Tobacco remains the leading cause of death in the United States, all of the Americas and even the entire world. But obesity is quickly catching up as a cause of death and disability, and another set of common toxins that are relatively easy to avoid may be causing much of that obesity, as well as other problems like dementia. This set of toxins, like tobacco smoke, doubles the risk for dementia.

What is this set of toxins?

It is the plasticizers like phthalates, and BPA/BPS. Before I tell you how to avoid these easily and without disrupting your life too much, let me tell you about the science.

I was reminded of the effect these toxins have after reports by Stanford University investigators about androgen (testosterone) deprivation therapy for prostate cancer more than doubles the risk of dementia.

The most common hormone-disruptors that almost all of us are exposed to are phthalates, BPA and BPS in plastics, including those in which food and even plastic baby bottles (banned to have these toxins in Canada), as well as in personal-care products, emitted from non-100 percent essential oil air purifiers, in pesticides (and on unwashed foods), and especially in thermal receipts like you obtain at restaurants and gas stations. 

The phrase “endocrine disruptors” is really a euphemism for decreasing the estrogen and testosterone in your body and brain. These hormones are important not only for your sexual drive and functions, but also are key as to how your brain develops and functions. Such toxins are common and pose a substantial risk to your health that they cry for the need – as Swedish researchers recently put it – “for a strong regulatory framework that proactively identifies chemical hazards before they are widely used, and the use of safer alternatives.” 

A recent study from New York University Medical School faculty indicated that consistent exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals increases rates by more than 100 percent of more than 15 diseases, including male infertility, birth defects, endometriosis, obesity, diabetes and some cancers, and premature death from heart disease and stroke. Exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals is also responsible for diminished IQ scores, maybe some cases of autism, and not even including that doubling of dementia risk. That study also estimates health care costs and lost earnings from daily exposure to those same chemicals, (as well as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, found in flame retardants, furniture and packaging) exceeds $340 billion annually, excluding dementia effects. Those dementia costs may be more than $200 billion annually in the U.S.  

How to Reduce Your Exposure?

We know you can’t get plastics, phthalates and pesticides completely out of your life, but you can reduce your exposure.

  • Never microwave food in a plastic containers, even if it says it’s safe to do so.
  • Wash all plastic food containers by hand. Don’t use plastic containers to store food if you can avoid doing so.
  • Especially avoid plastic containers with the recycle numbers 3, 6 or 7 on the bottom.
  • Opt for glass containers.
  • Use fragrance-free cosmetics and check all personal-care products ingredient label as phthalates are commonly used in fragrances
  • Avoid air-fresheners and all candles that are not made just from and only from 100 percent essential oils.
  • Don’t handle or even accept paper receipts as they’re loaded with BPA and/or BPS. These receipts can have more than 1,000 times as much BPA and BPS as plastic containers and bottles. If you touch receipts, wash your hands with soap and water as soon as possible, and always, always before you eat.

Dr. Michael Roizen writes about wellness for the Cleveland Jewish News. He is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Follow him on Twitter at @YoungDrMike.

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