Sleeping Organic

We have discussed the benefits of eating organic, but did you know there are ways you can go organic other than food and beauty products? Switching to an organic mattress is a great way to cut down on your repeated chemical exposure. Now don’t panic, to get an organic mattress you don’t have to run outside and gather leaves, straw, and animal hide like our neanderthal ancestors did. Organic mattresses are increasing in popularity and mainstream companies have started adding organic options to their already existing mattress lines.

So what does it mean if a mattress is organic? It means that the materials used to build the mattress come from organic sources, and are chemical-free. A typical mattress is comprised of many layers (depending on it’s quality and price) and often contain polyurethane foam, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), chlorinated tris, and boric acid. Let’s break each one down:

Polyurethane Foam: While polyurethane foam can be found in a multitude of places (carpeting, walls, shoes, beds), it has been linked to nervous and immune system illness. A material that contains formaldehyde, benzene, toluene and other toxins is not something that should be omitted from your home safety radar, especially when it may be what you and your loved ones are sleeping on every single night. Some other dangers of sleeping on a mattress with polyurethane foam are allergic reactions, irregular heartbeat, headaches, body aches, dizziness, and fatigue. Here is a link that provides more detail about the dangers of polyurethane foam.

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE): PBDE is used as a flame retardant. Exposure to PBDE has been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and impaired fetal brain development. It is especially dangerous for pregnant mothers to be sleeping on mattresses that contains PBDE, as Dr. Mercola outlines in this fantastic article.

Chlorinated Tris: Chlorinated tris is a carcinogenic flame retardant. In animal studies, chlorinated tris caused infertility, decreased semen quality in men, and cancerous tumors on the kidneys and testes. The unfortunate thing about chlorinated tris is that it doesn’t stay localized to your couch or bed, the chemical floats in microscopic sized pieces around the house.

Boric Acid: Again, boric acid is used in mattresses as a flame retardant. In animal studies, boric acide caused testicular damage, lower semen quality, and tumors. Regarding boric acid use in products, the EPA has stated, “that manufacture, process, or use of the substance without dermal protection may result in serious chronic and developmental effects.”

So how can you find an organic mattress, and how do you know what to look for? More than likely you won’t be able to ask your salesperson “hey, does this mattress contain boric acid or polybrominated diphenyl ethers?” You’ll probably get a blank stare from your salesperson, followed by a carefully scripted speech about how their mattresses have been tested for safety and comfort. Thecleanbedroom.com has a great suggestion for questions to ask your salesperson to help you determine if the mattress is safe for you:

  1. Is the outer cover made with certified organic cotton? Be sure it has not been treated with stain resistant chemicals like formaldehyde.
  2. How does the mattress meet the U.S. Fire Resistant Code #1633 that took effect on July 1, 2007? If the mattress is organic, in most cases a layer of organic or untreated wool is placed under the outer cover to pass the burn test. Wool self-extinguishes when exposed to a flame. Some manufacturers use non-chemical flame retardants like corn husks and baking soda; ask how these are processed to be sure they are truly toxin-free.
  3. Is the innerspring coil system sprayed with oils or a rust-proof treatment? An organic innerspring mattress system is untreated.
  4. Is the inner core of a latex mattress made with 100% natural rubber? If the sales person hedges, the latex core is probably a blend of 60/40 natural rubber and petrochemical-based synthetic. The percentage of natural rubber in the core of an organic mattress should be 90+%.

We spend about one-third of our lives in bed, so making sure we are not being exposed to toxins while our bodies are supposed to be resting and recovering is crucial to our well-being. Here are some suggestions for organic mattresses:

 

By Courtney Perry

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Great Reason to Go Chemical Free!

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month. Soon, men and women across the country will be showing their support and raising awareness by posting Facebook statuses, running marathons, getting tattooed, and wearing pink apparel. While some attempts at raising breast cancer awareness may seem silly and futile (posting the color of your bra on Facebook), if the end result is more women getting mammograms because suddenly there are reminders everywhere (even Great Aunt Sally is posting her bra color), then it was worth it.

While most emphasis for Breast Cancer Awareness month is placed on catching the cancer early by getting scanned, it is just as important to educate yourself about ways of preventing breast cancer. Of course, as with all cancers, there is no way to completely prevent developing breast cancer, but there are scientifically proven actions you can take to decrease your chances. According to the Mayo Clinic, ways to reduce the risk of breast cancer include not smoking, limiting alcohol, controlling your weight, exercising, breast-feeding, and avoiding environmental pollution as much as possible.

In today’s society, avoiding environmental pollution can be one of the most challenging efforts, as pollution seems to be present in almost every aspect of our lives. Pollution isn’t only what is emitted into our atmosphere by our vehicles or factory runoff that infiltrates our precious oceans, pollution can also refer to what we are putting in and on our bodies.  The overuse of chemicals in the thousands of products we use over the span of our lives have been linked to breast cancer, testicular cancer, as well as many other forms of cancer.

This October, instead of simply raising awareness about breast cancer and wearing your pink shirt to work every Friday, why not take a step and make a change in your life to reduce your risk of breast cancer, no matter how small it may be. One of the easiest ways to do this? Change your laundry detergent.

Did you know that most laundry detergents contain chemicals that have been labeled as “carcinogenic” by the Environmental Working Group (EWG)? TideAllGain, and even Arm & Hammer are guilty of pumping their soaps full of synthetic, lab-created chemicals that are harmful to the human body. Recently, Tide was in the spotlight due to the fact that they were using 1,4-Dioxane, a known carcinogen, in their detergent. By constantly wearing clothes that have been washed in harmful chemicals, you are putting yourself and your loved ones at risk.

Several years ago, a mom in St. Petersburg, Florida decided it was time for her family to switch to a chemical-free lifestyle, and laundry detergent was her top priority. Then began the birth of Monica Leonard’s now well-established and booming company, Molly’s Suds. Eye-catching packaging and fresh smelling laundry powder are not even the best parts about Molly’s Suds, it’s what is inside that really matters. The ingredients are as follows: sodium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, magnesium sulfate, unrefined sea salt, and organic peppermint oil. Nothing dangerous, nothing unrecognizable and impossible to pronounce, and most importantly, nothing carcinogenic. The Environmental Working Group has given Molly’s Suds an “A” rating which is no small feat. The EWG is well known for its thorough research into thousands of products and strict standards.

With so much research backing the dangers of using chemical-filled laundry detergents, making the switch to Molly’s Suds could make a real difference in your life and overall well being. It’s almost Breast Cancer Awareness month, so get out your pink shirt, wash it in Molly’s Suds, and show your support to those who have fought or are currently fighting such a terrible and devastating disease.

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By Courtney Perry

Hand Soap Recommendations

When shopping for hand and body soaps, there are a several ingredients to be on the lookout for, as they have been linked to skin problems (ironically enough) and organ toxicity. Most hand soaps contain at least one of the following harmful ingredients:  Sodium Laurel Sulfate, Propylene Glycol, Parabens, Diethanolamine (DEA), Phthalates, and artificial fragrance. Here is a great article listing other ingredients to be wary of, and why.

While there are hundreds of soaps that contain these icky ingredients, rest assured because there many safe, non-toxic alternatives! Here are some recommendations:

Everyday Shea Hand Soap– Their wonderful foaming soap comes in lavender, vanilla mint, or unscented. Everyday Shea also makes bubble bath, shampoo and conditioner, and body lotion!

everyday sheaevery day shea ingredients

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps– A versatile, safe, great-smelling product! If you have never tried Dr. Bronner’s you are missing out! You can dilute Dr. Bronner’s and use it in a foamer, too.

Alaffia Shea and Coffee Cafe Au Lait Goat Milk Soap– Yes, the name is really that long. But the soap lives up to it’s title! Ingredients are Saponified Unrefined Shea Butter, Virgin Coconut Oil and Unrefined Palm Kernel Oil, Raw Goat Milk, Yirgacheffe Coffee, Vanilla Extract, Orange Essential Oil. Not sure whether you want to taste it or wash your hands with it, huh? It can be found in Whole Foods stores or here on Amazon.

alaffia

Clean Well– This company makes an assortment of products, but their soaps and hand sanitizers are especially great!

cleanwell

The Honest Company- Founded by Jessica Alba, her products are made safe and all-natural for your favorite little munchkins. The ingredients for her soaps are listed on this page. Inexpensive, too!

Nutribiotic Coconut Oil Soap– I discovered this at a small store in Asheville last year and was excited to find that it can be ordered online! I bring it with me everywhere in a travel contanier and love how smooth it leaves your hands.

coconut soap


Dessert Essence Castile Hand Soapcontains coconut oil, olive oil, and and tea tree oil for a great, nourishing cleanse.

Hugo & Debra Naturals- They have many safe soaps, body washes, and bath soaks that all smell devine

Kiss My Face Foaming Castile Soap– comes in a variety of scents, all wonderful!

kissmyface
Purple PrairieI love this company! You can tell by looking at their handmade soap bars that they are all natural and made with love. Check out wonderful scents like eucalyptus lemon, ginger clove, patchouli vanilla, and more!

Easy homemade hand soap recipe– The “homemade mommy” shares a quick and easy recipe for DIY hand soap on her site.

Easy-Homemade-Foaming-Hand-SoapWhat is your favorite all-natural hand soap?

By Courtney Perry

FAQ: What Are Parabens?

Q: I’m always looking for paraben-free products but I have a confession. I don’t exactly know what parabens are. I know they are supposedly not good for you, but why is that? What are they?

A: Great question! Don’t feel bad, you’d be surprised at how many people avoid products containing parabens, SLS, phthalates, and phosphates without really knowing what they are or why they are potentially harmful.

Parabens are preservatives that actually go by several different names- you will probably never just see the word “paraben” written on an ingredient list. Two common parabens are propylparaben and parahydroxybenzoate, but there are several others. Parabens are used in most cosmetics and skin care products in order to keep them from going bad or spoiling. So in that sense, parabens are useful because they help our favorite products have a longer shelf life. But in recent years, there has been much controversy over the safety of these chemicals.

beauty-16-paraben

Similar to BPAs, Parabens have been known to mimic estrogen which leads some scientists to believe that they may be a contributing factor to breast cancer. One of the scientists who it very outspoken about the possible dangers of parabens is Philippa Darbre of the University of Reading in England. In 2004, Darbre and a team of researchers discovered parabens in 18 of the 20 samples of cancerous breast tissue in women. This is not evidence that parabens caused the breast cancer, but it was a warning bell- a sign that maybe parabens should be studied further before being used so freely by both companies and consumers.

“We’ve known for more than 25 years that estrogen exposure is linked to breast cancer development and progression; it is the reason tamoxifen [commonly prescribed to women with breast cancer] is used to disrupt estrogen receptors,” says Darbre. “So it is not such a leap to be concerned that repeated, cumulative, long-term exposure to chemicals that weakly mimic estrogen might be having an impact.”

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Another alarming  study had several young, healthy, men put lotion containing parabens on their bodies. Just a few hours later, those same parabens were detected in their urine, meaning it took a matter of hours for the chemicals to completely absorb into their bodies.

So what are your options? How can you get quality, reliable, long lasting skin and body care products without exposing your body to an excessive amount of parabens? You’ll be happy to hear that paraben-free products are becoming more and more common. As companies research the downside to these preservatives, they are revamping their current products and making them more consumer friendly, and most importantly, safe. In fact, ULTA has an entire portion of their website dedicated to paraben-free makeup.

Say Yes!, Everyday Shea, Hugo Natural’s, Tarte, Coastal Classic Creations, Alba, Burt’s Bees, and Kiss My Face are just a few companies who don’t use parabens or other nasties, and have fabulous products you can find online and in stores.

Do you have any questions or need product recommendations? Send us a comment either on this post, or through our comment/question page!

By Courtney Perry

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: What You Need To Know About This Common Ingredient

You’ve seen the words “sodium lauryl sulfate” written on ingredients lists hundreds of times. Maybe you’ve wondered what it is, or maybe not. Any ingredient that appears in so many different products has to be safe, right? Much research suggests otherwise.

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Crest Toothpaste Label

I never had any reason to question sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) before a few years ago when my dentist recommended switching to an SLS-free toothpaste in order to put an end to the canker sores I was continuously getting. I made the switch (Burt’s Bees SLS and Fluoride Free Toothpaste) and haven’t had a canker sore since. Actually, that’s not true. Last weekend I was on vacation and forgot to pack my SLS-free toothpaste. Within 3 days of using a “regular” toothpaste, I had a giant, painful canker sore. Not a coincidence! Now that I’m back home to my SLS-free toothpaste, my mouth is back to normal, and feeling good.

So what IS sodium lauryl sulfate?

Sodium lauryl sulfate is a detergent and emulsifier used in thousands of cosmetic and even cleaning products. If I challenged you to go to a convenience store right now and bring home a shampoo or toothpaste without SLS, I guarantee you would come back empty handed. It’s what makes shampoo lather and toothpaste bubble.

Sodium lauryl sulfate is actually derived from coconuts, but the process of manufacturing it is what makes it dangerous. SLS is contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogenic by-product. In fact, several deaths have occurred when workers have been accidentally exposed to it. So while the argument has been made that SLS alone is not dangerous or carcinogenic, why take the risk?

Some of the other risks of ingesting or topically using SLS are irritation of the skin and eyes, developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity, hair loss, scalp irritation, and respiratory illness.

The great news is that more and more companies are starting to find ways to create quality, safe products without the use of sodium lauryl sulfate or any of its sister ingredients, like sodium laureth sulfate and ammonium lauryl sulphate.

Check out these products to see for yourself if going SLS-free improves your skin and health the way it has mine:

Shampoo/Conditioner

Toothpaste (SLS and fluoride free!)

Cleaners

Refer to our “DIY cleaning products” post!

Have questions about SLS or other product recommendations? Leave us a comment below!

By Courtney Perry

The Fluoride Debate and DIY Toothpaste

How often do you take medications without knowing the potential side effects? If someone on the street walked up to you and said “here take this pill”, would you? When you ingest fluoride in drinking water, toothpaste, mouthwash, and at the dentist, do you know the risks you are taking?

Recently, several counties in the United States have decided to quit adding fluoride to the public water supply because of potential harmful side effects. Recent studies have shown that high levels of fluoride can cause tooth and bone decay. It’s become such a national issue that the Obama Administration is moving towards lowering the amount of fluoride added to drinking water.

In an ABC news article from November 2012, a man named Corey Sturmer described his confusing diagnosis when he went to the dentist at 25-years old and was told he had fluorosis- an erosion of the enamel and discoloration of the teeth due to too much fluoride use. We are all told from the time we are children that fluoride is important for us, we must use it to maintain a healthy mouth. But is this actually the case? In a 2006 study by the National Academy of Science regarding fluoride use proclaimed that fluoride can affect the thyroid gland and potentially lower the intelligence of children. Ummmm, what!? My thoughts, too.

source: wikipedia

Severe Fluorosis
source: wikipedia

Like anything dealing with your health and body, it is important to do research to determine what is best for you and your family- but you may want to consider making the switch to fluoride-free toothpaste.There are hundreds of communities who have decided to go fluoride-free based on scientific findings, here is a list! The Fluoride Action Network has compiled a fantastic list of Frequently Asked Questions regarding Fluoride use. Click here to read the full list, but here are some interesting answers to get you started.

Do we need fluoride?

No. It is now well established that fluoride is not an essential nutrient. This means that no human disease – including tooth decay – will result from a “deficiency” of fluoride. Fluoridating water supplies is therefore different than adding iodine to salt. Unlike fluoride, iodine is an essential nutrient (the body needs iodine to ensure the proper functioning of the thyroid gland). No such necessity exists for fluoride.

Does Fluoride occur naturally in water?

As a general rule, the only fresh water with high levels of fluoride (other than waters polluted by fluoride-emitting industries) is water derived from deep wells. Rather than being something to celebrate, high levels of naturally occurring fluorides have wreaked havoc on tens of millions of people’s health around the world. People consuming water with naturally high levels of fluoride have been found to suffer serious health ailments including disfiguring tooth damagebone diseaseulcersreduced IQthyroid disease, and infertility. Because of this, international organizations like UNICEF assist developing nations in finding ways of removing fluoride from the water.

Thankfully, most fresh water supplies contain very low levels of fluoride. The average level of fluoride in unpolluted fresh water is less than 0.1 ppm, which is about 10 times less than the levels added to water in fluoridation programs (0.7 to 1.2 ppm).  The frequent claim, therefore, that “nature thought of fluoridation first” does not withstand scrutiny.

Does fluoridated water reduce tooth decay?

If water fluoridation has a benefit, it is a minimal one. Recent large-scale studies from the United States have found little practical or statistical difference in tooth decay rates among children living in fluoridated versus non-fluoridated areas. In addition, data complied by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows that tooth decay rates have declined just as rapidly in non-fluoridated western countries as they have in fluoridated western countries. Read more.

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What are the risks from swallowing fluoride?

Fluoride has long been known to be a very toxic substance. This is why, like arsenic, fluoride has been used in pesticides and rodenticides (to kill rats, insects, etc). It is also why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires that all fluoride toothpaste sold in the U.S. carry a poison warning that instructs users to contact the poison control center if they swallow more than used for brushing.

Excessive fluoride exposure is well known to cause a painful bone disease (skeletal fluorosis), as well as a discoloration of the teeth known as dental fluorosis. Excessive fluoride exposure has also been linked to a range of other chronic ailments including arthritisbone fragilitydental fluorosisglucose intolerancegastrointestinal distressthyroid disease, and possibly cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

While the lowest doses that cause some of these effects are not yet well defined, it is clear that certain subsets of the population are particularly vulnerable to fluoride’s toxicity. Populations that have heightened susceptibility to fluoride include infants, individuals with kidney disease, individuals with nutrient deficiencies (particularly calcium and iodine), and individuals with medical conditions that cause excessive thirst.

To see a complete list of FAN’s research on fluoride’s health effects, click here. 

If you are ready to make a move towards a fluoride-free lifestyle, you can start by making your own toothpaste! It’s not as scary as it sounds. I’ve tried several recipes but so far, my favorite recipe comes from crunchybetty.com.

Homemade Coconut Oil Toothpaste

  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 Tbsp baking soda
  • 25 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 1 packet stevia
  • 2 tsp vegetable glycerin (optional)

Put the coconut oil and baking soda in a bowl and mash up with a fork until blended. Add the peppermint essential oil, stevia and optional vegetable glycerin and continue to mash and stir until you’ve reached toothpaste consistency.

 

By Courtney Perry

Apple Cider Vinegar: The Ultimate Problem Solver

Deciding to go chemical-free can be overwhelming, hence the reason for this blog. Take one day at a time, learn about your options, and make baby steps. An easy way to start is by doing research about the items you may already have in your house that can take the place of other harsh, toxic products! Today I am going to highlight one of my favorites: apple cider vinegar. 

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) can be used for so many different things it should be a staple in your home. In fact, one week ago I went to the doctor with bright red, swollen, spotted tonsils, a fever, and chills. A positive strep test sent me into hysterics because I am severely allergic to most antibiotics. I went home and decided I was going to cure my strep throat with apple cider vinegar, and I did just that. For a week I gargled the vinegar diluted in warm water. Within 12 hours, my sore throat was gone. I went back to the doctor after 6 days to get another strep test and lo and behold, it came back negative! From extensive online research, apple cider vinegar has been known to cure strep throat along with several other ailments. Please note, strep throat can be a very serious sickness with potential life threatening side effects if not treated. See your doctor and choose the best treatment plan for you

When choosing an apple cider vinegar brand, the more organic and natural the better, as with most things. My favorite brand is Bragg, it contains something called  “the mother” which looks like a big ball of snot in the bottom of the bottle. Do not be afraid. This goopy, snotty looking mass is what makes the vinegar so good for you. It has a ton of enzymes and good bacteria! 

ACV

So, what else can apple cider vinegar be used for?

Medical
(suggested amount is 2 teaspoons per day diluted in water)

  • High cholesterol
  • Weight loss
  • Skin disorders (eczema, psoriasis, acne, warts)
  • Diarrhea (if bacteria is causing the problems)
  • Hiccups
  • Prevents indigestion
  • Sinus congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Fatigue
  • Teeth whitening
  • Leg cramps
  • Gas and bloating
  • Sunburn relief
  • Dandruff

Household

  • Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties and absorbs odor so it makes a great cleaning product! Simply mix one part ACV and one part water and spray on any hard surface in your home (even wood). Wipe immediately with a dry towel
  • Mix one tablespoon of ACV with water and rinse your hair with it. You will be amazed at how shiny and healthy your hair looks! 
  • Dab onto your skin blemishes for quick healing 
  • If you are brave, try using ACV as a deodorant. The vinegar smell only lasts for a few minutes and it has been known to keep people smell-free! 
  • Rubbing ACV onto your pet’s skin or adding a little to his or her water bowl can help repel and kill fleas 
  • Clogged drain? Pour 1/4 cup of baking soda into the drain and chase it with 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar. Rinse with hot water
  • Mix one part ACV with one part water and clean your windows. You’ll be amazed at the streak-free, shiny results
  • Garlic, onion, and fish smelling hands can be fixed by simply washing with the ACV
  • Smell remover- place a bowl of ACV on the floor and let sit overnight. It has been proven to work on cigarette smoke, beer, vomit, and several other unpleasant odors! 

What other uses have you found for apple cider vinegar?  

By Courtney Perry