We are constantly being told what we surely know: eat nutritious foods, but not too much; exercise regularly; shed excess pounds; minimize stress; get restful sleep; avoid smoking and excess alcohol. Nevertheless, we undoubtedly need to be reminded.
Is there anything missing in this prescription? Yes – keeping toxic chemicals out of our bodies. This is surely a no-brainer. A body contaminated by even minute amounts of chemicals that can disrupt basic body processes (such as metabolism, cell division, nerve transmission and reproduction) will prevent an otherwise good health regime from keeping you vitally healthy – free of illnesses and diseases.
What advise do national health organizations offer us? Consider a few organizations randomly selected from the Internet.
Dr. Andrew Weil’s website offers a banquet table of sound advise on foods, vitamins, herbs and more. But there are no topics on toxic chemicals, although they are minimally discussed in FAQ replies to readers questions.
WebMD seemingly covers every conceivable health topic, with 25 “health conditions,” 16 ways of “living better,” and 12 “top trends.” But nothing on toxic chemicals.
The website of National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, has a half dozen useful sections on “Fast Facts for Families” and interviews with experts on over a dozen health topics. Again, all good stuff, but nothing on toxic chemicals.
Next consider the National Wellness Institute, whose stated mission is to serve the professionals and organizations that promote optimal health and wellness in individuals and communities. It takes a balanced holistic approach to health, focusing on six dimensions of health: Occupational, Physical, Social, Intellectual, Spiritual, and Emotional. Unfortunately, again nothing on toxic chemicals.
Let’s look at the offering of a prestigious institution, the Harvard School of Public Health. Their website states, “Efforts focus on chronic but preventable conditions, including obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, asthma, and neurodegerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Healthy lifestyles, genetics and the environment are also major foci.” Under “chronic disease prevention” are listed “environmental threats/other toxic exposures/industrial wasteland.” The later section mentions 201 chemicals known to be toxic, but there is no discussion.
What about the big topic, CANCER; what do the giant national organizations tell us? The American Cancer Society states that it “is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem.” Wonderful, but how? Their website is all about treatments and support groups, i.e., affecting cures; I could find nothing about prevention. The U.S. National Cancer Institute sponsors and does its own research on causes of and cures for cancers. The website has a section on “cancer causes and risk factors” that does include a few environmental chemicals, such as asbestos, formaldehyde and hair dyes. Its research apparently has a strong focus on the genetic factors in cancers, perhaps to the detriment of discovering the mechanisms by which toxic chemicals induce or promote cancers.
Our governmental agencies are not doing a good job of educating us about what we can do to avoid getting cancer. Dr. Epstein, professor emeritus of environmental and occupational medicine at the University of Chicago School of Public Health, definitely thinks they are not helping to prevent cancer. He has vented strong criticism of the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society. “These institutions have spent tens of billions of taxpayer and charity dollars primarily targeting silver-bullet cures, strategies that have largely failed, while virtually ignoring strategies for preventing cancer in the first place. These failed strategies are largely due to institutional malaise and outdated mindsets fixated on treatment, to the virtual exclusion of prevention, other than quitting smoking.”
Of course everyone wants a cure available in case they should get cancer; many wish to have drugs available to counteract asthma and type-2 diabetes; of course everyone wants to have access to heart surgery in case their eating and life style have caused arteriosclerosis. Nevertheless, do the obvious: lead a health life style, get regular check ups with your physician, and keep toxic chemicals out of your body.