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Monthly Archives: July 2012

End of month 7 check in

Today is the last day of July, hence the last day of ‘Month 7: Eliminating Environmental Toxins’. In a perfect world, I could have spent the whole month at a lake, never using any chemicals and being away from the heavy amounts of car traffic passing by my door every second. Alas, my life deck doesn’t hold that in the cards right now so I did my best. I walked when I could, which wasn’t very often as it was incredi-hot this month in Ottawa. I used products that were phosphate and phthalate free. I would have loved to be able to use only the vinegar, baking soda and lemon for everything, but I didn’t plan my time well enough for that. Shame on me. I was going to write a whole list of reasons for this, but what is done is done. I still have time to improve on that one! I did use only vinegar, baking soda and lemon on my day to day cleaning though, so yay me! Wahooooos!

Obviously I haven’t really noticed a change in my health from a month of using more natural products, but I did notice a better feeling emotionally. When I use products I know are safer for the environment and myself, I get a sense of pride. I’m not poisoning myself, my family and the world around me. A little bit of mental detox is certainly better than nothing.

This month has been relatively easy on me, but I’m afraid I slipped right back into the sugar pit. Gah! It was so hard to climb out over the month of June. I had really trained myself to stop eating those sugary treats. I have very little will power and as soon as the month was over, my husband started buying those sugary treats again…I’ll admit, I bought some myself. He has an incredible sweet tooth and living with the mirror of your sweet toothy self can wreak havoc on your will power. Tomorrow is a new day, though. I will cut them out again. 100%. It’s too hard to say yes sometimes and no on others. This is excellent timing as I have a bridesmaid dress that’s a bit snug on the waist. Tee hee. Don’t worry Amy, it’ll fit, I promise!

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Why you should be avoiding phosphates and phthalates

If you are trying to live a greener lifestyle, it’s likely that you’ve heard these two things before. Both are ingredients to avoid when purchasing your health, beauty and cleaning products. You can stop reading here if you get upset easily, but if you are brave and want to know WHY I’m telling you to avoid these two things, read on.

Phosphates

Phosphates are added to dish washing and laundry detergents to make them more effective. Unfortunately, effective for us means detrimental for the environment. Phosphates are a powerful fertilizer and when they go down your drain and into the water system, the algae eats it up pronto. They reproduce and then die off. Afterwards, microorganism eat the dead algae and reproduce.

a red tide

a red tide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, what’s the problem? These microorganisms reproduce in huge quantities and use up all the oxygen in the water, eventually causing the body of water to dry up. The algae can also become so rampant that they produce too many natural toxins themselves. These HABs, or harmful algal blooms, are what causes what we often hear in the media as ‘red tides’. Not only can red tides have a negative impact on the environment, many humans can become ill if exposed and there can also be severe economical impacts on the fishing industry. As we try to feed the excess of human life on the planet, loss of one of our major food sources is not heading in the right direction. Imagine if fish were removed from our diets? The strain that would be placed on the other industries would be catastrophic.

Phthalates

Scary stat: “About 1 billion pounds of phthalates are produced per year and sold worldwide.” – The Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel

Why so much? Phthalates are in EVERYTHING. So, basically it is impossible  to cut them out of your life completely. Even the bubble you’d have to live in would likely have phthalates. They are in everything from furniture to nail polishes to sex toys. That new car smell is the phthalates being released into the air that you breathe. Another reason not to leave your pet in the car on a hot day. Even scarier is that if you were to be tested right now, your urine would likely have traces of the metabolites of multiple phthalates. Ick! They have even found traces of phthalates in jelly fish in Antartica. I doubt it came from the penguins, so it’s very widespread.

So what’s the big deal? Phthalates are known reproductive toxins. Some different agencies argue that in small amounts, phthalates don’t cause any damage. But, as you’ve just read, they are everywhere so that’s really a moot point. Phthalates are a xenoestrogen. That means that they are a man made substance that acts like estrogen in your body, whether you are male or female. Several studies have shown phthalates to be a contributing factor to early puberty in girls. (Colon et all, 2000) Other studies have linked them to under-developed testicles in baby boys. This can lead to numerous problems down the road like hormonal imbalance and sexual dysfunction. Although the European Union has banned two different types of phthalates, that barely scratches the surface of possible phthalate use, some of which are worse than the ones that were banned.

Here’s a short list of all the different abbreviations that are hiding phthalates in your products:

ATBC – o-acetyl tributyl citrate

BEP – Butyl A-ethyhexyl phthalate

BBP – Butyl benzyl phthalate

DBGP – Di-butylglycol phthalate

DBP – di(n-butyl) phthalate

DCHP – Dicyclohexyl phthalate

You get the idea, here are the rest in abbreviation form only…

DEHA, DEHP, DEHPA, DEP, DHP, DIBE, DIBP, DIDP, DIHP, DIOP, DMP, IOP, DPHP, DPOP, DPP, DTDP, L11, L7-11, L7-9, L9-11, MBP, MEHP, MPP, TETM, UDP

Another word that you should always be suspicious of in your ingredient list is ‘fragrance’. That one little word can hide numerous evils.

It is so scary to know that there are things that are known to be harmful in our products, but the more you know, the more you can avoid them.

Have you been trying to avoid phthalates or any other type of toxins? If not, will you now start using this information?

Be a peach, don’t use bleach!

ECB Hazard Very Toxic Symbol

ECB Hazard Very Toxic Symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You want those whiter than white clothes? You want that mold gone? You want to poison yourself and your family?

Well, hopefully that last one doesn’t strike a chord with you. If it does, my recommendation is professional counseling!

For those of you who said yes to the first two questions and thought I was mad when you read the third, there’s a reason I wrote that in. Many people use straight bleach or bleaching products in their cleaning routines. This is very dangerous. Think about it. The Germans started using chlorine gas in the First World War to incapacitate and kill their enemies. I know you may sometimes feel like your house is a battlefield of mess you must conquer, but isn’t that a bit of overkill ? When you are cleaning with bleach it gives off toxic fumes. If you are not in a well ventilated area, you could pass out and that is just the start of the problems. Once it goes down your drain it can become an organochloride. These newly formed organochlorides have been tested and shown to be carcinogenic. Not to mention the fact that chlorine alone is corrosive to the skin, eyes and lungs. Some studies have even shown its negative effects on the immune system, reproductive system and it may likely be a neurological toxin. Now how important are those whites?

Does that mean you can never have white clothes again? Absolutely not, there are alternatives. When washing white clothes, use 1/4 cup of washing soda, also known as sodium carbonate. Not to be confused with baking soda, washing soda can be used instead of bleach. *Make sure you wear gloves if you’re going to touch the washing soda as it does have irritant properties.* Toss in a 1/4 cup of white vinegar and you’re good to go!

What about molds? As I’ve mentioned previously in my blog ‘My basic, all-natural, cleaning tool kit‘, vinegar is great for getting rid of molds.

So really, there is no reason to use bleach. It is dangerous for you, your loved ones and the environment in general. It reminds me of when I was young and had my first ‘bleach experience’. I had several fish in this really great, tall punch bowl. I thought I would get the bowl and rocks cleaned up, so I put the rocks in bleach while I cleaned the bowl. After about and hour, and much loss of rock colour, I rinsed the rocks thoroughly. Placing the whole thing back together and the fish back to their home, I went about my day. When I came up to my room that night, all the fish but one were dead. I felt terrible. Knowing there must be something wrong with the water, I took the only surviving fish, Megara, out of the bowl. Once I told my parents, they pointed out my mistake and we threw all those rocks out. Lucky for me, Megara was a tough, hearty broad and I actually had her for something like 6 years afterwards. She was a sucker fish and by the time she passed, she was longer than the kleenex box my dad used to bury her. (She was way to big to flush!) Point being, I’ve known for a long time how toxic bleach can be and I don’t want to expose myself to it, if at all possible. Another point, talk to your kids about the dangers of bleach if you haven’t already. I would even say hide your bleach until they are in their teens so there’s no accidental misuse, like myself and my poor fish.

Does anyone have other toxic bleach stories to share? Or any alternatives they’ve found that I haven’t mentioned?

YOTD approved list of natural cleaners

Maid outfit

This is how I dress when cleaning…not! (Photo credit: Whitfield-In-World)

I’ve shared with you my personal tool box of natural cleaners. I’m sort of lazy when it comes to cleaning, so I use the easiest and cheapest ingredients whenever I can. I have done some research however, into some of the other things you can use to clean your home and what they are best used for. If you are a little more driven than me or just interested in trying something new, please try them out and let me know how it goes!

1. Beeswax

* I think before we venture into this one, I will warn you that beeswax is known to be highly flammable…enough said? Don’t clean in your sparkler bra!* (suggested attire pictured to the left)

Beeswax is great for polishing furniture, but when you melt it down to use in any of the recipes you may find, please make sure to remember the following things:

  • Don’t melt it in anything other than stainless steel or tin plated pots/pans. Other metals can leach and affect the colour.
  • Do not place the beeswax tin on a hot plate or over a direct flame.
  • It doesn’t boil and remember that whole flammable comment? Do not overheat your beeswax. MIND YOUR BEESWAX!
  • The best system is probably the double boiler one, like if you were melting chocolate…mmmm, chocolate.
  • If you haven’t listened to anything else, remember in case of fire, DO NOT USE WATER. Use a damp cloth or extinguisher to put out any flames.

2. Borax

I’ve never actually used borax to clean, only in grade school experiments from my days as a teacher. It is a naturally occurring mineral that is water soluble. It cleans, disinfects, removes stains and deodorizes. It is very versatile. I also read that you can combine it with sugar to kill cockroaches! Fascination and ‘ew’ simultaneously cross my mind here.

3. Cornstarch

Derived from corn, cornstarch‘s power lies mostly in its absorption properties. It can absorb oil and grease from material. There are recipes for using it to clean windows and other things, but I would just use baking soda for those as it is a much stronger deodorizer. I’d never used cornstarch for anything except cooking until my husband cut a little too far down on our puppy’s claw. Jumping on-line, the suggested method to stop the bleeding is to put cornstarch on the claw to block and clot it. Worked like a charm!

4. Essential oils

This is for you folks who want that extra scent when cleaning, but don’t want to use lemons. There is some caution to be had here though: Pregnant women, diabetics and those with other medical conditions should see their doctor before using the oil. Also, essential oils can be toxic for pets. So use with care. My favourite scents are eucalyptus and lavender.  Both have antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.

5. Olive Oil

Not only is it great for your skin it is great for conditioning your leather furniture or a polish. Just be careful not to overdo it.

6. Salt

I never knew this, but salt has bleaching properties and is a natural deodorizer. The next time you spill red wine on your carpet, sprinkle a little salt on. You can also mix it with vinegar and flour to make a good cleaning paste, or skip the flour and add it to your chips for a post cleaning snack. He he he.

7. Toothpaste

Clean your silverware with your toothpaste. It is mildly abrasive and will help you get that shine. Keep it away from your finer pieces of jewelry though, in case of reactions.

There you have it. A little natural help for almost all of your cleaning needs. It is not an exhaustive list and if you don’t see your favourite, natural cleaning aid on here, feel free to add it to the comment section. The more we can share, the better informed we will become. Isn’t knowledge fantastic!

My basic, all-natural, cleaning tool kit

This image shows a whole and a cut lemon.

Ooh, Lemony-fresh!

 

So I’ve posted a list of things you are to avoid when looking at different cleaners, but let’s look at things to use instead of these multi-ingredient cleaners. The best part is that these are things that you likely already have in your cupboards at home. If you don’t have them, then they are things that are inexpensive to buy. I’m not advocating that you get rid of all your cleaners right now, that would be wasteful. But if you are more aware of these natural products that often work just as well, or better, than the expensive big name brands, you may be more likely to use them.

1. Vinegar

My house is never without a spray bottle filled with vinegar. I use vinegar daily to clean different messes in the house. It is a great disinfectant and with two cats and a dog running around the house, I don’t need to worry about poisoning anybody. Vinegar is made from soured grains or juices with a composition of 5% acetic acid. It’s a mild acid, but that means it can cut through grease and remove many things like odour, stains, traces of soap, mildew and wax buildup. You can use vinegar on almost anything, from carpet to stone. I use vinegar to clean dishes that contained food that was left in the fridge a little too long, my water bottles and meat cutting boards. If you have children and you want to clean up their high chair trays, or anything they might put in their mouths (so, pretty much EVERYTHING), vinegar is incredibly safe and useful.

2. Baking Soda

Many of us know about the great deodorizing effects that baking soda can have, but it can be used for hands-on cleaning as well. It is used in baking, so we know that it is edible. I use it when I have particularly tough bathtub grime. Sprinkling it on, then spraying some of my handy-dandy vinegar on over top, it fizzes helping to remove the grime. Basic chemistry, take a base and an acid, mix them together and get a reaction. Although I’ve never tried it, it can also neutralize hard water and can be use for scouring pots and pans. One little, orange box never did so much before!

3. Lemon Juice

Many people like to strive for that freshly cleaned smell. The problem with this is that often the fragrance comprises some of the worst chemical ingredients of a product, all hidden in the word ‘fragrance‘. As someone who cleans with vinegar 99% of the time, it is something that I’ve lost the need for. However, for those of you out there who love that ‘clean’ smell, I suggest adding a little lemon into your cleaning day. Lemon juice on its own can be used in a variety of cleaning situations. Like vinegar, it is a mild acid that can be used to cut through grease and stains. Remember when you were younger and put lemon in your hair before sitting in the sun to lighten it? The same idea applies to sweat stains on your white clothes. Mix it with vinegar and baking soda to make cleaning pastes, too. The easiest way to use a lemon is to cut it in half, sprinkle on some baking soda and use the lemon itself to scrub away.

*Lime juice has much of the same properties and can be used in the same way, if you prefer.

4. Hydrogen peroxide

Use hydrogen peroxide when you need to know something is sterilized properly. It can be used on your body as well. It is more gentle and much safer than chlorine bleach. You are also less likely to get dizzy off the fumes.

These four ingredients are always in my all-natural cleaning toolkit, but there are many other options for you to explore, depending on preference. Many of us don’t have the time to make nifty concoctions to clean, and these ingredients are easy and inexpensive. However, I’ll soon be posting a more complete list of natural ingredients you can use to clean with.

Any suggestions that you’d like to add to the upcoming list? Feel free to let me know and tell me what you use them for.

Month 7: Eliminating environmental toxins

Now, it will be nearly impossible to eliminate all the toxins that surround me and I’m definitely not going to be able to live in a bubble for a whole month…unless it was air-conditioned…hmmmm. I can’t do that and I’m not the only one. So, I will just detox on my own personal Jenn scale.

The rules for this month are:

1. Use natural household cleaners including:
-vinegar
-baking soda
-lemons

2. Avoid scented products for laundry and soaps

3. Spend as much time away from heavy car traffic as possible! It is summer after all.

4. Try to walk whenever possible to avoid creating even more carbon emissions. (Though with the recent heat, I’m not sure this will be often :s )

Since this goal will not be a 100% achievement, my main goal is to educate myself and anyone who reads this blog about certain ingredients to avoid and why. Many of us are not educated in the reading of labels, especially not labels for cleaners. We tend to read the front, see what properties are advertised and just base our decisions on that. Accompanying this basic problem is the ‘green washing‘ that is going on in the industry. Companies finding ways to make their products appear more environmentally friendly and making unwitting consumers pay more for the fancy label. Vote with your wallet and you can make a change, but first it is important to be educated voters.

It reminds me of highschool when my grade was old enough to vote in the election. I heard a group of girls talking about the upcoming election and they were giggling. Why were they giggling, you ask? They had all decided to vote for one particular candidate because he was ‘cute’. I urge you not to be the giggle girls. Be conscientious and vote with every dollar you spend. Not just for the environment, but for you and your loved ones.

I’ve already posted a reblog about some of the chemical ingredients to avoid, write them down and keep them in your wallet so you don’t have to be unsure.

All this typing and I’ve broken a sweat…it’s super hot here in Ottawa…and we don’t have central air. Probably for the best, definitely better for the environment anyway!

The Prop Store of London - LA - Bubble Boy

I think I’d need a bigger bubble!

Here is a list of cleaning ingredients I’ve been avoiding. Are there any you would add to the list?

US GreenBrokers

simple-green-household-cleanerEverything these days is “green” or should I say, labeled green for marketing purposes (“green-washing”).  We all enjoy living in a clean home and environment, but are you cleaning your house at the cost of your health?  I always cringe when I walk into a house or room and the strong smell of Clorox greets me.  Within seconds my eyes are burning, my throat gets tight and I quickly leave.  Why would anyone think that if you can smell Clorox you will know that place is clean?

Some of the ingredients in household cleaners, laundry detergents, and even “green” cleaners like Simple Green and Clorox Greenworks can create a toxic indoor environment.  Unfortunately reading labels does not necessarily ensure you are buying a product without one of these ingredients as companies are getting “smarter” about what ingredients they omit from their labels.  The “green” cleaning niche has captured the attention…

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