Petrochemicals cause cancer. They are also hormone disruptors, capable of contributing to hormone imbalances and premature puberty in children. We are all exposed to these chemicals every day, but we can also limit our exposure by taking simple measures in our daily lives. Some products, like air pollutants, are not in our control. However, there are many household items including the foods we eat and the fumes we breathe that may include hidden petrochemicals.
Children are especially susceptible to these carcinogens. It is estimated that children have at least three times the risk factor of adults for the development of cancer from these chemicals. Children’s relatively undeveloped livers are less effective in the metabolism of toxic chemicals. And small children who play on the floor have more exposure to products that settle from the air.
In Your Diet
Foods that are not organic may contain hidden pesticides. Animal products are a primary source. Cows will concentrate petrochemicals in their fat and milk. Buying organic milk and meat will ensure that you are not inadvertently getting pesticides from the grains these animals themselves eat. Similarly, organic chickens are not fed grains treated with pesticides. Eating organic eggs and chicken will decrease your exposure from these sources. Most fish is not safe to eat. Farm raised fish contain high levels of pesticides, large ocean fish contain high levels of the mercury, and fish imported from Japan may be radioactive.
Some produce is more heavily treated with pesticides. The Environmental Working Group tests produce, and publishes a list of fruits and vegetable with the highest and lowest levels of pesticides. This year their list of the worst fruits includes apples (highest on the list), strawberries, peaches, blueberries, and imported grapes and nectarines. Make sure that these products are organic and you will avoid the worst of the crops that are heavily sprayed. The safest fruits include pineapple, mangoes, grapefruit, kiwi, and watermelon. I recommend that most vegetables be organic when possible, especially leafy greens like lettuce and spinach. Celery is one of the highest on the list of pesticide residues.
Artificial colors and artificial flavors in packaged foods are made from petrochemicals. Even natural flavors are often disguised petroleum products.
In Your Home
There are many other sources of petrochemicals as well. One way to avoid them is to only buy environmentally safe products for your home. This includes cleaning products, laundry detergents, and dishwashing soaps. Never use air fresheners except for those made only with essential, aromatic oils.
Have everyone take off their shoes before entering your home. This will prevent tracking in oil and pesticides from streets and lawns. If you have any exposure to chemicals in your work, change your clothes as soon as you arrive at home.
Your skin is especially effective at absorbing chemicals. Any chemicals you apply to your skin enter your bloodstream. For this reason you should use only organic shampoos, hand soaps, shaving products, and skin moisturizers.
Taking these simple and inexpensive measures will decrease your risk of cancer.