Everyday we are exposed to thousands of chemicals in our environment. Often when we think about toxic chemicals, we think of air pollution, superfund sites or chemical spills and those are all concerning. In this post, I want to talk about everyday exposures you may not think of that can have a big impact on your egg quality, hormone balance and the lifetime health of your baby.
In 2005, the Environmental Working Group did a study and found 287 chemicals in the cord blood of infants, 217 of which are neurotoxic. This is concerning because:
Some chemicals can cross through the placenta
Babies in utero, have undeveloped detox systems to remove chemicals
Because of their size/weight small exposures are even more impactful
Exposure to chemicals during pregnancy has been linked to neurological damage, low birth weight, increased obesity in adulthood, increased neurobehavioral changes like ADD and ADHD.
This information is not to scare or paralyze you into inaction, because there is hope.
Our bodies have detoxification systems, that when working optimally, can remove many of these chemicals from our bodies.
The bulk of our exposures are through small daily doses in the food we eat, our kitchen tools, our gardening and cleaning supplies, and our personal care products.
The first step to decreasing the toxins in our body is practical avoidance.
My teacher, and environmental toxins expert, Lara Adler says “ Let’s change the things we can control so we worry less about the ones we can’t.”
Practical Avoidance in the Kitchen
When you eat organic produce, you can significantly reduce your exposure to herbicides and pesticides that are sprayed on our foods.
Organic produce can be more expensive but there are ways to make buying organic easier on your budget:
Use the Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 List from the Environmental Working Group, making sure to by the Dirty Dozen fruits and veggies organic
Check out local farmers markets and CSA boxes, many farmers are designated Certified Naturally Grown, which means they do not use pesticides on their farm but are not yet certified organic
Grow your own food, start a raised bed or have some veggies in a planter box
Check out subscription produce boxes like Imperfect Produce or Full Circle
Upgrade your storage containers and your water bottle
Plastic storage containers can leach chemicals into our food. Have you ever noticed your plastic container turn orange after heating spaghetti in it? It’s orange because some of the sauce moved into the plastic and some of the plastic moved into the food. Yuck!
Many plastic containers contain BPA which is a known hormone disruptor. But even those advertising they are BPA free are not necessarily better. Many companies have replaced BPA with another bisphenol chemical usually BPS or BPF, both of which have been shown to be equally if not more harmful that BPA.
Upgrade to glass containers that will last you longer and not transfer chemicals to your food. To make your containers last even longer, some companies like Pyrex, sell replacement lids. You can also upgrade to a glass or stainless steel water bottle.
Upgrade you pans
The chemicals in non-stick pans PFOAs are incredibly hard and durable, which is why they work so well. However, that durability means they don’t break down easily in our body or in the environment. These chemicals are so prevalent, they are found in 99% of Americans and have contaminated many drinking water supplies.
Instead of non-stick pans, you can upgrade to stainless steel, cast iron or enameled cast iron.
Practical Avoidance around the House
In the yard
Recent high profile court rulings against Bayer (the new owner of Monsanto) highlight the dangers of lawn and garden products sold in every home improvement store. These chemicals have been linked to cancer in adults and to altered neurologic development in infants and children.
Instead of these chemicals, try a combination of vinegar and water, or spend some time digging in the dirt.
In the house
Have you ever read the label of your favorite cleaning product and found a WARNING or DANGER KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN label?
Modern marketing of cleaning products has made it seem like stronger cleaning products are needed to keep us safe in our own homes. But the cocktail of chemicals in these products do not actually do what they claim to and they expose us to hazardous chemicals in the air we breathe and the surfaces we touch.
You can upgrade your cleaning products to different brands such as Seventh Generation, Ecover or Eco-me. If you want to check out the products you are currently using the Environmental Working Group has a Household Cleaner Database.
Practical Avoidance in Personal Care Products
Women, on average, use 12 personal care products every day. Everything from body wash and shampoo, face lotion and makeup, to deodorant and perfume. These 12 products can contain 168 unique chemical which you put on your body every day.
These small daily doses can alter our hormones and overwhelm our body’s detoxification pathways (link to detox blog).
To upgrade your personal care products, start by reading labels and looking for these two chemicals, fragrance (Parfum) and parabens.
Parabens are used as an antimicrobial agent and may be listed with the prefix methyl-, ethyl, butyl-, or propyl-.
Fragrance or Parfum is a proprietary combination of chemicals that often contains a class of chemicals called phthalates. Phthalates are used to hold scent in the product, so any scented products you use, most likely contain phthalates.
The good news is, when you stop using these products, your body is able to get rid of them. One study found urine paraben levels dropped 44% after only 3 days of removing the products with parabens.
Before upgrading, you can check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database to check out the rating of your current product and find new ones. They also have an app to download that lets you scan barcodes while you are shopping.
Are you feeling overwhelmed?
When I work with clients, I tell them not to change everything all at once. Pick up some glass containers or replace your shampoo when you run out, treat yourself to new makeup.
Small steps make a big impact. If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, like this is one more thing you “should” be doing, let’s talk.
We can sit down for coffee (in person or virtually) and look at what’s going on for you, and which step you can prioritize and how you can make it happen in your life.