Saturday, February 28, 2009

Green Cleaning- Do You Know the Ingedients?

Beautiful sunny day, and a clear sky. Good bye February!

It’s March - the official month of spring – when we humans get that urge to begin spring cleaning. There seems to be a bottle, can, box, spray, pump, wipe or tube for just about anything you want to clean. And Madison Avenue has done a good job convincing us that we need a separate cleaner for laundry, dishes, floors, tile, grout, toilets, sinks, tubs, walls, furniture, counters, bathrooms, stoves, woodwork, carpeting, windows and even computers. Whew!

There is a growing movement called "transparency" that has made it to the cleaning world. A law suit pending in New York is asking manufactures to disclose their ingredients because consumers have a right to know which chemicals they are using, touching and breathing. An old law on the NY books says that companies are supposed to disclose ingredients, but this has never been enforced. Some companies like Seventh Generation have come forward to disclose their ingredients, while others have refused to do so. For the full article: CLICK

Over 80,000 chemicals are on the market, but only a small fraction of these have been tested for safety. Many cleaning ingredients are down right bad for you and are bad for the environment. The labeling on cleaning products is unregulated allowing companies to make claims like “natural” and “biodegradable” without definitive guidelines. Consumers have the right to be safe and decide which products to use based on ingredients. The food industry now requires transparency in its ingredients and this should be required for all cleaning and personal care products, as well. Should you feel an investigative urge, check out these websites:
Household Products Data Base

Environmental Health and Toxicology

For simple safe cleaning try:

Cleaning products don’t just vanish after use. They go into our air and water supplies causing pollution, algae blooms, and upsetting the delicate eco-balance with anti-bacterial chemicals. Please, make wise choices. If a company says their ingredients are a secret, it could mean there is something that they don’t want you to know. You have a right to know the ingredients, you deserve safe cleaning products, and so does the environment…we all live down stream.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Asbestos Still Around - An Environmantal Nightmare That Won't go Away

Sky is grey, a big storm is coming.

Did you know that there is no official ban on asbestos? Well I didn't it. I was under the impression that the deadly asbestos was banned years ago. The EPA did ban some asbestos products but it was over turned. I guess I didn't hear that part. Most of the discontinued use has been voluntary (like brake linings), mostly to avoid legal battles about this serious cancer causing "natural" mineral.

I remember as a kid, my cousin collected rocks and he proudly showed me the the silky asbestos. I remember liking its softness and being intrigued by its long strands that pulled apart. I was in awe when my cousin showed me how it didn't react to a lit match, little to my Aunty's knowledge.

A lot has been learned since then. What we now know is this abundant, naturally occurring, what was once considered a miracle fiber, causes a special form of deadly lung cancer - mesothelioma. This type of cancer is only caused by asbestos exposure. Like emphysema that is only caused by cigarette exposure (unless you have the genetic disorder), having mesothelioma means you have been exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos is currently in the headlines as the court case in Libby, Montana has captured national attention, again, also inspiring the documentary film with the same name. In a nut shell, the under 3,000 town of Libby was in the fall out (literally) of the vermiculite mining company called Grace (some real irony here) that knew (probably, waiting for court results) the vermiculite contained traces of asbestos and willingly continued business as usual. Imagine dusty workers coming home shaking their clothing, children playing in the dust and schools' facilities being built with stuff. This is considered the worst case of industrial poisoning of a whole community in American history with nearly 10% of its population dead from asbestos exposure.

Vermiculite in its pure form is safe, the problem is it can have a little asbestos in it. Most vermiculite is now tested world wide for asbestos. I could make a cynical comment here but will refrain. Vermiculite is widely used in agriculture. Now there's a can of worms.

Another asbestos arena is the oil rigging business. Most of the current oil rigs were built years ago and still have the asbestos that was used for the extreme heat of rigging and refinery. As this, and most, asbestos ages, it becomes more brittle, more likely to become air borne and lodge in the lungs. Since mesothelioma usually takes decades after asbestos exposure to rear its toxic head, making claims against companies becomes very difficult. And that's if the company is still in business. To add insult to injury, a Bill was introduced in Washington, with ties to Cheney, that would have the foxes guarding the chicken coop suggesting limits be put on claims through diagnostic criteria etc. Luckily it didn't get very far-so much for workers' rights.

World Wide over 60 countries have banned or partially banned this deadly mineral, but not in North America. Yes, that's right, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico have not banned asbestos. Heck, Canada has a town named Asbestos, the largest asbestos mining operation in the world that exports nearly all of it to third world countries for insulation in schools etc. How's that for NIMBY? (not in my back yard)

The dangers and environmental exposure of asbestos needs to be headlines again, and stay there until a ban becomes reality. If 60 other countries can do it, so can we. (you too Canada) The reality of asbestos is pretty black and white - it causes asbestos related diseases and is THE only cause of mesothelioma. For more information, visit the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Awareness Center to see what you can do about it.There's no umming and erring here, the case is clear.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Toyland Still Not Safe

Warm weather is pulling up the moisture up from the snow - what a sight.

Score one for toy safety, minus one for safety details.

The toy safety issue with the recent ban on phthalates and lead in toys is a great step forward but has no where near solved the problem. This is very similar to the BPA issue where some companies have replaced BPA. That is a great move but how many people ask the question...What have you replaced it with and is that safe?

Some of the replacement chemicals for phthalates being put into toys have no track record on research and come packaged in fancy names that make doing your own research next to impossible. Even the Eastman Tritan chemical that has replaced BPA in Nalgenes claims to have passed all the EPA and FDA standards but we know that can meaningless. I can't find the actual research with numbers, testing levels etc. They just say they passed the minimums set forth by these agencies. The key word being minimum. That's like our packaged food being allowed to have .5 grams of transfat per serving but the company is allowed to plaster all over the package "Trans FAT Free". It's all about the minimum.

Back to toys - NPR did an excellent job reporting about this today, asking similar thought provoking questions...Is the replacement for phthalates safe? The article concludes that there is no conclusion because of 4 basic reasons:
1 - Too many chemicals on the market to truly assess the safety of all of them
2 - Federal law does not require disclosure of the chemicals used
3 - Lack of Transparency - Companies use the "propriety secret" as a reason for not divulging their chemical ingredients
4 - Methods for testing chemicals are outdated and not keeping up with demand.

Luckily California has a new law that will eventually require chemical ingredient listing. That's a start.

So what about plastic toys? My take is, anything that might go in the mouth at a given age should be safe and not made out of any kind of plastic or lead (beware of paints). Most 10 year old girls don't suck on their American Girl Dolls (gosh I hope not) so that would be a safe situation. It really gets down to the little ones that still like to chew and suck on things. Some outgrow it sooner than others. Want full peace of mind? Forgo the plastic until you really know the child doesn't do the in your mouth thing. Remember...wood is good.

Friday, February 6, 2009

14 Tips for Dry Skin - Naturally

Cccccold, sunny and still.

Dry skin is pretty common up in this neck of the woods but it is beatable. Here are some tips for beating dry skin, naturally.

1 - First, make sure you feed the skin from the inside. Have good nutrition, fresh vegetables and fruits for vitamins that take care of the skin. Good fats are important too, flax seed and walnuts. Make sure you are not allergic to anything. Get plenty of fiber and water.

2 - Avoid temperature extremes which unfortunately includes a super hot shower.

3 - Use a highly fatted, good quality soap, preferably all natural (plant) based (check for nut allergies) devoid of unnecessary chemicals. (see previous blog on real soap)

4 - Use a humidifier - keep that moisture in the 40 to 50% range in the winter.

5 - Make sure the clothing that is contacting your skin is agreeable. Skin often prefers natural fibers vs synthetics. Be mindful of wool allergies.

6 - Make sure your laundry soap is non irritating. Look for non-detergents and low ingredients. Charlie's soap is one of the most recommended soaps on the market and gets rave reviews from mothers (and babies) using cloth diapers. Mothers have been known to travel miles to get it.

7 - Showers are better than baths. This is important so you can do the next step.

8 - Soap last ... barely rinse and get out. It is always tempting to soap up when you first get in the shower and then stand there for many more minutes while the soap sheds off. If you still need to do that, fine , but end your shower using your fatty soap or oil based liquid soap or soap containing shea butter, and rub it into your skin well. Have a quick rinse and get out. The whole idea is to leave a slight layer of oil on your skin.

9 - Pat your skin dry, do not rub. Again, make sure the towels have been laundered with skin agreeing laundry soap.

10 - For cracked hands, the first thing is to protect them against water use and extreme temperatures. Wear gloves when washing. Use fatty soaps and rinse lightly. Lotions are okay (make sure they have no alcohol or other unnecessary drying chemicals in them) but balms are the best. If your lotion isn't working, try balms which are oil/plant based without all the extra stuff that creates lotions. Of course you could do what Italians have been doing for centuries and that's just taking your cooking olive oil and spread it around as needed.

11 - Gloves, when all else fails, is the final line of defense. Slather your hands with a balm, put on the gloves and wear all night while you sleep. Try cotton or bamboo gloves. hands. Really!

12 - For those cracked heels, do all of the above and do the same as far as balm and sleeping at night - in socks. Again, the gloves and socks should be laundered with gentle soap. Use balms during the day as well. Do not use petroleum,or Vaseline. These are products from the bottom of the barrel (literally) and form a barrier so that your skin can not breath. (which is fine when you are on top of Mt. Washington in January in a sub-zero 60 MPH wind and need protection)

13 - For Facial Dryness, use a fatty soap, an oil based liquid soap and/or anything with natural shea butter in it. For difficult Eczema, a tried and true product is Trillium's Daily Face Polish, an organic salt scrub, that has worked miracles on many a face. If your soap is high quality and truly oil based, then you shouldn't have to follow with lotions. If you still want to use lotion, remember to avoid alcohol and other irritating ingredients, or you risk undoing all your efforts.

14 - Be Patient. Skin takes a few days to heal and slough off the top dead layer, so give these dry skin tips a few days to work. They really will work..naturally.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dry Skin Natural Treatment - Real Soap to the Rescue

Still, cloudy day. What's up with the robins?

This time of year people head in droves to stores looking for dry skin treatment and relief. After winter has set in, the humidity plummets in the house and eventually sucks the moisture out of your skin. So what's a dried up, flaky, cracked, itchy, red, scabby, person suppose to do? Try using real soap for a natural dry skin treatment routine.

So what is natural and real soap? Well to start, it doesn't come from a test tube or chemistry set. What it should come from is plants. Historically ingredients in soap were oils and animal fats, some salts and ash and presto...soap. There really is no need for using animal fats today. There are too many wonderful oils (like olive) that can and should be used. Real soap should have the basic ingredients without the added unnecessary chemicals that sneak into our products. Look for few ingredients on the label, preferably organic. The ingredients should be something you can actually understand and don't need a dictionary or google to figure out. Avoid ingredients that have petrolatum (bottom of the oi barrel) and fragrance.

Using natural soap for treatment on dry skin removes the dirt gently without the irritants that wreak havoc with dry skin. Ideally look for a heavy fatted soap or fatty soap with great density. Additional ingredients for dry skin include shea butter. Some people might complain that the soap leaves the skin greasy, but if your skin is really dry, that's exactly what you want.

So back to ingredients. To make a point, compare these 2 ingredients lists:

Soap Number 1 - Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Stearic Acid, Sodium Tallowate, Water, Sodium Isethionate, Coconut Acid, Sodium Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocoate or Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Chloride, Titanium Dioxide, Sweet Almond Oil, Rosewood Oil, Tetrasodium EDTA, Trisodium Etidronate, BHT, Cedarwood Oil, Rose Oil, Disodium Cocamido-MEA-Sulfosuccinate, Cetyl Alcohol, Tocopheryl Acetate.

Soap Number 2 - Saponified Organic Coconut, Organic Palm & Organic Olive Oils (w/Retained Glycerin), Water, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Natural Rose Fragrance, Salt, Citric Acid, Vitamin E

Now...which one would you want to eat? No, really. Remember your skin is absorbing this stuff. It's going into your blood stream. So ask yourself when you look at ingredients, would I eat this? That should be your bottom line. In case you are wondering which soaps these are? Soap number 1 is Dove Beauty Bar for Sensitive Skin. Number 2 is Dr. Bronner's. These and many more ingredients can be found on

By omitting irritants and using natural, real ingredients, you are on your way to beating dry skin. There are so many locally made, natural , high density, fatty , home-made, yummy soaps out there to choose from, and they are worth every penny. So for dry skin natural treatment, stick to real soap and feel the difference.

Next Blog: Best Dry Skin Tips, Beyond Just the Soap