12.14.2013

"The Non-Toxic Avenger" and reducing toxins in the home: Part 1


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So the last couple weeks I've been reading this book, "The Non-Toxic Avenger" by Deanna Duke. Deanna is an environmental blogger and the book is about her mission to avenge the toxins in her environment. She has an autistic son and a husband with cancer. The book takes on a conversational tone, like as if you are getting a peek inside her head and her thoughts as she tries to eliminate the toxins in her environment one by one. Everything is addressed. Everything from Halloween Costumes to Draino. She finds ways to eliminate toxins, find alternatives for toxin laden products, or decides to avoid them all together. Before she goes on her anti-toxin jaunt, she gets a full body burden test done to see where her levels of heavy metals, pesticide residues, plastic chemicals, etc. are. Then she gets another body burden test after her project is over, to see how much of a difference her changes really made.

I've got about 2 chapters left in the book but so far her husbands cancer tests are showing vast improvements, and the doctor joked that it's probably because of her anti-toxin project.

It got me thinking. I've been avoiding a lot of toxins since I was pregnant with my first child over 7 years ago and developed chemical sensitivies. Ever since then I've been more aware of the kinds of household products we used. (This last year, my chemical sensitivities disappeared. I think a decreased chemical load has a lot to do with that).

Over the years I've found eco-friendly and healthier alternatives for almost everything. We use naturally derived laundry products, dish soaps, household cleaners, body care products, shampoo and conditioner, etc. I use natural make-up and things like aloe vera gel instead of commercial shaving gel, and coconut oil instead of lotion. We use a steam mop with water for our hard floors (no chemical laden cleaners necessary, I add drops of essential oils to the mop pads). We have lots of "air cleaner" houseplants in our house to help with things like chemical off-gassing from our carpets and paint and they keep the air fresh and free from chemicals like formaldehyde. The average home needs about 10-15 of these houseplants to make a real difference, and we are almost there. I just got a huge corn plant a few weeks ago (looks like a mini palm tree). We never use pajamas with flame retardants, always opting for the tight fitting cotton ones instead. We eat 90% organic produce. Actually 90% of all the food we buy is organic.

My health has greatly improved over the last couple years. I was very ill as a child and teenager and also had hormonal imbalances. Most of my symptoms are under control now. As I've gotten older I actually feel younger and my health problems are less then they used to be.

That said, even after all these changes I'm aware of more things where we could improve. This book was helpful in that regard. Like did you know that most commercial dental floss is coated in Teflon? That really disturbed me. We've been avoiding Teflon cookware and stain repellants for years because of concerns with the off-gassing, and now I find out I've been using it in my mouth all along! Gross. :( Hard to find good alternatives for some of those things though.

I've been suffering from dust allergies for a while and finally I decided to get an essential oil diffuser to see if it helped. I got it right during suffering from a bout of Sinusitis so it was perfect timing. I loaded it up with water and Eucalyptus oil and let it do it's thing. What a difference! The one I got is for up to 1500 sq feet so it scents up a good portion of our house. It has had a profound impact on the air quality in our home. I can breathe easier. I don't sneeze nearly as much. Today I had Tea Tree oil and Thyme oil in the diffuser and I cleaned out our ceiling bathroom fan vents which were stuck with massive dust bunnies (which floated down on me while cleaning), and I didn't even sneeze. Unbelievable.

(If you're wondering where I get the oils and diffuser from, I shop at Escents Aromatherapy. It's a Canadian retail store).

I've made a list of some of the things in our house I want to change over to healthier, environmentally friendly options.

1. Food Storage Bins

I currently have these in my pantry for flour and sugar and the like. They are plastic #7 which is the one that may contain BPA. On the OXO website it says that all their POPS containers are BPA free, but that still doesn't ease my mind. Plus the pop mechanism has malfunctioned a couple times on mine and I've only had them for a few months. I do like the shape of them however, and I like that they are light. I just don't like the idea of chemicals leaching into my food while it's being stored, and whatever type of plasticizers these containers consist of, they can't be as safe as something like glass or stainless steel. They are also pretty expensive for what you get. I paid $25 each for mine.


Then I came across these beautiful jars. I think this is a much better long term solution. They are made out of thick glass, made in France (not China). They are called Le Parfait French Canning Jars. They cost about the same as the OXO containers, maybe just a few dollars more. It appears that the gasket is also made out of real rubber, not plastic. They come in an assortment of sizes.


2. Dish Cloths

For the last couple years I've been using cheap microfiber dish cloths. They are starting to get threadbare and need to be replaced. I spent some time researching my options and decided I want to get away from using the microfiber. Microfiber is made from polyester and there are some environmental concerns with polyester production. Not to mention natural fibers like organic cotton are much more durable and longer lasting. I ended up finding these, called "Toockies". They are organic cotton scrub cloths, the kind your grandma used to make (only organic). These are made fair trade by artisans in India.  These look very durable and like they'd last a long time. I look forward to trying them out.



3. Natural Reusable Coffee and Tea Filters

Lately I've been on a loose tea kick. I found this amazing Spiced Apple Loose Leaf tea at a little local cheese shop and I've been addicted to it ever since. Every package comes with a wad of disposable tea bags, but after seeing these bags I've decided to try them. Disposable tea bags contain a host of nasty chemicals, even the organic tea's aren't safe. Hankettes also carries organic cotton reusable coffee filters made in a variety of sizes.

4. Natural Fabric Softener Solution

For a long time we just stopped using fabric softener and didn't notice a difference. Then we received some Eco cleaners to try out and we got back into the habit of using liquid fabric softener again. We missed the "fresh clean scent" that we just weren't getting without using the fabric softener. I know that natural or not, the fabric softener is just not a necessity. The plastic bottles just add to the landfill, and the dryer sheets are one of the most toxic items you could have in your home. SO, I want pretty smelling sheets and clothes but don't want to use toxic products or lots of plastic bottles - what's a girl to do? I was on Pinterest the other day and I came across a tutorial on how to make felted wool dryer balls. YES. This was my fix. Soft laundry, no more bottles, AND the wool can hold scents so I can add a few drops of essential oils to make our laundry smell fresh. Perfect.


5. Smoothie Cups/Straws

My kids LOVE smoothies and chocolate milk. For a long time I've been buying the "Take N Toss" BPA-free plastic cups with snap lids and straws. I've noticed however, that the colors have faded and the plastic has warped a bit with use. I can only imagine what's been leaching out of them. For something that is used so often in our household, I'd rather not be using plastic if there is a better alternative. My kids are old enough now that I don't need to worry so much about them spilling their drinks. I found these cool and colourful glass smoothie straws at bynature.ca. I like that each of my kids can have their own colour.

6. Stainless Steel Tumblers

My kids use stainless steel water bottles most of the time, but we've still been using plastic drinking cups at the sink and for when brushing their teeth, as well as for holding snacks like apple slices or carrot sticks. They are the ones from Ikea, which I remember being BPA-free, but if it's one more plastic thing I can eliminate then I might as well. I plan to replace them with some stainless steel tumblers and we'll use shallow stainless steel camping bowls for the snacks.

7. Natural Pillow Covers

Dust allergies are usually caused by the feces of dust mites. GROSS! I read recently that a pillow that's just a couple years old will have 1/3 of it's weight just from the dust might feces. Nasty nasty nasty. I came across these natural dust mite proof pillow encasements and I plan to get some ASAP!

8. Baskets with Castors

I was browsing the Chez Larsson blog when I came across this blog post about where she added some castors to the bottom of a large basket. How smart is that! I LOVE how functional, natural and beautiful this is.


9. Organic Wool Mattress Topper

When we got married we bought a super cheap mattress. We got the cheapest one we could find. It's been alright but it's starting to show it's age (lumpy) and it's time for a new one. Mattresses are heavy laden with flame retardants and harsh chemicals and they off-gas for some time. Even though I'd love a new mattress (pillow top please!) the reality of the off-gassing does not appeal to me. We can't afford a natural mattress at the moment (they are so $$$$!!!), but getting a 4 inch natural rubber and wool mattress topper is a good idea that should help us get a few more years out of our existing mattress and it fits into our budget - without exposing us to lots of icky chemicals.

10. Secondhand Furniture

I've been wanting a new coffee table and end table set for years. My husband finally caved and went out to get us an ottoman style coffee table. It lasted a total of 2 months before the seams of the fake leather all split apart. So much for that. I prefer buying quality products that last a long time, but solid wood furniture can be very expensive. My plan is to stake out Craigslist and keep an eye out for something that will work for us.



11. Jute Sika - Hanging Planter

I was saying earlier how I'm trying to fill up our house with the top air cleaning plants to help with air purification. I've been eyeing one of these plant holders for a while. I was hesitant at first cause I wasn't sure if the retro style would really work in our house, but I think I'm going to go for it. I think these would be great for adding some plants to the kids play room and bedroom to hang from the ceiling - without worrying about curious kiddos trying to dig in the dirt. This one is a fair trade item made by artisans in Bangladesh.



12. Fair Trade Woven Baskets

I can think of many uses for these little baskets. I love the organic charm, they are a good size, affordable, and I like knowing the purchase of these (instead of a plastic equivalent from Walmart) is helping out artisans in Bangladesh.



13. Ugandan Twist Basket

I think this natural fiber basket would make a great fruit bowl. If you have a larger countertop in a bathroom it would also be nice for guest ammenities. Filled with some pine cones it could be a natural fall and winter centerpiece. Filled with edible goodies it becomes a gift basket.




14. Natural Clay Piggy Bank

How cute is this?! Our kids recently started getting their own allowance and have also been working on extra chores to earn money for things they want. I've been looking at different piggy banks to replace the plastic ziplock bag they are currently using. This one is made out of ceramic clay and is a fair trade item made by craftspeople in Chile.



15. Alternatives to IKEA basket

I've been looking for baskets for our Ikea Expedit unit that we got for free secondhand. I like this one. I checked the dimensions and I think it will work nicely for where I need it. This one is made by Mai Handicrafts which is a non-profit organization.


Last but not least, this isn't really an organizing thing but it's most definitely Eco friendly! A nativity set made out of recycled newsprint made by Mai Handicrafts non-profit.

*this post contains NO affiliate links. All views and opinions are my own and all the products I purchased were paid for by myself.

1 comment:

  1. Just posted to Pinterest! This is my new favorite!

    ReplyDelete

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