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Hormone Disruptors
By Rosalind Haney, RN, CCN

There is growing evidence that many adult diseases have an embryonic/fetal origin. In other words, your susceptibility to asthma, cancer, diabetes, infertility, and obesity may have been triggered before conception (effects on the egg/sperm) and in the womb. How does this happen?

The hormonal messages responsible for embryonic/fetal development come from inside the body. However, what we are witnessing now is that our bodies are getting messages from outside sources and, often, they are the wrong messages.

Hormone disruptors are man-made chemicals such as fuels, pesticides, heavy metals, detergents and plastics that might mimic, alter, or block our natural hormones. In doing so they create hormone imbalance, which may affect sexual development, physical growth, metabolism, mental process, reproduction and many aspects of fetal development. That imbalance may have a permanent effect on fetal development AND may be passed on to the next generation.

The encouraging news is that most scientists strongly agree that hormone disruptors alter gene expression, rather than cause gene mutation. What makes altered gene expression far more hopeful than gene mutation is that genetic expression can be influenced by diet, lifestyle and environmental health.

This leads us to the most hopeful news of all. Eighty percent to ninety percent of our exposure to toxic chemicals comes from the food we eat and from the indoor environment where we live and work, not from the nearest toxic waste site.

Thus, you do have the power to minimize your contact with hormone-disrupting chemicals before you become pregnant to protect the life-long health of your child.

Ten Ways to Minimize Your Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

1. Ventilate, Ventilate, Ventilate! Open windows a crack for an hour or two every few days. Airtight homes allow toxic fumes and pesticides to accumulate to very high levels, as they do not have the exposure of wind, rain and sun to break them down and make them less harmful.

2. Keep dust (containing pesticides and lead) outside of your house. Sweep the doorway twice a week, place a commercial-grade doormat inside and outside of each door leading into your house or remove your shoes (the first few steps on carpet remove 95% of contaminated dust into your carpet!). Dust and vacuum twice a week. [Active vacuuming increases dust kickoff for several hours. Ventilate and do not vacuum in the presence of children. A HEPA filter vacuum will remove 99.9% of dust particles. Normal vacuuming removes only 5-15%.]

3. Use only natural pesticides inside, outside, and on your pets. Pesticides work against any organism. Exposure during pregnancy can be passed to your child, increasing the risk of cancer and impairing mental and physical abilities. There are safer alternatives.

4. Use natural cleaning supplies. Avoid the most toxic offenders, which are oven & drain cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, and any extra strength cleaners. Do not store any chemicals near heat or hot water pipes, which may volatize compounds into the air you breathe. Also, get proper guidance on how to protect yourself when remodeling your home.

5. Avoid fragrances in personal care products, candles, cleaning agents, and laundry detergents. Even if the fragrance is benign, it can react with the ozone to form formaldehyde. [National Geographic Oct 2006 “The Pollution Within”]

6. **Avoid plastics as much as possible. Phthalates and Bisphenol-A have strong estrogen-like effects and are known to disrupt reproductive development in animals and humans.

  • Do not heat food in plastic containers or with plastic wrap covering them.
  • Store food in glass or ceramic containers.
  • Avoid plastic cling wrap or minimize its direct contact with food.
  • Drink from glass containers whenever possible.
  • Do not use soft plastic cutting boards.
  • Carry cloth bags to the grocery store or remove your produce from plastic bags once home.
  • Use an organic fiber shower curtain instead of plastic.
  • Avoid cooking with Teflon. If you must, use lower temps and never heat an empty pan (oil, liquid or food reduces the temperature and the release of toxic gases).

7. Use natural/organic cosmetics and grooming products free of phthalates and parabens. [The average American uses 25 different personal care products daily, containing 200 chemicals. Count yours.] Replace mercury thermometers with digital. Mercury thermometers are the greatest exposure risk of this neurotoxin in children.

8. Use chemical-free dry cleaning services – “wet cleaning”. Perchloroethylene used in standard dry cleaning is a known carcinogen, attacks the central nervous system, and is a hormone disruptor. It takes removing the plastic immediately and airing clothing one week (preferably in a garage or porch) to reduce most toxic residues in standard dry cleaning.

9. Garages accumulate some of the nastier heavy metal toxins (mercury, cadmium, and benzene from gas fumes). Keep your garage door open for an hour after you pull your car in or park outside to allow the car to cool before pulling it into the garage. Never idle a car in the garage.

10. Food and drink checklist:

  • All high-fat foods (butter, cheese, milk, meats) should be “certified organic” to avoid the hormone disrupting chemicals that accumulate in fat.
  • For the safest seafood think small and wild. Short-lived species such as sardines, shrimp, crab, salmon, catfish, cod, flounder, pollock and tilapia generally have low amounts of mercury.
  • Wash all produce and eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and veggies for their nutrients, antioxidants and fiber for detoxification.
  • Keep your diet low in processed oils, hydrogenated oils and animal fats.
  • Have fewer processed foods, which contain a multitude of food additives and harmful fats. Instead have more whole foods that you prepare.
  • Use filtered water.
Recommended Reading:

Hormone Deception by D. Lindsey Berkson
Our Stolen Future by Theo Colburn
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity by Pamela Gibson

Recommended Websites: Washington Toxics Coalition offers free fact sheets on protecting yourself and your children from toxic exposures. List of foods lowest in pesticides and fish lowest in mercury. Environmentally responsible health care. Information on cosmetics and personal care products. Austin providers of toxic-free home, lawn, pet, remodeling and construction products and information. Austin providers of non-toxic dry-cleaning.

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