Environmental toxins are part of the way most of us live our lives. Harmful substances found in common products and every-day situations affect virtually every system in our bodies.
Lead is one of the main environmental toxins. In the past, the use of lead was common, for example, in gasoline, manufacturing, ceramics, pipes, paint, and even cosmetics. Today, far less lead is used. However, there are still significant levels of lead in air, water, and soil as a result of human activities in the past.
- When preparing food and drinks, heat cold tap water rather than saving time by starting with hot tap water.
- Keep your home clean and dust free.
- Eat well-balanced meals. Children whose diets are balanced tend to absorb lower amounts of lead.
Another toxin is mercury. Human exposure is most commonly via fish and shellfish. Emissions from coal-fired power plants contain mercury which seeps into waterways and is converted into methylmercury by microorganisms. Fish and shellfish eat these mercury-filled microorganisms, become mercury-filled themselves, and pass this mercury on to the people who consume them.
- Choose fish which usually have lower levels of mercury such as shrimp, canned light tuna, and salmon.
- Check local fish safety advisories for seafood mercury levels in your area.
Pesticides are a large source of harmful substances. Even with the improved products and lower allowed limits, pesticides can still have a high toxicity.
- Prepare fruits and vegetables by washing and scrubbing under running water. Remove the skin and outer leaves.
- Use organic food which has been grown without synthetic pesticides.
- Reduce pesticides around the home and garden by looking for natural pest control methods.
Carbon monoxide is a component of car exhaust. Keep exposure to a minimum by avoiding heavily trafficked areas as much as possible. Joggers, especially, should not run on city streets.
Overall, it appears that the issue of environmental toxins is not disappearing. As people become aware of and limit their exposure to one group, another group of toxins takes its place. Three examples of ‘up and coming’ toxins are toluene (found in plastic soda bottles, gasoline, paints, and glues), manganese (an anti-corrosive component of soda cans and stainless steel), and tetrachloroethylene (used in dry-cleaning and to de-grease metal). The government will begin assessing the toxicity of these substances in 2017.
There is no doubt that environmental toxins are linked to lifestyle. In order to have the least exposure possible, people need to review the choices they are making.