For a while there, our grandparents went nuts adding toxic chemicals to pretty much everything, because they were just called “chemicals” back then. After decades of intensive research, we now know how harmful these once-ubiquitous substances are.
Which is why today they are … uh, still ubiquitous? Yep, it turns out that once you put this junk out in the world, it isn’t so easy to get it out. For example …
There’s BPA In Your Paper Receipts
Bisphenol A (BPA if you’re in a hurry) is a chemical that’s absolutely terrible for the human body, which is why it’s been unceremoniously kicked out of stuff like children’s products, plastic food containers, water bottles, aluminum cans, and more. Unfortunately, it’s still all over an item those of you who leave the house have probably handled multiple times this week: receipts from stores. It turns out this is hazardous, especially if you touch the receipts right before putting something in your mouth. Like, say, a burger. Mmmm. Be right back. (Wait, s**t.)
BPA and its equally-assholish cousin BPS are involved in the printing process for thermal paper, which is used for everything from movie tickets to deli labels. Because this BPA is “loose” and not bonded to the paper, it ends up inside you within minutes, the big floozy. And unlike a lot of chemicals, both BPA and BPS start causing problems at extremely low levels, so a little in your system goes a long — and very bad — way.
By the way, that graphic isn’t telling you to use hand sanitizer to avoid BPA. It’s the other way around. Having squeaky-clean hands actually makes your body absorb chemicals “more quickly and extensively.” You had one job, hand sanitizer.
While a few companies have committed to removing toxic chemicals from their thermal paper, 9 out of 10 receipts are still printed with powdered BPA. There’s a massive petition asking Target to get this s**t off their receipts right now, please. In Europe, a ban on using BPA in receipts goes into effect in 2020. In the meantime, might wanna stop using receipts to pick your teeth.
DDT Was Banned Decades Ago, And We Still Eat It Every Day
DDT is very good at killing bugs. Trouble is, it’s also good at killing everything else. That’s why the EPA banned it almost 50 years ago. And if it’s banned, what’s there to worry about? It’s one of those problems we banished for good, like Nazis or measles! Yeah, about that …
Turns out DDT and chemicals like it are called “persistent organic pollutants” (POPs) for a good reason. Studies show that we still ingest trace amounts of DDT every single day. Researchers found the pesky bugger in 23 of the 31 types of food tested, especially dairy products, fish, and other fatty foods.
But if it’s “trace amounts,” why should we care? Well, for the same reason the stuff is still around: It “bioaccumulates,” or sticks. In the environment and inside you. Though we mostly quit using POPs years ago, the stuff we already used has been living its best life in soil, water, and the body fat of animals for decades, slowly working its way into humans. And once absorbed into the body, DDT has a half-life of eight years, so it’s not just the traces we ingest today that matter. It’s the little bits we’ve been eating for years that add up and are now being linked to autism, Alzheimer’s, and good old-fashioned cancer. It’s the s****y chemical inheritance your grandpa left you along with the antique car.
Heavy Metals In Juice Are Making Kids Dumber
Turns out your parents were right about heavy metal rotting your brain. Actual heavy metals of the non-Osbourne variety are in the environment and our food. Most of the time, it’s not a big deal and nobody cares, because it’s not like the levels are high enough to become toxic … until they are.
In January 2019, Consumer Reports found high levels of heavy metals like arsenic and lead in 45 varieties of fruit juice. How much is “high”? Five varieties of juice would be toxic to adults who drank a mere four ounces each day. s**t, that’s how much we slurp to wash down the other juice we just drank. The levels are even more dangerous to children. And since kids freaking love juice — 80 percent under the age of three drink it, 74 percent of them once a day or more — you can see why parents might be worried.
Even if levels aren’t as high as those in the juices, the effect is cumulative. Over time, exposure to heavy metals can cause cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and diminished brain function, among other fun freebies not listed in those juice boxes. Children who are exposed face additional risks of lowered IQ and behavioral problems, as metals are incredibly harmful to their developing systems. As the chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Environmental Health put it, “Exposure to these metals early on can affect [kids’] whole life trajectory.” Geez, better stick to water, right? Not so fast …
It’s Not Just Flint — There’s Lead In Water Everywhere
Since its water issues began in 2014, Flint, Michigan has become synonymous with nasty-looking polluted water (and inept institutions). And because Flint’s toxic water looked so freaking awful to the naked eye, you might assume that all unsafe water looks like an Arby’s toilet. If it’s crystal clear and tastes OK, how bad can it be? Glad you asked.
Flint-like water crises are quietly popping up all over the U.S. The authorities in Newark, New Jersey recently had to distribute tens of thousands of emergency water filters while they work on a $75 million lead remediation project. In 2018, hundreds of homes throughout Chicago tested positive for brain-damaging levels of lead, which at least explains why R. Kelly still has a strong fanbase there. In Seattle, 97 percent of schools tested had at least one water source containing unsafe levels of lead. In Pittsburgh … you get the idea.
So why is this suddenly happening everywhere? The culprits seem to be lead pipes. Only instead of conking you on the head Clue-style, these lead pipes kill you by leaching toxins directly into the tap water that we drink and cook with. Unfortunately, lead pipes and fixtures are common in older cities and homes built before 1986. And since lead causes a ton of health issues, it’s worth testing your water even if it doesn’t look like it came out of Satan’s butthole.
There’s Arsenic In A Ton Of Baby Food
If you’re a parent, you’re probably familiar with the “arsenic hour” — that brief period of the day when your otherwise-cute kid devolves into a screaming ball of unexplained fussiness, tempting even the most devoted of parents to either take some arsenic or administer it. Well, based on recent research, it looks like we’ve been dosing our kids without even realizing it.
In August 2018, Consumer Reports tested 50 varieties of baby and toddler foods, and the results weren’t cute at all. Every single product tested contained measurable levels of cadmium, inorganic arsenic, and/or lead, with 68 percent containing “worrisome” amounts. Fifteen of the 50 foods tested contained levels so high that they pose a potential risk to a child eating one serving per day, meaning that their fussiness won’t save them here. What’s more, organic varieties were just as likely to contain high levels of these heavy metals as the “regular” brands that pleb kids eat.
So why are we giving arsenic to our children?! Oh, don’t worry. You’re eating it too. The primary culprits are sweet potatoes and good ol’ rice, which we’ve already told you contains troubling quantities of arsenic. And that’s unfortunate, because rice cereal is often recommended as a first food for babies, and rice and sweet potatoes are both commonly found in baby food blends and toddler meals. Like people, some plants are just more into heavy metal, with rice absorbing ten times more arsenic than other grains. Oatmeal, anyone?