WHO Says Banning Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals May Be Needed to Protect Human Health
In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report co-produced with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), titled "State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals."15 The report suggests that outright banning all endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may actually be needed to protect the health of future generations. According to the report:
"The diverse systems affected by endocrine-disrupting chemicals likely include all hormonal systems and range from those controlling development and function of reproductive organs to the tissues and organs regulating metabolism and satiety. Effects on these systems can lead to obesity, infertility or reduced fertility, learning and memory difficulties, adult-onset diabetes or cardiovascular disease, as well as a variety of other diseases."
Tips to Help You Avoid Toxic Chemicals
Although it's virtually impossible to steer clear of all endocrine-disrupting chemicals, you can certainly minimize your family's exposure by keeping some key principles in mind.
- Eat mostly fresh, raw whole foods. Processed and packaged foods are a common source of BPA and phthalates — particularly cans, but also foods packaged in plastic wrap.
- Buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastic or cans.
- Store your food and beverages in glass, rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap. Use glass containers if heating food in your microwave, as heat tends to increase the release of chemicals from plastic. Be aware that even "BPA-free" plastics typically leach other endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are just as bad as BPA.
- Use glass baby bottles for your infants.
- Be careful with cash register receipts. If you use a store regularly, encourage the management to switch to BPA-free receipts. I shop at Publix for my food and when I called them about the receipts it turns out they already switched. Nevertheless it is wise to limit your contact with all these receipts.
- Look for products that are made by companies that are Earth-friendly, animal-friendly, sustainable, certified organic and GMO-free. This applies to everything from food and personal care products to building materials, carpeting, paint, baby items, furniture, mattresses, and more. When redoing your home, look for "green," toxin-free alternatives in lieu of regular paint and vinyl floor coverings, the latter of which is another source of phthalates.
- Choose toys made from natural materials to avoid plastic chemicals like phthalates and BPA/BPS, particularly for items your child may be prone to suck or chew on.
- Breastfeed your baby exclusively if possible, for at least the first year (to avoid phthalates exposure from infant formula packaging and plastic bottles/nipples).
- Use natural cleaning products, or make your own.
- Switch over to organic toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics. EWG's Skin Deep database16 can help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals.
- Replace your vinyl shower curtain with a fabric one.
- Replace feminine hygiene products (tampons and sanitary pads) with safer alternatives. While most ingredients in feminine hygiene products are undisclosed, tests suggest they may contain dioxins and petrochemical additives.
- Look for fragrance-free products: phthalates are often used to help the product hold its fragrance longer. Artificial fragrance can also contain hundreds — even thousands — of potentially toxic chemicals. Avoid fabric softeners, dryer sheets, air fresheners and scented candles for the same reason.
- Check your home's tap water for contaminants and filter the water if necessary. You may also want to use an alternative to PVC pipes for your water supply.
- Teach your children not to drink water from the garden hose, as many are made with phthalate-containing plastics. They are typically more expensive but usually higher quality hoses are well worth the investment.
- Avoid using pesticides and herbicides around your home.
- Avoid all products containing triclosan, which is yet another endocrine-disruptor. The chemical structure of triclosan is similar to thyroid hormones and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), allowing it to attach to thyroid hormone receptors.