Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Petrochemicals in the Body

There were so many visitors to our last blog posting about Women, Blacks and Hispanics Diabetics Linked to Plastic Chemicals, I decided to post additional information about how to protect yourself and your family. We can't get away from "plastics" and "chemicals" - but we can at least know what is harmful - Charles

The Petrochemical Industry has provided us with  valuable medical and much needed industrial products, however petrochemicals are also dangerous - depending on their use. 

Do you know that Petrochemicals are found in most food products, our water, household cleaning products, personal care products, household furnishings, and even children's toys? 

These petrochemicals CAN be absorbed through the skin and scalp, and then human organs and tissues - and over time these chemical agents can lead to nerve, liver and brain damage, birth defects, acute asthma, and cancer - Shocking, but true.

There are more than 80,000 chemicals in use today - far more than we humanly know how to categorize, and more than we know what to do with. More important, we have no idea of the effects on the human body, or the effect on our environment of  90% of these chemical compounds.

Chemicals are released into the air, water and ground. These chemical releases can severely affect human life and the environment. In this case, we cannot talk about one without the other. We all breathe the air, drink the water, and much of our food comes from the ground, and water.

So Where Do We Start?

You may find toxins almost anywhere in your home, but some of the important places to consider eliminating toxic substances are:

  • Household Cleaning Products
  • Fruits & Vegetables
  • Water
  • Personal Care Products
  • Home Furnishings

Household Cleaning Products

When you use toxic cleaners, the chemicals stay in the air for hours, even days, and you and your family breathe them into your body. The residue left behind by these chemicals are also toxic to anyone who touches or uses the surface where the chemical residue is left.

Now, to further complicate this toxic problem, when you use additional chemicals on these surfaces, the combination of chemicals can actually create another toxic compound.

It is advisable to get fresh air into your home as much as possible to disburse these chemical agents, and look for cleaning products that are natural and made from non toxic ingredients.

Experts say the average household contains anywhere from 3-25 gallons of toxic materials, most of which are in cleaning products. There is no government law that requires manufacturers of cleaning products to list ingredients on their labels, or to test their products for safety.

So, it's up to you, to choose your cleaning products wisely.

When you buy new cleaning products, look for manufacturers who list the natural ingredients on the label. Also you should purchase products that contain non-petroleum-basedchlorine and phosphate free surfactants, products that are , and products that claim to be "non-toxic" and products that are biodegradable.

A note of caution: some cleaners may advertise that they are "environmentally sound" but will fail to provide a full list of ingredients. In looking for products, make sure you can read the list of ingredients.

Some products are marketed as non-toxic and natural, but do not list the natural ingredients. Remember, the manufacturer that gives you the most information about its product is usually the manufacturer you can trust.

While these chemicals have been used for years to clean homes and offices, studies now show that these chemicals have an adverse effect on humans. We've become used to reading the words "Danger, Toxic, Warning or Poison" on the back label of cleaning products, but never considered the risk to our health if we used these products "safely".

Well this was yesterday, but today we know these chemicals produce toxic fumes and leave toxic residues throughout our home no matter how "safely" we use them.  

Safe Food and Drink

Purchasing organic food, and growing your own vegetables is the safest way to reduce the amount of toxin in your food intake.

Frozen products and canned foods contain petrochemicals. Fruits and vegetables (which are supposed to be food for you) are highly contaminated with petrochemicals used in fertilizers, pest control and petrochemical solutions that "make" your fruit look better - as in "shiny".

Since our government has not taken the problem of food safety seriously, it will be up to the American people to demand safe food, free of pesticides and petrochemicals.

Water is another big safety issue. Tap water is treated with chlorine or chlorine dioxide. These two petrochemicals can form into chloroform, which is linked to liver, nervous system damage and kidney failure.

Bottled water has become a billion dollar operation, however buying bottled water is not assurance the water is free from harmful chemicals.

Aspartame - Artificial sweetners such as Nutra Sweet and Equal both contain phenylalanine and methanol, and should be avoided. Splenda (sucralose) is marketed as natural because it is made from sugar. It starts out as sugar, but winds up as an artificial, synthetic product. The structure of sugar is changed chemically by substituting three chlorine atoms for three hydroxyl groups.

These product types are also used in many of the diet soft drinks, and thousands of other "diet" or low carb products.

Personal Care Products

Every bathroom cabinet in America is full of chemical compounds, and other harmful synthetic substances.

Once again, the federal government does not require companies to provide a full disclosure on what chemicals are used to make personal care products.

Your mouth wash, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and other hygiene products contain a wide variety of chemical compounds and synthetic substances - all petroleum based. Since consumers are not allowed to know the chemical make up of these products, you obviously have no idea what harmful chemicals you apply to your body on a daily basis.

While many natural products on the market may be higher in cost, they are the choice for those who take their health, and their families health seriously.

When choosing natural products, the best products contain a list of the ingredients - and these ingredients will have familiar names - unlike the 20 or more letter ingredients that most of us cannot pronounce.

For example, many natural soaps contain olive oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and organic botanical extracts.

Females need to be aware that tampons are made from rayon (highly chlorine-bleached wood pulp) and/or low-grade cotton, which has often been grown overseas and has been treated with DDT. Many tampons are subjected to chlorine-based bleaching. Women should consider switching to sanitary pads that are non-chlorine beached rather than tampons.

Non permanent Hair Dye contains a combination of peroxide and ammonia, which has been proven to damage and alter the molecular structure of hair, and can cause allergic reactions. Permanent dyes contain tiny amounts of coal tar, which is a harmful petrochemical for the body.

The quest to have "brighter" clothes has brought about Optical Brighteners, also called optical bleaches or fluorescent whitening agents. This is a group of colorless, fluorescent chemicals that absorb ultraviolet light and emit it back as visible blue light. The blue light actually masks the yellowing, and makes it appear brighter and whiter.

Optical Brighteners have been a marketing genius for companies that manufacture detergents, however in reality they are simply a "special effect", and your clothes are not cleaner, nor are they brighter or whiter.

Optical Brighteners stay on your clothes, and can produce skin reactions, and irritation to any part of your body. As for the environment, the chemicals are toxic to fish, and over time scientist state these chemicals can actually mutate bacteria. Optical Brighteners are also non-biodegradable, and once they get into the ground or water, they stay.

Home Furnishings

While energy efficient homes save money on utilities, these tightly constructed homes, schools and business buildings do not allow the flow of fresh air. In these air tight environments, chemical fumes from paint, stains, furniture, cleaning products, and other materials create a toxic environment.

While we are all concerned about the breathing quality of the outside air, recent studies show the air in the average homes is 2-5 times more polluted than the air outside.

Older homes that were built before 1980 have their own particular toxic problems - lead paint on the walls and woodwork. In an older home that has lead paint, just opening and closing doors and windows can release fine lead particles into the air, and when remodeling an older home, more of these dangerous particles get into the air, and home furnishings.

When the Consumer Products Safety Commission studied air pollution, it found that outdoor air contained an average of less than 10 volatile organic compounds (or VOCs-a type of airborne pollutant) while indoor air contained approximately 150.1 VOC's.

Carpet is one of the most toxic elements in our homes. The carpet backing is made of toxic petrochemicals, the pad is toxic, and the glue is also toxic. These chemicals are especially harmful to small children, who spend time playing on carpeted floors, and also household pets.

When choosing a company to clean your carpet, be aware many of the companies use harmful petrochemicals, and the fragrance to disguise the chemical order is also toxic. Search for companies who do not use these products.

How about the furniture in your home? Well, furniture made from plywood or particle board are treated with formaldehyde and can emit toxic fumes in your home for up to five years after purchase.

The cushions on your couch and chairs are made from polyurethane plastic and are covered in acrylic, polyester or polyvinyl chloride - more toxins.

Your children's toys are not exempt from toxins. Toxic plastic toys are made of poly vinyl chloride (PVC). In order to keep the plastic flexible and soft, the use of the chemical phthalates is used. This chemical emits toxic fumes that are inhaled by children, as well as ingested when children put these toys in their mouths. Even the infamous Barbie doll is made of PVC.

Another cause of concern are games and puzzles that contain mercury beads. Mercury is extremely poisonous, can be absorbed through the skin, and lead to death.

According to Greenpeace, children are exposed to a variety of these plasticizers via vinyl childcare products like toys. The Consumer Products Safety Commission has requested that toy manufacturers cease using polyvinyl chloride, however many PVC toys still remain on the market.

What Can You Do To Decrease Toxins in Your Body & Home?

  • As mentioned above, you should have as much fresh air circulating through your home as possible.
  • Only use paints and stains that are low VOC, and avoid spray paint entirely. One example of a good low VOC paint is Benjamin Moore Eco Spec - ask around for other low VOC paints. 
  • Purchase furniture that have whole wood frames, along with cotton and wool cushions
  • If you dry clean your clothes, take them out of the plastic bag, and air out for 3-4 days before bringing into your home. Perc is a toxic chemical used in the dry cleaning process, and it causes damage to the central nervous system, birth defects, and cancer. Initial effects upon breathing Perc is usually headaches and dizziness. 
  • When purchasing children's toys, try to find toys made from polyethylene or polypropylene, which are both non-chlorinated. If you are not sure of the chemical make up of a plastic toy, it is best to avoid buying at all, especially in the case of small children and babies. 
  • Burn Candles made from beeswax or vegetable wax instead of petroleum based paraffin wax.
  • Purchase an Air Purifier, and also a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filer (High Efficiency Particular Air) - both are excellent if you suffer from allergies. 
  • Switch to natural household cleaning products
  • Purchase fruits and vegetables from as many local merchants as possible, or buy organic fruit and vegetables in the store
  • Become pro-active, learn which products to avoid, contact government representatives about your concerns, and be sure to tell your family & friends

Chronic Exposure

The good news is that the majority of people are not normally exposed to large doses of chemicals. Chronic exposure is the term used for exposure to chemical substances at levels significantly below the toxic level.

In other words, we normally do not inhale or ingest enough chemicals to kill us immediately, but instead inhale or ingest enough chemicals that may eventually cause serious health problems, and harmful effects to our environment.

The petrochemical industry is growing by leaps and bounds, and petrochemicals are here to stay. Governments are not requiring full disclosure of petrochemicals in products people use everyday, so it will be up to the people to demand these changes, along with adopting more natural products and foods into their lifestyle.

Also take a look at products made from petroleum YOU use everyday -
Popular Products Made From Petrochemicals

More Information About Petrochemicals 

What Are Petrochemicals?

History of Petrochemicals

Petrochemicals in the Body 

Harmful Petrochemicals 

How Plastic Is Made 

Dangers of DEA - Personal Care Products 

Other Useful Sites

National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides

Pesticide Action Network of North America

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