When cleaning, keep the long-term toxic effects of many disinfecting products in mind: BIFS

We’ve been trapped in our homes with the threat of a devastating virus hanging over our heads. 

We’re all washing our hands more, cleaning doorknobs, food packaging and anything else that might have come in contact with COVID-19. 

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The shelves of grocery and hardware stores reflect our collective quest to disinfect: bleach and other cleaning products are in high demand, and by some accounts are as hard to come by as toilet paper and dried pasta.

While we act to deal with this immediate threat, Bowen Island FoodResilience Society (BIFS) would like to remind people to keep the long-term toxic effects of many disinfecting products in mind and to consider the alternatives.

BIFS has been working with Belterra resident Bruce Lanphear on a campaign to limit the use of cosmetic pesticides on Bowen Island.

Lanphear is a professor of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University and he researches the impact of toxic chemicals on children’s brains. Lead, mercury, organophosphate pesticides, BPA and other chemicals with proven toxic impacts are found in a majority of children’s bodies. We are exposed to these chemical through everyday industrial products including cosmetics, receipts, mattresses, cleaning products and packaging. Lanphear argues against industry claims that they are found in doses too small to make an effect and also points to the fact that cumulative effects are not studied.

“In Canada and the US,” he says. “Chemicals are used in consumer products before they are tested for toxic effects. By allowing our children to be exposed to these chemicals without knowing about their toxicity, we are unwittingly subjecting them to a massive experiment.”

To limit chemical exposure, Lanphear urges individuals and families to eat fresh and frozen foods (preferably organic)  and to avoid processed foods. Also, avoid exposure to pesticides and consuming fish known to be high in mercury (especially if you are pregnant, or plan to be).

Lanphear says that pandemic-oriented trends like cooking from scratch and growing your own vegetables are helpful in this regard.

“It would be great if some of these habits could stick,” he says.

Members of BIFS couldn’t agree more. We’re also in agreement that all chemicals, whether they’re found in cleaning products or pesticides, need to be used with great caution and consideration. That’s why we’ve put pamphlets up on social media, at the General Store and at the Ruddy Potato directing you to places where you can research safe disinfectants (which by the way, still include: vinegar, lemon, essential oils and Castille soap).

Your choice of cleaning products may seem like a small and insignificant thing, but as Covid has reminded us: little things can make a very big impact.

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