Tag Archives: harmful chemicals

The Importance Of Using A Water Filter

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I’ve noticed something odd with a lot of people that I know: they drink filtered water yet cook with regular tap water.

Some people are under the impression that boiling water gets rid of heavy metals and other harmful chemicals. Others don’t even realize that there are harmful chemicals in their tap water in the first place. They think that the sole purpose of a water filter is to remove bacteria and other microorganisms.

Yes, boiling your water will kill microorganisms that can make you sick. But you cannot kill heavy metals or other toxic chemicals with heat. If anything, heating chemicals only makes them more reactive which increases the chances of turning them into a more harmful compound. Boiling water also releases those chemicals into your home by vaporizing them, which you then inhale. The only way to remove toxic chemicals from your tap water is with a filter or distillation system.

In an ideal world, the only chemical compound in your tap water would be H2O. But unfortunately tap water is treated with chlorine to kill illness-causing microorganisms and can also be contaminated with pesticides, lead and copper (in older homes that still have lead and copper pipes). Chlorine can react with organic matter in water to form disinfection by-products (DBP’s) such as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, which have been linked to cancer2 It is not the chlorine itself that is the problem, but the DBP’s.

I’m not saying that municipalities shouldn’t chlorinate water. I am grateful to be living in a developed country where I do not have to worry about access to safe drinking water. If it comes down to a choice between having chlorine in my water or E. Coli, I’ll take the chlorine. However, with today’s technology we can have water with neither. With the variety of water filters in the market today we can easily remove chlorine and other chemical contaminants to ensure we are drinking the purest water possible. DBP’s may not pose an immediate risk to our health in the same way illness-causing microorganisms do, but the damage caused by long-term low level exposure should not be ignored.

This is especially important when mixing baby formula with water and making baby food. Babies are more susceptible to the harmful effects of toxic chemicals in water due to their small body size and the fact that they are growing and developing so rapidly. Pregnant women should only drink filtered water since exposure to certain DBP’s during pregnancy has been found to be correlated with genomic damage which in turn raises cancer risk3.

Chemical contaminants in your water can cause reproductive problems and cancer over time 4. If you don’t have an under-the-sink filtration system, a filter jug or countertop filter
will work just fine. It is definitely more tedious to keep refilling a filter jug in order to get enough water to fill a pot for cooking; but wouldn’t you rather put in the extra effort than eat food that has absorbed chlorine and it’s carcinogenic by-products during cooking?

If you really want to limit your long-term exposure to chlorine and DBP’s, consider investing in a shower filter. People absorb more trihalomethanes (a DBP) through showering than other methods of exposure1. The vaporized chemicals also disperse throughout the rest of your home, contributing to indoor air pollution.

Remember that although the risk of getting cancer from your tap water is small, it is still a risk and combined with all of the other “small” risks in your daily life it can add up to a much bigger risk. The cumulative effect of all of these small risks is the bigger concern. And as always, the toxic effects are worse in children because their bodies and brains are still developing. That’s why it is so important to protect yourselves and your children by minimizing as many of these seemingly small risks as possible.

References:

1. Backer LC1, Ashley DL, Bonin MA, Cardinali FL, Kieszak SM, Wooten JV. Household exposures to drinking water disinfection by-products: whole blood trihalomethane levels. J Expo Anal Environ Epidemiol. 2000 Jul-Aug;10(4):321-6.

2. “Chlorinated Water”. Canadian Cancer Society. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

3. Stayner, Leslie Thomas; Pedersen, Marie; Patelarou, Evridiki; Decordier, Ilse; Vande Loock, Kim; Chatzi, Leda; Espinosa, Ana; Fthenou, Eleni; Nieuwenhuijsen, Mark J.; Gracia-Lavedan, Esther; Stephanou, Euripides G.; Kirsch-Volders, Micheline; Kogevinas, Manolis. Exposure to Brominated Trihalomethanes in Water During Pregnancy and Micronuclei Frequency in Maternal and Cord Blood Lymphocytes. Environmental Health Perspectives. Jan2014, Vol. 122 Issue 1, p100-106. 7p. 3 Charts. DOI: 10.1289/ehp.1206434

4. “The Water We Drink AN INTERNATIONAL COMPARISON OF DRINKING W ATER QUALITY STANDARDS AND GUIDELINES.” David Suzuki Foundation. 1 Nov. 2006. Web.

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Epigenetics 101: How Our Environment Affects Our Genes

Although your DNA is inherited from your parents, the environment still plays a major role in determining which genes are activated and when. Harmful chemicals in the environment can throw a wrench in your body’s genetic game plan.

(Why you should watch what you eat and expose yourself to on a daily basis )

DNA cartoon edited                                                                            IMG_3758.JPG

How do the wrong chemicals end up in your body in the first place?

1. Diet. Ingesting food or beverages containing harmful chemicals.

2. Exposure to harmful chemicals in the environment, either through inhalation or skin absorption.

Once these chemicals have entered your body, they can alter your genes in a few different ways:

1. Directly mutate a gene. This can result in an alteration of the gene’s function, complete loss of function, or no effect at all depending on the type and location of the mutation. All cells in our bodies have DNA repair mechanisms to identify and “fix” damaged or mutated DNA, however the efficiency of this mechanism varies from person to person. Just as some people have stronger immune systems and don’t get sick as often as others, some individuals have better DNA repair mechanisms and thus their bodies can handle more mutation-causing chemicals.

2. Act directly on a gene to turn it on or off. Chemicals can bind to genes in ways that can either activate or deactivate them.

3. Act on a regulatory gene that then turns another gene on or off. Many genes are part of pathways in which one gene’s product activates the next gene in the pathway and so on and so on.

Most of our DNA does not code for anything. Some genes code for proteins or RNA molecules that have some sort of perpetual function in the body. Other genes are only needed during development and are thus only turned “on” when appropriate. Certain toxic chemicals that enter our bodies can activate or deactivate genes at incorrect times. This is why exposure to chemicals is even more harmful during pregnancy. As the fetus develops, different gene pathways are turned on and off at key stages of development to ensure every part is formed correctly. Interference of the wrong chemicals (through exposure to toxins or extreme stress) or absence of the right chemicals (due to nutritional deficiencies or stress) could sabotage a certain stage of development resulting in a birth defect. There are even some genes that are only activated by extreme conditions (ex. during starvation of the body) as a survival mechanism.

Some people, although few, are lucky enough to have “good genes”. Their DNA codes for strong immune systems and highly efficient DNA repair systems. They can throw caution to the wind regarding their lifestyle choices yet still make it to old age with their health intact. However, for the majority of us, a good diet and conscientious lifestyle choices are our best shot at living out our retirement days disease-free and with our wits intact. Even those with “bad genes” (those genetically predisposed to illnesses), can change their fate by being extra conscientious of their surroundings, and of what they put both on and in their bodies.

Need vs. Want: 5 things we could live without

Many of the harmful chemicals that we expose ourselves to on a regular basis can easily be avoided. We don’t need a lot of products that contain hazardous synthetic chemicals, we just think we do. The following is a list of some avoidable, yet common products that contain chemicals which are hazardous to our health.

1. Artificial food coloring. Food dyes have been linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in numerous studies and although they are not the only cause of ADHD, they definitely have a negative impact on most children with the disorder (Stevens et al. 2011) Food coloring has also been speculated to be linked to cancer but there is no solid evidence to support this theory yet. So why do people keep buying food with added colors? You don’t need your cheddar cheese products to be yellow or your juice to be bright red. There’s nothing wrong with eating pale food. It’s providing your body with nourishment, not being entered into a beauty contest.

2. Cosmetics. Now even if you are entering a beauty pageant, you still don’t need conventional beauty products. Many of them contain carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (David Suzuki Foundation, 2010). Going makeup-free would be the safest bet, but I’d be a hypocrite if I advocated that. Luckily, there are plenty of safer, more natural alternatives out there these days for us beauty-obsessed, media-brainwashed gals.

3. Fragrance. Chemicals used in fragrances have been found to worsen both allergy and asthma symptoms, and could even possibly cause asthma in kids (David Suzuki Foundation, 2010). For these reasons, hospitals as well as an increasing number of schools are becoming “scent free zones”. So how else can people ensure that they smell good? Take a shower. Wear clean clothing. Use deodorant. It’s simple, really.

4. Dryer Sheets/Fabric softener. They make your clothes smell good and keep static at bay. They also potentially cause cancer (CBS NEWS, 2011). Use dryer balls instead.

5. Antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. What is the difference between regular soap and antibacterial soap? A chemical called triclosan. Does this chemical make a difference? According to this study, NO! Not only does it not make a difference in the amount of bacteria left on your hands but it also creates antibiotic-resistant strains. And it may be an endocrine disruptor (David Suzuki Foundation, 2010). Yet it’s still on the market. Way to go Health Canada and FDA…

References

1. Aiello, A. E., Larson, E. L., Levy S.B. (2007). Consumer Antibacterial Soaps: Effective Or Just Risky?. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 45, 137-47.
DOI: 10.1086/519255

2. David Suzuki Foundation. (2010).
THE “DIRTY DOZEN” INGREDIENTS INVESTIGATED IN THE DAVID SUZUKI FOUNDATION SURVEY OF CHEMICALS IN COSMETICS. Retrieved from http://www.davidsuzuki.org/issues/downloads/Dirty-dozen-backgrounder.pdf

3. Jaslow, R. (2011, August 26). Scented laundry products release carcinogens, study finds. CBS NEWS. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/scented-laundry-products-release-carcinogens-study-finds/

4. Stevens LJ, Kuczek T, Burgess JR, Hurt E, Arnold LE. (April 2011). Dietary sensitivities and ADHD symptoms: thirty-five years of research. Clinical Pediatrics (Philadelphia), volume 50, issue 4, pages 279-293.
doi: 10.1177/0009922810384728.