Chemical Toxins

Chemical Toxins

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    Shrunken testicles: Do we have your attention now? This is one thing that can happen to rats exposed to chemicals called glycol ethers, which are common solvents in paints, cleaning products, brake fluid and cosmetics. Worried? You should be. The European Union says that some of these chemicals “may damage fertility or the unborn child.” Studies of painters have linked exposure to certain glycol ethers to blood abnormalities and lower sperm counts. And children who were exposed to glycol ethers from paint in their bedrooms had substantially more asthma and allergies.

    How to avoid it? For starters, avoid products with ingredients such as 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME). Potent chemicals found in spray products such as air fresheners, glass cleaners and furniture cleaning sprays can cause asthma and other health problems.
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    The perfluorinated chemicals used to make non-stick cookware can stick to you. Perfluorochemicals are so widespread and extraordinarily persistent that 99% of Americans have these chemicals in their bodies. One particularly notorious compound called PFOA has been shown to be “completely resistant to biodegradation.” In other words, PFOA doesn’t break down in the environment -- ever. That means that even though the chemical was banned after decades of use, it will be showing up in people’s bodies for countless generations to come. This is worrisome since PFOA exposure has been linked to decreased sperm quality, low birth weight, kidney disease, thyroid disease and high cholesterol, among other health issues. Scientists are still figuring out how PFOA affects the human body, but animal studies have found that it can affect thyroid and sex hormone levels.

    How to avoid it? Skip non-stick pans as well as stain and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture and carpets.
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    You can reduce perchlorate in your drinking water by installing a reverse osmosis filter. As for food, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid perchlorate, but you can reduce its potential effects by making sure you get enough iodine in your diet. Eating iodized salt is one good way.
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    Who needs food tainted with rocket fuel? That’s right, perchlorate, a component in rocket fuel, contaminates much of our produce and milk. When perchlorate gets into your body it competes with the nutrient iodine, which the thyroid gland needs to make thyroid hormones. Basically, this means that if you ingest too much of it you can end up altering your thyroid hormone balance. This is important because it’s these hormones that regulate metabolism in adults and are critical for proper brain and organ development in infants and young children.
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    AAlan Greene, MD, Pediatrics, answered
    Dr. Alan Greene - How can I avoid exposure to phthalates?
    You can avoid exposure to phthalates in your food by avoiding high-fat dairy products, avoiding meat/poultry and eating lots of organic produce. Watch me discuss why the less contact food has with plastics, the better. 
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    What happens when you introduce highly toxic chemicals into nature and turn your back? For one thing, feminization of male frogs. That’s right, researchers have found that exposure to even low levels of the herbicide atrazine can turn male frogs into females that produce completely viable eggs. Atrazine is widely used on the majority of corn crops in the United States, and consequently it’s a pervasive drinking water contaminant. Atrazine has been linked to breast tumors, delayed puberty and prostate inflammation in animals, and some research has linked it to prostate cancer in people.

    How to avoid it? Buy organic produce and get a drinking water filter certified to remove atrazine.
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    It's pretty difficult to avoid exposure to dioxins since the ongoing industrial release of dioxin has meant that the American food supply is widely contaminated. Products including meat, fish, milk, eggs and butter are most likely to be contaminated. However, you can cut down on your exposure by eating fewer animal products.
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    Dioxins are multi-taskers -- but not in a good way! They form during many industrial processes when chlorine or bromine are burned in the presence of carbon and oxygen. Dioxins can disrupt the delicate ways that both male and female sex hormone signaling occurs in the body. This is a bad thing! Here’s why: Research has shown that exposure to low levels of dioxin in the womb and early in life can both permanently affect sperm quality and lower the sperm count in men during their prime reproductive years. But that’s not all. Dioxins are very long-lived. They build up both in the body and in the food chain, are powerful carcinogens, and can also affect the immune and reproductive systems.
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    AUCLA Health answered
    Janet Pregler, M.D., director of the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women’s Health Center encourages women to recognize that there are numerous potentially harmful chemicals in cosmetic products, for example, that have been found to be measurable in blood -- among them phthalates, bisphenol A, lead and cadmium. “We worry about whether a pregnant woman should take a Tylenol, but she might be using 10 or 15 beauty products a day containing chemicals about which we don’t know the effects,” Dr. Pregler says.

    “The reproductive system is resilient -- it’s important not to feel that it’s impossible to have a successful pregnancy,” she notes. “The vast majority of women will have healthy outcomes even in conditions where there may be toxins. But we are always looking to reduce the risk, and these chemicals need to be part of that equation.”
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    AUCLA Health answered
    Janet Pregler, M.D., director of the Iris Cantor-UCLA Women’s Health Center, notes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration follows a rigorous process to ensure that drugs are safe before they are approved for public use, but no similar process is in place to ensure the safety of chemicals released into the environment. Chemical production in the United States has increased 20-fold since World War II, and the number of chemicals used commercially is up more than 30 percent in the last three decades. “It’s well recognized that air pollution can cause respiratory problems, but less appreciated is the fact that toxins in our environment get into our bodies and stay there for years,” Dr. Pregler says.