HAPPY EARTH DAY EVERYONE! Today is a day to get outside and enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer us—not that you shouldn’t do this every day! We should also use this day to recognize some of the things that have become a part of our everyday life that we should watch out for. We rounded up the best tips on what you can do and what you should avoid to celebrate Earth Day this year.
I. WHAT YOU CAN DO:
In addition to being aware of exposure to these chemicals, there are a few things that you can do to help reduce your risk and protect the planet.
- Cut down on personal care products, and use the Think Dirty app to find safe alternatives:
When it comes to personal care products, simple is best. Decrease your exposure to toxic chemicals in cosmetics by using fewer products and choosing those with simpler ingredients. What you put on your skin can end up down the drain, entering rivers and streams, and disrupt ecosystems. For products you can’t live without, find a safe alternative using Think Dirty. The app, which contains a database of more than 94,000 personal care products (with more added every day!), will give you easy-to-understand info about products, ingredients, and cleaner options.
- Find safe ways to fight germs:
These days it seems like everything claims to be antibacterial—soaps, toothpaste, clothing, bedding, band-aids, toys, cutting boards—you name it. Chances are, these products contain triclosan, an antimicrobial agent that is suspected of interfering with the hormone systems of humans and wildlife. There’s no evidence that triclosan is more effective than soap and water, so trade in the toxics for some good, old-fashioned elbow grease.
- Go fresh, organic and hormone-free:
When possible, choose organic foods and hormone-free meat and dairy. Buying products grown organically reduces pesticide use, which is good for families, farmworkers, and the environment.
- Dispose batteries, electronics and light bulbs properly:
When trashed, these items, which all contain chemicals linked to breast cancer and other health concerns, end up in landfills. From there, chemicals like cadmium and mercury can leach into soil, lakes and streams. What to do? Look for special battery or electronics recycling/disposal centers in your community, return compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) to your local hardware store and return electronics to returning them to the store or manufacturer.
- Reduce your carbon footprint by walking, biking or taking public transportation:
This also helps reduce exposures to other components of exhaust linked to breast cancer, because car exhaust releases carcinogens known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (known as PAHs). If you’re in the market for a car, choose a clean, fuel-efficient vehicle using the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide.
II. WHAT TO AVOID:
Nothing’s more fundamental to life than air and water and unfortunately, both can contain chemicals that are harmful to us. When it comes to the air we breathe, it’s not just our lungs that are in danger. Air pollutants account for 35 of the 216 chemicals associated with increases in mammary gland tumors in animals. There is widespread exposure to many of these chemicals in the air we breathe outside, as well as in our offices, homes, restaurants and schools.
Although that sounds scary, it’s important to note that most of the air pollutants are from just a few sources: primary and secondhand tobacco smoke, diesel exhaust and specific occupational exposures.
Chemicals related to breast cancer also make their way into lakes, streams and groundwater systems. Of particular concern are pesticides from agricultural and home use, dioxins and pharmaceutical hormones that make their way down household drains.
What can YOU do to make a difference with chemicals in our environment? Pick up the phone and call your senator to ask the support the EPA’s Clean Power Plan—Protect Our Winter’s Phone It In campaign makes it easy with all the info you need!
HYDRAULIC FRACTURING (FRACKING)
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, is a process used to increase production in oil and natural gas wells. More recently, fracking has been used in combination with horizontal drilling through shale layers to reach natural gas reserves that were previously not easily accessed. Large quantities of water and other fluids are pumped into the ground at high pressure, which causes rock to break and allows gas to be extracted. Fracking fluids can contain chemicals linked to breast cancer, including known and suspected carcinogens such as benzene andtoluene, and endocrine-disrupting compounds such as the phthalate DEHP. Evidence is beginning to emerge that these chemicals may contaminate underground water sources. Researchers have also found that ground and surface water near fracking sites has more endocrine disrupting activity than water from other locations. In addition, waste water containing fracking fluids, bromine salts (which interfere with wastewater treatment), minerals and radioactivity from deep in the earth flows back out of wells and must be stored and disposed of safely. There have been a number of spills of fracking waste water, and underground storage of this waste has been implicated in the increased incidence of earthquakes around some storage wells. A summary of the chemicals used in fracking can be found here.
Dioxin is formed when chlorine breaks down, and can be found in both water and air. Dioxins are known human carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. One dioxin has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a known human carcinogen.
ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS FROM WASTE WATER
Small amounts of hormones from medications like hormone-replacement therapy and oral contraceptives can make their way from people’s bodies into municipal wastewater systems. Similarly, hormone-disrupting compounds from personal care products also go down household drains. These chemicals are not fully removed during water treatment processes, and end up in household tap water and water used to irrigate lawns and gardens.
Organic solvents are a class of chemicals that includes chlorinated and other solvents, including toluene, methylene chloride, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde. Sources of exposure include outdoor and indoor air pollution, waste incineration, cleaning products and some cosmetics. They are also used in the manufacture of computer parts.
Many pesticides, including herbicides and other pest-killing poisons, have been labeled as human or animal carcinogens. A 2006 report demonstrated that lifetime use of residential pesticides may be associated with an increase in risk for breast cancer. Studies have found that many of these chemicals are present in water supplies, as well as in samples of air and dust from homes.
DDT was widely used in the United States as a pesticide in agriculture and insect control until it was banned in 1972. DDT and its breakdown product, DDE, persist in the environment, in the food chain and in the human body. The main source of human exposure is through consumption of meat, fish and dairy products. The pesticide is still used in some countries to control mosquitoes. Recent studies show that women exposed to DDT during childhood and early adolescence have an increased risk of developing breast cancer.
LIGHT AT NIGHT(LAN)
Exposure to light-at-night (LAN), such as that experienced by night-shift workers and flight attendants, lowers levels of melatonin, a hormone that appears to have anti-cancer properties. Research suggests a link between night-shift work and increased risk of breast cancer, possibly through this melatonin-LAN pathway.
Electromagnetic waves are a type of non-ionizing radiation. They are produced by cell phones, wireless networking, radio towers, computers and electric lighting. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified electromagnetic fields as possible human carcinogens; but consensus has been difficult to reach.
Tobacco smoke contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PAHs), which may explain a potential link between increased breast cancer risk and both active and passive smoke inhalation. Tobacco smoke contains hundreds of other chemicals, including three known human carcinogens. A recent study found that both active and passive smoke inhalation increase the risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women.
Breast Cancer Fund