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There are many useful things around the house that may look harmless but pose significant effect on the human well-being because of their chemical content. These chemicals are called endocrine disrupters. They contain hormone disrupting compounds (HDCs) which mimic estrogen, the female hormone, which cause low sperm count, male infertility, miscarriage, and toxicity in food and diseases.
These chemicals started as solutions for pesticides, herbicides and disinfectants such as:
1. DDT or Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane
DDT is a colorless, tasteless, and almost odourless crystalline containing organochloride. This was used during World War II to control malaria and typhus. After the war, DDT was used as an agricultural pesticide but was banned in the USA in 1972. Eventually, it was also prohibited worldwide. Later on, it was allowed for use as an ‘indoor residual spray’ to control malaria in poor nations where it remains a continuing health problem. The use of DDT remains controversial because of its adverse effects on the human health and environment.
Lindane was used worldwide as a pesticide. It contains an organochlorine chemical which was banned for agricultural use. Now, it is being used in shampoos and lotions in the USA to control head lice and scabies. A study shows that 62% of people tested reveal lindane components in the blood.
Infants are also exposed to lindane through the placenta and breastmilk. Lindane residues contaminate common foods like rice and potatoes when it is used as agricultural pesticide. It has damaging effects on the nervous system, causes cancer and liver toxicity. Lindane interferes with the hormone levels of men causing a lowering sperm count. A high level of this substance in pregnant women may also cause miscarriage or premature birth.
A report from International POPS Elimination Network showed there are alternatives to lindane. Since California banned lindane in 2001, their water has been cleaner. There was significantly lesser risk and exposure to chemicals according to Environmental Health Perspectives.
Dioxin is the undesirable by-product of manufacturing herbicide and disinfectant, which are clearly two of the most toxic man-made substances.
Dioxin is scientifically called dibenzo-p-dioxin, a compound of benzene, chlorine, etc. which enter fatty tissues of the body causing chronic cancer, skin disease, muscular dysfunction, impotence, birth defects, genetic mutation and nervous system disorder.
In 1976, there was an overheating of Dioxin in Seveso, Italy. This caused the evacuation of 700 residents because of its explosive reaction. This incident contaminated plants and animals around the area.
Dioxin was also used in Vietnam as an herbicide to destroy the grass where railways and highways were being constructed.
There is also dioxin contamination when plastics are being burned in incinerators. After burning, more residues of this toxic waste remain.
After decades, these Hormone Disrupting Compounds (HDCs) are now in commercial products which invade our homes through the practical products we enjoy.
1. Phthalates is a component of plastic vinyl flooring, paint, and ink.
2. Alkyphenols compounds are ingredients of detergents, paints, and shampoos.
3. Bisphenol A are in food cans, metal bottle tops, and toys.
4. Organochlorines produce compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB); polyvinylchloride (PVC), chloroform and chloramine compounds.
These hormone benders are found in vegetables and food that are treated with pesticide, and in synthetic products such as food packaging materials, children’s toys, detergents, cosmetics, household cleaners, air fresheners and more. These synthetic compounds build up in the fats of fish, poultry and livestock which can contaminate even breastmilk of nursing mothers. Since organochlorines were formulated originally for pesticides, herbicides and disinfectants, its compounds have the ability to exist as vapor, oil or in solid form.
This is reality. Thankfully, there are ways to avoid or minimize the adverse effects of these harmful compounds in our homes.
Take note of the following when choosing paint for your home.
a. Use paints from natural resins.
b. For low odor paint use hospital paint.
c. Dry excess paint first if you plan on throwing it out.
d. Look for limewash mineral- based or plant-based paint for walls and ceilings.
e. Choose solvent-free products.
f. Choose natural unpainted finishes.
Choose plant-based resins and plant-based solvents which allow wood to breath. Wood reacts to oil and resins.
Pure beeswax or linseed oil is good for finishing wood surfaces. It gives a beautiful shine, scent and prevents static.
When using plastic, remember the following:
a. As much as possible, use paper bags. After use, these paper bags may be donated or sold to the Bote Dyaryo man (recyclable collector) who buys bottles and newspapers from households, and resells them at Php1 per kilo for paper and Php2 per kilo for cartons.
b. Avoid using damaged soft or hard plastics for food. Any scratch or breakage in plastic containers releases toxic synthetic chemicals and preservatives that cause food contamination.
Use organic or natural detergent because clothes are closest to the skin. (Read more on Home Cleaners.)
Use organic shampoo or natural shampoo like Gugo bark. You can make your own shampoo. (Read more about Hair Care.)
Organic chicken, beef, eggs, vegetables and other food are recommended for good health since these are naturally grown. The natural taste of vegetables are mild and sweet. Chicken, beef, and other meats are tastier. A little of it is enough to give flavour to dishes.
Try simple gardening and harvest the best benefits. (Read more on Make Herbal Gardening Your Workout.)
Use herbs as natural pesticides. Oregano leaves or any minty herb may be crushed in water. The solution can poured or sprayed on the leaves and the stems of plants to drive away pests.
The bitter leaves of Neem Tree and Serpentina, and the fragrant leaves Citronella and Lemon Grass are effective pesticides. (Read more about Serpentina and Citronella and Neem Tree.)
Minimize eating canned goods altogether. Should you buy canned goods, remember to check the expiration date and make sure there are no dents or damage on the cans. Do not eat the content if it does not taste good.
If you are recycling, donating or selling the cans make sure they are cleaned properly to prevent bacteria, especially salmonella bacteria, from spreading around the community.
Glass bottles are preferred to plastic bottles because glass bottles may be reused. Plastic bottle covers are better than metal ones though because these rust in time.
Choose natural products that use wood, rattan etc. as furniture.
Some chemical solutions produce more problems than solutions. May your awareness of these ‘endocrine disrupters’ be your guide in the next purchases for your family and your home. Remember, your choices affect your loved ones’ present and future.
Part XI: Toxic Gases from Plastics: Clothes, Food Containers, Construction Materials, etc.
EM-EM TINASAS, MBA
Encyclopedia Brittanica. (1992) 15th edition, Micropedia 7, p. 371
Encyclopedia Brittanica. (1992) 15th edition, Micropedia 4, p. 113
Callard, S., Millis, D. (2009) The eco-living handbook: A complete guide for your home and life, pp. 40-43, 52-61, 72, London, UK: Carlton Books Ltd.
Lindane. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2015, from http://www.panna.org/resources/specific-pesticides/lindane
Sadasivaiah, S., Tozan, Y., & Breman, J. (n.d.). Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) for Indoor Residual Spraying in Africa: How Can It Be Used for Malaria Control? Retrieved June 8, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1724/
DDT. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DDT
PCBs Polychlorinated biphenyls. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2015, from
Basic Information. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2015, from http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/tsd/pcbs/about.htm