Clean and Green ~ Mini Tech Detox

Clean and Green ~ Mini Tech Detox

OUR BODIES PHYSIOLOGICALLY DEPEND ON ELECTRICAL CURRENTS—our nervous and cardiac systems being the core systems of course that rely on tiny electrical impulses. Even though you can’t feel it, our modern world is increasingly exposing us to larger and larger volumes of electromagnetic fields (EMF), emitted through the use of electricity and particularly from increasing dependency on “wireless” technology (not only are we dependent in terms of modern-day conveniences, but our entertainment often revolves around it too). The advent of smart, connected homes, the use of wireless routers in every home, or simply the simple act of plugging things into an electrical outlet, even things like lamps, means that our exposure is 24-7.
In 2011, the WHO classified cellphones as a possible carcinogen and have launched an International EMF program—after years of research, the results are still inconclusive but there is enough cause for concern that limits on exposure have been suggested. We know that EMF affects our body, placing stress on our systems as the electrical “flow” within our bodies becomes agitated and disturbed. The trouble is that technology has evolved faster than the research, and we don’t truly know what the long-term effects of exposure are. But we suspect… and it’s not very encouraging. Chronic conditions such as fatigue, headaches, adrenal fatigue or sympathetic system hyperdrive (fight or flight stress response) are rampant, and tumours located in the vicinity of where people hold their cell phones have increased. And nearly everyone I know experiences sleep problems—a physiological function that seems to be heavily affected by EMF—and sleep is when your body does most of its regenerative work.
In my own life, I have found that as I remove toxins of all kinds from my life I become more sensitive to them as my body has lowered it’s ‘tolerance’ levels. It’s a positive thing as I can detect pollutants in my immediate environment really easily, but EMF has been a form of pollution I had not yet tackled until now. It’s a tricky field, as it operates on a level we cannot directly feel, and the symptoms can be attributed to any number of things. A quick internet search of EMF-blocking products yields results that can feel, shall we say, dubious. It’s left me questioning how best to deal with the issue, and the easiest most immediate solution has been to make massive efforts to reduce my personal exposure by changing my habits (and I say massive because I truly think we’re addicted to our devices and modern conveniences—it’s taken a lot of conscious effort to leave mine alone).
The following are some super quick, very simple changes you can make in your own home to reduce how much EMF you’re exposing yourself to (and your kids too, whose delicate systems have shown to be even more sensitive).
  1. Replace your cordless phone with an old-school plug-in. The reason this is important is because cordless phones, like cell phones, are constantly emitting a signal to the “home base” within the confines of your own home. A bonus is that you’ll never have to hunt for the handset in the couch cushions again.
  2. Make calls from a landline whenever possible (such as when you are at home or at work).
  3. Don’t charge your phone (or keep any wireless electronics) in your bedroom, and DON’T use your phone as an alarm clock—get a battery-operated one (and then use rechargeables!).
  4. Don’t keep your cell phone on your body all day long (especially in your pocket).
  5. Create a “drop spot” in your home, where you automatically place your phone (and maybe keys, etc.) when you get home. Make a conscious effort to leave it there and resist the urge to check it for messages or updates too frequently.
  6. Don’t use your laptop on your lap, and even avoid if you can using an iPad resting against your body for too long.
  7. Use hard-wired internet connections for desktop computers at home and at work.
  8. Turn your devices off at night.
  9. Unplug your modem/wifi at night. If this sounds too inconvenient for you, you can purchase power bars with built-in timers so that they will shut off and turn back on automatically at the time of your choosing, say 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  10. Don’t make checking your device and browsing Facebook etc. the first thing you do in the morning. Give your body time to wake up and use the time for something different instead (family time, meditation, breathwork, yoga, etc.).

Clean And Green Series 2

Clean And Green Household Helpers

Ever wonder if those commercial cleaning products and indoor pesticides you use might do more harm than good? You’re not alone. Natural homecare products {many of which contain herbs} are growing in popularity as more homemakers become aware of indoor toxins. The use of certain cleaning products has been linked to higher rates of asthma, inducing the condition in some people, as well as aggravating the condition in those who already have this chronic inflammatory disease. And although you can buy many excellent nontoxic products for your home, it’s easy and fun to make your own. Just remember that even plant products can be toxic under some circumstances, and the same cautions given for other herbal uses also apply here.

SIMPLY CLEAN SOLUTIONS

With just a few basic ingredients, you can make safer “green” cleaning products for a fraction of the cost of the commercial products and without the scary ingredients. Distilled white vinegar {which contains acetic acid} has antifungal and antimicrobial properties and can eliminate mineral deposits from sink and bathroom fixtures, as well as cookware. Acidic lemon juice kills germs on countertops, cutting boards, and more. Baking soda deodorizes and dissolves grease and dirt. Mixed with other ingredients, it makes a gentle but effective scrub. All-natural castile soap made for centuries with olive oil, not only washes dirt and grease from your body, but also from household surfaces and laundry.
Many herbs have potent disinfectant properties, too. Basil, bay, cardamom, clove, coriander, eucalyptus, ginger, hyssop, lavender, lemongrass, oregano, peppermint, rose geranium, rosemary, sage, spearmint, and thyme are cleaning powerhouses. All contain a multitude of plant chemicals that possess antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, and antiviral actions. By adding a few drops of these essential oils to your homemade cleaning products, you can boost their cleaning power and impart a delightful fragrance that makes cleaning more pleasurable.
Because essential oils break down plastic over time, it’s best to store your homemade cleaning products in labeled, dark glass containers. Plastic spray bottles are fine for short-term storage of smaller quantities. Also, remember to store all cleaning products, even those made with natural ingredients, in a cool, dark location where children and pets cannot reach them.

KITCHEN COUNTERTOP SPRAY

Use this fragrant solution to disinfect countertops, refrigerator shelves, and painted surfaces, including walls and wood trim. Feel free to experiment with other antibacterial essential oils, such as basil, thyme, or lemon.
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup water
10-12 drops rose geranium essential oil
In a small, dark glass jar, combine the vinegar, water, and oil. Stir. Pour small amounts into a spray bottle as necessary.

GENTLE SPEARMINT SCRUBBER

This non-scratching, chlorine-free paste is perfect for cleaning cookware, countertops, and porcelain sinks and tubs. Lemon and lemon verbena essential oils also work well in place of the spearmint.
1 cup baking soda
1 tablespoon liquid castile soap
10-12 drops spearmint essential oil
Warm water {90 to 110 degrees F}
In a small, dark glass jar, combine the baking soda, soap, and enough water to form a thick but pourable paste. Stir in the essential oil. Apply to surfaces, wait for 5 minutes or more, then scrub with a sponge. Rinse off the residue with water.

Clean And Green Series

Green Beauty Guide

It would make sense, I suppose, to start from the top with hair care products, but instead I’ve decided to start with your skin (not including the face just yet, that’s a whole other thing). Your skin is your largest organ, and what we put on it has a lasting impact on your body chemistry and the buildup of toxins in your blood and tissues. But before I go too much further, I want to preface with a few founding principles. 1. The studies on the effects of chemicals and toxic ingredients in skin care vary greatly. It seems for every study that says something is fine, another will say that it is toxic—it’s a confusing landscape. Science operates under a system of absolute proof, which is necessary, but the downside being that if something is suspected as toxic, with good reason, it can still be declared safe—innocent until proven guilty. This is good enough for some, but in my mind, why expose our bodies to unnecessary, even if just potential, harm? 2. Not everything absorbs into the skin. More on this later. 3. An argument often used when talking about risky ingredients in skin care is that at low levels, it’s not toxic. True enough, except… I’m not sure we truly understand how well our bodies are able to excrete chemicals (and I know of a few that our bodies can never excrete). It depends on each individual, what they eat, where they live, how healthy they are… you get the picture. When you consider a lifetime of exposure, I think it’s fair to say this is an area that we should, at the very least, proceed with caution—Gillian Deacon calls this chemical body burden.

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Now for a bit of science which harkens back to my days studying physiology at university (see, I knew it would one day be useful!). Our skin is comprised of layers: three major ones with several sub-layers. Each layer has a super specific purpose, but the overall function of the skin is to protect your inner soft tissues and prevent loss of moisture. But skin is not impermeable… it’s actually a semi-permeable membrane, which means that under the correct conditions certain molecules can be absorbed. Typically, small, fat-soluble (dissolved in fat, not water) molecules are readily absorbed, whereas large, water-soluble molecules are not. I personally am not sure which chemicals are which, and outside of a chem lab I’m not sure you’ll ever know, but understanding how skin absorbs things is useful information to know in order to make your own informed decision about products you are willing to use on skin. It’s also worth noting that although some chemicals are too large to pass through the skin to reach the blood or lymph streams, they can still be absorbed by glands in the skin, build up, and then excrete into the body when the concentration inside the gland becomes elevated. So while this process is slow it still occurs—this is the main concern with aluminum in antiperspirants.

Now, let’s think about the function of skin care products: to nourish the outer layers of skin so that we appear on the outside to have nicer skin. This is usually accomplished with water, which plumps up the outer layer of skin cells so that they literally swell up and look smoother, and a host of other ingredients designed to nourish or improve the appearance/regeneration of skin—it’s a temporary fix, and it breeds dependence. Unfortunately, as it turns out, many synthetic ingredients have a habit of not staying put and find themselves in our blood where they can potentially cause harm over time. Also, other ingredients used purely to increase shelf life or scent moisturizers are often where the most harmful chemicals are found… something to think about.

It also should be mentioned that whether an ingredient can be absorbed into the skin or not, there is an added cost and consideration: When we wash in the shower, the creams and lotions are carried down the drain where they break down into tiny particles that are difficult to remove by water processing plants. Thus, they end up in our bodies anyway via our drinking water and they end up in fish and aquatic life / ecosystems, which are known to be sensitive. The effects on aquatic ecosystems have been studied and the results, my friends, are not pretty.

 

WHAT TO AVOID

There are hundreds if not thousands of ingredients in skin care and it would be impractical to discuss them all. Thankfully, studies have been done on some of the most common ingredients and we now have a group of worst offenders to avoid. I’ve read several books on the topic and reference David Suzuki’s “Dirty Dozen” list often, but my favorite list is from Gillian Deacon’s book There’s Lead in Your Lipstick (2011, Penguin, Canada). According to her research, here is a list of products to avoid (abbreviated from her book by Treehugger):

Note: not all of these chemicals are specific to moisturizers or skin care, but I wanted to include them all for future reference.

 

  • Coal Tar: A known carcinogen banned in the EU, but still used in North America. Used in dry skin treatments, anti-lice, and anti-dandruff shampoos, also listed as a color plus number, i.e. FD&C Red No. 6.
  • DEA/TEA/MEA: Suspected carcinogens used as emulsifiers and foaming agents for shampoos, body washes, soaps.
  • Ethoxylated surfactants and 1,4-dioxane: Never listed because it’s a by-product made from adding carcinogenic ethylene oxide to make other chemicals less harsh. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found 1,4-dioxane in 57 percent of baby washes in the U.S. Avoid any ingredients containing the letters “eth.”
  • Formaldehyde: Probable carcinogen and irritant found in nail products, hair dye, fake eyelash adhesives, shampoos. Banned in the EU.
  • Fragrance/Parfum: A catchall for hidden chemicals, such as phthalates. A Fragrance is connected to headaches, dizziness, asthma, and allergies.
  • Hydroquinone: Used for lightening skin. Banned in the UK, rated most toxic on the EWG’s Skin Deep database, and linked to cancer and reproductive toxicity.
  • Lead: Known carcinogen found in lipstick and hair dye, but never listed because it’s a contaminant, not an ingredient.
  • Mercury: Known allergen that impairs brain development. Found in mascara and some eyedrops.
  • Mineral oil: By-product of petroleum that’s used in baby oil, moisturizers, styling gels. It creates a film that impairs the skin’s ability to release toxins.
  • Oxybenzone: Active ingredient in chemical sunscreens that accumulates in fatty tissues and is linked to allergies, hormone disruption, cellular damage, low birth weight.
  • Parabens: Used as preservatives, found in many products. Linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity.
  • Paraphenylenediamine (PPD): Used in hair products and dyes, but toxic to skin and immune system.
  • Phthalates: Plasticizers banned in the EU and California in children’s toys, but present in many fragrances, perfumes, deodorants, lotions. Linked to endocrine disruption, liver/kidney/lung damage, cancer.
  • Placental extract: Used in some skin and hair products, but linked to endocrine disruption.
  • Polyethylene glycol (PEG): Penetration enhancer used in many products, it’s often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide, both known carcinogens.
  • Silicone derived emollients: Used to make a product feel soft, these don’t biodegrade, and also prevent skin from breathing. Linked to tumor growth and skin irritation.
  • Sodium lauryl (ether) sulfate (SLS, SLES): A former industrial degreaser now used to make soap foamy, it’s absorbed into the body and irritates skin.
  • Talc: Similar to asbestos in composition, it’s found in baby powder, eye shadow, blush, deodorant. Linked to ovarian cancer and respiratory problems.
  • Toluene: Known to disrupt the immune and endocrine systems, and fetal development, it’s used in nail and hair products. Often hidden under fragrance.
  • Triclosan: Found in antibacterial products, hand sanitizers, and deodorants, it is linked to cancer and endocrine disruption.

SO, WHAT TO DO?

I am not proposing you forgo putting anything on your skin… due to lots of external environmental factors, we often need to give our skin a moisturizing boost. It’s known that our skin most easily accepts and makes use of plant-based oils that resemble its own natural oils.  Here is a rundown of the Pure Green moisturizing body skin care routine… it’s tested, proven, and works wonders, chem-free.

  1. Drink lots of water and hydrate from the inside out.
  2. Exfoliate: this removes the outer layers of dead skin and reveals softer smoother skin underneath. Exfoliation should always be a gentle process, however. Our favorite method is to introduce body-brushing to your routine just before you shower.
  3. Heat helps to improve the absorption of oils into the skin, so moisturizing right after showering or bathing, or before bed (our body temp elevates at night) is a good time to do so. If using plant oils, heating the jar gently in some hot water also helps (and thins the oils slightly as well as helping them to glide on).

WHAT PLANT OILS TO USE: the three most popular are pure coconut, sweet almond, and sesame. Ayurvedic practices believe that one is better than the other according to your specific dosha, and suggest applying them in a certain way to benefit the body further… it’s called Abhyanga.

If you would rather use a commercially formulated product, that’s fine too, just make sure you check the ingredients against the list above (there’s a handy guide you can download here). Basically, though, the ingredient list should read pretty straightforward—plant and flower based ingredients are typically listed after the latin name in English and you should be able to recognize each of them.

MORE RESOURCES:

EWG’s Skin Deep: I LOVE this resource. It allows you to search individual products and check their ingredients for toxins. It’s a great way to see what’s currently in your bathroom cabinet or a product you’re unsure about purchasing.