Leif Reads: To do or not to do

Friday, April 1, 2011


Leif Reads
Every month, Ash and I are going to focus on one eco-related book for Leif Reads. To see what this feature is all about, visit this page. This month, we are reading Slow Death by Rubber Duck by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie.


Slow Death by Rubber Duck also mentions three other toxins that we didn't cover yet - Bisphenol A, present in those plastic bottles; PBBs or flame retardants, so conveniently found in those non-natural "fire resistant" fabrics and upholstery; Triclosan, present in those antibacterial anything (hand lotions, soaps, etc). Clearly, there's a lot of toxins we come in touch with every day and it's really easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of our toxic pool, and be forced into inaction. So in this post, I'm going to list a few steps that we can take to "detox" ourselves.

All that's fragrant is not healthy
Most cosmetics, personal care products and air fresheners contain phthalates, which are also by the way present in upholstery and toys. Such products typically list "Fragrance" or "Parfum" as an ingredient. It's a good idea to train ourselves to put a product back on the shelf if it falls in that category. I made a quick check of the shampoos I have in my bath, and I'm really disappointed to see them all containing phthalates. One of them was beginning to be my favorite brand.

Why are we so germophobic?
We humans are all germophobes to some extent (some more than others). It's not easy embracing germs, nobody wants to get sick. But sometimes, it's a tradeoff between a typical cold illness and a chemically induced illness, like cancer. There's increasing evidence that most of these toxins are linked to several types of cancers. One such category are antibacterial products which contain triclosan. If you find yourself reaching out to such products when washing hands, remember a good 30-second lather of soap and water is sufficient. Also, for cleaning, natural cleaners like baking soda and borax are preferred alternatives to chemical ones.

Bye, bye Teflon
If you still have a non-stick frying pan, it's probably time to say goodbye. Teflon is something you can live without. In fact, DuPont's planning to phase it out, which is good news. But there is a teflon-alternative in the make, so we'll just have to keep an eye out to see if that's going to be harmful or not. Also, go easy on that grease and avoid too much fast-food. The packaging could be coated with PFCs.

Big Fish Small Fish
The higher an animal is in the food chain (read humans), the more toxins there are in its body. That's because we eat animals which eat other animals which in turn eat other animals, eventually accumulating most of that toxin (which don't decompose easily) in its final residence. Along the same tone, big fish have more mercury content that small fish. If you're really into fish like me, have more small fish and less big fish. Also, if you have any mercury containing products at home, either return them to the store you bought it from or to the hazards depot. Throwing them into the trash doesn't help - they'll return back somehow through waterways.

Plastics galore
Any typical house will probably have different kinds of plastic jars and bottles arrayed across. They all should be embossed or marked by a number from 1 to 7, which are the different kinds of plastic. Numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5 are fine, the rest 3 are not good for you. Try to use glass bottles/containers where possible, as a suitable alternative to plastic. If you are in the practice of putting plastic containers in the microwave, the plastic can actually leech out into the food. You really don't want to be munching on that plastic along with the tasty leftovers.

Adopt a cloth bag
Doesn't the sight of all those plastic bags containing the stuff you bought from the grocery give an eye-sore? My town doesn't recycle plastic bags, and I actually have a cupboard full of plastic bags with nothing to do with them but use them as trash bags sometimes. Really, I get eye-sores now when I see plastic bags at Walmart or Kroger. I only use the cloth bag now and it is such a relief.

What steps do you take to limit our body pollution?


15 comments:

hcmurdoch said...

I am a re-usable grocery bag person. I found a great set of 5 on envirosax and I love them. They are colorful, sturdy, and roll up into tiny packages when I am not using them. I also checked my Dial bacterial soap and I think I am safe (when I was born the doctor told my mom to use Dial and we have ever since, isn't that funny?!). I am also trying not to microwave food in plastics, that's a difficult habit to break.

Great series of posts, Aths, thank you!

bermudaonion (Kathy) said...

I rarely use cologne, air fresheners, or anti-bacterial products. I don't use much plastic either because I just don't like plastic. I use canvas bags at the grocery store as well. I know there's a lot more I could be doing.

Misha said...

This is so very scary! I will be more careful with usage of cosmetics.
I don't use plastic products so much. I prefer re-usable bags.
Thanks for the post!

Athira / Aths said...

I'm with you on the plastics in the microwave. That is a hard habit for me to break as well. I think it will require some conscious effort on my part. Glass is a good alternative except that it can be heavy and a hassle. I'm going to look for some decent alternatives to the plastics in my house.

Athira / Aths said...

I think i'm going to step away from anti bacterial products too. They are just too nasty to have in our lives.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy... said...

Good point about the fish. I hadn't thought of that.

Bibliophilebythesea said...

Every time I read about these things, a cringe a little more. I chucked the teflon, and never heat in microwave using plastic anymore, but fear the damage has been done perhaps. This book was an eye opener for me.

Young1 said...

I always carry my two cloth bags in my bag when shopping just in case i get offered a plastic or i buy one of those reusable ones if i don't take my own along at that time.

As for Triclosan unfortunately i must be COVERED in it! Well my hands at least. Between patients we have to use alcohol gel and wash our hands at several points in one day.

Thanks for the post those extremely informative and i will definitely be keeping up with the leif reads! :D

Colleen said...

This book sounds very interesting (although scary at times!) I try to be cognizant of the # of toxins I encounter in my daily life but the phlates one is new to me - I need to check out my products!

Athira / Aths said...

You're welcome! I do know that most of the cosmetics I use aren't good for the skin, but I assumed it was in the general sense. I didn't imagine that they could be toxic.

Athira / Aths said...

Yeah. Definitely scary!

Athira / Aths said...

I'm upset that damage has already been done perhaps. But maybe we can still reverse things. Maybe things are just beginning to get bad, but they aren't irreversible yet. The previous book I read for this feature - Eaarth seemed to hint that things are irreversible, but that was for the world in general. Maybe for our bodies, it's not the end yet. Because the authors did show how over generations, certain toxins (that we stopped earlier like DDT) were definitely present in far less quantities in bodies now than then.

Athira / Aths said...

Last year when my brother was in hospital, I must have used that gel so many times I thought my skin was falling off. I know it's a necessary precaution and I can't imagine anyone coming up and saying let's ban the stuff. But I hope it has safe chemicals in it. If not, I hope someone comes up with something safe. The industry is beginning to listen, at least.

Athira / Aths said...

Phthalates was new to me too. I checked all the products I use, and looks like it's there in every one of them. How terribly sad! When each of them get over, I'm planning to move over to the non-phthalate camp.

FlorenceCarole said...

I'm a little bit disappointed that the US has only banned 9 chemicals in personal care products, while European countries have banned over 1000 chemicals. The government should do more to protect our health.