the ecovangelist

SIMPLE CHANGES FOR A HEALTHIER YOU!

Air Fresheners, are they really freshening your air? November 10, 2011

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Oh the fresh scent of roses and lilacs. Don’t you wish your home could smell so fragrant all the time? Well with more then 100 varieties of air fresheners, sprays, plug-ins, you can get the artificial scent of “ocean breeze”, “clean linen” or “country garden” whenever you’d like. While I personally have banned the use of any sort of air freshener in my home, I was surprised to learn that 75% of US households use either a plug-in, gel-fragrance, spray or stand-alone air freshener. So you must be wondering what’s the big deal, air fresheners are little boxes of scented joy!! Unfortunately, air fresheners are horrible for your health.  They have been found to trigger asthma, sinusitis, and allergies.  Also, they are extremely high in phthalates (check out my post on phthalates), which have been linked to:

                  • Decreased sperm count
                  • Infertility
                  • Cancer
                  • Decreased pulmonary function
                  • Asthma
                  • Brain development in fetus and infants
                  • Reproductive development
                  • Endocrine and Thyroid disruption
                  • Anti-androgen effects
                  • Obesity and type II diabetes

Even air fresheners labeled as all-natural had high levels of phthalates.

Many common ingredients used in air fresheners are: formaldehyde, dichlorobenzene (a carcinogen), chloromethane (a neurotoxicant) among several other harmful chemicals.  In addition, air fresheners contribute to indoor air pollution and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  High levels of indoor air pollutants are linked to asthma, respiratory disease and inflammation.  In fact, allergists at Emory University have discovered that asthmatics lung function changes when they are exposed to chemicals in air fresheners. A report from the NRDC also found that chemicals in air fresheners could effect reproductive development.

So next time you want to “plug-in”, go and buy some fresh flowers.  Here are some other tips on what you can do to freshen the air:

  • Open your windows and doors to circulate air
  • Use naturally fragrant items like flowers, cloves or cinnamon sticks
  • Lemon, Lime or Orange Peel
  • Vanilla Essence or Mint Extract
  • Try to eliminate the source of the putrid smell
  • Use baking soda to eliminate odor

For more information check out:

http://www.enviroblog.org/2011/09/your-best-air-freshener-isnt-an-air-freshener.html

http://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/health/scented-products-hazardous-chemicals//

http://www.nrdc.org/media/2007/070919.asp

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New BPA study shows exposure may effect behavior October 24, 2011

Filed under: In your body — theecovangelist @ 3:29 pm
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A new study released by the Journal of Pediatrics reinforces our previous fears about bisphenol-A (BPA). The study found that 3-year old girls who were exposed to higher levels of BPA while in the womb, were more aggressive, hyperactive, anxious and depressed. BPA is a chemical used to make plastic and we are exposed when BPA leaches into our food through the lining of canned food, plastic packaging, and plastic bottles. BPA has been found to be estrogenic and an endocrine disruptor. Limiting exposure to BPA is important for everyone, but is especially imperative for children and pregnant women. Joe Braun, the author of the study says, “These results suggest that the girls may be more vulnerable to the effects of gestational BPA exposures and there is this unique window of brain development that is susceptible to BPA exposures.”

Check out my previous post on bottled water and BPA for more details.

To reiterate, you can limit your and your children’s exposure to BPA by:

* Limiting your exposure to plastic products

* Avoid canned products

* Do not use liquid infant formula that has BPA lined in the bottles (this generally only occurs in the pre-made infant formula

* Use bulk food, rather than food that comes in plastic packaging

* Avoid plastics #7 and #3

* Use stainless steel or glass containers and bottles

* It is very difficult to completely eliminate our exposure to plastics, but if you take away one tip from this post, please do not microwave plastic containers. Even if they are BPA free, they still might leach other chemicals into your food.

For more information:

http://healthfinder.gov/News/newsstory.aspx?docid=658121

http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/sya/sya-bpa/

http://www.aoec.org/pehsu/aboutus.html

 

Turmeric, the Wonder Drug!! July 29, 2011

Filed under: In your body,On your body — theecovangelist @ 3:26 pm
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Whenever I go camping or hiking, I always pack a small container of turmeric in my first aid kit. You read correctly…in my first aid kit!! Turmeric works phenomenally to stop bleeding and helps reduce the appearance of scars! Turmeric has been used for years in India due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties. It is widely used in Indian cooking and its what gives curries that lovely yellow color. Turmeric has several health benefits when consumed and also when applied externally.

When consumed:

  • May prevent or reduce effects of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Possibly help with weight loss
  • Shown to prevent/reduce the risk of several cancers: 
    • Breast cancer
    • Melanoma
    • Leukemia
    • Prostate cancer 
    • Colorectal cancer
  • Helps with sore throats when consumed with a glass of warm milk or hot water (add a teaspoon into one cup of milk or water)
  • Reduces risk of myocardial infarction  
  • Improves digestive and gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Strengthens bone structure
  • Helps with liver health
  • Eases joint pain and arthritis inflammation

Applied externally:

        • Use it as a disinfectant, antibacterial agent for cuts, burns and bruises (apply as a paste, mix the powder with water)
        • Reduces appearance of scars
        • Acne treatment
        • Improve skin, anti-aging agent
        • Reduces body hair growth

Sounds like the wonder drug to me! You can either incorporate turmeric into your cooking, or consume turmeric capsules. Just be careful when you are cooking or applying turmeric, since it stains very easily.  Also, while there are not many major negative effects with consuming turmeric, those suffering from congestive heart disease, gallstones, liver disease or blood clotting disorders should consult their doctor before consuming supplements.


 

Protecting your largest organ! June 24, 2011

Filed under: Around your body — theecovangelist @ 12:22 pm
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Now that summer is here and we’re all spending more time in the sun, it’s probably a good idea to review why it’s important to wear sunscreen and the FDA’s new guidelines.

Your skin, why you should protect it:

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US
  • One out of five people will develop skin cancer in the US
  • One to two million Americans develop skin cancer every year

Earlier this month, the FDA released new sunscreen guidelines

Here’s a summary of the FDA’s main points:

  • Sunscreens can no longer be labeled as sunblock, waterproof or sweat proof; since according to the FDA, there is no such thing.
  • Sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB will now be labeled as broad-spectrum. 
  • In case you forgot the difference between UVA and UVB:
    • UVA-accounts for 95% of UV exposure; penetrates through skin deeply causing accelerated aging and wrinkling; initiates skin cancer; can penetrate through glass.
    • UVB-primary cause of skin cancer; burns the surface of your skin; can not penetrate through glass.
  • Water-resistant sunscreens are effective, but should be reapplied once out of the water.
  • Sunscreens should be reapplied every two hours.
  • Sunscreens with SPF 2-14 will be required to state that they have not been shown to prevent skin cancer.
  • Many companies have already started changing their labeling, but technically have until next summer to do so.

Applications (no pun intended):

  • While some of the ingredients in sunscreens have been in question, the benefit of using sunscreen outweighs any risk from the ingredients.
  • What’s the difference between SPF 15, 30 and 50?
    • SPF 15-blocks 92% of UVB rays
    • SPF 30-blocks 96.7% of UVB rays
    • SPF 50-blocks 98% of UVB rays
    • SPF 100-blocks 99% of UVB rays
  • Use SPF 15 for everyday use and at least SPF 30 or higher when in the sun for extended time.
  • Many think that just because they have darker pigmentation, they don’t need sunscreen. This is far from the truth. While having greater melanin does partially protect you from getting sunburned, people with darker pigmentation still need protection from UVA and UVB rays.
  • Even if you are wearing sunscreen, this does not fully protect you from the sun. So while in the sun be sure to wear a hat, long-sleeve shirts/pants and avoid prolonged time.
  • Limit sun exposure from 10AM-2PM, since suns rays are strongest during that period.
 

But I love my iphone…..can it really cause cancer? June 14, 2011

Filed under: Around your body — theecovangelist @ 1:28 am
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Unless you’re living under a rock, you must have heard about the recent hype linking cell phone use as a carcinogen.  I’ve been asked by several folks if this legit…or if it’s fear mongering tactics that the media has taken out of control. Honestly….I don’t know for sure. 

In one of my cancer courses we had an expert from the CDC tell us there was nothing to worry about with cell phones. However, when The World Health Organization (WHO) and International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) release a statement saying we should be worried, I take it seriously.

The IARC Press Release and Interphone Study both raise some concern.

Here is a brief summary about WHO/IARC’s conclusion in case you do not want to read the whole thing. 

  • WHO/IARC announced that mobile phones are now classified as 2B  carcinogenic hazard category. Which means “a positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer…”
  • To put that into perspective, there are 5 cancer classifications, and cell phones are now in the same cancer group as DDT, HPV, Gasoline and pickled vegetables (now that’s a whole other blog post).
    • Group 1 Carcinogenic to humans
    • Group 2A Probably Carcinogenic to humans
    • Group 2B Possibly Carcinogenic to humans
    • Group 3 Not classifiable (ie need more data)
    • Group 4 Probably not carcinogenic to humans
  • There is some evidence linking glioma and acoustic neroma brain cancer.
  • Cell phones emit non-ionizing radiofrequency (RF), a form of electromagnetic radiation, which is what is under investigation for causing cancer.
  • If you would like more info, here is a nice fact sheet that the National Cancer Institute released: NCI FACTSHEET

My suggestion, take the precautionary principal.  Be a little cautious with your cell phone use until the WHO, the CDC, the phone manufactures understand the full scale effects of cell phone use on our bodies.

  • Try to always use a headset or hands free set, which have been shown to emit less radiation.  I personally use a wired headset and not a blue tooth, because blue tooth still emits radiation.
  • Turn your phone off when you go to sleep.
  • If you must leave it turned on, do not leave your phone in your bedroom while you are sleeping. Many people place their phones right next to their head on a side table or dresser, turned on….I know I use to.
  • Go old school, get a land line.  While you’re at home try to limit the use of your cell phone and use a land line.
  • Hold the cell phone away from your body.
  • According to IARC, a poor signal emits more radiation, so limit your use if you do not have a strong signal.
  • A moving phone emits more radiation….more reason to not use your phone while driving.
  • Research your next phone, here is a list of radiation emission from available cell phones Cell phone radiation level
  • Children should not use or play with cell phones.  Since their skulls are thinner, radiation penetrates deeper and faster then it would with adults.
There are several studies disputing what WHO/IARC have found. However the truth of the mater is brain cancer develops over a long period of time. Since there has been a boom in cell phone use only in the past 10 years we may not see the true effects for another 5-10 years. 
 

Mmm tastes like chicken…the truth about soy products March 4, 2011

Filed under: In your body — theecovangelist @ 4:18 pm
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When I first became vegetarian, I thought I was entering a healthier more holistic lifestyle.  With an abundance of imitation meats, soy and gluten products, this was going to be easy. Plus soy had so many health benefits….right?

Fake meat made from soy has become a vegetarians safe haven.  For practically any animal derived product, there is a soy substitute: soymilk, soydoggs, meatless meatballs, tofurky, vegenaise….the list goes on.  While some of these items taste more like cardboard then chicken or turkey, there are actually several appetizing products.

However, the more I ate these plant-derived soy products, the more I heard about ingredients called isoflavones that might not be so healthy!

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Conflicting studies

There are conflicting studies, some showing the positive benefits of Soy and others claiming harmful effects when ingested in excess.  It was all rather confusing, so after sifting through several studies, here is what I found.

Soy also contains natural isoflavones, which when ingested are transformed into phyto-estrogens….a weak form of estrogen in the body

In moderate amounts, this can be beneficial to the body, however in excess can cause exceeding amounts of estrogen.

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Positives

  • Protective effect against breast cancer in low doses

  • Decreases risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease

  • Can help prevent osteoporosis

 

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Negatives

  • Might cause potential tumor growth in current or past breast cancer survivors

  • Can increase the risk of breast cancer in high doses

  • Excess estrogen can lead to hormonal imbalance

  • Can cause Eczema in high doses

  • Studies show, that they may cause thyroid, thymic and immune system abnormalities when ingested in excess

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Take home point

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The conundrum is confusing, on one hand soy has several health benefits, however on the other, in excess can be potentially harmful.  Studies are still being conducted, and there is seems to be no conclusive answer yet.

So in the mean time what should you do? Eat soy products, but in moderation.  Scientists say that 25 grams a day is safe. (A 4-ounce serving of tofu has about 10 grams; a cup of soy milk, 6 to 8 grams.) I personally have restricted my soy intake to 3 times a week.

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Supporting Articles both on the positive and negatives of Soy

http://www.ajcn.org/content/68/6/1333S.abstract

http://www.questia.com/googleScholar.qst?docId=5002345889

http://www.ajcn.org/content/68/6/1375S.abstract

http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/soymessina

 

Flame Retardants ….the burning truth April 4, 2010

Filed under: Around your body — theecovangelist @ 9:33 am
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What are Flame Retardants?

Flame Retardants are commonly used to prevent the spread of fires. While chemical flame retardants have done an excellent job of protecting us from fires, low dose exposures have been linked to health concerns. Several types of chemical flame retardants such as octaBDE & pentaBDE have been banned in the US due to increasing health concerns. However Polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDE, type DecaBDE is still in use, and is required by the state of California to be used on several products.

Why are Flame Retardants used?

The original intent of PBDEs was to prevent the spread of fires. This was more imperative when indoor smoking cigarettes was prevalent. With the decrease in smoking, the risk of home fires has reduced and an excess of PBDEs are unnecessary.

Health Concerns with PBDE:

PBDEs are of greatest concern for children and pregnant women. Limited human studies have been conducted on PBDEs. However, of the limited studies that have been done, they have shown that exposure to PBDEs, can possibly cause the following:

  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Neurotoxicity
  • Decreased Fertility
  • Developmental, reduced IQ
  • Liver toxicity
  • Cancer (in animals studies)

How am I exposed to Flame Retardants?

    • Products sprayed with PBDEs
      • Sofas
      • Mattresses & other furniture
      • Carpet Padding
      • Children’s clothing
      • Computers , TVs & other Electronics
    • Food: Since PBDEs are overly used in our environment, they have found their way into the eco-system via disposal of chemicals – especially in marine life. People are now exposed to PBDEs through consumption of dairy, fish, beef and other high fatty foods.
    • Americans were found to have 20 times greater PBDE levels in their body, compared to Europeans.
    • PBDEs bioaccumulate, meaning they are largely resistant to environmental degradation/decomposition. Essentially, they survive in our environment and bodies for a very long time.

 

Children’s Clothing:

Currently majority of children’s pajamas have PBDEs incorporated in the fibers. If you want to purchase clothing that is PBDE free, look for labels that state they are flame retardant free

  • Organic sleepwear is often free of PBDEs
  • Some polyester fabrics are naturally fire resistant and do not require PBDEs
  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission does not require tight fitting sleepwear to be flame resistant

What Can I do?

    • Purchase Mattresses that are flame retardant free (options listed below)
      • Avoid furniture labeled as meeting California TB 117
    • Vacuum and dust often, since primary route of exposure is through inhaling dust
    • Keep windows and doors open for cross ventilation
    • Purchase flame retardant free children’s clothing
    • Limit consumption of high fatty foods such as beef, fish, butter
    • Wash your hands before eating or handling food
    • Install a Fire Detector to protect you from fires

 

Flame Retardant Free Mattresses

Supporting Articles and News

http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/flame-retardants-and-human-fertility

http://www.epa.gov/ncea/iris/toxreviews/0035-tr.pdf

http://greensciencepolicy.org/consumer-information/

http://greensciencepolicy.org/building-materials/

http://www.pri.org/health/effects-of-chemicals-in-flame-retardants1860.html