Toxic Confusion...

Monday, 6 October 2008

On this journey of discovering more natural alternatives to everything, there are some things that I find totally beyond my level of intelligence. One of these is trying to decipher what is natural and non-toxic to myself and to the environment. No matter how much I Google or Wiki, if it involves a bit of science then I'm stumped.


My Mum has bought a new hand wash after far too many comments from her eco-daughter. Why anybody would want to wash their hands with something that is not only a garish luminous green, but looks like it belongs in a hospital and bears the paradoxical name 'Carex', is beyond me. She has now got a lovely pear shaped bottle of 'Method, Sweet Water, Hand Wash', which displays it's econess with the words:

  • Naturally derived
  • Non toxic
  • We're against animal testing (We'll so you should be, this is not the 80's!)

Now the bottle is of course recyclable ('recycle always' on the label), so minimal brownie points there, but it's always the list of ingredients that, to me is like reading Mandarin (I studied it for a year a long time ago) I get a few bits and pieces, like I know what Sodium is (of course) and Citric Acid... but the rest, it could all be the main ingredients for bomb making and I wouldn't have a clue!

As always, ingredient number one is Aqua, or water as it is commonly known where I come from. Then second on the list comes our partner in crime 'Sodium Lauryl Sulphate'.

Now even after reading the Wikipedia definitions of both Sodium Lauryl and Laureth Sulphate, I'm none the wiser. It does say on the Laureth definition:

"The Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA) and the American Cancer Society have stated that the common belief that SLES is a carcinogen is an urban legend, a view confirmed by toxicology research by the OSHA, NTP, and IARC. SLES and SLS, and subsequently the products containing them, have been found to contain parts-per-thousand to parts-per-million levels of 1,4-dioxane, with the recommendation that these levels be monitored. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers 1,4-dioxane to be a probable human carcinogen (having observed an increased incidence of cancer in controlled animal studies, but not in epidemiological studies of workers using the compound), and a known irritant (with a no-observed-adverse-effects level of 400 milligrams per cubic meter). While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration encourages manufacturers to remove this contaminant, it is not currently required by federal law."

So is it or isn't it toxic? Is it just toxic for our bodies, or is it toxic for the environment? Either way, I'm not taking my chances and I want to move on to totally natural products, not even the ones that come in a plastic bottle, more like ones that come directly from a tree... in a perfect world.

So do I forgo washing my hands at other people houses? I do I carry a little pot of shikakai with me everywhere I go?

(By the way Mum, your doing a good job, I know it's hard to break habits and even harder when you are bullied into it!)


On the subject of 'Growing on trees', I found this post from a fellow Blogger, who I linked to in my Soap Nuts post ... a great set of tips on how to grow your own Soap Nuts.

Then received in the post today is my Mums sample of Soap Nuts, generously purchased by eco-daughter herself here. I will have great pleasure, for once, getting involved (briefly) in the copious amounts of washing that gets done in this house.


I don't really like to take medication unless I really need to. I prefer to go down the alternative path for most things, but I won't put myself at risk to prove a point. I put my hands up and admit that even after a totally natural birth plan that started in the drug free birthing unit, I ended up after 30 hours and complications, being trolleyed up to the maternity ward, completely exhausted, to be administered Pethidine and booked in for an emergency epidural (which thankfully never happened).

Even over the last few days of back pain, I gave in after day 2 and started taking Ibruprofen, because my Mum told me that after countless years of pain, she has found it to be true that 'coping' makes things worse and using pain relief helps long term because you are not limiting your movements, which in turn seizes your muscles up.

In India, I have in the past had many traditional Ayurvedic massages. When my back plays up I have found great relief from Shiatsu, Acupuncture, Aromatherapy and Magnotherapy and have rarely had to resort to Allopathic medicine. Here in the UK, I just cannot afford to go down this route at £35 per session for Acupuncture. I do appreciate that in some areas, alternative medicines and therapies are funded by the NHS, but only for long term treatments and by referral from your GP. 


This morning I had my 6 month check up at the dentist. I actually enjoy going to the dentist because he is from the same area of Kerala that my husbands family is from, so we always have a lot to talk about and he is always very gentle when it comes to cleaning and injections.

So this got me thinking about how green is the dentist?

"Many aspects of “green dentistry” exist: the architecture of a dental practice, energy sources, clinical and administrative technology, materials used for treatment, and more. For an existing practice, moving toward “green” slowly may be the best option. The existing practice can go paperless, use digital x-ray, stop using mercury altogether, and install energy-efficient windows to flood the interior with natural light. Indoor plants, an air filtration system, and a commitment to reduce office waste (recycle!) are simple changes that don’t cost much"

  • The main eco point seems to revolve around the x-rays. Digital Radiology eliminates photochemical waste, radiation and lead components.
  • Chemiclave solutions for cleaning along with bleach cleaners are considered hazardous waste and should be replaced with eco alternatives.
  • Oil-free air compressors should replace those using oil.
  • Paperless administration is a simple way to go green.

More information can be found here and here.

There are some dentists following this path, for example Jiva Dental in Kingston, Surrey. There's even an Eco-Dentistry Association in California. So next time you pop in for your check up, ask your friendly tooth doctor 'How green are you?'

And no, I'm not about to have my dental treatment administered without pain relief in the form of Local Anesthetic, until they offer me hypnotherapy or half a bottle of gin, that is!


So, as they say in the eco-world, I'm taking 'baby-steps' to a more non-toxic future, but like most of us just starting out on this journey, I'm no eco-goddess, well not just yet anyway. I do however make a conscious effort to be mindful in my everyday life, research my options and take the eco-route, wherever I find one.


Anonymous said...

Absolutely fabulous post! I'm thrilled to learn more about eco dentistry!

Couldn't agree more re soaps!

p.s. I tried the link you left wouldn't work! Will try again!

Kel said...

your poor mum...grin...hows she coping with your impending move?

Teena said...

Great Post! I had 6 chilren, 5 natural... no pethadine, breathing and preparing for the birth was all I used and it actually works.

Have heard about "No Drugs" surgery, absolutely amazing.

Sharon J said...

Fascinating post, Emma.

I had my first baby without any drugs but the second time the midwife jabbed me with pethadine without my permission so I got quite angry at her. The third was again born without drugs and was a really enjoyable experience. I can honestly say that I loved every moment of her birth.

I wouldn't go for drug-free surgery though. No way! I'm a complete wuzz when it comes to things like that. I even have to have general when I have my feeding line changed because the one time I had local it still hurt too much!