Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How dare you f@ck with my health? How does "pure" + "natural" = toxic soup? That be funny and potentially dangerous math.

Disclaimer: I am an idealist.  I want everybody to do the 'right' thing.  To make choices not only for the greater good of themselves, but of those who inhabit this planet with us and mother earth herself.

Important facts to know:
  1. I've spent nearly my entire adolescent and adult life in health care in some way.  I've worked in nearly every health care setting there is as a clinician.  I've seen a LOT.  It would scare the pants right off you.  
  2. I have personal experience with the impact of certain foods, chemicals, and poor choices on health and well-being.  
    1. Most specifically I have a child who most definitely reacts behaviorally and in a very strong, negative and sometimes downright dangerous to others way to certain foods, particularly artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and gluten, milk protein and artificial sweeteners.  This was what catalyzed my foray into label reading and self-education about what is in our food.  Avoiding these products is not difficult once you learn how and the difference in his personality and behavior is nothing short of amazing.  
    2. Secondly, I have another child who had tremendous food allergies, several anaphylactic and many more food and chemical sensitivities and as a result, health issues, until I learned what to avoid and where to find food and products he could use without reactions.  I had to learn a whole new way to shop and cook.  I had to eliminate pretty much everything that came in a box for convenience.  I learned to read labels.  It forced an awakening that has benefited our entire family.
    3. I have a family member who is so sensitive to aerosoled chemicals (perfumes, room spray, household cleaning products) she has an asthma attack so severe she loses her voice, can't breathe and ends up in the ER.  It gets worse every time.  
    4. I've noticed my own reactions to foods and chemical additives over the years. Physically, emotionally and behaviorally. You will too, if you pay attention.
    5. I've seen with my own eyes how making the 'right' choices can directly impact health and well-being.  Over and over and over.
  3. There is a tremendous amount of information available through electronic means.  If you want to learn more about this forthcoming rant, I strongly encourage you to visit http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ and http://www.ewg.org/ to see for yourself how potentially toxic or carcinogenic your personal care products are and what better choices are
  4. Choosing truly 'good for you' and the planet, non-toxic products is more expensive and they are much harder to find.  
  5. Everything happens for a reason.  You don't *just* get a headache or GI upset.  Something caused it.  That something is likely something you ate or used on or near your body.  
Now, for my rant.

I have been trying for the better part of the last decade to make healthier choices.  Both with regard to choosing food for my family and with regard to the personal care products I use.  It was catalyzed by issues brought to light through my children.  I've said many times, they are our greatest teachers.  I, like many of you, believed that terms like 'organic', 'pure' and 'natural' meant they were safe alternatives.  

I recently picked up a shampoo that had the word organic on it.  It had the word healthy on it.  It had the word natural on it.  I read the ingredients.  It was full of ingredients from the 'dirty dozen' from the EWG.  It was toxic soup!  The ingredients that were 'bad' were likely not even necessary to the products effectiveness. I was mad. 

For years, I've been attending a perinatal health conference.  I was first exposed to the Environmental Working Group's research and their Cosmetics Database several years ago at  breakout session at the conference.  They were speaking specifically about hormone disruptors in personal care products that were likely contributing to precocious puberty in girls and sterility in boys.  They spoke of the toxic soup found in the blood of children from their flame retardant pajamas, plastic bottles and soft toys and in the breast milk, tissue and blood of mothers from their personal care products.  It's not hard to extrapolate and wonder if these products are contributing to the sharp increase in cancers, infertility, auto-immune disorders and behavioral problems in adults and children.  Maybe even birth defects. Holy crap!  

I came home and plugged my personal care products into their database.  I then threw most of them away in disgust and went shopping with my dirty dozen list.  It proved much harder than I thought it would be to find truly healthier choices.  It's gotten easier over the years, but also more confusing. 

I presumed it was because the companies didn't know the danger, for surely if they did, they'd change their formulas to eliminate these toxic and potentially dangerous and damaging chemicals from their products.  To the credit of the EWG, a few companies did sign an agreement to eliminate some/all of the dangerous chemicals.  The majority have not. 

A few facts you probably don't know, from the Skin Deep Web site:
  1. Industrial chemicals are basic components of most personal care products.  These are petroleum products, pesticides, neurotoxins, known carcinogens and more.  
  2. The FDA does not regulate the cosmetics industry or the ingredients it uses in it's products.
  3. There is no requirement for safety testing cosmetics.  Many companies who do test, do so on animals in the cruelest of ways.  
  4. Many EU countries have banned these chemical ingredients because of the research that supports they are unsafe, neurotoxic or carcinogenic.  The same can be said for food additives like artificial colors and flavors.  THE SAME COMPANIES that make the 'free of' products for the EU, make the toxic versions in the US, because they can.  
  5. By way of an example because it's summer.  Oxybenzone is an ingredient in 60% of sunscreens and is a known hormone disruptor readily absorbed through the skin.  
The very thing you use to prevent cancer could quite possibly be causing it!  This infuriates me.  Not only do most people not know this, if they do, they also don't care or simply don't think it can really harm them.  Although there are few alternatives, they are very expensive and most families simply cannot afford the amount of lotion needed to protect an entire family for an entire summer or year if they live in a more southerly climate.  

Eating organic is also more difficult and expensive.  There is a reason why Whole Foods is referred to as "whole paycheck".  Purchasing products that are non-GMO, pesticide free, free from artificial hormones and other chemicals, and animal products from farms where animals are treated humanely is expensive and downright difficult.  In talking with a CSA farmer locally, although the toxic soup pesticide DDT is not allowed, the three chemicals that make up DDT can be used, one at a time.  It's a game.  The consumer doesn't know they're getting screwed.  We think we are buying healthier.  That's not always the case.  

The industry is set up to succeed.  They make money.  They market to young people and those who simply don't know better and to families who are literally living paycheck to paycheck.  Especially in this economy.  Saving every penny is a necessity.  The cheapest products are often the most toxic and dangerous.  But they are in pretty packages with vibrant, healthy people or pictures.  They use buzz words like pure, natural, organic, healthy when in reality, if you read the actual ingredients, you are buying a potentially toxic soup thinking you are doing right by your family.  

It's deceptive and downright dangerous. It's unfair.  It's unhealthy.  It's contributing to our health care crisis because all of us who've unknowingly literally  poisoned ourselves and our families over the years are getting more diseases and chronic illnesses.  We're taking more medications, that have side effects (perhaps to treat the issue caused by what we eat and use on our body) and we all know chemotherapy is toxic, too, to treat the condition that could very well have been caused by the cumulative toxins in our food and personal care products for years. Hell, even many of our vitamins and supplements are contaminated with artificial colors, fillers and potentially dangerous additives.  

I know, you don't think your headache or anxiety or depression or concentration problems are caused by anything you do or a product that you use or a food that you eat or may be a side effect of a medication you take.  I know you don't think getting cancer of some other illness will happen to you or your child.  Who does?  Maybe you don't believe that these chemicals, in such small amounts could *really* cause cancer, infertility or some other chronic illness.  It's not one time exposure to one chemical or product that likely does it.  It's the cumulative impact of many toxic chemicals over many years, likely in combination with your genetic make-up or predisposition and other choices you make in your life.  

Maybe we don't know if it truly will or not.  Clearly there is a link between many of these ingredients and potential health issues.  I ask you to consider this.  Before we had all of these chemicals as an option for our food and personal care products, the rates of cancer, infertility, autism, obesity, autoimmune disorders and many other health issues were much, much lower.  Ever wonder why???  

Have you considered the cost of making healthier choices now against the cost of health insurance, co-pays and out of pocket expenses (especially if you reach your coverage limits) and caring for yourself or a child who has a chronic or acute illness?  Drugs and treatments are expensive.  Your health insurance won't cover everything.  In the long run, it's less expensive and better for everyone to educate  yourselves and make truly informed and healthy choices now.  It's not too late to change.  

As a physical therapist, I can tell you the human body is the most amazing machine ever made.  It is truly a gift to have one that works properly and is pain free.  You must take care of it.  Inside and out.  I've seen the impact cancer has on an individual and their family.  I've seen people with multiple sclerosis, ALS, Parkinson's disease, Guillian Barre, fibromyalgia and other auto-immune disorders watch their bodies defy them.  I've seen people who've lost limbs and had all manner of pain and internal organ dysfunction.  It sucks.  You don't want to experience any of it.  If you could do everything you could to prevent one of those things from happening to you or a loved one, wouldn't you?

Get your head out of the sand.  Let's operate on the assumption that toxic chemicals are bad for our bodies.  That's not rocket science.  Learn about what you eat and what you put on and in your body.  Go to the skin deep cosmetics database and inventory your personal care products. Read labels.  Purchase healthier products and skip the Starbucks.  With the money you save there, you could buy better food and products! Your body, your family and your friends will thank you.  They'd probably like to have you around for as long as possible.  Just ask anyone who has lost someone.  We only get one body.  Yes, what we do with it is our own choice.  Make the best one for you.

I truly hope someone learned something from my rant.  I hope I've inspired you to do a little research.  To make a change for the better not only of yourself and your family, but for the planet for many of these products also have ingredients that end up harming the environment, too.  

Happy shopping! 


2 comments:

  1. Love this rant. Hit the nail on the head. It is one of my biggest frustrations also! Thanks for sharing :)

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