A review of common chemicals and toxins that parents worry about
BISPHENOL-A, and bisphenol-S, and “P” etc. and other mystery additives to our food chain.
What to Know About Bisphenols:
These are primarily synthetic estrogens which seem to have obesogenic (obesity promoting) effects. They make fat cells bigger and counteract adiponectin. (An important cardio protective hormone.)
BPA was originally developed as an estrogen to be used in a birth control pill. It wasn’t quite strong enough so the developer went looking for other uses..??!! It found its way into plastics (those with #7 recycle number on them) and onto the paper of “inkless” cash register receipts and into the lining of steel and aluminum cans. Yes, as in soda cans. It can also be found in the lining of some boxed soups and foods. Does it need to be in these things? No. Are there alternatives? Yes. Is it absorbed thru the skin and gut? Yes. Yes!!! Does it have estrogenic effects in your body? Yes! It also has effects on thyroid receptors. Are you getting dosed with this? Yes!
Don’t let babies or kids play with cash register receipts. Limit your own handling of them. Store them in a bag or pouch not loose in your purse where the dust will contaminate everything. Go for an electronic receipt whenever possible. Check this link:
It is now becoming easier to find canned food with linings that are BPA free…yippee??? Except …some are now using BPS (or xyz, there’s an alphabet of variations) instead which has a stronger estrogenic effect and longer half-life. Which cans still have some form of bisphenol in their lining? Who knows?! The plastics companies claim their “formula” is proprietary so they don’t have to disclose what chemicals they are adding to plastics.
Which may be why many plastics that are BPA free still leach estrogen active chemicals. This was confirmed in the study linked below published in Environmental Health Perspectives in March 2011. This study took plastic samples from a wide variety of everyday products including many labeled “BPA” free. They made sure to sample plastics from all recycling catagories, 1-7. The plastics were subjected to normal use type of exposures and then the plastics were tested to see if they would leach chemicals that bind to estrogen receptors. Every sample tested positive for chemicals that had estrogen receptor binding. Let’s say that again. EVERY TYPE OF PLASTIC TESTED POSITIVE FOR ESTROGEN RECPTOR BINDING CHEMICALS. Unfortunately, this means that you cannot trust any plastic with food products. Yeah. Not any of them. Not until the companies are required to fully disclose their plastics formulas and they are all tested. Can plastics be made without estrogenically active leaching molecules…YES! The study below is long but there’s a lot of info in the abstract alone. Worth a view:
Heated, scratched, and damaged plastic storage containers, plates, cups, etc. are probably leaching chemicals at a much higher rate. Don’t microwave them AND don’t put them in the dishwasher.
Where We Find Bisphenols:
- Cash register receipts -
- Soda cans / aluminum can linings
- Food cans / steel can linings- even “BPA-free” Have some form of EDC’s
- Plastics – ALL kinds of plastics have tested positive for endocrine active chemicals.
- Heated or damaged plastics are especially concerning for leaching these compounds.
What to Do About Bisphenols:
- When possible look for food in glass rather than cans or plastic.
- Get your soda and beer from glass but avoid plastic bottles and aluminum cans.
- Don’t let babies or kids play with cash register receipts. Limit your own handling of them. Store them in a bag or pouch not loose in your purse where the dust will contaminate everything. Go for an electronic receipt whenever possible.
- If you work as a cashier, wear gloves! Receipts are a major source of BPA and S exposure. Check this link:https://www.marketwatch.com/story/your-receipts-could-be-making-you-sick-2018-01-17
- Cardboard drink, broth, or soup boxes that say “Tetra” or “Sims” are reportedly free of endocrine disrupters.
- Store food and pack lunches in metal, glass, or silicone containers. Use wax paper, plastic free parchment paper, or newer untreated paper sandwich bags.
- Throw out all broken plastic.
- Don’t put plastic in the dishwasher or microwave
- Aluminum water bottles have a plastic lining- don’t use them
- Use a steel water bottle and make sure it does not have a lining.
- Throw out your plastic storage containers
- Throw out your plastic cooking utensils such as large plastic spoons, spatula’s etc..
- Use cooking utensils that are wooden, silicone, or steel
- Avoid plastic spoons, straws, cups
- You can order silicone or stainless steel straws on line. I like the silicone ones best.
- Order silicone container covers in place of plastic wrap.
- Get rid of plastic mixing bowls, go for glass or stainless
Here’s some pictures of what you can look for on canned food labels to hopefully reduce exposure.
What to Know About Glyphosate:
- Glyphosate- by itself with no other additives has been found by the World Health Organization to be a "probable carcinogen" with specific risk for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
- Round-Up Weed killer- states that glyphosate is its only “active” ingredient. “non-active” ingredients are proprietary and do not have to be reported. Toxicity tests for Round-Up show markedly more toxicity towards human embryonic cells than tests done on pure glyphosate. Additives to Round-Up appear to be causing this difference.
- From Mom’s Across America:
“UPDATE: In August of 2018, school pesticide applicator Dwayne "Lee" Johnson, who is dying of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, was awarded 289.2 million dollars from Monsanto by a California Supreme Court jury. Monsanto was found guilty of acting with "malice and oppression," meaning they knew their glyphosate products could cause cancer and the company executives suppressed the information. As of September 2018, over 8,000 more Roundup users are filing lawsuits against Monsanto’
Where Glyphosate is Found:
- Virtually all non-organic grain products regardless of whether they are GMO or not are sprayed with Round Up just prior to harvest. It is used to “dessicate” or kill and dry up the crop so that mechanical harvesting is easier. Per EcoWatch: https://www.ecowatch.com/roundup-cancer-1882187755.html
“Along with wheat and oats, glyphosate is used to desiccate a wide range of other crops including lentils, peas, non-GMO soybeans, corn, flax, rye, triticale, buckwheat, millet, canola, sugar beets and potatoes. Sunflowers may also be treated pre-harvest with glyphosate, according to the National Sunflower Association.” “As well as a large portion of green beans.”
What to Do About Glyphosate:
- Alternatives to using Round Up at home:
- Vinegar and other weed control alternatives see link below
- Getting Round Up out of your family food chain:
- Focus on buying only organic grain products- breads, cereals, snack bars, corn, lentils, green beans
What to Know About Atrazine:
- Atrazine is the second most used herbicide in the US. Most often used in the mid west to kill weeds between corn rows.
- Atrazine in humans will turn on an enzyme in your cells called aromatase. This aromatase converts testosterone to estrogen in the human body.
- Health implications- estrogen based cancers, infertility, abnormal male fetal development if exposure is at certain times in development, low birth weight, abnormal neurological development
- Many water supplies in the US are contaminated with Atrazine especially in the mid west.This contamination can have HUGE seasonal variation. If tested during non spray times the water may appear to have low levels. However, when tested during peak spraying season the water sources for millions of Americans are found to have levels much higher than guidelines would allow. See the following link:
- From the Environmental Working Group (EWG):
- This analysis shows that many water municipalities will test the water for atrazine at non-peak times and then report that as the water levels meeting EPA standards. In fact, testing by the EPA at peak times often show levels of atrazine that far exceeded safe EPA levels. This information is being under reported in many, but not all water municipalities.
- Article from Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/atrazine-water-tied-hormonal-irregularities/
- Article from CDC: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=336&tid=59
Where is Atrazine Found:
- Contaminated water supplies both thru municipalities and ground or well water. Especially in the mid west.
- Especially were corn is planted
What to Do About Atrazine:
- If your home relys on well water, have it tested.
- Use a water filter on your tap. See the EWG review of filters (link bottom of page) to be sure that you pick one that removes atrazine.
- Insist that municipalities test and report during peak seasons.
- Buy organic to encourage reduced use of herbicides.
What to Know About PFC's:
This is a group of non-stick, strain resistant, grease resistant chemicals that have been around since the 1950’s. Teflon and Scotch guard are two PFC’s that have been partially banned due to health effects. They are very long lasting persistent chemicals that accumulate in people and animals. Studies by the CDC in 2005 show that virtually all Americans have PFC’s in their bodies. Other studies have shown that it is passed thru the placenta and breast milk to fetus and infant.
Per the Centers for Disease Control or CDC:
“Although more research is needed, some studies in people have shown that certain PFAS may:
- affect growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children
- lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant
- interfere with the body’s natural hormones
- increase cholesterol levels
- affect the immune system
- increase the risk of cancer
At this time, scientists are still learning about the health effects of exposures to mixtures of PFAS.
The other use for these chemicals is in waterproofing and stain guarding of fabrics and carpets. Gore-tex, Polartec, Stainmaster, Scotch Guard, and many other water proof fabric coatings, upollstrey or carpet stain protection have tested positive for PFAS’s or PFC’s. They have also been found in sneakers, outdoor clothing, and non-stick kitchen ware.
PFC’S are extensively used as grease proof coatings for food wrappers and packaging. This has been shown to leach into food products.
Where PFC's are Found:
- Grease proof food wrappers, boxes, and packaging. These chemicals are widely used in most carry out food containers and wrappers. Regardless of whether the food is from a "high end restaurant" or a fast food chain, many have PFC coatings on what may appear to be a simple paper wrapping or cup. I don't know any way to tell which have and don't have PFC's by looking. Whole Foods has committed to removing PFC's from it's carry out containers and Trader Joe's has reportedly managed to remove them from most of their products as well. There are now many alternatives to these coatings some as simple as prolonged boiling of paper products to create a denser paper. Hot greasy foods are most likely to pull some of the PFC's from the container.
- Recycled paper products
The PFC’s in paper products have been found to persist in recycled materials. Thus, a restaurant may use materials without PFC coatings but if it is made with recycled paper it may well still contain PFC’s that can leach into your food.
- Waterproof fabrics – coats, shoes, outdoor wear
- Gore-tex, Polartec, Stainmaster, Scotch Guard, and many other water proof fabric coatings,
- upolstry – any “stain resistant furniture fabric probably has been treated with a PFC based product
- carpet stain protection
- some sneakers
- non-stick kitchen ware.
- Microwave popcorn in the US is still produced in bags with PFC’s.
- Dental Floss…!
- Contaminated drinking water- maybe check water before mixing infant formula
- Cleaning Products
- Paints, varnishes, and sealants
- Firefighting Foam
- Some cosmetics
- Fish and seafood- can bio accumulate PFC’s
What to Do About PFC's:
- Avoid all restaurant food packaging and wrappers. Ask for a plate.
- Bring your own stainless steel cup or mug.
- When possible ask for warmed food in cafes to be place on a plate for heating and not on packaging.
- Avoid all waterproofed, stain proofed clothing and fabrics
- Don’t use non-stick pans, pots, or cook ware. Use stainless steel or cast iron.
- Research your cosmetics prior to use- see EWG's guides
- Use organic cleaning products or make your own
- Filter your water especially if mixing formula. Use the EWG’s water filter guide.
- Switch to wax coated silk dental floss. This is actually easy to find on-line. I also found one in a metal (not plastic) reusable dispenser. Here’s 2 I like:
- Wowe Natural Biodegradable Silk Dental Floss with Mint Flavored Wax, Refillable Stainless Steel Container
- Dental Lace| Silk Dental Floss with Natural Mint Flavoring | Includes 1 Refillable Recyclable Blue Dispenser
- Don’t use microwave popcorn. It’s very easy to and fun to make the old fashioned way!
- Research paints, varnishes, and finishes
- Don’t recycle paper you think might have PFC’s on them.
- Be wary of fish or seafood that may have bio-accumulated PFC's if farther up the food chain
- Use paper lunch bags, grease proof without wax or other coating:
- https://www.ifyoucare.com/baking-cooking/snack-sandwich-bags/ - If You Care
- https://www.lunchskins.com - Lunchskins
See table below in link below from testing by the Environmental Working Group, EWG.
What to Know About Cadmium:
This is a heavy metal that can be found in some artist paints and in the glazes and paintings on dishes and pottery. It is a known carcinogen and should be avoided. Cadmium is especially found in red, orange, and yellow colors glazes and can leach from dishes. Even dishes made in the USA may have some cadmium in their glazes. Dishes from china and Mexico should be highly suspect. Especially if it has a painted decoration or red/orange/yellow colors.
Where is Cadmium Found:
- The cadmium in acrylic artist paints has low solubility and is felt to be of lower risk.
- Some acrylic paints now have a fully lead free formulation.
- Oil paints with cadmium have a higher risk of toxicity and should be handled with gloves and precautions.
- Airbrushing or sanding cadmium paints markedly increases exposure and should be avoided.
- Kids paints are generally made without cadmium.
Dishes, pottery, ceramics:
- Cadmium is often added to red, yellow, and orange glazes.
- The Cadmium can leach from the dishes regardless of whether the outer glaze is intact or cracked or chipped.
- Fiestaware can send you a list of which of their current glazes contain cadmium and which do not. OLD dishes are a gamble as they may have been made before regulations were in place.
What to Do About Cadmium:
- Most (not ALL!) new all white dishes are both cadmium and lead free.
- Corelle’s current all-white dishes both flat and embossed should be cadmium free and have tested lead free too. (see next section). This is not true of any with painted designs.
- Trash your old plates or put special ones on display only.
- You can consider using some larger colorful plates as “chargers” and put a safer plate on top for the food. This is what I will be doing with my “good” dishes that I bought without awareness of the issues and can’t find answers on.
- Fiestaware does have numerous colors of dishes that are cadmium free and test with only barely detectable trace lead that per the company is a naturally occurring contaminate and not an additive to their glazes. I like the colors but they are out of my price range.
- Don’t use any old dishes or glasses for food.
- Stainless steel plates and cups are fine and great for kids, pool side, or other places where you want to avoid breakable table ware
- Bamboo plates are often made from bamboo “dust” mixed with a resin. Who knows what’s in the resin. Avoid until we can know more.
- Melamine plates- I don’t trust them. Melamine in other forms caused renal toxicity in dog food. Most are made in china with unknown paints.
- Plastic plates- Plastic companies do not have to disclose their formulas and we now know that all types of plastic have tested positive for estrogen binding compounds. So, I no longer trust any plastic even if made in the USA.
What to Know About Lead:
Lead continues to be a significant poisoning risk in the U.S. ACROSS ALL SOCIO-ECONOMIC GROUPS. Very small levels of lead poisoning causes permanent, irreversible cognitive impairment in children.
Tamara Rubin became a strong advocate for continued lead testing after her sons became exposed and poisoned by a painting contractor. She now tests numerous products and maintains an excellent website with information on lead and many heavy metals. Please check out her website and her documentary: MisLEAD, copyright Tamara Rubin.
Lead was used in multiple products in the past. Exposure can cause permanent mental impairment especially in young children. Its use is now supposed to be controlled in the US but many old sources continue to cause concerning exposure. In addition, lead continues to be used in products, paints, and gasoline produced in other countries especially ceramics from Mexico and China.
From the California Dept. of Health:
If a dish contains lead, using the dishwasher can damage the glazed surface. This can make it more likely to leach lead into food the next time it is used. In addition, in some cases, lead may contaminate other dishes in the dishwasher.
No. The lead-leaching process can still take place even if the surface is not broken or worn. However, if the surface is chipped, cracked, or worn there may be a greater exposure to lead.
The answer is not the same for all dishes. Under some circumstances, as dishes get older, they may leach more lead into food or drink.
Lead-free tableware contains NO lead.
Lead-safe tableware contains some lead, but the amount of lead that can get into food does not exceed the California Proposition 65 standards. Either there is very little lead in the tableware, or very little of the lead actually passes into food with us
Where Lead is Found:
- Old exposure sources: ceramics (watch those antiques!), water pipes, old paint and paint dust, old venetian blinds, old leaded glass crystal, old mechanical equipment, old toys
- New exposure sources: still found in many independently tested ceramics.
- Chocolate!! Coco powder!!-this was big surprise.
- Fair trade chocolate- likely contaminated by old equipment used to grind the chocolate. Look for local small producers
- Crayola crayons- levels are low if used as a toy but too high if your kid eats them!
- Old Pyrex
- Old Tupperware
- Old Fiestaware
- Many decorative plates and serving ware from US, Europe, China, Mexico
- Possibly in some Balsamic vinegars - see separate section below for details on this.
- From the California Dept. of Public Health:
- Traditional glazed terra cotta ware made in some Latin American countries, such as Mexican bean pots. They are often quite rustic and usually have a transparent glaze. Unless they are specifically labeled as lead-free or sin plomo (Spanish), use of these pots for cooking is especially hazardous and should be stopped at once. (per her website: Tamara Rubin has found Mexican pottery labled "lead free" which in fact tested very high for lead and was a likely source of a child's lead poisoning.)
- Highly decorated traditional dishes used in some Asian communities.
- Home-made or hand-crafted tableware, either from the U.S. or a foreign country, unless you are sure the maker uses a lead-free glaze.
- Bright colors or decorations on the inside dish surfaces that touch the food or drink. This includes the upper rim of a cup or bowl.
- Decorations on top of the glaze instead of beneath it. If the decorations are rough or raised, if you can feel the decoration when you rub your finger over the dish, or if you can see brush strokes above the glazed surface, the decoration is probably on top of the glaze. If the decoration has begun to wear away, there may be an even greater lead hazard.
- Antique tableware handed down in families, or found in antique stores, flea markets and garage sales. These dishes were made before lead in tableware was regulated.
- Corroded glaze, or a dusty or chalky grey residue on the glaze after the piece has been washed. Tableware in this condition may represent a serious lead hazard and should not be used.
Lead is rarely found in plain white dishes. Lead-containing glazes or decorations on the outside of dishes or non-food surfaces are generally not a problem. (See #10 below regarding use of dishwashers for dishes containing lead.)
What to Do About Lead:
- In order to avoid both lead and heavy metals I relied on Tamara Rubin’s information.
- I picked one of the white dish products that she tested and found safe.
- I picked a white Corelle style for every day dishes.
- You could also pick US made enamel ware. (too expensive for me) Don’t use enamel ware made in China because of the risk of both lead and other heavy metals. (this is all the inexpensive enamel ware)
- Stainless steel sippy cups with silicone lids and straws are now easy to find online.
- Stainless steel plates are a good non-breakable options for kids, pools, camping etc.. The ones I found are pretty plain but hopefully some one will come out with a decorative stamped version before too long.
- Relegate antiques and family items to decoration only. This includes inherited china and crystal.
- Research lead abatement before you allow any contractor to work on lead painted surfaces in your home. Supervise work to ensure compliance with precautions. Protect your children during abatement and clean up.
- If you have any concerns about exposure get your kids tested right away.
BALSAMIC VINEGAR AND LEAD
What to Know About Balsamic Vinegar and Lead:
This one remains very unclear. Very small amounts of lead have been found in balsamic and red wine vinegars especially aged balsamic from Italy. But lead is very toxic. It’s not clear where the lead is coming from. It could be from the barrels it is aged in or from the soil where the grapes are grown.The amount in the lead positive ones varies enormously from one bottle to another bottle even within the same brand. In some samples the levels are truly extremely low in others there could be concern if it was a regular diet item for children. (like in a spaghetti sauce) It’s controversial as to whether the amount is significant.
- Balsamic vinegar from Italy- especially aged
- Red wine vinegars
What to Do About Possible Lead in Balsamic Vinegar:
- There is no lead in white, rice, fig, or raspberry vinegars, and some California balsamic vinegars are tested and labled lead free.
- On the very safe side, I’d keep the kids away from regular consumption of balsamic vinegar. I’d be more comfortable with a tested California vinegar or just use one of the many potential substitutes. For adults, I doubt it’s an issue.
What to Know About Mercury:
Mercury is an elemental heavy metal. It occurs in many forms with various other atoms attached. All forms cause neurotoxicity and can be potentially lethal in higher doses. It can cross the placenta and blood brain barrier putting a fetus at special risk of neurologic damage. These are well documented and known risks. Since the industrial revolution the mobilization of naturally occurring mercury by human action has resulted in very large increases in human exposure as compared to the past. Some primary sources are from the burning of coal, other fossil fuels, and use of lime in cement production. These activities release mercury into the air in a form that can spread globally thru air currents then settle and contaminate water and soil. Thus, Chinese coal sourced powerplants can become a major source of mercury on U.S. waters and land. Furthermore, the past use of coal in the U.S. has led to extensive mobilization of mercury across the Atlantic and thru Europe.
Where is Mercury Found:
Mercury bioaccumulates in animals that consume contaminated water or soils.
- Large fish that are high on the food chain have higher levels of mercury.
- From Greenfacts: “large predatory fish, such as king mackeral, pike, shark, swordfish, walleye, barracuda, large tuna (as opposed to the small tuna usually used for canned tuna), scabbard and marlin, as well as seals and toothed whales, contain the highest concentrations.(Copyright Greenfacts. https://www.greenfacts.org/en/mercury/l-3/mercury-4.htm#0p0 )
- In addition, bottom dwelling detritus eaters (crabs, shrimp) and filter feeders (clams, mussles, scallops) maybe contaminated if local underwater soils are contaminated with mercury from current or previous industrial waste dumping.
- Albacore and blue fin tunas ( very large fish) have higher levels than the smaller tunas that are used for “chunk light” canned tuna.
- Some older dental amalgams can release mercury gas during placement
- Some non-traditional medicines may have mercury in them.
What to Do About Mercury:
- Per the FDA: Do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish because they contain high levels of mercury.
- Avoid albacore in pregnant women and young kids, chunk light small serving 1-2 x /mn believed to be okay, see links below for safe fish and amounts
- Know the source of any bottom dwelling or filter feeding sea food you eat. Make local inquires before harvesting and eating these types of animals as they may have higher mercury levels if local contamination of water and soil is high.
- Women who wish to get pregnant should also avoid high mercury seafood. It can take a year for the body to remove mercury from your system and high levels cause permanent neurotoxic damage to a fetus.
- Per the FDA: Five of the most commonly eaten fish that are low in mercury are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.
- Fish sticks and fish fillets are commonly made with low mercury fish and are also considered safe.
- For children under 50 lbs., I found varying recommendations on safe fish consumption.
- Below from the FDA appears to be a good reference:
Advice About Eating Fish
What Pregnant Women & Parents Should Know
Fish and other protein-rich foods have nutrients that can help your child’s growth and
You can use this chart to help you choose which fish to eat, and how often to eat them, based on their mercury levels. The “Best Choices” have the lowest levels of mercury.
For women of childbearing age (about 16-49 years old), especially pregnant and breastfeeding women, and for parents and caregivers of young children.
Eat 2 to 3 servings of fish a week from the “Best Choices” list OR 1 serving from the “Good Choices” list.
Eat a variety of fish.
If you eat fish caught by family or friends, check for fish advisories.
If there is no advisory, eat only one serving and no other fish that week.*
Serve 1 to 2 servings of fish a week to children, starting at age 2.
For an adult 4 ounces
For children, ages 4 to 7 - 2 ounces
|Best Choices EAT 2 TO 3 SERVINGS A WEEK||
Good Choices EAT 1 SERVING A WEEK
Atlantic croaker Atlantic mackerel Black sea bass Butterfish
Crawfish Flounder Haddock
American and spinyMullet OysterPacific chub mackerelPerch, freshwater and oceanPickerel Plaice Pollock Salmon SardineScallopShadShrimpSkateSmeltSoleSquid
Tuna, canned light (includes skipjack)
Chilean sea bass/ Patagonian toothfish
Mahi mahi/ dolphinfish
Striped bass (ocean)
Tilefish (Atlantic Ocean)
Tuna, albacore/ white tuna, canned and fresh/frozen
White croaker/ Pacific croaker
|Choices to Avoid HIGHEST MERCURY LEVELS|
|King mackerel, Shark ,Tilefish
Marlin, Swordfish, Orange roughy
(Gulf of Mexico) Tuna, bigeye
|*Some fish caught by family and friends, such as larger carp, catfish, trout and perch, www.FDA.gov/fishadvice are more likely to have fish advisories due to mercury or other contaminants. State
advisories will tell you how often you can safely eat those fish. www.EPA.gov/fishadvice
What to Know About Arsenic:
First some terminology for clarity. Arsenic occurs naturally in both its inorganic and its organic form. In this case we are using the word “organic” in the “organic chemistry” sense of the word. So, organic arsenic has a carbon atom attached to the arsenic and inorganic arsenic does not have a carbon atom. We are not talking about natural or “organic” farming practices we’re talking about chemical structures.
Organic Arsenic (with a carbon atom) is naturally found in fish and shellfish. It is benign and not a health concern.
Inorganic Arsenic (without a carbon atom) is found naturally in many soils around the world with varying concentrations. It was also previously used in pesticides, paints, wood sealants, paper products, and other industrial uses, but is now prohibited. Inorganic arsenic is highly water soluble. This means that ground water and plants that grow in water can be contaminated with inorganic arsenic both naturally and from old contamination. Established safe levels in drinking water are quite strict and we know from other parts of the world where contamination is high that the consequences of arsenic build up in people is very severe. There are currently no established safe standards for arsenic in food as the problem of accumulative dosing from foods had not been recognized. However, inorganic arsenic is now found in a wide variety of foods partly due to the use of rice in multiple forms. This is especially concerning for infants and young children whose small bodies are at risk of greater impact.
Where is Inorganic Arsenic Found:
- Rice and rice products are a potential source of inorganic arsenic in the U.S. a
- rice based infant formula (!)
- infant rice cereal
- some jarred baby food that contains rice or rice syrup
- both white and brown rice regardless of if it is "organically grown"
- contaminated ground or well water in the US. If traveling some areas of the world have very high inorganic arsenic contamination of drinking water and subsequent disease. Check before you drink!
- cereal bars with rice,
- many “gluten free” products that use rice flour in place of wheat,
- rice based pasta,
- rice drinks
- athletic energy gels (from rice syrup).
Recent studies have shown that for some people, the cumulative intake of inorganic arsenic from foods can exceed the safe levels determined for water.
What to Do About Inorganic Arsenic:
- Basmati rice from California, Pakistan, and India has the lowest arsenic levels. Sushi rice grown in California also is lower as is Jasmine rice from Thailand. Rice labeled USA, Texas, Louisiana, or Arkansas have the highest levels of inorganic arsenic. Brown rice has higher levels than does white rice. The arsenic is absorbed from the soil / water and not related to whether the rice is “grown organically” or not.
- Arsenic is water soluble so rinsing the rice can reduce the arsenic by 30%. Or you can cook with extra water and wash it away too. Even without these steps the levels are low for adults. Mostly a caution for pregnant women, babies, children, and those on a gluten free diet who may take in more rice than others.
- Because arsenic is water soluble that also means it can leach into water sources. Ground water or well water around the country can be contaminated with arsenic. You can use water filters to remove it.
- All this means that starting your 6 mn old on rice cereal may not be where you want to go. But…any oatmeal based product that does not say “organic” may well have glyphosate (Round-up) in it! Glyphosate is used to “desiccate” or dry up and kill a grain crop just before harvesting. This makes harvesting drier and easier…and your grain, even non-GMO grain, is now freshly coated with glyphosate! Oh how yummy! Just what I want to feed in concentrated form to my small child! Sigh. So- you’re looking to buy “organic oatmeal cereal” for your baby.
The link below reviews current testing of rice and rice products with a very useful comparative list at the bottom of the article:
ARSENIC IN SUMMARY:
- Organic Oatmeal Cereal may be a good first food choice over rice.
- Avoid rice syrup based infant formula’s unless told otherwise by your doctor.
- Read baby food jar labels and avoid if it contains rice or rice syrup.
- Consider a water filter if you drink well water.
- If you are pregnant and gluten intolerant be careful of excessive rice based products.
- When eating rice: pick basmati from California, India, or Pakistan. Or Jasmine from Thailand. Or sushi from California. Rinse before cooking. White rice has less arsenic than brown.
Here’s the link to the Environmental Working Group’s water filter guide:
Here’s a statement from the National Environmental Health Institute about accumulation of arsenic from food sources:
From the World Health Organization:
From the Center for Disease Control:
FIRE RETARDANTS - PBDES aka polybrominated diphenyl ethers
What to Know About PBDES:
“PBDEs, commonly known as flame retardant compounds, are emerging chemicals of great concern. They are chemical cousins of PCBs.” ( https://ptmsc.org/programs/investigate/citizen-science/completed-projects/orca-project/contaminants-in-orcas) PCB’s were banned in 1977 but persist in the environment even today. (Copyright
These are carcinogens- We have more and more evidence that fire retardants are bad players and don’t really help with burn prevention anyway. Many states are now changing laws to allow products to be made without fire retardants but sales people in stores are often still not knowledgeable. Europe is working to remove these chemicals from most products. Electronics are a common source and remain only partially improved. These chemicals are really impossible to fully avoid but you can reduce your child’s exposure.
In CA- a furniture tag now must say whether it was treated with fire retardant or not and it is much easier to find upholstered furniture that is not treated with chemicals.
Where Are Fire Retardant Chemicals Found:
- Cushions- polyurethane foam with its many fire retardant additives will break down over time. It becomes a dust in the home and ultimately gets on hands and is eaten. Vacuuming frequently and washing hands before eating can help. If you change out the old foam from the cushions, do it outside and wash the covers to reduce the contaminated dust in your home. If buying new furniture try to invest in cushion filling without polyurethane foam if you can.
- Mattresses- old crib mattresses are probably loaded with fire retardants.
- Some children's pajamas and sleep wear
- Electronics- remote controls, tv’s, computers, phones, wires, and cables most are loaded with an assortment of fire retardant chemicals
What to Do About Fire Retardant Chemicals:
- Pick the right crib mattress - A quick on-line hunt will find you multiple options for both crib and twin mattresses that do not have fire retardants and are still highly functional. Your kids will spend huge amounts of time over the years on these mattresses and as such your careful choice can really help limit their exposure to these chemicals. When they out-grow the crib you can move the mattress to the floor for more use.
- Use a latex twin bed when they are older and for yourself. If you can't afford a full latex mattress try a cotton futon with a latex mattress topper for extra squish. Be sure to look for a non-vinyl, non-toxic mattress or topper cover.
- Tight cotton Pj’s- have no retardant on them because they are tight.
- Loose or tight polyester PJ’s - are naturally flame resistant and therefore no retardant applied.
- Microfiber PJ’s- highly flammable, make toxic gases when burned, often have fire retardant - stay away
- Electronics- Don’t let your babies or kids do their teething on electronic car keys, remotes, etc..
What to Know About Phthalates:
These chemicals are endocrine disruptors. They act like synthetic hormones and can effect estrogen, testosterone, and thyroid hormone.
Where are Phthalates Found:
They are common in cosmetics and anything with a scent or fragrance.
What to Do About Phthalates:
- Avoid things that list “fragrance” as an ingredient.
- Be very leery of air fresheners, scented candles, all shampoos and lotions, etc. unless it says, “Phthalate free.”
- Stick to organic and Phthalate free body care products for your kids
What to Know About Lavender and Tea Tree Oils:
I have to admit this one surprised me. Apparently, both of these oils contain some very estrogenic compounds. We now have some quite convincing data that they can cause gynecomastia in boys. This is a condition in which hormone stimulation leads to enlargement of male breast tissue. We also have cases in which topically applied lavender products caused premature thelarche (breast development) in female toddlers. Both the male and female exposures came from topically applied products. In one study boys had been using a lavender based cologne and the female toddlers were exposed to lotions, wipes, and shampoos with lavender oils. In both the gynecomastia and the premature thelarche cases, the breasts of the children returned to normal size once their exposure to the oils was stopped. Furthermore, the estrogenic compounds found in lavender and tea tree oil are also found in other essential oils…we just don’t have comprehensive testing yet. I don’t believe we have any data yet on the use of aerosolized essential oils. The above concern is with topical applications to skin. This is a very, very new concern and has not yet become widely known. See the articles and statements from the Endocrine Society from 2019. Link is below.
From, “Medical News Today, on 3/20/2018:
“Researchers led by J. Tyler Ramsey — of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences — tested the impact of eight components that are commonly found in tea tree and lavender oil on human cancer cells to study their effect on hormonal activity. The results suggest that the chemicals are endocrine disruptors — that is, substances that disturb the normal activity of hormones in the body.”
Sigh. Bummer! I like smelly stuff! But between phthalates and now essential oils…
Where are Lavender and Tea Tree Oils Found:
- A wide variety of organic and non-organic body care products including many marketed for infants.
What to Do About Essential Oils:
- Look for organic and "unscented" baby care products until further testing is done on essential oils.
- If you are going thru fertility treatment or have a hormone based cancer, consider avoiding essential oils.
Here’s what the National Institutes of Environmental Services has to say:
Here’s an abstract from the National Institutes of Health study:
Here’s what the Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health says:
Here’s a press release from the Endocrine Society, 2018.
Here’s Medical News Today’s posting:
What to Know About Talc:
Talc is a clay mineral mined from the earth. The problem is that asbestos is often found in the same locations and contaminates the talc. Some talc has more asbestos than other talc and this is not regulated nor tested as the products are considered cosmetics or body care products. Inhaled asbestos has long been know to cause a lung cancer called mesothelioma. In addition, regular use of talcum powder on a woman's vulva has long been known to be connected to an increased risk of ovarian cancer.
Where is Talc Found:
- Baby powder- some is talc based. Some are cornstarch based.
- Cosmetics many powder based products have talc.
- Powder based sprays such as used for athlete's foot or foot odor may use talc.
What to Do About Talc and Asbestos Exposure:
- Read labels and don't use products with talc.
- If using baby powder, look for cornstarch. (be aware that inhaling any fine particle is not a good idea and avoid if possible)
- Look for talc free cosmetics
- Use foot sprays and powders that don't contain talc. Look under "inactive or inert" ingredients. If possible switch to creams. Avoid inhaling and teach your kids not to inhale these foot care products.
I never used to be big on filtering water but I am now a convert. Unless you are testing regularly you just don't know what contaminates might be in there. And don't trust bottled water either. It's easier to simply filter.
Here’s the Environmental Working Group’s water filter guide: