Chemicals Inside and Out, Part 2

We’ve been talking about Bisphenol-A (BPA) a lot these days, but there are other toxins we’re exposing ourselves to more often, that goes for us adults, too, not just our kids. Two big sources are the food we eat and the products we use on our skin.

I remember being a kid and hearing about healthcare professionals and concerned parents talking about the connection between food coloring and Attention Deficit Disorder and hyperactivity. I know that came pretty close to eating my body weight in Fruit Roll-ups as a youngin’ every afternoon after school and being unable to sit still all day long (but maybe I was jonesing for the sugar).

The debate about this connection never really got anywhere, as far as I can tell after a trip to the supermarket revealed a large number of oddly colored kids foods. So, it was exciting to see the article released recently by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), based in the United Kingdom, that said:

Parents of children showing signs of hyperactivity are being advised that cutting certain artificial colours from their diets might have some beneficial effects. The colours – Sunset yellow (E110), Quinoline yellow (E104), Carmoisine (E122), Allura red (E129), Tartrazine (E102) and Ponceau 4R (E124) – were studied as part of new FSA-commissioned research.

The article goes on to say that researchers believe it is the combination with those coloring agents and sodium benzoate, a preservative, that causes the negative effects observed in children. The article also reminds us that all food coloring agents are listed as ingredients, so we health-conscious parents can avoid them. Reading labels is one of the best things we can do for our kids and ourselves… second is getting rid of the bad stuff. 😉 In an inspiring and gutsy move, the FSA is also calling for a European Union-wide ban on these colorants. I wish we were doing things like this in the U.S…..

And on our outsides….

Unfortunately, there is another bad-boy that has not gotten much attention while the BPA debate raged. And his name is Phthalates, an additive used to make hard plastics more flexible and bind fragrances in cosmetics. Phthalates are rarely listed in ingredients on products, but they still find their way into our bodies.

WebMD reports on some new research showing this infiltration in infants.

New research suggests a link between the use of baby lotions, powders, and shampoos and higher levels of potentially harmful man-made chemicals known as phthalates in infants.

Researchers reported that babies exposed to all three products had levels of three different phthalate metabolites that were five times higher than babies whose mothers reported using none of the products.

All the infants in the study had evidence of at least one phthalate metabolite in their urine, even if they had no exposure to baby lotions, powders, or shampoos.recent research

The article also points out that the effects of long-term exposure to phthalates is unknown. Still, researchers encourage avoidance. None of the products that leach phthalates are needed to maintain health. Also, infants are working so hard to grow that the extra energy needed to metabolize chemicals and excrete them is probably wasted energy.

UPDATE: For a nifty, product safety checker, click here.

Chemicals Inside and Out, Part 1

I was ordering replacement cartridges the other night for our mega-water filter at 4 AM, post feeding, and found my way onto the site’s page of water filters for the shower. I said to myself: “The shower?!” Yes, the shower. During the course of the average shower, our skin absorbs approximately 8 cups of chlorinated water. 8 cups!! That’s bigger than my enormous measuring cup. Chlorine is so nasty that it can be used forterrorism. I do not want that on my skin! I realize that the chlorine in our drinking water is far from that chlorine, but it is still really bad for you.

Chlorine in drinking water has been linked to many kinds of cancer, specifically of the bladder and colon, by epidemiologists. Even more concerning than the chlorine itself are the compounds created by the chlorine during its reaction with other things in our water. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as taking the chlorine out of our water. The chlorine is an effective disinfectant, so it stays for now.

However, there are chemicals we don’t have to expose ourselves to. Bisphenol A (BPA) – a compound believed to cause early onset puberty in boys and girls and myriad cancers in lab rats – is a great example. In the past couple of days, we’ve been hearing some rumbling from domestic agencies about the potential harm caused by BPA.

The draft report by the National Toxicology Program signaled a turning point in the government’s position on bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical so ubiquitous in the United States that it has been detected in the urine of 93 percent of the population over 6 years of age.

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Hopefully, this NIH-sponsored program’s report will get the ball rolling towards a ban on BPA. The report alone won’t be enough because its official stance is that there is “some concern,” but nothing more serious than that. Check out the L.A. Time’s article for more on the report and BPA’s detrimental health effects, click here. (thanks to Z Recommends for this one).

The Canadians feel differently, though. (Why don’t we live there? Gay marriage, social medicine, a potential BPA ban). As the Globe and Mail pointed out, Canada is the first country to label BPA as “dangerous.” If Canada goes on to ban the substance after the (somewhat lengthy) review process, those of us in the U.S. will reap the benefits due to our participation in NAFTA. We shall see… in the meantime, get yourself some BPA-free stuff. Unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid BPA altogether because it is in the lining of formula cans… for now at least.

For a quick guide to safe and unsafe plastics, click here.