April 5, 2014

Become a Toxin Freedom Fighter! (Sponsored by Seventh Generation)

I participated in a campaign on behalf of Millennial Central for Seventh Generation. I received a promotional item and product samples as a thank you for participating.

Tonight, I’m having a housewarming party at my new apartment in Colorado! Never mind that one room is still of boxes… I’m just going to close the door. It’s a pretty small gathering of just close friends that I already knew before moving here, so even if they peek in, hopefully they’ll understand that I still have a lot to do to get my apartment completely settled.

New Furniture
On the plus side, my new “I’m an adult” now leather living room set came, so at least my guests have somewhere to sit!

It’s not a big group (~10 people total, including me), so getting food and drink together wasn’t all that stressful. (Also, I am taking a huge shortcut and getting a lot of pre-made appetizers rather than cooking from scratch… shhh, don’t tell.) But I also wanted to take some time to clear away some of the dust from moving, and since I threw out most of my half-empty bottles of cleaning agents before I moved, that meant buying new stuff.

My mom is very concerned with buying non-toxic, environmentally-friendly products… sometimes to the point where it drives me nuts. She would have a heart attack if I was at my apartment in New York City and pulled out Drano to take care of a bathtub clog, or Windex for the mirrors. To be honest, I thought she was a little bit over the top about some of that stuff. However, I recently partnered with Seventh Generation to spread awareness of the importance of chemical reform in the United States, and some of the statistics are really staggering.

For another example, did you know that more than 80,000 chemicals in the U.S. have never been fully tested for their toxic effects? In fact, only about 43% of common chemicals have been tested for potential human toxicity. I have always pooh-poohed many of my mom’s warnings by reasoning that if the FDA approved something, it must be at least mostly fine… but that statistic tells me otherwise. In fact, it turns out that the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed in 1976, and has never been updated. As it currently stands, tens of thousands of potentially harmful chemicals continue to be used in the marketplace since the 1970’s without proper testing and without disclosure by the companies that produce them.

Early exposure to toxic chemicals may lead to cancer and Alzheimer's
Since my mom is a breast cancer survivor and my grandma had Alzheimer’s, this really hits ohme.

Now, do I think all of those untested chemicals are dangerous? No. And I would also venture to guess that some of those chemicals that are tested and found to be toxic are only problematic in large doses. When I go shopping, I make sure to avoid products with artificial dyes (e.g., red dye #40, yellow dye #5, and blue dye #2) and artificial sugars (e.g., sucralose, Stevia)… but if I’m out and about and happen to eat/drink something that contains those products, I assume that the occasional dose isn’t going to kill me. (Hey, Mom, did you hear that? Now stop complaining about my GMO-filled flour that I used to make the Thanksgiving cornbread!) That said, I think it’s a smart idea to take reasonable precautions to minimize the chemicals that you come in contact with on a regular basis.

What are reasonable measures? Well, to be honest, the biggest thing that keeps me from buying all-organic groceries or all-natural cleaning products is the price. Sometimes those safe products come at quite a premium! Unfortunately, since most people (myself included… oops) buy the chemical-laden stuff, the price of the all-natural products can be really high. I hope that if chemical reform is passed, mainstream companies would be forced to reconsider their manufacturing methods/ingredients – and then the all-natural products would come down in price. (At least, in theory.)

All of these stats and ideas for change are why I decided to “become a toxin freedom fighter” and sign Seventh Generation’s petition to urge Congress to reevaluate the TSCA for the first time since 1976. Seventh Generation’s goal is to collect 100,000 signatures by April 24, and they’re already at 81,000+ signatures. I’d encourage you to click the graphic below and sign yourself: this is your chance to be one of those final signatures that really makes a difference and makes Congress reconsider their decades-old policy.

As far as Seventh Generation’s own line, I knew that my mom is already an avid user of several of their cleaning products, so I asked her to tell me what she thought.

“I use very few commercial cleaning products… vinegar and baking soda meet many of my needs. When I reach for laundry detergent, it’s by Biokleen  and I try not to vary that. Bathroom cleaner is also Biokleen because it smells lavender-y and fresh, and dish detergent is whatever all-natural, no phosphate or petrochemical-containing bottle happens to be on sale when I run out, which has included Seventh Generation on occasion.

The two Seventh Generation products I seek out exclusively, though, are the Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner when I want a disinfecting liquid, and  their Chlorine-Free Bleach, which is comprised of water and hydrogen peroxide. I rarely need the chlorine-free bleach but sometimes you end up with a stain or some dull-looking dish clothes and towels or white socks that you  want to brighten or de-stain,  and this product eliminates the need for chlorine in the environment which is a good thing. The Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner came in handy when you moved into your apartment and when you moved out, to scrub and disinfect, because it claims to kill 99.99% of germs “botanically”. I like that if someone is sick and you want to swipe things down to avoid influenza, staph, and salmonella contamination. The problem I just uncovered with this product is it doesn’t really have an ingredient list other than Active ingredients:  .05 Thymol (a component of Thyme oil) and 95.5% Other ingredients.  So I’m going online to find out what they are before endorsing. (Editor’s note: told you she was a stickler for ingredients!)

Okay, looks like all the ingredients listed on the web pass muster, but that’s not the flavor I have…mine is called Lemongrass and Thyme which still has that .05 % Thymol botanical so they probably just changed the label and the product inside is the same. The Material Safety Data Sheet has two ingredients that are suspect: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Citronella, but they are low-level and seem minor if you want to kill germs and not use it all the time. I have also used their disinfecting wipes made of the same formula for cleaning nasty surfaces.

Also, I use their 12-pack of toilet paper all the time. It is soft, does not use chlorine as a whitener which eliminates toxic chlorinated substances going into the environment, and because it is recycled, it saves trees and energy.

I would like to try their fabric softener sheets but currently lack of a dryer precludes that!” (Editor’s note: Yes, my mom is a total hippie and prefers to line dry her clothes rather than waste energy on a dryer. See: sacrifices I personally would consider unreasonable.)

My mom researches the ingredient list of pretty much every product she buys thoroughly, so if she says Seventh Generation is good and that she buys it, it’s pretty much as safe as you can get. (Well, outside the aforementioned white vinegar and baking soda, which I actually do use frequently for cleaning. It’s so cheap and easy!) I haven’t bought much Seventh Generation myself because I just assumed it would be pricey to hunt down at Whole Foods or another natural market. But after doing some quick research online, I actually found out that it’s now sold at Target for prices quite comparable to conventional cleaning supplies. For example, the Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner is only $2.99 a bottle – which is totally reasonable and comparable to conventional products! But even more important to me than price is whether the product really works… and I’m pleased to report that it does seem to leave my surfaces sparkling clean and smelling pretty delicious.

I’m really glad that I had to throw out all my old half-empty cleaning bottles in the move, because that gives me a chance to stock up now on products like Seventh Generation. I can be kind of a pack rat, and so I previously insisted on using up what I had before making the switch. But if you’re looking to ditch your old produts, $3 to minimize adverse effects on my health is a very small price to pay, and I wish that I had made the switch to all-natural cleaning products sooner.

Thanks to Seventh Generation for leading the charge to encourage chemical reform – they’ve certainly helped me learn a lot about how easily products get approved, and have encouraged me to take a closer look at the ingredients in the products that I buy rather than just assuming they’re fine because they’re on the shelves.

Finally, if you’d like to learn more about green cleaning, Seventh Generation will be hosting a #FightToxins Twitter Party on Thursday, April 10th from 1:00 – 2:00 PM ET, to chat about tips and tricks for living a healthy, green lifestyle as well as the importance of using products with as few chemicals as possible.

Note: Seventh Generation provided me with some product samples and a promotional item for sharing this information on their Fight Toxins campaign. I received no other compensation for this post. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.


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