Halloween is right around the corner, so I thought it appropriate to share with you a scary and gloomy “story.” Ready? Hair-raising movies, ghosts, and the like may be frightening, but do you know what’s even scarier? Pervasive and persistent, toxic and health-disrupting ingredients. They have slowly found their way into not only your personal care, cleaning, household products, furniture, and more, but sometimes even your food and water!
You are surrounded and bombarded by them everyday. Worse yet, you may not even know you are encountering them. You innocently take them in by inhaling, touching, eating, and absorbing them through your skin. They become settled in your body. And your body can really only take so much — and eliminate so much. The ones that stay affect your health. Sometimes soon. Often times very slowly over time. And you may not even know it. Some are carcinogenic. Others mess with your hormones. Still others cause developmental effects. The list of health effects goes on and on.
They get into the environment. They affect our water supplies. Our land. Our air. Living creatures. And some never break down. Ever. Others persist for years, but eventually go away. Some combine with other chemicals and give “life” to a new type of chemical — almost Frankenstein-like in nature — that further disrupts the environment and that we have a difficult time controlling. These chemicals affect us and the eco-system in so many negative ways, it’s scary what we already know and what we don’t. It’s even scary that we pretend everything is OK. In a very real way, they are haunting us. Terrifying, huh?
Which chemicals are the most frightening?
There are several chemicals that could be mentioned. Probably hundreds. Most likely too many to list them all. But I have written about some of these creepy, harmful chemicals in a few previous posts. So let’s start there.
Fragrance, glycol ethers (found in cosmetics, cleaning products, paint, and more), optical brighteners (found in eye make-up, paper, plastics, laundry detergents, etc.), triclosan (a synthetic antibacterial found in toothpaste, bedding, toys, dish soap, sink mats, clothing, facial wash, and more), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) (found in everything from cleaning chemicals to nail polish to paint) are definitely huge problems as I discuss in this post. These chemicals as a group affect almost every system in our body and are notorious for contaminating our environment.
In this post, I discuss the dirty dozen of endocrine disruptors the Environmental Working Group (EWG) called out last year. They include arsenic, atrazine, BPA, dioxin, fire retardants, glycol ethers, lead, mercury, organophosphate pesticides, perchlorate, perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), and phthalates. They are in the plastic bottles we drink from, the cosmetics we apply, the receipts we touch, the carpet we walk on, the furniture we sit on, the clothing we wear, and many everyday household products we use to name a few sources. To avoid them, there are some things we can do, as I discuss in “12 Ways to Avoid Chemicals that Wreak Havoc on Your Hormones.”
After reading about these chemicals, what you’ll notice is that there is a common theme — many of them are used across a wide array of industries.
What can we do?
Industries are eager to make products that consumers want, much to our own demise. For example, we subject ourselves to optical brighteners, just so that we can have really “white” laundry. But we can choose to not use them. We can buy organic and green products instead. In essence, we can vote with our money about what we will tolerate and what we will not.
We can also educate ourselves about what is in the products we are buying by checking product reviews and databases and familiarizing ourselves with ingredient names. We can also get to know the companies we are buying from. Are they sustainable? Do they care about our health? The planet? Are they really green?
Our government wants to protect us, but it is often slow to act sometimes. Laws and regulations are passed, but sometimes not until a lot of harm has been done. Questioning our government officials and pushing for change is something we need to do and not take for granted.
Scientific studies are done to investigate the effects of certain chemicals, but they can take years. And only so many can be done. Also, no scientific study could possibly consider the toll these chemicals take synergistically. We are each individually affected in a different way. And we all select and use different products and live in our own unique environment. So we each encounter groups of different chemicals everyday. How could we possibly be so certain that the use of these chemicals is really safe when someone is telling us a certain percentage is OK? We need to trust our instincts, our intuition, and the information we do have at hand to make a safe choice for ourselves and our families.
Here are a few good consumer resources that I have used when it comes to researching products and ingredients and how they fare in terms of health and environmental impacts:
- The Good Guide
- Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning
- EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources Household Product’s Database
- U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Design for the Environment Program
Do you know of any other good ones? If so, let me know by leaving a comment.
I realize this was a “heavy” post compared to some of my others. I don’t mean to sound preachy or even too gloomy, but I am truly concerned about these chemicals and convinced they are affecting our health and that of future generations.
What do you think? Are your concerned? Do you think something can and should be done about them? If so, what? Please share any other information or resources you think will shed light on the discussion.
Copyright © Karen Peltier and Well Gal, 2012-2014. All rights reserved.