We're about to go down the rabbit hole here ladies and gentlemen. If you are of the "ignorance is bliss" mentality, you have been forewarned.
A friend on facebook had one of those re-shared posts today that circulate the web again and again. It was along the lines of "Warning: Drinking bottled water that's been sitting in your car will give you breast cancer. Sheryl Crow's doctor told her that's what gave her breast cancer" yada yada yada. Shocking and frightening - yes! But I'm never one to read something and believe it 100% without looking into it a little further. So off to google I went. Got some interesting findings which led me to research phthalates, BPA, and oodles of other goodies out there leaching into our bodies on a daily basis. I'm not quite sure what to do with all of this info, so I thought I'd share it and bring you into my dark and confusing world.
What: Used to increase flexibility and durability in plastics. As the plastic ages, the release of phthalates is accelerated and they easily leach into food, the air, etc. High doses have been shown to change hormone levels and cause birth defects.
Sources: PVC – think shower curtain, air mattress, etc. Fatty foods such as milk, butter, and meats are a major source. Also, check your daily cleaning and cosmetic goods such as laundry detergent, shampoo, etc.
What: Highly toxic; can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. They dissolve in fat, are eliminated from the body verrrrrrrry slowly, and are passed on from mother to child before birth and through breastfeeding.
Sources: Humans get 90% of their dioxin exposure through food, mainly meat and dairy products, fish and shellfish. Other sources are smelting, chlorine bleaching of paper pulp, manufacturing of herbicides/pesticides/PVC, volcanic eruptions, and forest fires. Diapers, tampons, and sanitary napkins all contain dioxins because of the bleach and chlorine used in their processing. Some studies showed that the levels of dioxins in these products were low, and not the most toxic or potent forms, but not much is known yet.
What: Synthetic preservatives that mimic estrogen and act as endocrine disrupters. These are stored in fat cells, and are not easily broken down so will accumulate in the breasts and other areas with a lot of fat, and have been found in high concentration in breast tumors. Also thought to lead to early puberty and decreased sperm levels.
Sources: Foods, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and personal care products.
What: An endocrine disrupter that mimics estrogen, studies have linked prenatal exposure to later physical and neurological difficulties. In 2010 the FDA warned about its hazards to fetuses, infants, and young children, and Canada declared it a toxic substance. It’s since been banned in baby bottles.
Sources: Used to make hard usable plastics – think water and baby bottles, pacifiers, lining of canned vegetables and soups. Type 7 plastics are the most likely to contain it, with type 3 being possible, and other types being unlikely.
What: An environmental pollutant. Hard to break-down by ordinary waste-processing systems, they’re carried to lakes and rivers where they increase algae growth and decrease oxygen which is needed by plant and animal life in the water.
Sources: Contained in household detergents and cleaning agents, especially dish-washing and laundry detergents.
What to Do:
So now what?? I'm completely freaked out by the amount of these products I already have exposed my baby to in-utero and in the 4 months since his birth. For sure he's going to develop 10 kinds of cancer, be developmentally challenged (what is the PC term for that these days?), and grow breasts when he's 5 (well, ok he already has them, but I think that's just his baby-fat...). No time like the present to take action. So here's what I've figured must be done:
1) Be prepared to spend more money
2) Buy organic, especially for the "dirty dozen"
3) Make sure your plastics and canned goods are labeled "BPA Free" (Thankfully, most baby items these days are clearly labeled with this, but beware of plastic hand-me-downs - especially since the older the plastic the more readily the toxins are leaching out)
4) Consider greener alternatives to the traditional brands: ex. Honest Company and Earth's Best make chlorine-free diapers (or go with cloth diapers); Seventh Generation has safer laundry and dish-washing detergents; Badger makes a mean sunscreen... Ditch the fabric softener and bubble baths altogether. There are lots of DIY cleaning tips out there as well - vinegar and water for cleaning, using wet wash clothes instead of baby wipes, etc!
5) Check your products' safety on the EWG Skin Deep Database
6) Don't buy anti-bacterial or fragranced anything, especially for baby. They're harsh on skin, have extra unnecessary chemicals, and anti-bacterial goods seem to be increasing the presence of antibiotic resistant strains, yikes!!
7) Buy bedding of 100% cotton, hemp, linen or wool (no synthetics which are full of chemicals). While you're at it, the more clothes you do this with the better.
8) For baby, go with glass bottles and silicone nipples and pacifiers (latex can release carcinogens).
9) Choose: metal or solid wood furniture with non-toxic finish (nothing made of particleboard, chipboard or pressboard), paint with low-VOCs, non-vinyl wallpaper, carpeting with the industry's "green label" (though carpeting is a nightmare for anyone with allergies, trapping mold, dust, bacteria, etc), metal blinds over PVC plastic blinds.
10) Choose wooden or cloth toys over plastic. Make sure they're free of toxic paints, glues, dyes, etc. If plush or fabric, keep them free of dust by storing in a lidded toy box.
Don't panic and throw out everything this very minute, unless money is no problem in your household, ahhhh wouldn't that be nice?? Baby steps! As you reach the end of one product, just replace it with the safer alternative. Little by little your house will be greener and safer for your family, or at least that's the idea ^_^ I hope I can practice what I preach!! If you have tips on a great product, or how you got your family on a greener path, please leave a comment!!
Resources for more info:
Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database - they rank cosmetic goods from 0 (totally healthy for people and the environment) to 10 (we're all going to die because of this product!!).
Guide to Less Toxic Products <Baby Care> - by the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1), focusing on fun and honest product and travel reviews, saving moms time finding the best for their families! Find what you need in the menu bar or search section above!