There are many everyday products on our grocery store shelves today that contain both environmental toxicants and chemical additives that can be harmful to our health. Not all products have these chemicals, but enough do that it is important to know what they are, why they are dangerous to our long-term health, and how to avoid them.
As college-aged women, our bodies are particularly vulnerable to exposure affecting the likelihood of a diagnosis of breast cancer later in life. For that reason, Protect Our Breasts is an organization of college-aged women that shares information with our peers both offline at our college chapter events, and online through social media. Over the next few days, Protect Our Breasts will be blogging for DrGreene.com and sharing information about the dangerous chemicals that exist on grocery store shelves.
TSCA & The Safety of Chemicals
Currently, the United States has over 85,000 synthetic chemicals in use industrially, but only about 7% have been tested for effects on human health. The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 has worked to ban the use of very few of these chemicals.
Several organizations and academic institutions have conducted research as to the safety of these chemicals. Silent Spring Institute has identified over 200 mammary carcinogens, and The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDx) has a growing list of 870 potential endocrine disruptors that are in use as chemicals in our products. And yet, the chemicals continue to exist in our environment.
Endocrine disruptors are a class of chemicals that can have significant effects because of what the endocrine system controls. The endocrine system is responsible for brain development, sexual development, neural health, and body weight maintenance, by emitting low levels of natural hormones that act as messages throughout the body.
The problem with endocrine disruptors is that they can mimic, block or alter natural hormones as a result of their similar chemical structure. Natural hormones act through specific receptors – activating a particular function or important process within the body that the receptor controls, similar to a key fitting a particular lock.
When an endocrine disruptor is accepted by a receptor (because of that similar shape or structure), there can be adverse effects in the body. This can happen at very low dose exposures, ie. through the leaching from a plastic bottle into a drink, or from dermal absorption of handling a receipt, because natural hormones work at these low levels normally.
The possible effects of endocrine disruption are many, and not completely understood. However, we do know that not only can exposure to these chemicals affect your own health outcomes later in life, but it can also affect those of your children, especially when exposure occurs during pregnancy.
Certain “windows of susceptibility”, such as puberty and pregnancy, represent time periods in life that our bodies are most vulnerable to these chemicals since hormones are controlling critical and precise processes at these times.
It is hard to try to avoid all chemicals, but in order to empower consumers to make safer choices, Protect Our Breasts works to share about some of these concerning chemicals in products. We hope that the small tips that we share this week can help you make a safer choice the next time you reach for a product in the grocery store.
Making the commitment to safer alternatives, you are giving yourself and your loved ones a chance for a healthier future.
Join the conversation with Protect Our Breasts on Facebook, download our free tip card and learn how to practice safer habits at the grocery store shelves. Refuse breast cancer – before it starts!
Photo credit: Steven Depolo
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