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.
Lotion, shampoo, and shaving cream can all contain any number of toxic chemicals. But phthalates are among the most common, and alarming. "Phthalates are especially concerning for men, because they've been linked to low sperm count, malformed sperm, and thyroid irregularities," Sharp says. The problem is phthalates typically aren't listed as an ingredient on grooming products, and so they sneak in under the radar, usually as a component of synthetic fragrances. If your favorite aftershave lists fragrance on the back of the bottle, err on the side of caution and ditch it; go instead with an unscented option or one that uses natural scents.
Antibacterial products, including deodorant, hand soap, and toothpaste, can also contain triclosan (or its chemical cousin, triclocarbon), a synthetic antimicrobial that wreaks havoc on the endocrine system and has been tied to low testosterone levels, according to Sass. More manufacturers are moving away from triclosan – Proctor & Gamble promised to remove it from all products by 2014 – since this toxin sticks around in the body for a long time.
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