The thyroid disease trigger lurking in your living room

Thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are becoming more and more common— especially among women.

One in eight women will develop a problematic thyroid at some point in their lifetime. And women are five to eight times more likely to have a thyroid condition than men.

And the thyroid disease epidemic among women is still pretty much a mystery to mainstream doctors. Partly because when women come to them with a collection of complaints they deem vague, they tend to chalk it up to something “in your head.”

But just as it is with autoimmune diseases and cancer, it’s not a single cause that triggers thyroid disease in your body, but an accumulation of lifestyle factors.

Besides factors you can’t control like genetics and age, the three biggest risk factors for the development of all chronic disease are an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use.

But when it comes to unlocking the mystery of thyroid disease specifically, the latest clue can be found where you might least expect it…

Recently, researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health identified a link between thyroid disease and common chemicals found in the comfort of your own home.

These thyroid disease-triggering chemicals are polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)— flame retardants and known endocrine-disruptors found in furniture, electronics, cars, plastics and building materials… and their danger is spreading….

“These chemicals are just about everywhere, from the blood in polar bears to eagles to humans on every continent,” said Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard Chan School and the study’s lead author. “This near ubiquitous exposure means we are all part of a global experiment on the impact of endocrine disrupting chemicals on our bodies.”

By analyzing the blood samples of women who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers determined that women with higher concentrations of PBDEs in their blood have a greater risk of developing thyroid disease. And the risk is especially high among post-menopausal women.

“To our bodies, these flame retardant chemicals look and function exactly like endogenous hormones our bodies produce. Should we be surprised that we see downstream health effects for women with higher body burdens of these chemicals? I think no. This is all too predictable and preventable,” said Allen.

How to reduce this toxic thyroid threat

The frustrating thing about pervasive environmental chemicals like PBDEs is that they can make you feel helpless. After all, they’re pretty much everywhere. But there are ways to reduce your exposure and preserve your health…

First off, you can also do a few things around your house to reduce your exposure, starting with your furniture…

PBDEs are most commonly found in foam products (like couches) made before 2005… so if you have an older couch, it’s time to find a replacement. Also, if any of the foam on your couch or in your car is damaged, you should get it replaced. PBDEs escape more quickly from damaged foam. And when you do shop for new products of any kind, check to see if they are flame-retardant-free.

PBDEs are also known to drift from their source and collect as dust in your home, so it’s a good idea to use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter that removes containments.

Secondly, focus on reducing your toxin intake…

You can counteract the negative effects of ubiquitous toxins like PBDEs by eating a diet that includes as much organic food as possible to reduce your overall toxic load, including lots of cruciferous vegetables that help the body naturally detox.

Be sure to include mushrooms. According to Dr. Isaac Eliaz mushrooms can be especially beneficial because they help absorb a variety of toxins.

Consider undergoing a whole body detoxification regimen periodically. For the five best internal cleanses, click here.

Take a daily probiotic. This must-have supplement is good for you in so many ways and has been shown to help cleanse toxins from your body too.

And lastly, don’t forget to exercise regularly because sweating helps your body release toxins.

  1. “General Information/Press Room.” American Thyroid Association. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  2. “Chronic Diseases and Their Common Risk Factors.” The World Health Organization. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
  3. G. Allen, S. Gale, R.T. Zoeller, J.D. Spengler, L. Birnbaum, E. McNeely. “PBDE flame retardants, thyroid disease, and menopausal status in U.S. women.” Environmental Health, 2016; 15 (1).
  4. “Healthy Home Tips: Tip 4 – Avoid Fire Retardants.” The Environmental Working Group. Retrieved May 25, 2016.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and