And I’ve never been one to bring my glass jars of food to work, instead of a convenient plastic container.
I was never the one packing all my bulk health food supplies into brown paper bags instead of the handy plastic ones.
But I’m getting a lot closer to being that woman! I’m discovering there is a certain cocktail of chemicals at work in our environment, assaulting our bodies to hormone-disrupting effect. There’s a name for this stuff: “eEDCs” (or EDCs)–estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemicals. This is a fairly new term. A word search reveals little on the subject–mostly articles by researchers. But I bet this term will be more prevalent as time goes on.
What does it mean to have your hormones disrupted? For one, it might mean weight gain. Other effects: Genital abnormalities, early puberty, reproductive and fertility problems (including decreased sperm count and quality). The immune system might be affected, or behavior; even brain health. A link between EEDCs and cancers (especially of the reproductive system) has been noted; even a connection to diabetes. EEDCs seem to be especially dangerous for children and pregnant women.
So how do we avoid them?! We can get exposed though plastic food packaging (yes, they can leech into food, especially when heating the package). Most everyone now knows to avoid plastics containing BPA (one of more well-known disruptors), but there are many other chemicals in plastics (though not as well-known), that can cause just as much damage.
BPA is also found in receipt tape. In the case of receipts, the BPA is not bound to a plastic molecule, so it can easily pass from the receipt to your skin, and on to your food. I’ve always been a stickler about washing hands real well after shopping; now I see that my concerns were totally justified! It is wise to avoid putting your hands to your mouth after handling receipts- wash those hands real well, first!
Pthalates are another EDC, found in many beauty products (nail polish, shampoo, hair spray). Check your labels! Is it any wonder that many of us have begun to seek out the simplest, handmade-style soaps (with real short ingredient lists)? I even began washing my hair with an all natural bar soap for hair; my hair is at least as nice as it ever was using other products. I was actually just tired of buying watered-down soap (i.e. shampoo) in plastic bottles that would probably just end up polluting a landfill (or worse). Turns out, bar soap for hair is actually good for me, too! (I’ve also started using “Soap Nuts“; a natural way to get laundry clean with no chemicals. They’re even more economical than regular laundry soap!)
Not to drag anyone down; I don’t mean to freak you out about all these issues. But for those of us who feel like we took real good care of ourselves and still ended up with health conditions, these are some points to consider. No matter how well we think we’re taking care of ourselves, if we are unaware of the effects of certain contaminants in our environment, we ought to get informed!
Some of us already might have heard about more EEDCs being found in our water supply. What’s in your glass of water? Maybe some estrogens (from animal husbandry/agriculture); maybe some prescription drug residue. Maybe even some industrial pesticides, that also disrupt hormonal activity (and might cause breast cancer). Time to look into water filters! I love my Berkey water filter; thankfully, it removes chlorine too. Chlorine can destroy helpful gut bacteria, and in our water supply, it can combine with organic matter, forming chloroform. Not a great chemical to be constantly exposed to!
While we’re covering all the places EEDCs might be found, we should consider food, as well. Dioxins, PCBs, and heavy metals are of concern, since they tend to get stored in our fat tissues for years. They can mess with the endocrine system; plants, fish, and animals absorb these toxins when living in contaminated areas, and that passes along to us.
Environmental toxins are another source of EDCs. VOCs are found in various household products and cleaning chemicals (paints, solvents, preservatives, cleaning products, air fresheners, and craft supplies). I’m finding more friends who can’t walk down the laundry soap aisle, or who react to that person dowsed with a heavy waft of perfume. Even air fresheners can assault the system. Consider that air fresheners don’t really “freshen” the air; they only disguise it. Eventually, the nose doesn’t register that overpowering “fragrance”, but the chemicals are still working against our system. I’ve switched to beeswax candles, which have a natural smell that doesn’t mess with my endocrine system!
You’ve probably heard of the dangers of asbestos (yes, let’s avoid that!), but another problem is PBDEs, found in things like polyurethane foam, and some electronics. That’s one extra point for goose-down pillows!
It’s not really a huge deal- you might be like me, and just start gradually making a few changes. I’m using more glass containers for various foods now, and I get organic produce as much as I can. I wash my hands after handling receipts, eat wild-caught salmon, and use Dr. Bronner’s soap. I’m cleaning more often with vinegar and such. I’m not wearing gloves and a face mask, but I’m feeling all right.
An even more detailed article on this subject can be found here: Paleo & Environmental Toxins.