Monday, May 14, 2007

Toxic Environment

This morning's LA Times carried an article with the headline, Common Chemicals Linked to Breast Cancer. The article made the front page giving the results of a compilation of scientific reports published by the American Cancer Society and done by the Silent Spring Institute. According to the article, over 200 chemicals have been found to cause breast tumors in animal studies. And there are probably many more because only 1,000 of the 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S. have been tested! Here is a list of the most common chemicals and where they are found and used:

Chemical -- Source/use
1,4-dioxane -- Detergents, shampoos, soaps
1,3-butadiene -- Common air pollutant; found in vehicle exhaust
Acrylamide -- Fried foods
Benzene -- Common air pollutant; found in vehicle exhaust
Perfluorooctanoic acid -- Used in manufacture of Teflon
Styrene -- Used in manufacture of plastics; found in carpets, adhesives, hobby supplies and other consumer products
Vinyl chloride -- Used almost exclusively by the plastics industry to make vinyl
1,1-dichloroethane -- Industrial solvent; also found in some consumer products such as paint removers
Toluene diisocyanate -- Used in foam cushions, furnishings, bedding
Methylene chloride -- Used in furniture polish, fabric cleaners, wood sealants and many other consumer products PAHs -- Diesel and gasoline exhaust
PCBs -- Electrical transformers; banned but still in environment
Atrazine -- Widely used herbicide, particularly for corn

Source: Silent Spring Institute

While a small percentage of cancers are due to heredity, they are now thinking that the majority are environmentally caused. Towards the end of the article they state that experts have long suspected that diet plays a role but have found no consistent correlation except that regular alcohol consumption, being obese, and being sedentary increase risk. To many of us all this is not news, and it's about time that the topic has been given recognition.

A year ago I read Sherry Rogers's book, Detoxify or Die, and Bruce Fife's, The Detox Book. Dr. Rogers has been warning about environmental toxins for years and her book has the usual inflammatory rantings against modern industrial life. The Fife book is more subdued, but both books offer insights into our world of environmental toxins and ways to "de-toxify." Reading these books, I discovered that I was already doing many of the things they recommend like exercising and eating organic. Just plain sweating is a good way to excrete toxins from the body. And Epsom Salts baths are a treat I like to indulge in every now and then.

But I also began to check out other ways I could avoid possible cancer- and other disease-causing chemicals in and around my home. I never was very fond of make-up, and so that was an easy one to do without. I can't stand sunscreen either, so the only time I wear it is when I am skiing. (The same issue of the LA Times featured a short note in the Health section regarding sunscreen use and the fact that sunscreens mimic estrogen.) I wear a hat and loose long-sleeved shirts, or just limit the amount of time I am out in the sun. (I don't avoid the sun entirely, but that is another blog entry.)

Since I don't eat potatoes or wheat, I don't eat french fries and other fried foods that have been dipped in batter. I don't use Teflon-coated pans. Cooking with lower heat prevents food from sticking and saves on gas. Then I just rinse my pans out immediately after use.

Around the house, I have switched to Ecover dishwasher powder, Seventh Generation laundry soap, and Meyer's all purpose cleaner. Vinegar and baking soda mixed into a paste make a good all purpose cleaner, too. I bought some glass refrigerator dishes to store leftovers instead of using plastic and since I never microwave my food anymore, no worries about the plastic leaching into my food. In fact, I could do a whole blog entry on plastic food containers. I have stopped drinking bottled water from plastic bottles. I figured that if you can taste the plastic in the water, then you probably don't want to drink it. I get water in glass bottles. I bought my daughter glass bottles for feeding Baby C., but I do worry about all the plastic toys they make for babies that go right into their mouths.

For personal care, I stopped using regular soaps and got some of the mineral soap and deodorant from Nature Rich. I don't drink their Neutralizer, but my son does and he swears by it. Says he never gets a cold. I even use their soap for shampoo now but getting rid of hair spray has been more difficult. My hair is baby fine and blows into a mess in the slightest breeze. By the way, the chit chat in the women's dressing room on Saturday night before the concert included the tip that you can use a solution of half vinegar and half water to spritz your hair clean when you don't have time to wash it.

I can't do much about vehicle exhaust. That is a fact of life here in LA. But I do appreciate the afternoon ocean breezes that do a very good job of clearing the air in my

In general, what's good for me is good for the environment and vice versa.

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