January 4, 2010
When you grocery shop have you ever thought about why the conventionally grown apples are so much bigger than their organic counterparts? It's almost as if they were put on steroids or something. Or have you ever noticed how some dairy products make sure to mention that the animals used to help make that milk or cheese were not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones, indicating that those products who do not mention this must use animals who do have antibiotics or growth hormones in them?
What do you use to clean your mirrors, toilet, and kitchen sink and counters? Probably Windex, Comet, and 409, right? What would you say if I told you that in the very sprays, gels, and scrubbing bubbles that you use to clean your home surfaces are harmful chemicals that release into the air and breathed in by you and your loved ones? Some of these chemicals pass through our bodies in just a matter of days, but some stay in us for years, absorbing into our bloodstream, muscles, and organs.
The amount of chemicals, pesticides, and other pollutants in our bodies is called our "body burden." Stop right here and take this quiz to find out your body burden.
Welcome back........how did the quiz go? Are you glad you took it or do you wish you would not have? I am glad you took it- things can only improve from here because knowledge is power and I want to empower us both to live cleaner, healthier lives. So don't panic if your score is high because over the next several days we will learn ways to rid as many chemicals, pesticides, and other pollutants from our homes and bodies.
I'd love it if you would post your body burden score by leaving a comment on this post- let's see where we are all starting and then we can take the quiz again and see how much we have improved. I'll start by sharing my score: 20......but realize I have had a couple of years to lower it from the average high of 39 for most who take this quiz.
We spend most of our time indoors and most of that time indoors is spent at our home. If you are like me, your home is your haven, a safe place to duck away from the rigors of the world outside. And if you are like me, you like your home to be clean, maybe not white-glove inspection clean, but clean enough to the naked eye. I have come rethink what clean means this past year.
Let me start at the beginning......
Our government only requires companies to list chemicals of “known concern” on their labels. Here’s the problem with that- most chemicals found in conventional cleaning products have not been tested to determine what their dangers may be. And the few that have been tested were tested alone, not in combination with other chemicals. In other words, the testing that has been done on some of the known chemicals in say, your favorite kitchen cleaner, have been tested individually and not in tandem as they are found in that kitchen cleaner. So we have no idea what those chemicals, known and unknown, are doing to us.
Here's the thing about having chemicals hanging out in our bodies- scientists are not certain what affects these chemicals have on our short and long-term health and the reason for that is because very few have been tested on how they affect humans. Check this out:
“Under the terms of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which administers the act, can’t require chemical companies to prove the safety of their products unless the agency can show the products poses a health risk- which the EPA does not have the resources to do since, according to one estimate, it receives some two thousand new applications for approval every year. ” Green Goes With Everything, page 31
An agency watchdog, the Environmental Working Group, “the EPA approved most applications in three weeks, even though more than half has provided no information on toxicity at all.” Green Goes With Everything, page 32
I don't know about you, but I am not interested in gambling my health and the health of my husband because tests are still pending or have not been conducted on the affects that chemicals may or may not have on our bodies. And because I am not a gambler, we do not use toxic cleaning products. We use non-toxic cleaning products throughout our house.
I want you to look for the following ingredients in your household and carpet cleaners, disinfectants, stain removers, soaps and detergents, and deodorizers- I have included links whenever possible so you can read about the danger that lurks behind each chemical:
Ethylene glycol butyl ether
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Researchers have indicated that these chemicals are dangerous in significant doses and they are even more dangerous when combined with each other. The book gives this example of cleaning products gone bad to way worse:
When you spray your chlorine-based shower cleaner to clean the tiles and then clean your shower doors with ammonia-based glass cleaner, you just created a “toxic, lung-damaging cloud” because chlorine and ammonia do that when combined. Turn on the hot water in the stall to rinse the cleaners away, and now you made it worse and are breathing that cloud in. And if you read the manufacturer’s label on either of those products, they would say you shouldn’t have done that.
Did you know that? Glad you do now?
Now there is another problem we need to address with our cleaning products and that is the smell of our cleaning products. Who doesn’t mind the smell of lemons, lavender vanilla, or even pine? Well, we all should mind. A lot. As it turns out, companies use something called phthalates, a class of synthetic chemicals. If you have something in your home that says “fragranced” on it, then you can be sure there are phthalates in it.
So what’s the big deal about phthalates? The EPA and the Department of Health and Human Services has categorized some phthalate as a “possible carcinogens”- which means they cause cancer in animals and can possibly cause cancer in humans. Seems like the European Union is on to phthalates because they are being phased out of products in the EU. If an entire countries are phasing something out, shouldn’t we take notice and take action, too? Fragrance free really is best.
This is a lot of information, I know, but it’s so important that we educate ourselves because no one is going to do it for us, not even our government. After all, we are our best advocates for healthier living.
Please consider ridding your home of products that contain toxic chemicals- if there is a safer way to “get clean” don’t you think it’s worth making the switch? Be sure to call your local sanitation department to determine the safest way to dispose of your cleaners.
So what are your options for “greener” cleaning products? Well, fortunately, there are several and most are available at your local Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and/or online - here are a few to check out:
You want to look for products that say "non-toxic," "frangrance free," and "all natural." Feeling up to making homemade cleaning solutions? Check this site out.
A clean home, in short, should smell like nothing. I have had to retrain my thinking and my senses because for so long I needed the smell of lemons to make me believe my home is clean.
You look great today! Really, you do! All the lotioning, deodorizing, spritzing, spraying, and primping has really paid off. Only thing is I think you just exposed your body to about a gazillion different chemicals just to look the way you do now.
Ready to learn the truth about what lurks in our lotions and lipsticks? Trust me, you want to know about this.
Let's start with the laws that govern the personal products and cosmetics industry:
The FDA regulates all the personal care products we use, and that includes cosmetics, under the Federal, Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. But the FDA does not have any authority to mandate that the products covered under the Act are tested for safety. And the FDA cannot require companies to recall products if they are later deemed unsafe.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention this, a company can use ANY raw material they want to when making a product and can market a product WITHOUT approval from the FDA.
So who does keep tabs on the companies that makes the lotions we lather on and the lipsticks we love? The Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel does. They are a panel of experts who are funded by the cosmetic industry. So that means that the people we count on to regulate what goes in the products we put on our skin and faces are being paid by the companies that are looking for their approval. And in the first 30 years of the CIR's existence, they have only tested 11% of the 10,500 ingredients used in all the products you see on the shelves today.
Wait, there's more.
"The Environmental Working Group conducted a sweeping analysis of more than 23,000 cosmetic and personal care products. One of their more amazing findings was that 1 of every 30 products sold in the US fails to meet one or more of the standards set by the industry itself or by the government." Green Goes With Everything, page 85
Here are some of their conclusions:
Curious to see what's in your lotion and lipstick? Go to http://www.cosmeticdatabase.com/ and you can search by brand name or category and see what chemicals are in your products and what their known or suspected effects are to your body. I tried it and it was alarming.
One last thing, remember how I mentioned that the European Union was phasing out certain chemiclas from cleaning products because of their known affect on humans and the environment? Well, the EU is doing the same thing with chemicals found in personal care products and cosmetics. And they are banning a lot of chemicals that we still find on our shelves here in the US.
Now let's move on to the good stuff- a breakdown of what we all use to get ready and ways to "green" up our beauty routine.
Deodorants/Antiperspirants: Get away from the phalathates (chemiclas used for fragrance- we learned about those in cleaning products) and aluminum, a suspected culprit of diseases such as breast cancer, kidney disorders, and Alzheimers. Consider using products from these companies: http://www.burtsbees.com/, http://www.crystaldeodorantprotection.com/, http://www.kissmyface.com/, and http://www.tomsofmaine.com/
Hair Care Products: Stay away from DMDM hydantion, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, quaternium-15, and broponol, as they all contain formaldehyde, a probable carcinogen in humans. Also, most dandruff shampoos contain coal tar, a known human carcinogen. And lastly, stay away from DEA and TEA because they have been shown to potentially cause cancer, too. Consider using products from these companies: http://www.aveda.com/, http://www.aubrey-organics.com/, http://www.shikai.com/, and http://www.jurlique.com/
Lipstick: Steer clear of lead in your lipstick, but here's the problem, it's typically not listed as an ingredient because the amounts in a tube of lipstick are so minute. But here's the thing about lead- it is a neurotoxin (damages your nerves) and it is something that builds up over time, that's why no level of exposure to lead is safe. Try lipstick from one of these companies: http://www.aubrey-organics.com/, http://www.eccobella.com/, http://www.paulpenders.com/, or http://www.josiemarancosmetics.com/
Make-up: All of our make-up is laden with synthetic chemicals and most have phathalates. Mineral make-up is your best bet because it is free of talc, perfumes, preservatives, dyes, and mineral oils. But be sure to purchase mineral make-up that does not contain bismuth oxychloride, a known irritant. Here are a few companies that offer a safe line of cosmetics: http://www.aubrey-organics.com/, http://www.eccobella.com/, http://www.paulpenders.com/, and http://www.modecosmetics.com/
Sunscreen: Make sure that your sunscreen offers UVB and UVA protection- most tend to leave out UVA protection.
Skin Care: Be sure to look for products that do not contain coal tar dyes, sodium lauryl sulfate, DEA, propylene glycol, parabens, petroleum distillates, hydroquinone, synthetic fragrances, and formaldehyde. I provided links so you could learn more about these chemicals in my post from January 7. These companies are a sampling of some that offer safe skin care: http://www.burtsbees.com/, http://www.shaklee.com/, http://www.eccobella.com/, http://www.jason-natural.com/, and http://www.originsorganics.com/
Toothpaste: If you have children, you'll want to give them toothpaste that contains little or no flouride until they learn to spit it out and not swallow it. The reason being is that too much fluoride consumption can lead to nausea, diarrhea, and fluorisis, a condition that leads to the pitting of the teeth and spotting. These companies offer great choices: http://www.burtsbees.com/, http://www.jason-natural.com/, and http://www.tomsofmaine.com/
Personally, I am not about to throw out all of my products, but rather, I am phasing out "bad" ones and introducing "green" ones. The one item that I did not waste any time on throwing out was anything that went on my lips, and then subsequently in my body because as Glamour magazine found out, a woman comsumes about 4 pounds of lipstick/chapstick in her lifetime just by eating, drinking, and licking out lips. Eeww!
Some of you wanted to know about what to be on the watch for when choosing laundry detergent and/or dishwasher detergent/dishsoap.
Well, there are some things to be mindful of.....here they are.
Laundry Detergent/Fabric Softener/Dryer Sheets
You can find many of the chemicals I listed out in the household cleaning supplies post in your laundry detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets, especially our friends phathalates (the chemicals that add fragrance). As you know, these chemiclas are dangerous for us but they are also dangerous for the envirnonment since they end up in our streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. And who know, they may just end up in your drinking water.
You might be thinking that it is no big deal to have these chemicals in your detergents or dryer sheets because you really do not handle them for that long- just pour it in the washer or throw it in the dryer and you are done. Not so fast, friend- these chemicals stay on your clothing and unltimately, next to your porous skin. Just try washing your next load of laundry without adding any detergent- I can guarantee you that their will be plenty of suds in your wash cycle just from the residue that is on your clothes from the last time you washed them.
I use Seventh Generation's laundry detergent and love it! I feel like our clothes are softer and more vibrant. They also make a fabric softener and dryer sheets that are safe for you and the envirnonment. You can find Seventh Generation at Target or just about anywhere else and you can download coupons on their site for most of their products.
Shaklee makes a green laundry detergent concentrate, as well as fabric softener, and dryer sheets.
A Word About Chlorine Bleach
Chlorine bleach is the most commonly misused household cleaner and its misuse can be very toxic, especially when it comes in contact with ammonia. And this happens more than you think since household cleaners are often mishandled. Can you guess what happens when these two chemicals make contact? They make chlorine gas, a close cousin of the gas used in chemical warfare during World War 1. Nice, huh?
Chlorine is known to cause respiratory problems, as well as eye and skin irritation. Remember, the ingredients in your products stay on your clothes, thus you breathe them in and they touch your skin all day.
Instead of chlorine belach, consider using a non-chlorine bleach, such as this one.
Dishwasher Detergent and Dishsoap
Have you ever noticed detergents that boast that they are phosphate free? Well, that's good because phosphates increase algae in our water and algae in turn kills fish because algae depletes the water of oxygen. You'd think it would be against the law to include phosphates in products given what we know about them. But it's not. And companies still use phosphates.
Chlorine is typically found in dishwasher detergents. You can probably smell it when you open your dishwasher after the dry chycle is complete- there's a cloud of toxicity that fills your kitchen...and your lungs.
I was telling a friend the other day that since I made the switch to a dishwasher detergent that has no chlorine I have noticed that my dishes are not as white. In fact, there is a little stain of brown on them. But I don't care because at least I know that chlorine is not filling my lungs or coming into contact with my food!
Be aware that dishsoaps often contain 1,4-dioxane, a probable human carcinogen. Check out this and this for a safer, and greener dishsoap.
Part of the reason we decided to start eating all organic foods and stop using toxic chemicals in our home was to begin to prepare the way for Simple Baby.....someday.
It was important to us that our home be free of any chemicals and that my body be as free of any pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and steroids as possible. But what I am learning is that protecting your baby's health does not stop at those things. There are more things to be aware of and since so many of you have babies/children, I wanted to share with you what I have learned. You very likely may already know about most of these things, if not all of them, in which case, I invite you to post any comments about what you have learned in your own studies and experience, and products that you use. We all want to learn from you!
Oh, and for you grandparents out there, please do read this post. It's good for you to learn about this stuff, too!
This is a fact: asthma, autism, allergies, and ADHD are on the rise in children in the US. It is not coincidence that these life-altering, if not life-threatening maladies are affecting such a large population of children. Leading child health researchers and doctors are coming to agreement that the reason for these childhood diseases is chemicals. Chemicals that have been introduced into cleaning products, foods, and just about everything else children come in contact with.
Breast milk is best and if you have a baby or had one, you know that. You also know that whatever you put into your body, even when your baby is in the womb, your baby gets some of that. So they are not only getting the good stuff- nutrients- but they are also getting the bad stuff- the chemicals you breathe in and the growth hormones and pesticides you consume through food.
There's not too much say here other than it seems wise to eliminate those chemicals you breathe in and the growth hormones and pesticides you eat by, you guessed it, switching over to non-toxic cleaning products and eating organic foods as much as possible.
The Food They Eat
Infants and children eat more food per pound of body weight than adults do and they are ten times more vulnerable to chemicals that come from the food they eat- chemicals in the form of toxins such as pesticides, antibiotics, steroids, and growth hormones.
I'll talk about eating organic in detail in a later post, but you definitely want your children to consume organic products for these items:
- Bell peppers
The reason I listed these is because unless the label says so, most dairyand meat products are made from cows or other animals who were treated with growth hormones and possibly given antibiotics to stay "healthy." The produce listed absorbs the pesticides sprayed on it in the crops since the skin is so soft/thin.
Clear plastic baby bottles are made of polycarbonate plastic (this means there will be a 7 on the bottom of the bottle- 95% of bottles are a number 7) and when they are warmed up, washed, even gently, or scratched they release a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting chemical that mimics estrogen and can cause early puberty (scientists are beginning to study if there is a link to certain forms of cancer and early puberty), low sperm count, and hyperactivity.
If you insist on using plastic bottles, use ones with a number 1, 2, 4, or 5 on the bottom; they have not yet been linked to BPA leaking. These companies carry BPA-free bottles: http://www.adiri.com/, http://www.newbornfree.com/, and http://www.greentogrow.com/
Glass bottles are best. Check out glass bottles here and here.
A Word About Rubber and Plastic Nipples:
Rubber nipples (typically yellow) have been shown to leak N-nitrosamine, a known carcinogen when it mixes with saliva. Plastic nipples (and pacifiers) contain phthalates, which are known to cause liver, kidney, and testicular problems.
Use silicone nipples- they are widely available and are safest for your baby.
Diapers and Wipes
Diapers account for 3.4 million tons of waste dumped into landfills each year and it is not known how long it takes for diapers to break down. Diapers are taking up a lot of space in landfills, that's for sure!
Conventional diapers- you know, the Huggies, the Pampers, etc.- are made of bleached paper fibers, sodium polyacrylate absorbent gels and plastics. The manufacturing process of creating diapers is known to release dioxin, a probable human carcinogen and tributyltin (TBT), a highly toxic chemical to wildlife.
Cloth diapers may seem to be the best choice, but considering how much water, energy, and money that goes into washing them, they may not be. Also, if you use a diaper service, they likely use chlorine bleach, and we both know that chlorine bleach is not something you want touching your baby's porous skin all day.
So what's a mom to do? Look for unbleached, bio-degradable disposable diapers or flushable diaper liners. Check these companies out: http://www.tendercarediapers.com/, http://www.seventhgeneration.com/, http://www.tushies.com/, http://www.gdiapers.com/, and http://www.kushiesonline.com/
Conventional wipes can contain formaldehyde, propylene glycol, broponol (classified as a dangerous substance in Europ), DMDM hydantoin, and phathalate-fixed fragrances. Check out these products for a safer wipe: http://www.seventhgeneration.com/ and http://www.tushies.com/.
Clothes, Crib Mattresses, Covers, and Bedding
So many things and people touch your baby's skin, but none (except for diapers) as much as their clothes and all the things found in their crib.
Some of the cheapest clothing is made from petroleum-based synthetic fibers and some of them, especially those made in China, are made with toxic amine dyes, which, by the way, are banned in the European Union.
Ever notice how clothes have a stiffness to them? Companies put chemicals on the fabric to make the clothes hang nicer and seem sturdier than they really are. Can you guess what that "fabric finish" might be? It's likely formaldehyde- a known carcinogen and skin and respiratory irritant. And it pretty much stays glued to the fabric threads even after you wash the clothing. This is not so good considering how much more porous your baby'a skin is than an adult's.
So what is being suggested? Well, the best choice would be to buy organic cotton clothing for your baby, espeically pajamas or anything that they will spend a lot of time in or will come in direct contact to their skin. These companies offer great choices: http://www.naturebaby.com/, http://www.mommasaby.com/, http://www.purebeginnings.com/, and http://www.sagebabynyc.com/
"Most conventional crib mattresses are made of polyurethane foam. The EPA lists many of the chemicals used in making this foam as hazardous, and mattresses off-gas these volatile chemicals for years. The federally mandated material safety data sheets posted by manufacturers for polyurethane foam list it as having the following potential health hazards: possible cardiac arrhythmia, breathlessness, chest discomfort, irritation of mucus membranes, headache, coughing, asthma-like allergic reaction, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, nausea, blurred vision, and reduced pulmonary function." Green Goes With Everything, page 125
Considering how much time a baby spends in their crib, this is not comforting news. What also is not comforting to hear is that polyurethane mattresses are highly flammable and burn much faster and hotter than wood. And because they are so flammable, manufacturers spray heavey doses of flame retardants on these mattresses. Flame retardants are made up of chemicals that have been banned in the EU. Several states in the US are working on legislation to ban them as well.
Look for an all-natural, organic crib mattress. Some of the best organic mattresses have tempered steel coils and layers or organic cotton and wool- wool is a naturally flame retardant.
You'll also want to consider purchasing organic cotton bedding, but if you cannot swing for that, stay from bedding that is "wrinkle -free" or has "no ironing required." Fabrics with those labels are coated in formaledhyde.
Shampoos, Lotions, Creams, and More!
As with adult personal care products, children's products are equally laden with chemicals. Just because there is a picture of a sweet baby or cute duck on the packaging doesn't mean it's necessarily safe for your little ones.
With shampoos, body washes soaps, and lotions and creams, stay away from products that contain fragrances from phathlates; DMDM hydantoin, an allergen and irritant; ceteareth and polyethylene (PEG) and propylene glycol (PG), which can contain contaminants. Consider purchasing products from these companies: http://www.californiababy.com/, http://www.earth-tribe.com/, http://www.littletwig.com/, and http://www.vedababy.com/, http://www.erbaviva.com/, http://www.aromababy.com/, http://www.badgerbaby.com/, and http://www.babybearshop.com/
California has banned the use of phthalate compounds (they make toys soft or hard and often contain lead) in toys and several other states are working on legislation to ban them, too. The European Union has banned them completely. For some reason the US government is not banning them, and that is why states are having to write their own legislation to ban these harmful toxins from childrens' toys.
Who hasn't heard of a toy recall because something was later found to contain lead. Most of the toys recalled are made in China and so a fairly straight-forward rule to follow would be to not buy toys made in China, especially those toys that will end up in mouths! I once read that the safest toys are those made in western Europe- Germany, France, Spain, etc. The second safest are those made in the US.
Since 80% of the toys on shelves today are made in China it can be hard to find toys that are safe to buy, but here are a few companies that make safe toys: http://www.melissananddoug.com/, http://www.northstartoys.com/, http://www.holgatetoy.com/, and http://www.lego.com/
A Word About Childrens' Jewelry
Lead is a real concern in childrens' jewelry so be very careful about what you let in your home (and your child's mouth).
Well, I do hope that this was more informative than it was overwhelming, especially for you parents out there. Or maybe none of this was news to you at all and you may have some other tips to share or companies to tell us about......please do post whatever you know by leaving a comment on this blog.
I don’t think any of us would argue that eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and foods rich in nutrients is bad for us. And I think we all can agree that the idea of consuming pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, growth hormones, steroids, and antibiotics is quite unappealing. But that’s what you are eating when you eat conventional foods. So join me and together we will learn about the good and the bad of the food we eat. I promise you this- you’ll never look at your food the same way again.
There are three types of chemicals used in the growth and processing of conventional foods:
• Chemicals that kill things (pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides)
• Chemicals that make things grow fast and big (fertilizers, growth hormones, and antibiotics)
• Chemicals that make things look better than they are and last longer (artificial colors and
flavors, preservatives, and other additives)
Green Goes With Everything, page 143
Pesticides have three classes: chlorinated hydrocarbons (such as DDT); organophosphates; and chemical elements. DDT does not break down, which means that it stays in your body for years on end and organophosphates have been found to cause nervous system disruption.
Our government sets limits on how much of the above chemicals can be used in the farming and production of the crops and food we eat, but there is no system for checking these levels. Furthermore, we are a global economy, and that means that often the strawberries, grapes, or cucumbers come from different parts of the world where there are less or no regulations on the use of these chemicals.
“According to a report of the National Research Council, 30% of commonly used insecticides, 60% of herbicides, and 90% of fungicides can potentially cause cancer.” Green Goes With Everything, page 145
So the things you are eating to stay healthy could be the very things that are waging war on your body.
Ever notice how large a conventionally-grown apple looks when compared to an organic apple? There’s a reason for that: fertilizer. And I don’t mean good, old fashioned cow poop. I mean chemical fertilizer. Hmmm, wanna take a bite out of that apple now?
Think about how most conventionally-raised animals such as cows, chickens, and pigs are raised. They are not raised on a sprawling farm and grazing on natural grass and seed. No, they are raised in filthy factories or crowded barns and you can imagine what happens when animals are living so close together. They get sick and in order to prevent sickness from killing off all of their livestock, farmers pump them full of antibiotics. And so now you are not just enjoying a tasty burger, you are getting a dose of antibiotics.
Because time is money, farmers will pump growth hormones into the animals they are raising because the faster the animal matures, the faster they get slaughter, and the faster the farmer gets paid. So now you are taking in growth hormones when you eat that bacon.
Preservatives are just that. They preserve the life of food. Additives come in the form of food coloring and flavors and are used in food to make them look and taste better. Here’s how the FDA defines additives: any substance that results or may be expected to result in its affecting the characteristics of food. So additives are not natural. And they are not food.
Here is a list of food additives to avoid:
• Butylated hydroxyanisole(BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), and propyl gallate- commonly used in cereal, ride products, and dried soups; known to increase the risk of cancer, cause liver damage, and may cause ADHD in children
• Potassium bromate (unbromated flour)- banned in most countries but not in the US; strengthens wheat dough and helps it rise; causes cancerous tumors in animals
• Nitrates and nitrites- found in processed meats, such as lunch meats, cooked hot dogs, etc.; acts as a carcinogen when heated up and mixed with amines, a chemical found naturally in some foods
• Monosodium glutamate (MSG)- commonly found in Chinese food, but it also appears in canned soups and such; causes headaches, diarrhea, stomach cramps, heart rate change, just to name a few
• Artificial sweeteners- most commonly used in diet sodas and diet frozen dinners; linked to cancer
• High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)- used in sodas, juices, and many sweets; linked to obesity
• Hydrogenated fats and trans fats- related to heart disease and diabetes
• Olestra- inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and nutrients in the body
• Dyes- blue #1 and #2, red #3 and yellow #6- have all been banned in other countries but not in the US
A Shameless Plug for Whole Foods
These things alone are enough to keep me shopping at my local Whole Foods. Part of the appeal of shopping there is knowing that the products that line their shelves do not have any of these dangerous chemicals in them. They take the guess work out of it for me. Thank you, Whole Foods!
You Are the Solution
But what if you do not have a Whole Foods near you (or similar grocer) or can’t afford to shop there? Well, do not despair because there is a solution. You. You are the solution. You are the solution to protecting yourself and your loved ones away from these chemicals. But how are you the solution?
You read the labels! That’s the solution. Jot these “most not wanted” chemicals down on a list to take with you when you shop and read every label on a box and can. Remember, these chemicals lurk in your cereal, bread, frozen dinners, sodas, lunch meats, cookies, candy, etc.
The author of the book “Green Goes With Everything” gives these three great principles to live by when food shopping:
• Can’t pronounce the ingredient- don’t buy it
• Ingredient has more than four syllables- don’t buy it
• Ingredient name has a number in it- don’t buy it
But do you want a sure-fire way to stay away from all of the harmful chemicals we have talked about so far? Well there is one way- BUY ORGANIC.
The Organic Label
Have you ever seen this label?
That is the official USDA Organic seal. Not just anyone can use this seal on their products. A farmer has to spend at least three years turning his soil into chemical-free soil, then the farm has to be formally certified as organic according to USDA organic standards, and then every year inspectors look at the farm’s fields and processing facilities and test the farm’s soil just to make sure that the farm is operating according to organic standards. All this to make sure that the crops being grown on this farm are absolutely free of chemicals.
By the way, food labels that say “all natural” are NOT organic. Only if it as the USDA Organic seal is it organic.
If you buy something that says “made with organic ingredients,” that means it is made up of at least 70% of organic ingredients. It’s not at least 95% organic and that’s why there is not a USDA Organic label on it.
If you see a label that says “transitional,” that means that the producer of that product is in the process of converting their conventional farm into an organic farm. Buy transitional products. It sends a strong message of support to the producer that they are doing the right (though costly) thing.
Why is Organic Food Expensive?
I think it’s important that we understand what we are paying for when buying organic food and perhaps knowing why organic food is more expensive than conventional food will help you to feel better about paying a few dollars more. I’ll break it down into three points:
1. It’s more expensive to produce organic food. Organic seeds cost more than conventional seeds. Without pesticides and fertilizers, a farmer has to do more manual labor. There are more inspections to comply with, which means more out-of-pocket expenses for the farmer.
2. The demand for organic food is bigger than the supply. It’s just that simple.
3. Farm subsidies paid by the government to conventional farmers lower the cost of your ground beef, but those subsidies don’t just come from thin air. Subsidies are our tax dollars, so really you are not paying $3 a pound for that beef (or whatever the price is…..I never buy it!), but more because your tax dollars went into those subsidies. Bottom line is that when a farmer gets money from the government, they can charge you less at the store.
A Word About What is Happening to Our Environment Because of Conventional Farming:
It goes without saying that all of the chemicals used in farming eventually end up in our streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. Conventional farming isn’t just harmful to us, it is harmful to the environment.
The Cost of Buying Organic
I’ll be the first to tell you that buying organic food costs more than their conventional counterparts, but that is not always the case. Yes, you will definitely pay more to buy organic milk, cheese, eggs, meat, and produce. But I have found that buying things such as organic pasta, mustard, tortillas, and baking supplies can be bought at a comparative price of their conventional counterparts even if you do not get them on sale.
We are currently eating about 90% organic at the Simpleton house and I’ll share how I buy organic for as little money as possible- I’ll even include prices on items that I think are especially close in price range of their conventional counterparts…..
We bought a Costco membership because there are some things that you can get there that are undeniably cheaper than if you bought them at a “normal” store. I buy only the following items from Costco- all of these items are organic:
• Spaghetti sauce (3 jars for less than $6)
• Eggs (18 eggs for less than $4)
• Spinach (1 pound for less than $4)
• Carrots (5 pounds for $5)
I buy these items from Trader Joe’s because they are typically cheaper than Whole Foods- all of these are organic:
• Yogurt (less than $3 for 32 ounces)
• Pears ($3.99 for a 3 pound bag)
• Apples ($3.99 for a 3 pound bag)
• Pasta ( about $1 for whole-wheat spaghetti)
I buy these items from Whole Foods at what I feel are fair prices- all of these are organic:
• Sweet potatoes
• Ground turkey ($3.99 per pound)
• Turkey bacon
• Black beans, pinto beans, etc. ($1 per 15 ounce can)
• Baking ingredients
Everything else not listed I buy at either Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, it just depends on who is having a sale that week.
I do not buy the following items in organic form:
• Bananas- because you do not eat the peel
• Avocados- because you do not eat the skin
• Orange juice- because Simple Guy is in love with a particular non-organic brand
• Chocolate chips- because not even I can stomach paying $4 for a bag of chocolate morsels
Organic on a Budget
Most people are on a budget and simply cannot afford to buy all organic food. Here is a list of the top 12 things you should buy organic. If you cannot buy anything else organic, get these. A study by the Environmental Working Group found that just by buying these items in organic form can reduce your pesticide intake by 90%! Wow!
• Bell peppers
As for meats and dairy products, if you cannot buy these in organic form, look for items that say things like “antibiotic free,” “hormone free,” “made from cows not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones,” “cage-free,” and “fed a vegetarian diet.”
I discovered that Applegate Farms makes lunch meat that is not treated with antibiotics and this particular brand is widely available.
Not sure what’s in your meat at the deli counter? Ask the butcher if he has any meat that is not treated with antibiotics or steroids, and was raised on a vegetarian diet.
Also, a while back on posted on my success in having many coupons mailed to me of some of my favorite organic items. Click here to see the post and a list of companies that sent me coupons. It took 15 minutes of my time and I got nearly $40 in coupons!
Why Organic Food is Healthier
Organic food really is better for you. I wouldn‘t keep buying it if I didn’t believe it was providing a health benefit to me and Simple Guy. Organic food contains more nutrients and cancer-fighting antioxidants than conventional food. Want to know why organic food has more antioxidants than conventional food? When plants are challenged by pests they produce antioxidants. Conventional farming would kill the pests with pesticides, therefore, not giving the plant the opportunity to produce antioxidants. So there you have it!
Being Realistic About Not Eating Organic 365/24/7
Naturally, not everyone eats organic and most dining establishments do not serve organic food. So when Simple Guy and I accept an invitation to dinner or head out for breakfast somewhere in our neighborhood, we know that we are most likely not eating organic food. And that's it’s okay with us because it is the exception to our lifestyle and not the rule.
I wanted to post a few of these "recipes" I came across in the book, "Green Goes With Everything" to share with you.
I am not an expert on all things green. I am just like you. I want to do right by my health and the health of my husband. Even if that means I need to conjure up my own household cleaners. He is worth it. I am worth it. Your loved ones are worth it. And you are worth it, friend!
Toilet Bowl Cleaner
1/2 cup baking soda
1/4 cup vinegar
10 drops of tea tree essential oil
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 drops peppermint, eucalyptus, or lemon essential oil
1 gallon hot water
2 tabelspoons liquid castile soap
15 drops sweet orange essential oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 cups water
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
And these come from my aunt:
Simmer a small saucepan of water with 1 tablespoon of whole cloves and one sliced lemon. It smells wonderful!
Minor Drain Clog
Put 1/2 cup baking soda followed by 1/2 cup vinegar down the drain. Close the drain and cover overflow hole with wet rag. Wait 5 minutes, remove plug and wet rag and then pour a boiling tea kettle of water down the drain. Works like a charm, especially for grease.