Published on September 5th, 2012 | by andrea devon7
for your health: what is an endocrine disruptor and why you should care
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In the June issue of Whole Living Magazine there is a great article about the relationship between our hormones and the chemicals in our environment- and it’s a very scary relationship. Though this affects everyone, it is especially important to women as we often use more personal care products and are especially susceptible to environmental estrogens and other chemicals.
We face a myriad of chemicals in our daily lives; this fact cannot be disputed. Chemicals of various sorts are found in food, plastics, fabric, water, cleaning products, and nearly everything else we encounter in our homes, offices, and cars. However, the level of danger is disputed by companies making these products, and even by the FDA, which has not banned these chemicals despite mounting evidence of the problems they can create in our bodies.
Some hormonal issues are related to genetics, diet, and life changes (ie: menopause or andropause), but many of the hormonal issues facing us now are believed to be linked to persistent chemicals in our environment. Many of these chemicals can be understood as endocrine disruptors. Unfortunately, to our hormone receptor sites, chemicals look a lot like hormones, and sometimes our bodies attract the chemicals instead of the natural hormones. Too many of these missed connections can cause problems throughout our body, and high levels of certain chemicals can cause the body to stop responding to natural hormones completely. One of the more well-known of these chemicals is bisphenol-a (or BPA). This chemical is found in canned foods, all types of plastic bottles (disposable and not), and in thermal cash register receipts. Many companies have stopped using BPA in their plastic, although I’ve also read that many companies use an equally bad replacement for BPA; check out this article on Treehugger for more information. The article also lists PCBs, PDBEs, phthalates, perchlorates, triclosan (found in antibacterial soups, which is not really necessary to get rid of germs), atrazine, and dioxins as other chemicals that interfere with our endocrine system. And there’s more: check out this article about the top 25 chemicals we should avoid.
Is there a solution to this problem? Unfortunately, not really. But we can make some informed choices and try to avoid chemicals when possible. Here are some tips, gleaned from the article and my own research:
- Avoid plastics generally: food packaging, shower curtains, plastic toys, garden hoses (which also contain lead), and even sex toys contain plasticizers and other chemicals. Anything that has that beach-ball plastic smell is off-gassing chemicals into your home. Silicone and glass are safer alternatives, both for little kid toys and big kid toys (!).
- Avoid all plastic bottles: Seriously, get yourself reusable bottle made from glass or stainless steel! Not only are plastic water/soda/juice bottles made from petrochemicals, they take a million years to degrade, and it supports the soda companies in a destructive and extractive industry. And there are so many studies showing that bottled water is actually NOT healthier than tap water- and in most cases, it’s actually one and the same. See The Story of Bottled Water for more.
- Purchase and store your foods in glass containers when possible. Some things just don’t come in glass: cooking oils, nut butters, or my favorite chocolate bars. But try to incorporate glass whenever you can: you can use Pyrex containers for leftovers, glass jars for pantry items, and drink from glasses or jars.
- Use natural body care products. Many shampoos, body care products, personal lubricants, and cosmetics contain a myriad of untested chemicals. If you cannot pronounce the ingredients in your shampoo or lotion, it’s probably not good for our bodies. Tomorrow VWJ will post some recipes for HOMEMADE, organic body care products.
- Avoid animal products: animals bioaccumulate toxins in their fat and muscle cells… and our bodies do too.
- Avoid conventional produce sprayed with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Try for organic produce whenever possible. Not only is it better for your body, it’s better for the planet because it reduces the chemical load in our environment.
And as a little aside, I love love love Whole Living magazine, and I look forward to my new issue every month! The current articles are not available online (that’s why this one is not linked), but you can scan the archives. They offer lots of fun information about green(er) living, healthy foods, and happy lifestyle. Check them out at Whole Living Magazine. It’s one more amazing thing from the wonder that is Martha Stewart.