Toxic chemicals are with us every day.
Being bombarded by chemicals shouldn’t be a way of life.
There are positive interventions that can be used to lessen our exposure to many of these chemicals, beginning by knowing where they lurk.
I will focus on two classes of chemicals that are pervasive in modern society – perfluorinated chemical compounds and plasticizer chemicals.
Fluoride, a PFC, is a very familiar chemical, and yes, our dentists even recommend using fluoride rinses and toothpaste containing fluoride for preventing cavities.
The most common source of fluoride exposure for Americans is our tap water, but did you know your food could also expose you to fluoride — on a regular basis?
A surprising source of fluoride comes from fast food wrappers and containers.
Perfluorinated chemicals are used to give wrapper papers a slick surface, making them oil and grease resistant.
These chemicals are prevalent in dessert and bread wrappers, pizza box liners, French fry containers, white cardboard containers with a shiny inside coating, and more.
It has been confirmed that fluorinated chemicals indeed migrate from the packaging directly into the food.
Note that the amount contained in the food depends on the food’s temperature, and also how long the food is in contact with the wrapper.
A general rule to remember is that hot foods tend to release more of these chemicals than do cold ones.
At least 27 fast food chains in the U.S. have tested positive for PFCs.
If you are concerned, contact a company’s main headquarters to find out if its food wrappers contain them.
Another chemical in the fluoride family is perfluorooctanoic acid, used to make non-stick cookware.
Cooking in this type of pot or pan can cause this acid to transfer to your food.
Microwave popcorn bags, candy wrappers and other food product wrappers contain this chemical.
Plasticizers are in the plastic wrappings for meat, chicken and other foods with a plastic wrapper.
These contain phthalates, considered to be endocrine disruptors.
Another powerful hormone disruptor is bisphenol A, a chemical that is in the lining of almost all cans.
All of these chemicals are associated with a wide array of health problems including cancer, heart disease, immune and thyroid dysfunction, infertility, low birth weight and developmental problems.
The Environmental Working Group is trying to stop fast food companies from using these chemicals.
So, along with the EWG, we can make our voices heard by telling food companies and the FDA that we want safe wrappings and containers for our food.
In addition to wrappers and containers, fumigants and pesticides can turn food into yet another source of fluoride.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) allows direct application of sulfuryl fluoride, a commonly used fumigant, on certain food crops.
Sulfuryl fluoride breaks down to fluoride after application.
According to the EPA, foods most commonly fumigated include cocoa powder (100 percent), dried beans (100 percent), walnuts (99 percent) and dried fruits (69 percent).
While only about 3 percent of rice is fumigated, brown rice tends to be the highest at 12.5 parts per million (this compared to 8.4 parts per million for cocoa powder).
Direct application is also permitted on coffee.
A pesticide called cryolite, commonly used on grapes grown in the U.S., contains sodium, aluminum and fluoride.
It is best to avoid consuming non-organic grape juice.
Food processing companies also use sulfuryl fluoride for preventing pests in closed storage structures.
As noted by Fluoridealert.org, website of the Fluoride Action Network, the EPA of the United States does not require food processors to remove food prior to fumigation of a food storage area.
All western countries go by the same protocol.
As a result, any food that is being stored in a particular facility during fumigation will be contaminated with fluoride.
High levels of sulfuryl fluoride are known to cause serious adverse health effects, including crippling skeletal fluorosis, this according to the late Albert Burgstahler, Ph.D., professor emeritus of chemistry, University of Kansas and one of the world’s best known authors on the dangers of fluoridation.
His efforts aimed to end fluoridation worldwide.
According to the Fluoride Action Network, scientists from the EPA’s National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory have classified fluoride as a “chemical having substantial evidence of developmental neurotoxicity.”
A coalition of environmental, medical and health groups along with the Fluoride Action Network is urging the EPA to end fluoridation of the public water supply.
This coalition has presented the EPA with a petition featuring some 2,500 pages of scientific documentation of fluoride’s ill effects on human health.
There are significant measures we can take to help protect ourselves from these chemicals.
Filter your tap water.
Avoid fast food; focus on locally grown foods, ideally organic.
Opt to not microwave food that has a plastic wrapper.
Better yet, don’t nuke your food at all.
Of course, cooking from scratch, if you can, will limit your exposure to these harmful chemicals.
Store food in glass rather than plastic.
Use glass baby bottles.
Now, in addition to food, numerous household, clothing and personal care items contain perfluorinated chemicals.
Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid is a key ingredient in stain-resistant fabrics including carpets and upholstery.
Be aware that various glossy paints, varnishes and sealants contain PFCs as well.
Since so many household cleaning products also contain phthalates, you can avoid exposure to them by using natural cleansers.
While we are on the clean cycle, avoid dry sheet fabric softeners.
These contain a tremendous amount of synthetic chemicals and fragrances.
Many of these can cause damage to our health including brain health.
Watch out for water-repellant clothing, as PFCs are used in the manufacturing of these kinds of garments.
PFCs are found in personal care products as well, including dental floss (easy glide) and cosmetics.
If possible, use feminine hygiene products made of real cotton.
Health food stores are a good source for these products.
Replace vinyl shower curtains.
Buy fragrance-free products.
Choose a “greener” floor mat material for toddlers.
Be sure to purchase toys, pacifiers, teething rings, etc., for babies that are BPA-Free.
Some phthalates you will find are di-n-butyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate, benzyl butyl phthalate and dimethyl phthalate.
For those who are thinking of having a family, avoid the chemicals 2-butoxyethanol and methoxydiglycol.
These two toxic glycol ethers can compromise fertility and can cause harm to the fetus.
Read your labels.
If you can’t pronounce it – don’t buy it.
Think organic products.
They are the least toxic for the Earth and all of its inhabitants.
Keep an eagle eye on the grand scale.
Let’s make sure this is not our last chapter.
That’s a “wrap.”
(Gary Feldman is a nutrition educator and lecturer, instructor in the Port Washington Union Free School District Continuing Education program, was an innovator in the nutritional supplement retail industry, and a health writer.)