In July of this year New Jersey's Senator Frank R. Lautenberg 's Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S847) received enough votes from the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee to move on to the Senate, where it now awaits a full vote. This legislation has the potential to make significant improvements to our health and the health of our children.
The European Union (EU) has a precautionary principle they can invoke when considering policy or legislation that involves potential toxins. The principle essentially says that if there is a question as to the safety of a chemical or additive, then it's best to err on the side of caution. It "may be used to stop distribution or order withdrawal from the market of products likely to constitute a health hazard."
In the US we have no such protections. This is why we have body products, cosmetics, and even foods that are so much more questionable than our European neighbors. For example, there are currently no requirements for a pre-market safety check of body products.
In 1976 the US legislature passed the Toxic Substances Control Act. It hasn't been very effective. Since it was passed the Environmental Protection Agency has only been able to regulate five chemicals of concern. Currently the onus is not on the manufacturer but on the EPA to prove the safety or danger of a chemical.
Lautenberg's Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 would set the standard even higher than the EU's review of toxic chemicals. Currently a safety review is initiated if the EPA questions it, and then it's up to the EPA to perform the review - with taxpayer's money. S.847 would require the manufacturer of a chemical to prove its safety. It would also make the industry more transparent as it would require disclosure of the ingredients in their creations. There would no longer be synthetics with undisclosed ingredients in our homes and communities.
A safe chemical is defined in the bill as having “a reasonable certainty of no harm.” This is similar to the standard the EPA has used to assess pesticides for the last ten years.
A particularly progressive part of the bill is the acknowledgment that we need to consider what it calls "aggregate exposure." It adds together exposure to a single substance from all sources, such as air, water, and food. It also looks at cumulative exposure which would consider the public’s aggregate exposures to chemicals that have similar effects, such as mimicking estrogen.
Here's a link to urge your senators to co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act. Let's finally get a Safe Chemical Act in 2012/2013!
As we head into winter and cold season here in New Jersey it's tempting to pull out the antibacterial soaps. Triclosan was originally created for the health care setting. It’s an antibacterial (see my 10/9 post), a disinfectant and it has some antiviral and antifungal properties too. As its use moved into the mainstream, it’s been insidiously added to all kinds of products. It's a dangerous substance and you want to eliminate it from your home.
According to the material safety data Sheet (MSDS) for triclosan it’s irritating to the eyes and skin, very toxic to aquatic organisms, to the extent that it may cause long term adverse effects in the aquatic environment. Is this something you want to wash your hands with?
Ok, so it’s diluted in some pretty smelling hand soap. The soap a million other people are using. All of it going down the drain. Maybe into a water system or a well, probably into an aquifer or the local stream. Over 95% of triclosan uses are in homes or offices where the disposal is down the drain. Triclosan is not removed in water treatment plants. Gee, could this be related to the reduced aquatic life we’re experiencing? Then we drink the water.
More from the MSDS- Keep away from foodstuffs in transport, environmentally hazardous (marine pollutant). Ok, enough of this. It’s a hazardous chemical, a pesticide. After it’s mixed into a product for daily use it’s still a problem. It’s been strongly linked (not conclusively mind you) to abnormalities in the endocrine system, birth defects, extreme weight loss, skin irritation (well, the manufacturer’s MSDS does say that, doesn’t it?), allergy susceptibility, antibiotic resistance , etc. etc.
Scrutinize your disinfectants, hand soaps, mouthwash and body care products. It may also be labeled as Microban® in plastics or clothing, or Biofresh ® in acrylic.
Here’s just a sampling of the common products that contain triclosan:
Softsoap® Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap
Dial® Liquid Soap
Clearasil® Daily Face Wash;
pHisoderm Antibacterial Skin
CVS Antibacterial Soap
Dawn® Complete Antibacterial Dish Liquid,
Ajax® Antibacterial Dish Liquid.
Reach® Antibacterial Toothbrush
Garden Botanika® Powder Foundation;
Jason Natural Cosmetics
Revlon ColorStay LipSHINE Lipcolor
Old Spice High Endurance Stick Deodorant,
Right Guard Sport Deodorant
It is also in products labelled as "Microban"
For a more extensive list see Beyond Pesticides.
As we head into the winter cold season in New Jersey the use of antibiotics increases. Antibiotics are for bacterial infections, however they are often used , to no avail, for viruses. We are all susceptible to viruses. Viruses, such as the common cold, are not affected by antibiotics (or antimicrobials or antibacterials).
The problem started when we began using antibiotics for viruses as well as bacterial infections. Sometimes it was a physician prescribing it, other times it was a worried patient insisting on it, either way; we began using antibiotics when they were of no use.
We also began adding antibiotics to the feed fed to the livestock we eat. Not sick livestock mind you, but as a preventative measure. Some fruit trees are even treated with them. Beef, chicken, pork and other meats now contain antibiotic resistant bacteria. Then in recent years, it became a marketing tool to add antimicrobials and antibacterials to the plastic in toys, hand soaps, soap detergents, even appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines. Ugh, it makes me queasy just typing this. What on earth were we thinking!
I wonder if the increase in antibiotic use has contributed to the increase in digestive problems and immune disorders. We need bacteria to help us develop immune resistance, and the good bacteria in our stomachs – lactobacillus for example - are necessary for proper digestion. I see a post on good bacteria in my future.
What we have accomplished is to create bacteria that are now unaffected by antibiotics, so we don’t have a medication to help us fight them. These bacteria are called “antibiotic resistant”, or superbugs. If we continue with this behavior, we may find ourselves back in the day of having no recourse against bacterial infections. According to Stuart B. Levy, MD, president of the Alliance for Prudent Use of Antibiotics, we now have people dying of infections they would have survived five years ago.
Dr. Levy confirms what other experts are saying- we have to stop the use of antibiotics for purposes other than absolute necessity in order the reverse this path.
Here’s what we must do:
Don’t use antibacterial or antimicrobial soaps, shampoos, toys, appliances or other products unless prescribed by a Dr. for a particular condition.
Don’t bully your Dr. into giving you an antibiotic against their advice. Dr’s are human too, and it’s still happening despite the push to decrease antibiotic use. Similarly, don’t accept an antibiotic prescription if you’ve been told your problem is viral. Get a second opinion if you’re unsure.
Do spread the word. Gently offer alternatives when you see unnecessary antimicrobials being used.
Do use your antibiotic prescription as directed. Yes, you do need to take it for 10 days (or 21, or whatever’s prescribed). If you stop too soon, the stronger bacteria haven’t been killed off yet. That’s why folks frequently get sick again when they don’t finish all the medication. AND –you’ve just contributed to creating a super bug.
Do serve your family meat and poultry that are antibiotic free.
Watch for my upcoming posting on the dangers of the antibacterial Triclosan - you probably have some in your home and office right now.
For more information:
Alliance for Prudent Use of Antibiotics
Keep Antibiotics Working
National Institutes of Health
There are so many good books about green living out there that I stopped picking up every one I see years ago. I have my favorites that I consider classics, Debra Lynn Dadd’s original Nontoxic and Natural (I’ll talk more about her another time) among others. Now I've added a new one to my list of classics. I picked up Renee Loux’s Easy Green Living: The Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-Friendly Choices for You and Your Home primarily because her book on raw foods, Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods is on my cookbook shelf. Honestly, I’ve never seen her show so I didn’t realize she was also a natural living expert.
I'm glad I picked it up, as it is a book that anyone interested in starting or furthering a natural lifestyle should own. It is priceless as a resource book. It’s particularly valuable because the information isn’t likely to become obsolete as some books in this genre do. This is because she doesn’t just rely on identifying safe brand names and products in the market place. She also gives detailed lists of chemicals to avoid and make it yourself alternatives.
She lists the dangers of the chemicals or contaminants in each area, everything from laundry detergents to bedding. She explains very clearly what to look for, what to avoid, and what the alternatives are. You can probably guess from my writing I particularly enjoy the new homemade formulas she offers to add to my repertoire.
I highly recommend this book for those starting on the path to discovering natural health as well as seasoned natural health gurus.
Antibiotics, hormones, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers & tranquilizers, typical contents of a locked hospital supply room. It may also be the contents of your drinking water. It’s also likely it contains insecticides, detergents, artificial sweeteners fire retardants, plasticizers and triclosan. All in very small amounts, but nevertheless there. Today I want to focus on pharmaceuticals.
Numerous studies have been done to assess the quality of our drinking water. In recent years many of these studies have focused on pharmaceuticals. An Associated Press investigation in 2008 determined pharmaceuticals such as these have been found in the drinking water supply of at least 41 million Americans. The US Geological service has identified pharmaceuticals in 80% of the country’s rivers and streams. Similar findings have been reported in Canada, Japan, Great Britain, the list goes on.
How does this happen? We are using more and more medications and naturally the waste is excreted and goes into the water system. Up until recently, people were advised to dispose of all unused medication by flushing it down the toilet; now it’s only recommended for more dangerous medications that need to be disposed of quickly and “permanently”. Some medications are resistant to treatment in our waste water plants & many old septic systems leak the waste. They’re treated in a waste water plant or a septic system, and the remnants are released into the local stream and aquifer, where the water is pulled back up for us to drink. Some pharmaceuticals are even made more toxic when combined with chlorine.
Many bottled water companies don’t test for pharmaceuticals or purify the water before bottling, so that’s another possible source. Are there cattle grazing in the local stream? Many are being treated with steroids or antibiotics. The stream is connected to an aquifer that’s connected to a water supply. You get the picture.
Naturally the water downstream of hospitals, retirement facilities and nursing homes has been found to have a particularly high level of pharmaceuticals. Aquatic life is already being affected by the contaminants in our water, and as drought conditions become more common, the contaminants become concentrated.
Frogs develop deformities at relatively low levels of contamination, and they are being affected; in Colorado’s Boulder Creek studies by the University of Colorado at Boulder found that 50 percent of the male white suckers have developed female sex tissue, and the female fish outnumber the males more than five to one. Evidence suggests this is because of the estrogen and other chemicals causing esogenic (hormone mimicing) effects in the water.
What can we do? First of all - don’t make it a habit to drink unfiltered water.
Don’t flush unused medication down the toilet. You can contact the manufacturer or your pharmacist to find a local take back program. Some doctor’s offices have a receptacle to take your expired and unused medication. Your local or county health department or police station may have a disposal site or a collection day. If none of these options pan out for you, you can dispose of pills and tablets in the garbage if your garbage goes to an incinerator, liquids can be disposed after pouring them in a plastic bag with absorbent kitty litter or sand. This is clearly not a great option, but the best we have.
Support efforts to make pharmaceuticals that degrade quicker, currently in the early stages of research.
The best solution is to combine all of these efforts with more effective technologies at our waste water plants, but the cost to make them effective is currently prohibitive for most communities. So stay tuned as the environmental and health communities continue to search for viable solutions.
Book Review: Is Electricity Making You Sick?
Zapped-Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn’t Be Your Alarm Clark and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution by Ann Louise Gittleman
A few of the useful facts shared in Zapped:
~Regularly using a laptop on the lap can reduce sperm count by 25%
~Using a corded phone is safer than a cordless phone
~One of the worst places to place a couch or bed is on the wall opposite your refrigerator
A while back I saw a book was being published about electromagnetic pollution and it was by the cutting edge author Ann Louis Gittleman, I made sure I got myself a copy right away. Gittleman has made a career of nutritional research and has published award winning books on topics such as healthy diet and menopause. When she began to experience symptoms that turned out to be a benign parotid tumor, commonly linked to excessive cell phone use, she turned her attention to electropollution and has published the first full scale book I’ve seen that gives a layman’s overview of the issue combined with solutions to reduce exposure. You've heard of brain waves of course. Well, your entire body is a network of frequencies which have an optimum range. Ions of energy keep your heart pumping for example, we are full of electrical impulses. With increased exposure to radio, TV, electronic appliances and all of our modern gadgets, our bodies are now being bombarded with artificial frequencies that are actually damaging our cells. Gittleman shares fascinating research showing how electricity and particularly the “dirty electricity” emitted in our homes and work places affects us.
According to a 2005 press release issued by the World Health Organization, Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity (EHS), also known as radio wave sickness or electrosensitivity, is a “growing worldwide health concern”.
Symptoms can include nausea, headaches, heart palpitations, skin rashes, memory difficulties, anxiety, muscle weakness, and depression. It’s been likened to multiple chemical sensitivity due to its cumulative effect over time and the difficulty in procuring a diagnosis. According to Gittleman may be a factor in quite a few conditions including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, migraines and Lupus.
The solution is to eliminate sources where you can, and ground the rest. Unplug, switch off your wireless when not needed, move your electronics away from areas you spend time in and learn alternative ways to use your appliances and cell phone. Grounding yourself and reigning in the dirty electricity around you though grounding can not only calm the system but also heal it. Gittleman gives plenty of resources for information, grounding devices and professional assistance. She also offers lists of foods and a cleansing bath that help heal and protect your system. The baths are particularly recommended after exposure such as after having x-rays or an MRI. If you are interested in these new solutions to promote health, I highly recommend Zapped: Why Your Cell Phone Shouldn't Be Your Alarm Clock and 1,268 Ways to Outsmart the Hazards of Electronic Pollution
A related book you may also enjoy is called Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?
Here are some useful products to reduce your electromagnetic exposure.
Stay Grounded my friends.
More bad news about air freshener's - and solutions! A recent article on MSN Health about air fresheners cites a study that has found a correlation between air fresheners and women's heart health. We know air fresheners can aggravate allergies, asthma, and disrupt hormones. Now there is evidence they are unhealthy for the heart as well.
The great thing about this particular article is that it offers alternatives. I can personally vouch for spraying stinky areas with vodka. I read about using vodka as an odor neutralizer in a Grist article on second hand clothing a while back. I immediately used it on a couch cushion that had been used by an over-zealous cologne wearer and was thrilled with the result-no more stink. I have used it successfully since. Kitty litter and coffee grounds are among the other suggestions for neutralizing odors.
So put away those dangerous air fresheners and let real fresh air into your home.
Here's a good article from Rodale about reasons to eat organic. Number 2 is particularly compelling. It talks about the glyphosate, a chemical permeating our water and soil. See if it doesn't convince you to eat organic foods as much as possible. 7 Surprising Reasons to Go Organic.
This great idea for small (or large) space gardening was making the rounds on Facebook courtesy of
The Backyard Diva Here's her description:
Don't feel like turning up a bunch of grass?
Use a pallet as a garden bed - staple garden cloth on the backside of the pallet fill with dirt and start growing!
You can also place your pallet on the ground in a rocky location rather than a grassy area, this way you will not need the garden cloth to stop the weeds and grass coming through. Please be advised: Use raw wood pallets!
Some that are shipped overseas may contain chemicals. Where I am from most are from raw wood - not saying that everywhere is!
And for those of you that don't know where to get pallets - look in industrial areas, hardware stores etc.
Please if you have any questions - there are many links below and so much information provided by every one and their comments!
This was just an idea - some inspiration for everyone."
If you like gardening ideas you'll enjoy her page, she also has a website brewing, currently under construction at www.backyarddiva.ca
NaturalJersey.com was created in order to have a place on the web where we can all share the great green & natural health resources in NJ. I hope you find it a never ending resource when you're looking for health-minded local businesses.