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  • Writer's pictureMelanie

The products you are using are damaging your health!


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) are chemicals found in the environment and products we use that mimic our natural hormones and disrupt the working of our hormonal systems (endocrine system). They have been linked to the increased risk of diabetes, auto-immune conditions, hypothyroidism, some cancers, reduced fertility and increased perimenopausal and post-menopausal symptoms. EDCs that mimic the effects of oestrogen are known as xenoestrogens. They are structurally similar to oestrogen and are able to link onto oestrogen receptors, wreaking havoc on hormonal balance. Other EDCs operate in a similar way to disrupt thyroid function and insulin production. EDCs are found in tiny amounts in products, but as we are exposed to many of these products, we accumulate them in our bodies. They are found in manufactured products from plastics to pesticides, from nail polish to shampoo.


Just stop for a moment and think about how many products containing EDCs you have been exposed to so far this week: scented shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, deodorant, face cream, make-up, styling products, cling film, plastic water bottles or food tubs, pesticide residues on foods, air-fresheners, cleaning products, non-stick coatings on cookware, and maybe garden chemicals or farm chemicals …the list goes on.


While we can’t totally avoid EDCs in our life, bar time-travelling back to pre-industrial days, we can take steps to minimise our exposure. Here are some good places to start:



Cleaning chemicals:

Swap to natural alternatives, either premade, or experiment with making your own using natural ingredients such as bicarbonate of soda, castille soap, white vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and essential oils. Some simple methods can be found at: Homemade cleaning products: 5 fantastic recipes | Friends of the Earth or try www.thespruce.com/homemade-and-natural-cleaning-products-1900456. Alternatively, ‘Clean Green: Tips and Recipes for a naturally clean, more sustainable home’ by Jen Chillingsworth is a book packed full of ideas to get you started. One of my favourite discoveries is furniture polish for wooden furniture made by using equal quantities of lemon juice and olive oil - it smells gorgeous and the wood looks so nourished, way better than when I used a well-known brand!


Skin care:

Change to natural skin care – your skin is your bodies largest organ, through it you absorb a variety of substances, including the hormone disrupting chemicals which are present in many skin care products. It is possible to make your own skin care, for example, coconut oil makes a great cleanser, moisturiser and lip balm. A search for ‘homemade skincare’ will enable you to find recipes that suit your skin type. If you don’t fancy making your own, be sure to look for those containing natural ingredients, and avoid anything with artificial fragrance/parfum, SLS (sodium lauryl sulphate), paraffin, parabens, sodium benzoate, phthalates, nonylphenols and anything else you don’t like the sound of! Remember to also choose natural perfumes, sunscreen and make-up, including eye make-up.



Home fragrance:

Many chemical air-fresheners also contain nerve-deadening chemicals that stop you detecting the smells in addition to the strong artificial fragrances used. Choose natural air fresheners and candles - opt for soy wax or rapeseed wax fragranced with essential oils over synthetic fragrances, choose natural essential oil reed diffusers, or invest in an aromatherapy diffuser that you can add your own choice of organic essential oils to. House plants help to purify the air, so invest in plants for every room.


Organic fruit and vegetables

The US Environmental Working Group (EWG's 2021 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce | Clean Fifteen) produce an annual list of the top 15 fruit and vegetables that are considered to be safe enough to eat non-organically, and a list of the Dirty Dozen - those 12 foods with the highest pesticide residues that are recommended to buy organically. Although these are US guides, it is worth considering when making choices as to whether to buy organic or not as they are also relevant in the UK.

If possible, buy organic fruit and vegetables, especially those on the ‘dirty dozen’ list, currently strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, bell and chilli peppers, cherries, peaches, pears, celery and tomatoes. The ‘clean 15’ list for 2022 is avocado, sweetcorn, pineapple, onion, papaya, peas, asparagus, honeydew melon, kiwi, cabbage, mushrooms, cantaloupe melon, watermelon and sweet potato.


Weekly fruit and vegetable boxes provide an excellent way to not only buy organically, but to also increase your range of fruit and vegetables. Riverford Organic Farmers (www.riverford.co.uk), Eversfield Organic (www.eversfieldorganic.co.uk), and Abel and Cole (www.abelandcole.co.uk) all deliver throughout the country. The Soil Association has an ever-growing list of companies that deliver both nationally and regionally (www.soilassociation.org/take-action/organic-living/buy-organic/find-an-organic-box-scheme).


Storing, cooking and reheating foods:

Avoid using plastic tubs and cling film for storing and reheating food. Instead, use foil or beeswax wraps to wrap food, or store in glass containers. If food comes in plastic, always transfer to a non-plastic container before reheating, and remove higher fat foods such as cheese from plastic wrapping; store instead in foil or a non-plastic container. Avoid using single-use plastic water bottles or any multi-use plastic bottles unless they are BPA free, better still use a glass or metal bottle. There is no need to spend a fortune on gorgeous glass jars, unless of course you want to, I tend to use jars left over from olives, mustard and sauces for storing leftovers.

Upgrade your cookware – avoid traditional non-stick pans as the coatings have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Instead choose alternatives such as ceramic, glass or stainless steel. If you do have some non-stick cookware, take care not to use metal implements as these could scratch the surface and release harmful substances.


In the garden:

Go organic and ditch the chemicals, including pesticides. This site has some great ideas for where to start How to create an eco-friendly garden: 15 ways to go green | GardeningEtc This will benefit both nature and you as you will be exposed to less pesticides and chemical fertilisers, I can’t say you’ll have no exposure as you probably can’t control what your neighbours use or what the farmer sprays on their fields, but every little bit makes a difference.


Finally…

It is not possible to change all of these things overnight. Decide where you will start and go from there. I already had stainless steel cookware, so I began by ditching the clingfilm and avoiding reheating in plastic. Over time I have made the move to natural cleaning products and toiletries, and I always use a metal water bottle. I no longer have artificial air fresheners. There are additional benefits, I have noticed a reduction in my allergy symptoms with making these changes; cleaning the bathroom no longer makes me sneeze, and the absence of a plug-in air freshener has put an end to my headaches. On top of that, I know that the products I choose have a smaller impact on our fragile planet.

What are you going to change first?

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