Sunday, September 25, 2005

Toxic Loss

Like GreenDaddy says, being pregnant has changed our perspective about things. So although I’ve known about the evil nature of toxic products since I was a kid, when I heard the Pacifica radio show about the way one woman eliminated toxins from her world, I was listening more carefully than usual. She noted a few studies – like women who spend most of their time in their homes have a much higher cancer rate than women who work outside the home, because of poor ventilation and the multitude of toxins present in the items we construct, furnish, & clean our homes with. The World Health Organization links cancer to industrialized nations, and in the US cancer rates are up by 49% since 1950 [].

Of course, there are thousands of causes for these higher rates. It is not just the products I choose to clean my house with. Or the plastics I fill it with. Or the plastics I wear. Or the pesticides on my food. Or the pollutants in the air. Or the 90% of synthetic chemical compounds in fragrances, personal products, cleaning products, and the air that have never even been measured for toxicity. My own geneology might work against me, or my sensitivity to products most people aren’t effected to. Like carrots. Carrots aren’t toxic to me, but they are toxic to some people, I’m sure.

But the point is, there are all these things, some of which I can control without much effort at all, effecting my life. Whereas before pregnancy I sort of shrugged off this information, and found it annoying, I’m feeling more revolutionary lately: I thought, well, we might as well try to do what we can to eliminate some of the risks. I quit drinking alcohol during pregnancy – why wouldn’t I quit hanging out in a house filled with petrochemicals? What harm will it do me not to buy milk in a jug? Or to give up my Windex for some old fashioned vinegar & water?

As it has turned out, I am still the girl that liked mixing Ajax and Laundry detergent to make ghost-paste. Another time, in childhood, my friend Scotty and I made a formula out of the forgotten chemicals in my father’s shed that not only killed stinging red ant populations for two and half minutes, exactly --- but if you used it to paint it would seep up through later layers of paint years down the road, so that even now, at least twenty layers of paint later, the brown letters we painted are still barely discernable on the whitish picket fence in the city park. And I reiterate: I am still this girl.

In terms of seeking out new solutions and supplies to clean my house, this is finally a good thing. I spent three or four hours on the internet, searching out different sorts of cleaning combinations that make different sorts of cleaning products. As it turns out, I am not the only person interested in “greening” my home. Hundreds of websites about eliminating toxic substances from your life exist. Hundreds more sites with recipes from people who just want to clean the house like “grandma” and don’t want to be reliant on buying cleaning products from the store. Between these two sorts of sites, I came up with my list. I think I’ll post the whole list on a separate post that details what we’ve found that works, and what we’ve found that doesn’t work.

For now, I’ll say I like knowing that I can clean my silver by leaving it in a sink filled with boiling hot water, a couple teaspoons of salt and baking soda, and a sheet of aluminum foil. The method is certainly faster than trying to rub all the nooks and crannies of the silver with silver polish. It makes me feel giddy and smart because its cheaper, its smarter, and its more fun than cleaning with products that give me headaches. I feel like I’m picking up knowledge my grandmothers’ knew, and that was if not stolen, hidden from me by the people who said my house isn’t clean if their product hasn’t touched it.

And most of all, I like knowing I’m doing this at the same time that I’ve taken a pretty simple step in making my house safe for our little girl. I’m grateful not have to worry about her crawling through a puddle of leaked bleach and dying of burn wounds or of eating toxic dishwashing detergent and dying of intestinal damage – two causes of baby and toddler deaths in American households more terribly common than you’d guess.

If she’s anything like I was, it’s good we’re getting rid of the toxic stuff. I’ll teach her [and any other little ones we have] to mix things that make useful products. I’ll dissuade her from putting Barkeepers’ Friend (a scouring powder sites say aren’t toxic) on her face, but I’m not against helping her search out and creating some sort of healthy, pasty natural “beauty product” she can use for pranks of her own. That’s awhile off, now, but I’m glad ahead of time.

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