Toxins are everywhere today; in our air, our drinking water, and in our products. While there is no way to fully control our environment, there are actions we can take to minimize our contact with toxins in our day to day lives. Here are a few things you can work on doing now .
Buy organic strategically: the EWG guide
Several negative health effects have been associated with pesticides, which can harm skin, digestive, neurological, respiratory, reproductive, and hormonal systems. Pesticides may also be linked to several cancers.
When a pesticide is applied to a crop, small amounts of residues may be left on produce meant for consumption. In Canada, Health Canada scientists determine whether the pesticide would cause any health concerns and then decide on a “safe level” of residues, which are referred to as MRLs (maximum residue limits). While these limits are set well below the level at which they think pesticides would cause harm, there is a serious lack of risk assessment regarding the cumulative effects of pesticides. They are typically tested substance-by-substance in isolation, which doesn’t take into account the reality of our daily exposure to these toxins not only in our food, but also in our air, home, skin care, etc.
It would be great if everyone would eat 100% organic, but the reality is that a lot of us simply can’t afford too or we may be in a place where organic food is difficult to find. But we know that, in general, people who eat more organic foods consume less pesticides, which means purchasing some organic foods is likely to decrease your exposure. Plus, if we buy organic strategically and spend a little more money on produce that typically comes with higher levels of pesticide residues (or avoid them) and focus on buying the non-organic fruits and veggies that tend to have lower levels, you will be making an even bigger difference.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a great resources for safer skin products, make-up, cleaning products, sunscreen, and more. They have a guide called the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. The idea is to avoid the dirty dozen or buy them organic, and to opt for the Clean Fifteen if you can’t afford organic. As you can see, these lists don’t take sustainability into account, the avocados are right up there as the #1 clean produce item.
Side note: Buying from your local farmers at the market is ideal, because you’re supporting the local economy and reducing the amount of pollution created to transport the produce from the field to your home.
EWG’S CLEAN 15 FOR 2019
Frozen sweet peas
EWG’S DIRTY DOZEN FOR 2019
Avoid plastic containers
Plastics have profound adverse effects on our health and wellbeing. They have been linked to cancers, birth defects, hormonal disruptions, and immune impairment. The negative effects of BPA are now popular knowledge, but we know there’s a lot of other harmful “BPA-free” plastics out there like BPS, BPF, BPAF, BPZ, etc that just don’t get the same attention. BPA-free plastic does not mean that container is safe to use!
To avoid plastic from leeching into your food, work on making a switch over to glass, stainless steel, and ceramic containers. Plastics are also polluting wildlife and our environment, so please try to repurpose your plastic for safer use. I use my old plastic containers to organize non-food items, like pencils and pens..
Stop drinking bottled water
Microplastics (small pieces of plastic) have infiltrated almost every ecosystem on the planet, it’s now found in our air, our food, and our water. Purchasing bottled water not only contributes to our plastic waste problem, but it could also be increasing the amount of microplastics you consume. A health review from the World Health Organization a year ago found that plastic fibre levels could be twice as high in bottle water from popular brands, when compared to plastic fibre levels in tap water. And now a recent study from Orb found that the amount of micro plastics in Nestle Pure Life water could be as high as 10,000 pieces per litre. That sounds like a lot of plastic to be drinking in one day. I understand that bottled water is currently necessary for certain communities without access to safe tap water, but there are far too many people who drink single-serve bottled water who work and live in areas with water coolers, water fountains, and safe tap water. That bottled water probably contains more plastics that your tap water.
Dump the dryer sheets
While dryer sheets might make your clothes soft and less static, they are packed with a cocktail of chemicals that are bad for the air, the environment, and your health. Some of the chemicals are toxic, and rub off your cloths onto your skin and can cause skin, lung, and neurological effects. If you don’t air dry your clothes, consider using 100% wool balls that not only soften and reduce the static of your cloths, but also shorten drying time.
Fragrances are considered a “trade secret”, so when a list of ingredients includes the word “fragrance” it could contain put to 300 different chemicals, many of which are known to be toxic to human health. Phthalates, a common ingredient in a fragrance, are known hormone disrupters and have been linked to breast cancer. When did we start thinking that cleanliness had a smell? These scents are found in almost everything from household cleaning products, to laundry detergents, to beauty products, shampoo and conditioner, hand sanitizer, etc. Focus on buying fragrance free products in the future: just because the product contains “natural” or organic ingredients does not mean it is free of toxic fragrances.
Boyle, M, & Geller, S. (May 2016). Skip the Fabric Softeners. Environmental Working Group. Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2016/05/skip-fabric-softeners
Phthalates (n.d.). Canadian Cancer Society. Retrieved from http://www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/reduce-cancer-risk/make-informed-decisions/know-your-environment/phthalates/?region=on
Cox, K, Covernton, G, Davies, H, Dower, J, Juanes, F, & Dudas, S. (2019). Human Consumption of Microplastics. Environ. Sci. Technol. Retrieved from https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.9b01517
Cumulative and synergistic effects of pesticides (n.d.). Pesticide Action Network Europe. Retrieved from https://www.pan-europe.info/eu-legislation/legislation-plant-protection-products/cumulative-and-synergistic-effects-pesticides
Dirty Dozen™ : EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™(2019). Environmental Working Group. Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty-dozen.php
EWG’s 2019 Shopper’s Guid to Pesticides in Produce™ (March 20, 2019). Environmental Working Group. Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php
Goussoub, M. (Jun 6, 2019). Study sheds light on human consumption of microplastics. CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/study-sheds-light-on-human-consumption-of-microplastics-1.5162753?fbclid=IwAR3e3ESQhlVQdcb1CFzxnIjlPl1m31RHCOeBTXCAoxgyXFro9Y8nz7jirlM
Nicolopoulou-Stamati, P, Maipas, S, Kotampasi, C, Stamatis, P, & Hens, L. (2016). Chemical Pesticides and Human Health: The Urgent Need for a New Concept in Agriculture. Frontiers in Public Health, 4(148). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4947579/
Pesticides and food safety (n.d.). Government of Canada. Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/about-pesticides/pesticides-food-safety.html
Readfearn, G. (Mar 2018). WHO launches health review after microplastics found in 90% of bottled water. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/15/microplastics-found-in-more-than-90-of-bottled-water-study-says
Rustagi, N, Pradhan, S, & Singh, R. (2011). Public health impact of plastics: an overview. Indian Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, 15(3): 100-103. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299092/
Scutti, S. (June 2019). If you drink bottled water, you could double how many micro plastic particles you ingest, study says. CNN. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/05/health/microplastic-particle-ingestion-study/index.html
Tyree, C, Morrison, D. (n.d.). Plus Plastic: Microplastics Found in Global Bottled Water. Orb media. Retrieved from https://orbmedia.org/stories/plus-plastic/
Wei-Hass, M. (2018). Why ‘BPA Free’ May Not Mean a Plastic Is Safe. National Geographic. Retrieved from: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2018/09/news-BPA-free-plastic-safety-chemicals-health/