Toxic Chemcials & Health by Jane Thurnell-Read
Research has shown that there are worrying levels of some harmful chemicals (such as bisphenol A, hexachlorobenzene, PCBs and PERC) in human breast milk. This is of concern to us all – the research has been done on breast milk because it is easy to gather for testing. But there’s no reason to believe that the chemicals from the mother’s body that are getting expressed in breast milk are not also chemicals found in most other people.
We are exposed to some chemicals on a daily basis, day in and day out, so that a build up within our bodies is almost inevitable. We may not be exposed to some other chemicals as often , but because of the way they bind to fat molecules in our bodies, concentrations can build up rather than be broken down and/or excreted. These are dangerous chemicals for our health and well being, and are a particular prolem for babies and young children.
We just do not know the effect of some of them, nor of the chemical mixture that we are exposed to. Individual chemicals may be safe on their own, but not necessarily in interaction with other chemicals. Animal experiments do not necessarily replicate what happens when humans are exposed to the same chemicals. Even so for some, such as bisphenol A, the evidence is clearly mounting. Some, such as phthalates are already recognized as potentially harmful.
Some of the chemicals that have given the most cause for concern:
This chemical is a major constituent of plastics. It is also used as a sealant and in adhesives including in dentistry. It is an endocrine disruptor, which can mimic the body's own hormones. In 2007, a consensus statement by 38 experts on bisphenol A
concluded that average levels in people are above those that cause harm to animals in laboratory experiments.
The US Endocrine Society
expressing concern in 2008 that the US FDA had excluded some important studies from their deliberations and so set acceptable levels of Bisphenol A too high.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
This is a group of chemicals that have been banned but are still found in the environment, electrical equipment, wall coverings, paints and plastic.
This illustrates one of the problems with toxic chemcials - part of the reson they are toxic is because of their ability to persist in the environment, so even afterr their use has been banned, the effect carries on. PCBs can easily penetrate the skin.
You may not think you have encountered this one, but it is used to make other chemicals including pesticides. The International Agency for Research on Cancer suggests it may be carcinogenic for humans.
Tetrachloroethylene / Perchloroethylene / PCE / Ethylene Tetrachloride/ PERC
A solvent commonly used in dry-cleaning fluid, spot removers, aerosols, shoe polishes and typewriter correction fluid. Also used by car/automobile mechanics. Another chemical that has been classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
Phthalates make plastics more flexible, more transparent and more durable and so increase the range of ways in which plastics can be used. Because the phthalates are not chemically bonded to the plastic, they can easily migrate/leech into whatever is inside the plastic container. A study by the US government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that most people tested had metabolites of multiple phthalates in their urine. Now, on the one hand it’s reassuring that people are peeing out phthalate compounds, but on the other research shows that people do not get rid of all the phthalates in this way. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors and many governments are now concerned about the health impacts and are either phasing out these chemicals and/or severely restricting their use.
Are these chemicals safe?
It is naive to believe that our governments would not allow these dangerous chemicals in the environment. Inertia, vested interests and limited public knowledge all conspire to make these issues low down on the political agenda. In addition some of the science just isn’t there – it may take many many years before the full implications are known – and anyway it is not easy to isolate the effect of any one chemical.
If you are pregnant and wondering whether you should decide not to breast feed your child, please read the information on breast feeding on the Natural Resources Defense Council
web site first This organisation along with most others still advocates breast feeding as the healthiest option for the baby if at all possible.
Copyright 2010 Jane Thurnell-ReadGet a different health and happiness tip delivered to your inbox every day.