Wednesday, April 22, 1970.  That was the date of the very first Earth Day, and what many consider to be the beginning of a cohesive American attention to environmental issues on both a national and global scale.  We are fast approaching nearly forty years after it’s inception, and I wonder   what tangible progress has this consciousness accomplished?  Do most of us only think about our impact on the world’s ground, water and air once a year when this “holiday” approaches?  How do we live each day differently so that we are contributing to cleaning up the messes of the past and building a future that is eco-friendly, sustainable and balances the need for industry and financial prosperity for families, communities, our nation and the world at large?

I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately for several reasons, but primarily because of the recent measles outbreaks. Measles and the environment?

Measles and Vaccinations has been an extremely volatile debate all across the country, as a large outbreak linked to what is believed to have been a foreign traveler carrying the virus visited Disneyland around Dec. 17, 2014.  So what are just the numbers over the last 10 years concerning measles as related to number of cases and associated deaths? The CDC’s Vital Statistics Reports reference that of the 66 cases reported in 2005, there was 1 death, of the 71 cases reported in 2009, there were 2 deaths and of the 63 cases reported in 2010 there were 2 deaths. All other years 2004-2013 there were an average of about 90 cases reported nationally each year and no other deaths reported.  2014 saw a record number of cases (644) but no deaths.  2015 is just begun, and we’ve seen 176 cases, but still no associated deaths.

So whether you believe vaccines are important or necessary is not the point of this article.  I’ll leave that to a discussion between you and whomever else you choose to engage.  What I think we can all agree on is that it’s a HOT topic and has become a debate that has taken on the tones of being a national emergency.

So a friends post on her facebook page got me thinking – the health effects of environmental pollutants is not just a national emergency, but a world crisis that we give lip service to and hope it never catches up with us.  And I’m as guilty in many ways as anyone else.  This is what she wrote:

“ I want to point out something positive from this whole measles hysteria……that we may actually be evolving to think about other people–the whole. It’s wonderful to see parents comment that they vaccinate their children so others can “stay safe.” Now let’s keep thinking along those lines. Since approximately 2,000 CHILDREN die each year from cancer (with about 20,000 diagnoses), would you all consider protecting my children and everyone’s children from cancer by only eating organic foods, not dousing your lawn or sidewalks in fertilizers and other toxic chemicals like Roundup, not shopping at [insert favorite big box store] for toxic clothing that pollutes the water and air, not ever consuming a GMO, not ever using toxic dryer sheets, not using toxic cleaning products in your home, never shopping at the dollar store for cheap crap made in China that increases our fossil fuel use and spews toxic mercury in the air that ends up in the water and soil (and then 2 days later the cheap crap breaks and you throw it away and the plastic never degrades, just keeps getting smaller and smaller and ends up in the oceans, etc)…I am sure I could go on and on. But do you see my point? CHRONIC disease is a very big issue right now and just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Science shows us that all of these things contain known carcinogens. There is ample research. Cancer is the biggest cause of death by disease in children right now and the numbers are increasing. Why are we not focusing on this? All of us are to blame for those deaths. All of us. Please start taking steps to bring those numbers down. Even if it just means you stop using dryer sheets tomorrow. One step at a time.”

My hope is that as Earth Day 2015 makes its annual appearance this month we will take the time to look around our homes and make a short list of ways to  immediately make changes that will leave our world safer and healthier for our children and future generations.  It’s exciting to see how many of the contractors in Juneau are taking the time to educate themselves about environmentally friendly building options.  So, if you visited the Home Show last month and have new construction or a remodel planned, be sure to ask your contractor for earth friendly options.  Because like my friend said, it’s all of us working together that will make a difference and even the small things like using less plastic and eliminating dryer sheets is important.

Dr. Summer Beattie, ND is a graduate of Bastyzr University.  She has over 8 years experience as a Naturopathic Doctor specializing in women’s health with an emphasis on environmental medicine.  Having served two terms on the board of directors for the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians, she has also worked in the medical aesthetics field since 2008.  You can reach her at or 907-209-4611.