In Adam Sandler's comedy film Grown Ups, a group of high school buddies spend some time together at a reunion. In one scene they find themselves in a swimming pool exposed for public urination by a "secret dye" in the water that turns blue when contacting human urine. It's a funny scene and gets lots of laughs, but should serve to remind us that our actions have consequences for other citizens who swim in the big fishbowl we call "earth." By being informed consumers, we can keep that fish bowl cleaner and more healthy for both ourselves and our fellow swimmers. The integrative medical movement can greatly assist us in improving health and in reducing environmental pollution.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is well aware of these issues. In a recent bulletin entitled "Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products (PPCPs)," scientists and policymakers broached this important subject. People are surprised to see the lists of these substances and their sources that come from many of our normal daily activities. The EPA lists these substances as prescription and over-the counter therapeutic drugs used in both human and veterinary medicine, cosmetics, fragrances, sunscreen products, diagnostic agents and even nutraceutical agents. Until recently, people did not understand the rather large amount of toxins contributed to the environment by human activity such as excretion of drugs from our bodies, showering and bathing and disposal of unwanted or expired drugs and cosmetics in the sewers or trash systems.
As I visited a veterinary school oncology department recently, we discussed the need for better waste-water treatments as large amounts of chemotherapy drugs enter the environment from the urine and stool wastes of human and veterinary patients undergoing chemotherapy. Likewise, drugs like antibiotics and antidepressants are commonly found in wild waterways, and may not be removed effectively by normal water treatment methods.
Holistic and integrative professionals like Dr. Hans-Heinrich Reckeweg have been discussing these issues since the 1950s, when he reported that illness was the result of the body's reaction to toxic substances. In 1962, a human physician named Dr.Theron G.Randolph began to realize that people could become severely ill from environmental contamination and wrote a book on the subject called Human Ecology and Susceptibility to the Chemical Environment.. He noted that a significant percentage of people were severely ill and disabled due to exposure to environmental toxins and food allergies. He further reported that many people with chemical sensitivity responded to proper diagnosis and treatment. Certain individuals seem to be genetically more sensitive to chemicals. Some lack vital detoxification systems, and as such are often afflicted by a wide variety of difficult to diagnose and treat disorders. As is so often the case, conventional allergists fought Dr. Randolph's pioneering efforts. They disagreed with his common-sense, thorough approach, which resulted in many patients recovering from difficult, chronic disease.
Dr Randolph continued his efforts at documenting his work, and in 1982 he published his landmark text, An Alternative Approach to Allergies: The New Field of Clinical Ecology Unravels the Environmental Causes of Mental and Physical Ills. When I read this book in 1987, it changed my whole approach to medicine and my own personal health care. Other doctors began using Randolph's methods and found them to be useful. After a period of time, they organized the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) that serves to forward the purpose of further investigation and dissemination of information regarding environmental medicine.
Holistic and integrative medicine may appeal to chemically-sensitive consumers, as they are often negatively affected by normal dosing levels of many medications. Chemically-sensitive patients tend to seek and apply less toxic methods of medical care for reasons of personal survival. They simply feel better with more natural and less toxic methods. And like proverbial canaries in the coal mine, these chemically-sensitive individuals may be sounding a warning for the rest of our planet regarding the presence of PPCPs and our need to address this problem.
Follow these ten steps to learn more and begin to be part of the solution to this commonly occurring problem:
- Read the EPA links above regarding the problem of PPCPs.
- Begin to read labels and consider what you eat and apply to your skin and body. Learn one or two chemical ingredients each week.
- Look at this diagram of how PPCPs enter the system and impact other life on our planet.
- Examine the frequently asked questions on the EPA site and get informed about how you fit into this situation.
- Talk to your doctors and veterinarians about properly disposing of medical wastes like expired drugs, chemicals, syringes and needles.
- Consider options to insecticides and prescription drugs.
- Start somewhere and expand your efforts to reduce your use of toxin-containing cosmetics and personal care products. Consider something simple like reducing your use of plastic water bottles or using coconut oil instead of hand lotion.
- Take steps to eat better, fresher, organic foods that are prepared with concern for the environment. Buying produce locally helps reduce carbon foot prints as well as unnecessary use of plastics and other environmentally challenging packaging.
- Share your activities with your friends and business associates, and support people who are taking a like-minded approach. As we realize the challenges we can best solve these issues through community cooperative efforts. Notifying businesses and boycotting products are also tools in this process.
- Really challenge each thing you pick up during the day -- question whether the selected product really helps your health and the health of those around you. For instance, many people notice that their skin and hair, as well as body odor, improves when they eat properly, exercise and detoxify their bodies. Such healthy activity reduces our need for deodorants and perfumes while they make us healthier in the process. It saves money and suffering, too.
The truth is that the more we know about health and about health care, the better the decisions we can make. Integrative medicine gives us new tools to consider in our quest for better living. If we each take steps to learn one new thing daily and then apply that information we can all live better, happier lives. By simply taking a bit of responsibility for our purchases and consumer behaviors, we can impact a wide variety of global problems.
See you in the pool!
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