Of all the toxins we are exposed to in our homes and communities, phthalates (pronounced "THAL-ates") may be the most insidious. Despite the increasing evidence on the dangers the general population continues to be oblivious to the toxins lurking in the plastics and fragrances in their homes. Like BPA and Parabens, there are currently no regulations in the US to protect us from manufacturers ignoring the dangers.
Consumers in the US have to start insisting on safer products for our families. It's been estimated about a billion pounds of phthalates are produced worldwide annually. Wow. It's hard to comprehend how they can be avoided. It's currently up to us to do the hard work to find alternative products. Hard, because phthalates are in so many things.
Phthalates are in our bodies, our homes and our water. They are used as plasticizers to soften plastics, especially PVC plastic (#3) and to make nail polish flexible and chip-resistant. They're in shower curtains and hair spray, soft vinyl toys for pour children and pets. They are also used in body products to make the product penetrate the skin more easily, and in fragrances, hand creams, deodorants, laundry detergents perfumes and colognes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) measured human phthalate exposures in 2000 and found high levels of phthalates in every single one of the 289 people tested (Blount 2000).
What do they do? One effect is the disruption of the production of testosterone. They block male hormones responsible for making a male into a male. A common pthalate, dibutyl pthalate has been proven in animal studies to contribute to low sperm count, and birth defects of the testicles and penis. Another, diethyl phthalate (DEP), has been correlated by Harvard researchers with DNA damage in male sperm which can lead to infertility or birth defects. DEP is common in cosmetics, colognes and perfumes.
Studies have not been conclusive, but as a hormone disrupter phthalates (along with parabens and other toxic chemicals) are suspect in estrogen positive breast tumors. Part of the problem in conducting definitive studies is the lack of full disclosure of ingredients in the US. Products have to independently tested first to determine what's in them.
What You Can Do:
~ Stop using products with fragrances other than certified natural organic oils (although you should be aware some folks are sensitive to these as well). Get rid of the dryer sheets, perfumes, scented hand lotions and diffusers. Here's a good series of updated articles on the health hazards of fragrances in our cleaning and body products.
~ When you have to purchase plastic, look for plastic products such as toys and Shower Curtain Liners that are PVC and phthalate free. If they have that "plastic smell", don't buy them.
~ Purchase natural and organic body products and cosmetics. Check the ingredients at the Cosmetics Database. Note that starting in June 2011, Whole Foods will not keep any cosmetic or body product on their shelves that claims to be organic if it isn't actually certified as organic.
~ Read labels. Many won't tell you all the ingredients, but some will. Find safer products on one of the many sites now available, a few are listed here for you:
EWG's Skin Deep and the Cosmetics Database.com
Dangerous Household Chemicals
~ Support legislation to get our products regulated. There are currently two in the US, HR 5820, The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2013 (TCSA) and the Kid Safe Chemical Act. Find the name and addresses of your representatives, and write to them.
~Keep up with the issues, some good sites are:
The Alliance for a HealthyTomorrow
Teens Turning Green
Not a Guinea Pig
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
National Resources Defense Council
Washington Toxics Coalition
Health and Environmental Alliance
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families
~ Let companies know why you aren't purchasing their products. Comment on their products on their websites. This is a great way to flex your consumer muscle.
~ Good books on the subject include:
Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry
Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival?--A Scientific Detective Story
The Body Toxic: How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens Our Health and Well-Being
I'll keep you "posted".
It's hard to keep up with what we're "supposed" to be eating to be healthy. Wheat products are a great example. One day fortified bread is supposed to be healthy then we're told we should be eating whole wheat bread, then we hear whole wheat isn't adequate, it has to be whole grain. Now we're finding out we're consuming too much wheat period! We've all experienced the confusion of the unending variations on healthy diet advice. Here are 6 definitive steps you can take to improve your health for good.
1. Replace your unhealthy sweeteners. No sugar, no corn syrup. Use alternatives such as Stevia, Succanut and Xylitol. It’s hard, but worth it. If you drink soda look into alternatives such as making your own with a Soda Stream, or mix seltzer with flavored liquid stevia. Xylitol has the added benefit of supporting dental health, especially in children. (Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye: A Do-It-Yourself Mouth Care System for Healthy, Clean Gums and Teeth) So get rid of your sugar. Sugar is really, really bad for you.
~ Spikes your blood sugar levels causing tiredness and food cravings
~ Appears to be addictive in many people, the more you have the harder it is to resist
~ Feeds cancer
~ Ages your skin and causes puffiness (Dr. Perricone's book Forever Young: The Science of Nutrigenomics for Glowing, Wrinkle-Free Skin and Radiant Health at Every Age
(explains the science behind this and what we can do about it)
~ Causes cavities
~ The more our blood sugar is spiked, the more likely we will develop insulin resistance, which means the body can’t stabilize its blood sugar adequately anymore
~ Insulin resistance leads to diabetes and heart disease
2. Cut out Trans Fats. Think of trans for artificially transformed, these fats are also known as partially hydrogenated fats. Food companies love them because they have a longer shelf life than healthier natural fats. Thankfully food companies are now required to list trans-fats on their food labels. Watch for other names though - like partially hydrogenated fats. California and some cities like New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle, have banned the fats. Trans-fats are really, really bad for you.
~ Compromise bodily tissue repair (Dr. Mary Eng Eat Fat, Lose Fat: the Healthy Alternative To Trans Fats)
~ Compromise insulin metabolism and adrenal function causing fatique
~ Cause weight gain
~ Contribute to high cholesterol
~ Displace healthy fats disrupting our hormones and immune processes (Udo Erasmus Fats That Heal, \Fats That Kill)
~ Aggravate asthma and contribute to low birth weight babies
~ Promotes ADD/ADHD in children due to the disruption to normal glucose absorption
3. Increase your good fats. Healthy fats feed our brains and our skin. They help our bodies’ hormones, immunity and anti-inflammatory responses. Unfortunately when eating a diet of fast and pre- packaged food we aren’t feeding our bodies as we need to; we're just eating sugar, trans fats and chemicals. Then there's our meat, which is from factory farms where livestock get little exercise, so there’s more fat, but it’s not healthy Omega 3 rich fat as they fatten up on grains and fillers instead of vitamin and mineral rich grass.
~ Grass fed beef (delicious US Wellness Meat products are also organic) and wild Pacific fish (available at Vital Choice ) contain higher amounts of Omega 3 than their nutritionally deprived counterparts
~ Cod Liver oil supplements, egg yolks, Evening Primrose oil, olive oil and flaxseed oil
~ Traditional healthy fats such as organic butter and whole milk. Any dairy you consume should be organic to avoid the added growth hormones, and antibiotics
~ Use grape seed oil and butter for low temperature cooking. Use olive oil or coconut oil for high temperatures.
~ Can support weight loss (Kat James The Truth About Beauty: Transform Your Looks And Your Life From The Inside Out )
4. Eat organic. Organic is still expensive, so prioritizing what organic foods to eat is necessary for most of us. While some studies show there’s no difference in the health of organic vs non-organic food, those studies have primarily looked at the vitamin and mineral content and have not included variables such as pesticides or the effect of genetically modified organisms (GMO). Other studies, such as this California study, say organic food is healthier. Consider some of the issues below and see if it doesn’t make sense to get organic food into your diet.
~ Unless organic, corn products are virtually always GMO.
~ Unless organic, wheat products are virtually always GMO
~ Unless organic, soy products are virtually always GMO.
and by the way, GM foods are not currently required to be labelled, so you don't know you're eating them
~ Salmon is being considered for genetic modification. You can avoid this possibility by buying organic.
~ The pesticides on the surface of fruits and vegetables can be washed, although I wonder what growing in soil full of fungicides and herbicides does to them. ( See this California study mentioned above).
~ You can prioritize which fruits and vegetables to buy organic based on this list of which are treated with more pesticides :The Dirty Dozen from the Environmental Working Group.
~ Livestock products (beef, pork, even chicken) that aren’t organic may contain growth hormones and antibiotics and may have been fed various unsavory fillers, including GMO corn, as part of their feed. The practice of feeding cattle ground parts of other dead cattle contributed to the spread of Mad Cow Disease several years ago.
~ Dairy products that aren’t organic may contain growth hormones and antibiotics and come from livestock that have been fed various unsavory fillers, including GMO corn, as part of their feed.
~Our fruits and vegetables have far less vitamins and minerals than they used to (2004, Donald Davis, University of Texas in Austin), however organic produce has been found to contain higher amounts of beneficial antioxidants called phytochemicals (Alyson Mitchell, PhD, study in Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry).
5. Reduce consumption of wheat and high carbohydrate products. Wheat is high glycemic because it converts to sugar in your blood steam. If you eat a lot of bread and high carbohydrate products your body is in constant fat storage mode. Unless organic it’s also treated with a host of pesticides and grown in soil treated with herbicides. It’s believed the increasing incidence of gluten intolerance may be related to the increased consumption of wheat products over the years. Your diet should be primarily (healthy) fats, fruits and vegetables, with some protein on the side, not primarily carbohydrates.
6. Consume foods that support digestion. Yogurt with active cultures, probiotic and enzyme supplements, sauerkraut, kefir and kim chi all support your ability to get the most nutrition from your food through good digestion. Consume one of these digestion supporting foods or supplements every day. Note that the most effective probiotic supplements are refrigerated, as they are indeed live cultures that will die off if kept in a warm environment.
These steps all support weight loss as well. Work to decrease the highs and lows in your blood sugar, which will in turn decrease binging on unhealthy foods. (Again I would refer you to Kat Jame's wonderful book for more information on stopping cravings and binging). This means eating on the lower end of the glycemic index, a measure of the amount a food will convert to sugar in your system.If the list is too overwhelming, prioritize ridding your diet of sugar and trans fats.
NaturalJersey.com was created in order to have a place on the web where we can all share the great green & natural health resources in NJ. I hope you find it a never ending resource when you're looking for health-minded local businesses.