In today’s world it is impossible to avoid harmful chemicals completely. There are new chemicals being created constantly and unleashed on mankind willynilly and generally without testing or any real consideration for safety. Many of these chemicals can have serious unwanted effects on the human body, as well as our flora and fauna. A big part of the problem is that unless a chemical causes immediate and noticeable effects on our health, it is difficult to prove that it is in fact the cause or a contributor to any particular health issue.
One of the ways that many of these chemicals affect us is that they mimic our sex hormones – primarily oestrogen. This has many serious implications for both sexes and males in particular. In males physical changes can occur. In newborn males, cases of genital abnormalities are becoming more common. These xenoestrogens as they are commonly referred to, are contributing to an increase in cancers – in particular hormone related cancers such as cancer of the breast, uterus, ovaries, prostate, and testis– all of which are becoming more and more common.These chemicals are also implicated in the rapidly growing problem of low sperm counts, infertility, early onset puberty and breast development in boys.
Where are we exposed to these chemicals?
There are many ways in which we can be exposed to these chemicals. Our highest exposure however and most preventable exposure may be in our homes. We generally think of our home as our castle. Our haven, safe from the world where everything is comfy and cosy. What we don’t realise is that we are being exposed to chemicals that are impacting our health from the materials that our homes are built from – chemicals leach into the air from glues, paints and resins used in the building along with chemicals from carpets and fabrics in our furnishings.
House plants can help to improve the air quality inside the home as well as opening windows and doors to let fresh air into the home. Studies have shown that air quality inside the home is far worse than that in the most polluted cities and if the air quality were comparable to the air inside our homes, we probably wouldn’t be able to see for more than a kilometer – scary huh!
We have a food supply that has been sprayed with insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides and we have no idea how much residue is left on this food when we eat it. This is not only fresh fruit and veg, but the ingredients used in any processed foods that you consume (along with extra added chemicals most of the time!). We can choose to eat more organic food, grow some of our own food and become more educated on what to avoid to eliminate as many of these chemicals from our food supply as possible and reduce our chemical exposure from these sources.
We can also be exposed to numerous harmful chemicals in cleaning products which many of us mix together without a second thought, creating a cocktail of god knows what, that we then get all over our skin and inhale into our lungs as we go about cleaning our home. Here we can choose to use safe cleaning products. Just a very few cleaning products can be used to clean the whole house without putting your health and your family’s health at risk.
Perhaps the biggest change we can make in reducing our exposure to these harmful chemicals is to change to safe personal care products. Every day we use layer upon layer of these products and generally all of the mainstream products do contain harmful chemicals – with many of these products containing a whole cocktail of hormone disrupting, cancer causing cheap and nasty chemicals added to make a cheap product (not always reflected in the price tho!) that looks like it does the job. Most of the time tho, they do a very mediocre job at best, however most consumers have never used a product that is formulated with safe effective ingredients and so have nothing to compare these mediocre products to!
If you look at our routine in the morning, most of us get out of bed, use a toothpaste that contains harmful chemicals such as fluoride, sodium lauryl (or laureth) sulphate (SLS or SLES), saccharin, and artificial flavours and colours, then follow up with a mouth wash containing high amounts of alcohol and often more artificial flavours and colours. (I would like to point out here that under our tongue is one of the fastest ways to absorb things into our bloodstream!) We then jump in the shower where the hot water opens our pores up making our skin more receptive to whatever is put on it. We use a shower gel containing more SLS or SLES, artificial fragrances, maybe some DEA, PEG or TEA (or all of them), and Propylene Glycol and possibly others. We shampoo and condition our hair with more of the same and possibly some additional harmful chemicals. We might shave with some also.
When we get out of the shower, we put on some deodorant or anti perspirant containing aluminium, more propylene glycol, triclosan, some artificial fragrances and if it is an aerosol, then of course there are the propellents.
Then go on the skin care products, cosmetics and perfume with yet another cocktail probably including many of the above chemicals, plus perhaps some coal tar, formaldehyde, glycerine, lanolin, mineral oil, petrolatum to name some likely ingredients.
You should now be realising that this is a HUGE exposure to these chemicals. It is daily exposure (with some applications repeated several times a day), that is layer upon layer upon layer (just like Sara Lee!). It is estimated that many women absorb over 2.5 kilos of harmful chemicals per year from cosmetics and personal care products. Their men are also being affected by these via the close contact that partners usually have, with men consuming lipstick when kissing their wives or girlfriends and being exposed to synthetic fragrances in perfumes etc. Children too are affected by what mum wears through contact and of course while developing in the uterus. The blood from umbilical cords has been tested and shown to contain many harmful chemicals – this is not a good start for our children! These chemicals are premixed in the products creating even more problems and then mixed up some more within your body as you absorb the chemicals from the many different products.
The companies producing most personal care products know that these chemicals are dangerous. The chemicals come in containers with very clear warnings on them and the people working with them have to wear safety apparatus. These companies don’t care about you or your family’s health or welfare. They care about making a profit for their shareholders. Some of these companies go so far as to defend their dangerous ingredients just like the tobacco companies did until they were forced to tell the truth, and others hide them, only including the ‘nice’ ingredients on the label and hiding the rest as a ‘proprietary mixure’ which can legally be kept secret supposedly so that other companies can’t copy their formula’s. An example of this is a very well known cosmetic company who have an eye cream on which the only ingredient on the label is sweet almond oil. This cream is white, thick and has a perfume – common sense would tell anyone who thought about it that there is more in there than almond oil! When I got hold of the sales person’s manual and had a look at the confidential info with all the ingredients, propylene glycol, artificial fragrance and lots of other nasties in this eye cream. This misinformation is VERY common.
We as consumers must get educated, find companies that are doing the right thing and vote with our dollars or this will never change. Cancer rates will continue to soar, and we, our families, our children, and our planet will suffer for our ignorance and apathy. Something that most people don’t think about is that these chemicals that we are using to wash our hair and brush our teeth, are going down the drain and into our water supply affecting our wildlife, turning our boy fish, birds and frogs into girls. If we end up with too many girl fish, birds and frogs – these species (and others) will disappear!