Help Reduce Your Toxic Burden: Tips from the President’s Cancer Panel

Last week I told you about a new report just released by the President’s Cancer Panel—a panel of experts created in 1971 to keep the president informed about the activities of the National Cancer Program. It’s a 200-page report that warns about the dangers of environmental pollution on the nation’s health and urges government to take a stronger position on the regulation of these chemicals in our environment.

In an effort to determine the effects of environmental toxins on our health, the PCP report reviews the dangers of exposure to industrial chemicals that persist in the environment (like PCBs), as well as insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers; heavy metals such as mercury and arsenic; air pollution; tobacco smoke; contaminated drinking water (including pharmaceutical drug contamination); electromagnetic waves (think cell phones); UV radiation; and even military chemical exposure. What’s more, it gives recommendations to help reduce our exposure to these harmful toxins. Here are some of the highlights:

  • “Parents and child care providers should choose foods, house and garden products, play spaces, toys, medicines, and medical tests that will minimize children’s exposure to toxics. 
  • Both mothers and fathers should avoid exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals [such as BPA] and known or suspected carcinogens prior to a child’s conception and throughout pregnancy and early life, when the risk of damage is greatest. 
  • Family exposure to numerous occupational chemicals can be reduced by removing shoes before entering the home and washing work clothes separately from other family laundry.
  • Filtering home tap or well water can decrease exposure to numerous known or suspected carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals.  Unless the home water source is known to be contaminated, it is better to use filtered tap water instead of commercially bottled water. 
  • Storing and carrying water in stainless steel, glass, or BPA-free and phthalate-free containers will reduce exposure to endocrine-disrupting and other chemicals that may leach into water from plastics. Similarly, microwaving in ceramic or glass instead of plastic containers will reduce exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals that may leach into food when containers are heated. 
  • Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers and washing conventionally grown produce to remove residues.
  • Exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones and toxic runoff from livestock feed lots can be minimized by eating free-range meat.
  • Avoiding or minimizing consumption of processed, charred, and well-done meats will reduce exposure to carcinogens.
  • Individuals can choose products made with non-toxic substances or environmentally safe chemicals.
  • Reducing or ceasing landscaping pesticide and fertilizer use will keep these chemicals from contaminating drinking water supplies.” 

Though all of this information at once may seem a little alarming, I can’t stress enough how important it is that the danger of toxin exposure is finally receiving the attention it should. My hope now is that more people will take responsibility for their health—and the health of our planet—by taking steps to reduce toxins in their daily lives.

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