We live in a world filled with more pollution than ever, and even at low levels, these pollutants can affect your health. These toxicants can act in an unfortunate variety of ways in the body including disrupting hormones, brain function, and immune system. Specific toxins have even been linked to endometriosis, ADHD, depression, insomnia, high blood pressure, asthma, infertility, Parkinson’s disease and breast cancer.
Environmental exposures to certain toxins can affect your overall health, especially your reproductive health. Studies show the association with toxins and diseases, including endometriosis with pesticide exposure, Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and BPA, mercury with lower IQ, pregnancy loss and pesticides, pthalates with behavioral changes in young girls, BPA with obesity, and the list goes on...
What can you do? Avoid as much as possible the following:
Most common in high mercury fish and skin-lightening creams. Highest in the following fish: mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish and TUNA
Older homes often have lead paint, which can be breathed directly or touched. Ensure proper testing before any home remodeling. Along with old paint, lead can also be found in playground equipment including artificial turf, or even dirt. A great way to prevent this lead from being spread through your house is to take off your shoes upon entering your home and not wearing them inside.
Always try to buy organic foods, especially those classified as the worst on the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen list, and when not buying organic be sure to wash in an acid-based cleaner (such as vinegar).
BPA is found in high concentrations in receipts and canned foods. Avoid receipts if you can, and store them seperately, such as in a small envelope. Limit intake of canned foods, and chose BPA-free canned foods when possible. Avoid polycarbonate plastic bottles, steel or glass are better.
Pthalates are found it soft plastics, such as PVC and vinyl products. They are also used in cosmetics and personal care products (often labeled as "fragrance") such as nail polish, cologne, shampoo, hand lotion. Pthalates are also found in vinyl flooring, insect repellant, ziploc plastics, dairy products, any plastics with recycling codes 3 or 7. And unfortunately, since PVC pipe is what is used for most water pipes today, pthalates are commonly found in drinking water, but the good news is that these are easily filtered with a charcoal filter.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota examined a nearby stream to determine its levels of toxicants. What they found was surprising. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs were found at detectable levels, apparently being released by the sewage treatment facility. This included drugs such as anti-convulsants, anti-depressants, and steroid hormones, but also environmental toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The truth is, these compounds, along with the many other chemicals being leached into our environment at very low levels, have known and unknown effects on human health.
Many attribute the decline in fertility over the past 40 years has been attributed to these "contaminants", often classified as EDCs or endocrine disrupting chemicals. An example of these include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which, despite being banned in 1979, still linger in our soil and water. Once inside the body, they mimic estrogen and other hormones, and studies show a relationship between EDCs and male infertility, endometriosis, recurrent miscarriages, and even hormonal cancers.
What can you do?
Reduce your PCB and contaminant exposure at home as much as possible. Here are some tips:
1. Take high quality fish oil supplements that are screened for possible contaminants
2. If you consume animal products, ensure that they are organic sources of dairy and grass-fed grass-finished meat
3. Consume organic fruits and vegetables, especially the "Dirty Dozen"
4. Avoid eating fish that are heavily contaminated, such as tuna and swordfish (the complete list here)
5. Ensure adequate fiber intake. Fiber binds up hormones and EDCs to allow for better elimination
Contaminants are present in the environment, their role is unknown, and they could be a threat to your health. Thankfully, there are steps that you may take to reduce your contaminant exposure and improve your health.