As a huge lover of all things health and wellness, I spend majority of my time aiming to reduce or eliminate my family’s exposure to toxic chemicals.
Unfortunately we live in a toxic world that is laced with all kinds of chemicals, many of which are known or suspected to be linked to cancer, early puberty, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obesity, autism and other serious health issues. In addition, many of these synthetic chemicals are skin irritants, endocrine disrupters and are carcinogenic. So while great nutrition and physical fitness are a huge part of being healthy, reducing our exposure to chemicals is equally important.
Unfortunately, we as consumers are not protected. The FDA is highly unregulated, allowing the United States to literally become a dumping ground for chemicals, many of which end up in our bodies via what we eat, drink and put onto our skin. It is a daunting topic simply because chemicals are everywhere, which is precisely why I created the Top 5 Worst Offenders. These are the seriously bad chemicals that should be avoided at all costs. And the only way to do that is to educate yourself, read labels and find alternatives.
It can take a while to remove harmful chemicals out of your life. So start with one and make some small changes. Swap out a couple products for healthier options. And remember, it is really challenging to live a completely toxic-free life so try your best just to reduce your exposure.
Top 5 Worst Offenders
1 – Bisphenol A (BPA) and Phthalates:
Both BPA and phthalates are both additives in plastic. They are endocrine disrupters that mimic natural hormones and affect reproductive development and health. BPA is linked to early puberty in females and phthalates are correlated to low testosterone and reproductive problems in males. They are also known to cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs and breast and are suspected of causing birth defects.
They are found in many products, especially for skincare, cosmetics and hair. BPA is also found in the lining of food and beverage cans, in bottled formula and on shopping receipts. Phthalates are in many personal care products as well as vinyl plastics like raincoats, backpacks, shower curtains and toys.
How to avoid? Do not microwave food in plastic because it releases BPA and other harmful substances into food. Avoid buying canned food and plastic containers unless it is labeled “BPA-free.” Ditch plastic water bottles and use a reusable one instead. Read all labels and do not purchase any thing that contains these ingredients. And at all costs, avoid any label that lists “fragrance” as an ingredients because these are likely to contain phthalates.
2 – Pesticides
Pesticides are sprayed on most of the crops that are grown in the US as well as on outdoor lawns and gardens. Pesticides are meant to kill bugs and weeds so it is no wonder that they are carcinogenic, linked to lymphoma and leukemia and have negative effects on neurological and reproductive development.
Pesticides are found on all produce that is not marked as organic. Even if you purchase your fruits and veggies as a local farmers market, check with the farmer to ensure you are not getting doused with chemicals that next time you eat your greens.
How to avoid? Eat organic as much as possible. Follow the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen to educate yourself on the most contaminated produce. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Avoid playing, walking or laying on areas that have been treated with pesticides like manicured gardens and lawns.
3 – Mercury
Mercury is a by-product of environmental pollution and industrial waste. It is an extremely dangerous chemical because it damages neurological development and can literally poison the brain. Mercury can also cause attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, emotional issues and physical impairments. In addition, mercury does not break down in our system which means it keeps accumulating in our bodies over time.
Mercury is found in large, older and predatory fish and shellfish, older thermometers and dental fillings. It is also used in most vaccines as a preservative.
How to avoid? Because it is one of the most dangerous neurotoxin known to us humans, it is important to limit exposure as much as possible. Do your best to eliminate large fish such as swordfish, shark, king mackerel as well as limiting tuna consumption. If you have mercury-filled glass thermometers, replace them with newer models that do not contain mercury. Remove all mercury fillings and switch to a non-toxic alternative. Educate yourself on vaccines so you can choose wisely.
4 – Fluoride
Despite what we have been conditioned to believe, fluoride is a neurotoxin and highly dangerous to humans. It is fundamentally a poison that, like mercury, accumulates over time making bones weak and brittle. Moreover, fluoride has been shown to lower the IQ and cause both cancer and extreme apathy in people.
Fluoride is found in municipal drinking water, toothpaste, mouthwashes and a variety of other dental products.
How to avoid? Do not use fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash. There are many great alternatives out there so just read labels! If your water supply has high fluoride levels, find an alternative drinking source or invest in a water filtration system.
5 – Triclosan
Triclosan is a germ-killing chemical that’s a known endocrine disruptor, especially for thyroid and reproductive hormones and is a skin irritant. Studies also show that triclosan contributes to making bacteria antibiotic-resistant as well as having detrimental effects on the earth’s delicate aquatic ecosystems.
Triclosan can be found in toothpastes, antibacterial soaps, gels, make-up and deodorants.
How to avoid? Read labels! Avoid all anti-bacterial products and use regular, non-toxic soap instead. Buy triclosan-free personal care products instead. Look out for tricolsan’s cousin too, triclocarban, an equally dangerous and harmful hormone disrupter.
Honestly, I could have added at least another 10 items to this list like artificial sweetener, arsenic, parabens and GMOs but I am trying to avoid causing overwhelm and consequently inaction. Do your best. Read labels. Become educated and avoid at all costs these products that cause us harm. Small steps equal big changes.