s worth saving your pennies and splurging on it.
6. Consider replacing Puregel and all those triclosan-containing antibacterial hand gels (which by the way, are anti-bacterial but NOT anti-viral, hence do nothing to protect you from viruses). Instead, get back to good old-fashioned hand-washing, which can be just as effective at killing bacteria, without exposing us to endocrine-disrupting triclosan.
7. For a day in the sun and water, use cool clothing, brimmed hats, and zinc oxide creams instead of chemical sunscreens. You might have to reapply the zinc after leaving the water and you will not look like the sun-baked goddesses on the beach, but what’s more important to you?
8. “Keep the receipt please.”
BPA levels on sales receipts can reach levels 250-1,000 times greater than the amount typically found in canned food or canned baby formula. Not all retailers use BPA-laden thermal paper. Whole Foods claims to have recently switched to BPA-free receipts, as have other major retailers, some banks, and some public libraries. Take steps to protect yourself and your family members.
If you work at a cash register, consider wearing gloves.
Decline receipts unless you absolutely need them.
Store receipts separately so BPA is not transferred to other items.
Avoid letting children handle receipts.
After handling receipts, wash hands thoroughly.
Do not recycle receipts as the BPA later contaminates recycled paper products.
Even incorporating just one of the above proposed changes into your life can significantly reduce the amount of cancer-promoting endocrine disrupting chemicals you are exposed to. It’s not all or none, nor is it now or never. Digest, discuss, question, ponder, and I predict that little-by-little (if not all at once), you’ll find yourself making healthier choices.
Check out the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep” database, an online safety guide to cosmetics and body care products. You can search for specific products or even specific ingredients and use the database to select the safest options.
Don’t just take it from me. Even Glamour magazine is paying attention to the impact of ED’s on women’s health. Check out the May 2011 issue and article titled “The New Toxic Threats to Women’s Health” for more information.
Michelle Young, Research and Communications Director
4Women.com, a company that provides fashionable solutions to women and girls with medical hair loss.
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