One of the issues I’m most worried about as a hormone specialist is chemicals that can affect my patients’ hormone levels.
I’ve already told you about how endocrine-disrupting chemicals can lower testosterone—but they can actually pose even more harm than that. A study by the Alternative Medical Review found that these chemicals can also lead to infertility, obesity and breast cancer, and, as reported by the National Toxicology Program, they can cause developmental issues in fetuses and newborns.
As a society, we need to make a conscious effort to avoid these toxins, and we can start by looking at the items in our own homes.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals can increase or decrease hormone production, interfere with hormone signaling, and even transform one hormone into another. All of these changes can upset your body’s normal hormonal balance and lead to an increased risk of health problems.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), the foremost organization working to limit chemical exposure in food and personal items, provided a list of the most common endocrine-disrupting chemicals in 2013. These chemicals can enter our bodies in numerous ways, from bisphenol A (BPA) in supermarket sales receipts to perchlorate in drinking water. While products devoid of these harmful chemicals are starting to appear in stores, you likely still have some in your house.
Make the most of your spring cleaning this year and start getting rid of toxic chemicals with these tips:
1.) Ditch the chemical cleaners
We’ve known for decades that glycol ethers can cause testicular damage, but research suggesting this is so hasn’t stopped manufacturers from using them in their household cleaning products. Opt instead for vinegar oil, baking soda and lemon juice—all-natural, less threatening cleaners—when you’re tidying up around the house. Baking soda gets tough stains out of ovens, vinegar is gentle enough to use on hardwood floors, and lemon juice can cut through grease and mold and leave behind a nice, citrusy scent.
2.) Kick the cans
I’ve already mentioned that BPA can be in sales receipts (always ask for your receipt in the bag!), but BPA is notoriously present in the lining of cans. From soda and beer cans, to canned beans and fruit, look for BPA-free labels. If possible, buy beer in bottles and get fresh produce instead of canned goods.
3.) Pick your hygiene products wisely
The Journal of Applied Toxicology published an article in 2014 that said exposure to chemicals in personal care products may increase the risk of breast cancer. Look for brands that avoid parabens, which are commonly used preservatives in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, and triclosan, an antimicrobial chemical that can cause skin irritation. They do exist. The one I like also doesn’t use petroleum, sodium lauryl sulfates, artificial colors or gluten—other ingredients that can have negative effects on your health.
4.) Be careful with your cosmetics
Parabens in cosmetic products can prevent bacteria from growing, but because they mimic estrogen, again, they can also increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer. The EWG’s Skin Deep database is a great resource for finding out what’s lurking in your beauty products.
5.) Check your children’s toys
Phthalates are a chemical group meant to increase the softness and flexibility of plastics, and they can reside in various children’s toys. These compounds have been linked to asthma and allergies, and they are also common in fragrances (“secret formulas” listed on perfumes and colognes labels can be used to hide phthalates in the ingredients). The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a ban on using phthalates in children’s toys, but that was just as of 2011, and toys released prior to the ban were not recalled. Look for toys that have a Children’s Product Certificate, which says in writing that the toy complies with the ban on phthalates. Keep in mind that while the ban is a step in the right direction, it does not block all phthalates, and not all children’s toys need to be tested under it.
I’m not saying you have to overhaul your entire house at once. Everyone accumulates things over time, but as you run out of products and replace them, make a conscious effort to opt for things that pose less harm to you and your family. Try going natural with your cleaning products, and always check labels for toxins. That’s a good starting point.
This article originally appeared on Fox News, where I’m a regular contributor.