As a wife and mother, I find myself asking the same question everyday…often repeatedly: “Is this what is best for my family?” I may ask this question with regard to our family priorities, food choices, financial decisions, discipline methods, or a whole host of other things most families think about. But for as much time and energy that I’ve put into scouring the shopping isles for natural foods and reading their ingredient labels…I had never really thought twice about wiping my kitchen counter down with a Clorox wipe or rubbing a dryer sheet on my skin to keep away mosquitos. In fact, it wasn’t until I began struggling with fertility related issues that I started looking a little deeper into other factors affecting my health.
The first book that I read on this exploratory journey was called “Perfect Hormone Balance for Fertility” by Robert A Greene, MD and Laurie Tarkan. I came across a chapter discussing the impact of ‘free radicals’ in the body, which I found incredibly intriguing. (Bare with me…this is about to get technical for a minute:) A free radical is a small charged particle with an unpaired electron, thereby making it highly reactive and unstable. An unstable molecule such as this looks for an electron it can kidnap from another nearby particle in order to stabilize itself. The problem is that once that happens, another molecule is left with an unbound electron as result…therefore, it turns into an endless cycle of electron thieving in the body. “It is estimated that the chain reaction can trigger 6.023 x 1021 billion molecules to react per second!”(1) Free radicals can be formed in a variety of ways such as during digestion from overeating, ingestion or exposure to chemicals, pesticides, GMO’s and other bio-mutagens. When present, free radicals wreak havoc in the human body by attacking “fats, DNA, RNA, cellular membranes, proteins, vitamins and carbohydrates”. (1) “Oxygen free radicals are implicated in the overall aging process and are responsible for photoaging, cancer and inflammation in the skin.” (1)
When I learned this, things began to click. When was the last time I bothered looking at the ingredients of my cleaners, my makeup, hair products, shampoos, food storage containers, lotions…? I don’t think I ever had…or maybe even saw a reason to. All these years I had trusted the idea that everyone uses these products and that if it was harmful, the FDA and TSCA wouldn’t allow it in our homes. WRONG. I have news for you: “TSCA does not require most chemicals to be tested for safety before they are approved for widespread use. Because of this…less than half of the 3,000 high-production volume chemicals on the marketplace have toxicity data, and less than one-fifth have toxicity testing data on the effects on developing organs.”(2) In short, there are a buss-load of products out there that we are using on a daily basis with no idea of the potential long-term affects on our health. That is more than slightly concerning.
Just for kicks and giggles, I decided to pull the MSDS for a few products that I frequently use. My personal favorite was from the Clorox Wipes: “21.5% of the mixture consists of ingredient(s) of unknown toxicity”. (3) What was probably most concerning though was the large number of products containing preservative and anti-static agents with known toxicity risks. Take fabric softeners and dryer sheets for example: there are a number of products on the shelf today that contain formalin (or an ingredient that ‘acts’ very similar), which is used in the products to prevent static and wrinkles. Formalin is simply an alternative name for Formaldehyde … many know this resin as the ingredient to embalming fluid. (5) Formaldehyde is also recognized as a cancer causing agent by the National Cancer Institute. (4) How do we not know that such a toxic chemical is present in our every day products, you say? Because companies are only required to list ingredients that are active disinfectants or known to be hazardous. The FDA suggests that these toxic chemicals are not readily absorbed by the skin and are, therefore, deemed as ‘not hazardous’. For this reason companies can get away with vague statements such as ‘anti-static agent’ to avoid mentioning something nasty. So as long as there’s only a little bit of formaldehyde in your system, it’s OK? I don’t know about you, but I’m not OK with my child soaking up formaldehyde resin left on her clothes in any amount. Why on earth would I take such a risk?
This is unfortunately, just the tip of the iceberg. I say this not as an over-reaction or someone buying into the ‘hype’ or biased agendas of natural product brands, but as a wife and mother looking out for her family’s best interest. The more I research, the more I realize that we are constantly surrounded and bathed in unnecessary and often harmful chemicals, of which we have no idea of the future impacts to ourselves, our families or the environment. I encourage you to please do your research, friends. There are so many wonderful, safe alternatives out there. Ultimately, the important thing is simply that you know that you do have a CHOICE on what is allowed into your home.
As I go on this journey of transitioning my home to a safer and cleaner one, I would love to share with you some of the fantastic alternatives that I have found and am excited about. Some days I may share a useful recipe, while others I may share an awesome new product that I’ve discovered. I hope you enjoy and learn something cool along the way:)