The Rant: A Monday Morning View - Chemical Exposure and Human Health
Inspiration for writing comes from the strangest places and so it was not surprising when I found myself standing in the supermarket taking the picture for this hub. I'm not a shopper so the supermarket is a chore that I loathe. Why I had my camera with me remains a mystery so I'll have to assume it was divine intervention.
The topic for The Rant today is not new to me. It's something I've been thinking about for a while now but I suppose I was subconsciously waiting for some catalyst to inspire the writing. The cleaning supply isle in the supermarket was just what I needed.
My stop at the supermarket was to be brief. I only needed to pick up some fruit and soy milk. Like most, I can easily walk in to pick up only one or two items and end up with a cart full if I'm not disciplined. I was determined not to let that happen on this trip and so I took a short cut down the cleaning supply isle on my way to the dairy section. That's when it hit me.
Look at the photo above. What do you see?
The first thing you probably noticed is the price. I did too. I couldn't believe a bottle of Febreeze is now over $5.00. No wonder I don't buy it. What I hoped you might notice was the number of bottles. There's ten of them. Ten! Each one a different scent or intended purpose. I stood there staring and thinking - just how many choices do we really need? And then, what happened to "clean" being a desirable scent. When did smelling "clean" stop being enough? And finally, are we so lazy that we need chemical perfumes to present an impression that things are clean?
That's what's bothering me. It's the chemicals. Our obsession with scents is the fuel for manufacturers to keep coming up with new perfumed products to keep our homes, cars, and clothes smelling like Berry Burst or Tropical Paradise. They come in sprays, candles, oil diffusers, gels, and potpourris. Really? They sure know how to dangle a carrot, don't you think?
This rant isn't just about our weakness for marketing strategies or our scent fetish. It's really about something more important - chemical exposure.
What Are We Doing?
Do you ever think about the number of chemical's you're exposed to on a daily basis? Probably not. Most of us live lives of convenience. Our choices are generally made from our need to do more and to do it faster. We choose convenience over intelligence. Despite what we know about plastics and microwaves, we still do it. In spite of what we've heard about toxins in plastic water bottles, we are still a country obsessed with bottled water. So, let's look at some of the things we do that expose us to chemical hazards and then ask ourselves, what is the cumulative effect?
- Pesticides: Do you have a contract with an exterminator who sprays your home monthly to keep roaches, ants, spiders, away? Do you know what it contains? Some pesticides can affect functioning of the nervous system.
- Bottled water: Do you stock cases of bottled water for your family? Do you know what's in the bottle? Bis-phenol A (BPA), a compound in hard, clear polycarbonate plastics that is known to mimic Estrogen and can possibly cause uterine cancer and early mammary development in children.
- Plastic food containers: Are you using only microwave safe plastic containers in your microwave? If not, stop! The FDA has a thorough approval process for plastic food containers that prevent chemicals from leaching into your food. If your container isn't FDA approved, you're taking a risk.
- Hair Dyes: Do you know what's in your hair dye? Some hair dyes contain chemicals that may cause allergic reactions and possible neurological effects. Para-phenylenediamine (PPD) is found in many permanent dyes and is a known allergen and carcinogen. There are alternatives to conventional dyes such as plant-based dyes or infrared techniques.
- Deodorant: Paraben is a component in most commercial deodorants and there has been some concern that paraben can leach into breast tissue and cause tumors. Studies are inconclusive so far but, it may be worth our effort to consider alternatives.
- Hormones in food: Growth hormones are given to cows and chickens to increase weight and milk production and hormones are known to cause early puberty in children. Again, studies are incomplete but it is suspected that early puberty is also relative to the increased incidence of breast cancer in young women and prostate cancer in younger men. When hormones are used in dairy cows, milk production is stimulated so cows can be milked more frequently. This process of over-milking can lead to infections which must be treated with antibiotics which may result in residual antibiotics making their way into milk production.
- Antibiotics: There is a reason that physicians have become hesitant to prescribe antibiotics and that's because over time, bacteria, the cause of infection, becomes resistant to the drugs. We are seeing an increase in incidence of MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus).
- Formaldehyde: I know, you think you don't have any formaldehyde in your home. Read some labels. Start with cleaning products and make your way to toothpaste, mouthwash, and antiperspirant. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. How much exposure are you getting?
- VOC's: Found in many cleaning products, VOC's (volatile organic compounds) can cause asthma and other respiratory problems, allergies, and headaches. They are used in air fresheners, dish detergent, floor wax, rug cleaners, bleach, oven cleaners, and more.
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The Rant - A Monday Morning View is a series that allows me to vent my frustration over, well - anything that bugs me. This one is written because I've reached the limits of my tolerance for being harassed by political campaigns.
Have you had enough?
It's scary, isn't it? This list could go on and on but I didn't come here to tell you everything you're doing in your home that can pose a health risk. I just came to tell you that the way we're living has the potential to reduce the quality of our life or, to shorten the length of it.
When I think of all the chemicals (proven hazardous or not), that I'm exposed to daily, it concerns me. As we become more advanced as a society, we are taking more short cuts and using the technology available to make us feel more comfortable. But at what cost?
You're probably sick of me telling stories of my youth, growing up in a modest household but you know, things were just a lot more simple back then, and probably safer too. We got our milk from the farm down the road. He wasn't a big milk producer but he provided for the neighborhood. His cows didn't get hormones and antibiotics were only given when a real problem existed. My Mom used good old soap and water to clean with, and a lot of elbow grease. Our clothes were hung out to dry rather than spinning around the dryer with some perfumed dryer sheet. We didn't have a microwave. My Mom slaved over the stove for the evening meal we ate together as a family.
I know times have changed and we can't go back but I think we can be smarter than we are. We can stop putting all those chemicals around the house in the forms of scents that make it smell like we cleaned today and, we can stop feeding the beast called "corporate greed". There, I've said it. Enjoy your day.
© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.