Toxins in the Hood

By: Cassandra Bazile

When we hear of racial injustice, we tend to think of police brutality or the criminal justice system’s war against minorities; but what about the air and water we consume? “Environmental racism”, a term coined in the 1980s, plagues the United States as many illegal dumps, chemical plants and sewage treatment plants reside in the backyards of people of color and the poor. Polices and practices are implemented to discriminate against people based on race and social class by forcing them live in areas near facilities that are major causes of pollution. These waste facilities contain toxins and carcinogens such as lead, cobalt and Styrene. People who live in these areas are inhaling and consuming toxins that can cause generational defects. Research has shown that middle class African Americans who make between $50,000-60,000 a year are more likely to live in a polluted neighborhood than white Americans who make just $10,000 a year.  Don’t believe me? Let’s talk about some cases of environmental racism.

Along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge there are over 150 industrial factories that produce a quarter of the nation’s petrochemicals. The 85-mile stretch, infamously known as “Cancer Alley”, has been known for the unusual cases of cancer and mysterious illness that happen in its vicinity. How do these chemicals ultimately lead to cancer?  Well, it first started with the residents awaking to mysterious ash on their cars every morning. The ash soon caused putrid smells which, eventually, the residents became accustomed to. After a while the residents became used to the pollution, unaware of their diminishing health.

With the decline of industries such coal mining and petroleum, many white Americans suffer from environmental bias as well. The decline of industry also brought the decline of the livelihood of those that depended on those jobs.

Flint, Michigan recently made headlines for a water crisis in which Flint changed its water source from Lake Hurton to Flint River, which had major lead contamination. Exposure to lead causes developmental problems in children including impaired cognition, delayed puberty and a variety of behavioral problems. Between 6,000 and 12,000 children where exposed to lead and are now haunted by  life-long impending health problems. Coverage of this crisis raised the debate of whether the race and social status of Flint’s residents had to do with this situation.

Flint was once an industrial powerhouse and housed General Motors’ largest plant. The plant downsized in the 1980s, taking the jobs from residents and negatively impacting the livelihood of the city. Many of Flint’s residents live below the national poverty line and over 40% are African American. The state’s actions following the exposure of the contaminated water being pumped into Flint were questionable to say the least, leaving questions about whether the situation’s handling had to do with the racial and socioeconomic demographics of Flint.

So what now?

Laws to protect Americans against environmental bias have long existed. In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed a bill to ensure the goal of achieving environmental protection for all communities.  It has been shown that areas of impoverished people have not reaped the benefits since the bill was never enforced. Over 20 years later, we are still battling to enforce these laws in areas where the people aren’t heard. The environmental protection agency (EPA) has a department that is specifically concerned with civil rights and in its 22-year history the office has not found a case of discrimination. Surprised?Environmental racism doesn’t just affect the generation of people living there. Environmental toxins can cause generational damage. The cycle of bias when it comes to the environment in which we are born and raised, or where we play, live, and work perpetuates the oppression of minorities and low-income communities.

Cassandra Bazile is a Graduate Student at the University of Miami, currently pursing a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology. She graduated from Morgan State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and then moved to Boston where she worked at MIT for 3 years. Cassandra has a deep rooted love for science and research. Her Interest Include Women’s Health, Fitness, and Community Outreach.  

Bibliography

1. Huffington Post, (2016) “EPA to Weaken Civil Rights Protections Under Obama”. New York, New York.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/keith-rushing/epa-to-weaken-civil-right_b_9069362.html

2. The New York Times. (2016) “A Question of Environmental Racism in Flint”. NEW YORK, NEW YORK. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/22/us/a-question-of-environmental-racism-in-flint.html?_r=0

3. Pollution Issues. “Cancer Alley, Louisiana”.  http://www.pollutionissues.com/Br-Co/Cancer-Alley-Louisiana.html

4. Lee, Trymaine. MSNBC. .(2014) “Cance Alley: Big Industry, Big Problems”. http://www.msnbc.com/interactives/geography-of-poverty/se.html

5. (2013) “Mapping the Cancer Corridor along Louisiana’s Gulf Coast”. https://dabrownstein.com/category/cancer-alley/

Internet Resources

1.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_racism

2.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancer_Alley

3.“Environmental Racism explained”. Online Video clip. Youtube, 29, Jan 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toxins in the Hood

Black & White: Death & Dying by Race & Ethnicity

Is health black and white?

Before you answer… Did you know that there are differences in death rates based on race? On average, at birth a white person may expect to live 5 years longer than a black person in the United States. This gap grows to a 10 year difference when comparing life expectancy of white women (81 years) to black men (71 years) [1, 2].

Why is this the case?

Well for starters, the leading causes of death differ down both race/ethnicity and gender lines. For instance, homicide makes the list as one of the top five killers of black men, but does not make the list for white men (nor either group of women). Diabetes makes the list as one of the top five killers of black women, but does not make the list for white women (nor either group of men) [3]. However, when comparing death rates between blacks and whites for the same disease, blacks still tend to have worse health outcomes. In fact, according to 2012 data, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Heath states “the death rate for African Americans was generally higher than Whites for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and homicide” [4].

But really, why is this the case?

It comes down to what researchers refer to as ‘social determinants of health’. This term translates into how where you live, work, and play shapes your health. Moreover, these differences may in part be explained by health inequity, “difference or disparity in health outcomes that is systematic, avoidable, and unjust” [5]. For instance, it is common knowledge that many black people in America are living in poverty. This fact is tied to societal oppression dating back to slavery. Poverty manifests in predominately black neighborhoods, leading to limited access to resources such as healthy food, safe environments for physical activity, and quality health care services. As declared by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” BUT, poverty does not explain it all. Even when a 2015 study compared breast cancer survival rates between low socioeconomic status white women with high socioeconomic status black women, black women still suffered from worse health outcomes [6]. Thus, factors beyond poverty, such as racial discrimination (e.g. subconscious differences in treatment by health care professionals) must be considered.

What can be done?

First and foremost, health education and health inequity awareness must become common knowledge. Children and adults, men and women, black and white must all understand what constitutes health, so that health is not only seen as the physical absence of a pathogen, but more holistic and inclusive of mental, emotional, environmental, and social health. Professionals and patients must work together to actively address gaps in sociocultural competence/humility through being open and honest with each other. Particularly, physicians have a responsibility to treat “humanity as [their] patients” [7]. Thus, systematic discrimination must be deconstructed for the assurance of ‘justice for all’. While health policy should be at the forefront of the conversation to combat these issues of social justice, communities must also consider their power in determining their destiny. Black communities, as they have done in the past, must begin to gather, organize, and mobilize to persevere.

Now, with all of this in mind… you tell me, how long should health continue to be black and white?

Rhoda Moise is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a B.S. in Biobehavioral Health and a passion for health promotion. She has been trained to approach health from an interdisciplinary perspective from proteins to people. Through her doctoral studies as a PhD student at The University of Miami, she intends to combat health disparities by conducting research which provides empirical evidence that demands alteration in standing policy.

References

1 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/mortality_tables.htm

2 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/dvs/LEWK3_2009.pdf

3 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/mortality_tables.htm#lcod

4 http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=3&lvlid=61

5 http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/socialdeterminants/definitions.html

6 Keegan, T. H., Kurian, A. W., Gali, K., Tao, L., Lichtensztajn, D. Y., Hershman, D. L., … & Gomez, S. L. (2015). Racial/ethnic and socioeconomic differences in short-term breast cancer survival among women in an integrated health system. American journal of public health, 105(5), 938-946.

7 http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-ethics/declaration-professional-responsibility.page

Black & White: Death & Dying by Race & Ethnicity

“Healthy Immune System, Healthy You!

What is the Immune System and why is it important to maintain a healthy one?   Most people know that the immune system defends the body against infections, viruses, cancer cells, fungi and other parasites. What most don’t realize is that an unhealthy immune system speeds up the aging process and is a major factor in fatigue. A well-functioning immune system is vitally important for overall health.

As we emerge through different seasons, it can often bring an increased vulnerability to infections and illnesses. There is a lot you can do to improve the “terrain” and strengthen resistance. Two key areas to focus on are stimulating the flow of lymph and reducing the effects of stress.

The lymphatic system transports the army of immune cells and acts as a drainage channel for wastes and toxins. Lymph nodes are concentrated in the neck, chest and groin thus, when there is a lot of immune activity going on, these areas will swell.

What Weakens It?  Various physiological changes take place including increased heart rate and blood pressure. This is known as the “fight or flight” response and if it is constantly stimulated, it has a “wear and tear” effect on the immune system. With more prolonged stress, levels of cortisol start to rise which not only weakens the immune system but affects sleep, weight and contributes to bone loss and hormonal imbalance.

Worry, anxiety and negative thoughts will trigger a stress response in the same way as an actual threat. Anxiety has been shown to increase susceptibility to viral infection. Anxious people exposed to stress showed increases in infection rates from 74% to 90%, and clinical colds rose from 27% to 47%.

Not getting enough sleep causes stress on the immune system as well. Be sure to aim for 6-8hrs of sleep each night to help keep your system strong.

How to Strengthen It?  Massage therapist Clare Williams says “Massage increases the activity of white blood cells that target and destroy infectious agents and in immune deficiency it increases antibody production. With regular massage, the immune system is strengthened and it becomes more robust.”

Massage and reflexology also help calm the nervous system. During a treatment the Reflexologist stimulates more than 7,000 nerves when touching the feet. A recent study concluded that after receiving reflexology, healthy people experienced a significant decrease in anxiety, tension and worry and an increase in wellbeing.

Experienced acupuncturist Julia Davis has a keen interest in the immune system and the way stress affects our health. “Acupuncture works to restore and maintain balance in body and mind. Acupuncture can stimulate the body by treating the spleen, kidney, liver and lung channels. When balance is achieved, a person has a greater opportunity to resist illness and maintain good health”. (Familiesonline.com)

Don’t smoke

Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low in saturated fat

Exercise regularly

Maintain a healthy weight

Control your blood pressure

If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation

Get adequate sleep

Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly

Foods to Eat  Finally, don’t forget the importance of good nutrition. Many people don’t realize that 70% of the immune system is in the gut which means that what you eat will have a powerful impact. Healthy bowel movements are essential to avoid a breeding ground of unhealthy bacteria caused by waste backing up in the intestine. Probiotics and fiber intake are important in this respect. Probiotics, or the “live active cultures” found in yogurt, are healthy bacteria that keep the gut and intestinal tract free of disease-causing germs. Fiber should be the gentle soluble kind such as oats, brown rice, spelt rather than irritant wheat fiber. Both help with the gastrointestinal tract. Too much sugar will help yeast organisms to flourish in the gut and it blocks the uptake of vitamin C, a key immune enhancing vitamin.

Nutritional therapist Penny Crowther advises “Make sure you are getting enough of the key immune nutrients that may be lacking in the average diet. Research has proved that deficiency of vitamin D, an important immune related vitamin is relatively common so make sure you eat oily fish, or take a supplement. Zinc is also vital, particularly for children and teenagers. The production and function of immune cells are dependent on adequate zinc levels and very recent research found that this mineral helped reduce the duration of a cold. Meat such as lamb and seafood are the richest sources. Lastly,  make sure that you are eating foods containing Omega 3 and 6 fats (oily fish, nuts and seeds). These fats are converted into substances which regulate immune function.”

Eat more fruits and vegetables, which are rich in nutrients like vitamins C and E, plus beta-carotene and zinc & garlic. Go for a wide variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, including berries, citrus fruits, kiwi, apples, red grapes, kale, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes, and carrots.

Other foods particularly good for your immune system include fresh garlic, which may help fight viruses and bacteria, and old-fashioned chicken soup. Contemporary researchers now know why. “Studies show that mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive. This is a good thing when you have an infection

The three major antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. You’ll find them in colorful fruits and vegetables, especially those with purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues.

Beta-carotene and other carotenoids: apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green peppers, kale, mangoes, turnip and collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon

Vitamin C: berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mango, nectarine, orange, papaya, snow peas, sweet potato, strawberries, tomatoes, and red, green, or yellow peppers

Vitamin E: broccoli, carrots, chard, mustard and turnip greens, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach, and sunflower seeds. These foods are also rich in antioxidants:

Prunes

Apples

Raisins

Plums

Red grapes

Alfalfa sprouts

Onions

Eggplant

Beans

Other antioxidants that can help keep you healthy include:

Zinc: oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood, whole grains, fortified cereals, and dairy products

Selenium: Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, poultry, fortified breads, and other grain products

*Cooking tip: To get the biggest benefits of antioxidants, eat these foods raw or lightly steamed. Don’t overcook or boil them

Hopefully these tips will help keep you happy and healthy during the seasonal changes!

Don’t forget to like and follow me on Social Media @Jens_a_10/@Jens_a_Ten!

Jennifer Jones, CPT, Health & Wellness Coach

“Healthy Immune System, Healthy You!