Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chemicals, chemicals everywhere


I've been slowly changing my mindset concerning health, cleanliness, and the environment. While striving for health, cleanliness, and taking care of the environment are no-brainers, exactly how to accomplish these tasks and what they REALLY mean is another story.

For one, I used to think medicines were usually the way to go to be healthiest. After 2.5 years on a drug that kept my daughter from getting enough sleep, doing who knows what damage to her brain, I will never just accept drugs without much research and questions and will always think about medications concerning behavior.

Cleanliness and the environment go hand-in-hand. Much of what we use to stay "clean" has negative affects for our environment. Chlorine bleach! Ugh. I've switched to Seventh Generation products which contain no chemicals that are harmful for people or the environment.

Chemical Free Kids is such a great book! I thought it would just tell me things I already knew, like using safe cleaning products, and removing shoes upon entering the house. But it gave so much scientific information about chemicals in our food, and it's not just pesticides, and how they affect our bodies and minds. There is a whole chapter devoted to pesticides with some pretty horrible stories of bad things happening to children and families exposed to these chemicals, including a little girl dying. Other than that much of the information is very positive and not meant to scare the crap out of you. The information is so good, I'm going to read it again because I'm sure I missed things the first time through.

Now, present day dilemma: My 6 year old daughter S used to get little cuts and sores in her mouth. I thought they were maybe from chips cutting her. Then, when she had a canker sore at the beach, my mom pointed out that lots of people are sensitive to SLS in toothpaste and SLS can cause sores in the mouth. So, we switched her to SLS-free toothpaste and she's been free of sores since! A few days ago I noticed she had a very flaky patch on her scalp with terrible dandruff in her hair. Here is the proof that it's difficult to change how we've grown to think. My first thought was, oh, now I might have to get her some Head n' Shoulders. But, since I just finished the aforementioned book, I immediately thought, wait, what could be causing this? I went and looked at our shampoos and saw they contained a relative of SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), SLES (sodium laureth sulfate). I've researched it online and found that it can cause inflammation and irritation of the scalp. I'm pretty sure that's what has caused this patch on her. I even read that men and women suffering from hair loss shouldn't use shampoo with SLES because the inflammation it causes can damage hair follicles leading to hair loss. I know I pull out big clumps of hair much of the time when I wash. I assume it's because I don't brush my curly hair, but it could also be because of SLES. My husband gets a patch of flaky skin on his scalp in the front and we've noticed that it has also gotten thinner there in the last couple years. He thought washing his hair MORE would help get rid of the itchy, flaky patch, but that hasn't helped. I have heard and read that hair should be washed less frequently than most Americans do to have a healthier scalp and healthier looking (since hair's dead) hair. But if we got rid of the damaging chemicals in shampoo, then we could wash every day without worry!

Now I'm searching the net for SLES/SLS-free shampoo for ALL of us to use. Why should we continue to put unnecessary chemicals on our skin. Some sources even say it can be absorbed by our skin and is not easily metabolized by our livers, which leads to a build up in our systems. One source said it's linked to increased levels of oestrogen which has been linked to cancer. Of course, everything that is possibly unhealthy eventually gets linked to cancer in one way or another. I'm not getting worried about that, because cancer is such an enigma when it comes to causes and cures. What I am focused on is keeping known chemicals from entering mine and my family's bodies. It's amazing how much is out there and marketed to children as safe, fun, and healthy. Blech.

Another tidbit of information from the book: Noxzema and Ben-gay can be used as mosquito repellent! I always hated spraying bug repellent on my kids and have only done it maybe 3 times because it's sooooo poisonous!

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