Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chemical Warfare in the Home

I am discovering that living "green" requires a total makeover of your initial instincts.  Right now I am reading Easy Green Living by Renee Loux but I don't quite agree with the title.  It is not easy!   When "green" first became the new hot word of the decade,  I was very skeptical and thought it was apt to say living "green"  was mainly for those crazy environmentalists and companies wanting to make more money in a new way (which I still believe is true in some cases).  As I have been researching, I have decided that I agree that there is an urgent need for our society to live more naturally but my motives are completely different.  As environmentalists are living a more natural life in the name of Mother Earth, I am striving to live a more natural life because I believe that is what God would have us do.  As I have stated before, I believe God created the earth in a beautiful way in which we are able to live without polluting our homes, bodies, and environment with a slew of chemical formulations.  There are amazing discoveries and advances that are pure genius and are perfectly safe but there are many advances in our every-day products that are not safe for us or for the environment.  We should care about this because it is God's earth and it is our duty to take care of it.  Yes, we live in a sinful world but that does not give us an excuse to knowingly live in a way that destroys God's creation.  With that said, here is the latest issue that is causing a serious renovation in my home life.
During and after World War II, the desire to find replacements for every-day products suddenly became essential in keeping the economy afloat.  During the war, people were struggling to keep up with the dire times therefore they began turning to new ways to make old products.  People and companies were running out of natural resources due to lack of workers and money.  After the war, when money was more abundant, people began thinking that "getting it now" was a sign of prosperity and economic boom.  According to Wikipedia, "at the end of the war, the United States produced roughly half of the world's industrial output".  Due to the sudden increase in the production of goods, chemists and companies were searching for ways to create products that didn't take much time to cultivate and mass produce.  Petroleum was one of the answers because of its "high energy density, easy transportability, and relative abundance" and it basically was just plain cheap.  It started showing up in everything from laundry detergent to pharmaceuticals thereby replacing the use of the earth's natural resources like vinegar, baking soda, and the like.  Companies began putting petroleum in products to give instant power and thus taking away the need to scrub, brush, and use a little elbow grease.  People were suddenly able to squirt a little of this and a little of that, wipe it off, and voila!  You have a sparkling clean house (with quite a strong "clean" smell).
So, why is petroleum in our every-day-products such a bad thing?  Well, just visit the Attorney General's website and read the potential hazardous effects of petroleum exposure (  Another government website states, "There are reported cases of lipoid pneumonia and deaths from aspiration of lubricants, including baby oil, a spray lubricant, chain saw oil, and trumpet valve oil". (  Breathing in petroleum vapors can cause damage to your nervous system and getting petroleum on your skin can cause irritations and can be absorbed into the bloodstream.  Repeated exposure or exposure in vast quantities may cause certain types of cancer.  Other problems include reproductive and developmental toxicity/miscarriage, asthma, decreased progesterone production, damage to the immune system,  and other health troubles.  Children are even more at risk to develop problems than adults and even breathing in small amounts of petroleum can cause health problems.  You may think that perhaps a little exposure to  petroleum won't adversely affect you, but look at all of the products it is used in: motor oil, mineral oil, baby oil, furniture polish, degreasers, lighter fluid, spot removers, disinfectants, plastics, mattresses, paint, paraffin oil/wax, most mascaras (which are labeled with a highly moderate hazard), liquid foundations, body lotions/moisturizers, lipstick/lipgloss/chapstick, shoe care products, Vaseline, shampoos, conditioners, aerosols, and synthetic fragrances (traces of which have been found in breast milk, blood, and human fat;  Wow!  I'm sure I didn't list everything and that list is a little overwhelming.  I would say that is a fair amount of exposure to petroleum!
Due to the recognition of petroleum's toxic qualities, one of the government's regulation ideas is to put a child-proof lid on some of the products containing petroleum.  Wow, I'm sure that does a lot of good since my kids will still be dropping things on the floor or coffee table, putting them into their mouth, and getting the product on them anyway.  And it's really great since they will be inhaling it either way.  Some products are required to state the dangers on the back of the bottle or can but who really reads those warnings and adheres to them?  I know that I have never thought twice about spraying air freshener or using furniture polish in my home.  Most household products do not list the ingredients on the packaging, only a simple warning to keep out of the reach of children.  Gee, I feel just fine slathering on the baby oil now.

While I do not think the government should place regulations on these products (because then where would regulation practices stop?!),  I do think that the public should be vastly aware of the potential health problems in using these every-day products (the European Union has banned the use of petroleum in their products).  Sure, the government may argue that this information is available but who really has access to this?  And who even thinks to research the household products they are using?

Thankfully, there are "alternative" cleaning products some of which are cheaper, readily available, and are probably in your cabinets right now.  I encourage you to find your own natural cleaning solutions because there are many recipes for several uses as well as new natural products on the shelves of many mainstream stores .  Many websites and books have their own concoctions for every solution that you need to replace (Easy Green Living includes many recipes which work wonderfully!).  Vinegar and baking soda can clean just about anything and everything with no worrying about how it will affect you or your family.  If you do not want to make your own, there are some wonderful natural products that are not toxic or carcinogenic.  Find all-natural or organic toiletry products and be aware of what you are putting on your skin.  Many products seem to work while really your body is just putting up a barrier against the product while absorbing some of the harmful substances.  Also, petroleum is not the only harmful substance we should avoid.  Shockingly, there are many toxic chemicals in the products we use every day that are not regulated.  For this reason, it is important to read labels, warnings, and research describing the products we bring into our homes.

I know it is simply not possible to get rid of every product containing harmful substances but you cannot have an "all or nothing" approach in life.  The point is to start now, slowly start replacing your regular products with natural alternatives, and buy with wisdom.  Unfortunately, it is not easy to live a "green" life but there are more and more companies offering all-natural alternatives.  If we begin buying these products, the need will rise and it will encourage other companies to do the same.  It begins with you and me so that we may be an example to our children and those around us.  I am striving to enjoy God's creation by living a life that enhances His beauty instead of one prevents it from flourishing.  I hope that you will consider doing the same, in your own natural way and in your own time frame. 

Websites to visit:
and check out Easy Green Living by Renee Loux.  It has lots of wonderful recipes and resources for "green" beginners!

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