Not all of these come from the food chain either as they are to be found in common products such as non-stick cookware, processed foods and personal care products. A new study at the University of California San Francisco analyzed data for 163 chemicals, the first time sujch a study has been attempted.
The researchers detected all of these:
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which is an industrial chemical linked to cancer and impaired foetal brain development. It is a persistent organic pollutant that’s still present in the environment, despite its use being banned for decades.
Organochlorine pesticides are insecticides, found in the now-banned toxin DDT. Residues are common in food supplies, and the toxins break down slowly and build up in the fatty tissues where they remain in the body for long periods of time. Linked to cancer, neurological damage, Parkinson’s disease, birth defects, respiratory illness, and abnormal immune system function. Many are also known hormone disrupters that may lead to reproductive and immune system damage to the developing foetus.
Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are found in non-stick cookware and have been linked to lower birth weights among newborns.
Phenols are found in personal care products and household detergents and studies have linked phenols to damage to the respiratory and circulatory systems and damage to the liver, kidneys and eyes. They’re also known endocrine disrupters that can harm the endocrine system, reproduction and fertility.
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame retardant chemicals used in household goods including televisions, computers, toasters and even sofas. They disrupt mechanisms that are responsible for releasing hormones in the body, and also alter calcium signaling in the brain, which is a critical mechanism for learning and memory.
Phthalates are carcinogenic chemicals and seriously of concern if you are expecting a boy, as they are also potent endocrine disrupters. Exposure to them during pregnancy can lead to incomplete testicular descent in the foetus. Commonly found in vinyl flooring, detergents, automotive plastics, soap, shampoo, deodorants, fragrances, hair spray, nail polish, plastic bags, food packaging and garden hoses.
Perchlorates are salts derived from perchloric acid, which are used in the defence and pyrotechnics industries so you may not think they are of immediate concern to you. However, the military in the US has used perchlorate since the early 1900’s and as most perchlorate salts are water soluble they can contaminate land and water over a very wide area. Perchlorate is known to disrupt thyroid function and hormone production by inhibiting the thyroid gland’s iodine uptake. At high doses perchlorates may affect fetal development, so the mother’s toxic load can place an unborn child at risk.
A topic I have mentioned before is the growing health concerns associated with Bisphenol A (BPA), which makes plastic hard and clear, and is found in epoxy resins that are used to line the inside of metal food and beverage cans. This was identified in 96 percent of the women surveyed and is an endocrine disrupter that can lead to chromosomal errors in the developing fetus, triggering spontaneous miscarriages and genetic damage as well as adverse health outcomes, affecting brain development and increasing susceptibility to cancer later in life.
The Impact on Children
The sad truth is that you cannot avoid exposure to chemicals as they are everywhere: in food, water, air and personal care products as well as in your home and workplace.
We have seen over the past few years that the rapid increase in many chronic childhood diseases has been linked to exposure to toxic chemicals in the environment. Experts believe rising rates of birth defects, asthma, neuro-developmental disorders and other serious diseases in U.S. children are a result of these early chemical exposures.
Unbelievably, a study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that blood samples from newborns contained an average of 287 toxins, including mercury, fire retardants, pesticides, and Teflon chemicals. The same study reported that in the month leading up to birth, the umbilical cord transfers the equivalent of at least 300 quarts of blood from the placenta to the developing child — and this blood will contain a toxic load of chemicals similar to those found in the mother.
Practical Measures to Limit Chemical Intake
There are some very simple measures you can take to limit your exposure. As we have seen it is impossible to avoid it altogether but this would be a good place to start.
1. Avoid all plastics, use glass containers for food and for bottled water.
2. Find the most natural cleaning products you can, found usually in health stores, not in supermarkets. Check the labels and go back to old fashioned cleaners like vinegar and avoid artificial products like air fresheners and fabric softeners with their synthetic fragrances.
3. Go organic and free range for your food and beverages, especially meat, milk and fish. Try to avoid or seriously limit your intake of processed food, and eliminate sweeteners.
4. Use glass and ceramic pots and pans, not non-stick.
5. Go natural for your skincare and toiletries, particularly shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics. Get rid of your plastic shower curtain and switch to a glass screen or cotton panel.
6. If decorating the nursery, or anywhere else, switch to green, toxin-free alternatives for paint and floor coverings.
7. If you use commercial pesticides or insect repellants then look for safe, effective and natural alternatives.