The Mammaries Don't Lie

beth October 29, 2012

The Mammaries Don’t Lie.

They are squished away and compartmentalized. They are bound and held up for amusement. They are suckled and pawed at for nourishment and the unique feature that makes us mammals is certainly controversial at times. But, they are undoubtedly a basic requirement for human life, even when multinational companies promote formula options that supplant that main function of the breasts (like the new Kuerig ready-made formula. What!). Your boobs, regardless of whether you are a woman or a man reading this, are important.

Boobs are More Than the Pink Ribbons in October.

Despite their sexualized character, Facebook postings on public breastfeeding, and 5K runs to find a cancer cure, breasts really do reflect our actions and interactions with the environment in which we live. They are akin to the fossil record left behind from eons of time: wind, water, fire, life…everything compounded into fatty-tissue record of what happened before.

This last month I read the book Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History by Florence  Williams. Overall, I found it to be a very interesting read, but also a little scary. I have to be honest. I’m feeling around on my boobs a lot more since finishing the book, just to make extra sure there are no new or suspect findings. The biggest thing I took away from the reading is that there is whole bunch of stuff we are dealing with when it comes to our boobs, and we don”t even know (or maybe we don”t want to know) the half of it. Williams spends several chapters on POPs—persistant organic pollutants—and this is where I will focus this post.

POPs in Our Current Society Are Like Stars in The Sky.

They are everywhere. POPs are “”chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment”. This isn’t hippy dippy, tree-hugging idealism. This is a legitimate, recognized-by-the-international-community issue that is pervasive and problematic on a global scale. The abundance of chemicals that flow into our bodies via EVERYTHING is only mildly regulated and that is an overstatement. Of the more than 80,000 industrial chemicals used, only 5 are regulated by the EPA. Let that sink in: 0.0000625 or 0.00625%. There is a lot reason to perk up right now. One group of these bioaccumalted man-made chemicals that Williams writes about, Polychlorinated Biphenlys or PCBs, is still found in our bodies even though they have been outlawed for over 30 years. You just can’t get rid of ‘em.

The POPs found in our rack’s record reveal our love for all things plastic, flame-retardant, and synthetic. Williams sends a tissue sample off to be tested for such POPs and realizes that even when conscientiously trying to avoid products and food that are full of contaminants, it is practically impossible in our society…unless one move completely off the grid and lives off organic land that isn”t also contaminated by some upstream pesticide-tainted farm. She did a personal experiment where she tried to eliminate plastics like the wrappers on her food online casino products, her toothbrush, etc. and what she realized is that even when trying diligently to avoid using such plastics, our economy has a way of sneaking these chemicals into our lives…as evidenced by her tissue sample after her experiment.

Basically, all the plastics, fillers, polyurethane (which is in just about everything from that new paint on your DIY dresser to the foam in your couch), etc., builds up in your breast tissue where it is nicely stored until the perspective danger zone is converted from abnormal cells to cancer. This seems perhaps a little doom and gloom, but take into consideration that our boobies gobble up fat like turkeys. They are storage systems of fat and the chemicals discussed are fat-loving.

POPs Goes the Economy…

All this to say, most of our economy is somehow connected to these 80,000 chemicals. It’s in most of our personal and home products, building products, you name it. So what are your girls to do? Well, don’t panic. Just start paying more attention.   There are several of these POP’s that are easily spotted and included in the ingredient lists. But, here are some suggestions that you won”t find on the ingredient list:

  • Consider purchasing blankets and pillows with feather or wool stuffing instead of the batting that is now so common.
  • When purchasing packaged foods, choose glass. Some companies are trying to market BPA-free lined cans, but it is still very early to be able to expect BPA-free cans on a grand scale. There are a few companies like Eden Organic that has BPA-free canned beans. Otherwise, choose glass.
  • Please don”t drink from plastic water bottles. Besides the large, swirling plastic island of debris in the middle of our ocean, water bottles can leach harmful chemicals into your water. You are trying to do a good thing by staying hydrated, but your ladies are getting a dose of BPA. Get yourself a refillable tin canister (that should be labeled BPA free).
  • Always wash clothes you just purchased before wearing them. Formaldehyde is often sprayed on clothing to keep it from mildewing in shipment. I know your excited, but run it through the rinse for a good cleaning so that stuff doesn”t leach through your skin.
If this isn”t enough to whet your appetite, consider reading about the “Dirty Dozen” cosmetic chemicals on the David Suzuki Foundation”s website.

Read the book if you can or you could listen to , my favorite radio show. They interview Williams about her book. Don”t be overwhelmed. There is a lot to consider when you purchase a product, but you will notice a lot of repetition and with every shopping experience it is easier to spot ingredients you are trying to avoid.

What chemicals have you worked to eliminate from your home and personal products? Share some of your favorite products or ways to live more healthfully that you have discovered.

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1 Comment

  1. “Always wash clothes you just purchased before wearing them. Formaldehyde is often sprayed on clothing to keep it from mildewing in shipment.”
    I work in a clothing store where I handle and fold new clothes all day. So this is why they sometimes seem a little damp when they come in on shipment day. A bit freaked out now.


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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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