Recent news has highlighted the health risks posed by sports bottles, personal care products and food containers. Its scary information but how concerned should we really be?
Many experts confirm that we should be very concerned, especially because women may be particularly vulnerable. Women tend to accumulate higher levels of toxins in their bodies than men do and many behave like hormones or interfere with a woman’s endocrine or hormonal system. Disrupting hormonal systems is problematic since hormones act as messengers that our cells rely on to communicate; for example hormones tell your body when you are full after eating, they also regulate the release the matured eggs from the ovaries. Interfering with such a finely tuned and integrated process, ultimately leads to bad consequences.
The most concerning chemicals we are regularly exposed to include BPA, phthalates and tributyltin (TBT); these have the potential to throw crucial bodily processes such as metabolism, fertility and immune system responses into disarray. BPA has been known to be estrogenic since the 1930s and was declared a toxic substance in Canada in 2010. BPA was banned from use in baby bottles in Canada and Europe because early development appears to be the period of greatest sensitivity to its effects on the endocrine system. Phthalates are added to plastics to increase flexibility, transparency and longevity; diet is believed to be the main source of phthalate exposure with fatty foods such as dairy products and meats being the major source. In addition, phthalates are absorbed through the skin and inhaled from our environment. Phthalates are being investigated to determine their cumulative effects as anti-androgens and endocrine disruptors in the body. TBT is often used as a wood preservative and pesticide/anti-fungal; they are highly persistent organic pollutants that concentrate in the marine food chain. They have been linked to obesity in humans as exposure triggers genes that stimulate fat cell growth.
It appears that chemicals may be contributing to the obesity epidemic affecting North Americans. New research is exploring the effect of environmental chemicals and rapid weight gain in infants. A biologist at the University of California recently found that exposure to TBT, a common chemical in the production of PVC plastic, caused mice to develop excess fat cells. Not only is TBT a concern; BPA and phthalates may also be playing a role. These chemicals may disrupt the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and hunger, two key factors in weight loss.
The chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis may also be harming our immune systems and making us more susceptible to illness and disease. Chemicals imitate estrogen and may affect our risk of developing cancer. Research has linked exposure to BPA with an increased risk of breast cancer and autoimmune disease in animals. While there has been little research demonstrating this association in humans, it is rare for a chemical carcinogen identified in animals to not eventually be found to also cause cancer in humans.
Hormone-like chemicals may also be contributing to the increasing incidence in infertility. BPA has been found to impair the process of producing healthy normal eggs leading to a greater risk of chromosomal defects and infertility. Not only are these chemicals causing problems in fertility but they may also contribute to complications in pregnancy.
How do we protect ourselves from these chemicals? The simplest solution is to minimize exposure to them.
· Eat well and exercise. Develop a healthy body so that your immune system will be better able to defend against the toxins encountered
· Buy fresh produce if possible and choose foods in glass containers instead of plastic or metal. BPA has been detected leaching from the linings of metal cans, especially in containers holding acidic foods such as tomatoes.
· Don’t heat plastic in the microwave. Heat may release the chemicals in the plastic causing it to leach into the food it holds. Also avoid washing plastic containers in a dishwasher as the heat will promote the leaching of chemicals.
· Purchase organic fruits and vegetables that have edible skins. This includes peaches, apples, berries, leafy greens and celery. Pesticides sprayed on the non-organic versions of these foods linger on the skins where they are consumed.
· Check the safety of your cosmetics. Use cosmeticsdatabase.com to assess the safety of their ingredients. If any come back as “high hazard” look for a safer product.
· Cut back on using cleaning products with fragrance or air fresheners. Phthalates are often used in these to help fragrances last longer.
· Filter your tap water. Tap water may contain pesticides, which are suspected endocrine disrupters.
· Take your shoes off before entering your home. Walking into the house with your shoes on tracks in things like pesticides and environmental chemicals.
· Be proactive. Do not wait for the government or other group to confirm that these chemicals are harmful because often by the time they do too many people have had to suffer.
· Consult a Naturopath for a personalized detoxification strategy. There are a number of effective and safe nutritional and botanical methods for supporting detoxification and a Naturopathic Doctor will be able to create the ideal protocol tailored to your individual needs.
Want to know more about detox? Join Dr. Jen Newell this Thursday for her talk, ‘Give Your Liver Some Love!’. Please register here.
Dr. Jen Newell is passionate about helping people embrace health, feel amazing and easily incorporate “real” food into their busy lives. Her mission is to make health accessible and achievable, and to inspire patients to live an active, vibrant and healthy life.
Jen has a clinical focus on digestive health, food sensitivities and healthy nutrition; mental health and stress-related illness; women’s health, hormone balance and fertility; optimal aging; and dermatology. She focuses on integrating healthy foods into one’s diet in a medicinal and therapeutic capacity and providing individuals with nutritional support that is easy to incorporate into a busy day.