'Everywhere' chemicals in new disease links

You can't see them, feel them, smell them or even taste them -- but there's a good chance you're rubbing toxic chemicals onto your skin and even putting them in your mouth every single day.

They're the "everywhere chemicals" used in everything from soaps to cosmetics to food containers, and new research shows new dangers for two of the most common ones.

Let me start with the one you haven't heard too much about.

It's called triclosan, and it's a pesticide used to make products resistant to bacteria. You'll find it in antibacterial soap, of course, but you'll also find it in many of the products with the word "antibacterial" or "antiseptic" on the package -- and that includes everything from bedding and clothing to toys and toothpaste.

Sounds convenient, right? Of course it is -- but all that convenience comes at a terrible price, as new research finds that triclosan could prevent the brain from communicating with muscle, including the crucial muscles that power your heart.

In one set of experiments on mice, researchers found that exposure to triclosan reduced heart function by 25 percent and grip strength by 18 percent. In another set of experiments, fish in water laced with triclosan swam slower.

By itself, the study is worrisome. But when you consider the rest of research on triclosan, it's positively alarming -- because other studies have found it can mimic the thyroid hormone and alter thyroid function as a result.

That's bad news when you consider that up to 75 percent of us have measurable levels of triclosan pumping through our bodies right now, according to CDC estimates.

But of course, that's not the only dangerous "everywhere chemical." Bisphenol-A is the one that usually gets most of the press, and for good reason: It's the most dangerous of the lot.

We're learning of new risks linked to BPA almost every day, and the risk du jour is a narrowing of the arteries -- a condition that could cause serious heart problems and even death.

British researchers examined close to 600 men and women and found that those with the most clogged-up arteries had 20 percent more BPA in their urine than those with healthy arteries, according to the study in PLoS One.

BPA is of course used in the packaging of the worst processed foods and canned goods, including soda, so it's quite likely that a lousy diet high in packaged foods is also playing a big role here.

But since other studies have consistently linked BPA exposure to heart disease, I think it's also very likely that the chemical itself is also damaging those arteries. Throw in the fact that BPA has been linked to obesity, developmental problems, sexual dysfunction, and more, and I say it's time to stop waiting to see what tomorrow's risk will be.

Take action today to limit exposure.

One study last year found that switching to a diet of natural fresh foods and using only metal and glass for food storage cut BPA levels by 60 percent over three days.

That's not 100 percent, but it's a good start. And while you're at it, don't forget to ditch the antibacterial soap.