We live in a world where toxic chemicals that haven’t been tested for safety are lurking everywhere, including in our food, drinking water, personal care products, household cleaners, furniture, clothing, children’s toys and many other items. Chronic exposure to these chemicals, including endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs),is making us sick in ways we don’t yet fully understand, says green living expert and Mamavation.com founder Leah Segedie in her new book, “Green Enough: Eat Better, Live Cleaner, Be Happier.”
Our food routinely tests positive for pesticides. For example, 99 percent of conventionally grown strawberries tested by the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2014 and 2015 came up positive for pesticides that are linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental damage, hormone disruption and neurological problems, according to the Segedie’s book. Twenty percent of the food samples tested contained residues of 10 or more pesticides, and one strawberry was found to have residues of 22 different pesticides.
Segedie points out that our homes contain dust laden with harmful chemicals. Studies show that up to 99 percent of dust samples taken from American homes contain toxins linked to infertility, birth defects, autism, diabetes and cancer. One hundred percent of dust samples tested positive for phthalates, a group of chemicals used to soften plastics that are linked to lower IQ, respiratory problems and hormone-disruption.
Our personal care products—think soap, shampoo, deodorant, makeup—are also contaminated with hormone-disrupting chemicals tied to asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, autism, breast cancer and more.
“These everyday toxic exposures we are contending with add up, eventually burdening our bodies with a toxic load that can lead to serious health problems,” writes Segedie. The worst part? Many of these chemicals aren’t even listed on product labels.
The book exposes thousands of brands and products that contain toxic and hormone-disrupting ingredients. It also offers guidance on choosing safer, toxin-free products, as well as advice on where to buy meat, dairy and eggs that don’t contain antibiotics, GMOs, growth hormones and dangerous pathogens.
How do harmful chemicals, some of which are banned or restricted in other countries, end up on our dinner plates and in our homes? With little to no safety testing?
While there are government rules and regulations governing these toxins, “some of that bureaucratic mumbo jumbo is more about shielding manufacturers from legal liability than it is about looking out for you and your family,” Segedie writes.
“Our government’s review practices are inadequate in general, and downright ludicrous for chemicals with hormone-like actions,” says Segedie. The USDA uses a program called GRAS, which stands for “generally recognized as safe.” But GRAS is nothing more than a “monumental loophole for the chemical industry,” according to Segedie.
“Let’s pretend for a second that you are a chemical aching to become a useful and productive member of our nation’s food supply,” Segedie writes. “You need to get into one of three lines to receive approval under the GRAS program. Here’s how it works (excerpted from “Green Enough):
Line No. 1: Before you start, ask yourself if you were born before the year 1958. If you answer yes, congratulations! You are grandfathered into the system and zip right into the express line, which puts you straight into the food supply, pronto.
Line No. 2: If you love to do tons of paperwork, conduct legitimate scientific studies that are published in peer-reviewed science journals, hold a public comment period, and follow the spirit of the law, then this line is for you.
Line No. 3: Get in this line if you don’t want to bother with rigorous science. Just do up your own safety studies and notify the FDA that you want a review. You can involve legit scientists if you want, but you don’t have to. The FDA has 120 days to do a complete review of whatever you give them, but it takes them about that long just to get ink in one of their printers, so chances are they won’t pull off a review in that time—and in that case, you’re good to go, because it means automatic approval is yours.
Clearly, at least under the current GRAS program, we can’t rely on government to protect us from toxic chemicals. But we can take matters into our own hands. You can start by reducing the toxic footprint in your home (pick up a copy of “Green Enough” to learn how.)
You can also vote with your wallet. That means purchasing organic and regenerative foods and other non-toxic products that are produced or made by companies that care about your health, and not just their bottom line.
While it’s impossible to completely eliminate your exposure to toxins, there are steps you can take to detoxify your home, diet and lifestyle. “Green Enough” offers solutions for creating an environment that’s healthy and happy—without driving your family “batshit crazy”, as Segedie says.
“It’s about finding a balance between the choices that keep y’all healthy and the sanity-preserving allowances that keep everybody happy too,” writes Segedie. “In other words, do what you can and then just chill out.”