Ever wonder why you might have skin issues, headaches or breathing problems? There’s a topic that we have not address yet on this blog and that is eliminating harmful substances in the home environment that compromise our health. We are exposed on a daily basis to so many products for cleaning, cosmetics, lawn care, and interior décor. These products come in contact with our skin, our respiratory system, and our mouths.
It’s taken several life lessons for me to understand and accept that there are toxic substances permeating throughout the environment that will cause harm if you let them. I’ll highlight just a few lessons I’ve learned.
Lesson learned at the age of 21, be careful what you breathe in. Fresh out of college I worked as a display artist for Macy’s department store. I got to be creative, design and build, and use all kinds of tools and art materials. Before installing my displays out on the sales floor, I’d build them down in the windowless, basement workshop.
I was also responsible for installing ceramic signage throughout the store. These were molded letters spray-painted with enamel and attached to columns, walls and valance panels. The lack of ventilation in the workshop meant that I had to spray paint the signage out by the loading dock, per the boss’s direction. Throughout the workday, semi trucks would idle by the loading dock emitting their fumes into the cavernous garage. When I had to spray paint, I’d plan it so I would spend the least amount of time at the foul loading docks.
Coincidentally, it was around this time that I developed chronic sore throats to the point where my doctor recommended a tonsillectomy. I was not keen on surgery, and unwilling to sacrifice my tonsils knowing they played a vital role in my immune system. I sought out an alternative solution, and began to examine what could cause me so much harm and distress.
Well, duh! I was breathing in toxic fumes from the trucks and exposing myself to the harmful vapors from the spray paint. Even wearing a mask didn’t seem to prevent me from getting ill. I remedied the situation by reducing my exposure to spray paint by using brush-on paint, and insisted on a more open-air environment when painting.
Lesson learned at age 30, babies have very sensitive skin and lungs. New to parenthood, Marty and I wanted all the best for our newborn daughter. Prior to Jenny’s arrival we thought nothing of the type of laundry detergent we used. A clean fragrance and clean clothes were all that mattered.
Our criteria changed when we decided that we didn’t want her skin and lungs to be exposed to harsh perfumes and chemicals. Since then we’ve used dye free, fragrance free laundry detergent and dryer sheets. Over time we’ve become more cognizant of the products that we use on our skin, and throughout the household. My least favorite aisle in the supermarket is the cleaning aisle, my throat always tightens up and my nose gets irritated. I am not surprised based on my earlier experiences with fumes that my body is reacting and warning me to keep my distance.
This leads me to what initiated this topic for a blog post. I recently chose to be an affiliate marketer for The Honest Company because they align with our goals of healthy living. They guarantee their products to be safe and non-toxic. Sample products were offered to me to use and review at my own discretion. When my package of 4-in-1 laundry packs arrived it piqued my curiosity to learn more about the company that started in 2012 and its founders, Jessica Alba and Christopher Gavigan. What would inspire them to create an online company devoted to safe and non-toxic products?
Turns out the founders are published authors, so I was able to read about their perspective on healthy living. Both of their books provide detailed steps to take to ensure a safe, nourishing, toxic free home environment. Both were motivated by their concerns as new parents for the well-being of their young, growing families.
Christopher Gavigan former CEO of Healthy Child published a comprehensive resource book called, “Healthy Child, Healthy World”, back in 2008. He compiled information from medical experts, scientists and celebrities in an easy to read handbook to help parents detoxify their households and create a healthier environment. Jessica Alba’s book, “The Honest Life”, published in 2013, provides her perspective based on what she’s learned from the experts while researching and testing for the company’s product development. She calls it a “guidebook for parents and nonparents alike”.
I wish these books were around back in the early 90s because they would have been an excellent resource for me and Marty as new parents. Both books provide practical tips while acknowledging the spectrum of how vigilant and willing we can be with regard to replacing or discarding toxic products. You can take a few steps or go all in to create a safe, toxic free environment.
After several weeks of using the Honest Company’s 4-in-1 laundry packs I can honestly say I am impressed and satisfied with how clean and soft our clothes, towels and sheets are after using this laundry product. And I like that I don’t have to use any dryer sheets.
Taking this one step further, I was curious to see how Environmental Working Group would rate my regular detergent and dryer sheets against the Honest Company brand. I was shocked to learn that my regular brands, All Free & Clear, got a grade of “F” and that Bounce, Free & Sensitive got a grade of “D” whereas The Honest Company 4-in1 pack got an “A” grade.
- All Free & Clear laundry detergent - “may contain ingredients with potential for developmental/endocrine/reproductive effects; chronic aquatic toxicity; cancer.”
- Bounce Free & Sensitive dryer sheets -“May contain ingredients with potential for respiratory effects.”
- The Honest Company 4-in1 laundry packs- “Low concern for cancer; nervous system effects; digestive system effects.”
Lesson learned at age 55, verify before you trust. Just because a cleaning product claims to be safe I shouldn’t be hoodwinked by green-washing. If nothing else, this exercise prompted me to become more aware of the cleaning products that I use and have assumed to be safe, based on my relying on the manufacturer’s labels. It’s up to me to be cognizant of what I’m breathing in, putting on my skin, and putting into my body. Unfortunately, some substances are invisible making it difficult to see the harm until it’s too late.
In reading Jessica Alba’s book and accessing the Environmental Working Group website I’ve since learned that United States law allows manufacturers of cleaning products to use almost any ingredient they wish, including known carcinogens and substances that can harm fetal and infant development. And the government doesn’t require any of these chemicals to be tested for safety before they are sold to the public. I am going to take stock of the household cleaning products that I use to determine if I need to reconsider using a safer product. Better safe, than sorry.