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Science & Spirit: Protect Yourself From Pollution

by Kathryn Drury WagnerOctober 03, 2019
Columnists
Man wearing breathing mask in wheat field.

ajr_images/Getty Images

Many of us are concerned with keeping our land, water, and air safe for both animals and humans. This week, there was a lot in the world of research that focused on the topic of pollution and its threats to our health. For ways to protect yourself and your family, read on.

Put down the bleach! Indoor air pollution

A commonly used household cleaner—bleach with a lemon or orange scent—can create volatile compounds in the home. That’s the point of a study from the American Chemical Society, which published a report in Environmental Science & Technology. This is especially a concern for indoor areas that are poorly ventilated and for people who work in cleaning industries. (Check out my story “5 Swaps for Cleaner Cleaning” for even more ideas on how to remove toxins from your home.

Avoid fats: Dioxin Toxicity is Generational

New research out of the University of Rochester Medical Center has found that exposure to a common environmental toxin, called dioxin, can affects subsequent generations by weakening immune defenses. Dioxin exposure is common, via burning of municipal trash, industrial sources, and also from natural exposure from events like wildfires.

In the U of R study, mice that had been exposed to dioxins were less resistant to Influenza A (the common flu virus), but here’s the scary thing: That first-generation Mama Mouse went on to have great-grandmice who also showed the same immune weakness. (Subscribers, use your digital access to read “8 Natural Flu Fighters.”)

Dioxins are absorbed and stored in fat tissue, and 90 percent of human exposure comes through our foods. To cut down on dioxins in your own kitchen, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recommends:

  • Remove the skin from fish or chicken.
  • When shopping for meat, choose cuts that are leaner, or trim any fat you can after purchase.
  • Use fat-free or low-fat milk and butter in moderation.
  • If you fish, check with local fishing advisories on any consumption limits.

Aspirin for Air Pollution

NSAIDs like aspirin may help protect the lungs against the adverse effects of air pollution. A study from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health looked at NSAID use on 2,280 men in Boston. Researchers found that any of use an NSAID nearly halved the effects of ambient particulate matter on lung function. 

“Our findings suggest that aspirin and other NSAIDs may protect the lungs from short-term spikes in air pollution,” wrote the study’s first and corresponding author Xu Gao, PhD, a post-doctoral research scientist. “Of course, it is still important to minimize our exposure to air pollution, which is linked to a host of adverse health effects, from cancer to cardiovascular disease.” The study’s senior author, Andrea Baccarelli, MD, PhD, states, “While environmental policies have made considerable progress toward reducing our overall exposure to air pollution, even in places with low levels of air pollution, short-term spikes are still commonplace.” (To keep your indoor air quality high, read my story “Healthier Indoor Air.”)


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Spirituality & Health’s Wellbeing Editor, Kathryn Drury Wagner, is based in Savannah. She’s been a contributor to the magazine for many years, and she loves sharing ways to build a healthy, mindful, and sustainable lifestyle. 

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