Category Archives: Positive Actions You Can Take

How to Stop Poisoning Yourself

Part 1: Personal Care Products

Well, hey, sometimes we’ve just got to take a clear-eyed look at some things. And when it comes to our health and that of our children, we need to not only see things the way they are, we need to take matters into our own hands to solve them.

Of course, we can debate whether science proves this or that, or whether we should trust our government to protect us from toxic exposure. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. If the chemical skeptics are even half right, staying away from synthetic chemicals is a net win for you. And if they’re later proven to be totally right (as they have been so many times before … added nicotine, DDT, RoundUp, just to name a few off the top of my head), then you’ll thank yourself for making the wise choice now. And that choice is to stop poisoning yourself.

So, I’m going to start with personal care items. I’m including things like lotions, shampoos, nail polish removers, deodorants, sunscreens, toothpastes, perfumes, and so on. I’m also including cosmetics. Listen: most of this stuff is super-toxic. The problem is that cosmetics and personal care items fall into a no-man’s land of the U.S regulatory space, so there’s really no agency that oversees what manufacturers put into them. Luckily, the Environmental Working Group has stepped in to fill the breach. Don’t take my word for it, just go to their website and look up the products you use in their easy-to-search database. You’ll see what you’re putting on your skin, and in your body, and you won’t like it. Here’s the link.

I did it, and it kind of sucked. I was in denial for a while, as many of my favorite products ranked pretty poorly for toxicity. But I gradually started to assimilate my new reality — one without most commercial personal care products. And I started to look for alternatives.

Even if you aren’t motivated to protect your own health by looking for alternatives, at least look up the products you use on your kids and babies. Some of them are not so bad, but some of them (even brands that claim to be “natural”) are pretty darn bad. I did this, and ended up throwing out several almost-full bottles of supposedly all-natural baby care products that I couldn’t even bear to give to friends because I didn’t want to poison their babies either. Be sure to check out your kids’ shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and sunscreen, for starters. I  can tell you right off the bat that two brands of baby stuff are safe: California Baby and Earth Mama Angel Baby. I have found these at Babies R Us, so they’re fairly easy to find. And good ole coconut oil is always nontoxic and so safe for your kids … you can use a tiny bit to detangle hair or moisturize skin.

And if anyone in your family uses nail polish or gets mani/pedis, read this quick link. You gotta know this stuff to protect your family.

So here are some alternatives I’ve found for my own personal care products.

Deodorant: Easily make your own from inexpensive ingredients. Here’s one I found that works great for me (and I’ve never found a “natural” deodorant that would work for me). This one even works for the guys who have tried it. I used Recipe #2 on this site. So easy, even I couldn’t mess it up. Took like two minutes. I halved the recipe, so the ingredients probably cost no more than $1. And it has lasted a few months so far. Crazy cheap and effective.

Lotion: Coconut oil. Virgin if you like coconut scent, refined if you want no smell. A large tub of coconut oil can be found for about $10 … compare that to a bottle of lotion, plus the coconut oil lasts way longer. It’s not diluted with water like most lotions, so you don’t have to use much. I even use a little on my face. It does not clog pores and may even have slight antibacterial properties. Plus it leaves my cheeks super soft.

Shampoo: There are people out there going “no ‘poo” but I’m just not ready. Maybe I’ll experiment with it later. You can google “no poo experiment” and find lots of bloggers who’ve done it if you want to get crazy with it. My solution is to buy Lush shampoo bars online. They’re super sudsy, make your scalp and hair feel great, and they’re so nontoxic, you could basically eat them. Also they’re way cheaper than bottled shampoo.

Conditioner: I’ve been going back and forth between a couple of things. Both work pretty well. Basically, I use no conditioner in the shower. Then after I’ve dried my hair a little, I either rub a tiny bit of coconut oil in my hands and smooth into my hair, or I use a little bit of Aveda’s argan oil throughout my hair. (I am not sure how great the argan oil is, since it has not been reviewed in the Skin Deep database yet.) Both of these methods leave my hair pretty soft and controlled. Everyone’s hair is so different that you just have to experiment at a time when you are willing to risk a bad hair day. But you might end up with the best hair day ever, who knows?

Soap/body wash: Dr. Bronner’s. Easy.

Manicures/pedicures: gave them up. Nail salons are basically toxic chemical stews, mostly unregulated and never well-ventilated. You can tell just from walking in that it’s not good to breathe that air — kind of smells like the pesticide aisle at the hardware store. There are a couple of less-toxic nail polish brands you can find at natural food stores … I have a crazy little kid so my nails aren’t too much of a priority for me right now, but I may look into these brands more later.

Toothpaste: I’m still on Tom’s of Maine. It’s available everywhere and I like the taste. Most of their toothpastes rank very low for toxicity. There are definitely DIY options to look into. I just haven’t made it there yet, and I’m not sure I will, since Tom’s seems OK.

Lip balm: old standby, coconut oil.

I think that’s about it, so far. I am in no need of sunscreen for a few months, so I’ll check into that a little later. I did look into the sunscreen we bought for the kid, and the Badger Baby sunscreen was super safe. Whole Foods and the like carry it —  or there’s always Amazon.

I don’t wear makeup except for special occasions. When I do, it’s always Aveda … and I don’t know much about Aveda products since they’re not listed on the website. They advertise that they’re nontoxic though, so I’m going with that for now, until I know better. I’ll update this if I find out more.

So, today was Personal Care. Here’s some topics for posts I’ll be doing in the next couple of weeks:

  • Cleaning Supplies
  • Your Food and Water – including why you have GOT TO get rid of that non-stick cookware.
  • Chemicals Around the House – garden stuff, pet stuff, paints, flooring, fabrics, air fresheners, etc.





Beautiful Video: A Love Letter to America’s Wilderness

So, this video is pretty inspirational:

What a lot of people don’t know is that much of the funding for the US to conserve these incredible places comes from a pool of money called the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It was established over 50 years ago. It takes money that the government charges oil and gas companies for the right to operate offshore drilling platforms, and turns it into a fund to create national parks, forest, wildlife refuges, and so forth, and to protect them from development along their borders.

Each year, the fund provides about $900 million dollars, but Congress has habitually siphoned off most of the money for other uses, leaving only $100 million or so for land protection.

And now, the Fund has expired. Congress is working to renew it, but some in the House are trying to gut the law and make it even less potent than it was before. You can contact your senators and representative and ask them to fully reauthorize the LWCF.

There’s a lot more information about the LWCF here.

Neurotoxic Chemical to Be Banned from Farm Use

Chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxic pesticide that has been shown to cause brain damage in children, including reduced IQ, delayed development, and memory loss, will be banned under a newly proposed EPA rule. Strong scientific evidence shows that adults are also poisoned by this chemical, whose use in the home has been banned since 2000. Now the EPA has finally responded to a 2007 court order to evaluate the possibility of banning chlorpyrifos altogether.

It will now be prohibited from use on agricultural fields. As a result, it must no longer show up as a residue on food, drift to populated locations, such as schools and homes, or contaminate drinking water.

The EPA will receive comments on this proposed rule until January 5, 2016. After that date, it will finalize the rule and its provisions will go into effect. You can comment on the proposed rule here.

Read more at Earthjustice here.

Things Are Looking Up for Orcas

Two representatives from California have introduced legislation into the U.S. House of Representatives that would eventually end orca (killer whale) captivity across the nation. Known as the ORCA Act (Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement), the law would ban breeding of captive orcas, capture of wild orcas, and import or export of orcas for public display purposes.

If you support this law, you can call, write, or email (calling is easiest, and probably most effective) your representative and ask him or her to support the ORCA Act. Here is a quick, easy zipcode lookup for your congressperson.

This comes on the heels of other good news:

SeaWorld San Diego just announced that it will be ending its captive orca shows (SeaWorld San Antonio and Orlando will continue their orca shows for now). The whales will continue to be held for display, and will likely perform in a show that is more conservation-oriented, and not based on tricks. Activists would like to see the orcas released from captivity altogether. But this is a good start, indicating that Sea World is starting to bow to the public pressure against its orca shows that has increased since the release of the film Blackfish in 2013. (Thanks to Netflix for streaming it!)

I recently posted that California Coastal Commission approved an expansion of the San Diego SeaWorld’s orca tank while at the same time, banning SeaWorld from breeding its captive orcas. If this rule stands (SeaWorld has announced plans to sue the Coastal Commission), then the 11 orcas currently in captivity in San Diego will be the last.

I also posted that endangered orcas off the coast of Washington state are in the middle of a baby boom, with six newborns and, apparently, several more pregnant mamas in the group. Of course, these new babies will need to eat once they’re weaned off their mothers’ milk, so we need to make sure that their favorite fish, salmon, is abundant. A good step would be to take down four dams that are blocking some of the best inland salmon habitat in the U.S. This not a short-term goal, but since orcas can live to be 100 years old or more, we must think ahead!

Read the Seattle Post-Intelligencer article here.

Cool Video: Take Down Those Dams!

I recently wrote about the Pacific Northwest’s endangered orca baby boom. Last time I checked, the Puget Sound orca population (off the Washington coast) had welcomed six newborns, with all appearances indicating that more female whales are pregnant. Woohoo! But, not to be too much of a downer, orcas need salmon to thrive. And salmon can’t thrive without free-flowing rivers and good habitat for breeding.

For over 10 years, the federal courts have ordered federal agencies to consider tearing down four dams in particular that are preventing the recovery of the salmon population in this area. These four dams block the lower Snake River. If they were removed, it would be a great help to the endangered salmon.

The really nice HuffPost article linked below tells you everything you need to know about this issue.

Read the article and sign the petition to remove the dams here

U.S. House Passes Badly Needed Anti-Poaching Bill

Legislation cracking down on international wildlife trafficking and supporting park rangers in Africa sailed through the House of Representatives yesterday with strong bipartisan support. Putting wildlife trafficking crimes on par with gun and drug trafficking, the bill would also allow the government to put much greater pressure on nations where poaching is rampant. It also provides support for front-line rangers to prevent poaching in African nations.

You can call on your senators to support the Global Anti-Poaching Act as it moves to the U.S. Senate next.

Easy link to find your senators’ phone numbers.

Read more at Defenders of Wildlife.

Take Action: Obama Calls for Congress to Reauthorize Land & Water Conservation Fund

” ‘For 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped millions of Americans in every corner of the nation get outdoors and enjoy open spaces in their local communities and in our national parks,’ said Jamie Williams, president of The Wilderness Society. ‘We are grateful to the many Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill who are fighting to save this program, and we applaud President Obama for reiterating his support.

A clean, healthy environment is an issue that we should be able to agree on. LWCF keeps our outdoors accessible and magical—counting midnight stars, hearing a coyote howl or paddling a quiet river—these are experiences Americans yearn for that we owe our current and future generations.

Americans deserve real conservation leadership which means doing the right thing today so our grandchildren don’t have to suffer from smoggy air, polluted waterways and landscapes devoid of wildlife.’ ”

View the video/take action here