Muted Consumer Awareness

Indigenous people relied on their awareness for everyday survival.  They needed to open their senses up—all of them—extending them as far out into their environment as they could in order to find resources they needed and keep distance between those animals (or other people) that could harm them.  Today, as domesticated people, our urban existence tends to narrow our perception of the world, down to about the size of a computer screen.  And we don’t use all our senses to their capabilities (i.e., our existence is becoming more and more confined to the visual sense).  We even sometimes need to intentionally limit our senses to block out the features of everyday life, including sounds (e.g., honking horns, people yelling, construction equipment), smells (e.g., factory discharge, truck exhaust), and so on.  This strategy, of purposely blocking the sensory information coming to our person, is a strategy that would have probably meant the death of a wild person and has severely impacted our ability to perceive the modern world for what it is.

This is exactly how much of us pass through our lives.  We are so bombarded with sensory input from non-natural environments that we have learned to shut down (as a preservation mechanism).  But we apply this strategy to many facets of our life.  For example, we get so fatigued with all the warnings about this and that being harmful to our health that we just shut down and stop paying attention.  That strategy, which is yours to choose, unfortunately, impacts other people’s and non-human-person’s health (which makes it a selfish strategy, if we are going to honest).  For example, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Bisphenol-A (BPA), an ingredient in many plastics and found in baby bottles, plastic linings of many canned foods, some resins, receipt paper, recycled toilet paper, dental fillings, and food wraps (i.e., there is abundant opportunity to be exposed to this chemical).  A recent study showed that prenatal exposure to BPA adversely affected birth outcomes.  Mothers with high exposure to BPA had babies with 20% lower birth weight and 11% smaller heads (i.e., those babies had smaller brains).  Not exactly the head start we want to give our babies in a highly competitive world.

Now, the awareness piece of this story.  But before I share that, I’m going to use an analogy.  Let’s assume we are going to bake bread.  Also, we have a person in the household that has difficulty with wheat due to the gluten content.  So, you take your usual recipe and remove the wheat.  Of course, if you tried to bake this recipe lacking ground wheat you would not get bread.  Hopefully it is clear that you need to replace the wheat with something that serves the same function, in this case, another kind of flour.  You could select from a number of grains or similar fruits that provide gluten-free flour (e.g., millet, teff, rice, some kinds of oats).  I hope it is also clear that if you replaced the wheat with another gluten-containing grain, such as rye, you wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors.  You could deceptively tell people that this is a wheat-free recipe (implying it has no gluten), but of course, the bread you bake would still be harmful to people with a sensitivity to gluten.

Evidence has shown that BPA disrupts our hormones and promotes cancer (we’ve known this for some time).  Industry-funded studies, which often showed this chemical was harmless, confused the matter and stalled protective legislation.  But, as evidence mounted, manufacturers realized they must remove this chemical from some plastics to appease the consumers (such as baby bottles).  The amazing part of this story is:  we never asked the manufacturers what they replaced the BPA with.  They can’t just remove the BPA and be done.  The BPA serves a purpose (remember the bread analogy).  It turns out, they replaced the BPA with Bisphenol-S and Bisphenol-AF, related compounds that also have documented endocrine-disrupting properties.  So, using the bread analogy, the chemical companies replaced the wheat with rye.  These products still impact our health and the chemical companies knew this.  We let them do this because our awareness has narrowed to avoid the bombardment of health information (a fact manufacturers are aware of).

People, you have to take charge.  Open your awareness back up and ask questions.  It is going to create some hassle (and grief) at first—you will be amazed to learn how many products are detrimental to your longevity.  But there are easy methods to determine safety, and everything you learn can be passed on to your children so they have the facts to make informed choices.  Remember, our government doesn’t really force manufacturers to prove a substance is harmless prior to its use.  Only when it proves harmful do they eventually intervene (doesn’t this seem backwards?).  But proving harm takes years, sometimes decades, and all the while you and your children are exposed while you wait for protective legislation.  Using all your senses (including your “gut feelings”) is a necessary step in un-domesticating ourselves.  We’ve been acting like sheep for too long, staring at computer screens and not seeing what is going on around us.  Be a neo-aboriginal (a new indigenous person), one who is aware of the world they live in and can skillfully navigate both the forest and supermarket.  Exposure to endocrine-disrupting plastics is setting our children back at birth.  Let’s rededicate ourselves to making sure the next generation doesn’t begin life with a disadvantage.

[Please realize that we could choose from hundreds of other chemicals, foods, and procedures and walk through a similar process of manufacturer deception, governmental non-action, and harm to consumers. Awareness is the focus here.]