Toxins and Your (Feminine) Health. Part II

Toxins and Your (Feminine) Health. Part II

By Shannon Rivera

The feminine and the masculine

Environmental toxins are an unfortunate everyday part of our lives. Toxins are ubiquitous in our environment and pretty much unavoidable even in small amounts; work environment, home environment and outdoor air. The obvious are the ones you can see and smell (i.e. cars and trucks that you see on the road that have dark soot and smoke spewing from the tailpipe). But what about those you can’t see or smell?  In small amounts, these invisible chemicals invade our body, even that of unborn babies. The Environmental Working Group conducted a landmark study and tested the umbilical cord blood of babies in which they found more than 200 chemicals (1). What this tells us is that many toxins are not only invading our body but even capable of crossing the barrier of the placenta and setting up unborn babies for future health problems.  The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reports that “Only a small fraction of chemicals have been fully evaluated for potential adverse environmental and human health effects” (2). What defines an adverse effect? And what level of exposure is required for the adverse effects? More and more studies are being published evaluating chronic exposure of standard “safe” levels of chemicals and toxins reported by the EPA. These studies are providing more evidence of harm to animals and humans at even small amounts of chemical exposures that disrupt immune function, hormone function, and development of humans and wildlife  (11).

Chemical toxins known as obesogens sabotage weight loss and even help to pack on the pounds. These toxins affect the hormones which control appetite and metabolism. Read more here.

Endocrine disrupters interrupt the way hormones in our body function. Hormones are chemical messengers which circulate throughout our body in minute amounts controlling sleep, stress levels, weight, mood, and fertility (4). Endocrine disrupting toxins interfere hormone function in multiple ways

*interfering with hormone signaling

*increasing or decreasing the amount of certain hormones

*binding to your already circulating hormones and inhibiting their ability to function

*imitating hormones

As I discussed in part I of my toxic article, various toxic chemicals can wreak havoc on feminine health. However, in general, we are all subject to daily exposures and we will all experience these exposures uniquely. How we each respond to these toxins is determined by variables like

*how often we are exposed

*timing of exposure (pre-birth, as a baby or child, etc)

*the amount of exposure

*presence of other toxins that may exacerbate a particular toxin

The EWG lists the dirty dozen of chemical exposures that we are most exposed and how to best avoid them (5).  You may be surprised at what you find on the list.

BPA- found in plastic containers, plastic wrap and food can lining. Linked to breast and other cancers, reproductive issues, obesity and early puberty
Dioxin – produced by industrial processes and pretty difficult to avoid. Decrease sperm quality and quantity, interfere with immune and reproductive function
Atrazine– widely used in corn crops as an herbicide. Linked to breast tumors and delayed puberty
Phthalates – found in plastic food containers and children’s toys and some personal care products. Linked to death of testicular cells, obesity, diabetes and thyroid problems
Arsenic– in many foods we eat but predominantly in rice, chicken and drinking water. Linked to insulin resistance, high blood pressure, bladder cancer (9)(10).

Keep in mind that we need super tiny amounts of circulating hormones for them to exert their intended effect. In that case, it is easy to see how a super tiny amount of toxins can mimic the same effect of our hormones, interfere with hormone signaling and act like our natural hormones by binding to hormone receptor sites.

BPA and Phthalates In general, we have a high exposure to BPA and phthalates. One study found that >90% of the population studied had detectable levels of  BPA in their urine.  BPA is ubiquitous in plastics and resin used to package food products. This includes the linings of canned food.  Phthalates are also widely used in plastics used to package food (7). The chemicals in these have the opportunity to leech into the food that we eat.  So even our “healthy” foods that we eat can pose a high risk of exposure to these chemicals when in plastic packaging, putting our health at risk with every bite that we take. The FDA regulatory centers have conducted studies on BPA exposure and intoxication in rodents mostly and some humans/primates.  Among their findings, they report that primates metabolize and excrete BPA rapidly and efficiently more so than rodents (8).  They also report that BPA is metabolized to an inactive form to less than 1% of the BPA initially ingested (8). That I’m sure is intended to put our mind at ease about our plastic exposure. The problem with this is that no ones metabolism is the same and that includes our genetic makeup.  While some will turn BPA into “inactive” BPA rapidly, others will continue to have the active form circulating for unknown amount of time and causing unknown health problems. Another problem with this statement; although BPA is metabolized to the inactive form, what is the guarantee that the inactive form does not have some influence on hormone activity. Something to think about.

Ubiquitous Formaldehyde.   Formaldehyde and formaldehyde forming compounds are another common ingredient found in personal care products.  You probably recognize this chemical as a preservative used for embalming bodies and that unforgettable smell in science class when you dissected a frog.  However, it is also used in the adhesive used in flooring, as a preservative in makeup products in the form of formalin or other products which slowly release formaldehyde (3) (5). The problem with formaldehyde is that it is recognized as a human carcinogen; causes cancer. You may not see formaldehyde listed on the list of ingredients in your cosmetics but what you may find are chemicals which when combined with water will cause formaldehyde to be released over time (3) (5). This, in effect, helps to give the product shelf life.  These chemicals which release formaldehyde are hiding in your personal care products under obscure names such as

* DMDM hydantoin
* Imidazolidinyl urea
* Diazolidinyl urea
* Quaternium-15
* Bronopol (2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol )
* 5-Bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane
* Hydroxymethylglycinate

Where are these chemicals found?
* Nail polish
* nail glue
* eyelash glue
* hair gel
* hair-smoothing products
* baby shampoo,
* body soap
* body wash
* color
* cosmetics.

The FDA does not restrict the amount of formaldehyde that can be present in cosmetics and even small amounts have been associated with cancers and skin irritations (3) According to the American Cancer Society, large exposures to formaldehyde (those who work with this chemical) have shown definite links to cancers but smaller amounts of exposure are not so definite in its link to cancer (5). The question is, what is a small (safe) amount? And do you want to take that chance with your health or your children’s health. Since the choice of safer alternatives is available, why risk it?

What You Can Do To Decrease Your Toxic Exposure 

*Eat organic whenever possible.  Visit EWG website for the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen of produce for info on which produce contains the most pesticide use, how to wash your produce.

*Read up on the manufacturing of the products you bring into your home, both personal and cleaning products. EWG skin deep cosmetics database

*Drink plenty of filtered water daily and start with a glass first thing in the morning before your coffee or tea. Urinating and have well-functioning kidneys is another route the body uses to rid itself of toxins.

*Invest in a water filter. The Best Water Filter for Home Use.

*Keep your liver working well. The liver is the primary detoxification system in the body. Teas and herbal supplements like dandelion and milk thistle, as well as cruciferous veggies, support good liver function. Read here for more liver detox.

*Increase fiber intake. In general, eating the SAD (Standard American Diet) we don’t get nearly as much of the fiber we need to “keep things moving”. Women need 25-30gms per day of fiber and men 35 gms of fiber a day. In general we get maybe 15gms per day. Not nearly enough to ward off constipation and eliminate toxic substances.

*Sweat. Aerobic exercise and saunas to detox through the skin.    Another thing definitely worth mentioning is mental detox. Just like our bodies, our mind can hold on to toxins via our thoughts. Our thoughts can be negative, limiting and emotionally draining. Changing our perspective and the way we see life day to day can lighten the heart as well as the body burden. Meditation, mindful breathing, a  gratitude journal and letting go of thoughts that we dwell on that do not serve to make us better people, are just a couple of ways we can start to de-clutter the mind and live a more fulfilling life. Meditation you may think, is not your thing. However, did you know that doing something you love, like gardening, reading, knitting, jewelry making, going for walk or bike ride, etc can be meditative?  When we are totally engaged in an activity that we truly enjoy, nothing else at that moment matters and the thinking mind is given a much-needed break. Today do something you LOVE doing!

Shannon Rivera is a registered nurse, ACE certified health coach and Functional nutrition educator. She is a health coach at URENÜ LLC, helping people to restore balance and health to their life (

More Food For Your Brain


2. Research on Evaluating Chemicals for Adverse Effects. Environmental Working Group. 


4.What Are Hormones, And What Do They Do?


5. Formaldehyde. What is formaldehyde?  

6. Recent Trends in GE Adoption.  

7.Food Packaging and Bisphenol A and Bis(2-Ethyhexyl) Phthalate Exposure: Findings from a Dietary Intervention.   

8. Bisphenol A (BPA): Use in Food Contact Application.  

9. Arsenic.  

10.How You Can Avoid Low-Level Arsenic in Rice and Chicken. 

11. Pesticide Mixtures, Endocrine Disruption, and Amphibian Declines: Are We Underestimating the Impact? 2. US Food and Drug Administration. 


REvitalize/Why Beauty Products are Toxic and What You Can Do About It T 

Thyroid gland/Thyroid hormones.


Online Reading 


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