BENGALURU: Instead of looking after our environment, humans are polluting and destroying it. The main causes for the destruction of the environment are the air, water and food contaminants that consist of various classes of chemicals and toxic metals. The classes of chemicals are highly fluorinated chemicals, anti-microbial, phthalates and bisphenols, flame-retardants and some solvents.
There are metals that exist in our environment that are toxic to human bodies in varied concentrations. The main metals that are toxic to humans are mercury, arsenic, lead and cadmium. Mercury is mainly found in tuna, imported face creams, silver-coloured dental fillings, thermometers, barometers and fluorescent lights. Arsenic is mainly found in rice products like infant cereal, pressure-treated wood, some drinking water sources and cigarettes. Lead is primarily found in paints, plumbing, dishware, cookware, toys and recycled vinyl products. Cadmium is primarily found in cigarette smoke, (shellfish, leafy vegetables, potatoes, grains, legumes), rechargeable batteries, metal plating and solder.
These metals cannot be broken down, leading to their accumulation in the environment. The accumulation of methylmercury in fish has led to a decrease in the population rates of some fish-eating birds and continues to do so. Arsenic can harm aquatic organisms and reduce crop yields. Cadmium accumulates in plants, affecting the diet of herbivorous animals. Elevated levels of lead in the environment can lead to decreased growth and reproduction rates of plants and animals as well as neurological effects in vertebrates.
Eating a well-balanced diet with adequate calcium, iron and vitamin C will help reduce the amount of lead and cadmium the body absorbs. Exposure to mercury can be reduced by using LED bulbs over CFL ones, avoiding fish that are high in mercury and properly cleaning up broken thermometers.
Highly fluorinated chemicals
The element Fluorine [F] is a gas found in trace quantities in the food and water we ingest daily and is also added to toothpaste. In trace quantities, fluorine is good for our bodies as it helps to maintain the solidity of our bones and protect from tooth decay.
The main sources that expose us to fluorine are industries, chemicals used to make cookware non-stick and chemicals used to make fabrics, water and stain resistant. The high amounts of fluorine released by industries leach off into the soil and water, these are absorbed by crops grown in the soil and is also ingested by animals that eat these crops.
Due to heavy usage of products like these the amounts of fluorine in our body and our atmosphere has increased exponentially causing dire problems for us. One of the problems is the ozone layer in our atmosphere is thinning and has become non-existent is some areas (like above Antarctica). This is one of the environmental problems that excess fluorine causes.
There are various steps that can be taken by us to reduce the amount of fluorine our bodies are exposed to. One of them is to stop using non-stick utensils as these are coated with fluorine-rich polymers which emit fluorine into the food we eat when cooked in these utensils. Another step is to start using completely natural products that we use for our bodies like toothpaste which contain large amounts of fluorine.
These are a class of chemicals that are used to kill or inhibit the growth of microbes. These are also known as anti-bacterials (or) biocides. These consist of chemicals like triclosan and triclocarban, nanosilver and quaternary ammonium salts (quats) such as benzalkonium chloride. These chemicals are usually found in personal care products, hand soaps, paints etc.
These chemicals have negative effects on the human body like hormone disruption, allergen sensitivity, harming good gut bacteria, asthma and dermatitis. These class of chemicals also persist in the soil and water bodies making it toxic to marine life.
Reducing our exposure to these chemicals as much as possible is the only step that can be taken to reduce the effects of these chemicals on our bodies
Appropriate steps must be taken to reduce the amount of pollution occurring to our environment and our health, to hope that we continue to survive as a species on this planet. An environment free of such chemicals can not only ensure our health but also a greener earth. After all, we have only one planet earth, if we don’t take care of it, then who will?
The author is the co-founder, The Green Foundation India (thegreenfoundationindia.wordpess.com)