there’s something in the water

My friend Rachel emailed me an SF Gate article I thought was worth sharing. It’s about the adverse effect of sunscreens, which wash off people’s bodies at the beach, on fish and coral reefs. The article talks about how sunscreen is one of the many chemical personal care products that end up in the water supply, including medications. They suggest that the solution is to educate people about these chemicals so that they can demand safer products and a better water filtration system (as of now we go right ahead and drink this stuff aparently). They also have a list of sunscreen products that are better for the sea.

I remember a similar discussion a couple months back about birth control hormones ending up in the drinking water supply. I sort of shy away from this topic because (a) it’s really gross to think about drinking water that was formerly pee! and (b) I’m really conflicted. I’ve always been a pretty strong live and let live person. I certainly would never want women who wanted it to not have access to birth control. At the same time, I think these cases are good reminders that “live and let live” has some serious challenges, in that we all live in the same place.

The same issue comes up for me with chemical laundry detergents and dish cleaners. In general, I don’t use them myself (to be honest, more because they give me a rash), but I’ve never really pushed them on people in my life. Still, nothing really goes away when it goes down the drain… and sometimes it’s just coming right back out the faucet.

I’m conflicted because I guess I am feeling a little burned out on the idea of a consumer revolution. Are we really going to demand safer products? Do we have time to? Many alternative are available now and most people don’t buy them (can’t afford to? can’t find them? don’t care?). But the idea of regulation is a scary ethical minefield. Some things, such as sunscreen that still protects from sunburns but doesn’t hurt the ocean as much seems pretty uncontroversial. But birth control? What about life-saving drugs that get into the water supply?

I wish we could trust the government to decide what is reasonable for public health and safety versus individual rights, but it’s pretty obvious that we can’t (and if we do while the person we like is in power, it’s all subject to change when their term is over).

I might sound a bit pessimistic, but I’m not. I’m just mulling it over. I definitely know a lot folks who think changing consumer behavior is where it’s at. I just don’t think we can do it until we change consumers back into citizens, and that’s a formidable task. (I’ll do it if someone else pays my rent.)

In the meanwhile, there is a silver lining – at least our internal organs and our sushi won’t get sunburned!

a pretty informative and overly balanced link on tap water (though admittedly not without bias)

the real secret

I’ve been running around like a madwoman, and haven’t had time to invite everyone to join me on the make-your-own deodorant challenge. So I have to admit that I started it without y’all (sorry!) and it is so successful, I’m in shock. I was sure there must be something toxic about my recipe, it works so well, but my holistic doctor ok’ed it as of yesterday, so go for it!

Using natural deodorant has been a quest of mine for about two years. Many of the ingredients in non-natural deodorants have negative impacts on health, especially for women, who tend to shave before applying, allowing the chemicals to enter the bloodstream. Antiperspirants in particular clog the sweat glands, causing stagnation of toxins in the breast area. While there are no definitive studies that prove antiperspirant increases your risk of breast cancer, I’m not taking my chances.

I’m also trying to embrace sweating, as it is such an important part of clearing toxins from the body and also plays a role in making us attractive to other people. I’m super prissy about smelling bad, so if I can do it, so can you!

The challenge is to make and wear your own deodorant for a full week. Now’s a good time of year because it’s not super hot yet. However, I’m pretty sure it will work fine through the summer because all my running around has resulted in a load of sweating, completely BO free (and with a slight lovely lavender fragrance). Just a note, this is a deodorant, not an antiperspirant, so it doesn’t stop sweat, just stink.

armpit.jpg

Natural Deodorant Powder

1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
a few drops essential oils (I’m using lavender).

Place the ingredients in a glass jar (I’m using a parmesan cheese shaker).
Shake to blend (It doesn’t clump, don’t ask me why).
Sprinkle a light covering of the powder on a damp washcloth.
Pat on. Don’t rinse.

Putting it on damp is important, because baking powder can irritate your skin if you put it on dry (the same way sand would).

I found this recipe here.  The best part? NO WHITE RESIDUE! This is a natural, cheap deodorant. I’d love to hear how/if it works for you & your thoughts on the deodorant dilemma in general.

smoke points

222_.jpgI recently ran into our family friend who is a well known chef and got to ask her a question that’s been *burning* at my conscience ever since a certain beloved friend put it on my radar. Is it safe to eat food cooked in hot oil? In particular, I was wondering about my personal hopefully healthy fav, olive oil.

Why wouldn’t it be safe to cook with hot oil? The concern is about an oil’s smoke point, which according to the ever-trustworthy wikipedia, is the
“temperature at which a cooking fat or oil begins to break down. The substance smokes or burns, and gives food an unpleasant taste. Beyond the smoke point is the flash point, the point at which combustion occur.”

We definitely do not want combustion, but even heating an oil past its smoke point can cause it be potentially carcinogenic, as well to leave nasty black grease in your kitchen. However, according to Molly, who is working with food scientists to make her recipes safe and nutritious, olive oil is in the clear (and she highly recommends it as a source of good fat and a way to make vegetables more delicious so you eat more of them).

The oils not to heat are those with super low smoke points, like unrefined walnut oil; those might be best drizzled on salads or even in soup once it’s been served.

To find out the smoke points for your favorite oils, you can check out wikipedia’s list (a few eyeball comparison’s showed it to be comparable with the other lists I found) or read this totally suspect article from the olive oil source (conflict of interest, much?). Note that refined, unrefined, extra virgin, etc, all affect the smoke point.

a side of metal with that?

logo_lodge.gifHappy New Year! I wish everyone a healthy ’08.

I was contemplating what sorts of health things I want to blog about this year. I plan to continue with tips about how to reduce consumption of toxins. My tips come from a variety of sources: friends, professionals, my own research and hopefully some new tips from the natural cooking classes I got for Christmas!

Last night as I was washing our almost new frying pan, I noticed a bit of ugly chipping — i didn’t think they were Teflon, but it appears they are, and are already getting scratched. I’m really looking forward to bits of Teflon in my scrambled eggs. We’ve all heard how healthful that is!

Actually, what I’m really looking forward to is the day I purchase a set of Lodge pots and pans. Lodge makes cookware out of cast iron, completely Teflon free. This company has been around forever, and individual pots and pans are really reasonable (about twenty bucks for a large frying pan). I think they may even be sold at target, among other places.

* This tip came from Ode Magazine, which ran an article a year ago about the dangers of Teflon and suggested Lodge as an alternative.

dried up & scarred

I’m about to delve into finals period for my MFA, so likely might be a little sporadic until after the holidays, but I’ll be back full on in the new year (with the report on the full month of chlorophyll experiment, so far so good).

Heading into winter, I did want to mention a product I discovered last year, which was recommended to my mom for a scar by a natural skin care specialist. It’s rose hip oil. My mom used it on a scar from surgery, which all but disappeared, and I used it for the awful skin dryness that comes with winter, especially at the corners of your mouth.

rosa-mosqueta-rose-hip-seed_66c47cd6.jpgRose hip oil smells lovely & is pretty cheap. I bought an Aubrey version for about twelve bucks, used it all last winter, and just handed off more than half a bottle to my brother that was left over. There’s a ton of brands available, and as long as there’s nothing extra in it, they all should do the job.

Happy trots in the blustery wind!

agua de beber, camara

802180.jpgWhen I was in the Israeli Army (!) for a week as a teenage tourist in Israel, they told us to drink water for everything: headache, cuts, fatigue, bad dreams… drink water!

Drinking water is so important, but what are we supposed to do now that we know bottled water is bad for the environment and ultimately bad for all of us? Additionally, plastic bottles – disposable & not – are a bit suspect in my opinion, especially when they warm up (plastic tasting water, anyone?).

For awhile I was carrying around a glass bottle from GT’s Kombucha for my water, but it was too heavy (not to mention breakable). I was keeping my eye out for a light-weight, non-toxic water bottle and I finally found the perfect one through Carbon Conscious Consumer, a website where you can join challenges to reduce your carbon footprint.

I’m not super impressed with their website design, but my SIGG water bottle is great. I got the one pictured here. It’s the perfect size, so light weight, and includes a screw-off top for gulping and a secure spout that’s great for on the run or running at the gym. It’s made of aluminum.  Water tastes like water in here.

The one thing I don’t love about it is I had to order it on the internet, which means shipping and not supporting local businesses (though I’m not sure there are water bottle manufacturers in Brooklyn). However, if you sign up for the no-more-bottled-water challenge at Carbon Conscious Consumer, you get a discount (normally cost around 20 bucks). Happy drinkin’!

gimme green

I first tried drinking liquid chlorophyll after discussing natural deodorants with another natural products fiend.  She told me, in fact, she didn’t use deodorant at all because she didn’t need it; she didn’t smell bad (and she really didn’t).  I asked how that could be and she told me for a long time she drank liquid chlorophyll (which among other things acts as an internal deodorant) and now just eats a healthy diet rich in leafy greens and presto! No BO.

What I didn’t realize is that liquid chlorophyll is a super concentrated dose of green goodness, including calcium and iron (which is why it is often recommended for women to replenish from menstruation).  It is also good for digestions and detoxifying your liver (and word on the street is it can improve the odor of your genitals).

Chlorophyll is available at health food and vitamin stores (it’s actually a whole food, not a supplement).  You can dilute it with juice or water, but I actually find the taste just fine (though kind of like nothing else).

People on various blogs and alternative health sites seem to see chlorophyll as a health miracle.  I’m going to try drinking it for a full month, and report back on my findings (and we’ll see about the no deodorant…).