According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can find 212 chemicals in the blood and urine of Americans if you look for them. So what do these toxins in your body mean for your health? The CDC highlighted a few chemicals because they are both widespread and potentially harmful. Here’s a look at what they are and how you can try to avoid them.
- Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers Flame retardant PDEs are chemicals added to several consumer products from foam furniture to electronics to reduce fire risk. They are known to build up in human fat tissue, causing damage to the nervous system, liver and kidneys. Studies also implicate PDEs in causing sexual dysfunction, thyroid problems and brain disorders. Some states, including California, Washington and Maine, have actually restricted the use of certain PBDEs deemed the highest health risk. Unfortunately, short of such bans, avoiding them is difficult because the chemicals are integrated into so many common products.
- Bisphenol A BPA is another toxin added primarily to plastic products and can linings that contribute to many of the same problems that PDEs do. BPA, which is found in many plastics, in the lining of cans and even coating many sales receipts, was found in more than 90% of Americans tested. The health concerns about BPA are many and growing. While BPA-free products are available, it can be difficult to choose them unless you do research ahead of time.
- PFOA Perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical first developed by 3M and later used by DuPont, is used to create heat-resistant and non-stick coatings on cookware, as well as grease-resistant food packaging and stain-resistant clothing. Studies verify that PFOA toxins in your body contribute to infertility and other reproductive problems. Liver and immune system dysfunction are also associated with the use of PFOAs. Avoiding them can be difficult, but avoiding products that contain them is a first step.
- Acrylamide Acrylamide is a chemical carcinogen that forms when carbohydrate foods are cooked at high temperatures. French fries, fried chicken, and even coffee are all examples of foods that have high acrylamide content. While the risks of low-level exposure aren’t well known, high-level exposure has caused cancer and neurological problems in lab animals and workers, respectively. Avoiding it in food comes down to food choice, storage and preparation. For example, to help avoid Acrylamide toxins in your body, opt to boil potatoes instead of frying them to reduce your exposure.
- Mercury The main source of mercury continues to be contaminated fish. Mercury can cause permanent brain damage. To avoid mercury, you have to educate yourself about which fish are safe to eat. You can also opt to get the nutritional health benefits of fish by a taking krill oil or fish oil supplement.
- MTBE This gasoline additive has been phased out of use in the U.S., in favor of ethanol, but it still can be detected widely in American’s bodies. (It has contaminated many drinking water supplies.) While the health risks are not well defined, studies have linked it to a variety of potential problems, including neurological and reproductive damage.
Until and unless U.S. regulation of chemicals changes, chemicals will continue to be used in commerce before rigorous safety testing. That means it’s up to you, the consumers to take the steps to avoid chemicals they deem risky whenever possible.