8 Ways to Reduce Your Chemical Load

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Last week’s
New
York Times

featured an article
about a Dr. Jeremijenko, not a physician
but an engineer who offered clients tips for making their personal
environments healthier, more naturally pleasing, and more environmentally
friendly. Dr. Jeremijenko’s suggestions ranged from planting
sunflowers and EDTA soil supplements to leach harmful lead in yards
to surrounding yourself with more houseplants for both their aesthetic
value and healthy ability to absorb toxic VOCs in the air. She even
offers clients reports on the “top polluters in their neighborhoods”
and other information on environmental concerns relevant to their
areas.

The good doctor’s
story got us thinking. We all chat quite a bit about the best
diet
, the ideal
exercise routine
, even effective
sleep strategies
. Yet, our personal environment, we’ve
said, includes a great
deal we have little to no control over
: air pollution, water
impurity, and the chemical makeup of modern “stuff” –
(i.e. chemicals included, some for good reason and others not so
much, in the products we use every day). Wise supplementation (shamless
plug
) can help counter some of their effects, but what if we
knew how to reduce toxic impact from the get-go?

The idea here
is reducing our own biological “chemical load,” the number
and amount of toxins we carry in our bodies. This includes everything
from heavy metals like mercury, arsenic and lead to virtually omnipresent
flame retardant compounds called PBDEs to chemicals like phthalates,
formaldehyde, PCBs, and bisphenol A (just to name a few). These
toxins are invaders, and the body knows it. Some, like the heavy
metals, impact neurological functioning. Others, like phthalates,
disrupt the endocrine balance. PBDEs, at lower levels, can seriously
impact thyroid functioning (an issue for a number of our readers)
and at higher levels, can impair reproductive and neurological functioning.
In short, this issue is nothing to shake a stick at.

Scientists
in both the human health and environmental sciences are learning
from the growing use of biomonitoring surveys, in which blood and
urine samples from humans (and animals) are tested for the presence
of certain toxins. A person’s chemical load is, in part, determined
by where they live and how old they are, but it’s also strongly
influenced by what kind of lifestyle they lead and the measures
they take to minimize their exposure to environmental and consumer
toxins in their home and work places.

We’re
all about taking charge of our health and well-being, we thought.
“So,” we asked, “What are some easy and inexpensive
ways for all of us to reduce our chemical load?” Check it out.

Clean up
Your Shower

Got chlorine
in your water? Most likely, since it’s commonly used in municipal
water treatment programs. Once that chlorine comes out in the fine,
hot spray of your morning shower, there’s concern about breathing
it in day after day. Quick fix? Buy a simple shower filter, which
usually go for about $30-45.

And while you’re
at it, you might want to take a look at ye olde shower curtain as
well. We suggest getting rid of a vinyl (PVC) curtain, which contains
phthalates that can be absorbed by the skin. Again, if you’re
purely a bath person, you probably don’t have much to worry
about. However, if you are a shower lover, that aforementioned hot
water can allegedly help release phthalates into your otherwise
soothing shower experience. Simple solution? Choose a nylon, linen,
or PEVA plastic. They come as cheap as $4.

Use Natural
Fabrics

All those flame
retardants? They’re most critical for synthetic fabrics. (That
polyester jumpsuit in the back of your closet will go up in flames
much quicker than your everyday merino wool suit.) But we’re
talking about more than clothes here. Look around your house. PBDEs
can make up to 30% of the weight of synthetic foam in furniture
items, and those chemicals get spread around the house every time
you sit down or get up from your furniture. As a result, PBDEs are
found in the household dust of nearly every American home. Choose
natural fiber rugs and carpets whenever possible. And look for furniture
made with wool, natural rubber and latex instead of synthetic materials
especially for high-use furniture like mattresses. We recognize,
however, that fully natural furniture can be difficult to afford.
Other options? Look for options that use non-PBDE retardants. Though
PBDEs aren’t the only flame retardant, they’re generally
considered the most lasting and insidious. Alternatives like borate
retardants have their issues as well but are considered safer overall.
Oh, and it’s best to skip any stain guard coatings. Tell the
kids to keep it in the kitchen instead.

Read
the rest of the article

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