Last week I mentioned there around 84,000 chemicals on the market, with only about 1 percent of them having been studied for safety. The good news is that many of them can be avoided by using natural personal care products and being careful about what you bring into your home. Below are the top 11 most pervasive chemicals to avoid and where to find them.
BPA (bisphenol-A) – An endocrine disruptor associated with brain impairment, increased obesity risk, altered immune function, diabetes, early puberty, infertility, increased prostate size, erectile dysfunction, preterm birth, and breast cancer. BPA crosses the placental barrier and is found in countless personal care and plastic products, from the lining in canned goods to plastic wraps, water bottles and cashier receipts.
PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) – Caused cancerous testicular, pancreatic and liver tumors in lab animals. Causes liver toxicity, reduced birth weight, decreased immune response, disruption of lipid metabolization, hypothyroidism, ulcerative colitis, disrupted hormone product, and possible DNA damage. PFOA is found in non-stick cookware, sportswear (shoes and clothing), items treated with flame retardants (clothing, bedding), microwave popcorn, and Oral-B Glide floss. Additionally, in August 2015, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a Teflon report noting that PFOA has been found in 94 water districts across 27 states. Tests have also revealed that PFOA is present in the blood of virtually all Americans, including babies, as it transfers from the mother to the child via umbilical cord blood and breast milk.
PBDE (Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers) – Depress thyroid hormones, causing fatigue, depression, anxiety, hair loss and low libido. It can also lower IQ and even cause retardation and behavioral issues. PBDEs are flame retardants and can be found in furniture, plastic cabinetry, electronics, wire insulation, draperies and upholstery.
Dioxins – Carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals that may also cause reproductive and developmental issues. They may interfere with gallbladder function and cause growths in the colon. The Environmental Production Agency (EPA) affirmed the dangers of dioxins in 1994, yet they continue to be used. Dioxins occur as a bi-product of manufacturing. Ninety percent of dioxin exposure occurs through food supply, primarily meat (including fish) and dairy because the dioxins get trapped in the milk and fatty tissue of the animal. But, it is also found in bleached paper products, like disposable diapers, napkins, paper towels, and coffee filters, as well as pesticides and herbicides.
Phthalates – Considered endocrine disrupters, these interfere with reproductive development. Phthalates are found in many personal care products, including nail polish, and are typically listed as “fragrance.”
Organophosphates (pesticides) – Developed by Nazi Germany during World War II for use in chemical warfare, these commonly used pesticides are linked to impaired brain development, infertility, and thyroid problems.
Mercury – A neurotoxin, mercury can also negatively affect the digestive and immune systems, as well as impair lung and kidney function. Mercury can be found in dental amalgam fillings, vaccines (thiomersal) and other pharmaceuticals, skin-lightning products and some cosmetics, compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs, thermometers, and seafood.
Lead - Associated with many negative health effects, like brain dysfunction in children, neurobehavioral changes in adults (such as a reduction in cognitive abilities and IQ, and personality changes), hypertension and chronic kidney disease. Lead can be found in water, paint, batteries, rubber products, glass, and building sites.
Aluminum - Linked to serious illnesses including osteoporosis, extreme nervousness, anemia, headaches, decreased liver and kidney function, forgetfulness, speech disturbances and memory loss. Aluminum can be found in antiperspirant, water, cookware, foil, over-the-counter drugs (like antacids and pain meds), douche products, baking powder, processed cheese, baked goods, and table salt.
Formaldehyde – A carcinogen, formaldehyde can also contribute to diseases like ALS and cause damage to the central nervous system, leading to headaches, depression, insomnia, irritability and impaired dexterity and memory. It has also been linked to asthma and allergies. It can be found in furniture, flooring and other building materials; permanent-press fabrics; hair processing products (like perms); fertilizers; some plastic and paper products; some personal care products (under the name “quarternium-15”) and vaccines.
Arsenic - Exposure to low levels of arsenic can cause nausea and vomiting, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels, and a sensation of "pins and needles" in hands and feet, and over the long term can cause darkening of the skin and the appearance of small "corns" or "warts" on the palms, soles, and torso. Organic arsenic compounds are mainly used as pesticides on plants such as cotton and corn, while inorganic arsenic is primarily used to preserve wood. Once arsenic is released in the environment it cannot be destroyed, and many arsenic compounds dissolve in water. Arsenic is added to conventional chicken feed to keep the pest population down in their crowded environment.