I have a theory:
the regulatory powers that be and the corporations bolstering their dictates have decided that if the name of an ingredient is short enough, perhaps people won’t even notice its presence. And, if they do, they’ll be far less concerned by it than the novella-esque remainder of the ingredient list, which contains words far more noxious sounding and far less pronounceable. After all, why worry about the PEGs in your lotion, the BHT in your cereal, the BPA in the bottle from which you drink, the MSG in your takeout or the GMO that is probably a larger part of your diet than any other food group. There are, in the scheme of things, far larger concerns. Right? But, here’s the thing: PEG isn’t a nice lady and neither are her benignly named cohorts. I’d advise you to ask the rats with whom they made rather intoxicating, if brief, acquaintance, but they’re all dead.
Lots of things change when you have a child. You immediately look five years older, and feel every second of it. You develop the ability to function, though questionably well, off of power naps. And, you become aware of how gag-inducing filthy the world around you really is. With the birth of my son, I became a bit of a cleaning nut. And with the increase in cleaning, came an increase in cleaning products, the labels of which I actually began to read. And then I started a research project, since, despite some linguistics knowledge and an English degree, I couldn’t actually pronounce with confidence, let alone identify, more than one or two ingredients off any of the range of common household products I used. What I found? My child would be better off licking the sidewalk than the kitchen floor I had just cleaned.
Unfortunately, cleaning products were just the beginning. My newborn’s “gentle” baby shampoo, body wash and lotion weren’t much better. Here’s where PEG comes in, along with SLS, SLES, DEA/TEA and a host of other potentially noxious irritants, toxins, carcinogens and allergens. Among other things, triclosan – an antibacterial and antifungal agent found in a number of household products, including some soaps, toothpastes, cosmetics, clothing, toys, furniture and kitchenware – poses some substantial health risks. Research has shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation in animals, might contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs and might be harmful to the immune system, though it’s still considered safe by the FDA. Of even more concern, however, is simply perfume/parfum (or any other version of fragrance), which is in basically everything and which encapsulates, essentially, a minefield of carcinogenic and neurotoxic chemicals.
It doesn’t end there. When my son started eating solid food, I was in for another rude awakening: the additives and preservatives in his food, particularly popular little finger foods like cereal, were almost worse than the poisons with which I was cleaning my toilet. Almost. Most people are aware of BPA (Bisphenol A) following the consumer-demanded eventual removal of its use in baby bottles and related products in 2012. But, did you know that it’s still present in a lot of plastics and in nearly all canned foods? According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), BPA is a primary component of epoxy resins, which line most of the 131 billion food and beverage cans made annually in the U.S. A synthetic estrogen that disrupts the endocrine system, BPA has been linked to infertility, breast and reproductive system cancer, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, behavioral changes in children and resistance to chemotherapy treatments.
Even better, butylated hydroxytoluene, or BHT, is a preservative that allows manufacturers to make more product that will keep longer (or at least appear fresh longer), thereby maximizing their profits. Unfortunately, it’s carcinogenic. And bioaccumulative, which means that it is absorbed at a rate greater than that at which it is lost. While this is of concern for anyone, it’s particularly troubling considering that, although it has been banned in baby food, it’s commonly used as a preservative in the very same cereals that are often doctor recommended initial finger foods for babies. What is perhaps most troubling is that there is a perfectly safe, natural alternative: Vitamin E. Ironically, while General Mills and Kellogg’s continue to preserve our cereal with BHT, conscientious dog food manufacturers have been pulling it from our dogs’ kibble.
Finally, there may be bit of MSG (monosodium glutamate) deftly hidden within the “natural flavoring” in that cereal (and half of your pantry) as well. To refresh your memory, MSG is a flavor enhancer that causes excitotoxic damage in the brain and can cause migraine headaches, asthma attacks, heart irregularities, disabling arthritis, depression and behavioral problems in children. “What we’ve discovered is, this is a very toxic substance, particularly to the developing brain,” says Dr. Russell Blaylock, renowned author and neurosurgeon. The developing fetus is at particular risk. Unfortunately, if a product contains less than 99% pure MSG, manufacturers can call it anything they want: caramelized yeast, caseinate, carrageenan, natural flavoring, vegetable extract, protein concentrate, soy isolate, hydrolyzed protein and the list goes on. As such, though the quantity of MSG in the average pantry and fridge is staggering, very little of it will actually be labeled as such.
I’ve never been a germaphobe and though I’ve “cleansed” once or twice, the preoccupation with toxicity lately makes me loathe to even employ the word. But, the additives in, and pesticides on, our increasingly genetically modified food; the chemicals in our cleaners; the God-knows-what in our lotions and cosmetics are toxic, poisons with the scientific evidence to prove that assertion to the extent that their use is banned in many other countries and should be here.
It’s time for a revolution. The information is out there. Google it. Research it at the local library. Then change, if not for yourself, then for your children, your neighbor, your dog. Purchase toxin-free products (visit www.ewg.org to see how your products stack up) or make your own. Buy as locally as possible. Read labels, minimize your consumption of processed foods and start cooking and growing. Your most powerful vote isn’t cast by ballot, but by debit card. We vote with our dollar: supply and demand. Turn the tables. Demand something better. It’s your choice: the red pill or the blue one.
I chose the rabbit hole, and it eventuated in a lot of changes for my family in the last year. Some have increased our expenses, while others have, surprisingly, reduced our household costs. In the end, we’ve come out about even, at least in the short-term. The long-term impact is an entirely different issue. Even if these changes only reduce our risk of cancer or any number of other chronic diseases by one percent, that’s still one percent less of a chance that I will be standing at my husband’s or son’s hospital bed, or staring back at them from one myself. One percent is priceless. It’s the road that I think will make all the difference and, for me, that’s enough.
In the end, it’s up to each of us. Perhaps if life threatening chronic diseases had short and sweet little names, they would cause less concern as well. Diabetes could just be DEB. Cancer is already “the big C,” but I bet we could come up with something that sounds a bit less threatening. You could enjoy your “safe” little world: share a tea party with your daughter, sip BHT preserved sports drink from tiny BPA ridden cups while nibbling MSG laden treats. All the while hoping that DEB lets you keep your toes long enough to walk your little girl down the isle.
Call Out Box #1:
The Dirty Dozen Food Additives
By Sixwise.Com (http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/06/04/05/12-dangerous-food-additives-the-dirty-dozen-food-additives-you-really-need-to-be-aware-of.html)
While each of these substances is legal to use (at least here in the States), whether or not they are something you want to be consuming is another story all together: propyl gallate (might cause cancer), BHA and BHT (have been found by some studies to cause cancer in rats), potassium bromate (causes cancer in animals), monosodium glutamate or MSG (causes excitotoxic damage in the brain), aspartame (has been found to cause brain tumors, lymphomas and leukemia in rats), acesulfame-K (may cause cancer in rats and affects the thyroid in rats, rabbits and dogs), olestra (reduces the body’s ability to absorb beneficial fat-soluble nutrients), sodium nitrite or sodium nitrate (can lead to the formation of cancer-causing chemicals called nitrosamines), hydrogenated vegetable oil (creates trans fats, which promote heart disease and diabetes), blue 1 (may cause cancer) and blue 2 (has caused brain tumors in mice), red 3 (causes thyroid tumors in rats, and may cause them in humans as well) and yellow 6 (has been found to cause adrenal gland and kidney tumors, and contains small amounts of many carcinogens).
Call Out Box #2
The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen
By TheDailyGreen.com (http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/dirty-dozen-foods#slide-24)
The dirty dozen is the Environmental Working Group’s annual list of foods containing the highest levels of pesticide residue. If at all possible, try to purchase organic versions of these fruits and vegetables: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines (imported), peaches, potatoes, strawberries, spinach, sweet bell peppers, kale, collard greens, zucchini, lettuce and blueberries.
The clean fifteen, a compilation of fruits and vegetables so clean of pesticide residue that you don’t need to buy organic (though buying organic is never a bad idea considering the benefits to farms and farm workers), includes: onions, sweet corn, pineapple, avocado, asparagus, frozen sweet peas, mango, papaya, eggplant, cantaloupe (domestic), kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes, grapefruit and mushrooms.
Call Out Box #3
One part vinegar to nine parts water disinfects and effectively cleans just about any surface, is completely non-toxic and costs less than $.07 for a 30-ounce bottle. Add a couple of drops of an antibacterial/antifungal/antiviral essential oil such as lavender or tea tree and you improve the smell and double up on the disinfecting capabilities. Simple recipes abound to replace nearly all household cleaners, even laundry and dishwashing detergents, with effective, non-toxic and inexpensive alternatives.
-Written By Jessica Bayramian Byerly
A Montana native, Jessica Bayramian Byerly is an accomplished freelance writer and editor. Currently, she devotes the majority of her time to raising her toddler, Elijah, and editing and writing for a local publishing company. Byerly’s true passion, however, is helping people – being the support behind the success – which, until her son’s birth two years ago, guided a substantive career in the non-profit and mental health sectors. Now, editing allows Byerly to employ her literary background and predilection to help writers effectively develop their ideas and realize their voice, while allowing her to be home with her son, which has been an incredible and life-changing gift. She is an adept writer and skilled editor in a variety of styles (academic, fiction, professional, journalistic, web) and formats (proposals, grants, articles, books). Byerly is accepting new clients and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 406.570.0219.
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