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How I Reduce My Family’s Exposure to Hormone Disruptors

I’ve been estrogen dominant my entire adult life – it has affected my life in profound ways.  I know I’m not the only woman who is living with disrupted hormones.  Sure I use compounded hormone cream to achieve balance, but what’s the point of using hormones to balance if I’m going to just spend my days causing further disruption?

The one thing I’ve found throughout my research is that merely living on earth puts you at risk of exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals – they are everywhere! Even newborn babies born today have been contaminated with chemicals known to cause endocrine disruption.  Umbilical cords have been found in one study to be full of chemicals.

I don’t think if you met me you’d automatically think that I’m a granola-crunching, tree-hugger.  I wear makeup, I colour my hair, I like pedicures and manicures, I love to eat good food & drink red wine, I recycle and compost as much as the next person.  I’m not a fanatic I guess you could say, BUT, I believe that there are ways we can reduce the negative impact these things have on our health. I’m not an expert, but more of a student – I’m learning all the time about things I’ve been doing or products I’ve been using that are not only hurtful to the environment but harmful to my delicate hormonal balance.  More and more, my concern is for my children and the future of their health, including their hormone health.

Here’s some of the things I do to try to reduce my family’s risk of exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals:

Plastics:

  • We avoid ALL plastics when we can – particularly 7, 6 & 3.  Even my children know  “7, 6 and 3 are not for me”.   When we were getting 100% rid of “bad” plastics I taught my children how to identify the plastic by the symbol and number.  I told them I’d give them $1 for every bad plastic they found in our house!  They ran around the house like crazy.  Fortunately they only found 3 pieces of “bad” plastic in our house.
  • we never microwave anything in plastic
  • use glass or ceramics to store food
  • we don’t let babies chew on plastics – find natural products/toys instead, I like shopping for eco-friendly kids stuff at Littlefootprintstoys.com
  • I breastfed my babies for well over a year & I didn’t use pacifiers – it was my choice not merely because of the plastic exposure but the “plastic” factor definitely belongs on the pro side to breastfeeding and thumb sucking over pacifiers, as well many formulas are soy based and it wasn’t all that long ago that nasty endocrine disruptors were found in formula.  I didn’t know that my own exposure to phthalates, for example, meant that my breast milk would pass this endocrine disruptor onto my babies.
  • we avoid plastic water bottles but we don’t like stainless steel so found some good glass bottles that are wrapped in rubber so they are safe for my kids’ backpacks
  • we’ve switched from Teflon pans to good old-fashion cast iron pans
  • we’re getting rid of anything plastic that has a natural alternative – like exchanging plastic cutting boards for wooden boards

Cosmetics & Body Care Products:

When you consider that our skin is the largest organ in our body and it has direct exposure to many of the hormone disruptors.  Ever since I read that the average woman puts on 515 chemicals each morning I’ve tried to reduce the amount of chemicals I put on my skin.  Finding out that I was putting things like formaldehyde on my skin each day just grossed me out.  Thinking about how I use topical progesterone cream made me realize even more how effective our skin is allowing both good and bad compounds into our body!

  • I have switched my cosmetics and body care products to natural products. There are many cosmetic choices that don’t involve hormone disruptors. Many of the large health food stores like The Big Carrot in Toronto, Ontario, Natures Emporium” in Newmarket, Ontario carry really nice body care & cosmetic lines that are all natural.  Also their employees are super-informed about this stuff.  I also shop at The Detox Market” in Toronto, they have locations in LA and San Fransisco as well and they carry a small line of wonderful cosmetics and body care products.  And a small but lovely line of products at Elemi Organics. And if you can’t give up your Sephora addiction – they even carry natural cosmetic lines.  I’ve found when I ask for a product the natural ones are NEVER suggested – they don’t rush you over to them, you have to specifically ask for natural products.  And their staff isn’t really educated about the benefits of natural products. Also their website doesn’t have a way of searching for their organic makeup so unless you know the name of the brand you’ll have trouble figuring out which ones are natural. The good news about natural cosmetics? They work just as well, they are on-trend, they don’t always have to cost more and are free of known hormone disruptors.
  • I confess I’m a spa lover and look for either organic/natural products – there are more and more organic spas popping up
  • I use Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Database – Skin Deep to check on my family’s body care products.  It’s an invaluable resource for me.
  • Campaign for Safe Cosmetics – a great site, full of information about cosmetics as well as how you can encourage safer cosmetics and demand cosmetic companies stop putting harmful chemicals in our makeup and body care products.
  • I keep informed also on Health Canada’s website – the Canadian Government’s site explains how to read the labels, has a Hotlist and most importantly publishes warnings and recalls on cosmetic items.
  • I’ve read Gillian Deacon’s book, “There’s Lead in Your Lipstick: Toxins in Our Everyday Body Care and How to Avoid Them” – she really is an expert in this area and offers real advice about cosmetics and how to avoid chemicals
  • Avoid anti-bacterial products
  • Avoid fragrances – they are jam-packed with hormone disruptors and have been able to make breast cancer cells grow in a lab environment! I used to wear perfume everyday and I am going to admit I miss it!  I spray it on once in a while (my clothes – even though I know I’m still inhaling it) but I always feel like I am a walking endocrine disruptor!  So my fragrance use is very very minimal now.
  • Use natural sunscreen – I am going to admit I worry about slathering sunscreen all over my kids as much as I am concerned about their exposure to too much sun! My children spend a lot of time outdoors but I really do wonder what’s worse for them – the chemicals or the sun?  I switched to natural sunscreen and feel better about it.
  • I buy natural deodorant and so far no one has ever told me I stink!  I am teaching my tween daughter why it’s better for her than the stuff she sees all the other girls using.  Maybe instead of her being influenced by her peers using the trendy products, she’ll be able to teach her friends about the benefits of using natural products.

Household Products

I used to love the clean smell of certain lemony or piney smelling cleaners! I just felt like my house smelled so clean! When I first switched I’ll admit that I missed that “just-cleaned” smell.  Now when I encounter those same “clean” smells I just feel like holding my breath!  It’s all in what you get used to.

  • I use natural cleaning products such as vinegar and baking soda or plant based cleaners
  • I splurged and bought a floor steamer – it uses only tap water – no harsh chemicals
  • I don’t use fabric softeners in the dryer – again, fragrances are loaded with hormone disruptors.  A bit of static never killed anyone, but fragrances….well…?
  • I check out all products on Environmental Working Groups database – I was surprised by some of the products I used – products that I thought were  green actually have chemicals in them!  I felt like such a sucker!

Environmental Working Group’s Hall of Shame – Click here to see the worst offenders – some of these toxic chemicals are banned in certain countries, some have ingredients known to be carcinogenic.   And some of these products pretend they are “green” – some I’ve had them in my own home thinking I was doing the right thing by buying “Green” products!  I’m a sucker!

Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning – Look up the cleaning products that you use on their database & see what you’re bringing into your house maybe without even knowing it!  EWG – rates common products for their safety.

Food:

  • I try to feed my family organic food as much as is possible based on what I have access to.
  • For many years I have been fortunate enough to be able to grow some of my own produce.
  • Again EWG to my rescue!  I keep informed with their Shoppers Guide to Pesticides – I keep a copy of their published Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 fruits and vegetables.  If you can’t find all the organics where you live then at least focusing on the produce that has been found to have the highest concentrations of pesticide or the worst types of pesticide contamination
  • we have recently gone dairy-free at my house – once in a while some dairy slips into our diet but when it does I try to keep it organic.

What’s interesting is that once I began reducing my family’s exposure, each action I took revealed another that I should or could take.  I’m still figuring things out every day to improve our hormone health.  I you have any thoughts, ideas or tips – I’d love to hear from you.

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