Article: Chemical Soup

by Loretta Wallace

In a previous article published in the Fishtown Star, I addressed taking a fresh look at the disposable products and excess packaging we purchase and use, in an effort to keep those things out of our landfills and waterways. In this article I'll delve into the ingredients contained in the products we use and their repercussions on the environment and our bodies.

The next time you shop for personal care or household cleaning products, take a look at the ingredients labels. You will likely encounter a long list of chemicals, most of which which you even won't be able to pronounce. For example, on many shampoo bottles and cosmetics you will find the ingredient Quaternium-15, which is a Formaldehyde releasing preservative. For the uniformed, Formaldehyde is the major component in embalming fluid. It is also known as methyl aldehyde, methylene oxide, oxymethylene and oxomethane as well as by a host of other different names. Since the skin is the largest organ of the human body and readily absorbs substances placed on it, it is quite a frightening thought that we are, without any hesitation, pouring formaldehyde on our scalps. I don't know about the rest of you, but I personally don't need to "pickle" my brain any more than it already is! We are additionally rubbing it into our skins in the form of moisturizers and cosmetics. That's not even mentioning sleeping on it and wearing it in the form of "Easy-Care", "No-Iron" "Permanent Press" sizing on our sheets and clothing. Other products in which formaldehyde is commonly found: over-the-counter medications, mouthwash, hair spray, cleaning products, perfumes, waxes, hair setting lotions, air fresheners, fungicides, fingernail polish, floor polishes, dry cleaning solvents, toothpaste, laundry spray starch, antiperspirants and many more.

Due to the indiscriminate usage of modern chemical brews, scientists have discovered that most of us have a toxic buildup of chemicals, including formaldehyde in our bodies. Modern day morticians have noted that twice as much formaldehyde was needed to embalm a person 20 years ago compared to today. They now can use less because we already have so much build-up of the chemical in our bodies.

While I have so far focused only on Formaldehyde the sad truth is it is not just formaldehyde that is the problem. We buy, use on our bodies and pour down our drains, myriad toxic combinations of chemicals that would make a chemist cringe. While the long-term effects of these toxins on the environment and ourselves are still being studied, it should be obvious to anyone that, as Martha might say "it's NOT a good thing".

There is an old adage that states "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". The shampoo our grandmothers used wasn't broke. It consisted mainly of vegetable based soap as did their cleaning products and other household products. All of these old products were biodegradable and made from natural ingredients, causing little to no harm to ourselves or our environment. Since the chemicals we use on our bodies and in cleaning and repairing our homes all eventually end up in our waterways, water supply, soil and air and in our bloodstreams, if we truly wish to live a green and sustainable lifestyle, it's going to take more than just using rain barrels and recycling plastic bags. We have to remember that everything that gets flushed down our toilets, drains and sewers never really goes away, it merely moves to another place in our cities, states, nation, earth. It comes back again to my first article: daily conscious decision making. If the shampoo we choose to purchase contains toxins that causes endangered frogs to become hermaphrodites but makes our hair bouncy and shiny, we have to make a decision as to what our priorities are. In short, we have to put our money where our mouths are and begin to purchase and request our retailers to carry products that are responsibly manufactured with the environment and our health in mind. A general rule to follow is, if you can't pronounce it or would be afraid to ingest it, then it's not a good candidate to apply to the skin, use in the home or have go down our drains. Years ago in the 70's when I first started on my "green" journey, there were few options and products to choose from. Today there are numerous manufacturers and companies who create environmentally and personally healthy alternatives to the standard toxic brew. The following are just a very few to consider:

Burts Bee: Shampoo and body products 100% to 90% organic and biodegradable (available at natural food stores and Rite Aide and CVS)

Aubry Organics: Natural Cosmetics (available at natural food stores)

Seventh Generation: Natural household cleaners and paper products (available at natural food stores and Target)

Bon-Ami: Chlorine free cleanser (available at supermarkets and natural food stores)

Or if you are a real do-it-yourself adventurer, you can visit my website for tons of natural homemade cleaning recipes, homemade cosmetics and nox-toxic herbal remedies:

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