Appeal to your representative Senators!

Toxic chemicals surround us. We envelope ourselves and our children in toxic perfumed laundry detergents; we smear our bodies and hair with untested creams, gels and shampoos. We further damage our health with pesticides used in lawn and garden care, and in agriculture. It is time for legislation to replace the never adequate and very outdated Toxics Substances Control Act. To view each entry, just click on the title or link(s) within each entry.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rounding Up Those Weeds with Glyphosate? Er, do you know the Health Risks?

If you have never used synthetic herbicides, don't start now! If you do use the product Roundup which contains glyphosate along with unknown other chemicals (trade secrets, concoctions that can be more toxic than the listed active ingredients!), you are exposing yourself and others to serious health issues such as liver damageParkinson's Disease, cancers and neurological disorders, endocrine disruption, infertility... And, you may want to rethink how to deal with the weeds. Roundup, just as with other pesticides/herbicides, drifts by way of air (slight breezes even) and water-- it easily gets into your drinking water. Yes, even when you spray it on your lawn weeds, away from water sources, these pesticides get into ground water which eventually enters our water treatment plants or wells. Roundup is even carried to our precious natural water resources-- rivers, ponds and lakes that we like to think are not tainted with unsafe chemicals.  

I have personally taken care of crab grass by pulling it out by hand which is easily accomplished when the ground is wet. For other "weeds", I have found a simple mix of water and white vinegar to do the trick-- just with a couple of applications sprayed on during sunny days, for perhaps 2-3 days in a row. Apply in the morning to allow this natural formula to do its thing all day long.

Other ways to get rid of "weeds": Douse them with boiling hot water. Some lawn services have been torching them. And of course, mowing them, before they flower, keeps them from spreading. I generally leave some dandelions for soil health but clip off the flowers. Please see below for some of the most current information about Roundup and its connection with major health concerns.

Heavy use of the world's most popular herbicide, Roundup, could be linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson's, infertility and cancers, according to a new study.

The peer-reviewed report, published last week in the scientific journal Entropy, said evidence indicates that residues of "glyphosate," the chief ingredient in Roundup weed killer, which is sprayed over millions of acres of crops, has been found in food.
Those residues enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease, according to the report, authored by Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Anthony Samsel, a retired science consultant from Arthur D. Little, Inc. Samsel is a former private environmental government contractor as well as a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body," the study says.

For information regarding the complex aspects of Roundup's toxic makeup:

Very low doses of some types of the herbicide Roundup can disrupt human liver cell function; the formulations' toxicity may be tied to their "inactive" ingredients rather than the active weed-killing ingredient glyphosate.              

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why Support something like The Chemical Safety Improvement Act

Why Support a safe chemicals act?

For starters, The American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the Late Senator Frank Lautenberg's (NJ) and  Senator Kristen Gillibrand's (NYSafe Chemicals Act (now being called The Chemical Safety Improvement Act), to finally bring legitimate oversight to over 80,000 untested chemicals in our marketplace --permitted by the EPA. The newest draft will replace the very outdated Toxic Substances Control Act which is over 40 years old and has always been woefully inadequate in protecting our health from manufactured toxins. Our stores are brimming over with everyday products that contain very harmful chemicals--  shampoos, soaps, skin lotions, and detergents, weed and feed lawn formulas, furniture and foods!

Why to Avoid Lawn/Garden and other Untested Synthetic Pesticides:

The Natural Resources Defense Council's most recent findings that we have been using over 10,000 toxic pesticides that have not been tested or have been under-tested:

"The report outlines how the EPA has used what is known as conditional registration—which Congress intended to be used sparingly—to grant approval for the majority of pesticides. It also reveals that the EPA cannot easily track the history of conditionally approved pesticides to determine whether required toxicity data was submitted, whether that caused a dangerous use of a pesticide to be cancelled, or whether the uses or restrictions should be modified based in such data.

“The American public may think all pesticides receive rigorous health and safety testing before they hit the shelves for sale. But our investigation shows their trust is misplaced,” said Jennifer Sass, NRDC senior health scientist and co-author of the report. “The EPA has casually approved more than 10,000 pesticides for use in consumer products and in agriculture through this loophole. They’ve done so without transparency or public comment, and, in some cases, without toxicity tests to determine safety guidelines for public use.”

Co-author Mae Wu, NRDC attorney, said: “For the sake of our health, the EPA should cancel conditional pesticide registrations with overdue toxicity tests and those that pose a risk to the public. And EPA needs to clean up its abysmal pesticide database to provide more transparency and accountability, and safeguards for public health.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics is very concerned about pesticide use in and around the home and they are recommending that people avoid their use, especially near children.
Neonatologist, Paul Winchester at University of Indiana School of Medicine states in a discussion at Beyond Pesticide's 28th National Pesticide Forum in Ohio, April 2010:
" Basically this is what we have learned, just so we do not have to argue whether pesticides are in your body or in your water. That is the "we hold these truths to be self-evident" part... We know from extensive research that pesticides and contaminants are in all of us all the time; We also know that it is not just one pesticide that we are contaminated with, it is a mixture of chemicals. We also know that the contaminants that we are loaded with- and this includes the 247 molecules found in every single newborn baby born in America-each one of them is known to cause biological effects at very low doses; And the final truth is that our regulatory agencies have told us that we are safe."  
He goes on to say that "when the EPA requires testing of a product for safety, tests are performed on a single molecule, never the mixture combinations in your body." "These environmental factors--weed killer, fungicide insecticide, air pollution... -- are the list of things we have to worry about during pregnancy or conception. All of these have now been shown to be capable of imprinting DNA, which means they are potentially capable of altering our adult life, the spectrum of disease, and our descendants' lives. I was thinking of 'inherit the wind' here, but it really should be 'inherit the weed killer." 

From the US National Library of Medicine  and National Institutes of Health:

This report has shown that during the period from 1996 to 2002 women in the United States with LMPs in April–July (i.e. the time of conception) were significantly more likely to have a live birth with a birth defect than in other months. The report further demonstrates, using NAWQA surface water samples that concentrations of atrazine, nitrates and other pesticides also were higher in the months of April–July. The correlation between birth defects, pesticides and nitrates was statistically significant.

Pesticides and nitrates, separately and in combination, have been linked to embryo toxicity and to untoward outcomes of pregnancy (,). Women's pesticide exposures through household gardening, professional application or living in close proximity to agricultural crops were associated with increased risks of offspring having neural tube defects and limb anomalies (). Garry et al. found that in western Minnesota the rate of specific birth defects was elevated in pesticide applicators as well as the general population of western Minnesotans and that this risk was most pronounced for infants conceived in the spring (). Specific birth defect categories showing significant increased risk in Garry's study were circulatory/respiratory, urogenital and musculoskeletal/integumental which are similar to the categories found in our study. Schreinemachers et al. found that infants in four wheat-producing states conceived in April–June, the time of herbicide application, were more likely to have circulatory/respiratory (excluding heart) malformations compared with births conceived during other months. She also found that counties with high wheat acreage had higher rates of heart malformations, musculoskeletal/integumental anomalies and infant death from congenital anomalies in males ().
2,4-D, the main herbicide in most synthetic weed and feed products is an Endocrine Disruptor as well as a Reproductive toxin. It is linked with neurotoxicity, and organ damage and cancer. It is toxic to animals, fish, worms and insects. It is what the herbicide Atrazine is to Agriculture with similar adverse health effects to humans.

The EPA says that 2,4-D is irritating to the eyes, skin and mucous membrane and since it is easily absorbed dermally or by inhalation, can injure liver, kidney, muscle and brain tissues. Acute symptoms of exposure include: chest and abdominal pain, vomiting, dizziness and muscle twitching, tenderness or stiffness (U.S. EPA 1982). Studies in rats have demonstrated that 2,4-D can migrate into nervous tissue and concentrate in certain areas of the brain. Not too surprisingly, behavioral changes have also been observed in treated rats (Evangelista de Duffard 1990). In humans, seemingly minor dermal exposures have been known to cause peripheral neuropathy (irreversible loss of feeling in the extremities). Depression, lethargy and coma have also been documented in animals and humans.     
Finally, from the Toxics Action Center which works to keep environmental and human health safe from exposures to toxins, in this case, from lawn chemicals:
 Even though these pesticides are proven to be hazardous to public health and the environment, USEPA’s pesticide regulatory system has put its stamp of approval on the use of these pesticides. Although a growing pool of research links exposure to the pesticides used by TruGreen ChemLawn to nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and headaches and chronic illnesses like lymphoma, leukemia, bladder cancer, and learning disabilities, the USEPA continues to register these pesticides for commercial and residential use.
Some hospitals are opting to change grounds care to alternative, safe, organic methods-- they are finally making the connection between exposures to pesticides and illnesses. There is great urgency in changing protocol; present and future human health is at great risk from exposures to toxins in lawn and other pesticides. "Homeowners use up to 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre on their lawns than farmers use on crops." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 35 municipalities in New Jersey have bans on synthetic pesticide use on public properties. Connecticut and New York have restrictions at the state level and Maine and Massachusetts look ready to have state restrictions on weed and feed use on school grounds, playing fields and parks. Many people are simply just opting to use what they know is safe. The manufacturers of lawn and garden as well as other synthetic pesticides cannot legally call them "safe". The purveyors of the pesticides cannot legally call them "safe." In New Hampshire, only one person oversees the licensed lawn chemical applicators and often, these businesses "treat" lawns and land in windy conditions which is not in accordance with training and regulations.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Safe-- non-toxic, Cleaning with Basics


"No law requires the disclosure of all ingredients in consumer products, or of any ingredients in a product's "fragrance," which is typically a mixture of several dozen to several hundred chemicals, most synthetic.[iii] Ingredient disclosure requirements depend on the product. For air fresheners, laundry supplies, cleaners, and other products regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, ingredients do not need to be fully listed on either the label or the material safety data sheet (MSDS), not even the presence of a "fragrance." For personal care products, cosmetics, and other products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, ingredients need to be listed on the label, but not the MSDS. For all products, the general term "fragrance" can be listed on the label, or a related term (such as "perfume"), rather than any of the specific ingredients in a fragrance."  Anne Steinemann, PhD.

People have been asking me what I recommend for an all around safe and good household cleaning mix. For kitchen, bathrooms and vinyl or tile flooring, I recommend the following.


1/4 Cup Baking Soda (Cleans and lifts stains)
1/2 Cup White Vinegar (Antibacterial and fights germs and molds)
1 Tablespoon Unscented Castile Soap (for dirt removal)
1/2 Gallon of HOT Water.

Note: Take care when cleaning floors with this mix. Sometimes, you will want to use a bit less of the Castile Soap as it can make the floors slippery. Always re-mop floors with either water or a water with a bit of vinegar after the initial mopping with this formula.

Note: This mix is excellent for toilet bowls. I just drop the baking soda, vinegar and Castile Soap directly in the toilet bowl and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before brushing.

Note: For removing grease from pans, this works great; too. I simply add perhaps 1/8 cup of vinegar, 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda and a teaspoon or so of Castile Soap to the pan and let it soak before scrubbing.

FOR WINDOWS AND MIRRORS and some surfaces:

Vinegar and Water   


Place a small amount of olive oil on a clean cloth and gently polish surface.


Unscented Castile Soap in Warm Water.


Ultra Ecos Free and Clear which does not contain Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) but this is quite expensive. It is "ideal for HE machines". Seventh Generation Free and Clear has Sodium Laurel Sulfate but assures that it is safe.

Or, make your own which is very easy and cost effective:

1 cup Baking Soda at the start of the wash cycle.
Add 1 cup of white distilled vinegar with the baking soda for extra dirty loads.

Or: Borax-- 1 Cup and can mix in Baking Soda for dirtier loads.
Or: Arm and Hammer Washing Soda, 1 Cup but do not add Baking Soda.

This handy advice from: Grandma's Cupboard!


Earth Friendly Products' DuoDish Free and Clear-- Does not contain 1,4-Dioxane, phosphate, petrochemical or formaldehyde. Also, does not contain sodium laurel sulfate. But, it does not foam. It appears to be best when mixed with UNSCENTED LIQUID CASTILE SOAP.

Links From Physicians for Social Responsibility in Support of Safe Cleaning and Personal Care Products:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Most Chemicals in Everyday Products Have not Been Tested and the Same Applies to Synthetic Pesticides

I whole-heartedly endorse the Safe Chemicals Act mentioned in Ian Urbina's  April 13, 2013 New York Times article, THINK THOSE CHEMICALS HAVE BEEN TESTED.  But, I take issue with the presumption that pesticides are tested and safe for the marketplace.  If the synthetic pesticides are “safe”, why are they banned or regulated for “cosmetic” lawn care in most of Canada and Europe? Why do various states like New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey have laws regarding their use on school grounds, public parks and playing fields? Why are Harvard and the University of Colorado at Boulder and other colleges as well as various cities, school systems and finally, hospitals not using traditional chemical grounds care?! It can, indeed, be said that like with the majority of chemicals in use today, the same holds true of most pesticides—that they have never been tested independently as well as together! The American Academy of Pediatrics warns about pesticide use: 

Pesticides are a collective term for chemicals intended to kill unwanted insects, plants, molds, and rodents. Children encounter pesticides daily and have unique susceptibilities to their potential toxicity. Acute poisoning risks are clear, and understanding of chronic health implications from both acute and chronic exposure are emerging. Epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems. Related animal toxicology studies provide supportive biological plausibility for these findings. Recognizing and reducing problematic exposures will require attention to current inadequacies in medical training, public health tracking, and regulatory action on pesticides. Ongoing research describing toxicologic vulnerabilities and exposure factors across the life span are needed to inform regulatory needs and appropriate interventions.

Public health is at great risk and it is high time we put our heads together to regulate the chemical industry. We have rules for just about every aspect of our  lives and yet we have been permitting toxic pesticides, and chemicals in general, to be manufactured and used despite their huge cost to society. All of us, businesses included, will benefit from having safer alternatives in the marketplace.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tried and True, Natural Lawn Care

As home owners, my husband and I always opted out of the use of lawn chemicals. We didn't know much about them and that, precisely, is the point. We instinctively felt that there were too many unknowns. A healthy lawn is the product of healthy soil. There is a symbiotic relationship between the lawn vegetation and the soil that supports it and that it supports.

Through the years, we found that less is best and keeping things simple actually works. Our lawns in general could easily look very presentable, at very low cost, with these few smart cultural practices:

1. Aeration, as needed and very necessary especially for the chemically compacted lawn. Rent an aerating machine or hire someone to do your lawn and get more savings by encouraging neighbors to join in. This is not expensive and it is a great way to improve soil health; and, it assists with over-seeding.

2. Over-seeding with a mix of local grasses and white clover. (Clover is evergreen and drought resistant. Having one grass seed type is not sustainable.) Picture a tree plantation where every tree is the same such as with a fast growing pine. What are the implications? Is it a healthy forest with healthy soil? Now, picture a healthy forest with a variety of trees; oaks, maples, pines, hemlock, birches; this is what you want for a good lawn. More good plant growth crowds out unwanted weeds. Early Fall is best time to seed but when starting out with a needy lawn, spring aeration, compost top-dressing and compost tea along with seeding will be helpful.

3. Mulch-mowing-- leaving the short (1/2 inch) grass clippings which in turn assist with water retention, and microbial and plant health while returning nitrogen to the soil. We use a Fiscar's Reel Push Mower that mulches our small yard.

4. Mowing Height-- Keep the Grass height at 3- 3 1/2 inches.

5. Composting with either or both organic compost topsoil or  organic compost tea (the tea is less expensive and more practical for larger areas). Make sure to get the compost from a reliable source!

6. Soil Testing  If you have a reliable and knowledgeable local organic lawn professional assisting in the beginning, he or she will want the soil test. We did not go with testing with any of our previously chemically treated lawns and we did fine with just these basic practices. Lime may be good at times, but it is very important to have the soil ph tested first. We have rarely used lime and have had good results. Note: Not all lime is equal and it is good to consult with an organic farmer's association for proper type for your area.

7. Leave some dandelions as they actually help with soil health; same with plantains ( a broadleaf). To keep the dandelion population down, dig out most but leave some and just clip off the yellow flowers before they go to seed! If your lawn is loaded with dandelions, the soil is telling you something and more work will be required.  Know that moss grows for a reason-- probably best to just let it be but if you must get rid of it, you can get the soil more bacterial and less fungal with the right type of organic compost top-dress and compost tea. Our source here in NH is reliable but buyer beware; know what you need and good advice may be found by speaking with someone who is NOFA (Northeast Organic Farmer's Association), certified. Of course, when living outside of New England, find someone in your area who is trained in organic lawn care.)

8. Apply Organic fertilizer such as soybean meal (after aeration and before applying organic compost top-dress or compost tea), in the spring and fall, especially when converting the lawn from years of chemicals.

Our current lawn has been off lawn chemicals for 8 years and it had only 1 1/2 seasons with compost and compost tea. It has had several years of aeration and over-seeding and two seasons with mulch-mowing. We have never applied any fertilizers on the lawn and are still very pleased that it looks better than most lawns. We rely on rain and snow melt for water because with good soil, there is good water retention and with a mix of local grasses that are properly mown, there are deeper plant roots. This spring, we will be mowing only since the lawn is working well on its own.

The link below from Toxics Action Center is quite good at explaining things in more depth. Plus, it contains facts for why we should not use weed and feed products for our lawn care. I found it interesting that they say that lawns rarely need lime.  Note: Save time and money by planting more trees, bushes, and rock gardens with herbs and flowers, not to mention vegetables for bees and other pollinators.

Even though these pesticides are proven to be hazardous to public health and the environment, USEPA’s pesticide regulatory system has put its stamp of approval on the use of these pesticides. Although a growing pool of research links exposure to the pesticides used by TruGreen ChemLawn to nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and headaches and chronic illnesses like lymphoma, leukemia, bladder cancer, and learning disabilities, the USEPA continues to register these pesticides for commercial and residential use.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Ditch Conventional, Unhealthy Chemical Shampoos and Conditioners!

Ditch your toxic, chemical- loaded conventional shampoos and conditioners for this basic and very safe formula that also happens to be very very low cost! Furthermore, this shampoo happens to be so good at what it does that a conditioner is no longer necessary unless perhaps you have ultra-chemically treated hair. Here it is and please, tell me what you think! We love the Basic Shampoo in this household and a little goes a long way! Note: you will notice immediate favorable results and the rest of your skin will be healthier, too.

Basic Shampoo (For most hair types):

1/4 Cup Filtered (Brita works well) Water
1/4 Cup Organic Unscented Liquid Castile Soap
1/2 Teaspoon Organic Canola Oil or other mild, light Vegetable Oil.


Dry Hair Shampoo:

6 oz Unscented Organic Castile Soap
1/2 tsp Avocado Oil
1 tsp Coconut Oil