It’s Earth Day — 40 years in the making, but are we better off than we were 40 years ago? The world of convenience has taken over, and unregulated industry has created a lot of things that make our lives easier, possibly better in some ways, but these conveniences come with a price to the environment and to ourselves. The ugly side you may not see if you don’t pay attention is sitting, for example, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
As we enter the next decade of Earth awareness, we should really start thinking about it in the broader context of our health. Plastic bottles, bisphenol-A, endocrine disruptors, fire retardants, pesticides, dry cleaning chemicals — all these things have created modern conveniences, but they also can have drastic adverse effects on our health. This effect can be so indolent at first, that the typical signs of toxicity or poisoning may be misinterpreted as one of our modern diseases. In our disease management-focused Western model of medicine, the underlying cause may be missed as the symptoms are treated and disguised.
When the CDC has measured blood samples from healthy volunteers, not one person is free of exposure from environmental toxins. Even cord blood taken from a newly born baby has shown environmental toxin exposures. The number one toxin — can you guess it? Plastics and plasticizers. They are everwhere! They are so pervasive, that we have a hard time getting rid of them. Yes, that plastic bottle that you so conveniently picked up to drink your “healthier” drinking water from Fiji is leaching plastic into the water. Take into account the long trip it took to get it to the U.S., with probably multiple temperature changes [heat increases leaching from plastics] — the combined carbon footprint of the bottle of water in your hand and its toxicity is huge. Do you ever think of that when you purchase a bottle of water? Where did it come from? What did it take to get it here? Some bottled water is no healthier than filtered water from the tap.
A charity that I am involved with, NY H2O, is working on protecting New York City’s drinking water from almost certain contamination by natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale. New York City is one of only five cities in the country that do not have to filter their water, as it comes down from the Catskill reservoirs and Delaware river clean and filtered by nature. This amazing resource is under threat as corporations look for big profits in drilling for natural gas using hydraulic fracturing — a technique that injects huge quantities of water mixed with over 600 possible chemicals, out of which only 300 have been identified by independent research groups (mind you, they’re proprietary, so the companies don’t have to reveal them due to a loophole in the law), and 90% of these are on the national toxic chemical list. Prior experience with this technology has shown that it contaminates the aquifers and can cause a series of health problems, from breathing difficulties to skin rashes to nerve damage to possibly cancer. A great article in Philadelphia’s Weekly Press summarizes the experiences in several small towns across Pennsylvania that are feeling the untoward effects of this gas rush. One small rural town, Dimock, PA, has at least 14 families being shuttled bottled drinking water by Cabot because their own well water has been rendered undrinkable due to methane gas and other undisclosed pollutants. A new documentary, Gasland by Josh Fox, does a great job of detailing what is slipping right under our noses with respect to water contamination and the natural gas industry in this country.
If you are mother concerned about how industries like natural gas drilling may affect the health of your children visit M.U.S.T. (Mother’s United for Sustainable Technologies). This is a group of mothers united in a common message — protecting our children from the potential toxic effects of polluting and poorly regulated industries. Their website is a work in progress, but it will be a resource of information for sustainable green living.
Steps we can each take to be Healthier and Greener
As we enter into this next decade of Earth awareness, we really need to become aware of how our actions not only affect the earth, but also our health. For my part, I carry a SIGG bottle that has been independently tested to show that it does not leach BPA.
Another option is the Klean Kanteen. This avoids plastic bottle waste. I also replaced the Poland Spring cooler in my office (which is delivered in polycarbonate #7 plastic bottles, containing bisphenal A — linked to cancer and obesity) with a PiMag Aqua Pour Deluxe gravity flow filtration system by Nikken. We merely pour water from the tap through the PiMag system, and it filters out chlorine, chemicals, and drug metabolites, delivering clean drinking water on the spot.
I walk and take the subway to work every day, which reduces my carbon footprint. I try to buy local, organic seasonal produce, which in turn supports local farmers over food that has been shipped over long distances and probably irradiated along the way. I eat red meat only rarely, and if so, it is organic, grass-fed. If we all just gave up red meat one day a week, that would help reduce one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gasses — our cattle. I avoid Atlantic or farm-raised Salmon, as it can be high in pollutants. I take my clothes to an organic cleaner rarely, but mostly I just wash it with a non-scented chlorine-free detergent. My apartment is free of carpeting, which can outgas over 200 volatile chemicals. And I use simple ingredients, like vinegar and baking soda to clean the apartment, thus avoiding a lot of the harmful products on the market. My life is rich with outdoor activities, time for meditation, vegetables of all colors, and time spent away from the stresses of work to recenter and rebalance, ridding my body of any emotional toxicity along with all the physical pollutants I try to avoid. These are just a few of the steps that we can each take every day to make our bodies less toxic.
Visit SimpleSteps, a website run by the National Resources Defense Council, where you can learn how to make your home less toxic and more energy-efficient.
Ecomii is another great website that has a plethora of information on green living and natural health.
Please share in the comments your steps to making the earth and yourself a greener, healthier place. Thank you for visiting my blog today. Happy Earth Day 2010!