By Lorri Ballance Laird, LuxEco Advocate

What's in the environment that may be affecting our thyroid gland?
You may be at risk to thyroid dysfuntion due to chemicals in the environment

Three summers ago, I suddenly found myself exhausted and depressed.  I slept for four to five hours a day after seeing my son off on the summer camp bus, and I couldn’t
manage to take care of my household.  A visit to my doctor revealed my problem—my thyroid had essentially stopped working, and I was told that I had actually been in danger of going into a coma.  My doctor immediately prescribed Synthroid, a synthetic hormone, and a few months later, I was on the road to recovery.  But it took a good six months before I was feeling truly well.  And somehow, I can’t feel really well taking a synthetic hormone for the rest of my life.

Turns out, I am not alone.  According to the American Thyroid Association, an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, while 60% of those are unaware of their condition.  One in eight women will be affected by thyroid disease during her lifetime. And, while the thyroid is relatively small, the hormone it produces influences every cell, organ, and tissue in the body.  People who aren’t aware of their thyroid problem are at risk for cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and infertility.

So, why this epidemic of thyroid disease?  A number of studies in recent years have linked changes in thyroid function to a variety of chemicals present in our environment. Two studies, one in 2010 by the University of Exeter and the Peninsula Medial School and the most recent by the University of West Virginia in 2011, links thyroid disease with exposure to PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid (commonly known as C8). PFOA is used as a processing agent to make Teflon and other non-stick products and stain-resistant textiles.

In addition, a number of studies over the past three decades link bromide exposure to a low thyroid state. Bromides are found in foods such as breads and certain sodas and sports drinks. They are also used as pesticides on food and as  flame retardants in mattresses, fabrics, upholstery, car interiors, and carpets.  Bromides can also be found in personal hygiene products like toothpaste and mouthwash, as well as some asthma inhalers.

Lynne Farrow, a researcher with formulated the Bromide Dominance Theory after many years of research and observation.  According to The Bromide Dominance Theory, high bromide levels in the body cause iodine levels to drop, weakening  the thyroid.  High bromide levels have been linked to every kind of thyroid disease, including thyroid cancer. Researchers Malenchenko, Demidchik and Tadeush (1984) found bromide levels 50 times higher in thyroid cancer tissue than in non-cancerous thyroid tissue.  Farrow says, “There has been some activism to eliminate the use of bromide fire retardants, but people remain unaware of why they are so dangerous.  Bromide pesticides and fire  retardants are going to wind up being the new DDT.”
Dr. Alan Lieberman, M.D., a Fellow of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine agrees that bromides and fluorides displace iodine and induce thyroid dysfunction. “We have so saturated our planet with these competing elements that thyroid disease and dysfunction may be affecting a large percentage of our population,” Lieberman says.   “Environmentally triggered disease is, in my opinion, the most common cause of most people’s problems.  Consumers need to be aware that they are not just becoming sick, but are being made sick by their toxic environments.”

Another culprit that may be causing thyroid problems is the ubiquitous soy.  While soy originally was touted as a healthy food product capable of increasing cardiovascular health and minimizing a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer, it has now been discovered that unfermented soy is an endocrine disruptor that blocks thyroid hormone production and eating it will most likely damage your thyroid.

So, what’s a person to do with the obvious triple threat—C8,bromides, and soy—to thyroid function?  Really, the only course of action is to try to avoid the toxins that are destroying thyroid health.

Here are some tips to keep your thyroid healthy:

Buy organic breads and flours. Both potassium bromate and soy can be found in many commercially baked goods.  Pepperidge Farm products are produced without potassium bromate.

Avoid eating unfermented soy. (Many processed foods contain soy; be sure to read labels, or try to stick to unprocessed foods).

Take iodine supplements or increase your intake of foods high in iodine, such as seaweed.

Buy organic fruits and vegetables.

Consider buying an organic mattresses and buy upholstered furniture that does not use fabrics treated with stain protectors such as Scotchgard.

Never have your carpets or furniture treated with stain protectors after cleaning.

Do not use non-stick cooking pots and pans for cooking.

Avoid drinking orange-colored sports drinks or sodas.

Consider an air filter for your car interior.  Aireox Research makes a car model called the D-22.

Avoid hot tubs and pools that use bromine-based chemical treatments.

It’s obvious from this list that in today’s toxic world, protecting your health is increasingly difficult.  Another way to protect your thyroid health is to demand legislation that would remove bromides from consumer goods, especially commercially baked goods.  The use of bromate in breads and flours has already been banned in Europe, China, the UK
and Canada.


  1. Great article….my late mother was on synthroid from her 50’s until she died at age 75. My Gyno recently told me that it “is not a not a matter of if I will get it, but when…” I am doing all I can to stop that diagnosis. Knew about much of this but no the soy issue…very disturbing as I use it as part of my eco-vegetarian diet.

    Thanks for the info !

    Lisa Alexander, LEED AP


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