Over the last six months I have invested a significant amount of energy into adopting a healthy lifestyle. I started eating right, working out four to six days a week, dialed in my diet, and a few other minor adjustments. I thought I was doing great; that was until my wife started telling me about what she was learning from her late night research sessions..
What my wife had come to realize was rather shocking. We thought we were pretty healthy but we quickly realized that we still had a ways to go. So many of the products we used on a daily basis were loaded with all manner of harmful and deadly chemicals. We had some changes to make in our lifestyle to truly be as healthy as we wanted to be. Let me explain...
A lot of research on household chemicals has been conducted by Environmental Working Group (EWG). It is pretty alarming, so be forewarned before you start digging into the products you use around your house. I was surprised and a more than a little angry to discover that what we used on a daily basis were filled with toxins that have been proven to cause kidney failure, cancer, reproductive harm, and a whole slew of other nasty health problems. So how were we, two active and health conscious individuals, duped into buying these unsafe products? I placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of clever marketing. The product says that it is healthy, therefore it must be - right? Nine times out of ten this is just not the case.
What follows is the compilation of our research (so far) of what we have found to be areas of concern and the steps we took to address them. Much like what we did, look up the products you use on the EWG app, their website, or other sites that you can find with a quick and easy google to find out for yourself whether you should toss it or keep using what you have. Let us begin...
How bad can soap be for you? That is what I used to think but that really is not true. From hand soap to laundry detergent and even bath soaps they were all filled with all sorts of toxic chemicals. The laundry detergent we used for my one year old son; which was advertised to be safe, hypoallergenic, and healthy for kids, actually had a neurotoxin that had been proven to be an endocrine disruptor in it. The same sort of alarming revelations were found with our hand soaps and bath soaps too. Just to be clear we were not buying some off brand soaps from the sale racks of thrift stores. No this was top of the shelf, high end and expensive recognized brand names covered in slick marketing glorifying how healthy and safe they were for you.
What have we done about it? Well for starters we made our own hand soap and put it in glass mason jars. The recipe is quite simple: Castile soap, distilled water, and coconut oil. No fancy fragrances made from synthetic chemicals with names no one can pronounce. Just plain good old fashioned healthy soap.
You would be horrified to find out what kind of chemicals are in the cleaners you douse your countertops and other eating surfaces with on a daily basis. For example, we were using a cleaner that helps get burnt on foods off of cookware. It turns out that the chemicals used in the cleaner were listed as a moderate concern (by the Center For Disease Control CDC) for convulsions, kidney damage, reproductive and fetal development! That was just one of about ten different cleaners we were using. The rest of them (degreasers, sanitizers, window cleaning, mildew removers, etc...) were just as bad if not worse.
So what are you supposed to do? Let your kitchen and bathrooms descend into filth all those smiling models on TV do not have to deal with in their sparkling white spaces? No, just use a little hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle. It is a great anti-bacterial solution. If you are really worried rest easy, many hospitals are now using hydrogen peroxide to sanitize. Another option is to mix Castile soap and distilled water in a spray bottle. Last but not least we also use Doterra's On Guard concentrate and distilled water for general cleaning needs.
Non-stick cookware is basically just an amalgamation of toxic chemicals slathered all over you cookware. Yes, even the supposed "non-toxic" cookware. There are all kinds of alarming studies about non-stick cookware, like this one. Just because your non-stick cookware cost a lot of money does not mean you are safe either.
First, we got rid of our non-stick cookware and replaced it with cast iron pots and pans (and a few glass/ceramic ones too because too much iron can be bad for you). I love to cooks, sometimes I will cook breakfast, lunch and dinner in the same day and have been impressed with how well cast iron cooks food. I just use a lower temperature, exercise some patience, and allow the food some extra time to cook. Clean up is a breeze too, as long as I keep the heat down. Secondly, we replaced all of our plastic Tupperware containers with glass ones. Lastly, we replaced our plastic cooking utensils with metal or bamboo ones.
For those of you who are parents I am sure you are bombarded on regular basis about all the harmful things that can happen to your kid(s). Sometimes it can downright scary and disheartening.
There are all sorts of steps we have taken to reduce our sons exposure to chemicals. For starters we got him plates, bowls, utensils, and cups made from bamboo, stainless steel, and/or silicone. No plastic that can leach chemicals/toxins into his food. In case you had not heard, heating food in a plastic container has been shown to leach all manner of toxins into your food. Diaper balm is another area of concern. Most rash creams contain chemicals of concern. This diaper balm is a good option.
Low Hanging Fruit
Perhaps you are thinking "Wow, GravelNut is crazy. I trust these regulated industries to safeguard my health." Or perhaps something I have said has resonated with you and you are thinking about taking the plunge and purging your household of some or all of the above mentioned possible toxins sources. If you have made it this far than perhaps you fall into the latter category. Either way, these changes to our lifestyle did not come about overnight, or even in a few weeks. Learning new habits and identifying areas of one's lifestyle that are in need of improvement takes time. Here are some quick and easy action steps you can take without too much effort.
Public Goods is a new company that has stringent requirements for it products. We get our laundry detergent, dishwasher pods, compostable trash bags, and even plant based sponges (who wants to fill up land fills with plastic sponges that will take 1000 years to decompose?) from them.
Dr. Bronner’s makes toothpaste and hand sanitizer that work great and that will not kill you in the process either.
Using wool dryer balls eliminates the need for dryer sheets that are typically laden with synthetic fragrances.
Bamboo paper towel are more sustainable than regular paper towels and work just as great.
Normal candles give off all sorts of chemicals from the paraffin wax, wicks with lead in them, and soot. Beeswax candles are the way to go. Be careful with soy candles as they often are a mixture of soy and paraffin.
Defuse essential oils instead of air fresheners. This is a big one as air fresheners "contain phthalates and many other hazardous chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, propellants, solvents, benzenes, and synthetic musks, among others."
So besides some nice photos taken on my local gravel roads there has been zero cycling content in today's post. I waffled back and forth with whether or not I should publish it. In the end I decided to. Endurance athletes are always looking for that extra edge and are acutely aware of the fact that what they put into their bodies equals the performance they are able to output. With our keen focus on diet, exercise, hydration, and rest in the name of increasing performance ignoring how many chemicals you are consuming or being exposed to just does not make sense. To put it another way: "What is the point of eating locally grown organic food if you prepare it in a kitchen cleaned with chemicals that can give you cancer on cookware that is leaching poison into your food?" That is why I decided to publish this non-cycling piece. I had no idea what I was exposing myself and my family too. Perhaps you did not know either, maybe this is old news to you, or you may have some good pointers that you would like to share. Either way let me know what you think in the comments section below...