Friday, April 22, 2011

7 Ways To Protect Loved Ones from E. D. on Earth Day

Above, Cape Coolers cross Uncle Tim’s Bridge during their annual Earth Day walk. Earth Day focuses attention on the environment, but I have been thinking about our environment for months, as regular readers may have remarked. Impossible to get out of my mind the January YouTube warning from Dr. Theo Colborn, who claims the issue of global warming is moot because endocrine disruption (E. D.) will get us first.

What is an endocrine disruptor? A “xenoestrogen” that “interferes with the synthesis, secretion, transport, binding, action, or elimination of natural hormones in the body that are responsible for normal cell metabolism, reproduction, development, and/or behavior.”

A xenostrogen is also called an estrogen mimic. They are, “industrially made compounds such as PCB, BPA and Phthalates, widely used in recent decades, that have estrogenic effects to the living organisms although they differ chemically from the naturally occurring estrogenic substances internally produced by their endocrine system. Their potential ecological and human health impact is recently under extensive study by many scientific institutions and independent researchers.” (Both definitions from Wikipedia.)

Exposure to endocrine disruptors prior to birth is especially critical. Studies have shown up to 200 different toxic chemicals in umbilical cord blood. As early as 1992, Danish medical doctors warned of a 50% drop in sperm count in the Northern Hemisphere over the previous 50 years due to endocrine disruption. So, let’s think about how Wellfleetians and visitors to the Outer Cape might encounter endocrine disruptors and learn to avoid them:

EATING: Canned goods are still lined with BPA; whether you bring cans from home, or buy cans here, if you eat what’s in those cans, you ingest BPA. Watch out for pesticide residue on fruit, especially cranberries, but also non-organic blueberries and strawberries. Eating out brings no guarantee meals will be chemical-free. Find out which restaurants serve organic produce. Buy fresh produce at farmers’ markets.

DRINKING: I believe any filter is better than none. At Chez Sven, we filter our water. Buy organic juices in glass bottles. Ask for squeezed organic oranges at breakfast. Join the local movement to stop NStar from spraying up to five herbicides under the power lines, which will put endocrine-disruptors in our sole-source aquifer, ie. the water we will drink for generations.

RENTING: Many rentals are sprayed with insecticides before each season to prevent ant infestation. Tell your rental agent you prefer ants to a risk of toxic chemical residue on surfaces children may touch. Demand the folks who clean your rental use non-toxic cleaners.

SUNBATHING: Avoid tanning agents that contain parabens and other endocrine disrupters. Check the products you buy at the Environmental Working Group 2010 Sunscreen Guide. (EWG also provides a cosmetic database called Skin Deep that was updated this month.)

HIKING: When you go out into the woods,
protect yourself from ticks, but eschew products with DEET. Instead obtain organic sprays that work, like Bite Blocker Xtreme Insect Repellent, available online. In a local department store, I found the shelves laden with DEET-products and one lone bottle of organic spray. (Today I wrote to the store and requested they go organic for the 2012 season.)

SHOPPING: We live in a plastic world. Do your part to turn this situation around. Bring your tote or basket when shopping. If an overzealous shopkeeper offers a plastic bag, say no. If he/she asks if you want a plastic bag, thank him/her for asking.

WASHING: Use natural soaps and safe detergent brands like Seventh Generation.

No time to watch Dr. Colborn’s video? Here’s a summary and please share with your loved ones on Earth Day: “If there is only one message you take home from this lecture, I want it to be that a vast number of widely dispersed fossil-fuel derived chemicals are altering how our children are constructed before they are born and how they behave and function in adulthood and could be posing a more imminent threat than climate change to the survival of humans and all living organisms on earth.”

What are you doing to celebrate Earth Day?