Friday, February 17, 2012

Tap water and my mixed feelings about being green

I know I periodically go on green benders, where I vow to only eat organic veggies, or use both sides of the paper, or whatever, and then real life smacks me upside the head and it all goes out the window.  One thing I always wonder about as I read green blogs, is, how much of a difference does it really make?

I don't mean this in a, oh, it doesn't matter if I recycle or not, sort of way.  I mean, given all of the chemicals and carcinogens we're all exposed to, is whether or not I microwave my food in a plastic container really going to change my chances of getting cancer? 

The March issue of Good Housekeeping has an article called Is Your Tap Water Safe? The article talks about all of the unregulated chemicals found in tap water.  Among them are sucralose (an artificial sweetener) and atrazine (an herbicide).  I don't drink sucralose because artificial sweeteners give me headaches.  There's not actually enough sucralose in tap water to cause me problems, but the bigger problem is what does sucralose + atrazine + chlorine (or whatever cleaner my waste water treatment plant is using) + any medications I may actually be taking do in combination?

In a similar vein, I just read an article about a whole bunch of other reasons soda is bad for you.  One of them: soda cans are lined with plastic because otherwise the acids in soda would eat through the aluminium can.  Not only is the knowledge that soda is THAT acidic disturbing, but what sort of funky chemical compounds are being created when those acids are reacting with the plastic lining the cans?  I have no idea, but I'm pretty sure it can't be good for us.

The thing is, even though I'm trying to eat better, and give up soda, and use less plastic in general, all of this stuff comes out in our pee and eventually makes its way to the waste water treatment plants which treat the water that we then drink.  A prime example of this is birth control.  Female hormones in birth control are actually found in our tap water because of the process I just outlined.  I'm not sure I need extra hormones--the ones I have are enough to contend with as is. 

So eve though I'm not on the pill, I'm consuming a small amount of extra hormones by drinking the tap water.  And not only is bottled water not necessarily any better, but drinking bottled water compounds the issue of the amount of plastics and plastic-related chemicals in our waterways. 

On the one hand, even if you're super-conscientious of what you put into your body, you may still be exposed to carcinogens in your water.  On the other hand, if you just give up and figure there's no way to win, you're definitely making the problem worse.  I'm not really a fan of, well, I guess we should just all do the best we can and hope things work out sort of approach, but it seems like that's what really needs to happen here.  We all need to actively be healthier and use fewer chemicals, from medicines to pesticides to harsh cleaning products, so that we all have less exposure to this junk. 

I wish high school chemistry was as interesting as these might have made me reconsider my course of study in college.

1 comment:

  1. Switch to whiskey. Sounds like you could use a drink anyway. ;)