endocrine disruptors

  1. Phthalates found in organic foods

    Avoiding BPA & phthalates is harder than it seems

    If you want to know how tough it is to lower your levels of BPA and phthalates, just take a look at what happened when 10 families were actually given some help avoiding these hormone-like chemicals.

    Half were given a handout on the best ways to reduce exposure -- including not putting plastic food containers in the microwave and avoiding canned goods.

    Five days later, they had no changes in their BPA and phthalate levels -- a big disappointment since these chemicals have been linked to obesity, diabetes, developmental problems, sexual dysfunction, and more.

    The rest of the families hit the research equivalent of the jackpot: They were given handcrafted organic meals carefully prepared from scratch by a caterer who didn't cook, store, or serve the food in plastic.

    Sounds good, right?

    I'm sure it tasted good, too -- but five days later, these families actually saw their levels of one common phthalate skyrocket by 25 times. And in children, daily levels of exposure were 9 times higher than the safe limit recommended by the EPA.

    Adding insult to injury, their BPA levels actually rose slightly, too.

    Since their levels returned to normal when they went back to their regular everyday diets, the exposure must've come from the fresh organic foods -- so researchers tested the ingredients used in those meals.

    And -- surprise! -- they found high levels of phthalates in organic dairy products, including milk, butter, cream, and cheese, as well as in spices such as cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and ground coriander.

    In the case of dairy, it seems the phthalate contamination came from the plastic tubes and such used when cows are milked. The fats in dairy do a pretty good job of absorbing phthalates, so all it takes is that brief exposure for moo juice to turn into a chemical cocktail.

    The spices were harder to trace, but the best guess is that they were also contaminated during the manufacturing process.

    Since most of the exposure came from those sources, I have a two-step solution (in addition to the usual advice about avoiding packaged foods and plastics):

    First, avoid dairy. We weren't designed to drink the milk of another creature anyway, and it shows in the high number of dairy sensitivities and allergies we see.

    Try organic nut milks instead of regular milk.

    Second, make sure your spices are as fresh as the rest of your food -- because a little pinch of contamination can wreck your whole meal, and you'll never even know it.

    For another reason to avoid BPA, keep reading.

  2. Cosmetic chemical linked to diabetes risk

    Your perfume is giving you diabetes

    Most people don't need any help getting diabetes -- it's a condition you can get easily enough on your own.

    But you could be getting a big boost anyway, and not from your diet alone.

    Phthalates are chemicals found all over the home. But since they're especially common in cosmetics and perfumes, women get some of the highest levels of exposure -- and they face some of the highest risks as a result.

    Now, a new study of 2,350 women finds that those with the highest levels of two common phthalates -- mono-benzyl phthalate and mono-isobutyl phthalate -- have almost double the risk of diabetes when compared to women with the lowest levels.

    But you don't need high levels of exposure to face high risks.

    Women who simply have above-average levels of another phthalate, called mono-(3-carboxypropyl) phthalate, have a 60 percent higher risk of diabetes than those with lower levels.

    And women with moderately high levels of mono-n-butyl phthalate and di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate have a 70 percent increase in risk, according to the data in Environmental Health Perspectives.

    Don't waste your time trying to remember all those chemical names. Just remember that phthalates as a class are known endocrine disrupters linked to a long and growing list of serious health problems. So far, studies have linked them to cancer, weight gain, thyroid problems, and more.

    And since they mimic estrogen inside the body, they can feminize men, cause breast growth in boys, and early puberty in girls.

    They've also been linked to asthma, and another new study makes the connection again in children, finding that kids with the highest levels of these chemicals have higher levels of inflammation in the airways.

    Clearly, it's important to keep these chemicals away from everyone in your family -- especially the youngest members of your household.

    But it's getting harder than ever to accomplish that.

    Like I said earlier, they're all over your home -- in your cosmetics, shampoo, and even your flooring. Until recently, they were in children's toys. And one recent study even found high levels of them in new backpacks and lunchboxes featuring popular children's characters.

    Cutting your exposure is going to take some doing -- but I'd say it's worth the effort.

    One easy place for women to start: Replace chemical perfumes with essential oils.

  3. Household chemicals linked to early menopause

    BPA isn't the only common chemical that could be ruining your health - the very ingredients that add so much convenience to modern life could also cause early menopause.

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