Are you being greenwashed?
By Dr. Kim Bloomer
“I’ve been working to protect consumers from harmful products for almost 20 years now, but what I’ve discovered about these cleaners still shocks me. I hope you’ll take some time to learn the truth about the products you use so you can continue to keep your family safe.” ~Ken Cook, Environmental Working Group
Another of the new “buzz” phrases is “going green”. Going “green” is just a term for going organic and natural. That term is now used so broadly that we have to do our due diligence in order to not be taken in by the faux greening of North America.
Suddenly seen in the market place now are “green” products from all the big corporations. They obviously decided they needed to get their oversized piece of the action as usual. Because more people are becoming conscientious of a more natural approach in what they use in the way of home, personal and yard care products, it has been rather easy for the big name brands to sneak in and of course deceive the general public. After all convenience is still the name of the game for the majority of people, and known brand names still appeal to people who grew up trusting certain brands just by name alone.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG www.ewg.org) provides examples of pseudo “green” products on their website.
Most of these products are labeled non-toxic and biodegradable. The EWG calls this “greenwashing” – a way to get a piece of the action in the movement towards more natural, wholesome lifestyles. In other words, just another marketing tactic that has no foundation in truth.
Some of the companies don’t state their products are “green” but they do put them in green bottles, with green labels and designs that are associated with nature. It’s all just marketing designed to adjust your mind to accept the product as “natural”.
Additionally, they will even use the word “natural” in describing their product. The word “natural” is as overused and misinterpreted as “holistic” and “organic”. Just because something is natural or organic does not mean that it is non-toxic. The word “holistic” is a philosophy pertaining to mind, body and spirit wholism so applying this word to products doesn’t make much sense. Many “natural and organic” substances are toxic, case in point is arsenic – which is a naturally occurring organic substance.
All of this is to give the consumer the illusion of their products being safe to use around your children, pets, and in your home. Companies do this because they can, as the guidelines they are allowed to use are once again in their favor not the consumer’s. The only stringent laws we see being enforced are against those who offer TRUE green, natural, wholesome goods and products.
You will discover that it is pretty much a given that these big corporately owned products are going to be very toxic, synthetic, unsafe over the long-term, and in many cases disrupt hormones in you, your family and pets. The only thing “green” about them is the artificial coloring of the product itself and/or its packaging!
In fact many of the products can produce allergy and asthma like symptoms if you are exposed to them for any duration due to the very toxic ingredients and nature of the products masquerading as “green”.
Warning labels on containers of household, yard, and even personal care products refer ONLY to toxins that are hazardous from ingestion, however only 10% of health problems from chemicals are caused by ingestion. Ninety percent of the health problems are caused by the inhalation of vapors and absorption of particles. This would include perfume and off-gassing from personal care, household, and yard products which negatively effect us and our pets.
Some of the most toxic products used in the home today but not limited to include:
- Hairspray aerosols
- Furniture polish
- Window cleaners
- Air Fresheners
- Laundry detergents
- Nail polish remover
- Insect repellent
- Hair styling gel and mousse
- Shaving creme
(Source: Healthy Homes in a Toxic World)
Out of 1,435 pesticide poisonings in a one year period, over 40 % were due to exposure to disinfectants and similar cleaning products in the home. Women who work in the home have a 54% higher death rate from cancer than woman who work outside of the home. The incidence of increased asthma and allergies, particularly in women who work from home or are stay-at-home moms has increased alarmingly. Additionally food allergies and asthma are also due to so many of these toxic ingredients being added to food (artificial flavorings, MSG also called “natural” flavoring, corn syrup, etc.). These same ingredients are also in all commercial pet foods and most pet treats. (Sources: State of California Study, 17 year EPA study).
When you consider that our pets are sleeping on the floors we clean with these toxic products, breathing the indoor air that is laden with the off-gassing of these cleaning and personal care products, it’s no wonder that they are presenting with similar illnesses such as allergies, asthma, thyroid imbalance, and cancer. While the exposure to indoor pets has not yet been completely evaluated, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is keeping tabs on the rising incidence in pets. In a 2008 report by this group they stated the following:
“Dogs and cats were contaminated with 48 of 70 industrial chemicals tested, including 43 chemicals at levels higher than those typically found in people, according to our study of plastics and food packaging chemicals, heavy metals, fire retardants, and stain-proofing chemicals in pooled samples of blood and urine from 20 dogs and 37 cats collected at a Virginia veterinary clinic…This study is the most comprehensive investigation of the chemical body burden of companion animals conducted to date, with 23 chemicals reported in pets for the first time. The results reinforce findings from prior studies showing that pets’ unique behaviors may place them at risk for elevated exposures and health risks from chemicals pollutants in the home and outdoors, in air, water, food, soil, and consumer products for people and pets.”
You will need to become a label detective in this day and age if you, your family and your pets are to be well. Here are just a sampling of ingredients we make certain are never in our own product choices:
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – found in most haircare, deodorants, toothpastes, pet grooming products, etc.
Propylene glycol – (1% different than anti-freeze) is found not only in all of the above products, but also in many food products such as ice cream, used as a softener. It is certainly not something anyone or anything should be ingesting through the mouth or their skin. Remember skin is the largest organ and absorbs into the body (both human and animal) approximately 60% or greater of what is applied to it.
Aluminum chlorhydrate – Aluminum is linked to severe motor neuron, muscle and brain damage, to Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in the elderly as well as to Autistic Spectrum Disorders in the young and to vaccine-linked cancers in pets. Aluminum in any of its many forms ought to not be in any of these products but it is commonly found in deodorants.
One of the most commonly used household products happens to also be one of the most toxic: bleach. It is one of the most recommended for burns as well as disinfecting kennels, homes, etc. This product is a form of chlorine and was also used as a form of weaponry during wartime. Many dog owners believe this to be the only product that will kill parvo in their kennels, veterinary clinics, or grooming salons but as we always tell our clients, there is always a natural alternative that is far more effective without the toxic side effects.
A book we recommend for everyone to read is “The Hundred Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the Chemicals That Are Destroying Your Health” by Randall Fitzgerald. This little book packs a punch and while the author exposes the lie about products, he also offers a solution and guides you on detoxification as well.
Recipes for the Home
Here are some different ways to create your own household products with very inexpensive yet very effective ingredients that are most probably already stocked in your pantry:
White vinegar is a natural organic bi-product of fruits, vegetables and grains. It is therefore edible and biodegradable. Vinegar’s ascetic properties make it “The Perfect Household Cleaner” for its usefulness as a stain remover, mold and mildew eliminator, soap scum dissolver, chrome polisher, lime de-scaler, fabric softener, room deodorizer, and unclogging agent. Various studies have found that vinegar can inhibit the growth of some strains of E. coli. A Heinz company spokesperson Michael Mullen references numerous studies to show that a straight 5 percent solution of white vinegar—the kind you can buy in the supermarket—kills 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of germs (viruses).
Keep a clean spray bottle filled with straight 5% white vinegar in your kitchen near your cutting board, and in your bathroom, and use them for cleaning. You can safely leave a spraying of white vinegar on your cutting board before going to bed at night and let it set overnight without rinsing. Straight white vinegar is also great for cleaning the toilet rim. Just spray it on and wipe off.
The following are simple recipes that may look too simple and inexpensive to work but they are very effective:
All-Purpose Cleaner. Orange peels, (save the orange peels from several oranges) white vinegar, and a one quart glass jar. Place enough orange peels into the jar to fill it. Cover the peels with the white vinegar. Let it sit for approximately ten days. Then stain out the liquid and use as your all-purpose household cleaner. And of course you can now toss out the orange peels.
Produce. To clean fruits and vegetables you can just place them in the sink with water (hopefully yours is fluoride and chlorine-free) and a generous amount of white vinegar and let them soak for a few minutes. You do not have to rinse them, just air dry or dry with a paper towel. Not only have you just cleaned and disinfected your produce, but the vinegar will also stop your berries from growing that inevitable fungus allowing you to keep them fresh longer.
Laundry. We never use laundry soap, softeners, or bleach. Instead we use baking soda as the “soap” and white vinegar as the “softener/disinfectant/deodorizer”. For the “white” loads you can add in hydrogen peroxide for its natural whitening effect.
Floor cleaner. For those of you who want to make your own cleaner, you can use ¼ cup of white vinegar in a bucket of warm water with a few drops of lemon or pine essential oils for a wonderful scent as well as powerful natural disinfectant. Add oregano or cinnamon essential oil for their natural antibacterial properties.
Window cleaner. Once again use a cup of white vinegar mixed with about ten drops of lemon essential oil. Place in a spray bottle and fill the rest of the way with water. Using a microfiber cloth with the spray to clean your windows and mirrors will insure they come out sparkling clean.
Wood cleaner. Use a spray bottle; fill 2/3 with olive oil, a small amount of white vinegar for the cleansing action and approximately 10-15 drops of lemon essential oil. For the rest of your dusting needs you can use a
microfiber cloth that attracts the dust. No toxic furniture polish is needed.
Air freshener. With a glass spritzer bottle add in 10 drops or more (depending on your personal taste and need) of lavender, peppermint, Thieves and Purification essential oils, (or use them individually) and then fill bottle with distilled water. Be sure to shake the bottle before each application and use as needed. Additionally we highly recommend getting a cold air diffuser and diffuse your home with essential oils. These will purify your indoor air as well as put healthy negative ions into it, and benefit the health of your entire household including your indoor pets, while it will repel most insects.
Recipes for the yard and outdoor activities
The most natural and recommended all-purpose yard product to use to deter bugs of all kinds is food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE). Used for ants, caterpillars, aphids, ticks, fleas, etc., it is inexpensive and effective although it does have to be re-applied after rain or any wetting of the ground. Recently I had an infestation of caterpillars on some of my herbs and after a good dusting of DE the caterpillars fell to the ground off of the plants giving the wild birds that flock to my yard a mid-week feast. We don’t use any type of pesticides or herbicides in our yards. We use good old-fashioned well water to water, and organic fertilizer or compost to feed our yards. The incredible ecosystem you will experience when you go back to this way of yard care is wonderful. Your animals and children can safely play in your yards and your personal environment will once again be healthy in a natural balance. You will not have the perfect Better Homes and Garden yard but it will be a healthy and safe one for your loved ones.