Is something fishy going on in our environment?

After I read today’s news about how the federal Department of Health and Human Services has declared that there’s too much fluoride in our drinking water (that plus a lot of other chemicals, as I mentioned in my previous blog), it got me thinking: How much else is going on in our environment that we’ll find out—in maybe 10 or 25 or 50 years—isn’t good for us?

I lived in NYC when 9/11 happened. I remember the smell from the World Trade Center site miles uptown where I lived: it was horrible, acrid and filled with the smell of hard-to-distinguish chemicals. And I distinctly remember the EPA declaring a week or two later (when the site was still smoldering) that it was perfectly safe to go back to work downtown, that the air was completely safe. And I remember thinking: there’s no way that it’s safe to breathe in that smell day in and day out, a thought shared by many of my friends (some of whom refused to go back to work). But many people did go back to work because they had no choice, every day, and now many of them are sick with lung disease, cancers, etc. And it wasn’t until years after the terrorist attack that the EPA said: Oh, yeah, it wasn’t safe to breathe in that air after all. It caused cancer. Sorry about that.

We should be treating our environment and everything in it with TLC—because it all affects our own health in the end.

I thought about that when I read about the dead birds and fishes in Arkansas last week. Not sure if you heard about this, but nearly 5,000! red-winged blackbirds were found dead on the ground in the town of Beebe, Arkansas. Right before that, about 125 miles from Beebe, 100,000!!! drum fish were found dead spread out over 20 miles of water. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission suspects disease killed the fish. Bird experts were saying it might have been high-altitude hail, poison, lightening, storms, etc that killed the birds. But I wonder if that’s true. It makes me wonder if something in the environment killed the birds and the fishes—and it will come out years later after people in the community start getting sick. Oh yeah, we forgot to tell you that we were experimenting with a new pesticide—and it must have been bad for your health. Sorry about that. Meanwhile, families have gotten sick, people have died.

And then, the best: when BP told everyone that the chemical dispersants they were tossing into the water by the millions of gallons were as harmless as dishsoap. Oh, right. Yeah, I believe that.

I can understand the idea of protecting the general public and preventing panic—and in the case of BP, saving their own hides (Could you have imagined if the EPA said the air wasn’t safe to breathe after 9/11? There would have been mass exodus out of NYC and business would have come to a standstill). But, who’s protecting the health of each and every one of us in situations like this? I’m not sure any one group is, which is why I’ve always said—and continue to say—that each one of us has to take care of our own health and our own family’s health.

If your gut is telling you something, follow that instinct. Take steps to educate yourself on what you need to do to stay healthy—and with each and every study (take this vitamin, don’t take that vitamin, eat more of this, don’t eat that, etc) that comes out, read up on them and then make your own decision.

And then, at the end of the day, you’ll have yourself to thank when some research comes out years later saying that your instinct was right all along.

Valerie LatonaAbout Valerie Latona
As the former editor in chief of Shape (the active lifestyle magazine) for 5 years, I personally spoke with a lot of women (thousands over the years, from around the nation) and what I found is this: it's not easy to stay healthy, to get (and stay) fit, and to stem the weight gain tide (and even the tide of disease) that inevitably happens to us as we get older.