Watching Out for Environmental Toxins

Women's Health | | Natasha Weiss
4 min read

You try your hardest to maintain your health and wellness. You’ve got your pilates classes, your green juices, you spend time outside, or whatever your favorite tools are. Still, even with all these tools, many other factors can influence your health that is seemingly out of your control. Like your genetics, societal upbringing and traumas you may have faced, and environmental toxins.

What exactly are environmental toxins, how can they influence your health, and how do you avoid them? Let’s find out!

What Are Environmental Toxins? 

Ocean pollution, gas leaks, and oil spills are probably the most obvious examples when you think of environmental toxins. They can be a lot sneakier than that though. Environmental toxins can lurk everywhere from your makeup and skincare to cleaning supplies, to your food. 

Environmental Toxins and Your Health

One of the biggest risks with environmental toxins is exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. These are toxins that affect the endocrine system, which controls and regulates your hormone production and secretion. Hormonal imbalances can cause all sorts of issues like fertility issues, irregular or painful periods, early menopause, cancer, heart problems, and more. 

There are about 800 known endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can be found in places like packaging, cosmetics, and airbags in cars. We’ve been able to detect the effects of EDCs by tracking how chemicals like DES have led to certain health issues. DES was a medication used in the mid-20th century to help prevent pregnancy, although instead, it resulted in birth defects and later health issues for those who were exposed to it in utero.  

Since then, we’ve seen direct links between different EDCs and diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. Some other common environmental toxins we’re exposed to include lead, mercury, benzene, and formaldehyde. Those aren’t the only ones, there are more than 400 known environmental toxins that have been discovered in humans. These have been measured in breastmilk, urine, blood, and other fluids.  

A commonly known toxin is pesticides, which are used to help repel and kill plants or bugs that interfere with the growth of food crops. Exposure to pesticides can lead to health issues like a disruption in healthy gut bacteria, nervous system dysregulation, hormonal and reproductive issues, and more. Some environmental toxins can lead to skin issues like rashes and sensitivities, or respiratory disorders like asthma. Although there are environmental toxins all over, there are steps you can take to help minimize exposure to them. 

Avoiding Environmental Toxins

Environmental toxins can make their way into your body through sneaky methods. Skincare and cosmetics are absorbed by the skin and into the bloodstream. Toxins in your home are breathed in or absorbed by your skin. Chemicals in water supplies are absorbed into the skin and ingested through food. 

While many of these are unavoidable, there are small steps you can take in your daily life to help minimize your exposure to environmental toxins. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Eat organic: When you can, try to eat organic foods, especially the “dirty dozen” – twelve foods that usually contain higher levels of pesticides than other foods
  • Buy “clean products”: Look for clean products especially your cosmetics and cleaning supplies. Opt for products that are labeled ​​ Paraben-free, phthalate-free, and BPA-free
  • Safe sunscreen: Many generic sunscreens are loaded with toxic chemicals that are absorbed by the skin and go into water supplies. Choose “reef safe” sunscreens made with mineral blockers like zinc.
  •  Make it yourself: Whether it’s your food, cleaning supplies, or cosmetics, the more things you make yourself or buy from small vendors, the less likely they are to contain environmental toxins. A simple half and half vinegar to water ratio with some essential oils thrown in is a great multipurpose cleaner. Organic oils like coconut, olive, and jojoba are awesome bases for homemade cosmetics. 
  • Water: Depending on your local water supply, you may want to go for a water filter, or water delivery service. In the same vein, you can buy chlorine filters for your shower and sinks that filter harsh chemicals from your water supply. 
  • Avoid plastic: When possible, avoid plastic. If you do buy something that’s plastic, try to look for “BPA-free”. A great habit to minimize exposure to toxins in plastic is to store food in glass containers instead of plastic ones.

Stay Safe Out There

Life is about balance, especially living in a modern world with so many potentially harmful chemicals floating around. Some people may want to be more careful than others, like those who are immunocompromised, are trying to get pregnant, or have a genetic predisposition to certain diseases. 

Although there are plenty of toxins lurking out there in our products and the environment, it’s important not to let these things get to you too much. Many of these are unavoidable living in this day and age. You can try your best to avoid them where you can, but don’t let the stress of avoiding them take over your life. That can be just as harmful as the toxins themselves! 

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