You know how I have been going on about plastic water bottles and how bad they are for the environment and such? Well, what if, for kicks, I was to tell you that not only is bottled water awful for the environment and awful for ensuring a good, clean water supply, but that some plastic bottles—along with a bunch of other household plastic and chemicals—could have the effect of turning those of us who are boys into girls and those of us who are girls into boys? At least, kind of…
Environmental Working Group (EWG) has just issued a report of its tests on the hormone-disrupting chemicals washed out of San Francisco’s wastewater system and into San Francisco Bay. The report, “Down the Drain: Sources of Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals in San Francisco Bay,” kicks off by saying:
“In 2002, the first nationwide study of man-made chemicals and hormones in 139 streams revealed that 80 percent of streams tested were contaminated (Kolpin 2002). Several of the chemicals examined are known or suspected of disrupting the hormone systems of animals and people…male fish with immature eggs in their testes have been documented with increasing frequency throughout the U.S.”
Well, yes, I feel sorry for fish with gender-identity crises, you may say to yourself, but what has this got to do with me? The report goes on:
“Studies of ordinary people show that our own bodies typically are contaminated with low levels of phthalates, bisphenol A, and triclosan [the three hormone discussed in the EWG study]. The sources of this pollution in people include many ordinary consumer products, such as cosmetics, canned foods, and "antibacterial" soaps and cleaning agents…
“…Adult men with higher levels of phthalates in their bodies are more likely to show signs of hormonal disturbance, including reduced sperm concentration and motility, increased damage to sperm DNA, and altered hormone levels. Baby boys exposed to higher levels of phthalates in the womb or in breast milk are more likely to display reproductive system abnormalities. And women with polycystic ovarian disorder, a leading cause of female infertility, or those who suffer recurrent miscarriages, are more likely to have higher levels of bisphenol A in their blood…
“These studies indicate that taking action now to reduce your exposures to hormone-disrupting chemicals may benefit the health of you and your family, as well as the health of the surrounding environment.” [Emphasis added by yours truly]
Of the three hormone disrupters studied in the report:
Phthalates are found in: Perfumes & personal care products containing "fragrance,” Nail polish, Flexible & PVC/vinyl plastic (including food wrap, building materials, toys, IV tubing, blood & fluid storage bags), Adhesives, inks, pill coatings, detergents
Bisphenol A is found in: Polycarbonate plastic (including hard plastic water & water cooler bottles, hard plastic baby bottles, plastic silverware), Lexan products, and many items labeled plastic #7 or "PC", Linings of food and beverage cans, Dental sealants
Triclosan is found in: Antibacterial" hand soap, toothpaste, personal care products, "Antibacterial" detergents & cleaning products, "Antibacterial" plastic & foam items including shoe insoles, plastic cutting boards
How can you avoid these chemicals, both for yourself and the environment? Well, the EWG report has a long list of recommendations which can be basically summarized as: minimize use of the products that contain them.
To help with that, if you care to, you can:
(To save you a click, the free cup and water bottle are both, of course, used jars with screw on lids diverted from the trash. The point is you don't have to buy a used jar, it's free, you divert something from the trash stream, there is no extra environmental impact in its manufacture--since it was made and used for something else--and it's safe to drink out of because it is chemical-free glass!)
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.