Can a shower curtain be harmful to your health?
It can if it contains phthalates.
Phthalates are just some of over 800 chemicals that are labelled as endocrine disruptors. These chemicals are toxic for a number of reasons. They can mimic oestrogen, androgen or thyroid hormones and cause your body to respond to them inappropriately. Or they may block, stimulate or inhibit these hormones. By interfering with your hormone system, there is growing evidence that these chemicals are responsible for a wide range of health problems.
Endocrine disruptors can be found in many products. These include laundry detergents, bleach, cleaning products, air fresheners, dryer sheets, sunscreens, shampoo, conditioner, cosmetics, pesticides, sandwich bags, flame retardants and vinyl shower curtains.
One widely known endocrine disruptor is bisphenol-A or BPA. This chemical is found in plastics and is the reason many people choose glass water bottles over plastic. You might have noticed that many new plastic products are now labelled “BPA free” as people are becoming aware of the harmful effects of this substance. However, as mentioned above there are over 800 endocrine disruptors that we know about and so going “BPA free” is just the first step.
In February 2013, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) released a new report: "State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012". According to this study, endocrine disruptors are linked to high rates of endocrine-related cancers, such as breast, ovarian, prostate, testicular and thyroid cancers; low semen quality; genital malfunctions such as non-descended testes; adverse pregnancy outcomes; obesity; and Type 2 diabetes.
It is concerning to note that the effects don’t stop with humans. The report also finds reproductive defects, infertility and antler malformations in some Alaskan deer populations and population decline in some species of otters and sea lions.
Clearly, it’s a good idea to minimise your exposure to these chemicals. Here are some ideas of how to start:
9 Ways to avoid Endocrine Disruptors
1. Keep your house fresh and clean without using air fresheners. You can pop a few drops of essential oils in an oil burner or vaporiser to scent the air naturally, or burn a soy candle scented with pure essential oils. When you use your vacuum cleaner, make sure to clean or change the vacuum filter for maximum freshness. Open the windows and let the fresh air in! Keep a vase of roses on the dining room table.
2. If you use commercial dryer sheets – throw them out, and make your own! Combine ½ cup vinegar with 6-8 drops of grapefruit, orange, lemon, lavender or tea tree essential oils. Spritz this solution on an old washcloth until moist and throw it in your dryer with your clothes.
3. Use eco/green laundry detergents. Remember that whatever you wash your clothes, sheets and towels with, will end up on your skin.
4. Use eco/green cleaning products. You can also clean most things with vinegar, baking soda, pure soap and a little determination.
5. Avoid perfumes. Use essential oils or, better yet, use no scent at all.
6. Choose your sunscreens wisely. You can buy very effective sunscreens that don't contain excessive amounts of chemicals.
7. Buy natural cosmetics. Safe Cosmetics Australia is a great resource to help you choose toxic-free cosmetics. In addition to changing your cosmetics, you can reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors by using them less often and embracing your inner beauty!
8. Use natural shampoos, conditioners, and soaps. Avoid soaps that contain “triclosan” - not only is triclosan an endocrine disruptor with numerous documented harmful health effects, it has also been linked to antibiotic resistance.
9. Store your food in glass. Phthalates make plastics soft and are found in sandwich bags and other pliable plastics. Fats absorb phthalates more easily than water, so be especially careful to store fatty foods in glass. Avoid heating or freezing food in plastic because extreme temperatures release the phthalates.
Endocrine disruptors have some serious health risks, but luckily some relatively simple product substitutions reduce your exposure to these chemicals. For advice setting up your top 3 priorities to reduce endocrine disruptors in your life, please feel free to contact us and we can help you make your list. And if you’re worried that you’ve had a high exposure to them, contact us to make a plan to detox. There’s no reason your shower curtain needs to be a health risk.
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