Top Environmental Health Threats

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Here are the six environmental health threats you should be aware of. In addition to making the recommended changes below, take action and contact lawmakers about these issues.

Plastics: Reduce your use of plastics based on emerging research that harmful chemicals can leach from them when foods are stored or heated in them. Of particular concern are bisphenol A (BPA), found in polycarbonate products including water bottles and baby bottles, and phthalates, used to make plastics pliable. Scientists believe these chemicals cause cancer and irreversible organ damage in fetuses and children. For more information on safe plastics, visit mysigg.com or kleenkanteen.com.

• Air pollution: In addition to causing respiratory problems, air pollution poses a serious threat to cardiovascular health. In January, scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, reported that the tiny particles of vehicle emissions may be especially harmful, promoting hardening of the arteries by reducing the heart-protective qualities of HDL cholesterol. Limit your exposure by observing air advisories, and don’t exercise outside when ozone levels are high (visit airnow.gov for air quality reports).

• Ionizing radiation: We have known for decades that exposure to ionizing radiation—the type used in x-rays and CT scans—can damage DNA, causing cell mutations and cancer. These tests can use useful diagnostic tools, but because there is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation, agree to them only if necessary.

• Nonionizing radiation: The case here is less clear and more controversial, but some doctors are increasingly suspicious about the risks posed by weaker, nonionizing radiation, including the electromagnetic fields (EMFs) emitted by cell phones. EMFs may disrupt the body’s healing system and its controls on normal cell growth, which could weaken immunity and increase susceptibility to cancer. Try to limit your cell phone use. Use and earpiece; placing even a foot of space between your body and the phone greatly reduces your exposure to EMFs. The same goes for appliances such as plug-in electric clock radios and hair dryers, which also emit EMFs: Keep them at least a foot away from your body. Of greater concern are electric blankets, mattress covers, and heating pads: Avoid them.

• Agricultural chemicals: The pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides applied to crops and lawns are poisons, and the more you can reduce your exposure to them, the better. Some have estrogenic effects, which may be one factor in the worldwide epidemic of breast cancer. Others may be linked to lymphoma and Parkinson’s disease.

• Water pollution: Pollutants in our waterways and flowing form our taps like nitrates, lead, and chlorine byproducts, are just some of the harmful substances that may be in there. Learn about the drinking water in your community by visiting ewg.org, and consider testing your home water supply. The kinds and levels of contaminants that are found can help determine what type of water filter is best for your home. For facts on the different types of water filtration systems, visit nfs.org/consumer/drinking_water/dw_treatment.asp.

Dr. Andrew Weil’s Self Healing Newsletter.

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