"To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art." - La Rochefoucauld

Go Green

This research has come from one of my green mentors, Amy Garica.  Here are her wonderful notes on the topic:

Cleaning Your Home, Safe and Toxin-Free

Much of this information was taken from the following resources:

·         “Naturally Clean: The Seventh Generation Guide to Safe & Healthy, Non-Toxic Cleaning” by Jeffrey Hollender

·         “Organic Housekeeping” by Ellen Sandbeck

One More Way to Keep Your Kids Safe
Natural Cleaning Products Provide a Healthier Environment

Parents do a lot of things for the sake of their children – from sitting through soccer games in the freezing rain to making sure they eat a healthy, balanced diet to providing a safe, clean place to live. Unfortunately, many of the cleaning products commonly found on grocery store shelves and in your home are not as safe as you might think.
Take a minute to inventory the cleaning products you currently use. How many times do words like “danger,” “warning,” and “caution” appear on the labels? Cleaning products are exempt from the full ingredient disclosure on product labels as required for food and personal care products and enter the marketplace with little or no testing for potential health risks. 

But compelling evidence links the chemicals in household products to a whole range of conditions, including cancer, asthma, allergies, multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome, hormonal disruption, and reproductive and developmental disorders. For example, many all-purpose cleaners, window cleaners, spray cleaners, and scouring powders contain butyl cellosolve, a liver and kidney neurotoxin. And check for naphthalene -- a kidney toxin, cataract trigger, and carcinogen -- in your toilet cleaners, carpet cleaners, and deodorizers.
Children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of the chemicals found in our homes. Their higher metabolism and greater appetites for everything from food to air mean that they experience greater pound-for-pound exposures to the toxins of everyday life than adults. And their smaller size and still-developing body systems mean they’re disproportionately affected by those hazards they encounter. That makes protecting children from household chemical hazards among a parent’s most urgent tasks. 

“Parents and all those concerned with the welfare of children need to be aware of the preventable health and development problems caused by exposure to toxic substances in homes, schools and communities and empowered to take action to protect children against these toxic threats,” says Christopher Gavigan, executive director of the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition, a national non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about environmental toxins that affect children’s health. As consumers become more aware of the risks posed by common household cleaning products, they are demanding more environmentally friendly products, and even making their own non-toxic cleaning supplies. 

You’ll also find Seventh Generation’s pick of the healthiest and safest options drawn from a special analysis of over 300 natural and traditional cleaners, as well as recipes for making your own non-toxic household cleaners. “Many people are happily rediscovering the art and science of do-it-yourself cleaning products and creating much healthier homes in the process,” says Hollender. “An almost endless variety of safe homemade substitutes for toxic chemical cleaning formulas of all kinds can be easily prepared from just a handful of common natural materials like pure vegetable soaps, grease-cutting vinegars, baking soda and citrus oils.

Six Easy Ways to Keep Kids Safer and Healthier
1. Use natural-formula cleaners made from biodegradable vegetable surfactants, non-toxic minerals, and other natural-based materials.
2. Use only natural cosmetic and personal care products and avoid synthetic scents and perfumes. When you hug your kids, make sure all they pick up is affection.
3. Ban all aerosol spray products from your home, including deodorants, hair sprays, and even air fresheners. These typically contain toxic volatile organic compounds, which remain suspended as microscopic droplets in your home’s air for hours and even days.
4. Use only safe and natural arts and crafts supplies. Avoid products that give off fumes like many permanent ink markers, rubber cement, glues, paints, etc.
5. Don’t use chemical flea and tick preparations for pets – kids who hug and play with pets will be exposed to anything they’ve been treated with. Ban all pesticides from your home.
6. Use untreated bedding. Permanent press and other treated sheets contain formaldehyde that’s emitted and inhaled while kids sleep.
7. Soft flexible plastic and vinyl products often contain toxic chemicals called phthalates. Before buying a soft plastic item, especially a toy, verify that the product is phthalate-free.

Some scary facts to consider:
·         40% of all Americans will get some form of cancer during their lifetimes, and the incidence of cancer is expected to double by 2050. Half o fall men and almost a third of all women alive today will face this disease.
·         Women who work in the home have a 55% higher risk of developing cancer and/or chronic respiratory disease than women working outside the home.
·         In recent years, over 2 million household poisonings have been reported annually, 60% of which occurred in children under 13 years of age.
·         The average sample of breast milk produced by a woman in the US contains over 100 contaminants. Some 25% of the breast milk supply is now so laden with toxic foreign substances that if bottled and sold as a food product it would violate federal food safety regulations.
·         Between 1986 and 1995, the incidence of endocrine and chronic metabolic diseases like diabetes increased 20%.
·         From 1980 to 1994, the number of people with asthma increased 75% and the number of children under 4 with the disease rose by 160%!
·         Between 1982 and 1995, the number of women of childbearing age who reported difficulty achieving successful conception increased 42%. According to the US Dept. of Heath and Human Services, 8% of all reproductive age couples in the country are infertile.
·         In various surveys, 15-30% of Americans (44 to 88 million people) report unusual reactions- in the form of headaches, skin rashes, coughs, breathing difficulties, ringing in the ears, and other health problems- to common chemicals such as those found in detergents, perfumes, solvents, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and foods.

 Some Background Information on the Toxins Used in our Homes:

 All products have safety ratings. The federal ratings are based on the hazards to the consumer:

            DANGER: the highest hazard level, the most dangerous product

            WARNING: medium hazard level, a dangerous product

            CAUTION: low hazard level, least toxic

If the label has no warning, the product is considered non-hazardous.



Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are substances that catch fire at very low temperatures.  These will be labeled as: DANGER. HARMFUL OR FATAL IF SWALLOWED. SKIN AND EYE IRRITANT. VAPOR HARMFUL. COMBUSTIBLE. A few examples of VOCs are: paints, solvents, gasoline, adhesives, nail polish, nail polish remover, furniture polish.


Caustic or Corrosive:

These will be labeled: DANGER. CORROSIVE! MAY BE ABSORBED THROUGH SKIN. SEVERE RESPIRATORY AND DIGESTIVE TRACT IRRITANT. MAY CAUSE SKIN AND EYE BURNS. These products will eat through any organic material they encounter, including your clothing, skin, hair, and eyeballs. Some examples are : drain cleaners, oven cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, and rust removers.

 Chlorine Bleach:

Household products that contain chlorine bleach should never be mixed with anything at all. Highly toxic gas is released when chlorinated products are mixed with products containing ammonia, such as window cleaner or dish liquid, or rust removers or toilet bowl cleaners. Anything with chlorine in it is potentially dangerous and should be avoided if at all possible. If 2 products do the same job and one contains chlorine while the other doesn’t, choose the chlorine-free product!

PDBEs (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers):

These are fire retardant chemicals used in many products from children’s sleepwear to mattresses to computers. These have been found to be quite toxic and hazardous. They have been found flowing in ever increasing amounts in streams and rivers, sewage, sludge, human bloodstreams, and mothers’ milk. In some studies, PBDE concentrations in North Americans are ten to twenty times higher than they are in Europeans. Tests of stored breast milk have shown that human concentrations of PDBEs have been doubling every 4-5 years since the 1970’s.

In another study, scientists exposed 10-day old mice to PBDE and managed to produce hyperactive, memory impaired animals that had trouble learning mazes.

The European Union banned two of the three most common PDBEs starting in 2004, and other countries and some manufacturers are phasing them out. European law requires proof of safety before anew chemical can be used in manufacturing and released into the environment. In contrast, US law requires that a chemical be proven dangerous before it is removed from the marketplace!

 Some Quick Tips When Choosing Cleaning Products:

 ·         A fragrance usually signals that a chemical has been left behind.

·         Petroleum based products are toxic

·         When cleaning, all of the following ingredients are toxic. Do NOT choose products that contain:

Chlorine, Anti-microbials, Phosphate, Dyes, Artificial fragrances, Sulfates (Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate), Parabens (Methyl-, Propyl-, Ethyl-, Butyl-), Petrochemicals (petrolatum, mineral oil, paraffin), Chemical Sunscreens (Oxybenzone/Avobenzone) and Phthalates

·         Kitchen degreasers contain perchloroethylene, toulineneurotoxins and human carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals)

·         Avoid dish liquids that contain antibacterials- use a pure liquid castile soap such as Dr. Bronner’s or the Trader Joe’s brand

·         Many dishwasher detergents contain chlorine, phosphorus, and antimicrobials which are potentially dangerous and 100% unnecessary.

·         Fabric Softeners- many fabric softeners contain numerous toxic and cancer-causing ingredients

·         To familiarize yourself with the scientific names, look up ingredient names at reference websites such as www.cosmeticdatabase.com.

 Safe, Natural Cleaning Products that are Good to Use:

Most modern synthetic cleaning products are based on age-old formulas using natural ingredients that were passed down through the generations because the chemistry was right. Going back to the original naturally derived ingredients is a way to make cleaning products that work, don’t pollute and save you money. Most are found in your kitchen cupboards. Mix and match with well-chosen and environmentally friendly green cleaning products found in health food stores, and you can easily and simply transform your home into a non-toxic and healthy haven.
Non-toxic cleaning can give you a deep feeling of gratification in knowing that your family’s health is protected and that your home is a place for your bodies to rest and recuperate rather than promote harm
As an added bonus, ounce for ounce homemade cleaning formulas cost about one-tenth the price of their commercial counterpart—and that includes costly, but worthwhile essential oils, and concentrated, all-purpose detergents for homemade recipes.

García Family Favorites to Buy at the Store:

·         Castile Soap is SAFE- it is derived from vegetable oil- Dr. Bronner’s or Trader Joe’s brand

·         Murphy’s Oil Soap- Most grocery stores

·         Bon Ami scrubbing powder- Most grocery stores

·         OxiClean added to your laundry- most grocery stores

·         Borax- acts as a water softener, a fabric softener, a deodorizer, and mild bleach. It has even been around since 1891! To use, measure out the recommended amount of detergent for your washing machine, then add an equal amount of Borax.

·         Mrs. Stewart’s Liquid Bluing is added to wash water to make white fabrics look brighter and whiter- this has been on the market since 1883!

·         Melaleuca Tough and Tender All-Purpose Cleaner- www.melaleuca.com

·         Bac-Out All-Purpose Cleaner- Shaklee Representative

·         Kirkland Free and Clear Laundry Detergent- Costco

 Cleaning Products Made From Household Ingredients:

 ·         Safe cleaning products: vinegar, salt, baking soda, lemons, olive oil

·         Clean, deodorize and sharpen garbage disposal blades with ice and lemon or orange peels

·         Drain cleaner: ½ cup baking soda, 1 cup white vinegar- let fizz in the drain, when fizzing ends, pour kettle full of boiling water down drain

·         A natural whitener for your laundry: Hydrogen Peroxide (Pour ½ cup in the bleach cup/section of your washing machine).

Simply pour about 1/2 cup of baking soda into a bowl, and add enough liquid detergent to make a texture like frosting. Scoop the mixture onto a sponge, and wash the surface. This is the perfect recipe for cleaning the bathtub because it rinses easily and doesn’t leave grit.

Note: Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin to the mixture and store in a sealed glass jar, to keep the product moist. Otherwise just make as much as you need at a time.
1/4-1/2 teaspoon liquid detergent
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 cups water
Spray bottle 

Put all the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake it up a bit, and use as you would a commercial brand. The soap in this recipe is important. It cuts the wax residue from the commercial brands you might have used in the past.

·         OVEN CLEANER
1 cup or more baking soda
A squirt or two of liquid detergent 

Sprinkle water generously over the bottom of the oven, then cover the grime with enough baking soda that the surface is totally white. Sprinkle some more water over the top. Let the mixture set overnight. You can easily wipe up the grease the next morning because the grime will have loosened. When you have cleaned up the worst of the mess, dab a bit of liquid detergent or soap on a sponge, and wash the remaining residue from the oven. If this recipe doesn’t work for you it is probably because you didn’t use enough baking soda and/or water. 

1/2 teaspoon oil, such as olive (or jojoba, a liquid wax)
1/4 cup vinegar or fresh lemon juice
Mix the ingredients in a glass jar. Dab a soft rag into the solution and wipe onto wood surfaces. Cover the glass jar and store indefinitely.

Bathroom mold: Mold in bathroom tile grout is a common problem and can be a health concern. Mix one part hydrogen peroxide (3%) with two parts water in a spray bottle and spray on areas with mold. Wait at least one hour before rinsing or using shower.

Carpet stains: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray directly on stain, let sit for several minutes, and clean with a brush or sponge using warm soapy water.
For a heavy duty carpet cleaner, mix 1/4 cup each of salt, borax and vinegar. Rub paste into carpet and leave for a few hours. Vacuum.

Chopping block cleaner: Rub a slice of lemon across a chopping block to disinfect the surface. For tougher stains, squeeze some of the lemon juice onto the spot and let sit for 10 minutes, then wipe.

Coffee and tea stains: Stains in cups can be removed by applying vinegar to a sponge and wiping. To clean a teakettle or coffee maker, add 2 cups water and 1/4 cup vinegar; bring to a boil. Let cool, wipe with a clean cloth and rinse thoroughly with water.

Marks on walls and painted surfaces: Many ink spots, pencil, crayon or marker spots can be cleaned from painted surfaces using baking soda applied to a damp sponge. Rub gently, then wipe and rinse.

Natural Vinegar Cleaning Recipe

Vinegar naturally cleans like an all-purpose cleaner. Mix a solution of 1 part water to 1 part vinegar in a new store bought spray bottle and you have a solution that will clean most areas of your home. Vinegar is a great natural cleaning product as well as a disinfectant and deodorizer. Always test on an inconspicuous area. It is safe to use on most surfaces and has the added bonus of being incredibly cheap. Improperly diluted vinegar is acidic and can eat away at tile grout. Never use vinegar on marble surfaces. Don't worry about your home smelling like vinegar. The smell disappears when it dries. Here are some uses for vinegar in the rooms of your house. Use it in the…
  1. Bathroom - Clean the bathtub, toilet, sink, and countertops. Use pure vinegar in the toilet bowl to get rid of rings. Flush the toilet to allow the water level to go down. Pour the undiluted vinegar around the inside of the rim. Scrub down the bowl. Mop the flour in the bathroom with a vinegar/water solution. The substance will also eat away the soap scum and hard water stains on your fixtures and tile. Make sure it is safe to use with your tile.
  2. Kitchen- Clean the stovetop, appliances, countertops, and floor.
  3. Laundry Room- Use vinegar as a natural fabric softener. This can be especially helpful for families who have sensitive skin. Add ½ cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle in place of store bought fabric softener. Vinegar has the added benefit of breaking down laundry detergent more effectively. (A plus when you have a family member whose skin detects every trace of detergent.)
A few more random tips to help keep your family safe:
·         Avoid non-stick pans and cookware. In addition to releasing toxic chemicals over time, tests show that these items release hazardous fumes when heated during even normal use.
·         Don’t buy or wear clothing that says it’s been treated to repel water, dirt, or stains. Toxic!
·         Do not use microwave popcorn, which is typically sold and prepared in PFC-coated bags. Instead, combine a ¼ cup of popping corn in a regular unbleached brown paper lunch bag, mix with the recommended amount of oil and any desired seasoning, fold over the opening ,and staple the bag with a single staple. Hear form 2-3 minutes in the microwave.
·         Be careful about what kind of paper plates you use. If the plate looks glossy, don’t use it. As with much fast-food packaging, the plates may be coated with PFCs to prevent leakage.
·         Scrutinize personal care, cosmetic, and cleaning product labels carefully. Avoid those with any ingredient that contains “fluoro” or “perfluoro” as part of its name. This indicates the presence of a PFC.