Hazardous chemicals treatening our lives
October 3, 2009 § 3 Comments
In the last 70 years the chemical industry bloomed and many toxic products were introduced in our daily life without proper knowledge, understanding or research on the effects they might have on living beings over long periods of time. I feel shivers on my back when I read that this or that chemical was found in the umbilical cord in 10 out of 10 newborns (PFC), others were found in mother’s breast-milk (Lead), pests were found in childrens’ urine and so on. Not mentioning the damage it can get in adults like cancer, schizophrenia, Alzheimer-like brain lesions and I will stop here.
I don’t want to cover here an extensive analysis on different chemicals related to human health risks as the web can offer plenty of details on each of them but I will try to make a list with the latest ones that are in focus. I won’t cover them all in one shot as I am doing some research on each of them and learn about it on the way. Long story short, here’s the list:
BPA (Bisphenol A), perhaps the most finger-pointed chemical of the latest years, has been suspected of being hazardous to humans since the 1930s but only in 2008 the critical mass of concern and criticism from media, general population, scientists and politicians has been met. This triggered a ban on BPA for children products and products that make contact with food in several countries. BPA is a synthetic estrogen known for being an endocrine system disruptor, DNA and reproductive function damaging, brain impairing, can cause breast and uterine cancer, an increased risk of miscarriage, and decreased testosterone levels. It is found in countless plastics usually labeled number 7. Not all number 7 plastics contain Bisphenol A, but they are not separately labeled so it’s best to avoid and get rid of those you already have.
- PFC (Perfluorochemicals)
Fluoride toxicity is the latest buzz. Being man-made chemicals that resist heat, oil, stains, grease and water they are practically everywhere: food wrap- like candy wrappers, carpet, furniture, clothing, nonstick cookware, cosmetics, household cleaners and so on. The brand names are well-known: Teflon, Stainmaster, Scotchgard, SilverStone, *-Tex and others. PFCs are lifetime persisting chemicals related to breast tumors, pregnancy complications, birth defects, blood and gallbladder accumulation after they bind to proteins in the blood. It is difficult to completely avoid PFCs. Below is a list of known products that can contain PFC chemicals (mostly PFOS and PFOA):
• Non-stick cookware (don’t warm above 240 °C- that’s when hazardous fumes known to rapidly kill pet birds are escaping the pan-, never use high flame, only low to medium, don’t let on flame without filling with food and, better, replace NOW with stainless steel, cast iron, ceramic titanium or porcelain enameled cast iron)
• Furniture and carpet that used a stain and dirt
• Clothing treated with water, stain or dirt repellents
• Packaged food containers or fast food containers
such as french fries boxes, pizza boxes, hamburger
wrappers and microwave popcorn bags
• Makeup and personal care products including
lotions, pressed powders, nail polish, and shaving
cream which have ingredients that include ‘fluoro’
or ‘perfluoro’ in their name
Note: Not all soil and stain resistance treatments are
are plasticizers used to make plastics (PVC, vinyl, etc) more flexible or resilient and also as solvents (hair products, deodorants, body lotions, fragrances, nail polishes,etc ). They are almost ubiquitous in modern society and have been found to disrupt the endocrine system (aka “gender bender” –read this new study), reduce sperm count, cause testicular atrophy and structural abnormalities in the reproductive systems of male test animals, and some studies also link phthalates to liver cancer. Limiting your exposure to phthalates (especially women at childbirth age – most likely to be affected) includes:
• Choose plastics with the recycling code 2 (High Density Polyethylene), 4 (Low Density Polyethylene) or 5 (PP which means polypropylene). Recycling codes 3 and 7 are more likely to contain bisphenol A or phthalates. Even the 1 plastics (PETs) have been shown in recent studies to leach dangerous chemicals, like antimonium, wich acts as an estrogen in the body and DHEP [di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate] which you have read the previous paragraph about. So only use PET once, and avoid plastics as much as possible because no plastic is safe (recent studies found leaching chemicals from PP (#5 plastic) and one of the chemicals, oleamide, is also used to make LDPE (#4 plastic). Oh we need those bio-plastics so badly…
• Car Interiors are one of the biggest chemical labs in current use as they contain so much plastic, fire retardants, seals, etc and exposure to sun’s UV and heat just makes over the day a deadly inhalant cocktail; so park in shaded places, vent before going in, choose wisely cars which manufacturers care about these issues.
• Avoid using PVC and vinyl products in your home – don’t use vinyl shower curtain and try wearing non-vinyl rainwear.
• Do not install vinyl flooring or carpet in your home – choose natural low-VOC sealed flooring.
• don’t ever drink from your garden hose.
• Read Labels for DBP [di-n-butyl phthalate] and DEP [diethyl phthalate] found in cosmetic and personal care products, DEHP [di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate/Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate] found in PVC plastics, medical devices also, BzBP [benzyl butyl phthalate]found in some flooring, car products and personal care products and DMP [dimethyl phthalate] being used as an insect repellent and in some plastics.
• Be cautious about the word “fragrances” as in many products it means they contain phthalates, so whenever possible use products that are unscented or scented only with essential oils.
has been lately a hot subject after it was found to be contained in famous brand lipstick and other cosmetics. Lead is toxic and I am sure most of you already know it. What you don’t probably know is that lead accumulates in the body all life long and it’s transmitted to offsprings where it just adds up with time. Lead has an approx 166 years purging time from the human body (ewg.com), more than a lifetime and when passed to babies it acts as a potent neurotoxin that is fixed in soft tissues and bones. It is considered a big contributor to women’s infertility, it has a debilitating effect on children and can significantly decrease the performance of the nervous system in adults.
What’s alarming about lead is that there appears to be no detectable lower limit, below which lead has no effect on cognition in children. This means that almost any exposure to lead of the parent/parent during pregnancy/early life of the child is going to have some impact on his cognitive performance.
Avoiding exposure to lead might involve:
• Discourage children from eating or chewing non-food stuff like paint-chips (especially in old houses paints used to contain lead), lead sinkers used for fishing, lead collectible figurines, jewelry (often recalled because of high lead content), vinyl lunchboxes, colored plastic toys often of Asian origin which paint might contain lead.
• Prevent children from playing in bare soil, provide them with a sandbox or prepare the playing ground with planted grass, woodchips, stones. In the case of a sandbox keep it covered when not used to protect children from animal waste that might get there.
• Provide a healthy nutrition to your child as undernourished children can absorb more lead in their body as well as a healthy lifestyle with a clean environment, healthy habits as washing hands before every meal.
• Buy only trusted jewelry and limit the amount of jewelry you wear, especially hand-made ceramic or glass high glazed pendants as well as obscure backyard jewelry shops.
• Don’t wear outdoor shoes indoors because lead is found in small quantities in soil and dust and the industrial revolution has blessed us with unquantifiable amounts of air and water lead, wash your feet if you walked barefoot outside as well as your pets.
• Avoid earthware and pottery that is glazed or vivid-color painted as they usually contain lead. Ceramic dinnerware that you can have manufacturer’s assurance it is lead and cadmium-free is ok, otherwise change it all with stainless steel, glass, wood, certified bio-plastics.
• Avoid using personal care products that contain even traces of lead like lipstick, which is easily ingested during wearing.
• Use only cold water for cooking as hot water is more likely to cause lead in the soldering of the pipes to leach and let the water run until completely cold if the faucet hasn’t been used for several hours.
• Use a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter vacuum cleaner and use it often to clean the potentially lead-containing dust and remember that due to their low stature they have a breathing zone closer to where the dust floats.