If we observe around us, there is definitely an increase in the health issues among the all age groups around the world. There is an increase in the lifestyle diseases like high blood pressure, high blood sugars (diabetes), obesity, heart problems; not only this we see a high rise in cases of autoimmune disorders, endocrine/hormonal problems and various types of cancer. Though the major cause behind these is our daily lifestyle as our daily diet, physical activity, stress of daily live pressures (its both physical and mental stress) and not keeping up with our natural circadian rhythm. Its also observed that the environmental pollution and industrial chemicals are also playing a havoc on our health. The chemicals from our household and personal care products, have been found to be carcinogenic. There is now an awareness about these harmful chemicals, the industry is being regulated by various regulatory laws, to stop the use of harmful chemicals, but still plenty needs to be done.

While the various agencies are working to stop the use of harmful substances, we need to be aware of these chemicals and need to make a conscious effort to stop the use of them in our daily lives, as this would deter the industry from stop manufacturing them. This is my effort to bring awareness for these chemicals.

Unveiling the Hidden Menace: Toxic Chemicals

While the various agencies are working to stop the use of harmful substances, we need to be aware of these chemicals and make a conscious effort to stop the use of them in our daily lives, as this would deter the industry from stopping manufacturing them. This is my effort to bring awareness to these chemicals. 

Microplastics: Tiny Yet Troublesome

Out of all the other toxic chemicals, we are very well aware of the menace of Plastics in our lives at different levels. Plastics are visible to us and we see them all around us in the form of household products, whereas microplastics are not visible to the naked eye, but are present in our food, water, and all the household and personal care products. Microplastics are very small particles, which are less than 5mm in size, formed after the breakdown of plastics. We keep reading and hearing about the nuisance of plastic overload on our planet. Our garbage dumps are overloaded with plastics, which is becoming a health hazard to the cattle and other animals feeding on these dumps. Not only the land, but our oceans too, are facing a huge problem, the plastics have damaged marine life. Recently, the study showing the presence of huge amounts (to the tune of) microplastics in bottled water, has been in the news as well as on social media.

It’s advised to stop the single use of plastics. Use reusable shopping bags for shopping in place of plastic bags. Opt for food-grade plastics, which are polycarbonate and polyvinyl chloride-free plastics. The cosmetic and other industries should stop the use of microbeads in personal care and household products.

Phthalates: Hormonal Disruptors

Phthalates are toxic chemicals used to make plastics soft, as well as they are used by the fragrance industry. They are known to disturb the hormonal balance, and low levels of testosterone in men, and some reports even suggest that they affect the brain development in children.

Phthalates are commonly found in plastics (polyvinyl chloride plastics), especially food containers, plastic wraps, toys, air fresheners, and all products with fragrances.

Phthalates are absorbed into the body via inhalation, ingestion, and from the skin, though the maximum absorption is by food intake.

To prevent or stop phthalate exposure, it is advised to stop the use of plastic food containers.

My resolution for 2024 is to stop online or takeaway food orders where they use plastic containers, till the time I find an alternative to plastic containers and wraps. Never heat food in plastic containers.

The phthalates containing plastics or toys etc have Recycle Code number 3 on them. look for this code 3, on all plastics to be more aware of what you are using.

Bisphenol A (BPA): Affecting Males and Hearts

Bisphenol is a chemical used as an additive to make clear and hard plastics, epoxy, and thermal papers. BPA is commonly found in clear plastic bottles and the lining of cans used for packaging food. BPA has estrogen-like properties, majorly affecting the males, and also affects the heart. It is mainly absorbed into the body from oral intake. 

Look for Recycle Code number 7, as all plastics with Bisphenol would be labelled as 7.

Dioxins and Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs): Lingering Environmental Threats

Dioxins are mainly byproduct of the industry, they are released on trash burning, incineration and fires. PCBs are mainly used in retardants and coolants. Both these chemicals linger in the environment for a much longer time, even after the burning or fire has stopped.

Dioxins are not only carcinogenic, but also affect the cardiovascular, endocrine, reproductive and immune system. Though the industrial emissions are said to be significantly reduced, but its said that levels of dioxins and PCBs in the meat, eggs, fish and dairy products is significant.

Pesticides: Silent Invaders in Agriculture

The use of pesticides in the agriculture industry is on the rise. A study done in the USA found high levels of pesticides in the urine and blood samples of the study group. Our soil, water, and food are contaminated with these pesticides, having a detrimental effect on our health, as they are carcinogenic. One particular chlorinated pesticide (DDE-  a metabolite of DDT) has been found to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and overall cognitive decline. As these pesticides are fat soluble, they are found in high levels in animal products.

The regulatory bodies need to enforce the laws more effectively and stop the use of pesticides and we need to find other ways to sustain our agriculture industry. 

Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS): The ‘Forever Chemicals’

PFAS are fluorinated chemicals which were used in making Teflon for making non stick pans and utensils. The use of PFAS for Teflon coated cookware was stopped in 2013, but it is still being used in food packaging, water and stain repellant clothes, firefighting foam and in some personal care products.

Understanding the Persistent Threat in Cookware, Clothing, and Water

The breakdown compounds of PFAS are released into the environment at the dumping sites which are the waste material landfills. This further leads to seepage of these chemicals into the ground water, and hence contamination of drinking water. The PFAS are labelled as ‘Forever Chemicals’, as they remain in the environment for a long period of time. They have also been detected at remote places, away from the landfills, as they get washed away with the rainwater. 

Taking Action: A Call for Awareness and Responsibility

Let us be aware and responsible citizens of the world. Let us do our bit, while the law-enforcing regulatory authorities and scientists do theirs. Research is on for more viable and safe products. Until then, we can take the following measures to lead a healthy, chemical-free life.

  1. Say no to the use of Plastic Bags.
  2. Stop using plastic food containers and wraps (a source of PFAS).
  3. Stop plastic toys (which are the source of phthalates).
  4. Avoid plastics with Recycle Code 3, which is for phthalates.
  5. Do not use plastic water bottles.
  6. Avoid tinned or canned food, as the lining of these cans is coated with bisphenols.
  7. Avoid all products with Recycle Code 7, which is for bisphenol A.
  8. Avoid thermal papers and receipts which are sources of BPA.
  9. Do not use Teflon-coated nonstick cookware (source of PFAS).
  10. Never heat or reheat food in plastic containers.

Towards a Chemical-Free Life

The following are a few positive steps that we can take for a better and safe environment for all living beings, may they be human beings, animals, birds and our marine life.

Practical Steps to Reduce Exposure and Promote a Safe Environment

  1. Carry cloth bags for shopping, instead of plastic bags.
  2. Use glass or steel water bottles.
  3. Use glass or steel food containers.
  4. Use loose-leaf tea or paper tea bags instead of mesh-based tea bags.
  5. Use RO (reverse osmosis) to remove PFAS from ground or tap drinking water.
  6. Use plastics that are food-grade safe (polycarbonate and polyvinyl chloride free) plastics.
  7. Try promoting organic food, let’s make it more sustainable and affordable to all.

    In our modern era, the surge in health issues across all age groups globally cannot be ignored. Lifestyle diseases, autoimmune disorders, and various cancers are on the rise, primarily fueled by our daily habits, including diet, physical inactivity, stress, and the disruption of our natural circadian rhythm. Environmental pollution and toxic chemicals in household products further compound these health hazards. While regulatory measures are being implemented, a collective effort is needed to raise awareness and actively reduce our exposure to harmful substances. We must start to avoid toxic chemicals to improve the health of human being.
    Name: Dr. Jastinder Gill
    Address: House no. 3, 3, I – Block, Sarabha Nagar, Ludhiana, Punjab 141001
    Phone: 9815473775