By: Nicholas Kristof
Excerpt: "Our bodies are full of poisons from products we use every day. I know – I’ve had my urine tested for them. ...
Almost a decade ago, I was shaken by my reporting on a class of toxic chemicals called endocrine disruptors. They are linked to cancer and obesity and also seemed to feminize males, so that male alligators developed stunted genitalia and male smallmouth bass produced eggs. ...
So I’ve tried for years now to limit my exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Following the advice of the President’s Cancer Panel, I eat organic to reduce exposure to endocrine disruptors in pesticides. I try to store leftover meals in glass containers, not plastic. I avoid handling A.T.M. and gas station receipts. I try to avoid flame-retardant furniture.
Those are all common sources of toxic endocrine disruptors, so I figured that my urine would test pristine. Pure as a mountain creek.
Silent Spring Institute near Boston, which studies chemical safety, offers a “Detox Me Action Kit” to help consumers determine what harmful substances are in their bodies. Following instructions, I froze two urine samples (warning my wife and kids that day to be careful what food they grabbed from the freezer) and Fed-Exed them off for analysis. As I waited for the lab results, I continued to follow the latest research. Laura Vandenberg of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst sent bizarre video of a mouse exposed to a common endocrine disruptor doing back flips nonstop, as a kind of nervous tick.
Finally, I heard back from Silent Spring Institute. I figured this was a report card I had aced. I avoid all that harmful stuff. In my columns, I had advised readers how to avoid it.
Sure enough, I had a low level of BPA, best known because plastic bottles now often boast “BPA Free.”
But even a diligent student like me failed the test. Badly. I had high levels of a BPA substitute called BPF. Ruthann Rudel, a toxicologist who is the head of research at Silent Spring, explained that companies were switching to BPF even though it may actually be yet more harmful (it takes longer for the body to break it down). BPF is similar to that substance that made those mice do back flips.
“These types of regrettable substitutions — when companies remove a chemical that has a widely known bad reputation and substitute a little-known bad actor in its place — are all too common,” Rudel told me. “Sometimes we environmental scientists think we are playing a big game of whack-a-mole with the chemical companies.”'