Have you ever wondered how you could reduce your toxic exposure but weren’t sure where to start?  Or if there are chemicals other than bisphenol A (BPA) you should know about?  In this newsletter I cover some quick tips for reducing exposure to 3 chemicals that can affect your and your family’s health.
This week I attended an excellent talk put on by the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center.  It was called “Birth Defects, Learning Disabilities, Obesity, and Breast Cancer: How Can We Avoid the Effects of Toxic Chemicals?”  Despite how daunting the title might seem it was an inspiring event because the speakers reviewed useful tips on reducing exposure to the toxic chemicals.  I’m going to share those offered from a lecture about toxic chemicals that have been shown to cause hormone imbalances and developmental disorders.  

Why Is It Important To Reduce Chemical Exposure?
In the last several decades we’ve introduced over 80,000 new chemicals into the environment and only 20% of these have been tested for health safety.  Harmful chemicals, such as lead, mercury, pesticides and phthalates can negatively affect your health by accumulating in your body and causing disease.  They can also affect your child’s health by passing through the placenta and harming their development.  The good news is you can easily reduce your exposure and many times all it takes is buying another product or packaging than you are used to.

What Are The Most Important Chemicals To Avoid?

With regards to hormone imbalance and developmental disorders, some of the most important toxic chemicals to avoid include bisphenol A (BPA), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and phthalates.
BPA may seem like old news at this point but plastic bottles are only one source of many.  BPA can also be found in dental sealants, tin and pop can linings and other plastic containers.
PBDEs are chemical fire retardants used most heavily in polyurethane foam products and electronics.  They were banned from foam products in 2005 but any foam couches, mattresses, pillows and carpet pads manufactured before then most likely contain them.  They can also be found in electronics such as TV’s, computers and cell phones.

Phthalates can be found in vinyl and plastics and are used in fragrances to help them last longer.  Since the body can eliminate this chemical within 3 days, the main issue is the constant exposure you may be under.

What You Can Do To Reduce Exposure Today
Small changes can eliminate a huge amount of exposure for you and your family.  Here are some tips:

1) BPA

  • Limit soda cans and canned foods or look for “BPA free” labels.  Aluminum and tin cans are lined with BPA, which has been shown to leach into food.  Glass beverage bottles and fresh fruits and vegetables are great alternatives.  If you like to carry your own water bottle, stainless steel is a safe and durable choice.
  • Wash hands after touching receipts.  BPA is used to seal the ink onto paper of thermal receipts.  This type of receipt is typically glossy on one side.  Since anything touching your skin is often absorbed into your body, always wash your hands after touching these receipts.  You can also decline receipts whenever possible.  Cheers to Connecticut for being the first State to recently ban thermal receipts!
  • Avoid #7 plastics.  They may contain BPA.  Plastics with the recycling #1, #2 and #4 are safer options.
  • Choose powdered baby formula – BPA is often used to line liquid baby formula containers and may leach into the formula.

2) PBDEs 

  • Choose “PBDE free” electronics and furniture.
  • Cover foam in old ripped furniture and car seats with a protective fabric.  This will prevent contact with loose foam particles.
  • Choose furniture withnatural fire retardants, such as wool.
  • Use a HEPA air filter in your home to collect loose particles or a HEPA filter vacuum.

3) Phthalates 

  • Avoid #3 plastics.  You may have heard of this plastic because it’s also called “PVC” or polyvinyl chloride.  Choose products made with safer plastics such as recycling #1, #2 and #4.
  • Avoid cooking or microwaving any plastics.  A better alternative is glass Tupperware and cooking dishes.  Also avoid putting hot food into a plastic container.
  • Avoid nail polishes that contain phthalates.  Look for brands that have “phthalate free” or “DBP free” marked on the bottle.  O.P.I. is one of these brands.
  • Choose “fragrance free” personal products including soaps, shampoos and soaps whenever possible.  Companies are not required to include phthalates in the list of ingredients.

How Your Body Naturally Detoxifies
Your body is well equipped to move these toxic chemicals out once your constant exposure is reduced.  The 3 major emunctories, or parts of your body that help remove waste are: the liver, kidneys and digestive system.  However, your ability to get rid of toxins can be comprimised if any of these emunctories are not working well.  Symptoms such as constipation or sensitivity to smells can point to this.  And since your skin and lungs are your “back-up” detoxification routes, conditions like acne can also be a sign that your primary outlets need extra support.  The Detoxification Program I offer includes a detailed assessment of your health history, toxic environmental exposures and emunctories as well as a plan to support your unique detoxification needs.

I would like to thank Mt. Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center for their research and leadership in this area, and the Environmental Working Group for their consumer advocacy and making such useful resources.  Two of my favorites to share with patients are the Shopper’s Guide and Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.  Enjoy!

All the best,

Dr. Vivian Lord, N.D.