Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Chemicals and Your Health

If asked, some of us would describe our wellness as less than 100% and that’s probably because we are affected by one or more of the following: stress, lack of exercise and poor diet or the build up of toxins in our bodies. Some chemicals have immediate toxic effects. Others are toxic to our bodies only after repeated, long-term exposure. And because they build up slowly, you may not be aware of a problem until, as has happened to some people in Toodyay, a cancer is discovered where there is no family history of cancer. Most people are aware of the benefits of regular exercise and a healthy diet, but few realise the effect that toxins in our foods, toiletries and household products have on our health. More and more studies are implicating toxins in a variety of illness and disease such as chronic fatigue and cancer, and the dramatic rise in allergies. Most people keep their windows shut – to conserve warmth in winter and coolness in summer. This means the toxins in the air have nowhere to go and just build up to higher and higher levels. Chemicals are part of our lives. We treat illnesses, paint our houses, and even clothe ourselves with products that have been developed through chemical research. However, there are reasons to be cautious about our exposure to some chemicals. For years, scientists have struggled to explain rising rates of some cancers and childhood brain disorders. There is something about our way of life today that has driven a steady rise of certain illnesses, from breast and prostate cancer to autism and learning disabilities. Most people today know of or perhaps, even worse, have suffered a cancer. Individually, each chemical, used in a minute quantity, may be harmless, but there’s growing concern about the combined effect as they accumulate in our bodies. Our homes harbour a staggering combination of chemicals that scientists are only just beginning to understand. Some chemical traces appear to have greater effects in combination than singly, another challenge to traditional toxicology, which tests things individually. Simple changes in our everyday routines can reduce our long-term exposures to levels of potentially harmful substances—changes in how we choose the products we buy, or the ways we clean our houses and take care of the yard. These changes will not only make our homes safer, they may also save us money. Consider using a pump spray (with a half life of remaining in the air of only seconds) instead of aerosols (with a half life of remaining in the air for hours). This alone will greatly reduce you and your family’s exposure to harmful chemicals. Depending on the individual, exposure to a toxic substance may result in no ill effects, effects that are reversible, or effects that have permanent consequences. Look for the words ‘caution,’ ‘warning,’ and ‘danger.’ Each of these words represents an elevated level of concern. For example, ‘caution’ means that a product could hurt you. It could bother your skin, make you sick if you breathe the fumes, or hurt your eyes if contact occurs. ‘Warning’ is more serious than ‘caution’ and indicates that you could become sick or seriously hurt with improper handling of the product. ‘Warning’ is also used to identify products that can easily catch on fire. ‘Danger’ indicates serious concern. Be extremely careful when handling products that contain the word ‘danger’ on the label. If used incorrectly, you could become very sick, be hurt for a long time, go blind, or even die. ‘Danger’ is also used on products to indicate that they could explode if they get hot. Periodically conduct a home survey of all your household cleaning and pesticide products– check for loose caps and properly dispose of out-of-date products. If the label of a container is damaged and can no longer be read, consider the product harmful or out-of-date and dispose of it properly. Next month – chemicals in personal products.

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