Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Big Stink

*Gagging From Stinking Up with Artificial Fragrances*

Have you seen the endless TV ads for artificial fragrances, pushed on possibly unsuspecting consumers looking to cover a big stink of some sort ? One of my favorite ads shows a grandmother arrive for a visit, ignore the children and immediately fall into an ecstatic trance, sniffing Febreze scented air, tennis shoes and various fabrics.

We are inundated with toxic artificial fragrances in the form of odor neutralizers, plug-ins, aerosols, room fresheners, car air fresheners, fabric fresheners, perfumes, scented candles/oils, paraffin candles and garbage bags. Scented garbage bags are the pits. Some brands are kind enough to put “scented” on packaging, others are not so thoughtful. I opened a box of Glad bags and became nauseous immediately from a Febreze-like odor. Gag!!!!!!!!! Upon returning to the store I punched little holes just large enough to catch a whiff of the inner contents before purchasing more bags.

Why do we need so many kinds of artificial fragrances? Guess folks prefer cover-up to clean –up. It’s hard to imagine a stink bad enough to force one to reach for an artificial fragrance. Hopefully they aren’t used around infants and pets. It doesn’t really matter what the fragrance-peddlers say about the safety of petrochemicals and exotic toxins, we know better. Asthmatics claim attacks are most often triggered by artificial fragrances.

If you frequent 2nd hand clothing shops and don’t like the smell of Febreze - beware - sniff out the garment before purchase because the odor will not come out. It’s there for all eternity. And if you are a traveler with sensitivities to Febreze and other noxious odors, it’s a good idea to call ahead and ask questions.

Wafting Aromas: Ingredients

Artificial fragrances are composed of untold combinations of highly volatile petrochemical derivatives. The raw materials of perfumery are the solvents hexane and petroleum ether. According to a Natural Resource Defense Council sponsored test, 12 out of 14 air fresheners contain phthalates. These off-gassing chemicals are never listed as ingredients. They are claimed as proprietary secrets. Other chemicals found in a majority of air-freshners includes formaldehyde, (used as a preservative) benzene and naphthalene.

Perfumed garbage bags are created through a process that involves perfumed composites of ethylene and various co polymers such as vinyl acetate and ethyl acrylate which enable bags to retain fragrance for a year or more. Other types of perfumed objects are coated with polyurethane to sustain the release of various fragrances.

Procter and Gamble had to seek approval from the NYS Division of Solid and Hazardous Materials in order to register *Febreze Antimicrobial* because it contains Didecyl Dimethyl Ammonium Chloride. This product is used on fabrics to kill odor causing bacteria. Wow. Imagine some of that stuff up against your skin for 10 hours. The official letter from the Director of the Bureau of Pesticides Management states DDAC is a severe skin and eye irritant and goes on to say * “In the risk assessment conducted by the U.S.EPA, post-application dermal exposures were determined to pose unacceptable risks.” *Yet – the product was given the O.K. for production.

Over the holidays I almost gave a toxic gift of an evergreen infusion. It looked great with a graceful bamboo wicking system and it had a pleasant aroma. Interestingly enough it did not list one ingredient. I called the company and discovered ½ of the content was a “cosmetic preservative”. Most cosmetic preservatives are extremely toxic, including many of the innocent looking creams that have the various parabens in the ingredients. I use organic cosmetics that list all ingredients.


There are many alternatives including the placement of cotton balls scented with essential-oils or cooking flavors such as cinnamon, lemon around the home. You can google “organic, natural room fresheners” and find an assortment of products such as: Aura Cacia Air Freshener, California Scents Air Freshener , Aubrey Organics Blue Cypress Air Freshener, and Baby Ganics Air Freshner and Odor Eliminator.

You might want to check out an air sanitizer device that uses UV-C light technology: Germ Guardian Plug In Air Sanitizer. Smellkiller K 15006 Classic Air Cleanser is a clever odor removal technique that uses no electricity or fragrance.

Baking soda is a good odor absorber that might work wonders for the auto - instead of those horrible smelling doodads hanging from the rear view mirror.

Never has it been more important to know what you are putting into your personal environment. Take great precaution with everything that is not apparently organic and non-toxic. Look up exotic items such as medicines, supplements, pet medicine and products used in the service of the big stink.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Off-gasing Alien Nasties

Fire Retardants
I have removed nasty toxins from my home. My nasties came in the forms of plastics, brominated fire retardants (BFRs) and nylon, stain-resistant area-carpets. One of the items was with me for decades, causing a friend to remark: “Don’t you think you’re over-reacting? The damage is done.” Funny nobody felt that way when I quit smoking after 45 years of contaminating myself and the universe.

No, I don’t think I over-reacted and neither do my little dogs whose respiratory problems/allergies have improved. I even removed the office chair - because it is made of foam and foam off-gasses more with age. Soon I’ll have an empty house. Why would I go to these extremes? Just knowing the potential of these nightmare chemicals instills abhorrence for everything they inhabit.


My body load of phthalates is probably higher because of an enormous, vinyl covered, overstuffed chair. It is a true beauty but it had to go. Didn’t have any Tupperware to throw out. It always looked too, too alien. Unfortunately I had no clue various plastic wraps and plastic food-containers off-gas phthalate. Now that I know, it’s hard to purchase anything but fresh foods, given that my local organic grocery stores bulk goods in a slotted rack of BPA leaching #7 plastic and wraps everything else in phthalate. Paying big bucks for organic produce laced throughout with BPA and phthalate is demoralizing. I might as well shop at the local Super Save. Not really.

Stain-resistant chemicals

Content tags on rugs said 100% nylon. Guess what – most nylon rugs are treated with super toxic levels of stain-resistance chemicals such as isocyanate, silane and polyurethanes. These are truly nasty chems. Isocyanate is extremely reactive and harmful to living tissue. It causes asthma. Silane is highly flammable and causes respiratory system damage. Nylon is made from petrochemicals, with all that implies.

The small hearth-rug is so fire resistant I can put a flaming log on it and not a mite of damage occurs. Ahgga! Brominated fire retardants (PBDE, HBCD, TBBPA) are unregulated and considered more toxic than PCBs. Less was known about PCB’s when banned than is now known about fire retardants found in the dust of every home and business tested. BFR neurotoxins are used in infant/toddler sleepwear, bedding, mattresses, fire retardant fabric, TVs, computers, textiles, electronics and foam furniture.

PBDE and other BFRs are added to plastics, in particular hard polystyrene, polyurethane foam, epoxy resins and usually constitute up to 30% of the final product. The BFRs are mixed with polymers as plastics are being made. Problem: they don’t bind chemically and off-gas continuously from the final product.
BFRs are bio accumulative, meaning they continue to buildup in the body over a life time. In minute doses BFRs impair attention, learning, memory and behavior in lab animals. In humans - thyroid, liver, fetal brain development and respiratory systems are under direct attack; no wonder childhood asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease. It is at epidemic levels with one in 13 children wheezing through life. For the bromine atom – it’s all in a day’s work.

Get rid of products containing BFRs and keep floors dust-free where infants, toddlers and pets crawl and play. Contrary to some misinformation, BFR in the form of Deca is widely used commercially in the U.S. Alternative products are available. Phone manufacturers and ask questions before a new purchase. When they say the information is proprietary tell them you are chemically sensitive and need to know the kind of fire proofing and stain resistance used.

Wall to wall carpet is one of the more toxic products on the market. A recent true story points this out. A small terrier in Georgia was suffering from extreme, unmanageable allergies. He had been furless for over a year. Several months after carpets were removed throughout the house, the fur began to return and now the terrier is fully recovered

Researchers with detection devices claim the source of most BFR in homes is TV sets. They suggest keeping screens and areas around and under TV very clean, in a manner that doesn’t spread dust. Be sure TV is off when cleaning the entire set with a damp cloth. You will be amazed at the blackness on the cloth. The concluding remarks of an article on “Toxic Dust Devils” in 1/09 BARK magazine states “Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum.”

Scan the internet links for some of the terms and phrases in this article and be amazed at how EPA, FDA and American Chamber of Commerce have failed us. A must read is "Exposed" where you will learn Europe has already banned Deca and 100s of toxic plasticizers.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reclining Meditation

Meditation is the doorway to altered states of consciousness and as I used to advise my NYU students: meditation brings insights and awareness one might not otherwise experience in a lifetime.

It’s pure joy to practice meditation in a reclining position….particularly since it produces similar results as sitting meditation. The same techniques apply to make it work: total focus on diaphragmatic breathing and absolute stillness.

Find a comfortable position and once the meditation is started do not move. Movement constitutes a restart.

Hopefully you have mastered diaphragmatic breathing. It’s one of the most important techniques to attain for long life, good health, relaxation and heightened consciousness. You will find articles on breathing techniques on the Commentary pages of my website.

It’s difficult to meditate in any position when you breathe high in the chest. You will feel uncomfortable as the breath ‘collects’ in your neck and upper sternum.

As you lie motionless in bed, on your side or back, focus all attention on monitoring the breath. Count: in, 2, 3, 4, out 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Initially you may not be able to maintain a slow breathing cycle. Adjust the count to your ability.

Should you find your mind wandering around considering mundane matters, immediately refocus on monitoring the breath. Do not look for results – but I will almost guarantee memorable experiences.

Thich Nhat Hanh is the contemporary master of living in the moment as facilitated by meditation. He has written many books.