We've moved! We are now at genmaicha.tumblr.com.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hints for Health and Vigor, #4! Aka the triumphant return!

4. Be aware of the ways in which you could be exposed to toxins every day.

I never paid much attention to the kind of plastic bottle I use, if I throw away a plastic bag, or if I eat something that turns my tongue redder than a firetruck with sirens a-blazing. Until I started checking out websites like MedHeadlines, Science Daily, ProMedMail (subscription-only), Nature, and HealthMap, the only things I worried about in terms of my health were 1) anemia, 2) chronic fatigue syndrome, and 3) heavy metal poisoning. I think the first two are self-explanatory, since most girls who feel tired and weak assume they have one or the other. I used to think I had heavy metal poisoning because my fingernails had funny vertical striations--a little bit of nail buffing took care of that, problem solved.

These days, though, I'm seeing a lot of outcry over toxic substances in the products we use every day. You know that "new car" smell? It's actually potentially toxic off-gassing from the roughly 250 pounds of industrial plastics used in cars. Who doesn't get a thrill from new car smell? It's one of those times, like sitting around smelling markers, when your internal judgment monitor says, "I want to stay here and smell this forever, but I'll bet you a hundred dollars this is pretty bad for me." It's balancing precariously on the line between pleasure and pain. That new shower curtain smell (PVC off-gassing), new mattress smell, and that torturous "will this delicious smoked, grilled slice of ham give me cancer?" quandary.

What's more deceptive, though, are truly the most mundane things--water bottles. The biggest worry right now is specifically toxic BPA release from baby bottles, but big, grown-up kids like Jeanne, Kati, and I still use bottles every day. I try to buy glass bottles of tea and re-use them at the office because I hate to wash sturdier ones, but the plastic kind are absolutely everywhere! Since I lived in Japan, I've tried to pay attention to the little number inside the recycle symbol on the bottom of bottles to avoid toxic BPA. (Note: looking at my Dasani bottle right now, it has a 1.) The scary thing is, almost every college student in America is using those ubiquitous Nalgene bottles, and those are some of the worst BPA offenders! I can't tell you how many times I've filled up a Nalgene with warm water and a teabag to make iced tea--I thought I was a genius, but it turns out that I could have been exposing myself to toxic chemicals! Yikes.

Even Tupperware products have some dangerous BPA, and you're encouraged to microwave those. I like to use Pyrex and glass containers with rubbery lids instead of all-plastic tupperware, you can remove the lid for microwaving and it keeps the contents nice and sealed. Plus, a glass container makes a sad lunch at your desk feel like you're eating out of a real dish, not a half-melted piece of junk.

Since we're on the subject of food now, remember to be careful of unpasteurized cheeses, specifically soft cheeses like brie, bleu cheese, and queso fresco. Listeria monocytogenes and Mycobacterium bovis bacteria are regularly found in contaminated, unpasteurized queso fresco and burrata, particularly the delicious homemade kind. Listeria bacteria cause listeriosis, which can be fatal to fetuses in utero, causes premature labor, and severe symptoms in the immune-compromised and healthy alike. Mycobacterium bovis, on the other hand, is the causative agent behind a particularly nasty and ancient strain of drug-resistant tuberculosis, currently making a comeback in California. My own mother still won't eat soft cheeses or cheese with mold running through it--too bad for her, Point Reyes bleu is local and delicious!

For those of you interested in potentially toxic beauty products, look no further. The Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia (that's in Canada!) has an amazing Guide to Less Toxic Personal Products, from tampons (toxic shock, ladies, you can never be too careful) to acrylic nails. Interestingly enough, they list dioxin as a toxic chemical commonly found in beauty products. Just recently, Ukraine's president Viktor Yushchenko fell victim to dioxin poisoning
--deliberate espionage or not, the jury is still out. Did you see his before and after pictures? Not a great makeover, I'm sorry to say.

What are you ever so careful of? Do you use any special products we should know about?

Related Posts with Thumbnails