Saturday, June 27, 2009

A New Grandson

I haven't posted for several days because I've been in another state welcoming a new grandson into the family (and helping his family adjust to being four, instead of three). This baby is adopted, but his birth mom and his adopted mom (my daughter) have known each other for years. Both of them love this little boy and want what is best for him. Both have worked hard already to protect him from toxic substances and dangerous environmental influences.

This healthy little boy lives in a home where natural, unscented laundry and cleaning products are used. For however long he needs them, his soft little bottom will be cradled in cushioned cloth diapers. He sleeps wrapped in 100% cotton flannel swaddling blankets (made by Yours Truly), and, though he does get his nourishment from baby bottles, they are, of course, BPA-free. His parents can't put him in a bubble where nothing dangerous will ever reach him, but they will do whatever they can to ensure that he has the best chemical-free life possible.

Of course, it goes without saying, that no child will be more loved.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New Data on the Prevalence of Fragrance Sensitivity

An article in the March 2009 edition of the Journal of Environmental Health summarizes the results of a study done over several years' time concerning the number of people adversely affected by the chemicals in fragrances. Authors Stanley M. Caress and Anne C. Steinemann (an environmental engineer at the University of Washington) concluded that 30.5% of the general population report scented products on others to be irritating. That's nearly one in three people. So much for those claims by the fragrance producers that we will be more attractive to others if we use their products.

Anne C. Steinemann is the same scientist who conducted extensive research into the chemicals found in air fresheners and their effect on people who use them (see "Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients" in the January 2009 issue of Environmental Impact Assessment Review, pp 32-38). In that research she found that the largest contributors of VOCs to human exposure come from sources closest to us, particularly consumer products, most of which are unregulated and untested for human safety.

In their combined research, Caress and Steinemann found that 19% of people have adverse health effects from air fresheners, and 10.9% of people report irritation from scented laundry products which vent outside in residential areas. Symptoms reported include headaches, breathing difficulties and neurological ailments. These percentages reflect the general population. Among people with diagnosed asthma and/or chemical sensitivity, the percentages are much higher for "adverse health effects or irritation from fragranced products."

None of this comes as any surprise to those of us who struggle with chemical sensitivity, but it's nice to have some scientific research to back up what many consider only anecdotal evidence.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Black Thumb

Some people are said to have green thumbs; plants thrive in their care and they can grow anything. But I have a black thumb. If the care of our household plants (both inside and outside) were left up to me, they would all wither and die before I even noticed. (This has actually happened; it's not just speculation.) However, now that I've moved my home office to a warmer, sunnier room, I'm going to try adding plants again. An article that came through my email last week convinced me that it's worth the effort.

According to this article in The West Australian, new research indicates that even very small plants can improve the quality of indoor air by absorbing almost 100% of VOCs (those nasty volatile organic compounds derived from fossil fuels) found in the average home or office. In addition, it was found that "any plant will perform as well as others," according to Professor Margaret Burchett of University of Technology Sydney. She went on to say that plants' "role in removing CO2 from the air and adding oxygen means that they are the greenest way of improving indoor air quality."

So I found a pot in the garage (undoubtedly left over from some gift plant which met its demise under my hand), and I'm going to find a plant variety that doesn't need much care. An honored place in my new office is awaiting its arrival.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Au Naturelle

Yesterday one of my daughters, whose diet is even more restrictive than mine, exclaimed in frustration, "Sometimes I think it would be easier to just NOT eat!" I understand her sentiments exactly and often feel that way myself, not only about eating, but about other activities as well, including dressing. On days when my back injury is bothering me or I'm having an arthritic flare-up, clothing can be so uncomfortable. Add to that the challenge of buying clothes that aren't laced with chemicals or someone else's perfume, and one is almost persuaded to just go, as the the French would say, au naturelle.

Fortunately (not just for me, but for all my friends and family), I have been able to find other options than running off to join the Naturists. My most recent discovery is a small company in Seattle called Decent Exposures, which sells apparel for women and children (sorry, guys, you're out of luck) made from organic cotton or a cotton/polyester/Lycra blend. They are most well-known for their uniquely designed "unbra." All of their clothing is made-to-order, so they can accommodate odd shapes (like mine). Check them out at

For years, I have purchased most of my clothing second-hand, but my last couple of experiences with that have been less than positive, as one of our local thrift stores has started running all used clothing through a dryer with scented dryer sheets. We've quit shopping there, but we still run into the problem of smelly clothes, even if we buy them new. This brings me to my next great discovery, grapefruit seed extract. A small bottle of this concentrated liquid seems a little pricey, but just a few drops in the wash water with a batch of clothes is sufficient. I have found that if I use this in the wash, with or without baking soda, and then hang the suspect piece of clothing out in the sunshine to dry, I can eliminate all but the worst chemical/perfume odors.

The truth is that though I have a closet full of clothes, I really only wear about a half dozen outfits all the time--cotton knit pants with cotton sweatshirts in the winter and t-shirts in the summer. After all, comfort is the ultimate luxury.