Toxins are any substances that damage the human body. About 85,000 synthetic chemicals are registered in the United States (1). 1,000 or more new chemicals are made annually (1). Only 5% of them have been tested for their effects on human health (1)! We know all about the toxins in our soil, GMOs and processed foods. But cleaning up your diet isn’t enough. Environmental toxins lurk in unsuspecting places and cause devastating issues like cancer and infertility. It’s time to get serious, because these problems continue getting worse.
Toxins can be categorized either as heavy metals, petrochemicals, xenoestrogens, or pesticides. Xenoestrogens are referred to as “endocrine disruptors,” which means they can alter our hormones! They have estrogen-like effects where they act like estrogen would in our body. That contributes to “estrogen dominance” or excess estrogen. They impact our hormones in other ways too, like increasing or decreasing production, imitating the way they act in the body, and interfering with hormone signaling. They can also compete with, or bind to, essential nutrients in our bodies, which impacts our nutritional status.
Individual factors like environmental toxin exposure, diet, and lifestyle all impact how well someone excretes the toxins to which we’re exposed. All environmental toxins are fat-soluble, which means we store them in our fat cells. If your body cannot detox well, it can create a build-up of toxins in the body. Eventually, this increases our risk for toxicity symptoms and disease.
Know the Difference
Confusion exists between xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant-derived. They’re natural xenoestrogens that are chemically different with a reduced effect. You need not eliminate them; some may even be beneficial. Those with estrogen related cancers should monitor intake, frequency and quantity of phytoestrogen foods. Flax, yams, sage, red clover, and soy products naturally contain estrogen. Fermented soy foods are better choices, like tempeh. Avoid excess soy and conventional soy products.
The “Dirty Dozen” of Xenoestrogens (2-8):
- This environmental toxin mimics estrogen in our body. It has been linked to cancer (particularly breast), reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty, and early heart disease.
- Found in: hard plastic food containers (baby bottles, reusable cups, plastic dishes, pizza boxes), receipt paper, dental sealants, recycled toilet paper, and the lining of metal food and beverage cans (soda cans, canned foods, canned liquid infant formula).
- According to government tests, 92% of Americans have BPA in their bodies.
- Disrupt the sex hormone signaling in both males and females. This impacts sperm quality and reproduction. Also a carcinogen, which promotes cancer. They also impact our immune and reproductive systems.
- Found in: unfortunately a lot of our food supply. Due to the consistent industrial release, it builds up as we go up the food chain. Products such as meat, fish, milk, eggs, and butter are the most likely contaminated.
- Linked to breast tumors, delayed puberty, and prostate inflammation in animals. Some research has linked it to prostate cancer in people.
- Found in: the majority of corn crops from the United States. Also in our drinking water.
- Can trigger cell death in testicular cells, lower sperm count, make sperm less mobile, and cause birth defects in the male reproductive system. Also linked to hormone changes, obesity, diabetes, and thyroid irregularities.
- Found in: large majority of plastic packaging (food packaging, shower curtains, children’s toys, and other common items).
- It can get into the foods when it is exposed to fats and oils- so think about that hot food when you order takeout, yikes!
- Interferes with thyroid hormone production by competing with iodine. High levels alter thyroid hormone balance. These are important to regulate metabolism. Critical for brain and organ development in children.
- Found in: water, bologna, salami and milk.
- Did you know that perchlorate is also a component in rocket fuel?
- Able to imitate and disrupt thyroid hormones, leading to lower IQ levels and other significant health effects.
- Found in: flame retardants used in plastics, foams, building materials, electronics, upholstered furnishings (car seats, couches, mattresses), padding under old carpets.
- Harms almost every organ system in the body. Linked to a broad range of health issues (brain, reproduction, kidneys, nervous system, etc.). This environmental toxin disrupts hormones involved with the body’s major stress system.
- Found in: old paint, water, bright plastic toys from China, dust, soil, car batteries, radiators, some ink, older mini blinds, ceramic glazes, crystal.
- In smaller doses can cause certain cancers (skin, bladder, lung). Interferes with hormone signaling. Specifically hormones that regulate how our bodies process sugars and carbohydrates. In large doses it is fatal.
- Found in: water and soil, which means our food supply.
- Did you know it is banned in other countries?
- Can bind directly to a hormone involved in women’s menstrual cycles and ovulation. In pregnant women it can concentrate in the fetal brain and interfere with development. Also plays a role in diabetes by damaging the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
- Found in: air, ocean, seafood.
- Linked to decreased sperm quality, low birth weight, kidney disease, thyroid disease, and high cholesterol.
- Found in: nonstick cookware, stain and water-resistant coatings (clothes, furniture, carpets).
- Resistant to biodegradation, meaning it never breaks down.
- Interferes with communication between testosterone and cells. Lowers testosterone levels, and alters thyroid hormone levels. Also linked to effects on brain development, behavior, and fertility.
- Found in: produce.
- One of the most common pesticides used. Another reason to buy organic!
- Can impact fertility. Some studies have linked continued exposure to blood abnormalities, lower sperm counts, more asthma and allergies (8).
- Found in: solvents in paints, cleaning products, brake fluid, cosmetics.
Tips on Reducing/Eliminating Xenoestrogen Exposure
- Choose organic and high quality meats. Avoid commercial meats, dairy, and products that contain bovine growth hormone
- Go for fresh foods instead of canned
- Drink and shower in only filtered water. Use reverse-osmosis filtered water or filter your own water
- Switch to clean laundry products
- Use a simple detergent with less chemicals or make your own
- Air out fresh dry cleaning or find a “green” dry cleaner
- Use white vinegar or dryer balls to replace dryer sheets and fabric softeners
- Use essential oils or soy based candles instead of commercial air fresheners
- Transition beauty products (shampoos, lotions, soaps, cosmetics, toothpaste) to non-toxic alternatives
- Phone Apps: Think Dirty
- Websites: Environmental Working Group (“Skin Deep”), EcoWatch
- Avoid heating plastic or drinking out of plastic cups and containers. Use glass or ceramics whenever possible to store food
- Use natural pest control and organic soil (in gardens and in home plants). Avoid use of pesticides, synthetic chemicals, and herbicides
- Avoid plastic children’s toys and plastic wrap
- Consider using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to cut down on toxic house dust
- Johns LE, Ferguson KK, Meeker JD. Relationships Between Urinary Phthalate Metabolite and Bisphenol A Concentrations and Vitamin D Levels in U.S. Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2005–2010. J CLIN ENDOCR METAB. 2016;101(11):4062–4069. DOI: 10.1210/jc.2016-2134
- Chevrier J, Harley K, Bradman A, Gharbi M, Sjodin A, Eskenazi B. “Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants and thyroid hormone during pregnancy.” Environ Health Perspect. 2010; 118:1444-1449.