I kicked off this series of blogs about hormone disruptors with a look at the endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in food. (See that blog here.) Hormone disruptors are important from a puberty educator’s perspective because of the widespread effects they’re having on puberty starting earlier in children. In this post I want to talk about some of the hormone disruptors in our everyday environment.
When I say everyday environment, that definitely includes the environment in the sense of the water in our oceans and the air we breathe, but I specifically want to address the things we have a bit more control over– the cleaning products we use in our homes and on our bodies, the cosmetics we wear and the materials / fabrics we come in contact with.
I have the good fortune to teach my parent / child classes designed to open healthy dialogues that carry families through puberty (and beyond) in the homes of parents who go the extra mile to invest in their children’s mental, emotional, physical and psychological health. Even in the most conscientiously designed homes, I see products that contain hormone disruptors. This isn’t surprising, as they are used in an overwhelming variety of products, and it takes a lot of education and label reading to avoid them.
A few especially common EDCs you might find in your home are:
Brominated Flame Retardants and Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), found in electronics and building materials
Triclosan, found in anti-bacterial soaps, cleaning products and Colgate Total
Perfluorochemicals, found in some textiles and cookware
Phthalates, Parabens and UV Filters, found in personal care products and sunscreen
Personally, when I look at that list I feel a little like throwing my hands up at how hard it is to get it right. The flame retardants used to protect us from house fires, anti-bacterials intended to reduce the spread of disease and sunscreen we’ve been slathering on ourselves and our children to protect us from developing skin cancer might also be doing us harm? How do we win?
The good news is that there are fairly simple alternatives to a lot of these things, and that you can either do a big sweep of your home today or a gradual overhaul and still see a reduction in hormone disruptors in your environment. Here are three easy steps to take:
Swap out any anti-bacterial soaps or cleaners in your home for simpler alternatives. The Minnesota Department of Health says: “Antibacterial soaps are no more effective than plain soap and water for killing disease-causing germs outside of health care settings. There is no evidence that antibacterial soaps are more effective than plain soap for preventing infection under most circumstances in the home or in public places.” If you aren’t ready to start making your own soap and mixing your own home cleaners out of baking soda and vinegar, Seventh Generation is widely available and consistently makes the lists of healthiest cleaning products.
When you’re buying new things for your home and for the kids, look for indications of fire retardants. If they aren’t clearly labeled, either do a little research online or contact the manufacturer to find out if they’ve been treated with them– or just keep shopping for a cleaner alternative.
Read labels. I’m happy to see how many products are clear about excluding phthalates and parabens now. If the shampoo, conditioner, etc. that you’re about to buy doesn’t say clearly that they don’t use them, read the ingredients before buying.
If you have any more tips or stories from your own personal experience, I hope you’ll share them with me privately or in the comments on this post.
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