Monday, November 09, 2009

How toxic is your bathroom? Part I

I visited a friend's house recently and I practically had to hold my breath to avoid inhaling toxic fumes from all the cleaning products. I can't help but wonder how many everyday household products might be impacting on our fertility. There are of course many many factors that influence fertility. I came across a good article on Dr Mercola's website recently: 10 Ways to Address Your Root Causes of Infertility -- Naturally by Swiss Naturopath Iva Keene. Iva's number one recommendation for treating infertility is to minimize your exposure to toxic chemicals. Bearing this in mind I started wondering how much trouble (and expense) it would be to do a "Non-Toxic Makeover" for my friends' house.

I'd start in the bathroom...

1. A clip-on toilet bowl freshener/cleaner. You only have to read this recent article from the New York Times about what to do if someone accidently swallows toilet bowl cleaning fluid to know that these are seriously nasty chemicals. If that's not enough to scare you off, how about this from A Guide to Less Toxic Products? "Many toilet bowl cleaners are often highly caustic and form toxic gases when mixed with water. They can contain ammonium chloride, a corrosive, 1,4-dichlorobenzine, a carcinogenic pesticide which can cause liver and kidney damage, hydrochloric acid, whose vapours can cause coughing and breathing difficulties, and sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate which is a severe eye, skin and respiratory irritant, which can form carcinogenic chlorine gas. Sulfate-based products containing sodium sulfate or sodium bisulfate may cause asthmatic attacks." Enough said.

2. An aerosol room freshener with synthetic fragrance. I knew these were nasty, but I had no idea just how nasty until I read this (again from A Guide to Less Toxic Products) "Far from freshening air, chemical-based air fresheners and deodorizers add dangerous chemicals to the air we breathe. Air fresheners work by using a nerve-deadening chemical that interferes with our sense of smell, by coating nasal passage with an oily film, by masking an offending odour with a different odour, or by deactivating the odour." That's before they even go into all the toxic chemicals ingredients in air fresheners (formadehyde, a carcinogen and sensitizer, naphthalene, a suspected carcinogen, xylene, a neurotoxin and possible reproductive toxin, butane gas, a neurotoxin, cresol, ethanol, phenol and strong fragrances... etc).

3. The hand soap. Long gone are the days when soap was just soap. Most commercial hand soap dispensers come with an ingredient list a mile long, and you'll need to have your copy of The Chemical Maze handy to interpret them. Now with Swine Flu people are much more likely to buy anti-bacterial hand soap, but of course H1N1 is a virus, not a bacteria, so it won't help, and antibacterial soaps are an unhealthy choice for several reasons, which you can read about here.

Interestingly enough, The Guide to Less Toxic Products states that "The US Center for Disease Control says that anti-bacterial soaps are not necessary. They recommend that the simplest and most effective thing people can do to reduce the spread of infectious disease is to use effective handwashing, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food. Proper handwashing means rubbing hands under running water for 15 seconds." This sounds like great advice to me, but I couldn't find it anywhere on the CDC website. I did find evidence of a CDC site on hand washing that had been "retired". Presumably this was where the advice that "anti-bacterial soaps are not necessary" came from. In its place I found the CDC's new "Ounce of Prevention" campaign, which has been kindly brought to us by Reckitt Benckiser. Who on Earth is Reckitt Benckiser you might be wondering? I'd never heard of them, but I was pretty sure they had no business funding public health campaigns for the CDC. Jumping on Wikipedia confirmed my suspicions.

Reckitt Benckiser are the makers of Lysol, among other highly toxic household chemical brands such as Finish, Vanish, Air Wick, Dettol, Cillit Bang, Harpic, Air Wick, Mortein, Mop & Glo, Mr. Sheen (etc, etc). For a full list scroll all the way down on this page.

I'm pretty pissed off at my government right now, for taking money (even if it is an "unrestricted educational grant toward the development of materials and programs") from the makers of so many toxic household chemicals, including Lysol, which is so clearly profiteering from Swine Flu Hysteria. Check out their website, it's fear-mongering at its most blatent.

But I digress. And I'm going to digress further still. I found a lovely little tidbit on wikipedia while researching Reckitt Benckiser and Lysol. Did you know that "In the US, from around 1930 to 1960, vaginal douching with a Lysol disinfectant solution was the most popular form of birth control"? If you don't believe me check out this Lysol Douche ad from 1948. I can only imagine the litany of health problems that would have been caused by regular douching with lysol?!

Ok so back to my original topic. So what do you use to replace the toxic toilet bowl cleaners, air fresheners and hand soaps?

That depends on how much money you want to spend. Most things can be kept clean and fresh with very simple and affordable items such as baking soda, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, etc. If you don't like the smell you can make a very dilute spray with some safe, certified organic essential oils. A nice, all-purpose product is Dr Bronner's Baby Mild Liquid Soap. You can use this to wash your hands, and anything else on your body or your house.

If you prefer something a bit more conventional, but non-toxic, then I recommend the miessence certified organic, refillable foaming hand soap, the certified organic Rainforest Air Freshener, and for cleaning the toilet (and every other part of your bathroom and kitchen) BioPure Probiotic Household Cleaning Concentrate. Instead of killing all the bugs, good and bad, BioPure populates household surfaces with friendly bugs, which means that the pathogenic bugs cannot survive. This is the safest and most effective way to keep your house clean.

I'm sorry that this post was so long, it turned into a bit of a tirade. And there's more to come, watch out for Part II...

The good new is, once you have gotten pregnant, Dr Mercola has a bunch of great tips on how to have a Naturally Healthy Pregnancy and Baby.