The presence of largely unregulated chemicals found in a wide-range of consumer products including beauty, cleaning, and clothing isn’t exactly breaking news (check out some of our coverage here, here, here, and here), but recently two health organizations sounded an even louder alarm to alert the public of growing health concerns. The International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) as well as the Endocrine Society both released statements within the last month, highlighting the links between these chemical substances and infertility, obesity, diabetes, certain types of cancer, and genetic abnormalities. With the United States lagging behind Europe in terms of developing and passing policies to protect the public from these chemicals, the organizations are urging consumers to take these serious health matters into their own hands by educating themselves on the associated dangers of these toxins.
The FIGO statement (officially released as an “opinion”) warned that there are “tens of thousands of chemicals in global commerce” and that pregnancy as well as early childhood and adolescence are particularly vulnerable and sensitive times for babies and their developing bodies and minds to be exposed to these chemicals. According to the Federation’s statement, nearly every pregnant woman in America has at least 43 different chemical contaminants in her body. Even if the chemicals don’t appear to have an immediate effect on the mother, they may be contributing to genetic problems and birth defects in their children (including some that affect reproductive health decades later). FIGO’s recommendations for preventing exposure to toxic chemicals include advocating for policy change regarding these chemicals, working to ensure a healthy food system for everyone, promoting environmental justice, and making environmental health part of health care.
The Endocrine Society, which specializes in hormonal health issues, released their statement describing the emerging evidence on the prevalence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals and rising rates of obesity and diabetes. The Society also emphasized that the time when babies are developing in utero is an especially critical time for exposure to these chemicals, with the effects of small amounts of certain toxins potentially lasting for many years. Until these chemicals can be better regulated or perhaps at least tested before they go on the market rather than using consumers as their guinea pigs, people should protect themselves by eating organic, reducing the use of plastic, and avoiding chemicals in products they use everyday.