The BeHomeWell Guide to Endocrine Disruptors & Your Health: Part 1 August 03, 2015 19:09
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Why I Wrote This Guide
There are two types of people: Those who don’t know much about Endocrine Disrupting chemicals – how pervasive they are or how they affect human health; and Those who know everything, and are sci-fi level freaked out. There is certainly cause for alarm:
- this class of chemicals is ubiquitous in the world of consumer goods
- science has only scratched the surface of their heinous affects on human health
- developing babies and children are the most vulnerable and
- the majority of people are exposed in numerous ways every day
However, individuals have the power to protect themselves and their families. You can significantly limit your exposure – and the resulting damage to your health – by actively avoiding contact with certain goods and substances. I created BeHomeWell because I wanted to make it easy to switch out toxic products at home for nontoxic alternatives. People don’t have the time or energy to visit a dozen different websites to shop for safe products, they need one-stop trusted shopping like I've created at BeHomeWell.
The goal of this post is to put everything you need to know about Endocrine Disruptors into one place, and make it as accessible as possible to the casual reader. My hope is that YOU will emerge from reading this with a solid grasp on the problem and actionable steps to take control of your health – and that you will go on to create ripple effects in your community through personal activism. Please spread the word about BeHomeWell - as your sourcebook for inspired, stress-free, nontoxic living.
The Word on the Street
You avoid BPA, but have heard that most other plastics – like the ones you and your family eat and drink with – contain toxic chemicals just as bad as, or worse than, BPA.
You’ve also read that similar chemicals in make-up and personal care products could be a powerful factor behind epidemic rates of cancers and infertility.
Someone told you that chemicals in your couch and mattress could be contributing to degenerative diseases and low IQ in children.
Or you read that recent tests have shown most babies are born with nearly 300 dangerous chemicals in their systems – including jet fuel and flame retardants – after receiving a toxic transfusion in the womb from their mothers’ exposure.
A friend came to you concerned about how her young daughter is already showing signs of puberty; her pediatrician said chemicals are to blame for puberty coming earlier for this generation of girls.
You might be asking: Why isn’t any one protecting us from being sickened or even killed from chemicals in common, everyday products used by millions of Americans every day, without the slightest warning? Where are our regulating bodies? Where is the political will? Where is the massive social outcry?
The Really Bad and Ugly, and Some GoodThe depressing and detestable facts of the situation:
- The list of controlled chemical substances in the US has not changed since the 1970’s. In the interim, thousands of mostly unregulated chemicals (many now in ultra-absorbable nano form) have flooded every corner of the marketplace. The overworked, underfunded and staffed EPA is largely powerless to combat this in the absence of political pressure or large-scale social outcry. As of a 2010 California Senate review, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had tested and published data on only approximately 200 of the roughly 83,000 chemicals legally used to make products in the U.S.
- Unlike in the EU, where the burden is on companies to prove chemicals are safe and do not cause harm before they are added to consumer products, in the US chemicals must be proven unsafe. Often the responsibility for vetting these chemicals is left to the manufacturer – an obvious conflict of interest.
- This puts the burden of proof and litigation on consumers or consumer advocacy groups; Normal people working against extremely powerful, politically enmeshed chemical and manufacturing lobbies, after products have already been brought to market and thus tacitly approved.
- When studies are done on how chemicals interact with human health, they are performed with individual chemicals in a vacuum, and do not take into account the massive exposure, from myriad sources, most people experience as they move through daily life. This myopic, willfully reductive, process can easily miss the chemical forest for the tree. These studies are also often industry funded and biased.
- Industry is under zero pressure to change their manufacturing processes without a broad public outcry that damages their marketshare. So only the “popular” bad chemicals – like BPA – get removed (even if the industry is aware that replacement chemicals are just as dangerous).
- The spirit of the general population has been crushed, and most people are just too dang tired to protest. I created BeHomeWell in response to this exhaustion in my Health Coaching clients; I wanted there to be a convenient and curated marketplace for nontoxic home and personal care products, everything is one easily navigable site.
Lest you think all of the news is bad, there have been some recent, major changes spurred by grassroots activism. For instance:
- California has finally thrown out its antiquated, scientifically unsubstantiated, written by chemical lobbies regulation that “flame retardants” - known carcinogens - be included in furniture. Because CA is such a massive global economy, this means major manufacturers are being forced to rethink the chemicals they use in goods like furniture and building materials.
- All over the country, citizen groups are banding together to tell Monsanto et al we will not accept the devastation of our food supply, wildlife populations, soil mineral density, and water quality by ever heavier applications of toxic pesticides and herbicides.
- It was concerned moms that propelled the nearly overnight BPA capitulation across the consumer goods market – forcing companies to quickly overhaul their manufacturing processes. The only problem was that the movement stopped short of as rigorously investigating other bisphenols and estrogenic plastic compounds that were used to replace BPA.
These laudable victories should be celebrated, but the bulk of the fight to get toxic chemicals out of our passive existence lies ahead. We must all take personal action to rid home, office, and life of the chemicals proven to disrupt our most sacred physiological processes – sometimes beyond repair. We must be proactive in protecting ourselves, and those most vulnerable to the chemical onslaught – children and animals – who are unable to act on their own behalf. That’s why you’ll find a specific section devoted to Mom + Baby at BeHomeWell.
An Endocrine Disruptor Primer
To intelligently combat a predator as stealthy as a chemical (or tens of thousands) – invisible for all intents and purposes – you have to learn as much as you can about it, understand its habits and hideouts, and create systems to actively avoid it. Knowledge, as they say, is power. For the purposes of this post, Public Enemy #1 is a class of chemicals called Endocrine Disruptors.
Endocrine Disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the body’s endocrine (hormone) system. It includes the female ovaries, male testes, and pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands. The endocrine system regulates all biological processes in the body – from conception through adulthood and into old age. This includes the development of the brain and nervous system, the growth and function of the reproductive system, and metabolism and blood sugar levels. Research shows that Endocrine Disruptors may pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are forming.
A wide range of substances cause endocrine disruption – including pharmaceuticals, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides, brominated flame retardants, phthalates, arsenic, and plasticizers such as BPA. Nearly all plastics – even ones marked “BPA Free” – leach some amount of endocrine disrupting synthetic estrogens. That’s why I carefully source products packaged in glass, and non-plastic kitchen tools and food storage solutions for BeHomeWell.
Because these substances are all around us, most people are exposed countless times every day. So, even if an isolated consumer good has been tested for safe levels (and many of these chemicals are not regulated), those tests cannot take into account every other exposure your body experiences, rendering the testing process relatively unhelpful in fighting the war against unacceptable levels.
From the EPA website:
“Disruption of the endocrine system can occur in various ways. Some chemicals mimic a natural hormone, fooling the body into over-responding to the stimulus (e.g., a growth hormone that results in increased muscle mass), or responding at inappropriate times (e.g., producing insulin when it is not needed). Other endocrine disrupting chemicals block the effects of a hormone from certain receptors (e.g. growth hormones required for normal development). Still others directly stimulate or inhibit the endocrine system and cause overproduction or underproduction of hormones (e.g. an over or underactive thyroid).“
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG):
“There is no end to the tricks that endocrine disruptors can play on our bodies: increasing production of certain hormones; decreasing production of others; imitating hormones; turning one hormone into another; interfering with hormone signaling; telling cells to die prematurely; competing with essential nutrients; binding to essential hormones; accumulating in organs that produce hormones.”
The known results of exposure to Endocrine Disruptors during sensitive periods include but are not limited to infertility, various cancers, thyroid dysfunction, early-onset puberty, obesity, metabolic disorders, issues with glucose regulation, low IQ and behavioral disorders, and auto-immune disorders. Basically, if you have heard a condition discussed as an “epidemic” in our society, it’s either proven or suspected to be caused by Endocrine Disruptors.
Where’s the Rage?
So, why isn’t this a public health issue? Never mind sparing the population unnecessary pain and suffering, we could save our overburdened medical system a lot of stress by taking steps to eliminate our exposure to these chemicals. The answer, unsurprisingly, is to follow the money. Manufacturing, agribusiness, and chemical firms together have an unending stream of dollars with which to grease the already hopelessly ineffectual political system. Individual citizens can and must take control of their own health.
But, most people simply do not know – have not been made aware of – the certain danger these chemicals pose to their health, and that of their family. The headlines resulting from award-winning investigative journalism on the subject of Endocrine Disruptors in our consumer goods have not been enough to puncture the developed world’s addiction to convenient, never-ending, cheaper than cheap, essentially disposable consumer goods.
In the next installment of this BeHomeWell guide, I’ll identify the main sources of exposure to these chemicals in your home and life, so you can go forth and take charge of your health. Read on to learn where Endocrine Disruptors are hiding – in plain sight – and what can you do about it. I created BeHomeWell so you’d have a safe place to shop for home and personal care goods. BeHomeWell is a great place to start your journey to nontoxic living for improved health and well being. You can enjoy shopping here, knowing that everything on the site is safe and nontoxic, for you and your family.
I hear often how daunting it is to address every toxic item in your home, so remember that every little bit you lessen your exposure decreases your risk for toxic consequences. Many of these chemicals will clear out of your system in as little as a few days, if you avoid exposure (while others live for much longer inside your system). Don’t overwhelm yourself with impossible changes, but commit to making significant shifts over time – one step at a time.
It’s important to start with changes that most affect the smallest members of society and our ecosystem (babies, children, and animals), for whom these chemicals have the harshest repercussions. You'll find a special collection devoted to Mom + Baby at BeHomeWell. We also have Baby and Wedding Registry; These happy events are the impetus for a rush of new products entering your home - let these be safe for you and your family.
Thank You for reading, and please reach out with any questions. Write to me at Amanda@BeHomeWell.com
Owner/Founder BeHomeWell - Happy Shopping, Healthy Living
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Coming Soon “Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals & Your Health - The BeHomeWell Guide: Part 2”
In the next installment of the BeHomeWell guide to Endocrine Disruptors and Your Health, we’ll identify all of the places Endocrine Disruptors are hiding in your home, and the easy switches you can make to eliminate them from your environment, keep them from damaging your health.