Did you know that you go to battle each day against thousands of environmental pollutants that lurk not only in our air, our water and our soil, but also in the very products that we trust to keep our homes and bodies clean, moisturized and fresh?
Toxic personal care products
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) estimates that 25 percent of women use more than 15 products each day that contain over 126 different ingredients, with as many as one in five being carcinogenic.
As of today, our government does not require health studies or any pre-market testing of the chemicals in personal care products, even though we are ‘eating’ them on a daily basis. According to the Office of Cosmetics and Colors at the FDA, a cosmetic manufacturer can use almost any raw material in the making of a product without approval.
In an investigation of ingredients in 23,000 products, the EWG found that nearly one in every 30 products that was sold in the United States failed to meet one or more of the industry or governmental standards set by other countries.
In fact, over 400 products sold in our country contain dangerous chemicals that other countries do not allow. They also found 400 other products containing ingredients that the industry itself has deemed unsafe when used as directed on the label.
A study published in The FASEB Journal adds further evidence to what many people skeptical of the chemicals and pollutants swarming our modern world have long suspected: there really are no ‘safe’ levels of dangerous substances, especially in combination.
Household cleaners dangerous as well
According to the National Research Council, “less than 20 percent of chemicals in everyday use have been tested for acute effects and less than 10 percent have been tested for chronic, reproductive or mutagenic effects.”
The Toxic Substances Control Act (TCSA) was passed by Congress about 30 years ago, however, the testing of chemical compounds is very limited. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has only tested about 200 of the 80,000 chemicals that are found in home products, including cleaners.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that about one third of substances used by the fragrance industry are toxic. Moreover, fragrance manufacturers do not have to list the ingredients that they use on labels, as they are considered ‘trade secrets. ‘For this reason, be suspect of anything labeled ‘fragrance.’
According to the American Lung Association, “household cleaning agents that contain potentially harmful substances that contribute to indoor air pollution are wide-reaching and diverse.” They also explain that household cleaners can cause nausea, dizziness, allergic reactions, eye and skin irritation and respiratory problems, and have even been linked to some cancers.
A number of studies, including research published by the Washington Toxics Coalition, states that many conventional cleaning products may irritate the lungs, burn the eyes and skin, worsen asthma symptoms or even cause death.
Statistics compiled by the American Association of Poison Control Centers have found that 1.25 million children under age six are unintentionally poisoned every year by common household products.
Carpet, oven and other cleaners may contain toluene, chloride, formaldehyde, methylene, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde and nitrobenzene, and the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in these cleaners have been linked to asthma in children. Furthermore, a number of household cleaning products have been linked by some studies to leukemia in children.
According to the European Respiratory Journal, pregnant women who use household cleaners may be putting their children at a higher risk of developing asthma. The Environmental Working Group has found 232 different industrial chemicals and pollutants in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies.
Baking soda to the rescue
Not only can baking soda replace many harsh household products, but it also deserves some space in your cosmetic bag. Using baking soda in place of some dangerous commercial products is a great way not only to stay toxin-free, but also a way to help reduce environmental toxins.
What exactly is baking soda?
Many of you may have been using baking soda around your home for years without ever even knowing what it is. We did a little digging to uncover the mystery. Turns out that sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) is a chemical salt that, in its natural form, is the mineral nahcolite. Baking soda can react as both an acid and a base, although in an aqueous solution it is a bit on the alkaline side.
Pure nahcolite is found in abundance in the Green River Basin which cuts through several states in the central part of our country. A number of commercial companies mine nahcolite directly from the ground and sell it as a raw product, while others heat and treat it with chemicals and then sell it.
Either way, both methods produce an environmentally friendly product. The only caution we have for consumers is to stick to an aluminum-free brand of baking soda when possible.
Sodium bicarbonate helps to regulate pH. It keeps substances from being too acidic or too alkaline. Its ability to neutralize the pH of any substance it comes in contact with makes it highly effective for so many things. Baking soda can also help keep pH balance steady – a process known as buffering.
It is both the neutralizing and buffering capabilities of baking soda that allows it to work so well on acidic odors like those found in your refrigerator, and also keep your pH neutral like it does in the laundry water to boost the power of detergent.
Here are nine ways you can put baking soda to work for you today:
Baking soda mixed with a little warm water is an excellent exfoliator for the face and other parts of the body. The baking soda will smooth the skin, remove dead skin cells and leave your skin feeling fresh and vibrant. You can even dab a little paste on acne spots. It will help to draw out toxins and reduce redness.
Gout is a very painful and uncomfortable condition that is caused by uric acid that is overproduced by the body until it builds up to very high levels and settles in the joints. This causes painful swelling and inflammation. Mix two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice with a teaspoon of baking soda and drink up! The baking soda will alkalinize the urine and neutralize the uric acid.
Wash fruits and vegetables
Baking soda is a safe way to remove dirt and residue from fresh fruit and vegetables. Sprinkle a little on a clean sponge, scrub and rinse.
Rid hair of build-up
If you use a lot of product in your hair and want the true “squeaky clean” feel, try baking soda. Combine one tablespoon of baking soda with one cup of warm water and apply to damp hair. Comb through and rinse well.
Clean coffee and tea pots
To remove tea and coffee stains and reduce bitter taste left in mugs, use a solution of ¼ cup baking soda and 1 quart warm water. Some stubborn stains may require overnight soaking in the solution or some scrubbing with a soft sponge. Either way, you are left with a sparkling clean coffee pot and mugs.
To remove dirt and grime without scratching no-wax and tile floors, mix ½ cup baking soda in a bucket with warm water and scrub. Rinse clean after scrubbing. To remove scuff marks, put a little baking soda on a damp sponge, scrub lightly and rinse.
Nothing neutralizes odors better than baking soda. To keep your tub and sink drains smelling fresh, pour ½ cup of baking soda down the drain while running some warm tap water down the drain. You can also pour some down your garbage disposal and run some warm water while running your disposal. Add a little baking soda to your dishwashing detergent to help fight stubborn stains and bacteria.
Ease itchiness and swelling
Skip the commercial creams and lotions and try baking soda for your itchy or irritated skin. You can ease uncomfortable itchiness and swelling from poison ivy or oak, as well as bug bites, with a little baking soda. Make a paste with a little baking soda and water and apply to the irritated area. This will work for bee stings and chicken pox as well.
Why pay a whole lot of money for a variety of different products to clean your car when all you need is a box of baking soda? You can use baking soda to clean the lights, windows, tires, floor mats, vinyl seats and more without fear of scratch marks. Simply mix ¼ cup baking soda in 1 quart of warm water and apply with a clean soft rag or sponge. For really difficult stains, use a soft brush.
The next time you are at the store and you pass the baking soda, think twice. It may be inexpensive and seemingly unworthy, but in reality, baking soda is a wise, environmentally friendly and healthy thing to stock up on.