Top 3 Tips to Avoid Toxic Products From a Contaminants Biologist

Posted on June 19, 2013

Fish and wildlife expert

Did you know there are over 1,000 new chemicals every single year that the  government needs to test? Zach Jorgenson, an Environmental Contaminants Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service* and studied emerging contaminants for his Master’s degree, says that the rate these chemicals are being created and used in consumer products is way too fast for us to test them all – especially the long term effects. He’s currently working on projects that are aimed at removing or reducing the levels of multiple contaminants in the St. Louis River, including heavy metals, PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls), PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and even saw dust and other wood wastes.

One issue with emerging contaminants is that they do not have similar lethal endpoints as more traditional contaminants, such as heavy metals, and instead have less direct effects on survival. For instance, estrogen released into lakes and rivers as the by-product of birth control doesn’t necessarily kill fish, but is instead causing  intersex (where one fish will have both female and male reproductive organs) so male fish are now producing eggs. How long do you think these effects will stay contained to just fish? How long do you think until the people who eat the fish start seeing similar symptoms? These effects of these chemicals could take multiple generations to create noticable changes. Do you think it will affect your children’s or your grandchildren’s generation?

Zach said the EPA, and other government agencies, have a difficult time testing every chemical released every year. How well do you think they’re testing of long term effects of the chemicals then?

Here are the top things that Zach does to avoid the most toxic chemicals for himself:

1. Avoid Triclosan: this toxic chemical is basically used in anything meant to smell good. Avoid any fragranced lotions, shampoos, soaps, etc.

2. Don’t take your receipt! Although BPA is being phased out of plastic containers, like water bottles and stuff, it is still used to make cash register receipts. Zach says these chemicals seep in through your skin just by touching the receipts. Don’t be alarmed though, because the next tip will make you feel better.

3. Take a deep breath and don’t get overwhelmed. Although Zach knows how toxic deet is, he still uses bug spray because it’s less deadly than getting lime disease from a tick would be. He says to just do what you can at home and whatever toxins you encounter in the outside world your body will take care of.

The good news is that public pressure works to get these chemicals regulated! We just need to inform the public.

The publicity from the book, Slow Death By Rubber Duck, was part of the catalyst in getting BPA banned. It is also a great place to start learning about the harmful effects of everyday products on our bodies.

If you’re not up for reading, I strongly recommend the documentary, Chemerical, that is on Netflix.

Here’s a list of natural products that I’ve replaced in my home.

Tell your friends and family about these tips to keep them healthy too!

Do you have any questions you’d like to ask Zach? Leave a comment!

* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Fish and Wildlife.

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