A Way of Life: Toxicity in Our Environment and Eco-friendly Cleaning Products

Because toxicity has become a way of life, and we must breath and eat, we are continuously exposed to pesticides and polluntants, some stored right under our kitchen sinks, says a report from the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Mass., and the Harvard University School of Public Health.

The study was published last October in Environmental Science & Technology, Sedona, Ariz., naturopath doctor Teresa Dale, Ph.D. says "demonstrates that we are exposed daily to a wide array of chemicals that affect our hormone systems." Chemicals like phthalates and alkyphenois may heighten the risk of hormone-linked diseases like breast cancer and testicular cancer.

To limit your exposure, "read labels carefully, use nontoxic cleaning products and avoid using indoor pesticides," says Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Dave Dergan. There are nontoxic cleaning products and pesticides right in your kitchen. If you have baking soda, white vinegar, borax, and rubbing alcohol in your pantry and bathroom, you have the basic ingredients to make your own cleaning products and pesticides that don't cost you an arm and a leg. I have included formulations for making your own products from these items and many more at the end of this article.

There are plenty of effective, earth-safe cleaners that you can buy or make. Using these alternatives will reduce the toxic burden in your house and environment. By switching to environmentally friendly cleaners protects your health and that of the community you live in while reducing air, water, and ground pollution.

I bet you are asking yourself, "So why isn't everybody doing it?" There are very few people who actually read the labels of the products they purchase and even fewer who know the impact these chemicals can have on our bodies. Most people do not take the time or have the time to research the chemicals that go into these products.

Not all "green" products are created equal, some have simply added essential oils to make it smell like the formula has changed. "You need to read the labels carefully to check for irritating chemicals, such as chlorine, ammonia and artificial fragrances and dyes," says Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D., a preventive-medicine specialist in Tucson, Arizona. "Buy cleaners from health-food stores or retailers specializing in environmentally friendly products."

"Eco-friendly cleaning and laundry products are the next frontier of environmentalism," says Marci Zaroff, former publisher of Macrocosm and CEO of Under the Canopy, an organic fabric clothing company. "It's an inexpensive, easy and effective way to protect our planet and commitment to life."

Here are some options to get you started onto the path of "thinking green":

* CITRUS OILl; sold in health-food stores and home improvement stores, fills rooms with the smell of oranges and is far more pleasing to your nose (unless you like the smell of hospitals).

To clean or polish wood floors, dilute 1 c. of citrus oil in one gallon of hot water, and mop with a sponge. For floors that are greasy, simply use a stronger solultion. You can also clean kitchen counters and tabletops with this solution. Citrus doesn't strip the protective sealants. On porous surfaces like marble or granite, only use diluted oil and it should never be allowed to sit on a surface, always wipe it dry when finished.

* TEA TREE, THYME AND LAVENDER ESSENTIAL OILS: these have been proven to have more antiseptic in some studies than phenol, the most common chemical disinfectant. Many disinfectants contain chlorine, which reacts with organix matter in drinking water to produce potentially carcinogenic trihalomethane.

VINEGAR: Vinegar is known as nature's most practical liquid and is so versatile that you can use it in the kitchen and bath, laundry and garden, housecleaning and car cleaning, even pet care and personal care.

To deodorize and inhibit mildew growth on outdoor plastic mesh furniture and patio umbrellas, mix 2 cups white vinegar and 2 tablespoons dishwashing liquid in a bucket of hot water. Use a soft brush to work it into the grooves of the plastic and for scrubbing seat pands and umbrella fabric. Rinse with cold water; then dry in the sun.