What's in YOUR Drinking Water?

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We are made of 70% water. So what happens when our main sources of water are polluted with harmful chemicals? Long Island water can be affected by chemical plumes from a variety of sources.

From litter that gets pulled into the oceans, to soaps being poured on the streets, or pesticides used on farms, there is a wide variety of chemicals that can affect us. Long Island water in particular gets its' drinking water from underground water sources called aquifers. Because we get our water from the ground, we are highly susceptible to chemicals that have been dumped on the ground.

The even scarier part is that although the chemicals found in our drinking water have been proven to have harmful effects, they are still allowed to a certain extent. One of these chemicals is chromium-6. This chemical is often a product of industrial processes. It is a cancer causing chemical that can cause reproductive and liver problems from low exposures. It is monitored by the EPA and allowed in low quantities but these low quantities may still be too much. You can be exposed to it by breathing it in, ingesting it through food and water and EVEN THROUGH CONTACT WITH YOUR SKIN. And it is found in 90% of water samples on long island. If we are drinking these chemicals everyday, how safe can they really be?

In very low levels of .02 parts per billion it causes cancer in one out of one million people. And when raised slightly higher to 10 parts per billion it caused cancer in 500 out of a million people. Long Island water has .4 parts per billion on average. And it doesn't just affect Long Island. It has contaminated 200 million people's water sources throughout the US.

So, although your water may be clear, it doesn’t mean there is nothing in there. That is why it is important to avoid daily exposures as much as possible. Instead of stopping drinking tap water all together, you can avoid these chemicals by using effective water filters such as reverse osmosis filters. Because everyone’s water could be polluted with differing amounts of chemicals, you can use sources such as EWG’s national tap water database and water filter guide to help find what filter would be best for you.

By Sara Frawley

Source: https://patch.com/new-york/commack/cancer-causing-chromium-6-found-1-247-1-417-long-island-drinking-water-samples

Resources: https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/#.Wav7Xq2ZN-U  

https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/water-filter-guide.php#.Wav7k62ZN-U

Poisonous Pregnancy

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It used to be thought that the womb was an impenetrable shield made for protecting babies, however it is actually susceptible to many chemicals that mothers use on a daily basis. In a time where we are exposed to 5,000-30,000 more chemicals than our grandparents, it is very important to be conscious of what these chemicals can do.

We often chose our products because they smell good or are vibrantly colored, however it is important to consider what is actually inside of them- especially because we cover ourselves with them everyday. While it is important to always be aware of what your are exposing yourself to, it is especially important to stay aware when you are pregnant. This is because fetuses are highly sensitive to much smaller amounts of chemicals, as they are at a point in their lives known as a window of susceptibility. So, even though you as a mother may not be facing any adverse reactions or changes, your baby could be.

Many of the chemicals in our personal care products are endocrine disruptors. This means they mimic natural hormones in our body, disrupting our hormone system. Hormones are chemical signals that are sent around our body. Imagine how detrimental this can be to a fetus who is only beginning to develop!? They could be receiving the wrong signals.  

These chemicals are so common because they are often used to scent, color, or preserve a product. If you look at the label on a product you might see many strange words such as triclosan, parabens, sulfates, or  triethanolamine. These are easy to glance over because we don’t hear them everyday. But, we do use them everyday. From deodorant to shampoo, they are easily hidden in many products. Luckily by switching your personal products for more natural products, you can help your health in the long run.

By using natural, paraben free, sulfate free, and fragrance free products, you can help to make the right decisions for you and your child during a time when they are very susceptible. Even if you aren’t pregnant right now, it is important to keep this message in mind because prevention is an easy cure for everyone.

By Sara Frawley

Transgender Frogs

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What would you do if you were a boy that started to grow eggs in your testes? This probably sounds strange, but this is happening to frogs that are exposed to one of the most widely used herbicide, Atrazine.

Pesticides and herbicides are full of chemicals made to kill certain things- whether it be plants or bugs. If they’re able to kill weeds, imagine what they could be doing to us. Pesticides and herbicides can run off from farms into nearby streams and rivers and end up in our water. In fact, you've probably been exposed to this chemical when eating, drinking water, or even playing sports. Atrazine is often used for killing weeds and is even found on turf. It is so widely used in the United States, that it is the most commonly found pesticide found in drinking water.

Atrazine is very harmful because it is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it disrupts the hormones in your body which send signals to your cells. This finding that atrazine can change frogs' genders is so significant because frogs are an indicator species. They indicate the true effects that a chemical can have in high amounts. So if frogs are suddenly growing eggs in their testes, imagine what this could be doing to humans.

In humans, Atrazine causes hormonal disruption, harmful effects on the reproductive system, and is linked to an increased risk of breast and prostate cancer. Also, even though Atrazine is so widely used, recent analysis prove that they are not that significant in maintaining plant growth and would result in less than 1% of yield losses. So, is that extra 1% worth our health?

Clearly, Atrazine causes harmful changes, but luckily it can be easy to avoid. Buying Organic products and supporting local farmers ensures your own health and allows organic farmers to continue farming naturally. Also, you don’t need to buy all your foods organic. Some foods such as EWG's Clean 15, are less susceptible pesticides. Even if you can’t buy everything organic, even the smallest changes can have a great impact.

By Sara Frawley

 

Cautious Carnivore

The happy life of my thirteen year old brother, living on a western diet, filled with hamburgers, ham sandwiches, steaks, and video games. We call him the family carnivore.

So of course when I came home after reading research about how a high fat diet full of red meat is linked to breast cancer, I made sure to tell him- and he wasn’t exactly happy. On top of making him switch his shampoos, I was now telling him to limit his favorite foods. This proved to be an great lesson for me on how important sharing information is. Although he perfectly fit the criteria for greatest risk, due to being in puberty and not being obese despite his diet, he still didn’t want to listen to me. However, after telling him about the research he was slightly more convinced.

A high fat diet with fats from red meat has been shown to cause cancer, especially when combined with the timing of puberty. Puberty is a window of susceptibility where because our body is growing so quickly, we are more susceptible to endocrine disrupting compounds. A high fat diet, for example, contains endocrine disrupting compounds because fats in red meat mimic the natural hormones progesterone and estrogen. These two hormones are produced during, and help control, puberty. A disruption in these hormones can have many harmful effects in the long run, including breast cancer.

Even if you are not gaining a significant amount of weight from the fat, you might not be in the clear. Research has shown that high fat diets are more harmful for people that are NOT obese. So, even if you eat a high fat diet and don’t gain a lot of weight from it, you should still consider limiting the amount of fat from red meat that you consume.

While there may still be important nutrients in red meat, it may be wiser to eat it in moderation. After I shared all this information with my brother, although reluctant, he agreed to lower the amount of red meat he eats. In no way, does this mean a diet, but instead a healthy replacement that anyone can easily make. Simply by replacing red meat with chicken, legumes, nuts, and fish, you can lower your risk for breast cancer significantly and greatly increase your overall health in the long run.

By Sara Frawley

Ocean Commotion

Even though you're not a fish, ocean pollution could still be affecting you.

Ocean pollution encompasses purposeful and accidental pollution of plastics and even harmful byproducts of factories. So, how is this affecting you? We are exposed to many harmful toxins primarily by eating fish and seafood but also by swimming at beaches.

So, you may be wondering where these harmful toxins come from in the first place. They can enter the water as an unwanted byproduct of incineration processes in factories which release chemicals such as Dioxins. They can also enter when plastic litter breaks down, releasing Phthalates and BPA throughout the water. With the large amount of plastic in the ocean, you can only imagine how many toxins are released. Today the ocean  is filled with plastics to the point where we have actual islands made of plastics that are filled with millions of pieces of plastic.

When pollutants enter the ocean they break down over time, and although that plastic bag could breakdown, the fat-soluble toxins remain in the water until they are eaten. The food chain can be something like this: 1) krill and plankton consume the toxin 2) a small herring eats the plankton 3) salmon eats herring 4)orca whale eats salmon. Although the plankton eat the toxins first, bigger fish are exposed to more toxins because they eat more. So, being at the top of the food chain, it is important to limit weekly fish intake depending on fish size.

Although it might be hard to change every aspect of your life to avoid these compounds, you can change a few small things to help both the environment and your health. 
A few ways are by limiting your use of plastics, recycling, helping with beach clean ups, and reducing your weekly intake of fish and seafood.

By Sara Frawley

Sources: http://marinebio.org/oceans/ocean-dumping/

https://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/plastics.html

 

Simple Switch

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Even the smallest changes can make us better. In a world full of chemicals, switching even one aspect of your life can help you avoid so many problems in the long run.

I used to always think that all you had to do to be healthy was eat healthy. However, when I joined the HBCAC’s Students and Scientists Environmental Research Scholarship Program, I learned that even if you are eating all the fruits and vegetables in the world, you can still be exposed to unhealthy and sometimes toxic substances. We are exposed to toxins when pesticides containing endocrine disrupting compounds are used to spray the food we eat. These same chemicals and more are also  found in our water supply because they get polluted onto our streets and end up in our community’s underground aquifers. Something as simple as following the daily recommendation of drinking eight glasses of water a day could also be hurting you by exposing you to endocrine disrupting chemicals such as chromium 6 and 1,4 dioxane. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not telling you not to drink water- instead consider a good water filter to avoid these.

When I learned this information I became aware of how often I was being exposed to these chemicals and was eager to make the switch. I started checking the numbers on my fruit to see if it is GMO, covered in pesticides, or organic. Using resources such as ewg.org, I was able to make the switch to organic foods easily. I then went further and looked into a safer water filter after I learned that little things such as living by a laundromat increased my chances of exposure to chemicals in my water. This information also began to make sense. Many of the people around me who did everything they could to be healthy were being diagnosed with all sorts of cancers and autoimmune diseases. Of course there are genetic factors, but to me, environmental factors are just as important. This information explains the underlying link as to why some of the most health conscious people I knew were facing so many health problems.

And that is why I love HBCAC’s Prevention is the Cure program. They gave me the knowledge and the ability to share this key information with others. I was able to switch my foods, water, and even personal care products for the better and help others to do the same. Because as I’ve learned- it’s much easier to prevent than to cure.

By Sara Frawley

My Hazardous Morning Routine

If i were to ask you right now- what are the ingredients in all your personal care products- how many would you actually be able to pronounce correctly or even spend the time listing?

The world of the shower is filled with brightly colored, multi scented, creamy products that we have come to favor for a variety of reasons. Maybe our parents purchased something for us when we were little or maybe we just picked this product randomly because of the packaging. Either way, a majority of these products sit on our shelves for months without question or consideration to the words in fine print-the label.

And as we begin our morning or end the day, we fill the pores of our largest organ, our skin, with new and strange chemicals to feel cleaner. We have perfected and memorized our morning routines to a tee without second guessing our favorite and most trusted products.

I don't know about you but my morning routine goes something like this.

Wake up, brush teeth (1), open shower curtain(2), turn on water(3), use shampoo(4), use conditioner(5), clean myself with shower gels or scented soaps(6), shave(7),and maybe even nick ourselves by accident, use more hair products(8), moisturize(10), do makeup (11), and finally spray our favorite scent so we can smell nice the whole day(12).

Each of these numbers counts the times I may have exposed myself to multiple endocrine disrupting chemicals.


My “most trusted products” and favorite scents may not be so trustworthy after all. Many of these products contain chemicals that can disrupt our natural hormone systems. That floral fruity smelling scent could be giving me new allergies and disrupting my hormone system, predisposing myself for a variety of diseases. Fragrance, a seemingly simple word is code for up to 3,100 chemicals that most likely have not been tested for safety. And that lotion that never seems to run out is probably packed with parabens, estrogen mimicking chemicals, to preserve it. These strange words that cover our products in fine print often going unquestioned are the things we need to focus on. Consider these words as if they were the name of your product. Because switching to a product that does the same job but is fragrance-free, sulfate-free, or paraben-free can make all the difference.

By: Sara Frawley

Reasonable Recipe

Do what you can. It’s always better than doing nothing.

I dream of the day there is a single “chemical-laden” aisle that is hard to locate the way organic/natural/toxin-free once, was and in many communities still is.  In the meantime, I love that more and more big box stores are embracing this trend of proactive protection and I hope toxin-free becomes the norm.  One year ago I had a baby.  Before his arrival, I was making my own deodorant every few months, because I found my recipe worked better for me than most readily available natural deodorants and I had the time to do it every so often.  Well, as luck would have it, my last batch ran out just as I was bringing home a tiny, helpless person and making a batch of deodorant was not high on my priority list.  A dear friend came over about a month later and lucky for me, she gifted me her favorite natural deodorant.  It worked great and I’ve been recommending it to friends ever since, especially to friends and family whose young daughters, like my nine year old, are starting to use personal care products. Of course I continue to check to make sure the ingredients stay natural.  Well, you can imagine how excited I was when ten months later, Target featured this deodorant in their weekly circular!!!  I was jumping for joy.  Mainstream is embracing this new movement!! 

“Who has time to make their own deodorant?” you may be thinking.  Well, some people do and some don’t.  For others, they may not have the time but they chose to set time aside to make it because while natural deodorants are more expensive,  baking soda, coconut oil and cornstarch are inexpensive and readily available.  The way I look at it is there will always be someone who does more or takes two steps farther to try to protect themselves and their children from perceived toxins in our environment.   It doesn’t mean your efforts aren’t valuable or insignificant.  Consider this:  for every mom who makes her own baby food from organic vegetables, there is probably another that grows the vegetables she uses for her home-made baby food.  They may have more time, more money or just prioritize it higher on their list.  That doesn’t diminish your choice to buy organic baby food to avoid pesticides or choice to purchase plastic pouches to avoid the BPA in the lids of glass jars.  What you do for your family is enough to show you care about your family's health.  Don’t throw in the towel because you can’t do it all!!

That is why I love websites like Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) and their Dirty Dozen list as well as their Skin Deep guide to cosmetics in addition to HBCAC, who shares the most up to date research on enviromental heath.  My other go-to is searching google for blogging moms who do a lot of the homework for you on safe products to buy and recipes to make. All of these resources take the guess work out of identifying products and items in your kitchen or bathroom that may be a danger to your family’s long-term health.  Any steps you take to replace toxic items in your household with safer alternatives are better than doing nothing out or fear that it’s not enough.  And you can do it at your favorite big-box stores, as long as you do a little reading first!

By Amanda Roth

The Machine

Imagine your body as a collaborative machine made of gears, bolts, keys, and locks. Each spinning gear fits directly into the next, and every lock is paired with a specific key. These mechanisms perfectly represent how your endocrine system operates.

Though you may not be aware of it, your endocrine system is constantly hard at work. The complex collection of glands that make up this system produce crucial hormones that regulate bodily functions. Every hormone, or key, has a certain shape that can only fit into a limited number of receptors, or locks. Whether you are growing, thinking, or fighting off an illness, your endocrine systems takes on much of the responsibility, ensuring that these actions run smoothly. Each and every “gear” of the endocrine system must work together in order to perform necessary bodily functions. However, chemicals known as endocrine disruptors interfere with the critical measures that must be carried out by hormones.                    

While many people are familiar with human hormones, such as estrogen or testosterone, very few are aware of the dangers of endocrine disrupting chemicals. These substances go beyond basic interactions with the endocrine system and essentially have the opposite effect to that of hormones. Of course it is important to know about the chemicals that have positive effects on your body, but shouldn’t you know about those that have negative effects too? Endocrine disruptors cause “adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects,” by blocking the appropriate hormone from doing its job. In other words, endocrine disruptors are seen as an alternative key. Although they easily fit into the or receptor, or lock, they do not initiate the correct response.

Chemical disruptors are a growing concern in the scientific community, and they should be for you too! Just because you can’t see them, and just because your body can’t detect them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Now, how will you limit your exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals?

By Rachel Moss

Source: Endocrine Disruptors  https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/

Sheep or Shepherd?

More often than not, the sheep/shepherd analogy is often used to compare the dynamics of groups, defining people who are leaders as individual and those who are followers as more simplistic. What do you consider yourself...?

As for me? I’m a sheep, I am a follower. But let me correct my statement - I am a follower of my heart. I consider myself more of an independent sheep on the lookout for similar, like-minded sheep. I’d like to think the great leaders of history thought the same way, that they didn't see themselves as different, but looked to find others who wanted similar things. Those leaders in history had the capability of reaching the hearts of their ‘herds’, they had the same causes, they were just a little more inclined to voice it.

I found a fellow sheep when I graduated college and landed in a grassroots not-for-profit. Karen Miller and I became a team, a small herd of two who thought the same way because of unfortunate life experience.  In the midst of college, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and it wrecked havoc on our tiny family of three. Realizing what people go through, that there is much more to it that the ‘fight’ we hear about, I had sought out the not-for-profit. Karen had been through her own situations and we had both come to same realization – we don’t want anyone to have to deal with disease. Karen opened my mind to a whole new way of looking at disease- and that is through primary prevention.

When I say primary prevention I don’t mean breast cancer screening. Early detection is a great way to help treat cancer, but it doesn’t prevent it. For that, we have to go back to the root causes of disease, the ones that connect all ailments. You may also ask, well what about a cure? Would I like a cure? Yes, I would love a cure for cancer, and every other disease for that matter. But in the meantime, I don’t want anyone to get sick. And even when we have a cure, I don’t want anyone to go through it and need the cure.

Now wherever life takes me, there is no going back to an old way of thinking.

 “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes

Needless to say, Karen stretched my mind. And as simple as it sounds to me now, prevention meant nothing to me previously. I didn’t know of chemical exposures in my daily life or windows of susceptibility in my life that make me more vulnerable. Hell, I hardly knew there were harmful chemicals in my shampoo. I have always been a bookworm, and I eagerly absorbed all the new information I could find. Now armed with knowledge, I am more capable of taking control of my own life and the lives of those I love, and that is a great feeling.

There are many widely accepted ideas about breast cancer, and all other diseases for that matter. We want to challenge those ideas, make you think differently about this thing called health. So we hope that through this blog we can open your mind, and expand its dimensions. This is your place to go for stories, speculations, and science; connecting humans and the environment through preventive health.

So be a sheep, follow your heart, and find others who do the same. We hope that you identify with our little herd of sheep, and come back again and again for more.

Melanie Gabrell