We are surrounded by chemicals. We’re constantly eating them, breathing them, and running them on our bodies. We wash our clothes with them. We spray them in the air. We rub them in our hair and on our faces. Do we really know what the long-term affect of this chemical overload is?
Earlier this year, in Jamaica Bay, scientists did a study on an area where fish were “feminizing” (changing from male to female), and they discovered this change was due to chemicals called NPEs that had been contaminating the water. These chemicals are found in shampoos, laundry detergents, and other cleaning agents. Scientists believe these chemicals cause extreme hormonal changes, and could possibly contribute to breast, ovarian and testicular cancers. Fortunately, many companies are trying to find alternatives for NPEs, but they’re only one of the dangerous chemicals that we are exposed to every day.
Teflon, the chemical used to create nonstick coating on pans, has been found in the bloodstream of almost every American tested for the chemical. The exact dangers associated with this finding are unknown, but it is believed it is linked to cancer, liver damage, and other health problems. Scientist also are yet to figure out how exactly it is getting into our systems. Levels of the chemical have been found in fruits, vegetables, and beef, leading scientists to believe that as the products made out of Teflon age, the chemical is simply released into the environment, and that perhaps it has also made it into the air and water supply. Regardless, this is another dangerous material that we are exposed to.
A chemical used to make products flame retardant (PBDEs) was discovered in extremely high levels in the breast milk of nursing mothers. This chemical has been known to cause birth defects, thyroid problems, and neurological damage. It is used in materials like furniture padding and carpeting to make the material more flame-resistant.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that leaches out of plastics that has an estrogen-like effect. It can be found in the resin lining of food cans and baby bottles. Scientists found that the chemical, in small amounts, caused female lab mice to begin to behave like their male counterparts. It is believe that the chemical can cause recurrent miscarriages.
Americans love their air fresheners. But do you really want air that smells like stale flowers along with chance of ending up with hormonal abnormalities and reproductive problems? Phthalates are chemicals found in many popular air fresheners that cause these problems. It is unknown just how much exposure to these chemicals it takes to cause these problems, but it is recommended that women who are pregnant avoid using them. Chemicals in air fresheners have also been linked to allergies and respiratory problems. Phthalates can also be found in makeup and other cosmetic products, and may lead to earlier puberty in girls.
Speaking of makeup, aside from the recent discovery of lead in lipstick, there are many harmful chemicals mixed into what we use on our skin. There are chemicals that can cause allergic reactions, redness, breakouts, dryness, rosecea, and then there are those that are more dangerous, such as parabens, found in foundations, shampoos, anti-perspirants, and mouthwashes, to name a few products. Parabens have been linked to breast cancer and hormone disruption.
These are just a few of the hundreds of chemicals we are exposed to on a day-to-day basis. We’re exposed to so many more in our perfumes and lotions and soaps, many of which could be causing the allergy problems so many Americans deal with. We really need to do further research into chemicals before we start putting them into products that millions of people will use.
We now know things like smoking and asbestos are dangerous, but it took us awhile to come to these conclusions. It’s only a matter of time before scientists can bring forth enough evidence to get many of these chemicals banned, or at least educate the public further on their dangers. However, man is discovering new chemicals and additives every day, so there’s no telling what chemical dangers the future may bring.
The best thing we can do is use as many natural, chemical-free products as we can to try and keep these invaders out of our bodies, and hope that the exposure of the dangers of all of these chemicals leads manufactures to produce more natural, safer alternatives.