A lot of folks ask me where I find the time to stay up to date with current health news when I’m constantly traveling. The truth is, it isn’t always easy, but information sources like the Environmental Health Perspectives journal are a huge help.
EHP helps raise awareness about environmental toxins and their effects on human health—a subject I’m pretty passionate about, as you know!—and the latest issue talks about two studies whose results I just had to share. Even though it’s not exactly good news (okay, I guess you could say it’s just plain bad news), it’s a subject we just can’t afford to ignore any longer: everyday chemicals are wreaking havoc on our bodies and our well being.
In the first study, prenatal exposure to chemical toxins called phthalates (pronounced THA-lātes) was linked to birth defects in newborns and extreme behavioral problems in younger children. Scientists tested the urine of pregnant women for phthalates and then followed up with them as their children aged to track their behavioral development… and guess what? The women with the highest levels of phthalates reported the worst behavior in their children. So about now you’re probably thinking, “Well, what the heck are phthalates and how can I avoid them?” Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple.
Phthalates are found in a lot of everyday products, and I mean a lot—especially things like make-up and beauty products. On the bright side, they’ve been removed from children’s products because they were found to be harmful, but exposure for expectant mothers really hasn’t been taken into consideration before now… maybe after hearing these results the regulators will finally listen?? I certainly hope so!
The second study looked at the effects of polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) on women who were trying to get pregnant. PBDEs are flame-retardant chemicals used widely in things like electronics, mattresses, carpet and fabrics, plastic products, and believe me—the list goes on. But what’s really scary is that they’re also found in household dust because the chemicals rub off on the products over time. Now, I hate dusting, but that might make me think twice about putting it off when I’m feeling lazy!
The results of this second study showed that women who had higher levels of PBDEs in their blood had a harder time getting pregnant, and it took them longer to conceive than women with lower blood levels of PBDEs. The point? This toxic soup we’re swimming in is everywhere, folks. But short of moving to Antarctica (oh wait, the ozone layer there is depleting—never mind!), there is no way to avoid them all. My advice is just to take small but sensible steps to reduce your exposure to harmful toxins, beginning with considering the products you buy (and opting for natural alternatives whenever possible), and making sure you cleanse and detox regularly!
Your statement that phthalates have been removed from children’s products is somewhat misleading – although I realize that is not your intention. It’s true that some, not all, phthalates have been removed from some, not all, children’s products. But there are still hundreds of things kids come into contact with everyday that contain phthalates. Shampoos, soaps and other personal care products, especially those that are scented (which is common with kids’ products), flooring, wallpapers, paint, soft plastics that, although not made for children, are used in the house, and so on. Really, the only safe option is using products that specifically state that they don’t contain phthalates. Also, as you’ve made clear, phthalates and fire retardant chemicals are far from being the only chemicals of concern. As far as the government taking action, the wheels of government turn very slowly. Even though these studies exist, it’s going to be long time before the government makes the changes needed. There’s no point in waiting for that to happen – the only road out is to learn about the chemicals in our everyday lives and do our best to avoid them. Thanks for making people more aware of this problem.