We are awash in chemicals, that’s what we are. Chemicals in our drinking water, chemicals in our food, chemicals in our food packaging, chemicals on our clothes, chemicals in the air we breath. Have you looked at the ingredient list on your bottle of shampoo? Can you pronounce any of them?
Two organizations with intimate knowledgeable about reproductive health and birth defects — the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine — have issued a joint warning on chemicals in the environment: be aware and try to avoid them when you can. Maggie Fox tries to put things in perspective:
“The real goal is to raise awareness, increase the education of health care professionals — physicians, nurses, office staff — and patients who are either pregnant or are thinking of getting pregnant with regard to some of the environmental threats,” said Dr. Jeanne Conry, president of ACOG.
“There is a backdrop of disease processes that have increased in the past 30-40 years. In that backdrop we have seen an increase in the release of chemicals into the environment.”
The statement, published in the journals Fertility and Sterility, calls for doctors to help patients reduce their exposure to chemicals. “Reducing exposure to toxic environmental agents is a critical area of intervention for obstetricians, gynecologists, and other reproductive health care professionals,” it reads.
Where does one even start to reduce exposure to toxic environmental agents? Stop breathing? Stop eating? Awareness is not enough, but it may be all we have. As a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health, I am aware of the science that points to the dangers of toxins in the environment. And I am frustrated that not more is known. Is the sodium hexametaphosphate in my toothpaste safe? (Or sodium glyconate, sodium saccharin, sodium laurel sulfate — that’s a lot of sodium! — PEG-6, polyethylene, or hydrated silica.) What is mica and blue 1, anyway? I put this stuff in my mouth three times a day! Is it safe?
I’m a cancer survivor. Kidney. An organ designed to be a filter, now I’m down to one. Was it something in my water, or in my food, or my toothpaste? Or was it something else? One thing that’s certain is it was something.
I’m not scared for myself anymore. But I do worry about my children and their toxic burden. I worry about yours, too.
Something tells me that, like reality TV and climate change, we’re in over our heads. Way over.