One of my favorite health activists, Heather White from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), was interviewed at the Autoimmunity Summit today! She is trained as a lawyer and has worked in politics and law in Washington DC. Now she is a health advocate for EWG, a nonprofit which is referenced by experts all over the world.
The 10 American Study by EWG
EWG did a study called the 10 American Study – looking at chemicals such as DDT, mercury, Polychlorinated biphenyls, (PCB’s) etc. in the blood of 10 Americans.
They found up to 300 industrial toxic pollutants in the blood of these 10 Americans. They knew the exposures were not from the air, water or food. The exposures were from the womb because the 10 Americans were newborn babies.
I got the chills when I heard this. This is bad. This is bad. This is bad.
The environment is all around us in the food we eat, the air, the water and the products we put on our skin. All this influences the genetic expression of the next generation and future generations.
Epigenetics tells us that what happens to people now, can be passed on to the grandchildren and the great grandchildren.
The Toxic Substances Control Act
This law was passes in 1976 and presumes that the chemicals on the market are safe. The burden of proof is on the population rather then the manufacturers of these chemicals.
We are 100 years into the industrial revolution and are surrounded by constant, chronic, low doses of toxins.
We do not have the answers to how this affects our health.
According to Heather White, we cannot shop our way out of this situation. We need the government to help control what goes into the environment. We need better laws.
There are 70,000 to 80,000 chemicals that have been approved for the market. Over 62,000 were presumed safe in 1976.
Under EPA law, there is a pre-manufacturing notice that industry has to give to the EPA, when they are planning to release a new chemical. Then the EPA has 90 days to approve or not. In this way, many chemicals simply slip through without any oversight.
According to White, 85% of new chemicals were never fully accessed by the EPA.
Often the chemical identity of a product is considered a trade secret, so the name of the chemical is left off – obviously reducing the information to the EPA.
Furthermore, chemicals are tested individually, not in combination with other chemicals which may prove to be much more toxic.
The law is broken.
How To Be Safe
Water is the first issue. There is a Water Filter Guide on the EWG website and you can find out the specific contaminants in your neighborhood and which filters to use.
EWG Skin Deep tells you about thousands of chemicals in personal care products. There is also an App so that while you are shopping you can scan the bar code of a personal care product to see what is in it and how toxic it is. How cool is that?
The Dirty Dozen Guide to Endocrine Disruptors indicates chemicals that can affect hormones at low doses. Here, the dose does not make the poison. Even a very small dose can cause a significant reaction. You need to get to know which chemicals can affect your health. For ex. mercury, BPA, organophosphate pesticides, etc.
Be active in your community and share this information.
Bottled water is not regulated. Get a water filter. There is no indication of where the source is or about the treatment technology. EWG did a “water report card” and found that a lot of bottled water is tap water.
The plastic is of great concern. BPA is in the plastic and when it is heated it will leach out into the water. BPA is man made but it acts as an estrogen and is implicated in endocrine disorders, cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses. BPA is in the harder plastic, but there are other chemicals in the softer plastics.
These chemicals are not required to be proven safe before they go on the market.
Choose glass when you can, or a stainless steel water bottle.
EWG also encourages people to not use straws or at least stainless steel straws. Straws tend to go into the landfill and will affect our health through the food chain, as it goes into the soil and will affect grassfed animals.
Get a shower filter as well.
Personal Care Products
A person can be using 10 – 12 personal care products on their body each day. These are quickly absorbed by the skin. There is an average of 126 ingredients used in those products. The law for this is worse than for chemicals — it was passed in 1938 and has not changed since.
However, what is used today is far worse than anything in 1938.
Parabens and Phalates have been shown to mimic estrogen so these two chemicals should at the very least be avoided. These two chemicals are in nearly every conventional personal care product and may be listed under different names. Check out the website to see these names.
Greenwashing – Beware
While the focus is on parabens and phalates, there is also lead in lipstick – red the worst. Mercury (thimerosal) is still used as a preservative in mascara so be careful there.
The word “natural” is not regulated. And “organic” in skincare is not as regulated as in food. Organic is better than natural. Focus on what is in the product – the actual chemicals – not the marketing.
Fragrance can also contain parabens and phalates. The manufacturers can purchase fragrances from fragrance houses and they may not know if there are parabens and phalates in them – so they still can label their final product as paraben and phalate-free.
I’ve been very sensitive to all fragrances for years so I have been avoiding them. Now I know why they are so bad. (I do tolerate essential oils though!)
Pesticides are designed to kill things and many are neurotoxic even in very low doses. See the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen, which is based on agricultural data – of the amount of pesticides on a plant. If you’re on a budget, follow the list based on pesticide residues and spend the money for organic on the worst and buy conventional on the least.
Buy organic as much as you can because you will know that it is not GMO, it is produced sustainably and you are not getting the pesticide residues that can be endocrine disruptors. This is much healthier.
Good Food on a Tight Budget – is a guide for someone on a tight budget to show that you can eat healthy on a budget.
For instance on genetically engineered food they need to use much stronger pesticides (note that GM food was originally marketed as needing less pesticides – what a lie that was!)
One pesticide, 2,4 D (agent orange from Dow) is super toxic and has been found to be affecting farmers and driving Parkinson’s. Dow has been successful in getting it approved for use…
Soil conservation is also on the EWG agenda because the nutrient content of food is dependent on the health of the soil.
Flame retardants are used on upholstery, kid’s pajamas, mattresses, etc. EWG found that toddler’s had much greater exposure than mothers because of the use in children’s products. This may be related to learning and other neurological problems in children.
Toxins and Autoimmunity
Total Body Burden is a term that reflects what is impacting people with illnesses like autoimmunity, neurological and cancer, etc.
We know babies are born with up to 300 industry pollutants, and that is increased with exposures from crib mattresses, flame retardants, etc.
We do not know what that does over 70 years. We do know that early onset of puberty is an issue. It used to be 16.5 years old in 1860 – now it is 10.5 years!
We are seeing upward trends of all chronic diseases including autoimmunity that are not all explained by better reporting or diagnosis.
We do know we are all born pre-polluted and we are constantly assaulted by these chemicals at all times. We need to empower ourselves with the information we have at this time.
Taking these small steps will reduce your toxic burden and lessen your risks for autoimmunity and chronic degenerative diseases.
What You Can Do
Support the EWG.org Take Action page to tell members of congress about the issues. Hold members of congress accountable. Vote with your wallet at the store. This will drive companies to follow. Call your favorite brands and ask them about what is in their products.
- Filter tap water
- Buy organic
- Avoid fragrance
- Become a label reader of everything you buy, including food, cleaning and body care products
- Make your voice heard with elected officials and brands you like
Toxins in the environment deeply affect your health. Everyone needs to be concerned about this. If you love yourself, your children and your grandchildren, you need to be involved with learning how to avoid some of these toxins and become more politically active.
If you have a chronic illness or an autoimmune illness you need to be even more vigilant about your total body burden of toxicity. You can tolerate a certain amount of toxins, but once the bucket is full, you are at great risk for disease.