The vast majority of us are constantly being exposed to toxic chemicals of one form or another – and not just from obvious culprits like car exhaust, cigarette smoke, and pick your favorite industrial pollutant. Household items and products, including some common foods and even tap water, harbor hazardous levels of toxins that have very real health effects over time. And experts are increasingly worried about one health issue in particular: endocrine disruption.
Early studies have linked a whole host of common chemicals, including bisphenol-A (commonly called BPA), phthalates, and flame retardants, to possible endocrine system damage. What is particularly insidious about these toxins is that they mess with the body's natural hormone production, which can lead to a host of varied complications affecting everything from the thyroid to testosterone to sperm count.
To combat the problem, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) just released its Dirty Dozen List of Endocrine Disruptors, outlining 12 of the worst offending chemicals. Odds are high that many of these toxins are lurking in your house and office now. Here's where you'll find them and how to limit your exposure.
Canned foods and plastic containers
Almost all cans that preserve food and many plastic food containers are lined with BPA, a chemical used to keep the metal or plastic intact to protect the food inside. "BPA leeches into foods over time, and even faster when the food is heated up," says Renée Sharp, director of research at EWG.
That's a big problem, Sharp says. "BPA has been linked to so many different potential health effects – cancer, reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty, heart disease," she explains. "New studies come out every week that either underscore these concerns or implicate BPA in new health effects." And even though our systems flush out BPA fairly quickly (whereas many other hormone disruptors build up in the body), we're constantly being exposed because it's found in so many items we use every day.
To avoid BPA, Sharp suggests avoiding canned food whenever possible and doing your homework to find the few companies, like Eden Foods, that now offer BPA-free cans. Also steer clear of food packaged in plastic with a recycling code 7, which usually means it contains BPA. And although reusable plastic bottles used to be big sources of BPA, more and more brands are ousting the chemical, so it's become easy to find a bottle without it.
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