We live in a toxic world and the more I learn about this is the more I feel I don’t want to know. In our toxic lives ignorance truly is bliss. Yet at the same time, I cannot help but dig deeper and deeper. We harm not only ourselves but our planet and leave behind a trail of blind carelessness never thinking about what is to come. I feel ashamed that I’ve been and continue to play a part in it.
Whenever I speak to people about the harm we are doing to our own bodies and the environment the responses are usually very blasé.
“Oh well I know, but I gotta live”.
“Whatever I do really won’t make a difference”.
“Yes but a little here and there won’t kill me”.
“There are things that are naturally toxic so…..”.
“I’ve been using XYZ for years and I feel fine”.
“I can’t help it because it’s so much more convenient”.
The excuses are endless and depressing and if I don’t get an answer they either just stare blankly at me probably wondering if I am crazy or think here she goes again. Ignorance truly is bliss.
I get it though, who wants to talk about this depressing stuff? Who wants to be reminded that their behaviour is not only destructive to themselves but also to their families and to the planet and therefore by extension, me, you and everyone else in it. So little of us care about how far reaching the impact of our destructive lives really is.
I am just one person so how can my actions make a difference? In part that is true as the actions of one person often falls silent, but collectively we make a difference. There is a Jamaican saying that goes “Every mickle mek a muckle”, it usually refers to money and how saving small amounts will add up, but this saying aptly applies to the power of collective decisions. Every one of us has the power of choice. A few decisions by one person may not add up to much but if more of us choose the same things the impact of our power of choice grows. That impact can be either positive or negative….you choose.
Our Toxic Lives
We inhale it, we absorb it, we ingest it…..we ignore it.
We are surrounded by toxins. They are in the products we use, the air we breathe and the food we eat. They are in our personal care products (cosmetics, body care products, hair care products, feminine hygiene products), our cleaning products, the furniture we use, the food we consume and even in the clothes we wear.
Personal Care Products
I recently posted an article about the toxins in the hair products I was using. In the article I focussed on just 3 of the harmful ingredients in these products, namely Fragrance, Diazolidinyl Urea and Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate. You can refer to the article for greater detail. The general concerns are listed below.
Fragrances are linked to liver and kidney damage, cancer, endocrine disruption (interferes with adrenal, thyroid and reproductive glands). Fragrances also trigger allergies and respiratory distress and have adverse effects on wildlife and the environment.
Diazolidinyl Urea, used as a preservative, is a formaldehyde releaser which is known to cause cancer.
Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, also used as a preservative, is an environmental toxin. It also may cause liver damage, deplete bone marrow, and affect brain cells.
A significant number of the ingredients found in personal care products such as makeup, shampoos, conditioners, hair creams, body lotions, etc. are highly toxic. Even the ones that are labeled “certified organic” because for these products only 10% of the ingredients must be organic.
The fact is when we use these products we can inhale the toxins and absorb them through our skin. Think about how many toxins we are exposing ourselves to every day. It is said that women use an average of 15 different personal care products each day. It seems high but tally up the number of products you use and I’d bet it comes close to 15.
Your best alternative: Research all the ingredients on every personal care product and select the least toxic ones. Look for natural products. I recently discovered Vasanti concealer and powder foundation. This brand uses mostly organic ingredients and is relatively inexpensive compared to similar organic brands. The toxicity information for the ingredients in the Vasanti concealer and foundation sites only possible allergens.
I found the Vasanti brand at a pharmacy which is surprising because most of the cosmetic brands you can buy at a pharmacy are highly toxic. Another inexpensive brand you can find at the pharmacy is the Physicians Formula organic line of cosmetics (Except for their moisturizers and beauty balm cream. Think Dirty App shows these as having carcinogens and also toxins that have developmental and reproductive effects). I have not tried any of Physicians Formula’s organic line of products but would.
**Most cosmetics contain highly toxic ingredients whether they are common inexpensive brands you can get at a pharmacy or high-end brands.
Think Dirty App – This is an app you can download on your smartphone. It rates the toxicity level of cosmetics. It does not have information on all cosmetics but is nevertheless a very handy tool to have. Think Dirty also provides a list of recommended products.
EWG’s Healthy Living App – Another handy app to download on your smartphone. It also rates the toxicity level of cosmetics.
EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database – This is a very good resource for information on many cosmetics. You can look for information by typing in a cosmetic brand or by tying in ingredients.
Have you ever taken a look at the number of ingredients on a cleaning product and thought, even despite the glaring toxic warning sign on the back, that it has a small number of ingredients so it can’t be that bad? Well, guess what, in Canada manufacturers are required to list only the ingredients that protect the safety of Canadian workers, i.e. only industrial cleaners must list all ingredients and very few household cleaners disclose a full list of ingredients. (Personal communication, Kathrin Brunner, Instructor Institute of Holistic Nutrition, Course: Nutrition and the Environment, March 20, 2017).
Bottom line, we’ve been fooled. There are much more chemicals in our cleaners. Our household cleaners are not clean; our household cleaners are toxic.
We inhale these toxins not only at the time of use but they stay on the surface of whatever it is we’ve used them on and we breathe them in.
Your best alternative: Use brands that are eco-friendly. Make your own cleaning products. Baking soda cleans bathtubs and sinks. Mix vinegar and water to clean floors. Use hydrogen peroxide to clean kitchen counter tops.
Our Plastic Lives
In my quest to be more green, I decided to be much more conscious about recycling and instead of dumping plastics into the garbage with everything else I am separating. Never before have I been so consciously aware of just how much plastic we consume. It is endless.
Plastic bags for groceries….plastic bags to separate food items in the supermarket and then more plastic bags to put all the separate plastics bags in. Plastic packaging. Plastic containers to hold all our plastic products. Plastics in hair brushes, combs, toothbrushes, disposable utensils and crockery, cookware, jugs, bins, cooking utensils, close hangers, plastic water bottles, laptops, phones, toys, auto parts, etc. They are EVERYWHERE.
What sucks is that most plastics are made from natural gas and oil, non-renewable resources which when extracted creates greenhouse gasses contributing to climate change which can have devastating effects.
From plastics, we are exposed to chemicals such as phthalates, BPAs, VOCs, POPs, dioxins.
Phthalates – Carcinogenic and endocrine disruptors
VOCs – Volatile Organic Compounds that easily release chemicals as vapors and gasses. They are commonly found in plastics. VOCs are known to cause respiratory, reproductive, neurological and developmental issues.
POPs – Persistent Organic Pollutants. POPs are commonly found in plastics. These pollutants do not breakdown and bioaccumulate in animals and humans.
Dioxins – According to the EWG website, dioxins are linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, respiratory issues, they are POPs and have environmental impacts. Dioxins are released from plastics when burned.
There is a plethora of information available proving that these substances are extremely harmful to humans, marine life, and our planet.
The following points were taken from the Environmental Health News website:
• Chemicals added to plastics are absorbed by human bodies. Some of these compounds have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.
• Plastic debris, laced with chemicals and often ingested by marine animals, can injure or poison wildlife.
• Floating plastic waste, which can survive for thousands of years in water, serves as mini transportation devices for invasive species, disrupting habitats.
• Plastic buried deep in landfills can leach harmful chemicals that spread into groundwater.
• Around 4 percent of world oil production is used as a feedstock to make plastics, and a similar amount is consumed as energy in the process.
According to Dr. Jozef J. Krop, “Healing the Planet”, “….plastics constantly outgas, particularly when heated.”
Stop heating food in plastic containers! When you heat your food in the microwave, a questionable practice in itself, please stop using those plastic covers. Use a paper towel instead. If you would rather use the plastic cover so you don’t have to clean the microwave from food splashing then maybe you should think about what’s more important, your health or your inconvenience.
Chemicals from plastics leach into your food, especially when heated, you ingest the chemicals and some of these chemicals do not break down (POPs), i.e. they remain in your body and wreak havoc on your body functions with a high potential of causing serious debilitating and life-threatening illnesses.
Plastic can also leach when it comes in contact with acids and oils.
And as for recycling, yes it should be done, but where does our unwanted plastics go? Sadly they often go to China where rules are very loose and the plastics end up being burned releasing toxins into the atmosphere which have far reaching effects on our planet….not just in China.
Plastics are burned, toxins enter the atmosphere producing acid rain, acid rain enters soil and oceans creating a habitat that does not support life.
Plastics can decompose but it takes on average 100 – 500 years for it to happen and it does not decompose fully. (Claire Le Guern Lytle, “When the Mermaids Cr: The Great Plastic Tide”, April 2016). In the meantime plastics that are not disposed of properly pollute our environment.
Your best alternative: Limit your use of plastic as much as possible. Ensure you are disposing of plastics properly. Use bio-degradable plastics when possible. Switch to glass containers to store food; glass bottles for drinking water.
We will not be able to eliminate plastics entirely from our lives so the best thing is to do as much as we can.
Chemicals in Our Food
Do you really know what you’re eating?
Food sourced from conventional farms can contain pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and food dyes.
Many processed foods contain artificial colours, artificial flavours, BHA & BHT, Nitrites, Sulfites, and MSG.
Artificial Flavours: There are 1500 synthetic flavours that food manufacturers can use without declaring them as ingredients. What you will see on the ingredient list is “Flavours”, but if you have no idea of what chemicals you are putting in your body.
Artificial Colours: Artificial colours are linked to hyperactivity, allergies, ADD and cancer.
BHA & BHT: Butylated Hydroxyanisole and Butylated Hydroxytoluene are made from petrochemicals and are used as preservatives in foods and cosmetics. BHA and BHT are linked to cancer and endocrine disruption.
Nitrites: Used as a preservative and are linked to cancer.
Sulfites: Used as a preservative, sulfites deplete minerals and vitamins in food and can cause headaches, nausea, diarrhea and trigger asthma.
MSG: Used to enhance the flavour of foods. MSG has neurotoxic effects, is linked to diabetes, obesity, ADD, IBS and depression. MSG is also labeled as hydrolyzed protein, natural flavoring, and yeast extract.
Your best alternative: Buy organic food whenever possible.
The Clothes We Wear
What’s in the material you are wearing? What toxins are in the detergent you used to wash your clothes?
Is the material in your clothes cotton…is it GMO cotton, what farming method was used to produce that cotton? How much pesticide did they use on that cotton? How much of that pesticide did a farm worker have to inhale for you to wear that cotton shirt? How much of the pesticide that was used ended up as runoff in a waterway somewhere that has now created a dead zone and killed aquatic life? Who suffers because they were dependent on the fish in the dead zone to feed themselves and their families?
What dyes were used to give your clothes the special colour you love so much? How many workers were exposed to the toxins in those dyes? Did some of the toxins in those dyes end up polluting waterways or end up contaminating soil used for food crops?
Think about how your clothes were manufactured. Watch “The True Cost”, a documentary on NetFlix that exposes the impact of societies need for low-cost fashion.
Your best alternative: I’d like to say stop buying clothes but that is not realistic. However, take a look at what you have and think about whether or not you really need more clothes. If the answer is yes, try to buy clothes from manufacturers that have friendly environmental practices in place and those that provide a safe working environment for their workers. You can also buy clothes from thrift stores and do clothes swapping. There are Apps you can download such as “FabSwApp”, to find people who are also interested in swapping clothes.
www.fashionheros.eco is a good resource for information on eco-friendly clothes manufacturers.
We inhale it, we absorb it, we ingest it…..we ignore it. Our lives are engulfed in toxins and it is hard to fathom a life free of them. But with our power of choice we can make a difference. It is an adjustment to stay away from toxins and our efforts will not 100% protect us, but they do help.
When I buy anything new I examine what is in that product. I take forever scrutinizing the ingredients on a product. I even take out my phone to search for the toxicity level of each ingredient when I’m in a store. It takes forever and I look weird doing it but who cares after all I’m the one who is going to either, inhale it, absorb it or eat it.
Would you rather know more so you can make better decisions for yourself, your family, the planet, the family that you’ll behind? Or do you want to remain ignorant?
“Who cyaan hear muss feel” is another Jamaican saying. It usually refers to repeated warnings given to a child to not do something because he/she will get hurt and inevitably the child does not listen and therefore gets hurt. The saying aptly applies here as there are so many warnings but so many people choose to ignore them. Eventually, they will feel.
Live healthy, be happy!
Have questions about the toxins we are exposed to daily? Comment below and I’ll answer them!
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