More and more people are starting to educate themselves on what they perceive to be healthy. “What should I eat, where do I buy that food, what car should I drive, is it eco-friendly,” etc. With information being easier to come by, consumers of all types are no longer letting the companies tell them what they should or shouldn’t do. But are there any areas that we are missing? Perhaps areas in our lives we haven’t given any thought to?
As many of us know, we can find toxins and nasty chemicals in almost everything. From the pesticides on our produce, to the chemicals in our cosmetics, even our computers; it’s hard to come by something completely chemical free. All these chemicals and toxins are released into our environment, traveling through our water, the air we breathe, are also absorbed by humans and wildlife through the food and water we consume, and through our skin. You can’t see, touch, or smell many of these toxins. We typically do not feel their affects until/unless we come down with a chronic disease after years of exposure. A report done by Columbia University school of Public Health estimated that 95% of cancer cases are caused by diet, and environmental toxicity. These chemicals have contaminated many wildlife environments, including birds, polar bears, panthers, alligators, and frogs. These are the animals that are known to be suffering. A surprising (or not so surprising) 300 man-made chemicals have been reportedly found in humans. These are hazardous chemicals, found on nearly every person on our planet, and some of these toxins have been linked to several cancers, and a variety of reproductive problems. In fact, a study done by the British Medical Journal concludes that 75% of all cancers are caused by environmental and lifestyle factors. It really makes you wonder what chemicals you are using daily, without even knowing it!
So – what are some areas where we are unknowingly getting exposure to these hidden toxins?
Gas pumps: Gasoline vapors are terrible to breathe. When you smell gas, it indicates some highly toxic substances are in the air. Some of you may have heard in the state of Oregon, it is illegal to pump your own gas. Only trained employees of these service stations are allowed to put “Class 1 Flammable liquids” into cars. Under Oregon’s reasoning list for the ban: “Exposure to toxic fumes is a health hazard”, “Toxic fume exposure is heightened for pregnant women.” The state of California lists gas stations under the state’s air toxic “Hot Spots” due to health risks associated with gasoline vapor emissions. Inhaling the benzene & Toluene fumes that are given off when you pump gas into your car can increase your likeliness of experiencing health problems that have been associated with exposure to benzene, such as leukemia.
Tip: To reduce your risk of breathing as vapors at the pump, use the nozzle’s hold-open latch to pump the gas continuously, and stand upwind (but stay close enough to monitor it). Avoid “topping off” your tank as this damages the vapor recovery system (if there is one in place at your gas station), which is designed to minimize the amount of vapor released at the pumps.
Nail salons: If you have ever sat in a nail salon, or even walked by one, you probably noticed an extremely toxic smell (usually hard NOT to notice it!). This is because – YES – you are breathing toxic fumes. Today we see nail salons popping up everywhere. Our market has become infiltrated with lower end nail salons. The employees in such places work for a minimum pay, the prices are cheap (compared to traditional establishments), and the cosmetics are cheap to keep the costs down, which means they are higher in toxic chemicals. Toxic ingredients such as solvents, plasticizers, acids and resins are commonly found in nail care products. Studies from the Northern California Cancer Center and Asian Health Services of Oakland, the women who work in these nail salons suffer acute health effects from the chemicals that they work with each day. Not to mention, the polish applied to your nails contain potential carcinogenic toxins. Why paint our nails at all?
Tip: Avoid nail salons. Avoid nail polish altogether. If you must get your nails professionally done, find a higher end nail salon which uses higher quality products. Keep in mind these are just ones of many, many chemicals we are exposed to, and if we can cut this out entirely, we help reduce the amount of toxins we take in.
Bug sprays: Whether we’re camping, lying by the beach, or just taking a summer stroll through the park, everyone enjoys the outdoors when the weather is right. An instant annoyance to the outdoors for most people is the bugs. Many of us grab that can of repellent and mindlessly spray, spray, spray! Most bug repellents contain DEET (a registered pesticide, N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) as their active ingredient. DEET is one of the few insect repellants that work to repel mosquitoes in hopes of avoiding viruses like West Nile. However, DEET isn’t just hazardous to those pesky mosquitoes. It contains Toluene (remember those deadly fumes at the gas pumps?), which is a central nervous system depressant. And by spraying it over every inch of our bodies, it is then absorbed into the skin, bloodstream, as well as the gut. Health Canada has taken some initiative to ban any products with a DEET concentration greater than 30%. This is certainly a step in the right direction.
Tip: There are many effective, less toxic insect repellents available. They need to be applied more frequently than DEET based repellents, but they do not carry the same health risks. Two botanical repellents which performed particularly well in a Florida study were:
- Bite Blocker for Kids, a 2% soybean oil formula, which was effective for 95 minutes
- Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Lotion Insect Repellent ( also marketed as FiteBite Plant Based Insect Repellent) which protected for 120 minutes
- Citronella products in the study provided about 30-40 minutes of protection.
Candles & Air Fresheners: Television ads continue to tell us how happy we’ll be when our home smells like lavender or fresh laundry by using the latest electricity wasting plug in, toxic aerosol spray, or chemical laden stick-on. The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine indicate that regular use of sprays can increase your risk of developing asthma by 30 to 50 percent. Air fresheners are filled with Phthalates, chemicals commonly used as solvents in perfumes, as sealants in adhesives, and fill several other roles. Exposure to phthalates may increase your chance of experiencing reproductive, endocrine, and developmental problems. Amazingly, several of the brands that tested positive for phthalates did not mention phthalates on their lists of ingredients. Some of these brands were even labeled as being “all-natural” and “unscented.” The majority of air fresheners on the market (with or without phthalates) emit significant amounts of terpene, a dangerous organic compound that can react with naturally occurring ozone to create formaldehyde – which is a known human carcinogen. Now, what makes candles so bad? The majority of candles contain Paraffin, a sludge waste product from the petroleum industry. It releases carcinogenic chemicals when burned. Some scented candles have been found to carry lead in the wick – which results in a dangerously high amount of lead released into your home and body when inhaled. Lastly, those deadly fumes from the gas pumps, Benzene and Toluene, are found in the sooty residue of burning candles, which as I’ve stated earlier, are carcinogenic, and hazardous to the central nervous system.
Tip: Don’t buy air fresheners; don’t use cheap unnatural scented/unscented candles. Instead:
- Open your windows and let fresh air into your home
- Buy fresh flowers, or real lavender (for example) and fill your home with natural scents
- Soy candles are a great alternative as they burn clean, with no harmful fumes, and have very long burn times as well
Stress: You read it right. Stress. Some of you may be thinking “What does STRESS have to do with my exposure to toxins/chemicals?” Many of you know, stress; at certain levels, is like wear and tear on our bodies. 99% of all illness is related to stress. While there are different types of stress that are related to our different emotions, each has its own affect on the body. For example, when we are angry (jealously, resentment fall under this category) we are putting our liver under stress. When we are sad, we are placing our heart under stress. Now imagine this stress on our organs for long periods of time. With all that excess adrenaline and cortisol (produced as a result of stress), we are triggering the body to produce more cholesterol. A high cholesterol level puts you at risk for heart disease/heart problems. This is just one example. Whether through the environment or negative people around us, negative energies, stress and toxic mental and emotional vibrations are channeled through our bodies energy systems causing disease and imbalances. Today, many children are prone to “toxic stress” and become sick from environmental energy or other people’s stress. There is a need to educate people how to energetically shield themselves or their children from negative environmental factors. To put this point simply – Stress is harmful to our bodies in many ways and is too frequently overlooked.
Tip: Make a constant effort in your lives to disconnect from whatever is going on. Take 5 minutes from your work day to walk outside and relax your mind. Take 5 minutes to meditate in the morning before work. Make time for YOU. Put yourself first and make conscious efforts to lead a calm and happy life through spirit, mind, and emotion.
While eliminating 100% of the chemicals we come into contact with is impossible, we can definitely limit our exposure. Here is a quick list of other things to remember:
- Avoid “topping up” at the gas pumps
- Use a botanical/natural bug repellent
- Only use natural cleaning products in your home
- Avoid using artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, fabric softeners or other synthetic fragrances as they can pollute the air you are breathing.
- Switch over to natural brands of toiletries
- Find time to meditate, disconnect from your busy life, and de-stress
- Buy and eat, as much as possible, organic produce
- Avoid processed foods — remember that they’re processed with chemicals!
- Avoid artificial food additives of all kind, including artificial sweeteners and MSG
- Remove any metal fillings as they’re a major source of mercury. Be sure to have this done by a qualified biological dentist.
- Have your tap water tested and, if contaminants are found, install an appropriate water filter on all your faucets (even those in your shower or bath).
Image Source: roujo/flickr