If you live in the U.S. or some other country with strong rules for clean air and water, the most polluted places in the world seem far away. It’s likely your neighbors don’t have radiation poisoning or barrels of pesticide festering in the backyard.
But those in low- and middle-income countries are not so fortunate. They bear the brunt of almost all the cancers, disease and other afflictions caused by pollution. Children are especially vulnerable.
Every day, the ocean serves up a chance for us to change our ways.
That dawned on me when I was walking on the beach in south Florida and noticed, glinting from the sand, the corner of a clear plastic bag. Picking it up, it snapped in the wind and I saw it was still intact. After that, I couldn’t help but use it to collect other stuff left in the wake of the tide: bottle caps and straws, spoons and forks, hair clips and cup lids, and many, many plastic scraps.
I was walking with my friend when she told me her dog, Rita, was having a terrible time with allergies. Nothing—from pricey prescription dog food to medicated soap—made any difference. As she was talking, I thought of a Green Living Meetup I had just attended, the topic: “Ways of Reducing Chemicals in Your Home”. Something I learned there just might help.
I had never been to a Meetup before. When I arrived a little early on that rainy Saturday afternoon, the room in the public library was already half full of a diverse assortment of adults, plus a few babies. Our smiling hosts, Sara and Todd, sat on a table up front next to an array of boxes, bottles and bags.
Sara spoke first, explaining how the human body fights off infection and rids itself of harmful chemicals. Toxins are carried off in secretions such as sweat and mucus, or filtered by the kidneys, liver and other organs. Allergies and chemical sensitivity happen, she claimed, when those mechanisms are overwhelmed. The wafts from a fresh coat of paint or new printer could be the last straw to break the back of the body’s natural defenses.
Promising he’d have good news later, Todd launched into a litany of scary environmental data. A long-range study by the EPA detected 900 chemicals in the air of the average government office building. Indoor air can be ten times more polluted than the air outdoors. Houses, especially new ones, can harbor a host of noxious compounds. Throat-cancer-causing formaldehyde, for instance, may hide in your shampoo, your tissues, your carpet, and the no-iron clothes you wear. Continue reading →