Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Holy Molars!

A mere 6 weeks ago I did a blog post on safe toothpaste. I just read an article (originally published in August 2014) in Bloomberg News talking about this very thing.

The article highlights one of the best known, most used toothpastes: Colgate Total. In  my previous blog, I commented on the fact that triclosan is one of the toxic ten and ought NOT be in toothpaste. Well, the Bloomberg article  highlights that triclosan has indeed been linked to cancer cell growth and disrupted development in animals. It seems that the FDA (Food & Drug Association...the American government agency responsible for making sure consumer products are safe before granting permission for product use) may have not done its work properly 17 years ago, when it gave the go-ahead to Colgate.

The article is lengthy. Doubt is cast on how well the supporting documents made their case for safety. New factors have come to light that cast doubt on the safety of triclosan. In addition, the 35 pages summarizing toxicology studies submitted by Colgate were held from view on the FDA. The pages were only released as a response to a lawsuit over a Freedom of Information Act request.

Triclosan is already banned in the European Union. Colgate has already voluntarily removed triclosan from its SoftSoap liquid handsoaps, as well as Palmolive dish detergent - but not from Colgate toothpaste. Colgate's main competitor, Crest toothpaste, made by Proctor and Gamble, is 100% triclosan free.

This lengthy article provides a LOT of information for thought.  Personally, I would like to err on the side of caution, and avoid triclosan; especially in toothepaste. You can read the entire article here:  
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-11/in-35-pages-buried-at-fda-worries-over-colgate-s-total.html


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pinkwashing

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. And now there's a term to cover companies that profess to be supportive of Breast Cancer research, but....are they really? There are often mixed messages,  here.

The most glaring is this article:
http://action.storyofstuff.org/sign/procter_and_gamble_breast_cancer

Here, we find that although Proctor and Gamble, maker of so many personal care products used by women (such as Cover Girl, Tide, Pantene and Herbal Essence) is trying to appear supportive of the breast cancer research ideal, but....no muscle behind it. True, they have apparently pledged to donate $100,000 to fighting breast cancer this year. But they have taken NO action on taking carcinogens out of their own products.

BHA, amongst others in their products, is one of the "toxic ten". Instead of focusing on making their products safer for women to use, they are throwing money at the problem and hoping we, the public, think they are "the good guys." Do read the entire article.

And they're not the only ones jumping on the "let's support women with breast cancer" bandwagon.

The CBC has done an article on how big markets take advantage of this opportunity to sell more products to women. Often by offensive means. Read the entire article here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/pinkwashing-a-big-business-for-marketers-1.2775188

For example, KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) was chosen to be a sponsor of Breast Cancer awareness. Yet, their product (the chicken) likely contributes to obesity in North America, and, obesity is a factor in breast cancer itself.

The article profiles a few other companies that have partnered with "the cause" yet more or less objectify women, and their breasts.

Beware pinkwashing. Think before you buy.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Safe Toothpaste. Who knew it was so complex??

I've been on a mission to find a safe toothpaste. This is not an easy task. For one thing, everyones definition of what constitutes "safe" is different. 

Right up front, let's get the flouride debate out of the way. Some people consider flouride toxic. And it certainly can be, if you ingest it in sufficient quantities. On the other hand, I grew up in a small town without flouride, and, I can assure you, my teeth are now more filling than enamel. I have paid a large price for the lack of flouride in my drinking water when my teeth were being formed. My own children, who did have flouride in their water, have about 3 miniscule fillings between the 3 of them. They are now full grown adults. Many dentists side with the cause of flouride in toothpaste; many do not. I think I will leave this particular, controversial ingredient for you to sort out on your own, according to your own conscience. For me, I think having a flouride free toothpaste for small children who swallow toothpaste is a good idea. But that's just my opinion.

Let's move on to other ingredients. An easy one is triclosan. It's an antibacterial, and, one of the toxic ten. There is definitely no need to put triclosan in toothpaste. The mouth is a a natural home for many, many bacteria, and the odd brush with triclosan is not going to alter the state of affairs there significantly. Nor should it. But, using triclosan poses a threat to the environment, and may be responsible for the upswing of superbugs. Let's leave triclosan out of toothpaste!!

Artificial dyes. Do you really need striped toothpaste? Or blue? or green? This is an easy one. Check your ingredient list for any mention of dyes...and do not buy any that use them.

The next one - this one just amazes me - is our fondness for foamy toothpaste. Foamy toothpaste sells. I guess we just equate a nice foam with cleanliness, and efficiency. Too bad, because there isn't a connection at all. And, the nice foam in toothpaste comes from SLS - sodium lauryl sulphate. Another toxic ten ingredient. Sadly, it does not clean your teeth or add to the health of your mouth in any way. It just feels nice...we've gotten used to it...so manufacturers include it because we want it. Silly us. Let's change our mind on the value of foam and get SLS out of toothpaste.

I was horrified to learn that a few toothpastes contain parabens! Parabens act as preservatives...but, are also in the toxic ten. Parabens are endocrine disruptors...and the results of that are too lengthy for this article. Avoid toothpastes with parabens! (Or any other personal care product, for that matter.)

Next up is the abrasion factor. Some abrasion is not a bad idea. It removes surface stains. Unfortunately, the toothpaste industry can go overboard with a good thing. Most, if not all, toothpastes contain something that removes surface dirt, stains and hopefully tartar. But how much is too much? Fortunately I include here a fabulous, 4 minute clip of research done at the University of Colorado on toothpaste abrasion. I found the clip fascinating. But if you don't want to spare the 4 minutes, there is a clever little chart beneath the clip that features about 65 toothpastes, and rates them as to abrasiveness. Pick the one that suits your level of personal comfort. Too much abrasion can cause tooth sensitivity.  Here's the link:  http://www.freysmiles.com/blog/view/toothpaste-abrasiveness-low-abrasive-toothpastes

Like all other personal care products, let's read labels! Decide what is important to you, and vote with your wallet. If people do not purchase toxic products, manufacturers will stop making them.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Safe Deodorants

Well...if we didn't sweat...we wouldn't need a deodorant, would we? Why do we sweat? First and foremost, it's the body's way of cooling off and controlling temperature. So we sweat when it's hot outside. In addition to cooling us off, sweating also is one of the few genuine ways of removing toxins from the body. In the book "ToxIn ToxOut", the authors try many things to see what actually removes toxins from the body. Ionic foot cleanses and internal cleanses do not remove toxins. Sweating, however, does. Sweating is good for you!

Sweat itself isn't the problem. It has no odor of its own. Unfortunately, the armpit is home to many bacteria, and, it is the bacteria that causes odor. When resident bacteria meet up with sweat, you get, well...bad smells.

Seems like an antiperspirant would be a good idea, right? Antiperspirants prevent sweating, which means the bacteria have nothing to interact with, and, voila! No scent! But as mentioned above, sweating is a necessary and useful function. We actually do not want to suppress sweating. Another problem is, our skin is the largest organ of our body and absorbs whatever you apply to it. You are not only what you eat, but, also what you apply to yourself. So in addition to sweating being a good thing, we prefer to avoid antiperspirants because the chemicals necessary to prevent sweating are, well...toxic.

Deodorants are probably a better idea. They don't attempt to stop sweating, but rather, to kill the bacteria that causes odor. No bacteria = no smell. Sometimes deodorants contain scents to cover up any remaining odor.

How to find a good deodorant? Well, here are some ingredients to avoid:

(1) Talc. It may or may not contain asbestos particles...no way of knowing. Asbestos causes cancer.
(2) Triclosan (one of the toxic ten!) It does kill bacteria, but also disrupts our hormones and endocrine system. It may accumulate in the body. It may also cause allergic reactions.
(3 )BHT, BHA and Parabens. These are all preservatives. The first 2 may cause allergies and have been linked to cancer. Parabens are even worse! We know they mimic estrogen in the body. Further research is needed, but, they have been found inside cancerous breast tissue. Until proven safe, always best to err on the side of caution,.
(4) Propylene glycol. It's a known skin irritant. 
(5) Phthalates. May be present on their own, or, be present but not listed because it's legal to not list them if they are part of the  (6) Fragrance. Over 3100 chemicals fall into the fragrance category...and none of them have to be disclosed on a Canadian label. Many are untested for safety. Avoid synthetic fragrance!
(7) Aluminum chlorohydrate. This is the chemical that actually stops you from sweating. So, you will find it in anti-perspirants but usually not deodorants. Aluminum compounds are neurotoxic.

What to do? Read labels!! Aim for a deodorant rather than an anti-perspirant, and check the ingredients list against Environmental Defence's Toxic Ten!

Do check out eScential Wellness' deodorant: 
http://escentialwellness.com/products/toxin-free-deodorant
















Friday, August 8, 2014

10 Ways to Use Castile Soap

You're probably wondering what castile soap is...why it's special. Castile soap is a type of soap, not a brand. For example, think of the words "toilet paper" rather than "Cottonelle" or "Charmin." It is made of 100% vegetable oils and fats - no animal products. It is a true soap; not a chemical detergent, like most modern, commercial cleaners. This makes it biodegradable and very ecologically friendly. Did I mention that it's very affordable, too?

Incredibly versatile, it will replace a host of cleansers in your home. Here goes:

#1 - Laundry detergent. There are literally hundreds of recipes on the internet, if you google "homemade laundry detergent with castile soap." But why go to all that trouble? Just use it straight. As it is low foaming, you can use it in your front loading washer. You may have to tweak the amount before you get it right. Less is more. By the way, this soap is fantastic for doing baby's laundry, as it is so pure. Also great for someone who has ultra sensitive skin and/or allergies.

#2 - Use it for dishes. A small squirt will do it. Be prepared: as it does not have any form of chemical foaming agent, it does not produce froth and bubbles. But, it will clean your dishes just as well, and is gentler on your skin, your dishes, and the environment

#3 - Hand soap. Just fill your re-fillable liquid soap dispenser with liquid castile soap.

#4 - Glass and mirror cleaner. Take a spray bottle...fill it with a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water. Add 2 drops of castile soap. Shake well before spraying. 

#5 - Body wash. Yes! A squirt on a nylon scrubbie or sea sponge will actually produce a lovely foam. You can feel good about spreading it all over YOU and about it going down the drain.

#6 - Toothpaste. I know. We've been so programmed to like the commercial stuff that foams in our mouth and contains sooooooo many chemicals. But a drop on your toothbrush (I like peppermint scented) will clean your teeth well, and safely.

#7 - Safely, and economically, bathe your dog AND CAT!! Everyone knows cats are notoriously sensitive to shampoo and commercial soaps. As long as you use unscented castile soap, it's OK to use this economical alternative. I am biased...but because all commercial products have such a lengthy ingredient list, I dare say it is actually better for your cat than the overpriced commercial brands.

#8 - Make a soft scrub. Fill a spray bottle with water, about 25% soap and 75% water. If you have tough scrubbing to do, sprinkle baking soda, a mild abrasive, on the area to be cleaned. Spray with the soap/water mix until you get a slurry. Scrub away! Always do a test area on an unobtrusive spot to make sure that the baking soda is not going to damage the finish of anything.

#9 - Love this stuff for washing my floors. Perfect for vinyl or linoleum, but I have a lot of hardwood. The only thing you have to be careful with is not using too much soap. In a small pail of water, a tablespoon is plenty! Maybe even 1-2 teaspoons if your pail is small. This is extra nice if you have pets that walk on the floor, or, infants that are crawling. No toxic film left behind! No rinsing necessary. 

#10 - Washing fruits with rinds or veggies. Washing watermelons, canteloupe, cucumbers, peppers...always a good idea. Castile soap is mild and rinses off easily and cleanly. It will dislodge any bacteria and/or dirt if used with a small brush or even a cloth and some elbow grease. Safe for the fruit, for you, and the environment!

If you want to "customize" your soap, add a few drops of essential oils to it. Just a few drops will do! You can use lemon for that nice clean smell. I love a single drop of peppermint in floor wash water, or, to brush my teeth. Do NOT use one drop of peppermint per brush! Add one drop to 2 cups of soap.....stop this in a mason jar with plastic,screw on lid or other glass container. Orange is uplifting. Eucalyptus or tea tree smell a bit medicinal, are antiseptic, and can leave your bathroom smelling nice and clean.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Safe Sunscreen

I remember the days when no one had heard of sunscreen. In fact, people were known to slather on baby oil and go "bake" in the sun. Well. Times have changed!!

Now we know that ALL tans are BAD tans. The color changes that take place in our skin is actually an indication of sun damage. We also know that sun damage is the single biggest cause of skin aging. If that weren't enough, these changes in the skin are responsible for the increase in skin cancer. Add to that climate change and the decreasing levels of ozone in the upper atmosphere (which filter out harmful sun rays to some extent) and you have a recipe for skin disaster.

Fortunately, sunblock to the rescue! There are shelves and shelves of choices. How to pick? Latest research has shown that not all sunscreens are created equal. No surprise there, I guess. 

There are really two separate questions to consider. One is the actual "active ingredient" or sunscreen agent itself, and, the other is the lotion or gel base it is in. There seems some agreement on what constitutes safe and effective active ingredients. Mechanical blocks are best. Both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide meet this requirement, and are considered "good" sunblocks. The particles in these 2 compounds are actually large enough to sit on the skin and deflect the sun's rays off the body. Unfortunately, this sometimes leaves a white film on the skin, which is quite annoying. But not all sunblocks with these agents do. You have to try them and find ones that go on invisibly. 

Some companies have decided to eliminate this problem by making the particles very tiny... they are called "micronized." Micronized particles are controversial, as there seems to be some question as to whether they are actually small enough to penetrate the skin and get into the bloodstream. Always safe to err on the side of caution and avoid micronized particles!

Now that we have effective and safe sunscreens, it is discouraging to see how many sunscreens put these into a lotion base that contains one, or more, of the toxic ten! Like all lotions, your sunscreen should be free of the toxic ten! Read labels! 

Environmental Defence has a 2 page download (free!) to guide you to which sunscreen agents are both safe and effective. Or, you can find the Toxic Ten list on my website, www.eScentialwellness.com. To download your free Guide to Sunscreens, click here:
http://environmentaldefence.ca/reports/environmental-defence-guide-sunscreen

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What IS the definition of an essential oil??

For those of you who are really, truly interested in learning more about essential oils.....here is a great post from Dr. Robert Pappas about the origin, and exact definition of, an essential oil.

Dr. Robert Pappas is an adjuct professor at Indiana University, and President/Technical Director of Essential Oil University. He can help the non-chemists amongst us understand the chemistry behind essential oils. I found this a  fascinating little read, and, if you are really "into" essential oils, you will, too!

For the full article, click here:  https://www.facebook.com/notes/essential-oil-university/the-definition-of-an-essential-oil-and-why-wikipedia-is-wrong/10152588925928083