Taking Charge of Your Environmental Health

When we talk of holistic health, one of the components is environment and within that environment there are lots of things that can contribute to ill health, but maybe none more than toxins. This is such a huge and frankly scary topic that I’ve been unsure how to pair it down into a digestible nugget of knowledge that might empower you to improve your health. So, we’ll start with one toxin for now.

But first, let me put toxin exposure into perspective. 14 years ago, in 2004 the umbilical cord blood of 10 babies born in the US was tested by two national laboratories and what they found was 287 chemicals. Of those 180-cause cancers in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 of them are known to cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests. Sadly, the exposure is only starting as the amount of chemical concentrations found in breast milk is equally alarming and this is when life is just beginning, and organs are not yet mature. Fast forward to your current age, and all toxins you’ve may have been exposed to and are currently exposed to daily. Because the European Chemicals agency estimates there are more than 144,000 man-made chemicals in existence and the US Department of Health estimates 2,000 new chemicals are being released every year and most have never been individually tested for human safety let alone synergistically evaluated. As a result, medical science is increasingly linking issues such as obesity, cancers, heart disease and brain disorders such as autism, ADHD and depression to the growing volume of toxic substances to which humans are exposed daily.

You don’t have to work in a factory that produces these chemicals to be exposed either, they’re in everyday products! Think shampoo, body wash, hand soaps, cleaning products, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, furniture, carpet, plastic food containers, fragranced candles, air fresheners, paint, perfume/cologne, Styrofoam, processed food, straws etc. These all contain chemicals that are carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and/or endocrine disrupting. Of course, I’m not suggesting you stop washing your hair or clothes, but you can limit and, in some cases, avoid exposures.

Let’s take a closer look at one common chemical culprit – Phthalates (pronounced tha–lates). Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break, and they are in all kinds of products such as: detergents, flooring, personal care products (soaps, shampoos, hair sprays, nail polish), inflatable pool toys, adhesives, packaging etc. In 2000 the CDC measured human phthalate exposure in 289 people and 100% had phthalates in them at surprisingly high levels. So much so that levels in some US women have been found to exceed the government’s safe levels set to protect against birth defects. Men take note too, because epidemiological studies have linked high phthalate levels to reduced sperm motility and concentration, increased damage to sperm DNA, and alterations in hormone levels in adult men. In another study, increased levels of certain phthalates were associated with increased waist circumference and insulin resistance in adult men in the United States.

Okay so enough with the scary info – what can you do about this?!

  • Avoid all products with the ingredient "fragrance" or "parfum"

  • Avoid plastics, particularly when it comes to storing or heating your food

  • Avoid eating processed or packaged food

  • Do eat an organic whole foods diet

  • Do use glass or stainless-steel water bottles

  • Do look for a “no phthalate” label on products

How might you reduce toxins in your environment?

Do you have favorite Phthalate free product you’d like to share?

References & Resources»-phthalates#.W0ViyS3MyCQ