Toxics in Your Home? Woman’s Day Leaves Out Key Science
There are lots of items in your home that can be toxic if used improperly—bleach, household cleaners, bug sprays, etc. can all be toxic if ingested. But a new article from the women’s magazine, Woman’s Day, “8 of the Most Toxic Items You Have In Your Home,” doesn’t discuss any actual toxins. Instead, the magazine focuses on everyday items that pose very little risk to your family’s health.
It’s completely reasonable to worry about the safety of products you and your family use every day, but those concerns should be grounded in scientific research. To help you decide which products might pose too much risk, we’ve profiled a few of the items Woman’s Day says are “toxic” and filled in the missing scientific research.
- Women’s Day Says: “Bisphenol A, or BPA, is widely used in clear plastics. Unfortunately, BPA mimics estrogen in the body, and therefore could be harmful to babies and children. In 2012, the FDA banned it from baby bottles, but not from other products.”
- Research Says: As Dr. Richard Sharpe explains in the journal Toxicological Sciences: “Bisphenol A is an extremely weak estrogen—so weak that even at levels of exposure 4000-fold higher than the maximum exposure of humans in the general population there are no discernible adverse effects.”BPA has been studied extensively and subjected to multiple in-depth reviews by regulatory agencies around the globe, including the FDA and European Food Safety Authority. While there are studies suggesting links between BPA and various health problems in animals and humans, those studies have been evaluated and weighed by health regulators. After reviewing hundreds of BPA studies, EFSA concluded “BPA poses no health risk to consumers.” Similarly, the FDA says “BPA is safe at the current levels occurring in foods.”
Plastic Food Containers
- Women’s Day Says: “Phthalates are a group of chemicals commonly added to plastics to make them flexible. But they also mimic hormones in the body, interfering with normal fetal development and possibly increasing the risk of reproductive health impacts, such as reduced sperm quality.”
- Research Says: The Women’s Day article goes on to name three “problem” phthalates, DEHP, DINP, and DIDP.According to the CDC: “DEHP, at the levels found in the environment, is not expected to cause adverse health effects in humans…Most of what we know about the health effects of DEHP comes from studies of rats and mice that were given DEHP in their food, or the DEHP was placed in their stomach with the aid of a tube through their mouth. In most of these studies, the amounts of DEHP given to the animals were much higher than the amounts found in the environment.”
The European Commission recently “re-evaluated the restrictions on plasticizers DINP and DIDP and concluded that the use of these high molecular weight phthalates is safe in all current consumer applications. In particular, it finds that their use poses no risk to infants in toys and childcare articles that can be placed in the mouth.”
Recent research published in Environmental Health Perspectives has found no association between high prenatal phthalate levels and higher rates of obesity in children.
- Women’s Day Says: “Large-scale strawberry production entails fumigating soil before planting. Methyl bromide has long been used for this purpose, but it erodes the ozone layer of the atmosphere, so an international treaty will complete its California phase-out by next year. (California grows 80% of America’s strawberries.)”
- Research Says: Methyl bromide is highly toxic in high concentrations, but the risk from methyl bromide exposure comes from handling the actual pesticide, not eating grocery store fruits. Because of those concerns and concerns about methyl bromide’s impact on the ozone layer, it is being phased out. Unfortunately, farmers haven’t come up with real alternative to prevent pests and disease from killing their strawberry crop. Even organic strawberry farmers buy plants from nurseries using fumigation–as a recent NPR article points out, “Nobody wants to run the risk of bringing diseased plants into their fields.”However, the health benefits of strawberries far outweigh the infinitesimal risk of exposure to methyl bromide. Still, you should always thoroughly wash your fruits and vegetables before eating them.
While studies linking commonly used chemicals to health problems raise eyebrows, it’s important not to put too much emphasis on individual studies. Especially in the case of chemicals like BPA and phthalates, the overwhelming weight of scientific research has shown they pose very little risk to your family’s health.
Government scientists in the U.S. and Europe are constantly reviewing research on these key chemicals to ensure they’re still safe to use. Woman’s Day should have included this key information for its readers to make a better-informed assessment as to which products they think are the best choices for their families.