Have You Read “How Chemicals Affect Us” by Nick Kristof?

Nick Kristof of the New York Times has been one of the most influential voices in the media when it comes to the dangers of endocrine disruptors. Last week he wrote again about the the science fiction that we are living with these chemicals.

The article is a great reminder of why we make such a big fuss around the presence of endocrine disruptors, and why we always advise people to avoid fragrance in their products. (Fragrances notoriously contain phthalates, part of this nasty club.)

Are you very aware of these chemicals in your day-to-day? Do you avoid them at all costs? I still eat many things out of a can (notably sardines) and am at a loss as to how to stop. Is is too much to ask that these chemicals just be banned, once and for all?

This month also happens to be Pregnancy Awareness Month, founded by author and lifestyle expert Anna Getty and producer Alisa Donner. Have you heard of this? It was created in 2008 with the intention of building a support community for mothers and expecting families, and to help educate them around health and wellness.

We should all know about endocrine disruptors, but fetuses are particularly vulnerable. I’ve pasted a few highlights from Kristof’s piece below in case you missed it, or if you’ve capped out on your New York Times articles for the month:

Endocrine disruptors are everywhere. They’re in thermal receipts that come out of gas pumps and A.T.M.’s. They’re in canned foods, cosmetics, plastics and food packaging. Test your blood or urine, and you’ll surely find them there, as well as in human breast milk and in cord blood of newborn babies.

Scientists have long known the tiniest variations in hormone levels influence fetal development. For example, a female twin is very slightly masculinized if the other twin is a male, because she is exposed to some of his hormones.

Now experts worry that endocrine disruptors have similar effects, acting as hormones and swamping the delicate balance for fetuses in particular. The latest initiative by scholars is a landmark 78-page analysis to be published next month in Endocrine Reviews, the leading publication in the field.

“For several well-studied endocrine disruptors, I think it is fair to say that we have enough data to conclude that these chemicals are not safe for human populations,” said Laura Vandenberg, a Tufts University developmental biologist who was the lead writer for the panel.

Need we say more?

20 Responses to “Have You Read “How Chemicals Affect Us” by Nick Kristof?”
  1. Natalie says:

    Ugh the sardines thing! I wish you could find some in jars…that’s the only thing I buy in a can anymore. I will also say that minimizing plastic is difficult. Since I have PCOS I’ve become more stringent about not keeping food in plastic, and am going to broach the subject of not putting any tupperware in our dishwasher with my housemates soon. But yes, I too wish all this stuff was banned. Avoiding receipts iis particularly difficult on occasions when you need a record for something.

  2. Katy says:

    Does anyone have a dishwasher w/o any plastic on the inside? I’ve been looking for one and I’ve found them with stainless liners, but the still have plastic coated shelves and utensil holders, not to mention a few other random inside parts. I feel like I’ll be giving all my dishes a high heat chem bath.

    I’ve read that ingesting plastic is part of what is causing us to be more obese than we were in the past.

  3. amy says:

    @Katy – aghh! I live in an apartment complex and I recently had to have my dishwasher replaced because it was leaking on the unit below mine. Without thinking, I threw my dishes in it and ran it for the first time and when I opened it I wanted to die. It smelled of chemically plastic so bad, even for a week or so later. I don’t know what to do about the plastic dishwasher situation. It’s so frustrating because I don’t put any plastic products in my dishwasher, but it probably doesn’t matter because the whole thing is plastic itself. I hate those unavoidable plastic products.

  4. Erin says:

    So the question is…how do we get away from all these terrible chemicals when they are in EVERYTHING?

  5. Rebecca says:

    @Erin, since I can’t get away from everything toxic I just do the best I can. I rarely buy anything in a can, switched all my food storage to glass, switched all my personal care products….

    I’m controlling what I can and trying not to freak out about the rest. I support efforts to ban toxins where I can.

  6. Emma says:

    I just wish governments would get it together and protect us from all that chemical sh*t already.
    In the meantime, here’s how I protect myself:
    – I avoid fragrance in cosmetics and detergents
    – I avoid canned food or buy BPA-free (such as Eden Organic)
    – I have a BPA-free water bottle
    – I avoid food packaged in plastic (especially types 3 and 7)
    – I use glass containers for lunches and whenever microwaving
    – I look for electronics that are certified BFR-free (flame retardants) and PVC-free such as Apple
    And now I apparently I avoid receipts too… sigh, though I suddenly feel much better about not owning a dishwasher.

  7. Deb says:

    I never even gave thought to the dishwasher…why I’m not sure, I guess because it’s been a part of my life since I was a very young girl?

    Some days I want to cry because although the choices are simple they are often expensive, isolating, and at times inconvenient and I think to myself, “Just get over it! You can’t avoid them. So, if you can’t beat them, join them!” But then I realize how far I’ve come in the last decade since I started my learning journey. Giving up now would mean undoing a decades worth of hard work. It would be a disgrace to all the times I stood seemingly alone saying “no” to paper towels and dryer sheets. It would take the credibility from all the things I’ve said to others in hopes that they would understand and agree.

    I’d burn my bra in protest, but there’s probably a plastic coating around the metal wire that would off gas something fierce. :\

  8. Sarah C. says:

    Can anyone recommend a good general book or website that discusses the issue of Endocrine Disrupters and which would have tips for removing toxins and chemicals from your everyday life??

    Thanks in advance!!

  9. Kat says:


    Here’s one thing I’ve been resisting even though I know it’s probably important because I shower every day. (Still can’t get myself to not do that. It’s HUMID out here and I get so sticky.) I want to switch my vinyl shower curtains out to cotton ones because they give off BPA too. But I keep hearing that without a plastic liner, the cotton ones will turn into a moldy mess. Inhaling mold probably isn’t all that healthy either. Who has cotton shower curtains here? And how do you keep them clean?

  10. Emma says:

    @Kat My shower curtain is 100% Polyester. I throw it in the washing machine every couple of months and it comes out good as new.

  11. Hey Kat,

    I don’t have cotton shower curtains but I imagine you can just wash them whenever you see them getting dirty!

  12. Anita says:

    Good morning from Spain,

    I watched this documentary some weeks ago: http://www.homotoxicus.com/english/index.htm
    and Mâles en péril by Sylvie Gilman and Thierry de Lestrade (Spanish version but I am sure you can find an English version via YouTube): http://www.rtve.es/alacarta/videos/la-noche-tematica/noche-tematica-hombres-peligro/1101573/
    They are both as interesting as scaring. They provide plenty information about phthalates and how they are related to sterility, cancer, allergies, etc. I was shocked by their impact on pregnant women and their fetuses.
    I feel so vulnerable…

  13. Naomi says:

    This is such a FANTASTIC article. It makes me want to analyze all aspects of my life and find where I can cut out these harmful chemicals. I’ve already switched a lot of my face and skin products to be more natural, and I don’t buy canned food (except sardines! lol…). It would be great if there was more awareness about this issue in the general public – then, perhaps the government would be more likely to ban these chemicals.

  14. Rachel G says:

    @Kat , we have cotton shower curtains. We just wash them with hot water every couple of weeks, and so far no mold problems!

  15. gilly says:

    i read this article about a study on mice that experience high exposure to phthalates while pregnant:

    “The story the evidence from the paper seems to tell is that a high level of in utero exposure to MEHP causes female mice to have a shortened but more intense reproductive life, possibly because greater hormone levels induce an elevated number of follicles to release more eggs per estrus cycle. Their lifetime egg supply is therefore used up sooner and along the way their mammary glands end up significantly altered.”


    “The mammary glands of highly exposed mice exhibited a visibly striking degree of abnormal cell growth. Hixon said the growth could be considered a precursor to cancer.”

    here is the link:

  16. amy says:

    @kat – I have a fabric shower curtain – I don’t think it’s fully cotton…probably some sort of polyester blend, but it’s actually stayed cleaner than my old plastic ones that I used to use, and (because I’m super lazy) I only wash it maybe every 6 months or so? Mine hasn’t molded at all, it just gets a little bit of soap build up at the bottom after awhile.

    I think there are some good documentaries, including the one Anita mentioned, on Neflix right now….

  17. Kat says:

    Thanks everyone! (Emma, Sarah, Rachel G, Amy)

    So wait, polyester doesn’t give off BPA fumes?? I wish I’d known that. Haha! I thought it was all synthetic shower curtains. I’ll still want the cotton, but maybe I can do a polyester liner so I don’t have to wash them too often.

  18. Katy says:

    I have a heavy cotton shower curtain (inside my decorative cotton curtain) and I have had no problems with it, I’ve used the same one for 2 years and I live in a humid climate. I wash it every month or so with the towels.

    When I used a plastic liner in the past, that curtain would always get gross. The bottom would stick together and it would grow mildew.

  19. Ann says:

    Can anyone tell me if plastic baby bottles are okay, as long as they don’t contain BPA, or should I use glass because of other chemicals in the plastic?

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