Other Ways to Decrease Your Exposure to Hidden Hazards in Your Home

There are several other common sense things you can practice to minimize the potentially toxic effects of pollutants in your home. Chief among them is regularly opening windows (even just a crack) and if necessary, using fans to properly ventilate. Open two windows, or a window and a door to create cross-ventilation –the most effective way to reduce indoor pollution.

There are also a variety of houseplants like aloe vera, ferns, ficus, philodendron, and spider plants –to name a few– that are considered good natural air filters. These plants draw pollutants out of the air and replace them with oxygen. Just be aware that some house plants that are good at this can also be highly toxic to pets –cats and dogs—so if you have house pets be very careful which of these you choose to use and keep them well out of reach of Spotty or Fido!

Another overlooked area is remembering to take your shoes off before or upon entering your home. I’ve always wondered why people continue to wear their shoes on in the house. It’s one thing if you’re getting ready to go out but an entirely different thing if you’ve just entered your house from outside! That’s because you can easily track lawn fertilizer and pesticides and bring them inside with you and (obviously) not even know it. Depending on where you live, this can be a real issue. Folks who live in the suburbs where people routinely use lawn fertilizer and garden pesticides are especially susceptible to this hazard. But even city folk can unwittingly pick up traces of toxins on their shoes. It’s best to establish a policy whereby you or anyone entering your home removes and leaves their shoes at the entrance –a custom that’s widely practiced in Japan.

And last but not least, whenever you bring something into your home that you know has a chemical coating or finish like a new appliance, tools, or outdoor plastic equipment or furniture –leave it outside or in a very well ventilated area for several days to out gas before bringing it inside. If you’re not sure, then err on the side of being safe than sorry. The same holds true for clothes you bring home from the dry cleaners –remove the plastic and let them air out completely before hanging them up in your closet.

Is Your Body Overdue for a Spring Cleaning? Cleansing & Detoxification for Optimal Health

When spring arrives I’m usually thinking about spring-cleaning and looking forward to getting rid of some of the clutter that has accumulated during the fall and winter months! Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the ins and outs, and the importance of internal cleansing and herbal detoxification. The changing of the seasons is the time that a lot of people decide to cleanse –perhaps mimicking the cleansing effect of nature’s transition from the dead and darkness of winter into the light and freshness of spring. With the return of sunshine and longer days, the bloom of wildflowers dotting the landscape all around us, so comes the desire to start anew.

While cleaning house and getting rid of the clutter we’ve accumulated over the winter months seems almost second nature to most of us, how many of us routinely ponder the importance or necessity of a little internal spring-cleaning?

Our ancestors engaged in cleansing rituals at least twice a year –usually in the spring and in the fall. They probably weren’t fully aware of their bodies’ need to eliminate old cells and the toxins generated by their bodies’ normal ongoing metabolic processes in order to build healthy new tissue. And yet instinctively, they would ingest the herbs and plant foods that provided them with the detoxification necessary to promote natural healing.

We’ve come a long way since those days and are now faced with an unfortunate fact of modern life — routine exposure to a significant amount of additional toxins. Even if you don’t work directly with chemicals or live near a chemical or industrial plant or an obvious source of pollution, you still have dozens of environmental toxins –pesticides, heavy metals, solvents, and byproducts from plastics –circulating in your bloodstream and stored up in your fat cells. In fact, research indicates that the average American is exposed to a staggering 100,000 chemicals, 25% of which are hazardous to human health.

With all that toxic exposure on top of the internal toxins generated through metabolic waste, it’s not hard to see how over time, the organ systems of the body responsible for processing and eliminating toxins become overloaded and inefficient. When toxins start to accumulate and increase in your tissues, a variety of conditions can show up –from fatigue, allergies, and asthma, to digestive disturbances, skin problems, or painful joints. If you experience these symptoms, it’s a good bet that inflammation is also present, and too much inflammation can lead to cellular damage, chronic disease, recurrent infections, and general immune system deficiencies.

Greening Your New Year’s Resolutions

The New Year is a time of renewal – looking ahead, visualizing, and anticipating positive changes and developments for our selves in the year to come. This time-honored tradition takes on many forms: new year’s resolutions to lose weight, get fit, stop smoking, find ways to reduce stress in our busy lives; give away or recycle old possessions that have outlived their usefulness; and clear out all manner of clutter to make room for new and better things.

If you’ve resolved to take better care of yourself this year and be healthier, there’s never been a better time to give the medicine cabinet in your bathroom a New Year’s Makeover. I’d like to encourage you to take a closer look at what’s inside yours. Even the most seemingly innocuous items can contain a veritable of soup of chemicals that may be doing you more harm than good.

palmRead the labels and familiarize yourself with the ingredients. Start with the products you use daily – toothpaste, mouthwash, antiperspirants or deodorants, talcum powder, face creams, lotions, and cleansers, over-the-counter cold and pain medications, “anti-bacterial” soaps, and traditional cosmetics. After all, these are products you routinely apply to your skin or your teeth and gums – both the fastest routes for substances to be absorbed into the bloodstream. When substances are absorbed into the body this way they often by-pass the liver – your body’s principle detoxifying organ or worse, clog and congest it. That means many toxic substances aren’t properly eliminated and often take up residence in the fatty tissue of our organs where they build up over time, turning into a virtual “thorn in your side” that can compromise your immune system and leave you susceptible to a host of health problems. A congested liver is also one of the fastest routes to inflammation in the body.

Ironically, many of the chemical ingredients in personal care products are there to improve the texture and consistency, appearance, or shelf-life stability of the product and have no functional purpose. To add insult to injury, many are primarily there to speed up or enhance the penetration of the other ingredients into the skin; increase the thickness and intensity of the lather (making it harder to rinse off); or make the product more visually appealing.

Eliminating products made with ingredients that are at worst, toxic and potentially harmful to your health, and at best, irritants or allergens that do not serve you on your path to more healthful living, will greatly reduce your risk of exposure and may even rid you of persistent unexplained health problems. Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally), many of the ingredients that are harmful to you, are also harmful to the environment, both on the manufacturing and production side and on the back-end as they make their way down toilets and drains and into our riverbeds and streams altering the ecological landscape.

While it may not seem like that big of a deal, transforming your bathroom cabinet is actually a very good first step toward “greening” your lifestyle. If being “greener” is one of your new year’s resolutions then stay tuned as I offer some tips and advice on how to do that over the next week or so.

Two Things You Can Do Right Now to Reduce or Eliminate Your Exposure to Common Toxins in Skin Care Products

The two most important things you can do right now to avoid or minimize your risk of toxicity are:

1) Read and understand the ingredient labels on the products you currently use, or before you buy a new product

2) Throw away any products you have that contain toxic ingredients and replace them with authentic natural personal care products

Today I want to talk to you a little about the first one because learning to read and really understand labels and ingredient panels is critical to your ability to select products that are not just safe but effective too.

By law, manufacturers are required to list ingredients in descending order of their concentration. That’s why creams and lotions usually have water (or Aqua) listed as the first ingredient. However, manufacturers are not required to indicate how much of each ingredient is used, so if a product contains a lot of ingredients there is simply no way to know how much of each is used. That’s where knowing the difference between natural and synthetic ingredients comes in handy.

Many companies combine natural ingredients with synthetic ones and call them “natural,” to take advantage of the latest marketing trends. Even organic ingredients are sometimes combined with ingredients like mineral oil, petrolatum, propylene glycol (the main ingredient in anti-freeze), and parabens –to name a few. It’s a practice that’s called “Green Washing.” Be especially aware of lotions, moisturizers, or other products whose water content is high, that claim to be 100% organic since lotions are usually made up of around 70% or more water, there is no such thing as a lotion that is totally organic. In that case you should look to see how much of the non-water content is natural and/or organic to get an idea of how safe it is.

As you become more comfortable and knowledgeable with deciphering labels, your focus should be on learning to identify and avoid or eliminate your exposure to ingredients that have either been widely identified as risky or just appear to be iffy. You can learn more about this at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics web site.

You can also look up specific products or companies on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep web site where you’ll find an extensive database that includes several thousand well known and lesser-known body care and cosmetic products. The Skin Deep database is the first attempt of its kind to catalog the ingredients in personal care products – the majority of which have never been tested for safety and whose impact on our health are virtually unknown.