Think Only Germs Cause Illness? Think Again!

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Think Only Germs Cause Illness? Think Again!

Post by Tee on Sun Aug 07, 2011 2:16 am

By June M. Lay, M.S. - Lifesylte Columnist - HealthNewsDigest.com
Aug 6, 2011 - 9:03:25 AM

(HealthNewsDigest.com) - Think only germs make us sick? Think again! While preventing illness from bacteria and viruses has been on our mind from the common cold to food poisoning, to hospital infections and beyond, let's become aware of environmental factors that cause us to become ill too. I coin it "It's in the Air", meaning in our water, in our food, and almost everywhere. I'm referring to environmental pollutants that contribute to allergies, asthma and to also increasing our risk for cancer.

Yes, I have been accused of being hypersensitive to these pollutants, but after studying chemistry, and environmental science, I learned to become more aware for my health. In fact, recently it seems everywhere I turn in an era of "Go Green", for our environment and for our health, all of us are bombarded just as much and more.

For example, my health club, one of the most exclusive work- out gyms in New York City recently made some improvements. What improvements? New flooring for example, but flooring that included rubber, and glue! This was done over a couple of weeks and months while and during the members were working out. Yes, we inhaled glue just as we were inhaling more deeply from exercising. Another example is New York City and street improvements. Yes we have pot holes, cracked streets etc., and our infrastructure needs work. However, breaking up residential streets over -night in the midst of a heat wave and ozone health alert, creating fumes of asphalt kicking up without enough air circulating between buildings, is definitely not a healthy thing for New Yorkers! My last example comes from my very own building where I live, an exclusive area known as the "Sutton Area". As a tenant in New York State, I am by law entitled to well ventilated elevators and hallways. Yet, my landlord has consistently ignored violations to repair vents all the while using toxic chemicals to polish our brass elevators and lobby, and using toxic chemicals emitting VOC's to renovate hallways and apartments with VOC emitting paints, and floor lacquers. All my complaints have gone ignored, and while residents complain about odors, most are unaware of the vapors released by these chemicals that can persist for months, which can cause illness.

Okay, the news isn't all bad because there are ways within our control to reduce our risk, so let's take a closer look at some of these chemicals, what they can cause in us, and what we can do to protect ourselves.

Research has shown a high environmental contribution for the majority of cancers, respiratory diseases (including asthma), and host of endocrine (Hormonal) disorders that include some that may/and be connected to cancer. In one 1995 study connecting environmental pollutants with cancer, researchers found a high positive correlation with cancer in children and pesticides. Children whose yards were treated with synthetic pesticides or children who lived in homes that contained synthetic pest strips, developed more cancers than children exposed to non toxic natural and/organic pesticide methods. In addition, exposure to these chemicals contribute to onset of allergies and asthma particularly in children.

Our environmental risk factors that increase our risk for disease include both indoor pollution, and outdoor pollution as well as other synthetic chemicals found in things such as plastics. These are chemicals that we may be exposed to in our workplace, or in our home or in our environment such as my example of asphalt dust on my street that is kicked up every time a car drives by, or the exhaust fumes from cars and trucks, or even the secondhand smoke, which we inhale as we walk down the street behind a smoker.

Some of these chemicals are more toxic than others because of their toxicity strength, repetitive use ( increased exposure), and persistence level ((this refers to how long they remain biologically active in our environment). Some environmental pollutants that emit VOC's remain biologically active for over 6 months and even longer when ventilation is poor. This does not include the risk to our health from exposure to multiple sources over a period of time.

Indoor Pollution

Let's discuss indoor pollution because we are more likely to be able to control our exposure indoors than outdoors (Unless you belong to my gym, or live in my building!). I first decided to write about "It's in the Air" to create more awareness. When we inhale these chemicals, they not only reach every cell in our body, they do so through the quickest means (Except by injection) via our lungs. This can be more toxic since we are indoors within confined spaces. Some of these chemicals can cause simple respiratory symptoms such as watery eyes, coughing, and sneezing, but they can increase the frequency and intensity of asthma attacks, allergies and headaches over time. They can trigger migraine headaches in people with a history of headaches. Many of these chemicals are also known carcinogens, so that over time they may be contributing factors to liver and kidney disease, heart and lung diseases, and even nerve disorders as well as cancer.

Air pollutants are harmful to our lungs, airway passages and blood vessels, and studies have found a direct relationship for instance, between cigarette smoke and lowered levels of antioxidants in our blood. This was found in smokers and non- smokers exposed to cigarette smoke. Our body makes its own antioxidants to fight disease and in this instance, we can see being exposed to even common cigarette smoke can lower our ability to fight illness. Okay, let's take a look at the most common indoor pollutants that may be making us sick.

The most common indoor pollutants


Cigarette Smoke. What are some of these chemicals and their effect? Let's start with ammonia, arsenic, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and benzene and of course nicotine (sound like we're standing behind a bus?). These are just a handful of the more well- known toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke in the form of gases along with radioactive compounds (read on because these chemicals are found in the pollutants below). Threat? Cancer for smokers and non-smokers alike to start. Emphysema a deadly painful disease is another example of what can happen to smokers.
Paints and coatings. Major sources of man-made VOCs are solvents, especially paints and protective coatings. Solvents are required to spread a protective or decorative film. Is it worth our health?

Air Fresheners, mothball crystals, oven cleaner, to name a few. Two common household cleaners that emit fumes and are toxic are bleach and ammonia. Threat: Cancer.

Aerosol sprays can cause irregular breathing and irritate airway passages in some of us.

Dry Cleaning Fluid Fumes left on clothing. Threat: possible nervous disorders, liver and kidney damage.

Faulty Woodstoves, Furnaces, Invented Gas Stoves and Kerosene Heaters. Threat: Headaches, irregular heartbeat, lung cancer.

New Carpets, Furniture stuffing, Paneling, Vinyl Ceiling and Floor Tiles. These contain chemicals from formaldehyde in new synthetic carpets to other chemicals emitted from glues. They can cause the most common immediate side effects, to the more serious diseases in those of us who are occupationally exposed. New synthetic carpets release vapors from more than 100 volatile organic compounds.
Pesticides and Bug Sprays. Let's try to use natural sprays and methods around children and pets, and ventilate (My Pesticide tip posted now under my health page).

Radon, a toxic pollutant that is a major cause for lung cancer in non-smokers. Radon is odorless and is emitted into homes from soil and rock in and under the foundation. See below to obtain more info.

PBDEs, I myself have never heard of this one, but these hormone disruptors, a possible risk for increasing breast cancer risk are found in household dust released from the casings, of personal computers, TV sets, upholstery, and carpets. Before we go crazy dusting after reading this, let's remember that all cancers have multi-faceted contributions. I included a link below to read more about these and other environmental estrogens that may increase our risk particularly for breast cancer.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), refers to compounds which have significant vapor pressure and which can affect the environment and human health. Let's note that since people today spend most of their time at home or in an office, long-term exposure to VOCs in the indoor environment over time can contribute to sick building syndrome, a condition that causes an increase in respiratory conditions. These can occur over years with repetitive toxic chemicals used even in small amounts if proper ventilation is not used.

What can we do? Let's

Stop Smoking. Save a life, yours and someone around you. The single highest mortality from all diseases globally according to the World Health Organization is due to cigarette smoking. This includes deaths from cancer, cardiovascular, and respiratory diseases.

Become Aware. Let's become more aware of our exposure to synthetic chemicals and reduce using them whenever possible (example: let's use oven cleaner only 1-2x per year and clean oven immediately after each use with a natural scouring cleaner such as baking soda). Let's READ LABELS so we use all products safely. Let's only use natural products around our infants, and young children (and our small furry friends too) who are more susceptible than us adults. Never Mix. Never mix any substances without reading labels (never mix bleach and ammonia with any other cleaners because very toxic chemicals are formed).

Reduce Exposure. Let's use these chemicals in the smallest amounts possible and let's ventilate the area. When painting or using other such chemicals for any extended period of time, we might consider using a face- mask to reduce our inhalation. We can remove our dry -cleaning plastic bags and ventilate our clothing before hanging them in our closet or wearing them. We can even remove our shoes before entering our homes (This reduces dust, pesticides, and other chemicals that can become imbedded in our carpets, etc.)

Go Natural. Let's opt for organic methods when possible (We can try to use more products that guarantee use of organic material; let's use vinegar and water for window cleaning in the baby's room for example). Let's find a certified organic gardener or use organic materials in our garden and on our lawns.

http://www.indianasnewscenter.com/news/local/Weather--Your-Health-Migraines-126848608.html

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