Pollution: how to protect yourself (including on the plate)

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Pollution: how to protect yourself (including on the plate)

The UN is sounding the alarm. In a report released last March, 250 scientists from 70 countries report that "emissions responsible for air pollution, chemicals contaminating drinking water and accelerated destruction of ecosystems are causing a kind of global epidemic". Air pollution alone causes 6 to 7 million premature deaths each year, far more than AIDS or tobacco. In France alone, according to the Agency for the Environment and Energy Management, the impact of this degradation causes 67,000 deaths. Can we act? Yes, because being less polluted is also less polluting oneself, namely consuming less and better.

Air: the problem of fine particles

Not only does air pollution increase, but it also causes more and more damage. " The particles in suspension are becoming finer. Instead of being blocked by the mucous membranes of the nose, they enter the bronchi more easily, circulate in the blood, travel to the brain ", explains Jean-Christophe Brisard, author of the book unbreathable (First Edition).

Populations at risk: Children, who breathe at a higher frequency than adults and whose body is still immature. Pregnant women, the sick, the elderly are also suffering the full consequences. Living near high density roads would cause 15 to 30% of new cases of childhood asthma, according to Unicef. And, pay attention to received ideas. According to a survey by the Parisian, the air of the metro would be thirty times more polluted than that of the street, because of suspended particles (braking trains, equipment wear, outdoor air loaded exhaust gas that gets into it). Rural citizens are not better off because they are victims of pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals in the fields or vineyards.

How to protect yourself? Avoid sports activities, especially intensive, whether outdoors or indoors. In case of peak pollution, limit the stroller exits for babies: at this height, the pollution is 30% higher. If breathing or heart discomfort occur, consult your doctor. You can learn about apps and sites to know the level of exposure to pollution (Prevair, Airvisual, plumelabs). Namely: masks are often useless because they filter only large particles.

Water: heavy metals and pharmaceuticals

Groundwater supplies drinking water to consumers. This still requires treatment because the slicks are polluted by human waste, industrial waste, heavy metals or pharmaceuticals. According to a survey by the UFC-Que Choisir last March, more than 2 million consumers receive water that, despite treatments, is polluted with pesticides or nitrates. The report nevertheless points out that for 95.6% of French consumers, tap water is of very good quality and meets all health parameters throughout the year.

Populations at risk: Watch out for children or joggers who are sometimes tempted to drink at public fountains without checking if the water is portable.

How to protect yourself? If in doubt, check with the town hall. Some recommendations: let the tap water run at least 2 minutes before consuming it when it has stagnated in the pipes. Use cold water for drinking, preparing or cooking food: high temperatures can promote the transfer of metals and microbes. Attention also to the filter jugs. According to ANSES and the magazine UFC-Que Choisir, if the new ones pass the tests, the controls at home are much worse. Carafes misused or maintained are real nests microbes! Remember to clean them regularly and change the cartridge.

Clothes: chemical additives

In his study titled The Toxic Bottoms of Fashion (2012), Greenpeace showed that a majority of clothing contained nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) used as detergents or water repellents, considered as endocrine disruptors. Some items had elevated levels of phthalates and carcinogenic amines resulting from the use of azo dyes. A supplementary survey published on January 15, 2014 pinned 82 brands of children's clothing containing these toxic products. According to Professor Charles Sultan, an endocrinologist, these chemical compounds "are absorbed by the skin". Thanks to the REACH association (European device that aims to improve health and the environment), many toxic products have been banned from French manufacturing. On January 12, 2018, 80 brands had signed the Greenpeace Detox Chart, which represents only 15% of global production.

Populations at risk: Athletes, because of the specific technical characteristics of their clothing: antiperspirant, anti-odor, more at risk ... Accidents were reported on caps, wetsuits, rubber shoes. Attention also to children and teenagers, very exposed to these matters.

How to protect yourself? Only the "made in Europe" sector protects known endocrine disruptors and gases injected into transport cartons. In all cases, wash the clothes at least twice before wearing and avoid at all costs the heat-bonded patterns, they are real nests to toxic. For the rest, you can buy ethical, consume "vintage" through resale sites (Vinted, vide-dressing), thrift stores, and up cycled clothes (many on Etsy), which give new life to clothing Used.

The house: volatile organic compounds

Combustion appliances, building materials, decorative products (paint, glue, varnish), furniture, smoking, cleaning products, DIY, kitchen ... The air in housing, schools or offices is often saturated with particles! The fault with the famous VOC (volatile organic compounds), these air pollutants harmful to health.

Populations at risk: Children and all urban people who spend 80% of their lives locked up in closed places.

How to protect yourself? Choose healthy materials for the home (labeled organic or without volatile products), ventilate every day, especially when cooking because of volatile combustion residues. Avoid smoking inside your home or using scented candles. The Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition is making a test available to the public to help analyze the air we breathe at home.

Food: pesticides and fungicides

The risk of cancer falls by 25% among regular consumers of organic food, according to a very recent study that has observed the eating habits and health of 70,000 individuals for seven years *. In question, the multiple chemical treatments (pesticides, fungicides) applied to foodstuffs.

Populations at risk: Students and all those who do little cooking, or who can not devote a budget to 100% organic.

How to protect yourself? Put more green vegetables and cereals on their plate, and reduce their consumption of meat and industrial products. With regard to studies, buying organic is a priority. And respect the seasonality and the short circuits. The welfare of animals is defended by associations that provide information on labels and what they guarantee (Welfarm, CIWF, L214). There are tips to guide the consumer. For example, for pork, use the red label with the word "farmer". For chickens, "Bio, Red Label or Outdoors" are the only three that guarantee outdoor breeding.

Hygiene products: endocrine disruptors

Exposure to endocrine disruptors can have life-long effects, even consequences for the next generation. The scientists, gathered at the Dermatological Days last December, draw attention to many molecules in sunscreens, suspected to be endocrine disruptors. Heavy metals are also feared in make-up products.

Populations at risk: Babies whose skin is fragile, women who use a lot of cosmetics.

How to protect yourself? A survey of UFC-Que Choices sifts through all cosmetics and hygiene products. More generally, avoid those pigmented with vibrant or iridescent colors loaded with metals. Exfoliating creams, scrubs for the body, prefer the horsehair glove. Rather than liquid soaps, opt for the soap bar. For toothpastes, choose the pasta with charcoal that can replace whitening products, without abusing it to avoid damaging the email.

* published in JAMA, October 2018

Read also :

⋙ Endocrine disruptors: how to identify and avoid these toxic substances?

⋙ Fine particles: what are the real effects of pollution on our health?

⋙ Endocrine disruptors: how to protect our children?

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