Sixty-six percent of us are overweight, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Indeed, the CDC dubs us an "obesogenic" society. It can be hard enough to control how many calories we consume and burn, but what's really irksome is the possibility that we are involuntarily ingesting fattening chemicals that migrate out of plastics and cleaning and personal care products. Yes, studies are linking chemicals in everyday products to obesity.
Exposure to phthalates--chemicals widely used as synthetic fragrancing agents, as well as in plastics--correlates to abdominal obesity and insulin resistance in U.S. adult males, according to a March, 2007 study in Environmental Health Perspectives . And in 2008, Bisphenol-A (BPA), used in baby bottles and other food and water containers, was connected with greater likelihood of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported.
More worrisome yet, maternal exposures to both chemicals have been linked with abnormal development in offpspring. BPA and phthalates have been been found to be prevalent in our bodies in representative population samples by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and fetuses The CDC says that all Americans have phthalates in our bodies, and previous studies have linked the chemicals to subtle genital and reproductive hormone changes in male infants. As the babies were exposed in the womb and through breast milk, women would be wise to avoid phthalates, too.
Obesity itself can lead to other health problems, of course, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Breast cancer risks include the onset of menstruation at an early age, younger than 13, as noted by the Breast Cancer Fund, whose excellent site also includes studies finding connections between exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals and early puberty in girls. A Danish study last year, reported in the New York Times "Well" column, advanced the chemical culprits thesis.
Early menarche has itself been linked to excess body fat in young girls. A troubling new study, reported in Reuters, found that early puberty meant women were more likely to suffer heart attacks after reaching middle age. Cambridge University researchers said that higher amounts of body fat at puberty appeared to be a contributing factor, as well. Read about how one mother is coping with health concerns for her young daughter in this frank and informative blog.
Enough fatty plastic, already! To avoid "obesogenic" chemicals, steer clear of:
*Steer clear of Polycarbonate plastics (BPA): See our list of BPA free items here. And here!
*Consume less Canned food and liquid baby formula (can linings contain BPA) Diets heavy in canned food can expose us to unhealthy levels of BPA, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which advises using powdered rather than liquid canned infant formula because BPA migrates more readily into fluids.
The exceptions: Eden Foods says its cans are BPA-free, except for the tomatoes. For more tips on cans & aseptic packaging, see our blog inspired by a traditional canned food recipe, and this advice from EWG.
*Don't Use Personal Care and Cleaning Products with "Fragrance" on their ingredients lists, using this all-inclusive term rather than disclosing specifics. "Fragrance" is a trade secret term allowing the coverup of synthetic scents that use phthalates and other toxic chemicals. What you want to see: "Fragrance derived exclusively from organic rose, geranium, and lavender essential oils."
See our list of phthalate-free personal care and air freshener products.
*Don't Use Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) raincoats, cosmetic bags, backpacks, shower curtains, flooring, etc. Vinyl is also the least recyclablel, in addition to being the most toxic, plastic, according to Greenpeace. Help keep our landfills from gaining weight!