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Natural Awakenings Fairfield & Southern Litchfield Counties

Environmental Toxins and Mental Health

Nov 04, 2019 12:25PM ● By Patricia Staino

There are more than 90,000 commercial and industrial chemicals currently registered and available for use in the U.S., the majority of which have never been tested on humans for safety or toxicity. 

An abundance of evidence now indicates many of these chemicals are harmful to human health, especially in fetuses, toddlers and teens, whose brains and bodies are developing at a rapid rate. 

On November 13, at Ives Concert Hall on the Western Connecticut State University campus, Dr. Aly Cohen will discuss evidence-based data on everyday chemicals and EMF exposure and how they contribute to mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and ADHD. She will discuss dietary approaches to reduce toxicity, beneficial supplements, indoor air quality, sleep hygiene, stress management and safe use of cellular technology. 

Natural Awakenings recently caught up with Cohen, a rheumatologist, integrative medicine practitioner, and environmental health specialist practicing in Princeton, N.J., to learn more about why she does what she does.  

Q: How did you become so passionate about this work?

My work with environmental health actually started when my dog became sick about eight years ago. I explored all possibilities for the source of his symptoms, including contaminated drinking water, contaminated dog food and pesticides. It motivated me to work with an environmental working group to teach doctors about the chemicals in these products. Eventually I found that teenagers would be the best audience. Through my pilot projects and research with a local high school, I am now working to integrate environmental health topics into high schools nationwide.

Q: What gets you most excited about the work you do?

I was so shocked by all of the regulatory issues, health issues and lack of education in our healthcare system on this topic that I felt I needed to get this information out there at any level. I am excited by my patients, colleagues and even strangers who have taken my information and recommendations and made changes in their lifestyles and health conditions. I’m glad I can educate others, and it thrills me to be a part of their journey and perhaps their healing process.

Q: Which elements of the work frustrate you? 

I go where the love is...I want to educate people who are even slightly interested in what is going on with our environment and how it can and does affect human health. I’m frustrated by our current medical education system for not embracing and owning this information when the data and research is so robust!

Q: Are there hurdles you wish you could jump that so far have proven too challenging? 

I see doors opening everywhere. I focus on the positive and spread that information on my social media platforms and on

Q: What projects are you currently working on, and what do you hope to accomplish with this work? 

My TEDx talk, “Reimagining High School Health and Science Education,” was taped on October 20 and is currently available online. I’m hoping to work with local universities and high schools to integrate this education at the high school level. Additionally, my book—Nontoxic: Guide to Living Healthy in a Chemical World—will be released in September 2020. 

Q: What do you most want Natural Awakenings readers to know about the upcoming event in Danbury on November 13?

I would like your audience to know the importance of understanding their environment and the products they buy and use every day. Even low-dose exposures can cause reasonable harm to the human body and affect mental health. But also, there are so many easy, practical, cost-effective ways to improve mental health issues, and I hope to share a ton of good information at the lecture. 

Tickets for the lecture are on sale at and cost $20 for assigned seating or $10 for general admission. WSCU students will be admitted free with valid ID. For more information, contact Christel Autuori at [email protected]. Location: Ives Concert Hall, 181 White St, Danbury. See ad, page 3. 

Patricia Staino is a freelance writer and editor living in North Carolina, who is also the managing editor of Natural Awakenings’ Fairfield County/Housatonic Valley and Greater Hartford editions.

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