What Everyone Should Know About Toxin Exposure
Today, on Redhead Mom, I’m sharing a partnered guest post about Toxin Exposure.
We face toxin exposure from so many sources in our daily lives. There are those things we don’t necessarily give a lot of thought to, like exposure to household items.
For some people, toxin exposure occurs in their job as well.
Recently we recognized the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Along with the more apparent effects of those attacks on our country, some health issues have affected first responders and volunteers since then.
For example, in the years following the attacks, a Victim Compensation Fund was opened to help people who suffered serious injuries or lost loved ones. In 2011, the fund reopened and expanded. Many of the awards went to people who ended up with serious illnesses because of the terrorist attacks. Common diagnoses after the tragic events of 9/11 included cancer, gastrointestinal problems, and mesothelioma.
This once again might have made us think about the effects our environment has on our health, and our society, in addition to the social, psychological and political ramifications of 9/11.
While the first responders and other people affected by toxin exposure on 9/11 couldn’t have avoided it, and many people can’t completely eliminate occupational exposure to toxic substances, there are things we can do in our everyday lives to reduce our exposure and perhaps improve our outcomes.
Just being aware of the risks of toxin exposure is one good first step, in addition to the following.
How Environmental Toxin Exposure Affects Your Health
Often, when we hear the term environmental toxins, we think more severe, such as what happened on 9/11 or perhaps a factory spilling smoke into the air. The reality is, there are things all around you every day that you might not notice that are environmental toxins, increasing your exposure.
As an example, there are hormone-disrupting chemicals.
Hormone disrupting chemicals are also called endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The endocrine system includes the pituitary gland and the thyroid, among other glands. These glands produce hormones that regulate our body functions.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals can affect your hormones at any point at the cellular level.
These chemicals are associated with heart and reproductive problems, as well as an increased risk of cancer.
These disruptive chemicals are quite literally everywhere, and there are hundreds of known chemicals falling into this category.
Common culprits are cosmetics, food, detergents, plastic items, toys, and even packaging.
Studies have found the presence of these chemicals in breast milk, urine, and blood. They accumulate over time, as we’re consistently exposed to small amounts.
These EDCs are linked to diabetes and obesity as well. For example, materials like BPA, frequently found in plastic can affect metabolic disorders, leading to obesity.
There’s another category of concern when it comes to environmental toxins, which are called agrochemicals. Agrochemicals primarily refer to pesticides. In economies heavily dependent on agriculture, agrochemicals are especially harmful, but we also consume them in the foods we eat.
Long-term pesticide exposure increases the risk of immune system and endocrine disruption, problems with nervous system function, and the development of some types of cancer. Pesticide exposure over the long term also contributes to a greater risk of reproductive and developmental disorders, and children are at greater risk of exposure than adults.
Pesticides can contaminate drinking water and fish that humans eat, and they have many far-reaching secondary impacts on public health.
There are seemingly everyday products we often use in our homes that up our exposure to toxins.
For example, laundry detergents can contain potentially harmful enzymes. All-purpose cleaners with ingredients like ammonia are exposing you to toxins, as are most traditional cleaning products.
Specific items in your home aside from what’s already mentioned that are known to be high in toxins are:
- Some types of non-stick cookware
- Flea and tick products you use on your pets
- Air fresheners
- Oven cleaner
- Toilet bowl cleaner
- Furniture polish
- Paint used in older homes that may have lead
Simple Ways to Minimize Toxins
Thinking that you’re going to eliminate your exposure to toxins entirely isn’t realistic unfortunately. From your home to your workplace, they are everywhere.
What you can do is take steps to reduce your overall exposure. As we mentioned above, most exposure is very minimal, but it accumulates over time. If you can take steps to slow or reduce this accumulation, it’s the most realistic course of action you can likely take.
- Cut out certain plastics. Plastic storage containers and packaging can be a source of significant toxin exposure, as they often contain BPA and phthalate. Opt for natural fibers when you can, and don’t drink hot beverages or eat hot foods from plastic items. Choose glass storage and cups when it’s an option.
- Clean your home often with natural, organic cleaners. Mixing your own cleaners is an excellent way to know precisely what you’re putting in. Baking soda, vinegar and lemon are good natural cleaners. You should avoid any air fresheners and dust and vacuum often to get rid of allergens.
- Buy and consume organic foods when you can, and also choose fresh items over canned.
- Filter the tap water that comes into your home. Don’t use bottled water because plastic bottles can be harmful, and bottled water has been shown in tests to have chemicals and bacteria.
- As you choose foods, avoid artificial flavors and colors, and opt for things that don’t have added preservatives.
- As you buy different products, look for labels that say paraben, phthalate, and BPA-free.
Being mindful of what’s around you, what you’re using daily, and what you’re consuming can help improve your health and lower the risks of serious chronic illnesses from environmental toxins. If you were exposed to significant amounts of toxins particularly in your career, for example as a first responder, even taking small steps in other parts of your life can lower your health risks.