Ten Retailers Urged to Discontinue Potentially Toxic Products
To tackle the problem of toxic chemical exposures, health and environmental groups are launching a national campaign aimed at 10 major retailers, urging them to discontinue the sale of products containing potentially toxic materials and develop a plan to phase out the use of the listed chemicals within the next 12 months.
Nearly four dozen groups have signed on for the campaign, including the Breast Cancer Fund and the Union of Concerned Scientists. The retailers targeted include Kroger, Walgreens, Home Depot, CVS Caremark, Lowe’s, Best Buy and Safeway. More than 100 chemicals are listed on the Campaign’s phase out list, and these chemicals can be found in hundreds, if not thousands, of products, including:
- Vinyl flooring
- Wrinkle-free fabrics
- Personal care products
- Stain-resistant fabrics and furniture
- Food packaging
Common Chemicals to Avoid
Some of the most well-known chemical hazards that most people are exposed to on a daily basis include:
- BPA and BPS: Bisphenol-A (BPA) can be found in a wide variety of plastic products, such as water bottles, microwaveable plates, tooth sealants, canned foods, and baby toys. It’s a potent endocrine disruptor that can also interfere with your thyroid hormones. Brain damage, decreased intelligence, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism were also found to be potential side effects.California recently added BPA to its “dangerous chemicals” list, which means any product using the chemical will likely be required to include a warning label.
Bisphenol-S (BPS) has been shown to have estrogenic activity comparable to estradiol, the most potent human estrogen. It’s also capable of enhancing estradiol-mediated cell signaling, making it a particularly potent endocrine disruptor. Furthermore, recent research has shown BPS can induce apoptosis (cell death) and interfere with cellular secretion of prolactin (PRL)—a hormone that regulates hundreds of biological functions, including metabolism, reproduction and lactation.
- Phthalates: Another chemical used in the manufacturing of plastics is phthalates, which make plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible and resilient. They’re also one of the most pervasive endocrine disrupters so far discovered. These chemicals have increasingly become associated with changes in the development of the male brain as well as with genital defects, metabolic abnormalities and reduced testosterone in babies and adults.
- PFOA: Non-stick cookware is the primary source of dangerous perfluorinated chemicals (PFOAs), which have been linked to cancer, birth defects and thyroid disease. I highly recommend you throw away your non-stick cookware immediately and replace it with either ceramic or glass. My personal choice is ceramic cookware, because it’s very durable and easy to clean, and there’s virtually no risk of exposure to harmful chemicals.
- Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde, most commonly known as embalming fluid, serves a number of purposes in manufactured products. It is actually frequently used in fabrics to give them a variety of “easy care properties” as well as being a common component of pressed-wood products. Formaldehyde has been shown to cause cancer in animals, and may cause cancer in humans. Other common adverse health effects include fatigue, skin rashes, and allergic reactions. Choosing all natural materials for your clothing and furniture can help cut down on your exposure.
- PBDEs: These flame-retardant chemicals have been linked to altered thyroid levels, decreased fertility and numerous problems with development when exposure occurs in utero. PBDEs are commonly found in household items like upholstery and television and computer housings. Fortunately, several states now ban the use of PBDEs, so there is some progress toward reducing exposure.Another common source of PBDEs is your mattress, and since you can spend up to a third of your life in bed, this is a significant health concern. Mattress manufacturers are not required to label or disclose which chemicals their mattresses contain. Look for 100 percent wool, toxin-free mattresses. Another viable option is to look for a mattress that uses a Kevlar, bullet-proof type of material in lieu of chemicals for fire-proofing. Stearns and Foster uses this process for their mattresses, which is sufficient to pass fire safety standards.
What Can You do to Reduce Unnecessary Chemical Exposure to Your Family?
Rather than compile an endless list of what you should avoid, it’s far easier to focus on what you should do to lead a healthy lifestyle with as minimal a chemical exposure as possible:
- As much as possible, buy and eat organic produce and free-range, organic foods to reduce your exposure to pesticides and fertilizers.
- Rather than eating conventional or farm-raised fish, which are often heavily contaminated with PCBs and mercury, supplement with a high-quality purified krill oil, or eat fish that is wild-caught and lab tested for purity.
- Eat mostly raw, fresh foods, steering clear of processed, prepackaged foods of all kinds. This way you automatically avoid artificial food additives, including dangerous artificial sweeteners, food coloring and MSG.
- Store your food and beverages in glass rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap and canned foods (which are often lined with BPA-containing liners).
- Have your tap water tested and, if contaminants are found, install an appropriate water filter on all your faucets (even those in your shower or bath).
- Only use natural cleaning products in your home.
- Switch over to natural brands of toiletries such as shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics. The Environmental Working Group has a great database to help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals. I also offer one of the highest quality organic skin care lines, shampoo and conditioner, and body butter that are completely natural and safe.
- Avoid using artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners or other synthetic fragrances.
- Replace your Teflon pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware or a safe nonstick pan.
- When redoing your home, look for “green,” toxin-free alternatives in lieu of regular paint and vinyl floor coverings.
- Replace your vinyl shower curtain with one made of fabric, or install a glass shower door. Most all flexible plastics, like shower curtains, contain dangerous plasticizers like phthalates.
- Limit your use of drugs (prescription and over-the-counter) as much as possible. Drugs are chemicals too, and they will leave residues and accumulate in your body over time.
- Avoid spraying pesticides around your home or insect repellents that contain DEET on your body. There are safe, effective and natural alternatives out there.
Limiting Chemical Exposure is Important for Optimal Health
A typical American comes in regular contact with some 6,000 chemicals and an untold number of potentially toxic substances on a less frequent basis. Disturbingly, many of them have never been fully tested for safety. To protect your health, it’s important to make these positive and gradual steps toward decreasing your chemical exposure.
While you make the switch to remove and reduce chemicals around your home, remember that one of the ways to significantly reduce your toxic load is to pay careful attention to what you eat. Organically-grown, biodynamic whole foods, along with fermented foods, are really the key to success here, and, as an added bonus, when you eat right, you’re also optimizing your body’s natural detoxification system, which can help eliminate toxins your body encounters from other sources.
Environmental pollution is a massive problem, but for most there aren’t many immediate solutions to address it. Your time is better spent focusing on your environment; your home, and all the products you use or come in contact with on a daily basis. Cleaning that up can go a long way to reduce your toxic load, and hence decrease your risk of chemical-induced health problems.