Phthalates are found in PVC plastic and a range of personal-care products. They both keep plastic things pliable and carry scent well (they're the basis of many products with a strong artificial fragrance). It's best to get rid of phthalates if you can because they mimic human hormones and harm children. The authors found that levels of phthalates increased by as much as 22 times after they used common, brand-name products. Simple ways to avoid phthalates include getting rid of your vinyl shower curtain, refraining from the use of synthetic air fresheners and choosing unscented body-care products.
Say 'no' to non-stick and stain repellants
These types of chemicals are on furniture, carpets, clothing, non-stick frying pans and fast-food wrappers. Known as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), they are linked to cancer and can mimic human hormones. To avoid these chemicals, don't buy the latest "stain repellent" pants or shirts, replace your non-stick frying pan with stainless steel or iron, and pop your popcorn the old-fashioned way (microwave popcorn bags are coated in PFCs).
Dump the toxic flame retardants
These chemicals are linked to cancer, impaired brain development and a host of other health problems. Called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) or simply "brominated flame retardants," they are in furniture, mattresses, curtains, carpets and electronics. To avoid them, use natural fibres, such as wool, hemp and cotton. Ask stores or manufacturers to identify PBDE-free products for you.
Get rid of bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA mimics estrogen and has been linked to a host of health problems from breast cancer to diabetes. The authors' levels of BPA increased 7.5 times after eating canned foods out of a microwavable, polycarbonate plastic container. Don't use any polycarbonate plastic containers, including baby bottles, reusable sports bottles or microwaveable containers. BPA also lines canned food, so choose fresh or frozen food when you can. And never microwave your food in plastic.
Use some elbow grease
Household cleaning products have a toxic mix of chemicals that are linked to health problems including cancer. Consider making your own cleaners using simple household ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, vegetable oil and lemon juice.
Make friends with germs
Our fear of germs has led to an explosion of antibacterial products, from soaps to toothpaste. There are two types: those with alcohol and those with triclosan. Alcohol is fine but triclosan weakens the immune system and is suspected of causing cancer. The book's authors found levels of triclosan in their blood increased an astounding 2,900 times just by using anti-bacterial soaps and other personal-care products. Avoid products with triclosan.
Organic fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products have a lower pesticide content. Some studies have linked pesticides with an evaluate risk of cancer, neurological disorders, and damage to our immune and reproductive systems. So choose organic food whenever possible, particularly dairy, soft fruit and vegetables. Can't find organic? Make sure to wash produce well before eating.
Growing your own food means you can avoid pesticides, and have great-tasting veggies. Start by growing fresh herbs; it's easy to do and requires little space.
Eat big, old fish in moderation
Fish is generally good for you, but levels of mercury increased by 2.5 times after the book's authors ate both canned albacore tuna and fresh tuna. Mercury is a known neurotoxin that harms the development of children. It builds up in certain fish, so smaller fish are safer to eat than big fish. Follow Health Canada's guidelines for how much fish to safely eat. If you are pregnant or are planning on becoming pregnant avoid all tuna, shark and swordfish.
Become an active consumer
Companies that add BPA, PFCs and other controversial chemicals to their products are very sensitive to consumer demand. So read the labels, ask store staff questions or call the 1-800 number listed on products and find out what is in them. Government action is often needed to keep products safe, so raise these issues with your elected officials.
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