Recent news about three toxic chemicals in the environment may add to our fears, yet can raise hope for less contamination of our bodies.
The three toxics are familiar: PFOA (perfluoroctanoic acid), Bisphenol-A (i.e., BPA), and Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP). The first is a material used to make Teflon®; it is also used to treat the paper of microwave popcorn (to make it grease resistant) and carpeting (to make it resist soil and stains). BPA is used to make epoxy resins (e.g., lining of food cans) and polycarbonate plastic, as in clear, hard water bottles and nursing bottles (these are being taken off the market). DEHP is used to make soft PVC products, e.g., vinyl chair coverings, shower curtains, soft children’s toys. Products containing these substances are in virtually every household, school and workplace. And trace amounts are in everyone’s body.
PFOA is a strong hormone disrupter, especially of the thyroid hormones. EPA lists it as a “likely carcinogen.” A scientific panel convened to study PFOA, associated it with kidney and testicular cancer, and possibly thyroid cancer. A 2010 report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found body levels of 17 to 47 ppb. The good news is that, as it is soluble in water, it should be quickly eliminated in urine and eliminated from the body if there is no further exposure to it.
The bad news about DEHP and BPA is that they are found nearly everywhere and contaminate everyone. Both are linked to birth defects and are suspected carcinogens. DEHP is also linked to obesity and type-2 diabetes. A recent study (reported by Environmental Health Perspectives) measured the concentration of each in the urine of 20 participants during their normal eating habits, and after three days of eating only fresh foods (i.e., no canned or prepackaged foods). The good news is that after only three days on a fresh food diet, the level of BPA was reduced by 66% and that of DEHP by 55%. Surely the levels would have decreased even more if the period of fresh food had been lengthened. The bad news is that, while on their conventional diets the level of BPA was 3.7 ppb and the level of DEHP was 57 ppb. These values are comparably to, or greater than, levels of about 1 ppb for many human hormones.
In a nut shell, a conventional diet containing canned and prepackaged foods will place your body at risk, while switching to a diet containing mostly fresh foods will allow your body to purge itself of BPA and DEHP. This is surely an easy solution; it would be foolish to not make the switch to fresh foods (and frozen foods).
PS. A gentle reminder: You can find comprehensive coverage of the issues in these articles in my book, How to be Healthy in a Toxic World, available in paperback and electronic forms from Amazon.