Thanks to the spoils of the industrial revolution, your body is now home to a growing cocktail of chemicals. Intermingling with your red and white blood cells, your brain, tissues and other organs, are chemicals used to make epoxy resins, non-stick cookware, flame-resistant upholstery and plastic ̶substances that clearly have no business taking residence in a living, breathing creature such as yourself.
Typically, you will come into regular contact with approximately 6,000 chemicals, and an untold number of potentially toxic substances on a less frequent basis.
Given the vast amounts of chemicals in the environment, it's not too surprising that on average, we find 212 chemical toxins in our blood and urine. This includes newborn babies as well, which points to their exposure to such chemicals before they were born.
When it comes to the potentially hazardous chemicals you and your family are exposed to, it can easily feel overwhelming. There are chemicals literally everywhere, but rather than feeling burdened by the thought, I encourage you instead to focus on simple steps you can take to reduce your risk.
A good starting point is to focus on avoiding some of the most pervasive and most toxic chemicals that are virtually guaranteed to be in your home right now.
Here are the top five:
BPA (Bisphenol A) – Widely used in the production of plastics, canned foods, soda cans, food packaging, baby bottles and toys. This chemical can lead to heart disease, diabetes, liver and reproductive problems.
To avoid it, buy stainless steel bottles and glass food storage containers. Switch to fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned. If you buy goods in plastic containers, check for the number written on the bottom — if there is a number 7, assume the container contains BPA unless it explicitly says otherwise.
Phthalates – This family of chemicals is used to soften plastics. Phthalates are endocrine disrupters. They have increasingly become associated with changes in the development of the male brain as well as with genital defects, metabolic abnormalities and reduced testosterone.
Avoid shampoos, conditioners and other personal care products that list "fragrance" as an ingredient.
PFOA (Perfluorinated Chemicals) – Teflon-coated cookware is the primary source. Teflon pans quickly reach temperatures that cause the non-stick coating to begin breaking down, releasing toxins that have been linked to cancer, birth defects and thyroid disease.
I highly recommend you throw away this type of non-stick cookware immediately and replace it with either ceramic or glass.
Formaldehyde – Frequently used in fabrics to give them a variety of "easy care properties" as well as being a common component of pressed-wood products. It is a known human carcinogen and can also cause fatigue, skin rashes as well as allergic reactions.
Choosing all natural materials for your clothing and furniture can help cut down your exposure. If you have wood products containing formaldehyde, increase the ventilation in your home or office, reduce the humidity levels with air conditioning or dehumidifiers and keep your home cool.
PBDEs (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers) – This group of chemicals is used as flame retardants. PBDEs have been linked to altered thyroid levels, decreased fertility, liver and kidney damage, as well as numerous problems with development when exposure occurs in utero.
Try to find products without PBDE flame retardants.
Another common source of PBDEs is your mattress, and since you can spend up to a third of your life in bed, this is a significant health concern. Mattress manufacturers are not required to label or disclose which chemicals their mattresses contain. Look for 100% wool, toxin-free mattresses or those made with Kevlar (fire proof fibre).