Environmental Working Group: Protecting Your Health

By Grace DeRose-Wilson, Screening Integration Coordinator at Elder Law of Michigan

Have you ever looked at the ingredient list on a product and wondered what the ingredients are? How can you tell if the ingredients listed are safe to consume or use on your body? Knowing how chemicals affect your body is important, especially for older adults. According to the National Institute of Health, changes in body composition due to aging can make older adults more susceptible to the effects of toxins consumed and absorbed by the body. I believe it is important to be aware of what chemicals are in the foods, hygiene products, and cosmetics you consume.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit organization that empowers people to protect their health and the environment. For consumers, it can take time and energy to figure out what chemicals are harmful and if products contain these chemicals. Often consumers don’t know what chemicals are in the foods they eat, the soaps and shampoos they use, or their cleaning products. EWG can help consumers discover what they are putting in their bodies without taking time and energy away from the consumer. EWG has a variety of consumer guides to empower people to take control over the products they use.

If you would like to know what chemicals are in your cosmetics and what those chemicals do, check out EWG’s Skin Deep Guide to Cosmetics.

Do you know what is in your drinking water? You can use EWG’s National Tap Water Database and your zip code to find out. If you decide to filter your water, you can use EWG’s Water Filter Buying Guide to find the right filter for you.

What about sunscreen? Does your sunscreen contain Retinyl Palmitate? According to EWG, Retinyl Palmitate is an antioxidant that may lead to the development of skin tumors and lesions when exposed to sunlight. Check out EWG’s 2019 Guide to Sunscreens to see what ingredients your sunscreen contains and how they affect your body.

How about pesticides in produce? Have you heard of EWG’s Dirty Dozen? This is a list of fruits and vegetables that contain pesticides even after they are cleaned or peeled. Many people choose to avoid these fruits and veggies unless they are grown organically. EWG also has a Clean Fifteen list, which consists of fruits and veggies that contain little or no pesticides even if they are not organic.

If you have a smart phone, download EWG’s Healthy Living App so you can scan products to review their ratings and information. For more information and resources check out Environmental Working Group.

Grace DeRose-Wilson is a Screening Integration Coordinator for MiCAFE at Elder Law of Michigan and has been a member of the Elder Law of Michigan team since November 2018. As a Screening Integration Coordinator, Grace helps Michigan seniors navigate the benefits application process, and helps raise awareness of benefits through community outreach events.