Forty-four years ago I heard Ralph Nader on the radio talking about chemicals in our food and products commonly found in the home. I was shocked to learn about this when I was only 12 years old and in a panic I ran around to every adult neighbor and to my mother and told them what I had learned. Oddly, I was dismissed. Perhaps I wasn’t taken seriously because of the urgency in my voice, or… maybe the impact big corporations and marketing were having on us to be good consumers and not question anything they were up to. In either case, I couldn’t believe that I didn’t know one single adult who appeared to care. That was until I wrote a report about it for English class and got an A++. She was the only person that I knew who did care that her oranges, the one food item I focused the report on, were being doused with chemical pesticides, dyed to look picture-perfect, and coated with a petro-chemical wax as a preservative. Even back then it wasn’t difficult to find evidence in the public library just two doors away to confirm every word Ralph Nader had spoken on the radio program.
Up until that life-shattering event I had always just assumed that our parents and our government were keeping an eye on things and making sure that nothing would pass that was dangerous or poisonous. Particularly those things that would ruin the health of children. What an eye opener that so many didn’t seem to care. To this day I still have trouble understanding ‘why’ more people don’t do something to stop or at least curtail what has been going on. I just don’t get it and probably never will.
It was on that day that I began what was to be a lifelong hobby, knowing what’s going on with the food and products we buy and consume. It’s been an interesting observation. While we have banned DDT in the USA we have not banned the various ingredients that make DDT, the toxic brews that surround us, when in the right combinations actually create DDT. Again, just another thing that I will never understand.
The other interesting thing I have noticed is that it hasn’t gotten any better. One would expect as science and technology have improved so would the elimination of toxins in and on our food and household products. That has not been the case at all. To compound matters further there are more products, foods and things on the market today than there has been at any other point in human history.
When I was 15 I was already beginning to cultivate alternative practices. I began with herbs and supplements. I have come a long way since then and have always attributed my better health as a result of the things I did not do – these things I avoided like the plague. Soda, snack foods, hot dogs, most boxed and canned foods, conventionally raised crops/meats/poultry, and in 1990 I eliminated all household cleaners and personal care products and over-the-counter and pharmaceutical drugs. That must seem very drastic to most of the population.
I did have what I consider a few good influences in my life. An aunt and uncle had opened the first health food store in the county before I was 13 years old. I recall going into their store and there was so little in the spacious old building that it made me wonder what exactly was so healthy about eating such a tiny variety of foods. If I had bought one pound of everything in their store I would have filled up the typical plastic shopping bag. Another aunt decided she would support her brother and sister-in-laws new fangled store and she thought that feeding us kids black beans was just the ticket. It was disgusting to say the least. Thankfully vegetarian cooking has come a long way and in most instances the flavor beats the daylights out of anything in a can or box. Then, through the influence of a neighbor I learned that the bland over-cooked foods typical of the 1950′s was only horrible because somewhere along the line women forgot how to make food taste good with wholesome ingredients.
My first experience with household chemicals came when I was 5 years old. My mother had stepped outside to hang the laundry on a clothesline and told me to make sure the ‘little kids’, my two younger sisters and brother, did NOT get into the chemicals. At that time I’m not even sure I knew what a chemical was, all I knew is that they would poison us and make us very sick. Additionally, at 5 years old, I was hardly ready to be baby sitting. Needless to say, my brother got into the bleach an spilled it and I got into a lot of trouble for it.
When I was a teenager the spray air fresheners came onto the market and of course they were added to the ‘chemical cabinet’ – which by the way was stuffed, you couldn’t open the door without something falling out. Mom would spray those air fresheners around the house, they were as disgusting then as they are today. Not to mention the gag reflex and headaches they caused.
Thankfully, by the time supermarket and box stores became filled with all of that junk I was already on my way to blacklisting them in my little book of things to avoid entirely. So when I was 18 and bought my first house and had my son I never had to worry about him being poisoned by our food or the products in my home. At that time there were health food stores in every larger town in the Woodstock, NY area and organic food and products were easily available. The health food stores were the only stores where he was allowed to pick out any one food or snack that he wanted. Keep in mind this was during the 1980′s and 1990′s when the certified organic label requirements were far more stringent than they are today; the organics in the stores today don’t come close to what was available pre-1993, but that’s a whole different ball of wax and the one tip I can share with you regarding organic foods today is look for those who are local (see LocalHarvest.org) and use the term “beyond organic” those folks are raising crops and animals according to the old organic requirements, not the newer ‘lax’ standards.
Over the years I’ve also watched kids going from slim to obese. Rarely a kid with ADD/ADHD, no kids having behavioral issues, no kids with diabetes, allergies to multiple things, and rarer still were kids with autism, and so on. The illnesses and diseases kids are plagued with today were not happening when I was young. Today, they are the norm!? WTH is going on!? A population doesn’t go from near zero to all of them having some sort of health issue in such a short period of time… unless it’s environmental.
Today, 1 in 50 are diagnosed with autism-spectrum disorder. Studies are proving that everyday chemicals in our homes, our yards, our food, and the air we breathe may be triggering abnormal brain development. Autism and environmental factors are becoming pretty clearly linked.
The latest research, presented at the International Society for Autism Research annual conference in early May 2013, uncovered a connection between the autism and bug-killing chemicals and air pollution, more evidence suggesting that our surroundings do play a role in scrambling the normal functioning of young brains.
In 2011, scientists from Stanford University found that genetics account for 38 percent of the risk of autism. Environmental factors were responsible for 62 percent. Which directly points to what we eat, breathe, drink, and absorb does matter! It matters a lot!
It has also been proven that prenatal exposure to even tiny doses of hormone-disrupting chemicals could irreversibly alter a child’s health. Bisphenol A (BPA) and plasticizing chemicals called phthalates are prime suspects linked to socialization and aggression problems in children, along with stunted growth, learning disabilities, and lower IQ. These chemicals are used in hundreds of everyday products, including soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, mouthwash, the linings in canned foods, household cleaners, scented candles and air fresheners.
A barrage of neurotoxic chemicals hides out in hundreds of everyday products, many of which are in our houses right now. They range from plastic coffee cups and bug foggers to household cleaners and even makeup. We need to consider the costs of the damage to your family’s health, to the climate, and to the environment when we make purchases.
Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide, is still one of the most widely used farm chemicals in the U.S. Even though they have been banned from residential uses, this pesticide is still legal in agriculture, and residues have turned up on apples, bell peppers, cranberries, kale, grapes, peaches, and dozens of other foods.
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons(PAHs), aside from being found in burned meat, PAHs are abundant in coal-tar-based driveway sealants and anti-dandruff shampoos, cigarette smoke, and mothballs.
Brominated Flame Retardants, which are created to slow down the rate of burning in the case of a household fire, flame retardants are largely useless and have been shown to actually hasten death from smoke inhalation. Over the long-term, children born to mothers with high levels of these chemicals in their bodies have lower IQs and perform more poorly in mental and physical development testing. PAHs are found in furniture, electronics, certain sodas (Mountain Dew, Gatorade and Powerade flavors that list BVO—brominated vegetable oil, a flame retardant—as an ingredient) and other sports drinks, and PAHs are even in household dust (from items containing flame retardants).
PCBs were once used in electronics and unfortunately never break down in the environment. Just a little PCB can do a lot of damage: even small doses can disrupt healthy nerve cell functioning and throw off the body’s natural calcium signaling, which could increase some children’s autism risk. PCBs are found all over the environment—and inside most of us.
The mercury created from coal-fired power plants winds up in rivers, streams, and oceans; the heavy metal is toxic to the brains of developing fetuses and could cause irreversible damage.
Of the 80,000 chemicals in general use, only about 3,000 have been stringently tested for health impacts on humans. Hundreds of these chemical ingredients are mutagenic, carcinogenic, and have an adverse effect on the developing child’s brain
Study after study, scientists are finding that environmental exposures don’t necessarily mutate genes, but rather throw off their natural ability to help a person function normally. The gene expressions aren’t firing on and off correctly. It’s important to protect babies and young children from potential autism triggers, but women trying to conceive or those who are pregnant—and even men who will be fathers—could be negatively affected by chemicals in a way that promotes autism in a child.
A family of a child with autism may spend as much as $100,000 a year extra in health services, including special therapies. The estimated price tag of caring for a child with autism over the course of his or her life is estimated at $3 million. On the national level, education and therapy for children with autism-spectrum disorders add up to $35 billion. While insurance and taxpayers foot part of the bill, the needs place a great financial stress on families, too – many families lose their homes and go into financial disaster.
10 Easy Steps to Get Chemicals Out of Your Home and Body
- Use rosemary marinades for meat to deter carcinogens from forming on meat cooked at high temperatures.
Opt for natural flooring materials, not carpeting and carpet padding, which could harbor flame retardants.
- Eat lower on the food chain; PCBs accumulate in animal fat. Removing fish skin and trimming fatty parts of meat can help cut back on your family’s PCB exposure.
- Choose healthier options of fish, such as; wild-caught Alaskan Salmon or Pacific Wild Sardines – this is the best source I have found for wild seafood.
- Avoid toxic clothing. Convenience clothing may clobber your health. Claims like “wrinkle-free,” “waterproof,” “mildew-resistant,” “antimicrobial,” “permanent press,” or “stain-proof” should raise a red flag. They’re likely impregnated with chemicals that have never been properly tested to determine their full impact on your health.
- “Organic is too expensive” is a myth when you consider the true cost of food. Industrial food is propped up by the use of drugs, hormones, neurotoxic and hormone-disrupting bug and weed killers and fungicides, and genetically engineered seeds. Organic, beyond organic and local are far less expensive than medical expenses. Eat organic, beyond organic and local as often as possible. Studies have proven that pesticide levels in the body plummet when consumers switch to an organic eating regimen. Visit LocalHarvest.org to find local resources.
- Filter your water. Tap water and some bottled water could contain pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, and even components of rocket fuel (perchlorate). Look for an NSF-certified water filter that removes most of these toxins.
- Unsafe sunscreen. Oxybenzone, the active ingredient in many sunscreens, is a hormone disruptor and could even damage the nervous system. Look for safer alternative on the Skin Deep Database, including organic sunscreens from Badger or The Honest Company. Or, make your own sunscreen by mixing 3-4 drops of Young Living Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) essential oil with 2 TBSP organic Avocado Oil. Or, to make a larger batch if you go through it more quickly, 4 oz of Avocado Oil with 30 drops of Lavender essential oil. Note: if you’re making your own you must be certain to use the species Lavendula angustifolia and it must not be adulterated, otherwise it could cause the opposite effects. Buy Lavender and other essential oils at my website.
- To support healthy methylation, the process that affects how your child’s genes will be expressed, women trying to get pregnant, or who are pregnant, should consider indulging in organic foods like broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, egg yolks, dried beans, lentils, spinach, nuts, strawberries, tempeh, yogurt (NOT Greek yogurts though, learn why here), lettuce, and wild fresh fish high in omega 3 fatty-acids. This collection of foods is rich in folic acid, antioxidants, vitamin B12, and choline.
- Detox your daily personal care routine. Grab the everyday personal care products you wear or use the most—deodorant, shampoo, moisturizers, soap, and the like—and visit Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to rate the safety of your current go-to products (and find safer alternatives, if needed). I’ve chosen to use Young Living’s line of personal care products – my personal favorites are: Lavender Volume Shampoo & Conditioner, Mountain Mist Deodorant, Thieves Ultra Toothpaste and Mouthwash (both are fluoride-free, chemical-free- and edible), Sandalwood Moisture Cream, Sensation Hand & Body Lotion, any of the Bar Soaps, Thieves Foaming Hand Soap, ART Skin Care (facial creams and cleanser), Boswellia Wrinkle Cream. Buy these high quality personal care products at my website.
- Products with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) could also be contaminated with mercury, according to a commentary authored by a former Food and Drug Administration investigator and published in the journal Environmental Health. More on why HFCS is worse than we imagined.
- Make your own air fresheners. This is super easy and fun! In a 14oz. spray bottle add 15-20 drops of your chosen Young Living essential oil and fill the bottle with water. Shake, spray into center of room or onto linens for a lovely fresh scent. Some of my favorite essential oil choices are: Lemon and Lavender (10 drops each, good for uplifting the mood and for anxiety), or try a total of 30 drops of these essential oils combined Thyme, Spearmint, Orange, Rosemary, Ylang Ylang, and a little Patchouli.
- Household disinfecting and cleaning. The only things you will need for this are a few 14oz spray bottles, a bottle of Thieves Household Cleaner (dilution ratios are on the bottle) and a small assortment of essential oils (such as: Thyme, Rosemary, Lavender, Orange, Spearmint, Ylang Ylang and Patchouli). Fill the spray bottle with water, then add a total of 30 drops of essential oil in the amounts (number of drops each that you like). Shake. Spray surfaces, wipe clean with a rag. This is so much more enjoyable and safe than store-bought cleaners. You can even make a spray bottle mixture of 15 drops Peppermint essential oil in the water to use as a glass cleaner! There are no toxic chemicals in the Young Living essential oils – they are grown beyond organic and are distilled without solvents and they are never adulterated. You will also find that you have a lot more room in your cabinets too.
Two Extra Tips:
- Try diffusing essential oils rather than using air fresheners or scented candles to kill germs and bad odors. More info on diffusers and diffusing.
- Try deterring crawling insects in the home using essential oils.
How to buy at wholesale prices and save 24% like I do!
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"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly." ~ R. Buckminster Fuller