In Food

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Hidden Chemicals in Foodgroceries

Today, it’s not just the food itself that you have to watch, but the containers they’re stored in, which can leach toxic chemicals such as BPA, Styrene and Vinyl Chloride . Not only do they sound unappetizing, they’re actually bad for you.

Bisphenol A (BPA)

Bisphenol A (BPA) can be found in reusable plastic food containers and the lining of food and beverage cans. Research shows that BPA exposure is linked to breast cancer, and has been shown to interfere with chemotherapy treatment for the disease.


Phthalates can be found in some plastic food containers and are considered endocrine disruptors. Phthalate exposure has been linked to early puberty in girls, a risk factor for later-life breast cancer. Some phthalates also act as weak estrogens in cell culture systems.


Can leach from polystyrene – a component of Styrofoam food trays, egg cartons, disposable cups and carryout containers – when heated, worn or put under pressure. Styrene is an animal mammary carcinogen and is possibly carcinogenic to humans.

Vinyl Chloride

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is used to produce food packaging. When PVC is made, vinyl chloride may be released into the air or wastewater. It was one of the first chemicals designated as known human carcinogen and has been linked to increased mortality from breast cancer and liver cancer among workers involved in its manufacture. After disposal, PVC can break down, and if it is incinerated or catches fire, it can form dioxins.


Some pesticides and herbicides used on the food we eat have been identified as human or animal carcinogens and many are also found in water supplies and indoor air and dust. Pesticide exposure is of particular concern for agricultural workers. Studies have shown that some herbicides and pesticides stimulate growth of breast cancer cells or cause mammary cancer in rats.


More than 75 million pounds of atrazine are applied annually to corn, sorghum and other crops to control broadleaf weeds, which leads to high levels of the herbicide in groundwater and drinking water every spring and summer in areas that grow these crops. Atrazine disrupts the body’s own hormone systems in a number of ways and has been linked to a number of reproductive changes in wildlife. Experimental studies suggest it may disrupt mammary gland development.

2,4-D, Chlordane and Malathion

These three pesticides were associated with increased risk of breast cancer in a study of Latina women recently diagnosed with the disease. The risks were highest in young women and those diagnosed with breast cancer early in life.


Young children of farmers where this pesticide is used have higher levels of 2,4,5-TP in their urine shortly after the pesticide is applied. In addition, a large study of farm women in Iowa and North Carolina found elevated rates of breast cancer in women exposed to 2,4,5-TP.

Natural and Synthetic Hormones

Some plants and fungi produce compounds that mimic estrogen or alter naturally occuring hormones in other ways. In addition, some synthetic hormones are given to farm animals to increase milk production or increase growth.


Zearalenone is a naturally occurring chemical compound produced by a fungus that grows on grains such as corn. Studies have found higher levels of zearalenone in people who frequently consume popcorn. The synthetic version of zearalenone is zeranol, which is given to cattle to promote growth. Both compounds mimic estrogen, and in vitro studies show that they can stimulate the growth of breast cells.


The U.S. and Canadian beef, veal and lamb industries have used synthetic growth hormones since the 1950s to hasten the fattening of animals. Zeranol is one of the most widely used chemicals in the U.S. beef industry. It is of special concern since it mimics the hormone estradiol. Scientists recently exposed cancer cells to zeranol-treated beef and the results showed significant increases in cancer growth. Economic and health concerns have led the European Union to ban use of these hormones in their own meat-production systems and to ban imports of hormone-treated beef, including meat from the United States, since 1989 (Hanrahan, 2000).


Since its introduction in 1993, bovine growth hormone (rBGH/rBST) has proven controversial because of its potential carcinogenic effects. Several studies have shown an association between dairy consumption and breast cancer in pre-menopausal women. rBGH has also been shown to raise insulin-like growth factor levels in the body, associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.


Phytoestrogens are estrogen compounds fround in many plants and plant products, including soy food products. Although scientific evidence suggests that plant-based estrogens offer nutritional benefits, the data is more conflicting when it comes to breast cancer risk. Some studies suggest phytoestrogen consumption during adolescence may help reduce later risk of breast cancer, but other studies suggest it may cause oxidative DNA damage and interfere with breast cancer drugs.



Read labels

    • To be sure that the food you’re buying is chemical-free, look for the organic seal . It means that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has certified that the food contains no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, drugs, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Click Here! to learn how to grow Organic food.
    • Meat and poultry labeled “No antibiotics administered/USDA process certified.” Labels such as “No antibiotics” or “Raised without antibiotics” may be accurate, but they haven’t been verified by the USDA.
    • Milk labeled “rBGH-free” or “rBST-free.” This is the producer’s promise that it doesn’t contain these artificial hormones.
    • Foods labeled “No GMOs.” But understand that this labeling isn’t regulated. In the U.S., buying organic is the best way to avoid GMOs.

Be a savvy shopper

  • Buy organic fruits and vegetables when they are in season and cheaper.
  • Visit Farmers’ Markets, and talk to the growers and ask them if they use organic methods.
  • Watch the adds and purchase organic products when they are on sale.
  • Buy separate ingredients and cook more.  Processed food cost more and more likely to contain GMOs and artificial additives.
  • Browse the bulk isle for organic items such as flour, pasta and cereals.
  • Buy cheaper cuts of organic meat. Chicken thighs or whole birds are usually cheaper than chicken breasts.

In conclusion

I know it can seem overwhelming to think about reading labels while at the busy supermarket with wining kids begging for everything they see….or is this just me??  It takes time and once you learn what to look for and what stores carry organic foods that you like then it becomes easier.  One step at a time.  I know I still don’t eat as healthy as I should, especially when you have a busy day and no time to prepare a meal.  It’s SO much easier to throw in a frozen meal or run through a fast food joint.  I get it.  That’s when meal prepping comes in handy but that’s for another post 🙂

What changes have you made and what brands of food are your go to?  Comment below, I would love to hear other suggestions!

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