4 Ways to Limit Your Exposure to Environmental Toxicants and Pollutants

When looking at possible irritants that might play a role in contributing to the rise of food allergy, and modern chronic illness in general, we cannot overlook the role of environmental toxicants and pollutants. As you may know, cigarette smoke is associated with increased risk of asthma and a number of chronic illnesses. Inhaled pollutants, such as car exhaust, are also associated with asthma. Exposure to diesel exhaust in pregnancy has been shown to affect fetal gene expression, as does cigarette smoke. This shows that environmental pollutants can modify development through epigenetic changes. (1)

There are thousands of other pollutants that we don’t know much about. In the 2006 EPA Inventory Update Review Program, chemical manufacturers reported producing or importing 6,200 chemicals weighingin at 27 trillion pounds in 2005 and that’s not even including fuels, pesticides, medications, or food additives. (2)  Industrialization has led to many new environmental chemicals that did not exist in traditional societies. Common sources of pollution and toxicants are skin care ingredients, pesticides, food additives, preservatives, heavy metals, air pollution, etc. These persistent organic pollutants (POPs) contaminate our air, food, and water. Some common toxicants include polychlorinated biphenyl compounds (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, dioxins and phthalates.99 These pollutants accumulate in our body fat over time and can increase with each generation. Many POPs have been detected in breast milk. In regards to chemical management the American Academy of Pediatrics issued the following statement:

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that chemical management policy in the United States be revised to protect children and pregnant women and to better protect other populations. The Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) was passed in 1976. It is widely recognized to have been ineffective in protecting children, pregnant women, and the general population from hazardous chemicals in the marketplace. It does not take into account the special vulnerabilities of children in attempting to protect the population from chemical hazards. Its processes are so cumbersome that in its more than 30 years of existence, the TSCA has been used to regulate only 5 chemicals or chemical classes of the tens of thousands of chemicals that are in commerce. Under the TSCA, chemical companies have no responsibility to perform pre-market testing or post-market follow-up of the products that they produce; in fact, the TSCA contains disincentives for the companies to produce such data.Voluntary programs have been inadequate in resolving problems. Therefore, chemical-management policy needs to be rewritten in the United States. Manufacturers must be responsible for developing information about chemicals before marketing. The US Environmental Protection Agency must have the authority to demand additional safety data about a chemical and to limit or stop the marketing of a chemical when there is a high degree of suspicion that the chemical might be harmful to children, pregnant women, or other populations.”(3)

While you may think most chemicals are safe, they actually have not undergone truly vigorous testing to prove their safety. Most testing focuses on acute symptoms, not the long-term effects of a chemical or how they might affect our health as they accumulate in our system. They also do not study chemicals in relation to how the interact together in our bodies. Chemicals are studied in isolation and for a short period of time before they go to market. Unfortunately, this is not enough to keep our children safe. Studies suggest that many pollutants can produce epigenetic effects even at low-dose exposures. (4)

Certain POPs are known endocrine disruptors with estrogenic properties that may contribute to the rise in allergic disease, as estrogen is associated with increased severity of allergic reactions. (5) The only way to totally eliminate your exposure to toxic chemicals and pollutants is to live in a bubble, which is not realistic. You can, however, limit your child’s exposure to toxic chemicals and pollutants.

Here are some simple tips to reduce your exposure to toxicants and pollutants:

  1. Eat whole foods. Organic, when possible. Avoid crops that use pesticides and herbicides like glyphosate, also known as Roundup. Do not buy foods that list chemicals as ingredients. If you wouldn’t cook with an ingredient listed on the label or you don’t know what it is, don’t buy it and certainly don’t feed it to your child.
  2. Ditch the plastic. Plastics contain many harmful chemicals like phthalates and Bisphenol A (Bisphenol A). While you can find plastics that are free of these chemicals, they often contain another equally harmful chemical in its place (i.e. Bisphenol S). Glass is a much safer alternative.
  3. Choose natural skin care products and cosmetics. Skin care products are prone to have many harmful chemicals. You definitely want to avoid parabens, phthalates and artificial fragrances, at the very least. I recommend researching ingredients at www.ewg.org/skindeep. There you will find ratings for different ingredients and how hazardous or safe they are considered to be.
  4. Stick with natural cleaning supplies whenever possible. Avoid harsh chemical cleaners as much as possible. You can even make your own cleaning supplies with household products like vinegar, water, citrus, or essential oils.
  5. Don’t spray chemicals on your yard. If you really want to make sure you have a healthy yard without exposing your family to harmful pesticides and herbicides, use organic fertilizers instead. You can also let your grass grow longer between mowings and leave the clippings to help keep your grass growing strong. In addition to being greener and healthier, it also means less work for you!

This week, I invite you to choose one area in your home and eliminate as many harmful chemicals as you can by the end of the week. When you finish that area, feel free to move on to another area. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, feel free to contact me and remember to take it one step at a time.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to leave a comment below.

References:

  1. Susan Prescott, The Allergy Epidemic: A Mystery of Modern Life. (Crawley, Western Australia: UWA Publishing, 2011), 105.
  2. EPA.gov. “2006 Inventory Update Reporting: Data Summary.”http://www.epa.gov/oppt/cdr/pubs/2006_data_summary.pdf
  3. Susan Prescott, The Allergy Epidemic: A Mystery of Modern Life. (Crawley, Western Australia: UWA Publishing, 2011), 105.
  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. “Policy Statement—Chemical Management Policy Prioritizing Children’s Health” Pediatrics 127, no. 5 (2011): 983-990.
  5. Susan Prescott, The Allergy Epidemic: A Mystery of Modern Life. (Crawley, Western Australia: UWA Publishing, 2011), 107.
  6. Susan Prescott, The Allergy Epidemic: A Mystery of Modern Life. (Crawley, Western Australia: UWA Publishing, 2011), 107.
About Tiffany deSilva

Hi I'm Tiffany deSilva, MSW, CPC, CHC, Founder of BrightFire Living, LLC. I am a social worker, speaker, author, certified health, wellness and lifestyle coach, certified green living coach and toxic-free consultant. I am passionate about helping women like you to detox each area of your life, safeguard your family's health, and live life fully charged and completely lit up! I am on a mission to empower women and families who are managing food allergies, autoimmune disorders, and other modern chronic health conditions to live a safe, happy, and healthy life that truly lights your fire!

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