What Can You Do?
‘DO NOT drink the water in the ditch reservoirs. It is polluted with chemicals that may cause liver cancer.’ Thus the people of Qidong county (China) were urged. Among the 67,000 surveyed who drank ditchwater, 107 had developed liver cancer compared to none of 6,000 well-water drinkers. Many heeded the warning. Five years later among 23,000 surveyed who were now drinking water from wells there was only one case of liver cancer. Among 47,000 still using ditchwater there were 216!
Not all environmentally caused illnesses are avoided that easily. But you can take steps that may protect your health. As the Bible says: “Sensible people will see trouble coming and avoid it, but an unthinking person will walk right into it and regret it later.”—Proverbs 22:3, Today’s English Version.
‘How do I know if it is the environment?’ you may wonder. This may not be easy to determine because the symptoms often appear gradually. But if you take a vacation to a relatively pollution-free area and feel great, and on returning home you get sick again, your sickness could be something in the environment. For clues, try to recall when you feel the worst. Is it on the way to work, at the job, in the kitchen, in the garden or while using such items as cleaning fluids?
If you have a serious unresolved health problem, however, seeing a qualified doctor may be helpful, for it may be a physical illness unrelated to the environment. Of course, you must use discernment in deciding which doctor to consult, for some, though well meaning, may not recognize the impact of pollutants. Peter Breyesse stated in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association), January 16, 1981: “Physician recognition of such environmental problems is important. Many of the adults who were interviewed said they had been under treatment by their physician, some for over four years and more, without improvement in their condition.”
Millie (see page 3) was sensitive to almost everything. With the cooperation of her family doctor she entered the Brookhaven Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, which specializes in such problems. She stayed for several weeks in the Environmental Control Unit—rooms that are specially designed to be free of all environmental pollutants and synthetic materials. Tests determined what she was sensitive to. After a short fasting period she began a difficult program of strengthening her immune system through injections, by exercise and use of vitamin supplements. She strictly had to avoid certain pollutants and foods until her body could build itself up. In time she built up her resistance and now lives a more normal life.
The help Millie received was from a growing—yet controversial—medical speciality called clinical ecology. Millie’s was an extreme case, and her hospitalization cost several thousand dollars. Often less severe cases are treated in the doctor’s office. Dr. Randolph, in his interview with Awake!, defined its approach: “It’s essentially environmental medicine. We take the holistic view, that is, the body as a whole and the way it responds to the environment. We attempt to treat the causes rather than the effects of the illness.” Yet in his book An Alternative Approach to Allergies (1980), his coauthor, Dr. Moss, admits, “It will not cure every case of headache, depression, arthritis, or chronic fatigue.” Other approaches include traditional allergists and clinical toxicologists. Awake! is not endorsing any of these treatments; it is simply reporting on them. But what can you do to improve your environment?
Improving Home Environment
Since you may spend 70 percent of your life at home, polluted indoor air is often a greater hazard than outdoor pollution. Does this mean that household cleaners, aerosol sprays, room deodorants and pesticides should not be used? Not necessarily—unless you or a family member reacts to moderate use. Usually a daily airing of your house, especially in winter when pollutants build up, is sufficient.
Since a gas oven without an exhaust fan can produce, within an hour, air-pollution levels three times as high as a city smog, be sure your gas stove is well vented to the outside. Some people have had to use electrical cooking and heating devices instead.
When you use paints, solvents and chemical paint removers make sure the area is well ventilated. Read and follow the directions carefully! If you are sanding old paint, plaster or joint compound, or mixing asbestos cement, use the proper mask to avoid inhaling potentially toxic particles. Since many plastering compounds, and even cement for insulating pipes and furnaces, are made without asbestos, you may prefer these.
Warn your children against putting old paint chips, or even their house-dust laden hands, in their mouth. Do not let them play near heavy automobile traffic. If you use food or beverages from lead-soldered cans, then, once opened, do not store the contents in the can.
Your drinking water can be checked by local officials if you suspect it is contaminated. Uncontaminated bottled water or the use of a filter designed to remove chemicals (if regularly changed) may be the solution.
The Job Environment
“I think that people should look at what they’re working with and question what’s happening to them as a result of exposure,” stated Dr. Anger. “There is no need to panic, however. If they have health problems, notice personality changes or feel much better on weekends, then check with other workers to see if they’re similarly affected. They can request that the company or government determine if there are any overly high exposures of potentially dangerous substances.” Sometimes dangerous substances are found in the most unlikely jobs. For instance, brake linings contain asbestos, so auto mechanics beware!
Make use of the protective equipment that responsible companies provide, and use common sense. One worker was seen eating a sandwich in the lunchroom with a pesticide on his mustache. So clean up before you eat. A change of clothes before you go home may sometimes be needed to protect your family.
Did you know that some pesticides in more concentrated forms have been used as nerve gas during war? Therefore it is dangerous to drink from or wash in the open water near sprayed fields. You can absorb the pesticide through your skin. Never reuse the metal tins or plastic sacks the pesticides are packaged in. Wait the required time before going back into the fields after spraying. Children are especially prone to pesticide poison, so watch carefully what they work or play with.
Nutrition and Life-Style
For years the drinking water in one province of Chile contained high levels of arsenic. After considering who became sick by the poison, and the five children who died, researchers concluded: “It is highly probable that the low nutritional status of these infants and children has significantly favored the chronic toxic effects of arsenic.” (Italics ours.) Nutritional deficiencies can make the effects worse. Thus strive to have nutritious, well-balanced meals. One’s economic situation may make this difficult. However, simple foods, such as beans, leafy vegetables and fruits, are often high in vitamins and minerals.
According to the book Nutrition and Environmental Health, laboratory research has shown that vitamin C may protect against chromium poison as well as numerous toxic and cancer-causing compounds; vitamin A has reduced the danger from the body’s storing some insecticides; the B vitamins can reduce the intensity of lead and of over 30 toxic chemical compounds. Such research is still not viewed by everyone as conclusive, so simply to gorge oneself with vitamins—without competent medical direction—may be harmful.
Cigarette smoke may cause chronic bronchitis; it aggravates emphysema and may cause lung cancer. This should be additional reason to “cleanse ourselves of every defilement [pollution, Kingdom Interlinear] of flesh and spirit,” as the Bible counsels. Yes, stop smoking!—2 Corinthians 7:1.
What you put into your inner feelings or thoughts, your “spirit,” also has an effect. “The spirit of a man can put up with his malady; but as for a stricken spirit, who can bear it?” (Proverbs 18:14) One group of workers who were exposed to a ‘mystery gas of unknown origin’ reacted with dizziness and nausea, and some even fainted. However, a survey revealed that the ones with the severest symptoms were those who in the first place were most dissatisfied with the job! This is not to say that all adverse reactions are because of a “stricken spirit,” but it shows that factors other than exposure can play a role.
So we can do much to improve the quality of our environment. But what hope is there for a permanent answer?
[Picture on page 9]
Avoid storing food in open cans!