You know that list of Dirty Dozen foods you need to avoid because they’re most likely to contain pesticide residues?
There’s a similar guide on 12 endocrine disruptors and products you should avoid to reduce your exposure to those harmful chemicals. Endocrine disruptors wreak havoc on the hormones that regulate our reproductive system. They’re particularly worrisome if you’re exposed when you’re pregnant, or if your babies and toddlers are exposed. And if you want to get pregnant? Watch out, since many endocrine disruptors attack sperm and reduce their ability to, well, do their job.
Though they seem to be everywhere, you can avoid or limit your exposure to most endocrine disruptors (Tweet this) if you know what alternatives to choose. Here are some helpful tips on six of them.
- BPA – Bisphenol-A is a synthetic chemical that mimics estrogen in your body. It’s been linked to obesity, cancer, early puberty, and even asthma, as we point out in this helpful overview. It commonly shows up in many plastics, the lining of food and soda cans, and even store receipts. To be safe, choose glass or stainless steel water and baby bottles, fresh food or food packaged in glass, and silicone nipples rather than plastic for baby bottles. Only take receipts if you’re buying products you might return; ask cashiers to drop receipts in your bag rather than handle them.
- Dioxin – Dioxin is a potent carcinogen that may be present in products that have been chlorine bleached. It also concentrates in animal food products, especially animal fat. Low-level exposure in the womb and early life can permanently affect sperm quality and lower sperm count in men. The chemical can also build up over time to cause cancer and affect the reproductive and immune system. The Minnesota Department of Health reports that “dietary intake of animal fat” is the major source of exposure for most of us. To be safe, eat a “varied, balanced, low-fat diet” which will reduce your exposure, and provide other important side benefits as well, including reduced heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Skip chlorine-bleached tampons and other feminine hygiene products.
- Phthalates – These chemicals have been linked to lower sperm count, birth defects in baby boys, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities. They are embedded into plastic food containers, plastic wrap, some kids’ toys and even fragrances and personal care products. To be safe, replace plastic with reusable glass and stainless steel containers, choose kids’ toys made from wood, wool, cotton, and lead-free metal, and buy perfume and other cosmetics that are phthalate-free.
- Fire retardants – I have some personal experience with this one. When I was growing up in Michigan, the dairy cows were “accidentally” fed fire retardants instead of feed and the milk they produced was tainted with PBDEs, polybrominated diphenyl ethers. The PBDEs stayed in my body and were probably in my breast milk, which I didn’t realize could have resulted in lower IQs for my kids and thyroid problems for me. Luckily, we’re all fine. But I wouldn’t wish that worry on you. Today, PBDEs may be in the chemicals used to treat children’s pajamas, furniture, foam padding, and more. To stay safe, avoid PBDEs by choosing furniture and carpet padding not treated with fire retardants and put kids in t-shirts and sweats rather than traditional kids’ jammies, which also may have been treated with these chemicals.
- Lead – Lead can show up in paint, water, toys and even lunch boxes. The learning disabilities it causes can be devastating and irreversible, as Tamara Rubin, profiled in this Moms Clean Air Force story, can personally attest. To stay safe, test paint in homes, schools and day care centers that were built before 1978, when lead paint was banned. Test the soil around these buildings, too, along with your drinking water. Beware dust and paint chips that might be tainted, as well as toys and lunch boxes that are painted or adhered together with lead solder. Use a certified lead abatement company to remove lead contamination. And make sure to get your babies and toddlers tested for blood lead levels.
- Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) – These chemicals, which are what many non-stick surfaces are made of, are so widespread, you may already have them in your body. But there’s no reason to add to that burden, especially since they can affect sperm quality, low birth weight, the kidneys and thyroid, and even contribute to high cholesterol. To stay safe, avoid Teflon-type non-stick cookware, stain and water-resistant clothing, furniture and carpets, and even most microwave popcorn, which may be coated with PFCs so the popping kernels won’t stick to the bag.
Review the complete list here, including organophosphate pesticides, glycol ethers, mercury, arsenic, perchlorate aka rocket fuel, and the herbicide atrazine.
What can you do to reduce your exposure to these endocrine disrupters? Shift your spending to products and services that have replaced these toxins with safer compounds. And support legislation that will require manufacturers and businesses to eliminate endocrine disruptors from their production chain.