Last week EES attended Food, Antibiotics & Public Health: A Call to Action in Healthcare, a speaking engagement in Philadelphia, Pa. The Women’s Health & Environmental Network (WHEN) and Thomas Jefferson University sponsored the event. The speakers focused on everyday environmental toxins, the regular use of low-dose antibiotics on industrial farms, healthcare food policy and more.
The main purpose of the event was to educate and empower healthcare professionals on the environmental implications of our current practices. The WHEN staff encouraged individuals to approach their facility’s administration, and even contact their government representatives, to express their concerns and move issues forward.
“While you may not be an expert on everything, your opinion matters,” said Rickie Brawer, Associate Director for the Center for Urban Health at Thomas Jefferson University. “When you speak about healthcare issues you are not one nurse or doctor, you are a representative of the entire healthcare industry. You don’t speak, you roar.”
The WHEN staff, and other speakers, brought up a number of important facts regarding health and what individuals put into their bodies.
“We recognize that there are toxins in our environment, and we hear about events like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and others, but what we don’t hear about are the toxins in our own everyday life,” said Brawer.
In a WHEN video entitled Hidden Secrets: Toxins in Our Own Environment, the organization outlined the everyday products that contain alarming levels of toxins. Some examples include cosmetic products, personal care items, food, cleaning products, and animal flea and tick control medications. WHEN also offered compelling facts about the long-term effects of such exposure. According to the video, after an initial exposure, toxins, such as DDT or pesticides, can remain in the body for up to 50 years.
The speakers also offered action steps to help reduce exposure to such chemicals. First individuals must locate the toxins in the home or office; WHEN recommended completing an inventory of all products in the home or business. Once an individual has located the products which contain dangerous chemicals, they can find safer alternatives using online resources such as cosmeticdatabase.org or healthycar.org.
Some people worry that by replacing products with more natural options, consumers sacrifice the strength and effectiveness of the product; however, WHEN argues that many natural products are equally effective. For example, cleaning products often contain a large number of chemicals. WHEN suggests that an entire home can be effectively cleaned with five natural products: lemon, baking soda, vinegar, unscented soap and/or sodium borate. The organization understands that it is impossible to remove all toxins from one’s life, but any reduction in chemical exposure will reduce health risks.
Additionally, they shared information on how to create a healthcare facility food policy. Dianne Moore, WHEN manager of sustainable food initiatives, offered examples of local healthcare facilities with established food policies, and the steps they needed to complete to achieve success. One key to increasing sustainability is altering the company’s purchasing practices. Environmentally preferable purchasing can range from buying recycled printer paper to purchasing all local, organic produce. Moore explained how these purchasing decisions increase sustainability and save money; however, it does require some education.
Moore said that some eco-labels placed on foods can be misleading, since labels are not currently standardized. This makes environmentally preferable purchasing more difficult because there is no “right” label to look for. Moore encouraged individuals to visit greenerchoices.org to learn more about eco-labels and use the information from the site to make more health conscious purchasing decisions.
“Purchase items based on what is important to you,” said Moore. “Consider what each label has to offer and select whichever one is best for you [or your company].”
Regardless of an organization’s size, changes can be made to increase sustainability and reduce exposure to dangerous toxins. Education and communication are key to success. Learn more about environmental and health issues, and then take action steps to make a difference. More information on sustainability, environmental toxins and much more are available at WHEN.org.
To learn more about how your organization can increase its sustainability contact Tom Petersen at 215-881-9401 or Tom@eesolutions.net.