Every month, Ash and I are going to focus on one eco-related book for Leif Reads. To see what this feature is all about, visit this page. This month, we are reading Slow Death by Rubber Duck by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie.
Slow Death by Rubber Duck talks about seven toxins that we unwittingly come in contact with - many times a day. Over the last three weeks, we talked about four toxins - pthalates in toys that kids come in contact with every day, how even lawn care brings us into contact with several toxins, how those non-stick teflon pans in the kitchen are a silent disaster waiting to happen, and about the oldest and the only natural toxin - mercury - which we so happily include in our diet when we eat those fish.
Slow Death by Rubber Duck also mentions three other toxins that we didn't cover yet - Bisphenol A, present in those plastic bottles; PBBs or flame retardants, so conveniently found in those non-natural "fire resistant" fabrics and upholstery; Triclosan, present in those antibacterial anything (hand lotions, soaps, etc). Clearly, there's a lot of toxins we come in touch with every day and it's really easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of our toxic pool, and be forced into inaction. So in this post, I'm going to list a few steps that we can take to "detox" ourselves.
All that's fragrant is not healthy
Most cosmetics, personal care products and air fresheners contain phthalates, which are also by the way present in upholstery and toys. Such products typically list "Fragrance" or "Parfum" as an ingredient. It's a good idea to train ourselves to put a product back on the shelf if it falls in that category. I made a quick check of the shampoos I have in my bath, and I'm really disappointed to see them all containing phthalates. One of them was beginning to be my favorite brand.
Why are we so germophobic?
We humans are all germophobes to some extent (some more than others). It's not easy embracing germs, nobody wants to get sick. But sometimes, it's a tradeoff between a typical cold illness and a chemically induced illness, like cancer. There's increasing evidence that most of these toxins are linked to several types of cancers. One such category are antibacterial products which contain triclosan. If you find yourself reaching out to such products when washing hands, remember a good 30-second lather of soap and water is sufficient. Also, for cleaning, natural cleaners like baking soda and borax are preferred alternatives to chemical ones.
Bye, bye Teflon
If you still have a non-stick frying pan, it's probably time to say goodbye. Teflon is something you can live without. In fact, DuPont's planning to phase it out, which is good news. But there is a teflon-alternative in the make, so we'll just have to keep an eye out to see if that's going to be harmful or not. Also, go easy on that grease and avoid too much fast-food. The packaging could be coated with PFCs.
Big Fish Small Fish
The higher an animal is in the food chain (read humans), the more toxins there are in its body. That's because we eat animals which eat other animals which in turn eat other animals, eventually accumulating most of that toxin (which don't decompose easily) in its final residence. Along the same tone, big fish have more mercury content that small fish. If you're really into fish like me, have more small fish and less big fish. Also, if you have any mercury containing products at home, either return them to the store you bought it from or to the hazards depot. Throwing them into the trash doesn't help - they'll return back somehow through waterways.
Any typical house will probably have different kinds of plastic jars and bottles arrayed across. They all should be embossed or marked by a number from 1 to 7, which are the different kinds of plastic. Numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5 are fine, the rest 3 are not good for you. Try to use glass bottles/containers where possible, as a suitable alternative to plastic. If you are in the practice of putting plastic containers in the microwave, the plastic can actually leech out into the food. You really don't want to be munching on that plastic along with the tasty leftovers.
Adopt a cloth bag
Doesn't the sight of all those plastic bags containing the stuff you bought from the grocery give an eye-sore? My town doesn't recycle plastic bags, and I actually have a cupboard full of plastic bags with nothing to do with them but use them as trash bags sometimes. Really, I get eye-sores now when I see plastic bags at Walmart or Kroger. I only use the cloth bag now and it is such a relief.
What steps do you take to limit our body pollution?