Listen to my June 17th interview on Progressive Radio Network with Dr. Sabrina McCormick, sociologist, documentary filmmaker and author of the new book “No Family History: The Environmental Link to Breast Cancer.” [Read more…] about The Environmental Links to Breast Cancer
Healthy, Wealthy and Wise
I love honey. I love that it is a natural product that has been around forever. So, I found it upsetting to learn that much of the honey sold in stores is contaminated with antibiotics like Chloramphenicol, which is banned by the FDA. US bee keepers aren’t using antibiotics, but two-thirds of the honey Americans eat is imported and almost half of it, regardless of what’s written on the label, comes from China. This was reported in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, which did an investigation. [Read more…] about Honey Laundering
Studies from around the world are now being released with some startling news about using cell phones. A Swedish study reports that radio waves from mobile phones penetrate deep into the brain not just around the ear. Researchers found that using your cell phone for 10 years or longer will double the risk of getting an acoustic neuroma – a tumor on a nerve connecting your ear to your brain – and children, because they have thinner skulls than adults and nervous systems that are still developing, are particularly vulnerable to it. [Read more…] about Cell Phones and Kids: Not a Safe Combination
If you are buying scented air fresheners and household cleaning products, chances are you are exposing yourself to chemicals that are bad for you. For example, The NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) recently found that 12 out of 14 popular air freshener brands contained phthalates, chemicals that can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive problems. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) reports that “95 percent of the ingredients used to create fragrances today are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum, including benzene derivatives, aldehydes, and many other known toxins and sensitizers.”
Most of us, unwittingly, buy such products containing ingredients that are either poorly studied, not studied at all, or are known to pose potentially serious health risks. Of the roughly 17,000 chemicals found in common household products, only 3 in 10 have been tested for their effects on human health. Why? Because the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission does not require manufacturers to test household cleaning products before they appear on store shelves.
While it shouldn’t be assumed that because an item is on the shelf it has been tested for safety, you also shouldn’t assume that if it says “natural” it’s safe. The word “natural” is undefined and unregulated by the government and can be applied to just about anything. So, if you’re standing in the grocery isle holding what appears to be a natural, nice-smelling cleaner for example, know that its label provides only limited information at best. According to the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, a national nonprofit that educates the public on environmental toxins that affect children’s health, labels often omit inactive or inert ingredients that can make up as much as 90 percent of a product’s volume. These include solvents, dispersal agents, dyes and fragrances, some of which can pollute the air and water. Other ingredients that are not mentioned can be carcinogens or worsen existing health problems like allergies and asthma. And because no standards exist, claims like “eco-safe” and “environmentally friendly” are also meaningless, says the Consumers Union.
Here are some ways to keep you and your family safe from dangerous, artificially scented household products:
- Use products with scents from natural or botanical sources or labeled as essential oils. These are different from fragrance oils which are created with synthetic chemicals. Examine the list of ingredients to check that the word “fragrance” does not appear.
- Scented candles may release mercury and other toxins into the air you breathe. Candles that have shiny metal wicks are made of lead which can be released into the air and turn into dust that settles on you and your furniture. Try unscented soy or beeswax alternatives, or those scented with essential oils.
- Avoid scented aerosol sprays, liquids that emit a continuous scent, and solid air fresheners. Instead, use: a non-aerosol citrus spray containing only citrus peel extracts, an open box of baking soda, essential oil on a piece of cotton or in a diffuser, or try opening a window.
- Fabric dryer sheets and potpourri that list “fragrance” on the label mean that synthetic chemicals were used, and they should be avoided. A non-toxic alternative to dryer sheets: put one or two drops of an essential oil on a washcloth and put it in the dryer with your laundry.
- Since only food and herbs can be certified organic, the word “organic” on the label of a scented dish or laundry soap, for example, doesn’t mean much.
- Most conventional dish and laundry detergents are made from petroleum, a nonrenewable synthetic resource, so look for naturally derived or plant-based formulas that are biodegradable and contain no phosphates.
- Choose “non-chlorine bleach” cleaning solutions and scouring powders. Fumes of cleansers containing a high concentration of chlorine can irritate the lungs, which is dangerous for those with asthma, emphysema or a heart condition. The risks are compounded when the cleansers are used in small, poorly ventilated rooms, such as the bathroom. Fragranced chlorine bleaches are even worse because the odor is disguised, which can lead to dangerous overexposure.
- White vinegar, borax, salt, herbs, olive oil, cornstarch and lemon juice have been used as cleansers for decades and have proved to be effective and safer for humans, pets and the environment.
- Recipes to make environmentally safe cleansers from oven cleaners to mildew removers can be found online at: www.care2.com, www.almanac.com (hit the Food button, then scroll down to “Kitchen Tips and Tricks” and click on the “helpful advice and handy kitchen hints link”) and www.organizedhome.com.
- Information about safe cleaning products can be found at: www.greenhome.com, www.checnet.org (Children’s Health Environmental Coalition), www.householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov and www.kidsorganics.com/Chemicals%20to%20Avoid.htm.
- You can find environmentally safe products from Bon Ami, Ecover, Seventh Generation, BioShield, Earth Friendly and Greenwood Naturals, a lavender-based essential oil product produced by EO Products.
If all this seems overwhelming, think about just one “healthy” scented cleaning product you can purchase today and commit to buying it. This small, simple act could have a major effect on you and your family’s health.
Sure the costumes are cute, and the house decorations clever, but let’s face it, for kids, Halloween is all about the candy. If you’re like me, and your kids bring home way too many treats, you might want to consider mailing the chocolate ones back to Nestlé, M&M/Mars and Hershey. Why? Because, according to media reports, these and other chocolate makers buy cocoa from plantations that use child slaves in the harvesting of cocoa beans. The reports have unveiled stories about boys, as young as 9 years old, who were tricked or sold into slavery, to work on cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire) in West Africa. This small country is the world’s major supplier of cocoa, providing 43% of the world’s supply. [Read more…] about This Halloween: Know Where Your Chocolate Comes From
By the time you walk out the door in the morning, after slathering, and spritzing yourself with toner, moisturizer, eye cream, foundation, blush, eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, gloss and perfume, you may have put enough chemicals onto your body to be hazardous to your health. Many of the chemicals in makeup have been linked to cancer, hormone imbalances and skin irritation. [Read more…] about Safe Makeup