Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks




FEBRUARY 28, 2014- We live in a world polluted by toxins. We’re exposed to pesticides and carcinogens in the foods we eat, the clothes we wear, the furniture we purchase, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the toys our children play with, the cosmetics and other personal care products we apply to our skin, and the substances we use to clean our houses.

This deadly chemical cocktail builds up in our bodies and has the potential to cause us great harm, manifesting itself in everything from asthma to cancer. These toxins are stored in our bones, muscle, blood, and fat.

Childhood disease is increasing exponentially. Cancer is the leading cause of death (after accidents) in children younger than 15 in the U.S. Autism now affects one in 50 children. In the past two decades, there has been a 300 percent increase in allergies (including food) and asthma; a 400 percent increase in ADHD.

We sacrifice so much for our children, but often give little thought to the environment where our children live. We know not to expose them to second-hand smoke, but what’s in the food they eat, sprayed on the lawns where they play, or even on the clothes they wear or the carpets they lie on to watch TV?

Remember when we used to have lead in paint and gasoline? That was the first time that Americans were alerted to something dangerous lurking in their homes and at their workplaces. But because of industry opposition to and cover-up of the dire effects of lead, the campaign to ban the poison lasted more than 60 years.

Then along came asbestos with its side effects of several deadly lung diseases. Remember DDT? It can still be found in the bones, brains, and fatty tissue of nearly everyone who was around pre-1980. And condors, bald eagles, and peregrine falcons are only now returning from the brink of extinction, just one of the consequences of this lethal pesticide.

Even though lead, asbestos, and DDT have been outlawed, there are more than 80,000 synthetic chemicals in use today, and only about two percent have ever been tested for safety. But even if some chemical levels are considered acceptable, what happens when these chemicals react to each other inside of us? The toxic stew is untested.

Before even walking out the door in the morning, it is possible to be exposed to over 100 unique synthetic chemicals, including lead, mercury, aluminum, and cadmium. We most likely have over 200 synthetic chemicals in our bodies right now because our exposure to toxins is so pervasive.

The toxin that we love to hate in the 21st century is Bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA is a chemical that is used to make plastic strong while keeping it lightweight. In October 2011, BPA was banned from use in baby bottles and children’s sippy cups in California, but it continues to be used to coat metal food containers and in some plastics. BPA is one of the highest-volume chemicals produced in the world.

Europe errs on the side of caution and bans chemicals until they are proven safe. (Also in the U.K., food companies are required by law to list on the label if a certain ingredient is derived from a genetically modified or genetically engineered material.) 

In the U.S., the government has their hands tied by food industry and chemical company lobbyists that basically control what the FDA approves and deems safe for human consumption. (And Americans are exploited by being exposed to toxins in food and other products that are banned in other countries).

There are certain toxins that can’t be avoided, such as the pesticides, smoke, and vehicle and industrial emissions floating around in the Central Valley’s air. So I’ve decided to go to work on eliminating those that I can control to reduce my toxic burden. So far, I’ve changed toothpaste, bath soap, face lotion, body lotion, lip balm, cosmetics, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, sunscreen, laundry soap, cookware, and household cleaning products. I’ve eliminated the use of dryer sheets, chlorine bleach, ammonia, oven cleaner, and canned food. 

The chemical industry is largely unregulated in the U.S. Because of proprietary concerns, the makers of toxic cleaning agents and personal care products aren’t required to list all their ingredients, but substances that I’m avoiding are parabens, anything petroleum-derived, phthalates, phosphates, Triclosan, dioxin, ammonia, anything antibacterial, vinyl and PVC, “fragrance,” sodium laureth sulfate, and phenols. 

It sounds like a big project, but it really isn’t. It’s mainly a matter of going off autopilot. 

There are some readily accessible, biodegradable, naturally derived nontoxic household staples that can take the place of caustic chemicals for house-cleaning -- white vinegar, lemon, and baking soda. Additions to my skincare arsenal are coconut oil, hydrogen peroxide, Vitamin E oil, natural essential oils, and plant-derived ingredients. Some products I have made myself, others I have purchased.

Three Rivers residents have the benefit of buying locally made personal care products from Ja Nene Natural Body Products (anointyourself.com). From hair care to skin care, massage oil to mosquito repellent, owner Janene Lasswell provides products for the entire family.

Hopefully, in the not-so-distant future, corporations creating these toxic products will be forced to phase out the chemicals, replacing them with healthier, sustainable ingredients that don’t bioaccumulate in our bodies, our children’s bodies, or the environment.