Many of us know or have heard the word climate change, but how serious are we about it? Many also think that climate change is not happening, especially when leaders of the first world shun it, all in the name for more power and profit.While government policy is essential in driving change, we the people also have the power. One of the first things we need to work on, is our lifestyle habits.
Here’s a list of everyday items that are not only hazardous to the environment, but to your health too:
Photo: Emilie Akiko
This is one thing that I don’t have to detail about the negative impact it has on our health. But just in case you didn’t know, smoking also accelerates the aging of your skin, so if you’re worried about wrinkles, time to stop smoking!
As for the environmental impact, cigarette butts top the list as the most littered item in the world. It is estimated that 4.5 trillion cigarettes are littered each year. This equates to about 1.69 billion pounds of toxic waste annually. Cigarette butts leach toxic chemicals, such as arsenic and lead, into the environment and can contaminate water and soil. The toxic exposure can poison fish and other animals that eat the butts.
Cling film is considered a single use plastic, which means you use it once and throw it away. Cling film, like many other plastics, sit in landfills where it will leach chemicals for decades. It is also a threat to wildlife or fish who may get caught up in it or eat it. If that is not enough of a worry, research shows that cling film is detrimental to health when heated. Cancer Research UK and experts at John Hopkins University warn that heating food covered with plastic can leach dangerous chemicals on to the food.
Fatbergs in London
How many of you carry wet wipes in your bag, concerned over hygiene? I’ll admit I was a user of wet wipes when my children were babies, though I would often opt for cotton wool and water, and also seek out the more expensive brands with less chemicals.
Let’s look at the hygiene concern versus toxicity of wet wipes. A look at 14 of the most popular brands, found anywhere between 10 to 18 ingredients, such as parabens, preservatives and fragrance. Admittedly if you look at some of the ingredients they are not toxic in the small quantity, but imagine wiping your baby’s bottom several times a day for 2 to 3 years, and then continuing to use them to wipe your hands, face and mouth. Over time there is a chemical build up, along with the other products and environmental pollutants that we are exposed to.
Wet wipes are also detrimental to the environment as they are also made with plastic, which we know takes decades, if not hundreds of years to break down. They cause blockages in sewer systems, so much they are even known as “fatbergs” in London where the sewage systems have become so blocked they need to be manually removed and dismantled. They are no better in landfills as the combination of alcohol, preservatives, fragrances, cleaning and moisturising agents kill the bacteria and enzymes that are needed to break down solid waste in landfill sites.
Sanitary Pads & Tampons
There’s a certain time of the month that is natural and can’t be avoided, but how we manage, needs to change. Every month you may not think you are impacting the environment, but here is the maths: Approximately 20 pads/tampons per month, equating to 240 per year which over the average lifespan of a menstruating female (approximately 40 years of periods) gives us the grand total of 9,600 feminine hygiene products used during one woman’s lifetime. Multiply that by about 3.5 billion women!
Like wet wipes, sanitary products also contain plastic. I don’t have to say much that it’s probably not a good idea to be in that close contact with plastic on a monthly basis. You can just imagine the kind of chemicals slowing leaching in to your body. Apart from the plastic are other toxic ingredients. Some of these include dioxin, used to bleach the cotton to make the products white. Cotton crops are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides that stay in the cotton after harvesting.
Try using a menstrual cup or cloth pad instead.
Single Use Plastics (straws, cutlery, take away containers, bags, bottled water)
This article is not complete without mentioning these items that we simply consume on a daily basis. Everyday hundreds of millions of these items are disposed off, filling up landfills and polluting our oceans. In the US alone, it is estimated that 500,000,000 straws are disposed of daily. In 2016, more than 480 billion plastic bottles were sold worldwide and one trillion plastic bags, that’s nearly 2 million every minute.
Apart from cigarettes, all these items are items of convenience, but convenient to who? There is a vicious cycle happening with the use of these items. As they slowly breakdown, the chemicals leach in to our environment increasing the toxicity in water and soil. Wildlife is at a great threat as they feed on broken pieces of plastic or get caught in floating items.
The idea of “out of sight, out of mind” can’t be any further from the truth. Plastic is everywhere. From the everyday items we choose to use, in the water we drink and bathe in, in the soil used to grow our food and in animals that we consume. It may seem impossible to live without plastic, but it’s the small changes we can make that will make a great impact.