8 Ways to Reduce Your Exposure to Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals
By Caroline Cox
What keeps you up at night? Sick kids, restless pets, the latest tragedy on the evening news, politics, wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, money troubles, job stress, and family health and wellbeing? There is no shortage of concerns that make us all toss and turn.
If you can even pronounce "endocrine disruption," you're doing well. What is it? Why should we care? And why is it keeping chemical bigshots up at night?
The endocrine system is the system of glands, hormones and hormone targets that is responsible for almost everything our bodies do. Hormones are chemical messengers that control blood sugar, infant and child development, sexual function, growth, energy production and much more. Without them, we would not be ourselves. Hormones are particularly impressive because tiny amounts of them, so small they're difficult even to comprehend, have profound effects on our health and well-being.
In the last 30 years, we've learned that synthetic chemicals, widely used in industry and agriculture, can disrupt the way that this finely tuned system works. We call these chemicals—including compounds made from lead, mercury and arsenic, DDT, BPA and phthalates—endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).
These chemicals are known to cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease, reduced fertility, premature birth, reduced sperm quality and cancer. Exposures before birth, during childhood and during the teenage years are especially important because of the rapid growth and development that occurs during those periods. Now new research indicates that some EDCs cause problems that are passed along for generations.
4 Tips for Stocking a Kid-Friendly, Nontoxic Kitchen https://t.co/vhbQq4ZJXh @Earth911 @joycecherrier @hipmomsgogreen— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1515192611.0
A study released last month by Healthy Babies Bright Futures highlights the pervasiveness of one of these endocrine-disrupting chemicals, arsenic. The study found that levels of arsenic in infant rice cereal are six times higher than in infant cereals made from other ingredients.
Everyone who has spent time reading mysteries knows that arsenic can kill. But how many of us know that it also causes cancer, damages developing brains in babies and children—reducing IQ test scores—and disrupts important hormones in our bodies, making diabetes more likely?
According to recent research by Abt Associates, children's exposures to arsenic in infant rice cereal and other rice-based foods accounts for an estimated loss of up to 9.2 million IQ points among U.S. children ages 0-6. This damage costs the country an estimated $12-18 billion annually in lost wages. To date, the FDA has not taken action, and with this administration, it will let this travesty continue.
But let's go back to that Shell executive. What exactly is he worried about during his sleepless nights? We can only guess. But one thing that probably runs through his mind is that almost none of us escapes exposure to EDCs. BPA is so ubiquitous that government studies found it in over 90 percent of the people studied. That represents a potentially huge liability for the companies that make BPA.
How did this happen? This has everything to do with the way that we regulate chemicals. For the last century or so, the foundation of chemical regulation has been that small exposures are not a problem—just a little won't hurt you or "the dose makes the poison." Endocrine disruption turns that concept on its head, because hormones are active in such small amounts. Counter-intuitively, some endocrine disruptors are more potent in tiny amounts than in larger amounts. In 2012, a lead author of a major study on EDCs stated that "fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination are needed to protect human health."
Weak regulations also mean we really have no idea how many chemicals are endocrine disruptors. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says there are about 85,000 chemicals used by industry, and most of them have never been tested to find out whether they can disrupt our hormones or not. There is decent evidence that over 1,400 hormone-disrupting chemicals are endocrine disruptors.
A chemical executive's sleepless nights should not be our sleepless nights. Where do we go from here?
About 25 years ago, Congress passed a law stating that the EPA should begin testing for endocrine disruption in a subset of those 85,000 chemicals. It hasn't happened, and in today's political climate it's not likely to happen. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to reduce your exposure to EDCs:
- Eat organic food when it's available and affordable.
- If you're feeding a baby cereal, stay away from rice. Buy oat, wheat or multigrain cereal instead.
- Avoid household bug sprays.
- Use cosmetics, shampoos and soaps with simple, pronounceable ingredients.
- Use old-fashioned cleaners like vinegar and baking soda, or products with the Safer Choice logo.
- Keep rooms well aired and vacuum, clean and dust regularly to remove chemicals that can be found indoors.
- Minimize unnecessary use of plastics.
- Add your name to the growing movement to stop EDCs.
It's time companies like Monsanto, Dow-DuPont and ExxonMobil take responsibility for gambling with your family's health and the health of future generations and stop making these silent killer chemicals. We deserve nothing less.
Caroline Cox is the senior scientist at the Center for Environmental Health.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
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Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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