Yesterday I had one of those moments of uncanny coincidence -- one that makes you go 'wow' because the exact person or thing that you happen to be thinking about appears right there in front of you. Only in my case it was the thing that I was just reading about that hit my nose.
I was sitting on the bus, lost in this great article in the latest (Dec 07) issue of Arthur magazine (the one with the Amoeba Records ad on p27) about the dangers of household chemicals when this strong chemical odor hit my nose. The source of this overpowering toxic stank was the fresh nail varnish that the young mother directly behind me was applying with precision to her long fingernails. Meanwhile, the article in Arthur titled "Kick Out The Chemicals" that I had just started reading tackles this exact same topic: the toxicity dangers of everyday household products such as nail polish, hair dye, air freshener, window-glass cleaner, etc.
Equally important, this wonderful article, written by regular magazine columnist Molly Frances, also offers many safe non-toxic alternatives to these dangerous products that so many of us use daily or are exposed to daily. This list's cheaper and a million times safer alternative cleaning tools include white vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, borax, tea tree oil, cheap vodka, lavender oil (for scent), cut up rags (to avoid wasting paper towels), and an empty spray bottle.
That's all you need to clean the bathroom or kitchen floor. More than you need, in fact. Frances suggests for natural, non-toxic floor mopping to get a bucket of hot water and simply add vinegar and a drop of Bronner's (vegetable-based) soap."
And speaking of soap, she confirms something that I had heard many times. "Stay away from those anti-bacterial soaps. Hot water and old-fashioned soap does the same job without growing antibiotic resistant super germs," she writes, adding that all you need is one good soap and it will both go a long way and also cover just about all your needs; washing yourself, your dishes, your floors, and your clothes.
The article lists many of the toxic dangers that inhabit the typical household including oven cleaner, mothballs, drain cleaner, and air freshener. Ironically, this aerosol product that goes by such brand names as Fresh Aire and Air Wick and that is meant to simulate the fresh air of the countryside in every scent thinkable, including kiwi and vanilla, is actually a toxic time bomb packed with an array of dangerous cancer-causing chemicals whose other side effects include causing reproductive problems and developmental disorders, not to mention triggering asthma attacks.
But most interesting for me to learn was just how dangerous most beds, mattresses specifically, are. Yep, because of government regulations that insist that beds be flame retardant, the chemicals used to achieve this can be most damaging to your health as you sleep. In most states, to buy a bed without chemicals requires a prescription from your doctor. And apparently Ikea and some other stores have begun to sell beds without toxic flame retardants.
And what about the woman behind me on the bus applying the nail polish? How dangerous is that for her or for her baby or for me and everyone else in close range ingesting the fumes? Frances places nail polish in a danger group of other products that include hair dye, shampoo, and lotion and writes that they "all commonly contain pthalates, glycol ethers, acetone, triclosan, formaldehyde, nonylphenols -- chemicals known to cause cancer, liver damage, birth defects, and a variety of other unpleasant problems." Yikes!
To read this recommended article, pick up the current issue of Arthur (avail for free at spots including Amoeba) or go to Arthur's website where you can buy copies of the mag ($6 inc S&H) or download the entire issue for free in three PDF files. And you can also do your own research, including visiting cosmeticdatabase.com for data on the safety of everyday beauty products and reading such books as The Secret History of the War on Cancer (Perseus) by Devra Davis.