“The more we pour the big machines, the fuel, the pesticides, the herbicides, the fertilizer and chemicals into farming, the more we knock out the mechanism that made it all work in the first place” – David R. Brower
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), with headquarters in New York, is one of the world’s largest environmental organizations, with more than two million members and a staff of 675 scientists, economists, policy experts, and other professionals 15 countries around the world.
EDF selected 10 individuals across the country for one week, they wore a novel wristband technology designed to detect chemicals in their environment. These wristbands are increasingly being used in research to better understand how chemical exposures may affect our health.
Here are some results found from the participants:
- A lieutenant’s (at the Memphis Fire Department in Tennessee) wristband came to detect 16 chemicals including gamma-chlordane, a highly toxic pesticide banned 30 years ago.
- A College of Wooster student in Ohio was surprised to learn that her wristband detected the fragrance enhancer diethyl phthalate, the preservative benzyl benzoate, and the synthetic fragrance galaxolide. Such chemicals are typically found in lotions, shampoos and other personal care products and have been linked to health effects ranging from skin sensitization to endocrine disruption.
- A dispatcher living in a big-sky country Montana was eight months pregnant when her wristband picked up phthalates such as DEHP and DBP. These toxicants, which are linked to reproductive toxicity, have been banned in the United States for use in pacifiers, toys and other children’s products – but continue to be legal for many other uses.
- A pharmacy student’s wristband detected the flame retardants TPP and TCPP, chemicals often added to furniture and other everyday foam products, along with an assortment of other chemicals.
- A chemical safety specialist at the University of Georgia was alarmed to learn what her wristband picked up: several pesticides and an alphabet soup of phthalate plasticizing chemicals including DEHP, BBP, DEP, DIBP, DBP, DHEXP and di-n-nonyl phthalate.
Read their stories here.
To reduce the load of environmental toxins in our bodies, the first step is to stop putting toxins into our bodies. The two easiest and most effective places to begin are with our diets and our homes. About 90% of our daily toxic intake comes from the air inside of our homes and workplaces, as well as the foods that we eat. Most of us cannot make huge changes in the air at work, but we sure can change the air in our homes. Utilizing high quality pleated air filters that are changed regularly (every 4-8 weeks) is one of the best ways to reduce the toxin presence in our home air, as well as clean out any pollutants brought in from outside the home that may have attached themselves to the dust and fabric within.
There are steps you can take to reduce the amount of pesticides and other dietary contaminants in your family’s food. EWG’s “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides“ can help, and the website contains advice on how to limit your dietary intake of arsenic, which turns up in a variety of foods but primarily rice. You should also be aware of the everyday household chemical exposures that can cause harm.
Here’s a quick reminder of the worst pesticide offenders:
The Dirty Dozen:
- Sweet bell peppers
- Nectarines (imported)
- Blueberries (domestic)
- Potatoes Plus: +Green beans +Kale/Greens
There are toxic chemicals all around us. In today’s world it is not possible to be 100% chemical free.
Here are 21 ways to kick chemicals out of our lives:
- Eat a diet focused on locally grown, fresh, and ideally organic whole foods. Food that travels thousands of miles loses its nutrient value under different light and temperatures. Processed and packaged foods are a common source of chemicals such as BPA and phthalates. Wash fresh produce well, especially if it’s not organically grown.
- Choose grass-pastured, sustainably raised meats and dairy to reduce your exposure to hormones, pesticides, and fertilizers. Avoid milk and other dairy products that contain the genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST).
- Rather than eating conventional or farm-raised fish, which are often heavily contaminated with PCBs and mercury, supplement with a high-quality krill oil, or eat fish that is wild-caught and lab tested for purity, such as wild caught Alaskan salmon.
- Find alternate to plastic. Buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastic or cans, as chemicals can leach out of plastics (and plastic can linings), into the contents; be aware that even “BPA-free” plastics typically leach other endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are just as bad for you as BPA. Never microwave plastics.
- Plastic is made out of oil. Store your food and beverages in glass, rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap.
- Use glass baby bottles. Hot foods and drinks don’t go well with plastics. Don’t use plastic straw with hot coffee/drink.
- Instead of plastic reusable water bottles, use unlined stainless steel or glass.
- Say no thanks to paper receipts—a lot of stores will e-mail your receipt now. (BPA serves as a “developer” in thermal paper receipts. These receipts aren’t actually printed with ink; they’re coated with chemicals that react to heat and change color to create the appearance of printed type.)
- Wash your hands frequently and always before you eat. Chemicals in dust or on thermal paper receipts can get on your hands, and you don’t want that stuff in your mouth. It’s the same with your kids—try to wash their hands often throughout the day and always before they eat.
- Replace your non-stick pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware. While you look for replacement turn down heat under non-stick pots.
- Filter your tap water for both drinking and bathing. If you can only afford to do one, filtering your bathing water may be more important, as your skin absorbs contaminants. To remove the endocrine disrupting herbicide Atrazine, make sure your filter is certified to remove it. According to the EWG, perchlorate can be filtered out using a reverse osmosis filter.
- Look for products 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 others.
- Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove contaminated house dust. This is one of the major routes of exposure to flame retardant chemicals.
- When buying new products such as furniture, mattresses, or carpet padding, consider buying flame retardant free varieties, containing naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool, cotton, silk, and Kevlar.
- Avoid stain- and water-resistant clothing, furniture, and carpets to avoid perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). Avoid wrinkle free clothing as well. They are quoted with chemicals.
- Make sure your baby’s toys are BPA-free, such as pacifiers, teething rings and anything your child may be prone to suck or chew on — even books, which are often plasticized. It’s advisable to avoid all plastic, especially flexible varieties.
- Use natural cleaning products or make your own. Avoid those containing 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME) — two toxic glycol ethers that can compromise your fertility and cause fetal harm.
- Switch over to organic toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants, and cosmetics. EWG’s Skin Deep (click here) database 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 or glass doors.
- Replace feminine hygiene products (tampons and sanitary pads) with safer alternatives.
- Look for fragrance-free products. One artificial fragrance can contain hundreds — even thousands — of potentially toxic chemicals. Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets, which contain a mishmash of synthetic chemicals and fragrances.
Still time to change the road you are on!
Eat Organic! Wear Organic!