Well & Aware

What is Environmental Health?

Happy Earth Day. At Beautycounter, we talk a lot about environmental health. But what is environmental health? We tapped our Head of Health and Safety, Mia Davis, to explain what small steps we can take to live a healthier, more mindful life in order to invest in our earth, today.

The environment in environmental health isn’t just the environment we typically think of—mountains, streams, oceans, trees—it’s everything, including our built environment, like our schools and our homes.

 

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Our skin and our lungs do the best they can to protect us from toxic chemicals but the body isn’t a magical barrier—and in fact, we know that chemicals are not staying put in the products that we have in our homes, or in our food, or in our water. They’re entering our bodies. And they’re even entering our babies. For instance, when we’re pregnant with a child, we are that child’s ecosystem. And we’re finding now that babies are being born pre-polluted. Babies have upwards of 200 toxic, synthetic chemicals in their umbilical cord blood at birth.

When babies are being born pre-polluted we have to stop and ask ourselves, “What’s going on? Isn’t there a better way to do things?”

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Rachel Carson first discussed this when she talked about DDT in the 1950s. The same applies for toxic chemicals in our consumer products, including our cosmetics.

Some people say, “Isn’t this just a little bit of toxic chemical?” It is, but that matters for at least a couple of reasons. Most of us are exposed to just small amounts of toxic chemicals at a time. But we’re exposed to so many chemicals from a myriad of sources, that these little exposures can add up to big harm. Some toxic chemicals are even more potent in small doses than in large doses. It might seem counterintuitive but chemicals like hormone disruptors have greater effects in small doses because they’re mimicking the way our body actually makes and regulates hormones.

Some of these health effects may be apparent immediately, but some become apparent over time.

Sometimes there’s a direct connection between exposure and illness, for example with asbestos and lung cancer, or smoking and lung cancer.

But, for most of the illnesses that are on the rise in this country, there is not such a clear cause and effect. We are exposed to many toxic chemicals, from a variety of sources, and we know that they’re having a great effect on our health, but we can’t exactly tell the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Here’s one example of how this is playing out in real life today.

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But only about 10 percent of those women have a genetic link to the disease. So that’s many, many thousands of women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, with no family history. Environmental factors are thought to play a major role in these increased diagnoses. If we had a system in place that required that chemicals be proven safe before they hit the marketplace, we can only imagine how many women would not be living with this disease. This can be upsetting. And there are environmental factors that we can’t control. But the good news is that the more you know, the more you can protect yourself and your family.

Here are three things you can do to get started immediately.

+ Read product ingredient labels—and do your best to avoid ingredients on the never list.

You can start by avoiding any product that has “fragrance” on the ingredient label.

+ Do your best to avoid PVC plastic or vinyl, also known as plastic #3. PVC plastic is commonly found in shower curtains, children’s toys, and even in yoga mats. PVC contains 1-4, Dioxane, which is a carcinogen, and phthalates, which are hormone disruptors.

+ Eat as many fresh foods as possible. If fresh isn’t an option, opt for frozen over canned. Canned foods are often lined with Bisphenol A or BPA, which is a hormone disruptor. In addition, fresh foods, especially leafy greens, can help rid the body of toxic chemicals.

Since decades of science are telling us that there are strong links between low doses of exposure to toxic chemicals and illness, it just makes sense to reduce our exposure wherever we can.

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We screen every ingredient before we allow it in our products, and we are fully transparent about every ingredient we use.

In addition, we want to serve as an educational resource, so you can make more informed decisions, and help to protect your family.

I hope this information was helpful, and that you share it with those who matter most. Happy Earth Day.