In an effort to minimize our consumption of pesticides and other chemicals, we make a point of buying organic food when we can. But foods aren't the only things in your kitchen that can harbor harmful ingredients. By now, I'm sure you all know that you should steer clear of certain plastics and not use disinfectants and cleaners that contain poisonous chemicals — but do you know why these things are harmful? I know some of you may say, "We grew up with lead paint and other chemicals and we're fine." It's true that we didn't know how harmful some products were years ago, but because we didn't know, does that really mean you're fine? Do you know exactly what's going into your body these days? Here's a little list to help — these are some of the biggest hormone offenders that could be in your kitchen:
Bisphenol A (BPA): BPAs are chemical compounds that are added to plastics to make them more durable; they're most commonly found in the linings of food containers, beverage cans, some baby bottles, and drinking bottles, and they can leach out into foods and liquids. Harmful side effects from consuming them can include increased risk of breast and prostate cancers, infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and insulin resistance (which, in turn, can lead to type 2 diabetes). To be safe, store foods in glass containers, drink from stainless steel water bottles, and do your best to avoid canned foods.
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): These major endocrine disruptors are chlorinated chemicals that were used as coolants and lubricants in electrical equipment; they may still be found in old fluorescent light fixtures and some electrical appliances. Because of evidence that they built up in the environment and caused harmful health effects, their manufacture was banned in the United States in 1977. Because of their persistence in the environment, however, farmed salmon and certain freshwater fish have PCBs circulating in their systems. Don't take chances when you eat fish — check the Monterey Bay Aquarium's list of safe fish.
Volatile oranic compounds (VOCs): These are chemical compounds emitted as gases by such seemingly innocent everyday products as paints, plastics, cleansers, solvents, air fresheners, dryer sheets, dry-cleaned clothing, and cosmetics, and they can cause your endocrine system a whole mess of problems. I'm talking nausea, headaches, drowsiness, sore throat, dizziness, memory impairment, and — in the long run — possibly cancer. For kitchen-cleaning projects, switch to all-natural products, such as baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar, and lemon juice.
- Chlorinated products: We all grew up with them — white paper towels, white paper napkins, and white coffee filters. And most of us don't think twice about what these products mean for our endocrine systems. But it's not good: The Environmental Protection Agency found that dioxins, the by-products of many industrial processes involving chlorine, including pulp and paper bleaching, are 300,000 times more carcinogenic than DDT (a synthetic pesticide now banned in the United States). How's that for a wake-up call? Keep yourself and your family safe and stick to products labeled chlorine-free, or PCF. Your hormones will thank you.