Most of us are aware that today we live in a more toxic world than ever. We know that there are numerous toxins in our air, water and even food. Some of us are taking steps to drastically reduce our exposure where we know definite risks exist.
However, there are many products in our everyday lives where we may not perhaps consider what chemical toxins may be lurking. While I am completely on top of things like personal care and cleaning products, there are some places where I would have never imagined to find potentially hazardous chemicals in everyday items.
My eyes were particularly opened after I read the fantastic book “Slow Death By Rubber Duck“. It is really sad ultimately that today in our world we have somehow made it okay to poison each other just for the sake of money and convenience. I always wonder about the people who produce so many of these chemical products in terms of how they do not realize that, whether directly or indirectly, they are hurting themselves and their families too.
Thus today, I want to bring your attention to three items, two of which at least I think you will find very surprising to contain hazardous toxins.
Most of us love our high-tech gadgets but do little to think even for a moment what the price of using those gadgets may be. A member of the family bought a GPS unit and asked us to program it. Not thinking twice, my husband did, only to read the box the unit came in, in full afterwords and read the following fine print on it:
“Warning: This product, its packaging, and its components contain chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm. This notice is being provided in accordance with California’s proposition 65. If you have any questions or would like additional information, please refer to our web site at www.garmin.com/prop65/“
I mean I don’t know about you, but this makes me think about what is seriously wrong with our world? How can we be poisoning each other like this by exposing ourselves to hazardous chemicals. And what is worse, think about it, how many people are actually going to read this fine print on the box of this GPS system itself. This model by the way is the Garmin nuvi 255, if you want to avoid it. However, it makes one wonder about other electronic units, and all those that are not sold in California and thus do not require such a label…
The state of California has some of the toughest laws when it comes to many things, including chemicals. This unit by chance was sold in Canada, but thank goodness for us that it came with this label, otherwise we would have never known about the potential danger of this unit. But again, it really makes you think about so many other gadgets in our lives, all those that come with no warning labels.
A few summers ago I bought a garden hose. No one would ever think about a garden hose posing any danger, than perhaps tripping over it in your backyard. Well, after I unpackaged it and hooked it up outdoors, out of mere curiosity I decided to read the labels that it came with before I threw them out.
To my shock the label said something along the following lines (I don’t have it anymore to quote it for you): wash hands after use, do not drink water from it, or allow children to play with it, as the product contains lead. It also quoted California again, that the label was as a result of California law, having found this product to pose a health hazard.
So again, the very first thing that comes to my mind is, how many people seriously read all the fine print on every package they buy? It is one thing if these things are not labeled properly, but some of them by law are, and most of us are still missing the message.
Most of us are well aware of and have kids who play with garden hoses without thinking twice. Some even drink water from them directly, some of our pets do as well. And I am sure that both kids and adults do not always wash their hands after using a garden hose.
I am not sure if this was an isolated case and this one company chose to use lead in making their garden hoses, or if this is a regular thing. I am hoping that this hose was part of the minority of what is available on the market today, for the toxic effects of lead are widely known. Needless to say my hose went right back to the store from which it came.
Most of us are well aware that unless produce is organic, it is likely to be treated with pesticides. So while it is no surprise to find toxins on or in some of our food, what might not be expected is that produce that travels over far distances has to usually be treated with extra chemicals. This is just another reason why buying local makes more sense.
Take for example the box of oranges I bought at my local grocery store a couple of weeks ago. A new shipment came in where you could buy whole crates of oranges. Most of the time I buy organic whenever I can, but it was not possible to do so in this case. Had I known what I now know, just by taking a little extra time to examine the box they came in, I would not have bought them at all. Here is what the box said:
“Treated to maintain freshness in transit with one or more of the following: Imazalil, Sodium O’Phenylphenate, Thiabendazole.”
On top of that these were also coated with either food-grade vegetable-beeswax, and/or lac-resin based wax or resin.
So what do these lovely names mean?
Imazalil is a fungicide widely used in agriculture, particularly in the growing of citrus fruits. According to pesticideinfo.org, it presents toxicity to humans, including carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, and acute toxicity, as well as toxicity to aquatic organisms.
Sodium O’Phenylphenate is used as a post-harvest fungicide for specific fruits. SOPP was listed as a carcinogen under Proposition 65 in 1990. Today it is a recognized carcinogen and suspected of being a toxin to the liver and gastrointestinal tract.
Thiabendazole is a fungicide and parasiticide. According to pesticideinfo.org, this substance also presents a toxicity to humans, including carcinogenicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, and acute toxicity, as well as toxicity to aquatic organisms.
And how about the waxes? While the first name appears recognizable, the second one “lac-resin“ actually comes from the secretions of a tiny insect. (I am not sure how a strict vegan would feel eating that produce.) The lac insect secretes “lac-resin“ from its glands onto a host tree. The resin is then gathered, crushed, sieved, washed and purified into food grade shellac. In the end, most waxes do include various synthetic ingredients, but at the end of the day, they do not come nowhere as close to being dangerous as some of the pesticides listed above.
So in conclusion, I cannot overstate how important it is for one’s health to buy organic and local as much as possible. Yes, it may cost more, and yes sometimes it may be less convenient, but I truly believe that in the long run it is worth it. We and our health are worth it.
So what message can we take away from this?
We won’t be able to prevent exposure to all the chemicals in our world today, but we can for sure do a great job minimizing our exposure. We just have to get a little more conscious.
I understand that in order to lead some kind of a “normal” life we need to balance the risks with benefits, and ultimately this is a very personal choice. Sure in the grand scheme of things any of these products can prove no harm to us whatsoever, but what we have to remember is that it is never about just one product. In an average day, the average person today comes into contact with numerous, hundreds if not thousands of different chemicals, and it is the combination and the toll of them all, that eventually may manifest as a disease or some other ill condition. Hence, the key is to minimize exposure as much as we can.
Hence if nothing else, read all your labels! Food labels, cosmetic labels, cleaning labels, clothes labels (you would not believe what some clothes are being coated with today), electronic labels - all labels! And based on them, you can decide further, whether the risks are worth it to you.
It is one thing if we are deceived or intentionally kept in the dark, but quite another if we choose to be ignorant, especially where our health is concerned. To me personally it is definitely worth the extra few seconds to read labels to minimize my exposure to harmful substances and I intend to be even more conscious of it from now on, on all products.