The Environment & Your Health

Everything is connected. Our actions created reactions and interactions between organisms.

24% of global disease is caused by avoidable environmental exposure, according to the World Health Organization.

Pollutants don’t disappear because the garbage man comes on Tuesday.

Perhaps you’ve heard thoughts such as these before. I know I have. Yet they’re easy to ignore. Who has time to worry? We have bigger fish to fry! Japan is in crisis. There’s a third war to be concerned about. And what will we do without Elizabeth Taylor?

I understand why a person would keep eating what they eat, buying what they buy, drinking what they drink, and feeling really proud of themselves for simply getting the trash can to the curb on Tuesday! But every decision we make –what to eat, drink, buy, or dispose of– is part of a much larger picture. Let’s be mindful!

Side note: We lived in a rural area for 6 years, and I am distressed to consider how many environmental contaminants we were exposed to there. You think rural? means healthy, but in reality our children were exposed to: pesticides in the air when crops were sprayed or harvested, contaminants in well water from pesticides and animal waste from a nearby hog farm, and lead paint in our old house. It makes me sad.


This area is very important to me because my husband and I eat a lot of fish. Here is what I gleaned:

There are two primary contaminants in fish: methylmercury and PCBs.

Mercury contamination becomes worse the larger the fish. Think about it. Big fish eat lots of small fish. The contamination bioaccumulates in the fish.

When you cook fish you biomagnify the methylmercury in it which is bad. (tuna)

However, if a fish is high in PCBs you should cook the heck out of it. (salmon)

Eating fish may be linked to heart attacks. (go figure)

If you buy fish oil supplements, make sure it says: methyl mercury filtered out.

Check out Another good site is to get a list of which fish is safer to eat.

Do not eat farm-raised fish or shrimp. They are fed contaminated food, and the ponds they are raised in do not allow the bacteria etc to be washed away by the movement of water.

Do not eat carp.

Because of methyl mercury, children should not eat any amount of canned tuna. (You know what? After this lecture I am not going to eat any more canned tuna. And what’s worse, no ahi tuna either!)

Do not eat any of the very-large fish: mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, ahi tuna.

PS: None of this touches on issues of sustainability which is also important.


Lead is a neurotoxin (bad for the brain) and is linked to hyperactivity, poor impulse control, and violence. You are exposed to more lead than you think.

Lead paint is a problem in any building built before 1978.

Candy from China and Mexico increasingly contains lead (from contaminated fields). Pay attention to where candy comes from. Don’t eat the candy in pinatas, for instance.

Do not drink from lead crystal, as lead leaches into the liquid within minutes.

Cooking with hot water exposes you to lead, especially if the pipes are old. Don’t use hot water for cooking or drinking.


Electro magnetic fields (power towers) are probably linked to disease.

DDT has been reintroduced in many places in the world, especially Africa, since it is so effective in killing mosquitoes, which carry malaria. So DDT is NOT a thing of the past.

The DEHP used to make pliable IV bags is terrible, especially for infant boys because the DEHP acts as estrogen in the system. Insist on another type of bag.

If there is anyone with asthma, do NOT use humidifiers. (I hate this because I love my humidifier!)

To combat dust mites and mold, wash sheets in hot water weekly.

The people who do lawn care are exposed to toxic levels of pesticides. This causes infertility in men. Symptoms of pesticide illness include an inability to smell.

Take it seriously that if a lawn has been sprayed with pesticide, you should not walk through it. Pesticides move through the skin into the bloodstream. Be aware of this when playing sports in an open field.

Use non-toxic cleaning agents. Really. There’s no reason not to.

Do not consume food coloring. It’s hidden in many things. Food coloring causes neuro impairment. Love your brain instead.

Good to know: Boiling water rids it of bacteria, but not of chemicals. In fact, boiling only biomagnifies the chemicals.


Remember: Trade trumps everything!? Our dollars speak.

These notes are from a lecture on The Environment and Your Health? by Laura Anderko at the Georgetown Mini-Medical School on March 29, 2011.

If I got any of these facts wrong, please let me know! Also, if any of these facts were particularly helpful to you, let me know that too. There is so much to learn. What was your big take-away??


One response to “The Environment & Your Health”

  1. Good to read something interesting.

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