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Hidden Health Threat in State of the Union

Last night’s State of the Union address from President Obama covered a lot of ground in a relatively short period of time. Nearly none of that covered health-related issues, mainly because it wasn’t politically expedient in an election year with job fears and emotions over tax fairness.

There were a few passing comments on health issues, none in any real depth. However, one really struck home with me:

“I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury pollution, or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean,” said the President.

While many of us are eating too much junky processed food and not enough healthy natural food, water, the vary foundation of life on Earth is being threatened. It’s an issue that gets next to no coverage anywhere in relation to other environmental problems. But it’s the one problem that, if it got out control, would be the quickest route to our demise.

About 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. More than 60 percent of an adult’s body is made up of it. Without it, you will die in about three days. It’s pretty important.

So when you hear that our water supply is threatened, shouldn’t alarm bells go off? Here are a few things to think about:

  • Mercury in fish is a real problem. But other chemicals make their way into our waters as well. Caffeine has been found in fish. Since fish don’t drink coffee, can you guess where it comes from? Yep, human waste.
  • According to the New York Times, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other companies have broken water pollution laws over half a million times in the last five years. Among those violations are dumping toxins at levels regulators worry could cause cancer, birth defects and other illnesses.
  • While it’s not always easy to identify a smoking gun on what causes water- or food-born illnesses, it’s estimated that 19.5 million Americans get sick every year from drinking water contaminated with parasites, bacteria or viruses.
  • Nutrition experts recommend fish as a healthy lean protein with all kinds of health benefits. But in New York, the State Department of Environmental Conservation advises its citizens to not eat more than one half-pound serving of fish a week that comes from New York’s water sources, “except as otherwise recommended.”

I’ve long thought that people don’t care about a threat unless it’s practically slapping them in the face. Unfortunately the threat of contaminated water isn’t necessarily slapping everyone in the face at the moment. Why did you get that “stomach flu” last week? Maybe it was unclean water and you are just blissfully unaware.

We haven’t even addressed the water shortage issue, something that most of us thinks of as a Third World problem. But it’s happening right here in the U.S. If we don’t do something soon, we’ll have about three days left to regret it.

January 25th, 2012

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