Q. How prevalent are environmental chemicals in my everyday life? Do they pose a serious threat to my health, and what can I do about them?
A. If you live in the United States or any other industrialized nation, chances are you’re exposed to numerous environmental chemicals. They are ubiquitous.
In your everyday life, you may be exposed to them when you use cleaning products, pump gas, use nail polish and other personal care products, or eat processed, nonorganic foods. Paints, glues, varnishes, and insecticides that you use around your home also contain environmental chemicals. Heavy metals are found in seafood and treated plywoods.
A recent study led by Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, in collaboration with The Environmental Working Group, evaluated the amounts of environmental toxins in the blood and urine of volunteers.
None of those who participated in the study worked with chemicals on the job or lived near an industrial facility, but all were found to have been exposed to environmental chemicals. A total of 167 chemicals were discovered in the group, of which 76 can cause cancer, 94 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 79 can cause birth defects.
No one knows what the cumulative effects of environmental chemicals could be on your health.
The Environmental Protection Agency claims that the amounts of chemicals people are exposed to are within acceptable limits, yet a number of studies have linked environmental toxins with cancer and hormone imbalances.
One study, published in the Archives of Environmental Health in 1992, found that women who had breast cancer had elevated levels of pesticides and PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) residues in their breast tissues compared to women who didn’t have breast cancer. The researchers suggested that environmentally-derived carcinogens play a role in the genesis of breast cancer.
The good news is that there’s a lot you can do, every day, to decrease your exposure to harmful environmental chemicals. For instance, avoid using chemicals in your home, on your lawn, and at work.
Use nontoxic cleaning agents, and wear gloves and other protection whenever you use paints or glues. Choose to eat organic foods, and buy all-natural personal care products.
For more information on how to make the healthiest choices, see “The Safe Shopper’s Bible: A Consumer’s Guide to Nontoxic Household Products, Cosmetics and Food” by David Steinman and Dr. Samuel Epstein.
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com