Reduce Your Environmental Chemical Exposure

There are over 87,000 industrial chemicals on the market today.  Only about 200 of them have been tested to be sure that they are safe when it comes to influencing human health.  Does that surprise you?  It did me!  In 1976 Congress passed the  Toxic Chemicals Substance Act which most experts agree has no “teeth.”  This has left the chemical industry in the US to be mostly self-regulated with regard to human safety.

Individuals, who are really concerned (and that should be most of us) have to take matters into their own hands to protect ourselves. We can also act as advocates for change.  And we can spend our dollars wisely so that industry sees the market value of green products.

Eating Organic Foods makes a difference!

When you buy fruits and vegetables from the “Clean fifteen” rather than the “Dirty dozen” you can reduce your exposure to pesticides by up to 92%. These lists have been provided by the United States Department of Agriculture and are based on amount of pesticide residue that was found on non-organic fruits and vegetables after being washed.

Why is this important? The President’s Cancer Panel has recommended eating produce that is grown without pesticides in order to reduce your risk of getting cancer and other diseases.  Environmental Working Group, provides a great website on which you can track the dirty dozen and clean fifteen as well as cleaning products, sunscreen, etc.

The produce on the “Dirty Dozen” list, when grown non-organically tested positive for at least 47 different chemicals; some tested positive for up to 67. These are the fruits and vegetables that you should buy organically in order to reduce your exposure to harmful chemicals.

Dirty Dozen:   Celery  —  Peaches — Strawberries  —  Apples — Domestic Blueberries  —  Nectarines — Sweet Bell Peppers  — Spinach —  Kale & collard greens —  Cherries —  Potatoes —  Imported grapes — Lettuce

Produce found on the “Clean 15″ list has little or no traces of pesticides and are much safer to consume conventionally

Clean 15:  Onions  — Avocados — Sweet corn (no pesticide – but likely GMO) — Pineapples — Mango  —  Sweet peas  —  Asparagus  — Kiwi fruit  —  Cabbage  — Eggplant  — Cantaloupe   —  Watermelon — Grapefruit  —  Sweet potatoes  — Sweet onions

To see a full list of 49 types of produce that were rated based on their pesticide residue, you can visit the Environmental Working Group’s website at www.foodnews.org.

Personal Care Products: shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen and makeup:

Do you know which chemicals are in the lotions, shampoos, conditioners, sunscreen and makeup that you put on everyday? It may surprise you to look them up and see the potentially harmful chemicals that companies put into these products.

The chemicals found in everyday house hold products contain carcinogens, reproductive toxicants, as well as substances that can cause allergies and immune problems. I highly recommend a review of the products you use daily for yourself and your family.  Below are some helpful websites:

Avoid BPA in food packaging

Bisphenol A, or BPA, shows up widely as it is used to make food can linings,  polycarbonate plastic, thermal receipt paper and many other everyday items. Scientific evidence on the negative health effects associated with BPA exposure keeps growing and includes: increased risk for breast cancer, prostate cancer, metabolic changes, decreased fertility, early puberty, neurological problems and immunological changes.  Here is a brief blog that I wrote for Dr Oz website on BPA.  For a comprehensive review, see the 2013 Breast Cancer Fund publication Disrupted Development.

Non-toxic Cleaners

You can make them yourself and save a lot of money.  Find recipes here:  

Or, here are some great brands of cleaners that focus on reducing toxicity:

  • Seventh Generation
  • Nature Clean
  • Ecover
  • Shaklee
  • Melaleuca
  • Deidre Imus
  • Soap Factory AA5 Concentrate
  • Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
  • ECOgent

More resources to reduce chemical exposures:

Moms: here is a resource for non-GMO baby food and many other products!

Health Professionals: want to learn more about this topic?  The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine has a free 6 hour CME/CEU course on environmental health.

Having a hard time finding the answers about a product?  Place a question at this website:

For information about minimizing flame-retardant exposure in mattresses, computers, TVs, carpeting, household furniture, and flooring: http://www.saferproducts.org

Information about safer chemicals: http://www.saferchemicals.org/toxic-chemicals/flame-retardants.html

Check your local municipal water system here: www.nytimes.com/toxicwaters

Ways to filter your water for drinking and cooking: http://www.ewg.org/reports/tapwater/yourwater/