For several years, synthetic chemicals have been suspected of contributing to common thyroid conditions such as hypo- and hyperthyroidism, as well as thyroid cancer. In the United States, 16 percent of women and 3 percent of men will develop some form of thyroid disease during their lives.
Are common household products to blame? Among the most concerning chemicals are perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), which are used to make frying pans and waffle irons nonstick. However, they also are sprayed onto stain-resistant carpeting and breathable fabrics, and are used in wood sealants and food packaging — sources that might carry greater risk than nonstick pans, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and other sources.
In particular, perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) are known to be carcinogenic and lead to hormone disruption and liver damage in animals. Meanwhile, a 2010 analysis in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that men and women in the highest quartile for serum PFOA levels were twice as likely to have a thyroid disorder as those with lower levels of PFOA in their systems.
Until conclusive data exist suggesting otherwise, here are some ways to reduce household exposure:
As a general recommendation in our increasingly toxic environment, make a habit of a cleansing regimen once or twice per year. Use sauna and exercise to work up a sweat for an hour or more at a time. Sweat is one of the best ways to eliminate fat-soluble toxins from the body, including PFCs, and can help protect you from overload of most man-made toxins.
For more information, the Environmental Working Group provides additional research and resources.
Ryan Robbins, ND, is a naturopathic physician and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University. Call (206) 834-4100 to schedule an appointment.
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