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The popularity of organically grown food has increased immensely over the last decade or so. The reason for the partly shift away from traditional fast food is that it has become more and more important for many people to lead a healthy lifestyle. Apart from exercising on a regular basis and working in a profession that is enjoyable and fulfilling, people pay attention in particular to the individual quality of food that ends up on their dinner table. This is not only a question of whether or not a tomato is GMO-free, consumers want to be confident that what they eat isn’t contaminated, for example with chemicals like pesticides, herbicides and nitrates.
Although organic food is considerably more expensive than regular food, I honestly believe that it’s worth every dime you spend on it. But is an organic food diet sufficient to living healthily and eradicate the potential harm of environmental toxins from our lives? Or can the health benefits that come with an organic food diet get compromised by other factors?
Sources of Toxic Substances in our Everyday Lives
The short answer to the first question is ‘No’. Eating organically grown food is a step in the right direction, but aside from our nutrition, there are other sources of toxic substances that we get in contact with daily. Therefore, the answer to the second question is ‘Yes’. The health benefits of your costly organic diet can get compromised and here is how:
Tap and bottled water can contain an endless number of toxins. Among the most common are pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture, which through rain end up in our groundwater, heavy metals, first and foremost lead, that originate from different industries, and various acids as byproducts of treating wastewater with disinfectants like chlorine.
The only way to reduce your exposure to toxins that can be found in your drinking water is by either buying bottled spring water that is proven to be toxin-free, because it gets thoroughly tested on a regular basis, or by applying a drinking water treatment system in your home. From experience, I know that the second option will save you money in the long run; it’s what I’ve been doing for years. Depending on your circumstances, you have many possible choices to find the product that’s best suited for you.
The human body can survive weeks without food, at least a couple of days without water, but only seconds or minutes at most without air. An adult human being breathes 12 to 18 times per minute. This also means that depending on where you live and where you go to work etc., chances are that you inhale toxic air pollutants all day long.
The US Environmental Protection Agency currently monitors 181 of these air pollutants all over the country and found that, due to more emissions, the density of toxic pollutants is higher in urban areas. In conclusion, you have the highest chance to reduce your exposure to them by living in the countryside. If that is not up for debate, try to avoid doing any activities that increase your respiratory rate, like running and cycling, in or close to the city. Also, spend as little time as possible in underground parking garages and the subway and, if you don’t mind the funny looks, wear a face mask, whenever you are in the city.
Personal Care Products
American women use 12 different personal care products per day on average, which account for 168 unique ingredients that come in contact with their bodies. Men use about half as many. Of course, not all of the 168 ingredients are toxic, but about 12.2 million adults living in the US are exposed to substances that are known or probable human carcinogens every single day, due to their use of tooth paste, lotions, deodorant, hair gel, shampoo and more.
From now on, check the list of ingredients first and primarily avoid all products that contain parabens, diethanolamine (DEA), phthalates, acrylamide, formaldehyde and phenol. Also, don’t get confused if ingredients are listed as ‘fragrance’. It’s just a clever way that manufacturers came up with to disguise problematic substances. And last but not least, don’t blindly trust a label that says ‘organic’ or ‘natural’, because these aren’t protected terms.
Giovanna Luongo, a scientist from the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the University of Stockholm, could prove the presence of more than 40 different chemical residues (quinolines, benzothiazoles and benzotriazole) in a set of garments, which she acquired not only in Sweden, but also on the global market. According to Luongo, ‘The hazards posed by the identified substances were primarily skin sensitization and irritation, but also reproduction toxicity, and proved or suspected carcinogenicity’.
Furthermore, Luongo points out that any of the residues has the potential to get absorbed by the human skin and eventually enter the body. What was once harmless could then be converted into a harmful toxin or become dangerous, because it forms a compound with other substances.
If you’ve expected that fashion made from organic cotton was less stylish than commercial clothes, you were wrong. You can find a list of 13 trending organic clothing brands that offer apparel free from toxic pesticides and fertilizers here.
From baking soda, vinegar cleaner and hand-wash dishwasher detergent to furniture polish, multipurpose cleaner and carpet stain remover, $655 is what the average American household spents on housekeeping supplies in 2015, having in stock a whole arsenal of cleaning products.
Only a fraction of these cleaners a free from chemicals that are harmful to our health, if we inhale, touch or ingest them. In case of contact, acute symptoms include rashes, burns, headache and respiratory complaints. Long-term consequences can be chronic diseases like cancer.
Although the majority of manufacturers don’t list all of their products’ ingredients on the label, because they are not required to, here is a list of chemicals you should be aware of: Chlorine bleach, ammonia, fragrances, monoethanalomine (MEA), diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), ethoxylated alcohols, butyl cellosolve, alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs), trisodium nitrilotriacetate, triclosan, sodium hydroxide, nonylphenol ethoxylates.
Make sure to stay away from household cleaners that contain hazardous substances by following these rules:
- If you can’t pronounce it, put it back on the shelf. As you can see above, most of the ingredients you should try to avoid have long and complicated names no one has ever heard before.
- Except for specific cases, there is no need for a huge variety of products. Stick to soap, water, vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and a well-tried sponge combined with a little blood, sweat and tears.
- Carefully read labels and look out for words like ‘Danger’, ‘Warning’, ‘Poison’ and ‘Caution’, and phrases like ‘may cause skin irritation’, ‘vapors harmful’ and ‘may cause burns on contact’. Skip these products.
- If you find a product that says ‘no solvents’, ‘no phosphates’, or ‘plant-based’, that’s great!
Here is a great resource that lists eco-friendly all-purpose cleaners, plant-based bathroom cleaners and much more.
Organic Food – Only The Beginning
Drinking water, air, personal care products, our clothes, and household cleaners, all of these things expose us to environmental toxins in our everyday lives. It becomes obvious that following an organic food diet can only be the beginning to protect our health in the long run.