Last week the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization released a report on the State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC), which outlined the stark reality that our reliance on synthetic chemicals is a “global threat.”
“Human health depends on a well-functioning endocrine system to regulate the release of certain hormones that are essential for functions such as metabolism, growth and development, sleep and mood,” states a press release from the WHO. Photo credit:http://www.istockphoto.com/profile/candyboximages
The report on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is the most comprehensive to date collating data from scientists all over the world, including ones from Canada.
The summary states: “only a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands of synthetic chemicals in existence have been assessed for endocrine disrupting activity, and because many chemicals in consumer products are not identified by the manufacturer, we have only looked at the ‘tip of the iceberg.’”
The UN study highlights some associations between exposure to EDCs and health problems including the potential for such chemicals to contribute to the development of non-descended testes in young males, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, attention deficit/hyperactivity in children and thyroid cancer.
EDCs are not just in personal care products. Still, reading labels on skin care, cosmetics and household cleaning products is a simple way you can make a difference.
“EDCs in personal care products”
Phthalates: found in many perfumes
Parabens: a preservative in some personal care products
Triclosan (and triclocarban): commonly used in antibacterial products, some toothpaste and deodorant
A certain amount of what you rub, spray and splash onto the body gets absorbed. I never used to think about what I rubbed into my skin, which was probably unwise. The report concludes: “EDCs are present in personal care products, and their uptake through skin has been recently recognized as a significant route of human exposure.”
I’m not sure oodles of personal care products are necessary. I accept it is a big change to avoid parabens, phthalates, triclosan and other synthetic chemicals, but it is possible to significantly reduce your exposure. Let’s start with what we use on our body and in our home.
I like a bar of handmade soap over shower gel because it is made locally, lasts ages, doesn’t leave a plastic bottle, (requiring disposal or recycling) and isn’t washing traces of synthetic chemical perfumes or antibacterial ingredients down the drain.
In 2010 the Canadian Medical Association released a briefing “encouraging the federal government to re-evaluate and restrict the sale of consumer antimicrobial products to Canadians for general household use.” 
We are fortunate to have many local people making soaps, oil cleansers, non-toxic deodorant and body oils. I save money by using non-toxic, often technically edible (coconut oil for example) skin care and using less of it.
Are you sensitive to perfumes?
Chemical sensitivities, according to Statistics Canada, accounts for 2.4 per cent of the workforce.  I have let chair lifts go by when someone was wearing oodles of perfume or aftershave. It was not popular in the lift queue, but meant I could breathe fresh mountain air rather than “eau du whatever.”
People often say: “Well, they wouldn’t sell it if it was bad for me.” I am not sure that is wise to rely on.
As unimportant as your soap, shampoo and toothpaste choices may seem, they do matter.
Clean water is worth protecting, yet EDCs are showing up in water supplies around the planet. Otters and orcas are at risk due to living in the water.
When I was young, an air freshener involved opening a window. Can we do our best to make this place a shining example of a town reducing its reliance on potentially toxic synthetic chemicals? Our watershed, lungs and the air around us may breathe a sigh of relief.
This article first appeared in The Question newspaper in British Columbia, Canada.
UNEP State of the Science report Endocrine disrupting chemicals OPENS A PDF DOCUMENT!
 Canadian Medical Association: Antimicrobial Issue Briefing- OPENS A PDF DOCUMENT!
 Globe and Mail: Scents and sensibility: The fragrant workplace.
Lindsay Dahl’s blog discussing the importance of avoiding toxic chemicals in cosmetics when pregnant http://www.lindsaydahl.com/avoid-chemicals-in-cosmetics-when-pregnant/
Whilst on the subject of chemicals and pregnancy, gaining weight may protect you: http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2014/may/weight-gain-during-pregnancy
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