I recently read an article about the dangers of endocrine disruptors in cleaning products. It was written by my friend and eco-expert Laura Trotta and it focused on physical health issues and weight gain. I immediately did a bit of research and approached Laura about the impact of these chemicals on our mental health. Luckily, she agreed to write another article for me, and for you, that explains why we need to be more mindful of what we clean our homes with. (Sorry if the title of this blog got your hopes up that cleaning could be given up entirely!)
Why Cleaning Is Bad for Your Mental Health
By: Laura Trotta
It’s no secret that our modern society is facing a mental health crisis. The signs are everywhere….
Adolescents battling with eating disorders, new mothers struggling to find joy in motherhood, young men and women taking their lives too soon, middle aged men quietly suffering under the pressure of maintaining a career and providing for their families, people across all age groups self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, and larger percentages of our elderly suffering depression well into their twilight years.
As for the stats? They sure don’t make for pleasant reading…..
In each year, approximately one in five Australians will experience a mental illness and about 4% of people will experience a major depressive episode. Mental illnesses are the third leading cause of disability burden in Australia, accounting for an estimated 27% of the total years lost to disability (source).
It’s no surprise given these statistics that mental illness touches most Australian families, and mine is no exception. I grew up in a family where mental illness was very much a part of daily life, and indeed still is. I also married into a loving family that has struggled with mental health issues at times too and I’m even related to some wonderful, caring mental health nurses who work at the real coal-face of the mental health system.
It’s obvious that family history is one key indicator of mental illness, but what if environmental factors are also contributing to the growing incidence of metal disorders in our society?
According to Beyond Blue, family history, personality, medical illness and drug and alcohol use are the four causes typically listed for depression. But the mental health puzzle is a little more complicated than that…..
Researchers are finding more and more that environmental factors may have a role to play in our overall health. Factors including air pollution and chemicals in our foods as well as products commonly used around the home have been scientifically linked to physical conditions including asthma, obesity and diabetes through to behavioural and learning disorders (including attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and even schizophrenia.
Sounds a bit far-fetched? Not so!
Most of us have heard of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (or EDCs) and know they have the potential to disrupt the endocrine system (that is, the glands that produce hormones, regulate metabolism, growth, development, sexual function, reproduction and mood) but our understanding of what these chemicals are capable of is still pretty slim. You could be forgiven for thinking the extent of their impact is limited to early-onset puberty in our daughters but unfortunately that’s just one worm in the EDC can.
Following from research conducted in 2009, the Endocrine Society released a statement emphasizing the danger of EDCs, and how they have linked EDCs to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, infertility, hormone-related cancers and neurological problems. A subsequent report by WHO/UNEP 2013 suggests a greater role for EDCs in disease, even more than was predicted just 10 years ago (source). This latter report demonstrates a strong likelihood that exposure to EDCs during foetal life and/or puberty plays a role in the proliferation of male and female reproductive problems, endocrine-related cancers (such as breast and prostate cancer), infections, asthma, obesity, diabetes and behavioural and learning disorders.
Several lines of evidence suggest that exposure to EDCs are also associated with depression and could results in neural degeneration. It’s been suggested that low doses of EDCs cause incomplete methylation of specific gene regions in the young brain and impair neural development and brain functions across generations (source).
But what are EDCs and how are we exposed to them?
Hundreds of chemicals, as well as persistent organic pollutants, have been identified as EDCs. Endocrine disrupting chemicals can be found in everyday items such as plastics bottles and containers, metal cans, detergents, air fresheners, foods, toys and cosmetics. They include chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides and plasticizers, in particular bisphenol A, or BPA.
They can enter our bodies through absorption (skin), inhalation or ingestion (food) and once in our bodies they can contribute to health problems by mimicking, blocking or otherwise interfering with the body’s natural hormones like oestrogen, androgens and thyroid hormones. Thus, EDCs prevent natural hormones from doing their jobs and they can alter the way cells develop and grow.
While better regulation for chemicals and improved safety testing is needed to identify new endocrine disrupting chemicals and ensure they’re kept out of everyday household goods to reduce the risk to the general population, you can lower your exposure risk by simply reducing or eliminating products that contain EDCs from your household and making the switch to natural alternatives.
Be it your laundry detergent, cleaning sprays, fabric softener, shampoo, hand cream, kitchen storage containers or air freshener, safer and effective alternatives are out there and it makes total sense to make the change, for your own physical and mental health!
If breaking up with endocrine-disrupting and other synthetic chemicals in your home has been on your TO-DO list, check out my FREE Home Detox Training Series. A clean, healthy home without the toxic chemicals will soon be yours to enjoy.
And I’ve also recently thrown open the doors once more to my popular Home Detox Boot Camp. If you’re ready to join myself and my supportive community to help break up with toxins, including endocrine disrupting chemicals, in your home click here to check it out!
About the author: Laura Trotta is an experienced environmental engineer, eco-living expert and the creator of the Home Detox Boot Camp. She loves bushwalking and scuba diving and lives with her husband and young sons in Outback South Australia. You can follow Laura on Facebook and Instagram.