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  • The Dirt on Green Cleaning

    You are now aware of the toxic chemicals that conventional cleaning products contain, and have finally decided to make the move to green supplies. The question now is, how do you decide which green products to purchase, and although they may be environmentally friendly and safer for your family, do they really work?

    Here are some answers for you, highlighting a few of the top selling green cleaning products and how they measure up to the competition.

    Dish Washing Liquid Soap

    Nature Clean’s Mandarin & Grapefruit is at the top of the list for dish soaps. The refreshing smell and the results of sparkling dishes, makes washing up almost an enjoyable experience. This soap is formulated with essential oils, not synthetic fragrances. The oils have both antiseptic and aroma therapeutic properties. The soap does not create many suds due to its lack of Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, which is a suspected carcinogen. The truth is, suds don’t get your dishes clean, so you don’t need them. Nature Clean does not formulate their products with ingredients like formaldehyde based preservatives (which are also suspected carcinogens), phosphates, or dyes. Nature clean contains no animal byproducts and does not test on animals. All of their products are hypoallergenic, their bottles are made from 100% recycled post-consumer plastic, the products are septic system friendly and they are made in Canada.

    Ecover’s Dishwashing Liquid provides great results that can clean and degrease an entire sink with just a few drops. This dish soap measures up to its competitors as it ranked in the top eleventh percentile beating out several leading conventional national brands in the January 2008 issue of Consumer Reports magazine. The report also applauds Ecover’s performance and price point for their dishwashing products in general, ranking them a close second only to Dawn.

    Simply Clean Dish Detergent contains a combination of effective surfactants that are completely biodegradable and non-toxic. Their dishwashing liquid rinses off easily and doesn’t leave a residue that you can taste, smell or see. Simply Clean is a Canadian company that does not use phosphates, volatile organic solvents or other harsh chemicals.

    Automatic Dishwasher Cleaners

    The best results from an automatic dishwasher cleaner are from Ecover. Their Dishwasher Tablets and are a good combination of being ecologically friendly and convenient. The box contains 25 individually wrapped tablets that have the power to remove stains and stuck on food without phosphates, chlorine, and other chemicals. As with all Ecover products, these tablets quickly and completely biodegrade and are safe for use with septic tanks. In September 2006 Consumer Reports ranked Ecover’s Automatic Dishwashing Powder, number one in performance placing it above Palmolive and Costco’s Kirkland Signature. Ecover’s Dishwashing Tablets tied America’s Choice for second place in the May 2006 issue. .

    Nature Clean’s All Natural Dishwasher Powder is completely safe and is phosphate free without any chlorine bleach. The powder is satisfactory on its own, but for tougher stains and the best results the All Natural Rinse Agent is highly recommended.

    Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear Automatic Dishwasher Powder only works well when plates are scrapped and pre-washed. With a rinse aid, the results are marginally better. Seventh Generation’s Automatic Dishwasher Gel in Lemon has an extremely pleasant citrus fragrance, but at best does a satisfactory job. That said, The Better World Shopping Guide, the acclaimed comprehensive buying resource for ethically-minded consumers, has named Seventh Generation the number one company in the world today. The research looked at corporate behavior, the company’s performance on a wide variety of related human rights issue, the environment, animal protection, community involvement, and social justice. Now that’s something to think about.

    Glass & Surface Cleaner

    Nature Clean’s Glass & Window Cleaner is ammonia-free, and uses witch hazel for its astringent and antiseptic properties. It leaves a high shine leaving no streaks on windows, mirrors and chrome fixtures and also leaves a pleasant smell in the air.

    Seventh Generation’s Natural Glass & Surface Cleaner does what it says it will do – clean without streaks and the use of chemicals. It is as effective as any other glass and surface cleaner and comes in Free & Clear and Ruby Grapefruit & Herb varieties.

    Ecover’s Glass & Surface Cleaner is on par with all other conventional and green glass and surface cleaners. It cuts through grease and grime, is safe around food, does not smear on glass, is chrome-friendly, has a fresh fragrance from plant based ingredients and you only need small amounts to get a good shine. It is also completely biodegradable, has minimum impact on aquatic life, involves no animal testing and is safe for septic tanks. Ecover bottles and labels leave a lighter carbon footprint because they are made of polyethylene with the cap made from polypropylene. Polyethylene and polypropylene are 100 % recyclable and can be recycled using a low energy process.

    Laundry Liquid Wash

    Seventh Generation’s laundry detergents do not contain chlorine; instead they contain non-chlorine bleach, which degrades into oxygen and water. The products do a good job and minimal amounts of the detergent are required per load of laundry. They also leave a light fresh scent on clothing and sheets without irritating the skin or lungs.

    Nature Clean’s 3x Concentrate Laundry Liquid Detergent is environmentally friendly and provides more loads for your money. This hypoallergenic product performs extremely well without dyes, chemicals or perfumes. It has been formulated to work in cold, warm or hot water and is safe for infant clothing. This non-toxic formula does not irritate the skin or leave a residue on clothing. Although the company says it is unscented, it does have an odd odor.

    The laundry detergent by Simply Clean is an environmentally sound formula that is also extremely efficient and gets the job done. Simply Clean works equally well in hard water and as the company states – “this product is tough on dirt while soft on the environment”.

    Bathroom Cleaners

    Seventh Generation’s bathroom cleaners are free of chlorine, petroleum based solvents, glycol ethers, phosphates, acids, caustics, dyes, and perfumes. But do they work? The answer is…. sort of. As with most green bathroom cleaners, the products efficacy is dependent on the extent of the soap scum and mould.

    Nature Clean’s Tub & Tile Cream Cleanser and Ecovers Bathroom Spray can handle a little build-up on the tub and tiles, but along with its green competitors, they cannot remove tough soap scum and mould.

    Toilet Bowl Cleaners

    Ecover’s Toilet Bowl Cleaner does a great job of removing tough stains and decalcifying. It also has a fresh fragrance derived from plant based ingredients.

    Nature Clean’s Toilet Bowl Cleaner disinfects, deodorizes and does a good job of cleaning. This product does not contain hydrochloric acid so is non-toxic and non-corrosive. It contains Thyme Oil and Tea Tree Oil to add natural antiseptic and disinfectant properties.

    Seventh Generation’s Emerald Cypress & Fir Toilet Bowl Cleaner is as effective as conventional cleaners without the harmful chemicals and fumes. The scent is nice and refreshing while doing a not-so-nice task.

    When it comes to green cleaning, there are products available that are just as effective, if not superior to their conventional toxic counterparts. Therefore, you should be confident making the move to green cleaning products, which will not only benefit your family, but also the environment.

  • Insomnia & Restless Leg Syndrome

    HISTORY
    Matthew, a 33-year-old male presented with insomnia and restless leg syndrome (RLS) that he had be suffering from since his late teens. Every night he would go to bed at 12pm and have difficulty falling asleep, primarily due to his RLS. For people that suffer from RLS, they have a constant feeling in their legs of jerking, twitching and the urge to kick them. Matthew’s symptoms had progressively been becoming worse over the past several months while he had been training for a triathlon.

    PREVIOUS TREATMENT
    In the past the patient had attempted to use sleeping pills, but did not like the side effects, such as feeling groggy in the morning, and his symptoms returned as soon as he stopped using them. He had also tried reading before bed and having a warm bath, which both helped a little bit, but they did not relieve him of his symptoms.

    TREATMENT
    After taking a thorough health history, performing a physical exam and requesting blood work on Matthew, we created a plan together to treat his insomnia and RLS.The blood tests showed inadequate levels of B12, therefore I administered B12 shots for 3 months. After reviewing his diet and comparing it with the level of exercise and activity he was undertaking, it was evident
    that we needed to increase the amount of folate, calcium and magnesium in his diet through food and supplements. I also suggested eating foods such as turkey, bananas, milk, yoghurt, nut butter and whole grains before bed as they are high in tryptophan, which helps to promote sleep and a relaxation response. We also decided to do acupuncture treatments to help balance his Qi (energy), and to relax muscles tension from his training. In addition I created a botanical formula specifically for Matthew to take before bed that included herbs such as passionflower, skullcap, hops and valarian. I also suggested for him to stop training after 7pm,
    doing breathing exercises and meditation 30 minutes before bed, and making sure that his bedroom was completely dark.
    When he came back for his follow-up visit in 2 weeks he said that his sleep had improved by 80% and his RLS was almost completely gone. After 4 weeks his RLS was gone and he was able to fall asleep right away and stay asleep until he woke up at 6:30am. He said his energy levels had significantly increased and he was feeling great. Later on he also informed me that he was very pleased with his triathlon results as he beat his personal best.

  • Is Your Home Making You Sick?

    With the focus on pollution and the toxic load on the outside environment, it is easy to overlook the chemicals that may be lurking under your own roof. This indoor pollution can be more harmful, and found in higher levels than in the outdoors. But knowledge is power. If we know what these toxins are, we can make adjustments in our lives to reduce our exposure.   

    The following are 10 toxins you should be aware of.

    1) Phthalates are chemicals with a vast array of uses, from softening plastics to giving lotions their consistency. They are hormone disruptors and can be particularly harmful to children. Health Canada is proposing to add Phthalates to the Hazardous Products Act to ban the sale, advertisement and importation of toys for children under three.

    Sources: Plastic bottles, plastic toys and teethers, plastic storage containers, food wraps, and shower curtains. Phthalates can also be found in vinyl flooring, nail polish, soap, shampoo, perfume, and deodorant.

    Reducing exposure: Look for natural alternatives such as stainless steel bottles, toxin free toys and chemical free products.

    2) Heavy Metals are one of the most common industrial poisons found in the home. Pregnant women and young children are more susceptible to the effects of these toxins, which can range from developmental delays to serious illness. Since 1976 Health Canada has limited the amount of lead in interior paint by law however, it can still be found in old homes where the paint has not been removed.

    Sources: Old paint, plumbing (tap water), toys, and leaded crystal. Mercury can be found in metal teeth fillings and in some fish.

    Reducing exposure: Use water-based paint, buy natural toys made in Canada, use cold tap water which contains less lead than hot water, pregnant woman and children should not drink from leaded crystal and choose fish with low levels of mercury.

    3) Perfluorinated chemicals (PFC) are suspected carcinogens. The Government of Canada has recommended that some forms be added to the List of Toxic Substances.

    Sources: Non-stick pans, microwave popcorn bags, scratch and stain resistant coatings, carpets, fabric and cleaning products.

    Reducing exposure: Choose pans that are PFC free (such as stainless steel and cast iron), use natural products where possible, and make your popcorn the old fashioned way on the stove or use a popcorn maker.

    4) Bisphenols are polycarbonate plastics made with bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen that may leach toxins and lead to cancer and infertility. Canada is the first country to place BPA on the toxic substance list, and the government is proceeding with regulations to ban the importation, sale and advertising of baby bottles containing BPA.

    Sources: Some plastic bottles, the lining of some cans and many other products made from plastic.

    Reducing exposure: Look for BPA free plastics and cans.

    5) Pesticides are found on a number of foods and find their way in our homes from the outside environment. Pesticides are linked to cancer, nerve damage and birth defects. Health Canada now requires pesticide companies to report all of the adverse effects associated with their products.

    Sources: Foods (produce), bug sprays, and can also be brought in your home on your shoes and clothes.

    Reducing exposure: Buy organic foods, use natural alternatives for bug spray and take your shoes off at the door to minimize the toxins you track into your home.

    6) Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a group of chemicals that are known to be toxic in high doses and are a major contributing factor to ozone, which is an air pollutant.

    Sources: Paint, carpets, deodorants, cosmetics, cleaning products, varnishes, air fresheners and dry cleaning.

    Reducing exposure: Health Canada recommends ensuring sufficient ventilation during major painting or other home projects, choosing low emission products, preventing people from smoking indoors and avoiding certain personal care and cleaning products.

    7) Chlorine is a highly toxic gas and is one of the most commonly used chemical agents. Chlorine can cause, among other conditions, respiratory concerns.

    Source: Household cleaners.

    Reducing exposure: Use natural cleaning products and alternatives such as baking soda and vinegar.

    8) Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDS) are flame-retardants found in common household items. Some forms have been banned in Canada, but the substance is still ubiquitous.

    Sources: Electronics, upholstery and drapery textiles and potentially your mattress.

    Reducing exposure: Be a conscious shopper and keep your home clean, as PBDS can settle in the dust on your floor.

    9) Radon is a natural radioactive gas that can seep into homes through cracks in the basement and the surrounding foundation. Health Canada states that exposure to high amounts of radon increases the risk of developing lung cancer.

    Sources: Rock and earth beneath homes, well water and building materials.

    Reducing exposure: Test your home for radon.

    10) Carbon monoxide is an odourless, colourless, gas that reduces the amount of oxygen in blood. Low levels over long periods of time are dangerous, and high levels can cause unconsciousness and lead to death.

    Sources: A leaking chimney or furnace, unvented kerosene and gas space heaters, gas water heaters, wood and gas stoves and automobile exhaust from attached garages.

    Reducing exposure: Install carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home, keep gas appliances properly adjusted, use proper fuel in kerosen space heaters, install and use an exhaust fan vented to the outdoors over gas stoves and do not idle the car inside your garage.

    The thought of these toxins accumulating in our home is extremely alarming and scary to say the least. Fortunately, with the greener consciousness and green movement there is more information and better alternatives available to help decrease our exposure to these chemicals.

     

  • Vitamin D and Cancer Prevention

    As of late there has been a lot of talk about vitamin D and cancer prevention, but is the research really there to support all of the hype? The answer is yes. Research shows that appropriate levels of vitamin D can help prevent breast, ovarian, prostate and colorectal cancer. Low vitamin D levels have also been connected to increased incidence of multiple sclerosis, juvenile diabetes, bone fractures, osteoporosis, mood disorders and influenza.

    A four-year clinical trial that involved 1,200 women, discovered that those taking vitamin D had an astounding 60% reduction of an incidence of cancer compared with those who did not take the supplement.

    If you are deficient in vitamin D, the best way to increase your levels is to supplement with vitamin D3. At first, you may need to take up to 5,000 IU daily to bring your level to an optimum range. Once your levels are stable, supplementing with 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day depending on the time of year, your health, size and lifestyle is a good idea. A standard multivitamin only has 400 IU of vitamin D. 

    It is difficult to get all that you need through foods, but certain fish can provide 300-700 IU per serving, and milk provides 100 IU per glass. Given this information, health authorities may move towards implementing a substantial increase in food fortification to affect the research study results.

    Sun is a great source of vitamin D when sunscreen is not used, as the UVB rays enable our bodies to manufacture vitamin D under the skin. A little sun exposure to the skin is healthy, as long as it is not at peak times of the day and the skin does not burn. The limited sun exposure to the skin may explain why the incidence of cancer is higher in northern latitudes than at the equator.
    I recommend that everyone keep their vitamin D levels at an optimal range with supplements and regular, safe sun exposure to help decrease the risks of certain serious diseases such as cancer, to increase their immune system and to maintain bone health.

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  • 10 ways to raise your kids green

    10 ways to raise your kids green

    While becoming a green parent sounds like an enormous undertaking, it really doesn’t have to be that difficult. There are small changes you and your children can make that will collectively have a major impact on the environment.

    Children who connect with nature and respect the environment grow into adults who care about protecting it. It is up to us to set the example for our children. 

    Here are 10 ways you can become a green parent:

    Walk, bike or take public transit. By not driving, you will be decreasing air pollution, all while saving money, getting exercise and breathing in fresh air.

    Start composting.  Get your children involved in gathering kitchen and yard waste for the compost. Turn it into a fun activity by seeing who can collect them most items, and by using the soil to plant a vegetable garden. To learn how to compost go toHowToCompost.org.

    Conserve water and energy. Brainstorm with your children ways to reduce water and energy consumption. For example, have them turn the water off when they brush their teeth, fill the bath with less water, use the bath water to wash the dog or to water the plants, and have short showers instead of baths when possible.  Also, have your children help you turn off the lights – you can even assign someone to be the official light switch patrol person.

    Other ways to conserve energy are to purchase green power for your home’s electricity, install energy-efficient bulbs, always have leaky air conditioning and refrigeration systems repaired, and hang laundry to air dry instead of using the dryer.

    Take a stance with your wallet. Support organic and local companies by purchasing their products.  Organic companies tread lightly on the planet because they grow their products without chemicals.  By purchasing local products you are providing more nutritious food for your family, supporting the local economy, and reducing pollution from extra packaging and transportation.

    Use canvas bags. The Environmental Protection Agency indicates that over 500 billion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year.  Instead of using plastic bags provided by stores, bring your own canvas bags. Give your children one each that they can decorate with markers, ribbons, bows, or anything else you have around the house. If you are like me and always forget your canvas bags, leave them on the door handle or where you keep your keys.

    Triple R. Reduce, reuse and recycle – we all know the three Rs, here are some ways to implement them:

    • Involve your children in the household recycling to encourage them take an interest in helping.  Take your kids to the local recycling facility to help them understand the process involved in recycling. 
    • Have fun recycling and reusing paper, plastic and aluminum. Newspapers and paper bags can be used to make book covers and Sunday comics can become wrapping paper.
    • Stop junk mail. Have your kids make, and put up a friendly sign on your mailbox  – “Save the trees, no junk mail please” and email companies that mail you advertisements, requesting to be removed from their mailing lists. 
    • Minimize waste when packing lunches. When preparing the kids lunches use lunch boxes – not lunch bags, use reusable containers – not plastic wrap or aluminum, use clothes napkins – not paper napkins and send recyclable cutlery to school with them – not plastic.

    Out with the old.  Host a garage sale and give the proceeds to a charity of your children’s choice. Have your children make the garage sale signs and organize most of the logistics of the sale. This teaches them about recycling, planning and finances. Another idea is to swap items with other families. By swapping toys and clothes, your children will enjoy new items without you having to purchase them. This will help reduce overall waste and will be an economic advantage for you.

    Make your own baby food. Making your own baby food is not only more environmentally friendly and economical, but it can be healthier too. By making your own food you reduce pollution from packaging and transportation. You will also know exactly what is in the food you are feeding your baby.  If it is an option, breastfeeding is not only beneficial to babies, but the environment as well. Breastfeeding avoids the transportation, packaging, time, cleaning products and money that are associated with using formula.  The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years. This may be difficult for some, but making an effort to nurse as long as possible can be beneficial to both your baby and the environment.

    Use cloth, non-chlorinated or flushable diapers. Disposable diapers contribute to a significant amount of plastic waste and may contain chemicals that can be harmful or irritating to your baby. Cloth diapers require water and energy to clean and reuse them, but are still the better option for your baby.  Many cloth diapers now come with diaper covers that are water and leak proof.  Look for disposable diapers that are non-chlorinated or new types of diapers, likegDiapers that can be flushed down the toilet or composted.

    Express yourself. Write letters with your children to corporate leaders, public officials and people in power positions to let them know how you feel about local, national, and global environmental issues. Lead by example and teach your children to stand up for the things that they believe in and that are important for their future.

    It may take a little persuading, but if you teach by example and educate your children on how to take care of the environment from an early age, it will become second nature to them later in life. Future generations will benefit from how we raise our children, so make that extra effort today, to make a better future for tomorrow.

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