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Innocent until proven guilty.

We consider this as a basic human right, but should we give the benefit of the doubt to harsh chemicals? Up until June 2016, the law said yes, we should.

President Obama recently rebooted the Toxic Substances Control Act to include a safety review of chemicals that are going to be used in the broad environment (including our homes). Before, the conversation was one-sided, the cost to manufacturers being the main concern in regulating harsh chemicals in consumer products. But there are significant health benefits and cost savings that could be had for consumers in increased regulation.

Constant, everyday contact with household items that contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals can contribute to a variety of medical conditions. Products like plastic bottles, certain foods, cosmetics, and furniture and clothing containing flame retardants all contribute to potential toxic buildup around the house—and eventually, a hefty medical bill for the country of around $340 billion annually.

The most common chemicals are bisphenol A (BPA) from tin cans, phthalates found in cosmetics and plastic containers, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) which are found in flame retardants, and chlorpyrifos and organophosphates which are pesticides. Two-thirds of the diseases from endocrine-disrupting chemicals are caused by the toxic chemicals from fire-resistant materials.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are what are posing an international health problem, potentially harming the endocrine systems of those exposed—especially unborn children. These chemicals mimic and interfere with our bodies’ sex steroid hormones which can lead to neurobehavioral and reproductive disorders, obesity and diabetes.

But many of the reports on the dangers of these household chemicals fail to distinguish between endocrine action and endocrine disruption. Which, for some specialists from the Center for Accountability in Science, is an important distinction that needs to be made. Things like soy can interact with our endocrine systems and trigger activity that isn’t necessarily bad. The Endocrine Society, a global organization that represents professionals from the field for over a century, sees the weaknesses in the U.S. definition of endocrine-disrupting, and a need for international communication and further research on the topic.

For now, families can take some easy precautions to avoid exposing themselves to more harmful chemicals than necessary.

  • Refrain from using pesticides to get rid of unwanted critters
  • Don’t buy and consume canned food
  • Avoid microwaving plastic dishes
  • Don’t use plastic bottles that have a 3, 6 or 7 on the bottom
  • Shift the family diet to organic foods
  • Air out the home every few days to get rid of chemical dusts from flame retardants and electronics
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