Most geological and biological alterations on the earth’s surface were extremely slow in the millennia preceding the Neolithic age and the industrial revolution.
But transformations introduced by the sudden expansion of our economy – primarily the increase mineral and energy consumption and agricultural production – have accumulated at an astonishing rate in recent years.
Especially within the last 100 years heavy metals, hydrocarbons and synthetic organic chemicals have accumulated extensively in ways that increasingly cause harm.
The continuous and growing deposition of potent toxicants by aerial sources, industrial processing, fertilizers, pesticides, materials constituting consumer goods, and pharmaceuticals, has been found to have systemic consequences for biological health. Detrimental effects are evident on global, regional and individual level.
Particularly concerning are the toxicants’ long persistence, synergistic effects and bio-accumulation, which alters the chemical composition of tissues without necessarily causing visible or immediate injury; their disturbance of metabolic processes in living tissues; and their resistance to metabolic detoxification.
Bringing an enhanced level of awareness to lifestyle choices and consumption to give preference for products that are the least exploitative, toxic and harmful is possible. There are healthier and more straightforward alternatives for virtually all products and services available today.
Generally speaking, plants and animals grown or raised in contaminated environments – in fertilizer and pesticide contaminated soils and air – are likely to absorb more toxicants. Organic produce, dairy and meat is thus less contaminated.
Large, predatory and bottom feeding fish carry larger loads of heavy metals than other seafood. On the other hand, farmed seafood is likely to have much heavier load of biocides, pesticides and antibiotics as well as stress hormones. Farmed seafood also can have higher persistent toxin levels (such as PCB or dioxin) when fed fishmeal because of bioaccumulation.
As a standard rule, the less adulterated and processed the diet is, the less synthetic chemicals it has been exposed to, and more nutrients and healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates it contains. Food contact materials, processing aids, packaging, flavors and colorants are a significant pathway of contamination by ingestion.
Respiratory and dermal absorption takes place through use of many consumer goods, such as synthetic fabrics for garments and indoor fabrics, cosmetics, personal care products, cleaning products, fragrances, cook wear, toys and with construction materials. These consumer goods are made with combinations of over 80,000 synthetic organic chemicals – most of which never been tested for health effects.
Those few substances, which have come under scientific scrutiny so far, often induce permanent, harmful effects. Despite that, they have been allowed to stay in use.
Following are a few basic rules that can one avoid or diminish daily exposures:
Eat organic. Don’t use pesticides, biocides and insect repellents.
Avoid exposure to pesticide drift on airplanes, in holiday resorts, parks and agricultural neighborhoods.
Wear clothing made from natural, fibers that have not been coated for stain resistance or waterproofed. Select natural, untreated fibers for home.
some simple guidelines
Avoid processed, packaged food and beverages.
Select glass over plastic or plastic-covered tin packaging.
Don’t burn plastic or heat food in it. That includes plastic
containers, plastic dishes and non-stick cookware, plastic water boilers. Do not microwave in plastic.
Use stainless steel or glass containers.
Be prudent using personal care products, sunscreens, make-up, chouse cleaning agents, antimicrobial
products and fragrances. Select simple, natural
options – such as bicarbonate soda and vinegar for
cleaning; shade for sun protection and oils for moisturizers.
Thoroughly ventilate new cars and freshly painted rooms. Open the doors and allow the air to circulate
before getting into a car, which has been left
in the sun.
Don’t allow children to sleep in rooms that have off-gassing chemicals from paint, vinyl floors, wallpapers, synthetic bedding orstuffed toys. Avoid volatile chemicals in workplaces, especially if dealing with the production or sale of synthetic consumer goods or services entailing products containing chemicals. In particular, exposures in the workplace during pregnancy can lead to permanent, serious damage in children.
Avoid rinses and softeners – use natural soaps for laundry. Ventilate dry-cleaned garments.
Forego unnecessary medication.
If possible, select real estate in areas away from large-scale industrialization, urbanization or high traffic routes. Test soils for contamination if purchasing property with garden.
It is now well acknowledged that chemical and heavy metal degradation of the biosphere may become the most important factor limiting food production, human reproduction and intelligence on a global basis. However reducing unnecessary personal exposure is still possible by conscious lifestyle choices.