Ask Dr Libby: How can I cut down on my exposure to chemicals?
Q: I've recently become aware of just how many chemicals we're exposed to on a daily basis. I would like to reduce this for my health and the health of my family, particularly my children. Your thoughts on this are appreciated. – Liz
A: It is unknown exactly how many synthetic chemicals exist in the world today, but the Chemical Abstracts (CAS) Registry currently lists more than 100 million chemicals, most of which are not tested for long-term human safety.
Chemical overexposure has been linked to developmental issues, obesity and many global diseases as a whole. The World Health Organisation estimates that 4.9 million deaths and a quarter of total disease burden can be attributed to "modifiable environmental factors".
* 'Another reason' to avoid fast food: chemicals in packaging linked to cancer
* The hidden chemicals you eat every day
* Children and chemicals safety tips from the Environmental Protection Agency
Furthermore, when your liver is burdened from trying to process foreign chemicals, it can contribute to weight gain, fatigue, food intolerances, reproductive issues and other conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome.
However, there are some simple steps you can take today to start reducing your chemical load:
* Buy organic produce where possible and/or shop at local farmers' markets as you can often pick up spray-free produce. I know organic can be more expensive, but if you switch a few items per week to organic on your shopping list it can make a difference. Re-evaluate your budget, and see if you could reprioritise some of your expenses to include more organic produce.
* Eat foods with ingredients you would find in nature. If a food item has ingredients/additives you cannot pronounce, your body likely cannot deal with it either.
* Switch to natural cleaning products. We are fortunate to live in a time where there are conscious companies creating great quality eco-friendly cleaning products, which are better for you and the planet. Many are high quality too, so you won't need to use as much to achieve great results, thereby making it just as cost effective.
* Switch to natural body care and make-up where possible. If that is overwhelming, try starting with lipstick.
* Take your shoes off before entering the house – our shoes can accumulate synthetic chemicals, which are best left off the carpets and outside the home.
* Use reusable BPA free water bottles and BPA free tinned food (if you use tins).
* At home, store things in glass rather than plastic.
* Never heat plastic. This means not putting it in the dishwasher, too.
Even if you commit to implementing just a few of the above points, it can help reduce your chemical load and positively impact your health in the long run.
This is just a small snapshot of how synthetic chemicals can impact our health, but remember you are in a position to vote with your wallet for the type of future you want.
Dr Libby is a nutritional biochemist, best-selling author and speaker. The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional. Join Dr Libby for her upcoming 'Sort Your Sleep' New Zealand tour, for more information or to purchase tickets visit drlibby.com