The dangers of toxic stews

March 4, 2012

“If I had kids, I’d definitely feed them organic,” my husband said last night. “I can’t make up for the damage I may have already done. But if I were younger or if I had kids, I’d sure be more careful about these things.”

Life seems so random. Or at least some things that happen in life seem so. But are they, really?

After a short break, a friend’s chronic cancer is active again, setting in motion another series of treatments to tame it, to beat it into submission for another period of time. I can’t even write about how upset I am that one of the very best people I’ve ever known and someone I love to the moon and back, has to go through this again.

Yes, her cancer is chronic, treatable and “livable.” But in the dark of the lonely night, the unspoken fear lurks for her, for us all.

We’re lucky to live in an age when it’s possible to live with some cancers and have a good quality life to boot. But I hope the next generation is even luckier and that this scourge is cured for them and future generations.

Many of our parents didn’t have cancer. But for some of us raised in areas with a high degree of air- and water-borne toxins, cancer seems to appear regardless of family history. The only logical conclusion is that environmental factors contributed.

Back in the day, people concerned with the quality of our air and our water, concerned about chemical spills, and how waste is disposed of, these people were considered on the fringe. A little crazy. Extreme even. In fact, conservative politicians love to make fun of them. Still.

I was raised an hour away from the Love Canal, famous in the mid-1970s for its toxic waste stew. (photo on right).

Companies are still disposing of toxic waste in ways that impact our lives. Still. If they can get away with it.

I think we see now –if we’re awake–that these early outspoken environmentalists were the first line of defense, people who had an inkling of what was coming and warned us. Too bad those in power didn’t listen early enough for our generation. Too bad we didn’t insist they did.

Today I got an email from a reputable organization that markets skin care products. It pointed out the possible link between parabens and cancer. I’ll bet every single shampoo, antiperspirant, moisturizer, shaving cream in my house contains parabens, and yours, too. Here’s a shocker: parabens are in personal lubricants. And there’s some evidence that parabens create estrogenic activity (the kind that drives tumors), as well.

With most of this stuff, I don’t know whether there’s a direct link or not. I’m not a scientist. But I do believe there’s something going on. I do know that –especially if we have kids– we need to have a greater degree of concern about the water we drink, the air we breathe and the food we consume.

How many of us have ever discarded unused prescription medication by flushing it down the toilet? This was common in my parents’ generation. That stuff, and our own waste containing those products (the ones we take every day), are all swirling around our rivers, lakes and streams in a chemical stew that is then treated and turned into water that we cook in, use for baths and drink.

Yummy thought, isn’t it?

I’d like to think that people concerned with this environmental stuff are crazies, exaggerating the situation and spreading unnecessary fear. But that’s not what I believe.

I believe we’ve made a big problem for ourselves. Some of us have died for it. Some of us are suffering. And some of us are going to be the lucky ones. But we don’t get to choose which category we fall into.

Today, at the grocery store, think about what you buy, what you’re planning to put into your body.

And also, if you don’t mind, please send up a little prayer for my dear friend, as she begins a new round of cancer treatment. And for all who are suffering.

Thank you.

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