Monday, January 19, 2015

What I Wish I Knew BEFORE I had Cancer

     I thought cancer happened to people who made unhealthy life style decisions (like smoking), or had unfortunate environmental exposure through a toxic waste dump in their neighborhood or even who had a family history.  But did you know that one in two men and one in three woman will be diagnosed with cancer?  And, it's not just cancer.  There are dramatic rises in autism, adhd, fertility issues, asthma, auto-immune diseases, and allergies.
    I thought cancer wouldn't happen to me.  I exercise, eat fairly well, and have regular screenings.  I smoked for all of one month in high school. My alcohol intake amounts to maybe five glasses of wine a YEAR.  I live in the 'burbs, think white picket fences and farms in my town.
     I may never know what caused my cancer, but I now suspect that a tipping point was reached.
     I am appalled at what I have recently learned.  I trusted the government to regulate and make companies put safe products on the supermarket shelves.  We live in a country that has rules and regulations for everything.  Boy, was I wrong.  The shampoos, baby lotion, sunscreen, and soaps that I trusted and used on my family contained known carcinogens.  And I bet that YOURS DO, TOO.
     The last time Congress passed a law on cosmetics safety was in 1938.  Since then, we’ve learned a lot from the scientific community about the harmful impacts of ingredients commonly used in the cosmetics industry.   Meanwhile, other countries have taken significant steps to protect their residents from toxic chemicals in consumer products. The European Union, for example, has restricted over 1,400 cosmetics ingredients, whereas the United States has only taken action on 11.  Yes, that is eleven!
     Johnson's Baby Shampoo is one example of a product that we all recognize.  Every mother can identify its scent. I have always thought that there are few things better than holding a freshly bathed baby in your arms and inhaling the fresh clean aroma of baby shampoo from their sweet little scalps.  Fifty plus years ago, my mother used it on my brothers and I.  When I had children, I tenderly washed them with it.  The "Pure and Gentle" wash contained formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.  The company is now making a positive move by phasing formaldehyde out of it's formula, claiming that the amount was so small, it didn't really matter.
     Except that it DOES matter.  My exposure to toxic chemicals started with baby shampoo and then continued with most of the other shampoos, soaps, deodorants, detergents, cosmetics, and cleaning products I have been using since.
     Remember, cosmetic and personal care companies can't use over 1,400 toxic ingredients in Europe.  So the companies make multiple formulas of the same shampoo.  The safer formula for other countries, and the one containing known and probable carcinogens for the US.  The personal care industry does know better.  I can only guess that it must be more profitable for them.
    We can't avoid some exposure to toxins, but we can lower our level of exposure.
    We can and must make healthier choices for our families.
    Start here:
  1. Get the Environmental Working Groups Skin Deep FREE app on your phone.  They have put the power of information in your hands. When you know what’s in the products you bring into your home and how those chemicals may affect your health and the environment, you can make informed purchasing decisions.  Simply scan the barcode of the product into your phone and get ratings for healh concerns:  cancer, developmental/reprotoxicity and allergens.    It's quick and easy.  I put it on my phone and began scanning all the products in our bathrooms.  I was unpleasantly suprised.  Why buy a product with carcinogens when there is a healthy alternative available at a similar price?
  2. Be informed.  A great place to start is by reading Little Changes:  Tales of A Reluctant  Home Eco-nomics Pioneer, by Kristi Marsh.   An amazing book.  You can read my review here.  I do have an affiliate link for this book on my sidebar, however, I was not asked or paid to review it and the opinions expressed are my own. 
     Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing about the changes I am making in my home to reduce the levels of toxins my family is exposed to.  Have you made any changes to protect your family?  What are you doing differently?  Let me know in the comments below.

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