Heart disease is a growing pandemic with about three million dying from this horrific disease annually.
In my family alone, my uncle passed away from his first heart attack at the young age of 29. He was coming home from his bachelor party.
My grandfather was treated for heart disease 15 years before he passed. And most recently, my brother and niece have been treated by doctors, prescribed statins, and, in six weeks, increased their waistline by 30 pounds each!
Heart disease can be the end result of a lifestyle of toxic habits, such as, smoking, obesity, alcoholism, or eating fried and sugary foods that increase risk for hypertension, insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and diabetes.
Less known are exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals that can increase risk for cardiovascular disease. Interestingly enough, these same exposures can begin early in utero.
When pregnant, we know the irreversible damage that alcohol, smoking, and exposure to lead paint, have on the health of the unborn fetus. Less understood is how exposures to chemicals in the work and home environment can negatively change the DNA of our offspring. The body can ingest harmful chemicals by breathing, eating, or absorbing them though the skin.
My grandfather and my uncle both experienced toxic chemical exposures on the job that damaged their genetic makeup and increased their risk for heart disease.
My uncle worked for a electric company that produced gas from heating coal. Exposures included polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), tar, benzene, and volatile hydrocarbons (such as toluene). My grandfather was exposed to asbestos in his business as a tile worker, using less than safe production practices.
Environmental chemicals disrupt life and create disease. “These endocrine disrupting effects result in long-term health consequences.”
Below are exposures that concern most of the population today because they can destroy our health, the health of the planet, as well as business and home environments:
1. BPAs. Plastic leaching-chemicals contribute to increased belly fat, estrogen dominance, cancer, insulin resistance, and heart disease. This industrial chemical belongs to a family of xenoestrogens that include, pesticides, herbicides, canned foods, plastic containers, garden hoses, acrylics, birth control pills, baby bottles, plastic toys, synthetic Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), and dyes.
Unbeknownst to most, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready® Glyphosate™ is part of the family of xenoestrogens. We use this herbicide on our lawns, which negatively impacts our waterways and our veins. Glyphosate™ can also be found in cereals, chips, and crackers.
2. Statin medications can actually increase the risk for heart disease, cause weight gain, and diabetes, Plus, they’re a class of environmental contaminants. Contraindications in pregnancy may produce skeletal malformation. In 1980, the first clinical trials of Compactin were stopped because of concerns with severe animal toxicity.
Between 1970 and 1980, more fat-free foods were introduced to our environment that contained—you guessed it—more sugar! Because of an increasing number of sugary-foods available, the obesity rate has tripled since 1970, with more dying from heart disease. To make matters worse, “Statins significantly affect the sperm parameters and the seminal fluid composition of healthy men.” Statin residues can be released through the air in manufacturing and eventually found in our soil and water supply through feces and urine.
3. Phthalates. Spraying air-fresheners, using dryer sheets, hairspray or a few hours around a burning scented candle can increase in-home air pollution, lung, and heart disease. Today, because housing is built so close together, these toxic scents can harm us even if our neighbor uses them. “Phthalates can disrupt early male reproductive development.”
4. Mycotoxins are endocrine disruptors found in foods such as corn, soy, wheat, cereal grains, peanuts, grain-fed animals, antibiotics, and oral contraceptives. These are known as zearalenone (ZEA). Mycotoxins decrease immunoglobulin levels and, according to the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, healthy immunoglobulin levels help protect us from heart attacks.
5. Obesogens can program our bodies to be fat. These contribute to insulin resistance, obesity, hypertension, peripheral artery disease (PAD), and heart disease. Obesogens include synthetic compounds such as: carrageenan found in milk and ice cream, pesticides such as atrazine, and heavy metals such as cadmium found in shellfish. Perfluorooctanoic acid, (PFOA) a family member of obesogens, is found in teflon pots, carpets, and mattresses and may increase risk for hypertension and metabolic syndrome.
6. Triclosan. An environmental chemical exposure linked to cardiovascular disease, weakens the immune system, cardiac, and skeletal muscles, and also disrupts metabolism. Triclosan is found in preservatives added to foods and cosmetics. Some examples are inside: deodorants, antibacterial soaps, face wash, Colgate Total®, Lipgloss, Nexcare ™ First Aid, and aerosol shaving gels. Triclosan, an endocrine disruptor, is also found in ground water.
7. Tetrachloroethylene, made from ethylene, is used for dry-cleaning, adhesives, and solvents. Tetrachloroethylene depletes our glutathione levels and decreases libido. Additionally, residues can be found in groundwater and shower water. This endocrine disruptor disrupts tissues in the brain, lungs, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and the heart.
8. Toxic Sludge. Our aquatic environment is under attack and contamination is not only a U.S. problem but a global problem. Pharmaceuticals found in drinking water are a real human health risk. These include: SSRIs, pain medications, antibiotics, acetaminophen, anti-inflammatories, antipsychotics, and more. The negative side-effect from using antipsychotics in utero is congenital heart disease.
With awareness we can make some necessary changes:
When killing weeds, we can make non-toxic solutions from vinegar, salt, and water.
Ask your doctor about the side-effects from medications before pregnancy.
Purchase organic and non-toxic cosmetics and baby skin-care products.
Ditch teflon pots and pans and opt for stainless steel.
Newer model washing machines can actually do a better job at cleaning clothes that suggest “dry clean only.”
Treatment plants do not remove all drug residues. A more holistic approach needs to be implemented to clean our soil and waterways.
Your voice is needed. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) needs to take a more proactive approach to protecting us and our environment. Of the thousands of endocrine disrupting chemicals in our environment, only one percent are ever tested for safety measures.
In conclusion, we do have the power to take our health back and the health of our planet. While some have given up hope with “a nothing I can do will help” attitude, every small step we take away from toxins in this world is a positive step toward living and enjoying a longer, happier, and healthier life. Together, as we speak up, the greater chance we can make this world a better place for future generations.
I was only seven years old when my Uncle Johnny passed away, and I still miss him.
Author: Connie Rogers
Image: Flickr/Eva Blue
Editor: Travis May