We all know that, increasingly, in our busy lives we are being drenched in chemicals! From the food we love to eat everyday to the shampoos and creams we use on our bodies, the list of chemicals is increasing.
But do you know that many of them can mimic the hormones in your body's endocrine system? So, what does all this mean for your health?
Firstly, what are EDCs?
EDCs are chemicals that mimic human hormones. They can be naturally occurring, such as in soy products. They can also be synthetically manufactured. Known as 'endocrine disrupting chemicals' (EDCSs), they may affect human reproduction, puberty, metabolism and other body functions which are controlled by hormones in our endocrine system.
Studies done around the globe indicate that BPA can affect our hormones. In fact, it seems that endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as bisphenol A (BPA), may be closely linked to hormone-related health problems which include diabetes, asthma, obesity, ADHD and breast cancer. And, also important to know is that these health issues, as well as reproductive concerns, are on the increase.
So, what if your chemical exposure was responsible for your health problems? As you may expect, the answer is not so straightforward.
Scientific evidence from laboratory studies show some industrial chemicals affect endocrine function in mice and rats, however, it's difficult to obtain conclusive evidence that these chemicals cause the same risks in humans. This is partly due to the difficulties of conducting long-term studies on humans, as well as the ethical issues.
Of course, many EDCs may already be in your home. But how much risk do they really pose to you and your family? Also, at what exposure level do they become unsafe for you?
Scientists refer to classical toxicology which says the dose makes the poison. In other words, a higher dose will be worse for you than a lower dose and a lower limit of exposure may have no effect. It's worth noting that current safety regulation of chemical use in Australia adopts this approach. Under the National Industrial Chemicals Notification Scheme (NICNAS), the federal Department of Health states the effects are dose-responsive which they deem allows a safe level of exposure.But is this really true?
It could be argued that this classical toxicology approach does not allow for the possibility that very low levels of exposure to an EDC could have long-term effects, especially if exposure occurrs at critical stages when people are very sensitive to hormones, for example in their mother's womb or during puberty.
So, is there a safe level of exposure to these chemicals?
Simply, we don't know the answer. Further, it may be that there are also other elements at work here, too. Is it more more about the timing of the exposure and less about the level of exposure to us, for example? It can also be difficult to know just what chemicals are in the products that you buy due to the limitations in labeling requirements. Australian suppliers are not required to list the individual components.
Some common examples of industrial chemicals which may have the potential to affect our hormones include, birth control products or HRT, Bisphenol A, phthalates, parabens, triclosan, resorcinol, perfluorinated compounds, flame retardants, heavy metals, including lead and mercury, pesticides and herbicides (which include DDT, endosulfan, synthetic pyrethroids and chlorpyrifos).
So, how can you reduce you risk of exposure to these chemicals in your busy life?
- Choose fresh food over processed food to reduce your risk of exposure to chemicals from processing
- Follow simple, everyday tips, like washing your fruit and vegetables with water to remove chemical residue.
- Remember, tin cans and jar lids are often lined with bisphenols, such as BPA which may also be a risk to your health
- Avoid heating any plastic containers or leaving plastic drink bottles in a hot car which can cause BPA to leach out of the plastic into your food or drink
- Whenever possible, choose glass, porcelain or stainless steel instead of plastic containers
- Understand that phthalates may also be in plastic food wrap, vinyl flooring and even your children's soft toys
- Baby bottles and dummies containing more than 1 per cent of the phthalate DEHP are banned in Australia
- Choose cosmetics and personal grooming products, including perfume, nail polish and skin creams which are phthalate and paraben-free
- Consider making your own products using common household ingredients, including bicarb soda and coconut oil
- Avoid those antibacterial soaps and toothpastes which contain triclosan
- Use fewer products as a great way to reduce your exposure to these chemicals
Even every day household items, such as your lounge chair, mattress, water-proof clothing or non-stick cookware may have EDCs flame retardant finishes.
Keep your house clean, but with safe, natural products to protect your health and well-being.
You can easily get started on the right path by using alternative, safe cleaning products, including baking powder to cleanse and deodorise your home's surfaces. Our grandmothers knew that lemon juice is a good mild bleach and mixed with salt can also remove stains. Use white vinegar as a mild disinfectant.
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