beach littered with plasticWe’ve all seen the pictures: plastic islands floating in the middle of the ocean, whales washing up on shore with stomachs full of plastic shopping bags, remote beaches in distant lands covered in plastic from all over the world.

“Plastic is everywhere,” notes a WaPo editorial from this past weekend.

It is not merely that the material, rarely used in consumer products before 1950, has become ubiquitous in the homes, cars and offices Americans inhabit. Scientists using remotely operated submersibles announced last month that they had found plastic microparticles in the deep ocean off California’s idyllic Monterey Bay, with, surprisingly, the highest concentrations in the middle of the water column. Researchers have found the stuff on isolated Alpine peaks, in animals’ digestive tracts and in human stools. Some effects on the ecosystem, such as animals getting tangled in or choking on plastic waste, are obvious. It is alarmingly unclear what all the tiny microparticles ending up in the environment — and human bodies — is doing.

We do know, however, that it’s doing something. For one, it may be affecting our reproductive health.

Earlier this year, research out of Nottingham University “found that two chemicals common in home environments damage the quality of sperm in both men and dogs,” the Guardian reported.

The culprits implicated are diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), used to make new plastics more pliable, and polychlorinated biphenyl 153 (PCB153), found in older plastics and electrical equipment. Companies stopped producing PCBs in the late 1970s due to their health risks – including a possible increased risk of cancer, hormone disruption, liver damage and behavioral or cognitive deficits in children exposed to the chemical in utero – but the chemical persists in the environment.

And PCBs are hardly the only industrial chemicals that linger in our environment for decades and taint our food supply. Nor are such persistent chemicals the only ones we need to be concerned about.

As one 2013 paper put it,

Everybody is being exposed to some degree at any given time from gestation through death. Detectable levels of bisphenol A have been found in the urine of 95% of the adult population of the United States. In recent years there have been several epidemiological studies and controlled animal experiments performed concerning the health effects of plastic components such as BPA and DEHP. Associations were found between exposure to these compounds and destructive effects on health and reproduction, such as early sexual maturation, decreased male fertility, aggressive behavior, and others.

Plastics are a major – but hardly the only – source of exposure to endocrine disruptors – compounds that interfere with the normal functions of the hormones in your body. Their effects can be developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune in humans and animals alike. And they’re found in countless consumer and industrial products.

shelf of canned goods In some cases, they may mimic naturally occurring hormones, leading to overproduction. In other cases, they may bind to receptors within cells so that natural hormones are prevented from binding. In yet others, they may interfere with the ways in which natural hormones are made or controlled.

And they appear to pose the greatest risk during a child’s development both in the womb and in the earliest years of life.

One of the most important things you can do, of course, is to minimize your exposure to these industrial chemicals. The Endocrine Society offers a good basic tip sheet for doing so.

Even so, we’re still exposed daily to such potential toxins at work, in school, and while out and about, just going about our lives. Thus, it’s also important to support your body’s natural detoxification processes through the keys to Radiant Health, which can also include regular physician-guided detox as needed.

Here in our West LA office, we offer a wide variety of options for supporting detox, from supplementation to chelation and other IV therapies to help your body cleanse itself as it was designed to do. Always, treatment is tailored to your specific needs.

If you’re experiencing hormonal imbalance, we have another option available, as well: bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT). BHRT can help restore health and vitality to a body out of balance. It may also aid in sexual health by increasing your libido. Other known benefits of hormone balancing include better sleep, less anxiety, and even weight loss.

You can learn more about this anti-aging option here.

Images by Loranchet, via Wikimedia Commons,
and Salvation Army USA West, via Flickr


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