I think we’re all genuinely trying to lead healthier, better lives. I know I try to every day. Some days I’m successful – I buy and cook a wonderful, organic meal for my family, recycle, take a yoga class etc. But, if I’m being honest it’s hard work and there are days that I buy the regular strawberries instead of organic, order in takeout and decide I can hit the gym tomorrow. Nobody’s perfect, right? But my good intentions are there. I started this blog to open up a dialogue about infertility in an effort to help others. In continuation of that objective I feel compelled to discuss a topic that lately has been taking over most of my free thoughts and brain space.
Could toxins and chemicals found in the products we use or in the environment be the cause of your infertility?
I am not an expert and cannot say with 100% certainty that those issues could be what are causing one’s infertility. But there may be merit to the point as there is a prevalence of toxic chemicals in the products our families and we use every day. There are studies (done over the past decades) that find major health issues such as cancer, infertility and learning disabilities are on the rise and the cause of this is partly due to our exposure to toxic chemicals. I have to ask, what is going on here? How can products that we use daily or the food we eat be slowly causing us harm and illness and what can we do about it?
First of all, how did we get here? Allow me to focus on the personal care products industry. There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today. Many don’t have any safety data and this is particularly true of those used in the skin care and beauty industry. The FDA (The Food and Drug Administration-the agency that regulates cosmetics) allows companies to use chemicals known to be extremely harmful (such as lead, formaldehyde, and phthalates) in the products we put on our bodies and on our kids each and every day. Due to major loopholes in federal law, cosmetics can be labeled as “natural”, “organic”, ”green” etc. without containing ingredients that accurately match those descriptions. More so, the US has not passed a federal law to regulate the ingredients used in personal care products since 1938! What’s worse is that the US has only banned 11 ingredients and the European Union bans over 1,300!
Additionally, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reviewed 60,000 products, (in which ingredients were listed) and assessed that 34% of products contained chemicals that were associated with cancer; 45% contained chemicals that associated with reproductive/developmental toxicity; 60% contained estrogenic chemicals –synthetic chemicals that mimic the hormone estrogen (For more information see this presentation by Heather White, The Executive Director of Environmental Working Group. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-14369/why-beauty-products-are-toxic-what-you-can-do-about-it-heather-white.html)
Something is NOT right here.
So what are we supposed to do? How do we protect our bodies and ourselves? And our children so that perhaps they won’t have the same infertility issues that we have? Or that maybe 1 in 8 of their female friends won’t get breast cancer? For starters we can educate ourselves. We can choose to use only products in which we can read and understand the labels. We can do our part to slowly eliminate the toxic chemicals from our homes. So what are some of these chemicals and how do they relate to infertility?
Let’s start with a list of things to look out for: Phthalates, Parabens, and Triclosan. All of these chemicals are what the science community refers to as Endocrine disruptors – Chemicals that are used in everyday products that can affect the body’s development, growth and hormone balance by mimicking, blocking or disrupting the body’s natural hormones. Allow me to go a bit deeper into what each of these chemicals are all about and why we should avoid them.
First off: Phthalates & Parabens. Phthalates and Parabens are used as preservatives in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Phthalates keep hairsprays sticky and bacteria and fungus out of things like nail polish and perfume. Parabens are antimicrobial and antifungal which makes them an ideal preservative in so many personal care products. Sometimes Pthalates aren’t listed on labels but can lurk under the non-specific ingredient “fragrance.”
Without getting into too much scientific data that is beyond my pay grade, there are many studies by reputable organizations that have found exposure to phthalates may harm the reproductive system and affect development. Check out the following sites and studies for more specific data and findings: CDC (The Centers for Disease Control), Healthy Child Healthy World and Breast Cancer Fund.
Next up: Triclosan. Triclosan is the active ingredient in many brands of hand-sanitizers, some gingivitis-fighting toothpastes and an estimated 75% of antibacterial liquid soaps and body washes. The National Resources Defense Council states that animal studies have shown both of these chemicals can interfere with hormones critical for normal development and function of the brain and reproductive system.
To me, this is a lot of scary information. What are we supposed to do? Live under a rock and stop showering? Not exactly. So what am I doing to keep my family and myself safe? Well, for starters I have transitioned our personal care products to non-toxic brands. I personally started using Beautycounter*, a brand that is completely transparent about what ingredients they use and vow to never use over 1,500 chemicals. My kids now bathe with Beautycounter’s kids line. I check EWG’s app, “Skin Deep” before buying cleaning products for my home. (It’s actually quite addicting to scan everything I see.) I do my best to buy organic, non-GMO food. I am not perfect and am just trying to do my part. I’m educating myself (in fact the more I learn the scarier the info gets) and trying to “put it out there” for others. I am trying to do what I can and change our family’s lifestyle to ensure that we can feel good about what we eat and use on our bodies … All in an effort to be healthy and happy! Every little bit counts.
* If you’re interested in Beautycounter, a brand that has such chic and amazing products (that actually work) all while being committed to such a stringent screening of ingredients please contact me or shop at sararaber.beautycounter.com.