Dangers of Chemicals in our Bodies

The shear volume of chemicals coupled with the unknown effects of  mixing different ones in our bodies has insidious and far-reaching effects on our health. Many babies born in the U.S. already have had a chemical load transferred to them while still in the womb.

Despite efforts to lobby Washington D.C. for regulations aimed at adequately protecting the health of U.S. citizens from the dangers posed by chemicals which we are literally awash in, such as personal care products, or unknowingly ingesting daily through our diets, no effective legislation has been adopted. The Toxic Substances Control Act of the 1970s has not been updated. When the TSCA was passed, it made legal, “without any evaluation,” 62,000 chemicals in use before 1976. Since then, the number of chemicals has grown to 84,000, and the EPA has required testing on only about 200 of them and has regulated or banned only five.

One of the most common and alarming is an endocrine disruptor, bisphenol-A (BPA). It is found in everything from plastics to canned foods and beverages; over 90 percent of U.S. citizens have it in their urine. Small changes in hormone levels can have large effects in humans perhaps even triggering the younger onset of puberty in U.S. females.

Current studies have linked BPA to breast cancer and diabetes, as well as to hyperactivity, aggression and depression in children. Jennifer T. Wolstenholme, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia School of Medicine wrote that the researchers there found behaviors in BPA-exposed mice and their descendants that may parallel attention deficit disorder in humans.

Our situation is not all gloom and doom. We do not have to be uncompensated test-subjects mixing the great variety of chemicals in our own bodies with who-knows-what results. We can minimize our exposure by educating ourselves and by taking practical steps.

Healthful primary steps are using non-BPA containers and limiting the intake of certain foods which are known to contain higher levels of pesticide residue when grown “conventionally.” The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) has a helpful “Skin Deep” cosmetics safety database and a list of the “Dirty Dozen Plus.” Conventionally grown U.S. produce the EWG found generally containing the most pesticide residue: apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines (imported), grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries (domestic) and potatoes, plus: green beans, kale/collard greens.

The EWG also lists their “Clean 15” found generally to contain the least pesticide residue: onions, sweet corn (nearly all corn is GMO now, so you may want to eat organic), pineapples, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, kiwi, cantaloupe (domestic), sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon and mushrooms.

With such information, UWT students on low budgets can more wisely choose which organically grown food products for which to pay extra. Another great resource for protecting one’s health from chemical contamination can be found at: http://pollutioninpeople.org/toxics

With feedback, comments, progressive ideas or alternative perspectives, please contact Orlando Martin at mrm61@uw.edu