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How Common Household Chemicals are Affecting Our Health ... and Our Wallets

February 07, 2017
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Ever feel like you're surrounded by dangerous toxins? Well, more than likely, you are. Harmful chemicals are found in a variety of household items, from toys and cosmetics to plastic bottles and food cans. Over time, frequent contact can result in a toxic buildup caused by ingestion. New research published by NYU Langone Medical Center in the journal Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology claims these "endocrine-disrupting chemicals" do more than harm our bodies - they generate serious financial costs. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals imitate the body's natural sex steroid hormones, "disrupting" the hormone's natural function. Over time, exposure to these toxins can lead to neurobehavioral disorders, obesity and diabetes, and even reproductive disorders. So what are they? Bisphenol (BPA), used to line tin food cans; phthalates, used when manufacturing cosmetics and plastic food containers; polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), found in flame retardants; and certain pesticides like chlorpyrifos and organophosphates are all considered endocrine-disrupting. Dr. Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor at NYU Langone and lead investigator for the study, and his colleagues, have reviewed the levels of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the blood and urine of 5,000 volunteers since 1999. Using advanced computer models, the team were able to estimate the total number of disease cases expected to result from exposure to these chemicals, as well as the consequences. Based on the team's models, endocrine-disrupting chemicals would cost the United States a whopping $340 billion in healthcare and lost wages. Exposure to PBDE chemicals and pesticides accounted for almost two-thirds of that cost. According to Trasande, the greatest cost of all, however, is incurred from the chemical's neurological effects on unborn children. Speaking about the study, Trasande said this new information is intended "to facilitate a transparent dialogue about the real and substantial tradeoffs for human health that we make by failing to act to protect against the chemicals of greatest concern ..." Fortunately, new chemical policies are in the works to regulate these harmful chemicals. Last June, former president Obama signed into law a new Toxic Substances Control Act, which reviews and controls the safety and usage of chemicals in the broad environment. However, not all agree with the Trasande team's findings. According to Dr. Joseph Perrone, chief science officer for the Center for Accountability in Science, the report "doesn't distinguish between endocrine action and endocrine disruption ..." Dr. Perrone went on to explain that substances like naturally occurring soy are able to interact with the endocrine system without causing harm. With such an important and potentially life-preserving issue in the balance, clearly more research and discussion is needed. Until more research becomes available, there are several simple ways to avoid these chemicals:
  • Eat organically grown foods
  • Avoid the use of pesticides
  • Avoid consuming food from aluminum cans
  • Avoid heating plastic containers
  • Avoid plastic bottles with the numbers 3, 6 and 7
  • Frequently air out your home
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