The most important thing I have learned on my sustainable living and conscious consumption journey is that our health heavily depends on it. The level of unregulated toxins in our ecosystems, soil, air, and water, is hard to wrap your head around. It's scary and it doesn’t stop there. Toxic chemicals are in cosmetics, cleaning products, non-stick cookware, food packaging, our clothes, - basically in products we use every day!
Let's look at the some of the most prevalent issues we are confronted with that have a major effect on our health.
Air pollution accounts for an estimated 7 million deaths per year due to stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. Around 91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO (World Health Organization) limits.
Air pollution is caused by burning of fossil fuels (coal, gasoline, diesel), industrial emission, indoor air pollution (VOCs), wildfires, microbial decaying process, transportation, open burning of garbage waste, construction and demolition, agricultural activities, use of chemical and synthetic products.
To read more 'Air Pollution: Everything You Need to Know" click here.
Breathing is the essence of life. We can't live without it! Every system in the body relies on oxygen. Effective breathing helps you sleep better, digest food more efficiently, improve your body's immune response and reduces stress levels. It can also give you with a greater sense of mental clarity. Breathing air filled with toxins is therefore detrimental.
Drinking water is contaminated with PFAS, also known as 'forever chemicals', in many places in the US. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are linked to a multitude of health problems, such as cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility, increased risk of asthma, thyroid disease and learning delays in children. To read a more detailed blog post and how to minimize your exposure click here.
Water Contamination with PFAS is caused by runoffs from factories and other facilities, as well as firefighting foam (Wildfires in California).
PFAS are also found in skin care products amongst other things. On Sept. 30, 2020 Gov. Newsom signed a legislation that bans 24 chemicals in cosmetics starting in 2023. Many of the substances are prohibited from cosmetics in the European Union and the California legislature says it aims to continue banning cosmetic ingredients that the EU proscribes. The substances include formaldehyde, several PFAS, mercury, two parabens, and two phthalates.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies formaldehyde as a human carcinogen. The National Toxicology Program, an interagency program of the Department of Health and Human Services, named formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen in 2011.
If that's the case, why is it still present in products we use?
We suggest to use clean beauty products. Check out the Environmental Working Group's EWG's Skin Deep Guide to Cosmetics, which rates 70,000 personal care products for their safety. They look for toxic substances and subsequent dangers. You can also check out our cosmetics certification label guide to find clean beauty products.
A lot of health issues come with the exposure to pesticides and ingesting foods with pesticides residue. They are linked to a range of diseases from respiratory problems, infertility, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, depression and anxiety, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dementia, and other chronic conditions that are more prevalent today than ever before, studies show.
According to the EPA, more than a billion pounds of pesticides are used in the U.S. each year to control weeds, insects, and other organisms that threaten or undermine human activities.
The following data is from 'The Power of the Plate: The Case for Regenerative Organic Agriculture in Improving Human Health' by the Rodale Institute, which is widely recognized as the birthplace of the organic movement.
• The most commonly and intensively used herbicide worldwide and also the active ingredient in Bayer’s Roundup formulation is glyphosate. Exposure to it has also been hypothesized to contribute to conditions including immune system damage, kidney and liver damage, and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
• Glyphosate was classified as a probable carcinogen in 2015 by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.
• Each year more than 250 million pounds of glyphosate are applied on crops.
• Glyphosate is everywhere in our food supply; one study found glyphosate residue in 39 out of 44 restaurant food samples.
VOCs at Home
VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) are substances made up of carbon and other elements and are in common household items, such as detergents, cleaning products, cosmetics, polishes, floor finishes, disinfectants, and sanitizers. Chronic exposures (years to a lifetime) can lead to cancer, liver and kidney damage and central nervous system damage.
To read more about VOCs and how to limit your exposure click here.
Bisphenol A—commonly known as BPA— is a man-made industrial chemical. It's a key building block in polycarbonate (# 7) plastic, which is used to make a wide variety of products. This harmful chemical leaches out of certain plastics, cans, and food packaging materials and has now been found in our dust, our water, our food, and in our bodies. It has become infamous as one of the more harmful toxins we find in our homes and products we use outside of the home. BPA exposure is widespread.
BPA is considered an “obesogen” because it can lead to obesity and is an “endocrine disruptor” because it disrupts the body’s hormonal (endocrine) balance. It’s best known for its ability to mimic the hormone estrogen in both men and women. BPA has also been associated with diabetes, cancer, infertility and reproductive system harm and cardiovascular disease in adults and with behavioral problems in children.
Even though we absorb some BPA through our skin and ingest some BPA from dust, experts agree that what we eat, and drink has the biggest impact on our BPA levels.
Avoid canned foods (unless indicated on the packaging that it's BPA-free), reusable water bottles (made of polycarbonate plastic #7), soda and beer in cans (unless indicated as BPA-free), fast food (wrapped in BPA-laden containers) and say "no thanks" to paper receipts (most carbonless paper receipts used in grocery stores, gas stations, and convenience stores contain BPA).
If you want to live a healthy life and care about the life of your friends and family, you must take the sustainable route, buy environmentally sustainable products, and adapt conscious consumption practices. The issues discussed in this blog post are only a few of many. A lot of industrial methods have proven to have hazardous implications for human health with an explosion of chronic disease and have devastating effects on the environment.
Once something is in the natural environment, it circles back to humans. If we are responsible for the high level of toxicity in our ecosystems, we also can clean it up, which should be in our highest interest and of the highest priority.