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Can Parents Afford to Ignore This Environmental Trap?

Can Parents Afford to Ignore This Environmental Trap?

Can Parents Afford to Ignore This Risk?

About a year ago I read the book ‘Boys Adrift’ by Dr Leonard Sax and was shocked at the level at which he presented detailed information regarding the damaging effects of phthalates (or plastics) on boys. So damming was the evidence I had a double-take as it sounded like one of those conspiracy theories that are bandied about all too frequently these days. This set me on a path to find out more.

Dr Sax calls refers to oestrogen mimics or endocrine inhibitors and what it basically means is that there is a large amount of oestrogen entering the systems, effecting fish and other animals… and of course we are not separate to this. The glands of the endocrine system and the hormones they release influence almost every cell, organ, and function of our bodies. The endocrine system is instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, and metabolism, as well as sexual function and reproductive processes.

The source of this threat to the endocrine system is identified as phthalates and BPA’s i.e. chemicals in plastics and their origin is fossil fuels.

The primary effect on girls identified is early onset of puberty, for some as early as 8 years old! Weight gain is also attributed to an increase in oestrogen levels.

The primary effects on boys are quite a bit more detailed and I’ll do my best to capture them here. At the core of it is the reduction in testosterone.

  • Less bone density – more fractures occurring from minor incidents
  • Loss of motivation – increased laziness. ADHD symptoms and resulting medication.
  • Increased genital abnormalities and testicular cancer
  • Lower sperm count – boys today have a third of the sperm of their grandfathers
  • Increased male infertility

All very sobering news and I found the sperm count was compelling as it mentioned that the average sperm count has reduced by considerably more than a third. The accepted average by world health bodies has plummeted and the quality of the sperm seem to be reduced.

There are other factors adversely effecting boys according to Dr Sax, like: the education system, gaming or technology, medication, and the devaluation of masculinity through unhealthy role models in media. But the issue of environmental toxicity is what really made an impact on me.

Managing the household risk

Does a parent need to be a chemical engineer these days? How do we make sense of so much technical and at times conflicting information?

I set about exploring this topic and found a significant amount of information that supports these claims and some that reject it. Sounds familiar? Who can you trust on the internet? It’s always good to look at who funds the research and what investment any spokesman might have in the results.

For me it comes down to ‘where there’s smoke there’s fire’ and ‘can I afford to ignore this risk?’ This is a bit like climate change or global warming, can we afford to ignore it? What precautions do I need to make? I’ll get to my thinking about this in a minute…

I was also concerned that much of the data was from the USA so I contacted Dr Sax to enquire about the relevance of this in Australia as I know that one of his concerns is an agricultural chemical that was banned here about 10 years ago (Endosulphan). I also know that farmers use adjuvants and surfactants (mixed in to help chemicals blend and also stick onto the plant material) and that these also contain phthalates.

Here is a part of Dr Sax’s reply;

For most Australian teenagers, the primary exposure to BPA appears to come from eating canned foods: canned soup, canned pasta, etc. I have been in stores from Brisbane to Hobart to Perth and everywhere the cans are the same as the cans in North America, i.e. the cans are lined with BPA. Of course you will not find this mentioned on the can because BPA is not an ingredient in the pasta; it’s part of the can. No regulation or statute in Australia limits the use of BPA in canned food. The primary exposure to phthalates to Australians comes from cosmetics such as shampoo, creams, suntan lotion etc. Please read chapter 4 of my book GIRLS ON THE EDGE where I explore this topic at greater length.

So the risks for BPA’s are from canned food as well! I’m yet to read Girls on the edge so in the mean time I suggest you do a search on Phthalates and BPA’s and see for yourself how you might make sense of all this! I have included a few links further below.

Here’s what we’ve have done in our home over a period of time. Note we didn’t run out the next day and change this all this at once, in fact some things we were already doing.

  • We had already been using chemical free shampoo and toothpaste so that was some relief. We get these from Coles and they cost about the same as any similar product.
  • We use less sunscreen especially in winter and when playing sport or going to the beach we do invest in the more expensive and natural sunscreens. We wear hats and keep out of the sun for long periods of time!
  • Replaced old plastic drinking cups with tough glasses and for very young children we do have some plastic cups but not the cheapest ones… and we don’t keep them as long.
  • Replaced water bottles with metal or glass alternatives
  • Microwave in glass or porcelain vessels only (or don’t microwave at all)
  • Buy organic fruit and veggies or soak our produce in water & vinegar solution (2 caps) for 10-15 mins. Farmers markets can also be better than the chain stores for produce.
  • Get to know the real risks – the cheap water bottles with flexible plastic. If you go for the safer / harder plastics look for the number 5 at the bottom.
  • Reduce use of canned goods e.g. bottled spaghetti sauce and real tomatoes over tinned.

These changes have no real effect on our daily life so are easy to achieve and are a part of how we live. My wife Caitlin has always washed our veggies and she’s a country girl so that might say something to you.

Mothers- to-be need to look at their risk management strategy too as there is much evidence to support the foetus being exposed to these toxins AND use glass bottles only. Breastfeeding is clearly the best option.

Here are a few current affairs videos and documentaries from Australia and the USA that I found useful. I suggest you make some time to get a bit more educated with this hazard and decide on what you will do. For me it’s better to be informed that to have my head in the sand.

The toxic truth about BPA’s –

The Disappearing Male –

And if you thought the ‘BPA Free’ labels were a safe bet, consider this –

Dr Leonard Sax book ‘Boys Adrift’ –

I welcome your comments and feedback!

Warm wishes…. Andy Roy

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