Going Green

Right after I got my preliminary diagnosis of premature ovarian failure, my doctor speculated that the problem might’ve been linked to my history of autoimmune disease. She admitted, though, that no one knows much about autoimmune disease, so I took it upon myself to get all edumakated on the subject. Now, I’m a researcher at heart — when I was in grad school, I used to love rolling up at the library as soon as it opened, travel mug full of java in hand, in order to dive head-first into Lexis-Nexis like Scrooge McDuck into his pile of money — and this situation was no different.

I’d always known that having Celiac predisposes me to other autoimmune conditions, but I figured going gluten-free was all I needed to do to prevent those other things from ever cropping up.

Well.

As it turns out, there’s a lot more at play than that. In The Autoimmune Epidemic, Donna Nakazawa notes that new diagnoses of autoimmune disease have skyrocketed in recent decades, and that one of the probable causes is the  population’s vastly increased exposure to environmental toxins. Such toxins can come from non-organic foods, household cleaners, industrial pollution, and even carpets and furniture.

Color me appalled, y’all.

At various points while reading The Autoimmune Epidemic, I sat on the couch (which, as I soon learned, is probably toxic as all get-out), brazenly slack-jawed and mouth-breathing, as I realized in horror that basically everything around me is poisonous. Noooooooooooo!

The root of this problem lies in chemical regulation: in the European Union, for example, substances must be proven safe for humans and the environment before they can be used in agriculture, cosmetics, industrial chemicals, food, household cleaners…basically, the list goes on for a while. In the U.S., by contrast, chemicals can be used in every imaginable context — and can only be taken out of those products if they’re proven to be harmful. However, it’s really, really hard to prove that something is harmful once it’s out in the general population. And therein, to quote my homie Shakespeare, lies the rub.

To quote the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the nation’s leading health and environmental research and advocacy organization,

EWG research into more than 2,000 common cleaning products lays bare the troubling consequences of the lack of federal oversight over the ingredients in cleaning supplies. Manufacturers can use nearly any substance they want, even those known to pose health or environmental hazards. And they can hide information about virtually all those ingredients from the eyes of consumers. The result is an unregulated industry and hundreds of potentially harmful cleaning products on store shelves. (Source)

Oh, hell no.

Brandon and I looked up our all-purpose cleaner, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, and dish soap on the EWG’s consumer Guide to Healthy Cleaning, only to find that they’d all earned big, fat, stinkin’ F’s. Once again: oh, hell no.

We were so very mad when we saw this. Like, if steam could’ve been coming out my ears a la Looney Toons, it absolutely would’ve been (replete with the steam-engine whistle sound).

Failing the ability to totally wig out and send expletive-laden hate mail to the makers of all these products (because really, what would that do?), we decided to instead put our money where our mouths are: we tossed out all our old stuff and bought A-rated products.

Here’s a run down of what we used before vs. what we use now:

All Purpose Cleaner Seventh Generation Green Works

Dishwasher Detergent Seventh Generation Cascade

One of the things that irked me the most in finding out that, like, everything we own is hazardous is the fact that all the Green Works products we’d been using are practically brimming with really bad crap. Y’know, things like probable carcinogens, which I think we’d all like to avoid. I’d specifically bought Green Works because it’s marketed as a health-conscious, eco-friendly alternative to the more hardcore cleansers out there. But obviously, that marketing ploy turned out to be — how do I say this gently? — a steaming pile of BS.

Buyer beware, I know. But y’all, I looked at the ingredient lists. I compared labels. I didn’t just pick it up because a commercial told me it was a good idea. And yet, I got totally hosed.

Insert fit of rage here, my friends.

But wait, there’s more! In doing some further investigation, I found that all my cosmetics are just as laden with endocrine disrupting, banned-in-the-EU chemical compounds as our old cleaning products.

*Headdesk*

So, those cosmetics are next on my list of items to be replaced. Financially, though, it wouldn’t be feasible to toss all my makeup and start over from scratch — so for now, I plan to gradually replace my existing stash as I use up what’s left. As I start hunting for new cosmetics, hair products, body wash, and moisturizers, EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database will hopefully provide loads of guidance on what products are safe vs. which ones I need  to avoid.

All in all, although I’m peeved beyond words about the extent to which manufacturers have pulled the wool over my eyes — and a lot of peoples’ eyes, for that matter — I’m tremendously grateful to the EWG for doing so much research and using a rigorous methodology in order to determine what’s safe and what’s not. They’re a tremendous resource, and I wish I could bake a huge batch of cookies and send them out to all their offices. Failing that, I’ll just have to give them my eternal gratitude.

35 thoughts on “Going Green

  1. cjoye7 July 9, 2013 / 9:39 am

    OMG. I’m horrified. And to be honest, petrified as to what I’m going to find when I start looking up all of the cleaning products in my house. 😦

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte July 9, 2013 / 5:05 pm

      Seriously, it’s horrifying stuff! I was aghast when Brandon and I were on the EWG website and F after F after F kept coming up, along with words like “probable carcinogen.” We were appalled (and since, as you know, I’m a wee bit prone to freaking out, I was in a mild state of panic). It’s such BS that manufacturers are able to do this, and almost no one talks about it.

  2. chasingchels July 9, 2013 / 9:44 am

    Ok, I’m going home tonight and going through all of our cleaning products to see what I find. And we’ll be buying the seventh generation stuff from now on. I can’t believe that every product you listed as F is stuff we use regularly…I’m absolutely horrified, ha, but I’m really glad that you posted this! Thank you, darlin 🙂

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte July 9, 2013 / 5:06 pm

      I was horrified too — Brandon and I kept looking at each other and going “WTF? Another thing we’ve used for ages is basically poison?!” The Seventh Generation stuff is really good; it’s usually a dollar or so more than the regular stuff, but I figure those dollars are worth it if I can avoid getting sick. Isn’t it maddening?!

      • chasingchels July 9, 2013 / 6:00 pm

        Yes!! And I agree…a few extra dollars is definitely worth our health!

  3. MegBek July 9, 2013 / 9:45 am

    This is mind blowing. I mean, I know that there are lots of things wrong with food regulation in the US but I had no idea about products like freaking soap…. So tragic. My roomie and co blogger loves learning about stuff like this and buys organic and natural things as much as possible to keep healthy. It’s so true-buyer beware, yes, but I mean to what extent can we know what’s in what we’re buying? I feel yah. Cray cray stuff.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte July 9, 2013 / 5:10 pm

      I had no idea either — I mean, I knew about food regulation, just like you said, but it’s infuriating that very few people ever seem to talk about this stuff in mainstream health care. (The NYT op-ed and the NYT Magazine article about flame retardants in couches are some of the only stuff I’ve seen on this topic in regular media outlets.) A friend of mine said that when she had her daughter, the hospital’s parenting classes *recommended* Green Works as the safest brands to use around newborns and babies — and they’re the most vulnerable of all. *SMH*

  4. RaeJean July 9, 2013 / 9:48 am

    Tarte is a great “natural” make-up brand when you decide to go on your Sephora binge 🙂

  5. OneMotherofaDay July 9, 2013 / 10:23 am

    Yes, unfortunately majority of the conventional items(food and non-food) we buy are all very dangerous for us to be consuming and/or using. I have gradually tried to go all natural with my cleaning products. Like you I didn’t want to throw all my products away and waste all that money. So, as I have used up a certain product, instead of going out and buying it I just used ingredients I already have around the house (ie baking soda, vinegar, tea tree oil, etc). It seems many people lately have been diagnosed with some type of an autoimmune condition. I have been diagnosed with one in the last year, along with my Dad and Mother-in-law. It does seem doctors are learning too as more people are being diagnosed with them. After your post I may have to start buying more organic foods. Thank you for bringing it to my attention in regards to organic foods 🙂

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte July 9, 2013 / 5:15 pm

      I’m glad this helped! It’s scary when so many people (including yourself and immediate family members) are being diagnosed with autoimmune diseases, and it’s clear that something is going on. If you’d like to do more reading on autoimmune diseases, there are two awesome books that have come out in recent years: the one I referenced here, The Autoimmune Epidemic, by Donna Jackson Nakazawa, as well as The Immune System Recovery Plan, by Susan Blum. They’re both incredibly helpful — best of luck to you, your Dad, and your MIL in getting well! 🙂

      • OneMotherofaDay July 9, 2013 / 9:25 pm

        Great! Will check those books out. Thank you!

  6. saltedplates July 9, 2013 / 10:30 am

    Excellent timing as we are just out of our supposed good all purpose cleaner which isn’t really good at all. I have been thinking of switching to vinegar solution, have you tired that?

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte July 9, 2013 / 5:17 pm

      I haven’t tried it — and because I’m a wuss, I’m a bit reticent to try it out. I haaaaaaaaate the smell of vinegar (it pretty much knocks me off my feet whenever I catch even a slight whiff of it), so I’d have to work really hard to cover it up. I’m lame, I know! 🙂

      • saltedplates July 10, 2013 / 11:55 am

        I went to a food swap last night and got some kitchen cleaner made with a peppermint extract that smells great. I told the woman who made it she must have been channeling my thoughts as I needed to do this and was just discussing it.

      • Lillian @ Seize the Latte July 10, 2013 / 8:23 pm

        No way — that’s awesome! Let me know if it smells vinegary or pepperminty — I’d love to hear how it turns out!

  7. Charlotte @ Commitness to Fitness July 9, 2013 / 10:44 am

    wow, just wow. there’s an article i read recently on all the things in our food that are banned in EU and Asia and i was bleepin’ horrified, so this post is getting me really riled up again. it makes me SO MAD. why are these chemicals allowed in the US? because of money and greed and lobbyists and its all SO corrupt i can’t even. AND WHY IS IT LEGAL to market/advertise products as safe when they arent? GAH!

  8. Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama July 9, 2013 / 11:00 am

    This post has reinforced my long-standing no make-up policy! Of course, this policy has everything to do with sheer laziness and nothing to do with scary chemicals, but I’m happy to know that I have been saving my skin all these years! I am definitely going to check out the EWG lists. I’m sure I will need to throw out a ton of the so-called green products I started buying when I was pregnant. And now I have some more ammunition for my ultimate dream to move the girls abroad for a few years!

  9. Becky @ Olives n Wine July 9, 2013 / 11:08 am

    Ugh – this is terrifying to me! I am typically good with food and try to be good with cleaning supplies but it is not easy! I’m going to go through my cupboards tonight and figure out what I can and cannot keep. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Gratitudenist July 9, 2013 / 11:16 am

    Wow, thanks so much for the extensive research and reporting! It’s so disheartening to know that we are hurting our own health and the way our country is run makes it difficult to make that stop. It’s just like all the terrible things in cheap packaged foods that creates obesity and type 2 diabetes. Thanks for showing the products that are good. You’ve got to figure that anything showing Clorox on it has to be pretty bad, even if it says “green” on it. I’ll be interested to know what you find out about makeup that is safer. Great post!

  11. Alex @ therunwithin July 9, 2013 / 12:23 pm

    I am actually in awe at how much of a connection there is with celiacs to other autoimmune disorders, totally scares me. I am happy to hear though that you are making a change that will only benefit you.

  12. cookingfortheotherhalf July 9, 2013 / 12:49 pm

    This is terrifying, but thank you for sharing it. This seems like something everyone needs to know – it makes me want to print out your post, photocopy it, and then drop them in thousands from airplanes. :-/

  13. Jorie July 9, 2013 / 3:00 pm

    This is really scary. I had no idea they were that many chemicals and carcinogens in so much of our everyday products. And I really didn’t understand the link between them and autoimmune disorders. May I ask where you bought the Seventh Generation products? I’d really like to make the switch.

  14. NaturesComplete July 9, 2013 / 5:00 pm

    Isn’t it crazy that we try our hardest to be as healthy as possible. We avoid putting toxins in our bodies by the way that we eat. But then they sneak that crap in our products. This was an eye opening article. How do the safe products smell? I like scented things because it makes me feel like I have actually cleaned. Let me know because I am thinking about switching my products out as well.

  15. livliveslife July 9, 2013 / 7:16 pm

    Lillian, I love this post.
    This whole topic is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. It frustrates me so much that we can take care of our bodies by exercising and eating “healthy” food but they’re still getting hurt by the nastiness companies put into everything. I know that part of the reason they do it is to produce more for our enormous population, but really, that’s not cool. There MUST be another way.
    It’s equally frustrating that Green Works got an F! I made the switch thinking I was doing everyone/thing well, but I guess not!
    Anyway, rant over…I’m going to be sending this post out to my friends and family, because I think it is extremely important stuff to think about. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte July 10, 2013 / 8:20 pm

      Thanks, Liv — I was appalled when Green Works got an F, too, so it was really eye-opening for me. It’s amazing how hard we have to work in order to learn what’s safe and what isn’t, especially since we all take good care of ourselves by eating well, exercising, etc.!

  16. musingsoftheamusingmuse July 9, 2013 / 10:04 pm

    I’ve been switching our cleaners to Seventh Generation or equivalent and will be making powdered laundry soap soon (grate one bar of Fels Naptha soap, add 1 box washing soda, 1 box of Borax and about 20 drops of your preferred essential oil). These autoimmune diseases are definitely a head scratcher but I’ve been progressively making the switch to organic for a couple years. It’s not easy on the pocketbook, but it’s easier on my mind.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte July 10, 2013 / 8:22 pm

      Oh, I’ll be really interested to hear how the home-made laundry soap experiment goes! Like you said, a lot of the organics aren’t easy on the pocketbook, but it’s worth it for some peace of mind. I figure the investment in safe products as a means of prevention is a lot cheaper than paying for medical treatment after getting sick!

  17. jessielovestorun July 10, 2013 / 4:02 am

    I recently switched to the vinegar solution when it come to cleaning.. and boy does it work like a charm!

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte July 10, 2013 / 8:23 pm

      Really?! I’ve been hesitant to try the vinegar solution, just because I haaaaaate the smell of vinegar. It’s like an assault on my nose whenever I’m within 50 feet of it. Are you able to make it smell less vinegar-y?

  18. Elle@thewaybyelle.blogspot.com July 10, 2013 / 2:15 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I’m slowly beginning the transition toward less toxic cleaning supplies. I have several family members who suffer from Lupus and Celiac disease.

    • Lillian @ Seize the Latte July 10, 2013 / 8:25 pm

      Oy, Lupus and Celiac are tough — I’m sorry your family members have to go through that. Hopefully using non-toxic products can help mitigate one of the factors leading to autoimmune disease!

  19. Jess July 21, 2013 / 5:54 pm

    This is horrific! I can’t believe these products are sold. Just disturbing.

  20. Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets July 22, 2013 / 9:23 am

    Green works is totally a steaming pile of BS. I got hosed by it too. You are not alone.
    This information is so eye-opening and downright appalling. A co-worker sent me the info a year or so ago and after I got over my initial shock, I switched all my cleaning products to the Seventh Generation brand. I also use a mix of white vinegar and water to clean my hard wood floors.
    Much like you though, I’m still working through all my cosmetics. Thankfully, I don’t use a lot of them and my face lotion (which I use more than anything) came out ok. Good luck swapping all of yours and thanks for sharing this info.

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