We live in a toxic world filled with hormone-altering chemicals. How do they adversely affect health? Let us count the ways. They increase or decrease the production of certain hormones as well as imitate or transform others. In addition, they make cells die prematurely and compete with essential nutrients. Exposure to these chemicals leads to cancer and brain damage along with high blood pressure, infertility and many other maladies.

The Environmental Working Group recently released its dirty dozen list of the 12 worst offenders of hormone-altering chemicals. Below is the list, including measures to take to minimize your exposure.

1. BPA

A chemical used in plastics, BPA imitates the sex hormone estrogen. It has been linked to heart disease, breast cancer, obesity, reproductive problems, early puberty, asthma and tooth decay. Government tests show 93 percent of Americans have BPA in their bodies.

How to avoid it? Since many canned foods are lined with this chemical, opt for fresh foods. Do not ask for cash register receipts because thermal paper is often coated with this chemical. Avoid plastics with a “PC” mark or recycling label #7, as many of these products contain BPA.

2. Dioxin

Dioxins form during certain industrial processes and perpetrate their harm by disrupting the signals of male and female sex hormones. They are powerful carcinogens and can impair the immune system. Other possible effects include infertility, skin lesions and nervous system disorders.

How to avoid it? Dioxins are prevalent in the environment, so they are difficult to avoid. Eating less processed meat, fish and dairy products can reduce your exposure.

3. Atrazine

Atrazine is a common agricultural herbicide used on corn crops. Consequently, it is a pervasive contaminant in drinking water. This chemical has been associated with prostate disorders, breast tumors, birth defects and delayed puberty.

How to avoid it? Purchase organic produce and procure a drinking water filter certified to remove atrazine.

4. Phthalates

tainted vegetable lettuce from Perchlorate

A ubiquitous chemical in the average household, phthalates are found in many products ranging from pacifiers to window blinds. Research shows they can trigger death-inducing signals to sperm cells, causing them to die prematurely. Phthalates are also linked to infertility, diabetes, ADHD, high blood pressure, thyroid disorders, obesity and birth defects.

How to avoid it? Do not buy plastic food containers, plastic wrap or toys that have the recycling label #3. When purchasing personal care products, avoid those with “fragrance” listed in the label

5. Perchlorate

Unbelievably, this ingredient in rocket fuel and firecrackers is in our water supply in addition to being present in some vegetable and dairy products. Perchlorate can cause thyroid disorders and developmental delays in babies.

How to avoid it? Install a reverse osmosis filter for your drinking water. You can reduce its potential harm by making sure you get enough iodine in your diet. Use iodized salt.

ReducingYourRiskFlameRetardants6. Fire Retardants
Fire retardants used in the manufacture of household products, especially polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), are extremely persistent in the environment. Although the most toxic versions have been banned, these chemicals will continue to contaminate our food supply and water for years to come. PBDEs cause thyroid disorders, ensuing in lower IQs and ADHD.

How to avoid it? It is impossible to avoid fire retardants, but you can minimize your exposure by using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and dusting frequently. Be careful when replacing old carpet because the padding may contain PBDEs. Avoid reupholstering foam furniture.

7. Lead

Older homes may have lead paint on the walls and in the soil around them, making it easy for children to be exposed when they play in the dirt. Lead is detrimental to nearly every organ system in the body and has been associated with a broad spectrum of health problems. These include permanent brain damage, hearing loss, lower IQ, miscarriage, kidney damage, nervous system problems and high blood pressure. Additionally, lead disrupts the body’s major stress system, leading to depression, anxiety and diabetes.

How to avoid it? Get rid of crumbling old paint – carefully. Dust and vacuum frequently if your home has lead paint. Use a filter to remove lead from your drinking water.

arsenical-poison8. Arsenic

Inorganic arsenic, a synthetic compound used in pesticides, is a known carcinogen associated with lung, bladder and skin cancers. It is also linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, immunosuppression, high blood pressure and growth retardation.

How to avoid it? Use a water filter that reduces arsenic levels.

9. Mercury

Mercury pollutes the air and oceans primarily through burning coal. Because of this widespread pollution, fish and seafood are heavily contaminated with this toxic metal. Expectant mothers are most at risk because the chemical concentrates in the fetal brain, hindering its development. Mercury can also cause hair loss, kidney failure and extreme muscle weakness.

How to avoid it? In choosing fish, opt for wild salmon and farmed trout.

10. Perfluorinated Chemicals

These chemicals, also known as PFCs, are used to make nonstick cookware along with many stain-resistant and water-repellant products. They are so widespread and persistent that 99 percent of Americans have them in their bodies. PFCs are associated with neurological delays, infertility, early menopause, delayed puberty and low sperm count.

How to avoid it? Avoid nonstick pans as well as furniture, carpet and clothing with stain-resistant or water-resistant coatings.

Pesticide cycle11. Organophosphate Pesticides

These chemicals designed to attack the nervous system of insects are among the most commonly used pesticides today. Research links them to neurological disorders, lower IQ, ADHD, altered thyroid levels, lower testosterone and delays in reproductive development.

How to avoid it? Buy organic produce.

12. Glycol Ethers

Glycol ethers are common solvents in cleaning supplies, paints, brake fluids and some cosmetics. Exposure is associated with male infertility, allergies, asthma and impaired fetal development.

How to avoid it? Avoid products with ingredients like 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME) on the label.

What chemical scares you in this list? What is your plan to minimize your exposure?

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