Be Careful with Harmful Chemicals Lurking in Your Home

In early 2013 the World Health Organization and the UN Environment Programme applied a term to a class of chemicals eventually termed as “endocrine disruptors.” A growing body of research is linking these potent chemicals, which interfere with the endocrine system that regulates your hormones, to global rates of chronic disease and infertility.

Now the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Keep a Breast Foundation are sounding alarm bells about the health threat of these chemicals. Of the roughly 80,000 chemicals used in everyday goods, 1,300 are considered endocrine disruptors, also called hormone disruptors.


Most of the research on atrazine’s hormone-mimicking effects has been conducted in fish and frogs. Like a freaky science-fiction plot, the chemical causes male fish and frogs to turn into females. Research into humans, however, has shown that the pesticide increases the activity of genes that cause infertility. Atrazine is the second most widely used herbicide in the United States, behind glyphosate, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and 86 percent of it is applied to corn.

Flame Retardants

These toxic, ubiquitous chemicals are most known for their impact on the thyroid and on female infertility. Because thyroid hormones also have an impact on your brain, one class of flame retardants, known as PBDEs, is thought to affect the IQ levels in children, which is why many chemicals in this class have been banned or are being gradually phased out. However, the replacements being used are just as toxic and exhibit the same biological activity as organophosphate pesticides. Furniture, carpet padding, and even baby nursing pillows contain them. Assume that anything in your home, office, and car that contains polyurethane foam also contains flame retardants. Other major exposure sources include electronics like TVs, computers, cellphones, and video game consoles. Dust and vacuum frequently; it’s nearly impossible to avoid flame retardants, given their widespread use, so cleaning is your best defense. Flame retardants bind to dust.


Despite the long list of health problems already associated with lead, researchers are uncovering still more, including the fact that lead interferes with the hormones that regulate your stress levels. Lead-based paint remains the general public’s largest source of exposure to this toxic metal. But it also winds up in drinking water from old pipes and even new brass or chrome faucet filters. Get a lead-removing water filter and eat a healthy diet. Research has shown that people who eat a healthy diet absorb less lead. But if you are renovating an older home, it’s imperative that you call a lead-remediation professional.

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