Sunday, September 18, 2005

Toxic Love

It does not take a rocket scientist to know bleach is toxic and dangerous. Or that nasty commercial mildew eater is. I mean, if you use a substance in your home that nauseates you, gives you a headache, or otherwise makes you want to leave said home for a couple of hours afterward for it to "air out" there's an eighty percent chance you're using something toxic and poisonous. And though you could continue to use toxic chemicals to clean your home for the rest of your life anyway, and though many of us do even though we know they're toxic, we don't have to.

This is not to say that I was not once the little girl who made a paste out of Ajax and dish soap, smeared it all over my face, and then tried to fool Arthur Young into thinking I was a minty-green faced ghost. Or that I didn’t understand my family friend Margot’s rage when she caught me coming home that day, or that I didn’t believe her horror when she said the Ajax was full of harsh chemicals. As a child, I believed adults weren’t lying about dangerous, poisonous things that could kill children, but I also believed that what they said was only true of most children in the world. I wasn’t most children. I was tough. I didn’t even get a rash when I put Ajax on my face and tried to convince Arthur Young that although I looked like little Miah Arnold, she was dead and I was her ghost. I was too tough to be effected by chemicals. Tougher than the rest of the world. Of course, I was also the type of kid who didn’t remember bad things, and so couldn’t recall how as a toddler I’d tossed back a jar of my aunt’s shellac, thinking it was milk, and actually would have become Miah Arnold’s ghost if not for the Duchesne County Hospital’s stomach pumper.

What I am trying to establish here is that I have had a long, intimate, and maybe even loving history with toxic chemicals. By the time I hit my mid-twenties, a statistically significant portion of my friends and acquaintances began developing weird allergies and sicknesses, my mother was increasingly bowled over by intense migraines, and for me, walking into the perfume section of a department store or the cleaning product section of a grocery store was liable to cause me a painful headache of my own. Did I choose to eschew these products ever afterwards? Of course not. I was resistant to the idea of eliminating toxins because:

Number One: It seemed wimpy in the same way smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol seemed cool. What kind of drip is afraid of a bottle of Windex? (Which, by the way, ought to be feared as it is particularly noxious according to countless sources as it contains butyl cellosolve, toxic to blood cells, kidneys, and livers. It's not listed on the label either. This irks me as I always imagined Windex as the most virginal of the cleaning products in terms of toxicity.)

Number Two: The whole comet smearing and other like episodes made me figure I was already too contaminated to save. I knew I couldn’t get out all the toxins, so I figured, why try?

Number Three: Some risks you take, even if they’re bad for your health, because their perks outweigh their downsides. Like smokers or drinkers (or breathers of the air in Houston, where we live) I figured so what if its bad for me. It’s too hard not to use them.

Number Four, which is really a subcategory of Number three: I don’t believe something is clean if it doesn’t have a brand name smell: windows like Windex, floors like Pine Sol, wood should be Lemon Pledgey…and I fully admit that if a bathroom doesn’t smell like its been the site of an industrial waste explosion, I don’t believe its clean. And if you think about this particular line of reasoning is illogical: I don’t believe something is clean unless it actively smells. Wouldn’t it be more logical to assume that something with no scent at all is cleaner than something I’ve wiped scent all over?

I should mention here that my transfiguration from badass-deer-ignoring-the-headlights into the crazy pregnant woman dumping all the chemicals in the house down the drain and declaring a moratorium on plastics was not immediate. As the conservatives would argue, it was part of a slippery slope most any liberal is in danger of falling into: a couple years ago we bit the financial bullet and started shopping at Whole Foods where we bought organic vegetables, free-range eggs, and hormone free milk. At some point, we joined a vegetable co-op to supplement this change. We toyed with and rejected (after watching SuperSizeMe) the idea of becoming vegans. We hovered at this stage a couple of years, through courtship and into marriage. And now we’re pregnant and we’ve taken enough small steps to consider taking a few larger ones, though, like GreenDaddy says, knowing which steps to take is proving tricky.


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Anonymous said...

Did you really dump everything down the drains? Though I admire you for that, and am considering doing something similar, isn't it horrible to just dump it down the drains? Doesn't that just pollute our drinking water more? Its the same with people who dump prescription drugs down the drain...not safe.