Monday, January 24, 2011

Environmental Chemicals Affect Health

By Sara Thyr, ND

Photo by stevedepolo via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons License.
Recent information released by the Endocrine Society showed a link between bisphenal-A (BPA) and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), with the authors noting that women with PCOS seem to have more vulnerability to exposure to BPA. (HealthDay, Jan 18, 2011)

BPA is commonly found in plastics, and particularly noticed at high levels in canned foods and infant formulas. It appears to be toxic at even low doses, falling into a class of chemicals called hormone disruptors (and also endocrine disruptors). Animal research has shown that BPA causes breast tissue and prostate cells to be more sensitive to hormones and carcinogens, as well as permanent changes to the genital tract. (Environmental Working Group review of research).

This is not the first time that chemicals in our environment have been shown to negatively affect health. The Endocrine Society, a medical group, released information two years ago indicating that BPA, phthalates, and pesticides had a significant negative effect on human health. And many persist in the environment, even after they are no longer used or banned by the government.

Phthalates (or DBP for dibutyl phthalate) are found in cosmetics, beauty aids and pharmaceuticals. They are also not always easily identified on labels, and many cosmetics don’t even have an outer label where consumers can read ingredients before purchasing. A wide range of products may contain DBP – such as antiperspirants, shampoo and conditioners, body lotion, and even gum and candy.

Phthalates are added to products to make them more flexible, such as nail polish and mascara. In lotions they are added to make the skin feel more smooth after application, or enhance the penetration of a cream. The price of using these plasticizers is disruption of hormones and the endocrine system. Allergic reactions are also common, even ones as serious as anaphylaxis. They have been long implicated in cases of male infertility and reproductive health problems.

How do we avoid these products?

If you have any activism in you, joining advocacy groups that bring awareness to the use of these chemicals may be worth your while. The Environmental Working Group is one that utilitizes scientific studies and other in-depth information about all of the toxic chemicals that they study.

Appreciate that everything that you rub on your skin, inhale, chew on, suck on, drink and, of course, eat, is absorbed by your cells and, if it is toxic to them, will have a negative effect on your health. Don’t just assume that because something is available in the U.S. that it must be safe. This industry is largely unregulated.

Avoid using products that contain BPA and DBP if at all possible. Don’t using plastic water bottles – this does good for both your health and your planet. Cutting down on the tons of plastics that are thrown into our landfills will help protect our planet and reduce our dependency on oil.

Avoid perfumes and most air fresheners – especially the ones that you stick into an outlet in your home. Avoid body lotions that contain perfumes or DBP. Become an avid label reader. If you cannot pronounce the words on product packaging and there is a very long, small print list of ingredients, think twice. Skin Free products are free of all toxic chemicals. The Environmental Working Group has a website called the Cosmetics Database where you can look up the personal care products that you use and find out what is in them and what their potential toxic effect is. You can also search in such a way that they will recommend manufacturers whose products are clean.

Buy organic food, avoid canned food and canned sodas, and encourage young mothers to breast feed rather than use formula.

Most naturopathic doctors can put you on a good detox program if you are concerned about toxins in your system. There are even lab tests that will tell you what you are harboring and possibly help you figure out how to avoid them.

1 comment:

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