March Health and Wellness

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Reducing Toxic Exposure Part 2

In the year 2000, the movie Erin Brockovich hit the big screen and brought a very important message about water and the importance of having clean access to it. To this day, she is still a water advocate and is very sought after by local and state governments for her knowledge on the subject. I believe she is one of the biggest forces in bringing awareness into the mainstream and opening up a much needed conversation. We have also seen the water crisis in Flint, Michigan play out and you may have wondered how this happens and what you can do to protect yourself from toxic water. 

What’s wrong with our water?

Some of the known chemical toxins that exist in tap water are:

  • Lead
  • Chromium 6 (AKA The Erin Brockovich Chemical)
  • Chlorine and Chloramine
  • Ammonia
  • Fluoride
  • Pesticides and Fertilizers
  • PFOA (perfluorooctanic acid)

This last chemical, PFOA, is currently of particular concern. PFOA is a manufactured chemical best known as Teflon- the substance that makes up non-stick pans. One of the main problems is that it remains in the air and water for thousands of years and is considered a “forever chemical”. The presence of this not only in water, but in other household items (such as non-stick pans and, yes, fire extinguishers) is that they accumulate in our bodies over time. This can potentially lead to excessive amounts that are linked to organ damage, high cholesterol, asthma, ADHD, and is classified as an immune toxicant- just to name a few. 

How did PFOA get in our water?

Dumped waste from chemical manufacturing plants contaminates ground water, which eventually flows to our taps. In addition to this and the other sources of products in our homes, it accumulates in our bodies over time and is basically with us for life. This is precisely why recognizing and reducing your exposure to PFOA is so important. 

In 2016, researches form Harvard found that 6 million Americans (about 2% of the population) were drinking water that exceeded levels recommended by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Significant amounts were found in at least 33 states between 2013 and 2015 through testing conducted by the EPA. 

What you can do

1. Begin by eliminating known household toxins (covered in Part 1 last month) that contain PFOA including stain resistant carpet and fabrics, food packaging, raincoats, and even some conventional cosmetic products. Aim for non-toxic versions for all of these. 

2. For drinking water, the best solution for purification is reverse osmosis filtration. If you don’t have the hookups to install this into your home, consider purchasing a countertop version which works just as well.

3. Install a high quality shower and bath filter. What we put on our skin eventually gets absorbed into our bloodstream. Not only that, but many hair and skin issues will improve as well. If you can install a water purification system through your entire home, this is ideal. If not, consider installing filters on each faucet. 

4. Avoid plastic water bottles. Plastic has toxins that also leach into the water inside of bottles that can cause harm to our health. Bottled water is even less regulated by the CDC and is oftentimes just treated tap water. Companies can also use the “purified water” label on almost anything. 

5. Avoid Brita-type and fridge filters. These mostly just improve the taste of water but are not enough to truly purify it of the many harmful chemical toxins it contains. 

6. Visibly inspect your water. If it looks or smells funny or presents an odd color, do not drink it.

7. Obtain a report on the tap water in your local area on the EPA website. This is so important to see what you are actually drinking and what chemical toxins are specific to your area. 

Learning about how contaminated our water is can be shocking and even overwhelming. Since knowledge is power, use these actionable steps to replace any fear around drinking the water in your home. Get a great glass or aluminum bottle so you can bring water with you wherever you go and not expose yourself to the plastic many bottles are made of. In addition, work to replace one item as it runs out at a time in your home to slowly transition yourself to a more natural and non-toxic lifestyle, one of the best investments you can make for yourself and health. The more you do over time, the more your body and health with thank you!