[The following is a guest post by Eric Stevenson]
You peel your eyes open. Surprisingly, sitting up is harder than you anticipated (probably because the room’s spinning). Your throat feels like you swallowed something angry and you’re sure your head is imploding. You have the flu. Sure it’s rough, but in a few days and with a little rest and care, you’ll probably be just fine. It’ll all be over.
Too bad everything doesn’t work that way.
Unfortunately, we all have to deal with both short term and long term health issues. There’s a lot we can do to manage both: eat well, sleep well, live well. But even breathing, even drinking water can lead to serious long term health problems.
Environmental poisons like lead and asbestos can be fatal, but with the right information, we can still enjoy the long term health we deserve.
Lead is found in lots of places that you might not expect: pipes, paint, water, household dust, pottery/porcelain, and soil. Ingesting lead can lead to lead poisoning, and since kids are more likely to put things in their mouths, they’re more susceptible.
In children, lead poisoning symptoms can resemble the flu. Stomachaches, headaches, tiredness, and irritability may lead to further, more dangerous problems like brain, liver, and kidney damage, slowed development, and hearing loss.
In adults, it can lead to memory loss, muscle and joint pain, and reproductive problems. Though not likely to cause severe brain damage in adults, lead poisoning still isn’t worth the risk.
Another poison to avoid is asbestos. When inhaled, a mineral used in dry wall and insulation in older homes, asbestos fibers can cause a cancer known as mesothelioma. Though newer homes are generally free of asbestos, older homes may still have the substance intact. The disturbance of asbestos triggers the release of the fibers and the possibilities of mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma symptoms are also subtle and often misdiagnosed; they include shortness of breath and chest heaviness and are usually latent for 20-50 years after the asbestos exposure. It’s important to safeguard you kids against inhaling or ingesting asbestos.
Though not as sudden and obvious as the flu or cold, mesothelioma and lead poisoning may lead to a deterioration of long term health. It’s important to live well, eat well, and think well. Keeping your eyes open and doing the necessary research can save you and your family a lot of trouble and a lot of pain in the long run.
[Eric Stevenson is a Health and Safety Advocate who resides in the South Eastern US. For more information or questions about this article please feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org]
Image: leoncillo sabino at Flickr