The environment and our lungs.



Happy National Nutrition Month! In honor of this celebration, my goal is to produce a weekly blog entry on nutrition for the month of March. This weeks entry was inspired by my Sunday morning jog in Brooklyn. Usually, I stick to my comfort zone and stay in the same area. Today was different, however, I finally explored uncharted territory known as Greenpoint and I was surprised to see Manhattan Avenue lined with Polish bakeries, European natives and sidewalks crawling with the hipsters of Brooklyn.

Unfortunately, being an environmental geek and staying overly cautious about my surroundings and moving to Brooklyn, I quickly searched about the environmental safety of the area. Brooklyn was once an area filled with lead factories and trash dumping, making it an ideal post-industrial area that lends it’s character today. North Brooklyn currently processes half of New York City’s trash storage, yikes!  Greenpoint, Brooklyn, also happens to be the site of one of the largest oil spills in the United States. Discovered in the late 1970’s, 17-30 million gallons of oil and petroleum leaked from the nearby Exxonmobile refinery for decades, and unfortunately no one took action until the 1990s. Much damage occured  to the wildlife in the nearby Newton Creek, and the plume underlies a large portion of Greenpoint’s residential areas. Image

So how does this all connect? Well recent headlines say lung cancer is on the rise, and living in a large city with high pollution risk I dedicate this entry to nutrition + healthy living tips for protecting your lungs.

  • Antioxidants, Antioxidants, Antioxidants. Both natural and man-made irritants and chemicals in the air can be classified as oxidants. These oxidants damage the lungs, and our body naturally heals itself through the use of antioxidants and a healthy diet. Eating right optimizes our fighting ability and antioxidants convert these oxidants into neutral forms. How do we receive antioxidants in the diet? Fruits and vegetables are your number one choices, more specifically, Vitamin C. Current research shows that Vitamin C and E have the highest antioxidant ability, but I personally believe that food works synergistically for the best effect. Eat a healthy diet and if you’re looking for those vitamins be sure to include broccoli, tomatoes, and oranges.
  • Learn about your environment. Was there a previous oil spill in your area? Are you living on top of a landfill site? It’s surprising how much is unknown about America’s past environmental trauma. Does the term ‘cancer’ cluster seem unfamiliar? There’s a lot we’re unaware about, and all of the information is at your hand with the internet.  Wiki also has a list of cancer clusters in America here.
  • Radon. Grab a radon detector and keep it around the house! Radon is the second leading cause of lung disease among non-smokers. It’s a natural byproduct of the breakdown of uranium and leaks from the ground into houses.
  • Exercise. More exercise means more oxygen. Oxygen allows our body to reach optimum levels for the best protection and keeps our lungs healthy and strong.
  • Stay conscious of outdoor air pollution. This one is a no brain-er, if you’re walking by an old dusty factory – try to get away as fast as possible or walk a different route. The less exposure the better!
  • Manage your indoor air. Did you know that indoor air is typically more dangerous than outdoor air? Due to poor ventilation and multiple irritants from particles and other gases, it’s a leading cause for lung damage. Yup, this surprised me too. This fact helped me enhance my green thumb though, and there are several plants that can help with filtering your indoor air. Purchasing an air purifier also helps.
  • Stay away from cigarettes. Title says it all!
  • Lastly, fight for your right for clean air! It’s easy to say that as individuals we have no power in taking charge, but as a group we can fight to educate and protect our resources. Unfortunately, the world’s population is only growing, environmental disasters rampantly occurring, and the world’s pollution exponentially increasing. Jet fuel is found in women’s breast milk, and high mercury levels are discovered in habitats of the arctic – far from urban civilization. The future looks bleak, and though the environment is almost always a negative topic we must stay positive and continue fighting for the safety of the future and our children.

What are your ways of protecting your lungs?


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