Friday, February 25, 2011

Plastic Albatross' Domestic Detox : This is Serious!

Last night I attended a lecture about detoxing our homes. It was hosted by Professor Jenna Spevak of Plastic Albatross. Plastic Albatross is a community-based campaign to educate the public about toxins in plastics and other household products, and how these substances affect the health and fertility of humans. I was surprised to learn exactly how many undisclosed, untested, unregulated, and potentially harmful chemicals are in everyday products. Since World War II, 80,000 synthetic new chemicals were introduced to consumers and  62,000 of them have not been tested! Those that have been tested have been discovered to be carcinogens and neurotoxins. They have also been linked to learning disabilities, asthma, and obesity. Despite this alarming research, manufacturers continue to be allowed to develop and sell products containing these chemicals. Manufacturers police themselves and claim the amount of toxins in their products are too negligible to hurt us. This doesn't take into account what happens when those chemicals in one product interact with those chemicals in other products a consumer uses. Also these chemicals are considered ‘persistent bioaccumulative toxins‘ or PBTs. They don't just enter our bodies, hang out for a few minutes while we use the product, then bounce off to outer space. PBTs accumulate in our bodies, our food and our water.
Our plastics inside an albatross (seagull) chick's belly :-(
 I consider myself pretty savvy about green living. I work at an eco-friendly shop and I recently started a small business offering green residential cleaning. I belong to the Park Slope Food Coop. I like to think of myself as educated enough to make informed "green" consumption decisions, but the lecture highlighted dangers even I wasn't aware of. Did you know food wrapped in plastic, especially oily food, is bad for our health because the oil of the food absorbs the plastic oil of the packaging? I didn't!

Luckily, Spevak offered healthy alternatives and now I am able to make even smarter choices. Upon arriving home from the lecture, I felt like a veil was lifted. I was surprised to see so many plastic things in my fridge and throughout my home! I am now committed to make a real effort to reduce my plastic consumption beyond not drinking bottled water and accepting plastic bags at stores. The tub of whipped Earth Balance in my fridge will certainly be my last!

Still, I wonder and worry about folks who haven't yet accessed this information. I feel like they need protection. Today, at the suggestion of Plastic Albatross' policy page, I wrote to my government representatives and asked them to sponsor legislation that would create a program to replace toxic chemicals with safer alternatives wherever a feasible, safer alternative exists. It felt good to participate in democracy, but I know government things like that take a long time to really create change (if they even get passed at all).

In the meanwhile, what about those chemicals used by my building's exterminator and cleaning person? Or those used in public spaces like laundromats, libraries, schools, movie theaters, shops, and restaurants? (I can't tell you how many times I've gagged in restaurants when they used Windex or Fantastic or something equally obnoxious to clean a recently vacated table. Grrr!) The next step is to spread the word about toxins and their alternatives to my neighbors, friends, and family. I plan to download and use Plastic Albatross' slide show to host a lecture here in Prospect Heights, in my old neighborhood Bed-Stuy, and anywhere that'll have me. I'm also going to actually speak to the manager next time I am somewhere where dangerous chemicals are being used right in front of me.

This is serious. The synthetic chemicals we humans are making and consuming will never go away. Ever! It's not even a matter of the fact that the lid on the disposable Starbucks coffee cup you're using right now is slowly killing you. As serious and terrible as that is, what's worse is the choices we make now will affect animals and people who won't be born until centuries from now. Yikes! Why not try to move in the right direction?

Olivia Lane is a Blogger, Green Living Educator, and Health Coach trained at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She's also author of Baking Soda & Bliss: The Healthy & Happy Guide to Green Cleaning 
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  1. Wonderful Olivia! So happy you could be there and participate last night. You're an inspiration! Keep up the great work.

  2. Signed all of the petitions and wrote to my senators!



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