Thursday, October 20, 2005

My Quest for Environmental Purity

Some may think this post could be added to my "idiosycratic" list.....:)

I am allergic, asthmatic, and somewhat environmentally sensitive. I'm not living in plastic bubble yet, but am still definitely sensitive to things many people aren't. For instance, my sweet husband cleans to bathroom, because bathroom cleaners make me sick.

I am not afraid of these things, just sick of how they make me feel. I mean, sometimes if I'm walking thru a cheap clothing store (as in cheap clothing DYES,) I get a headache.

I was thinking the other day about things I've changed/eliminated in order to avoid allergies, headache, etc. I added a few more when I was pregnant, and decided to carry those over into non-preg life.) The list has grown through the years. It kind of makes me laugh-it's happened gradually, and I realized that maybe I've become one of "those" people:

No drycleaning--toxic chemicals, and I hate remembering to drop-off/pick up. Also, expensive.
Unscented deodorant,
skin moisturizer,
and detergent.
No perfume.
No Cheap scented candles.
No nail polish. I read recently that nail enamel was developed from CAR enamel, and yes, we can absorb stuff through our nails.
No haircolor anymore. And you know, I've decided that I like my natural hair!
Non-chemical, mineral-based foundation and powder.
Kitchen cleaners are orange-oil based, or some other non-chemical base.

I know, I'm freaky. But I can function, and functioning's important!!

I started reading "Having Faith: An Ecologists Journey to Motherhood" by Sandra Steingraber and it has completely changed the way I think about those things. I don't trust seafood anymore. Especially because I want to have children in the next few years, but also because it's scary to think about how polluted our oceans are.

Also, "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things" is a great book. I haven't read it yet, but Stephen loved it. (both books recommended by Sarah B.)
yeah, you think about all the autoimmune diseases (and cancer!) and autism, allergies--all of these on the rise, and you wonder if it's partly due to all the pollution/chemicals etc. we're exposed to (in small amounts) over a lifetime. i mean, there are THREE women at my small church with lupus. what is that about????
I think it is a combination of things. Some of the increased numbers are due to the fact that people are more aware and so many cases of many problems which would have gone undiagnosed in previous years are no longer going undiagnosed. It is also because the definitions of many problems (including mental illnesses like autism) are being redefined to have broader definitions thereby looping in people who would previously not have fit prior definitions. And, also, it is because there is in fact an increase in pollution, etc.

One other factor, is that people who might have died of an asthma attack (for example) in earlier times are now able to live longer due to available medications. Therefore they are able to live long enough to have children to whom they pass on their vulnerabilities. Therefore there are more children with these vulnerabilities being born and surviving.

But, what I really mean to post was that I have discovered that I cannot use any soap other than dove for prolonged periods or I break out in hives. Yea for dove soap. It is my friend.
Yay, for the chemical-less (as in, fewer chemicals; you can't miss them entierly) life! I have been housecleaning with washing soda, borax, and vinegar for years now - the scents go away almost instantly and don't linger like commercial brands, and they're cheaper anyway. I give my preggers friends shakers of borax and vinegar/water spray bottles now at showers - you don't want baby eating bleachy-counter-stuff, right?

And the whole mentality has cut down on expensive, impulsive buying generally - like, instead of buying the "cheap" Target pressed-wood desk (off gassing - ack!) - we looked around and got a sturdy, real wood classic one from a garage sale for 1/2 the price.

besides that, you already have pretty hair :)
kellsey--good points about diagnosing these days. also, if i were living only about 50 years ago, I probably would have been dead at age 11, when i was brought the ER and given adrenaline shots and breathing treatments. (my first dangerous asthma attack.) something i meditate on occasionally.

sarah--i'm reading "Having Faith....." right now. I appreciate her tone, not hysterical, not arrogant and accusatory. It's really interesting.

also, i remember when stephen perdue told me that particle board used to build homes emits toxins for TEN years.....these things are realities that are hard for me to know how to react times it's difficult not to become neurotic and overwhelmed, throw up your hands and eat from taco bueno every day.
one more thought to add to kellsey's asthma comment---asthma is also brought on by environmental factors--that is to say, someone might develop asthma who did not previously have it due to exposure to toxins....i am thinking of a mission trip i took to southall, london a few years ago. the missionary told me that in the neighbohood, which is near heathrow airport, there are much higher rates of asthma than in other areas, apparently because of the bits of jet fuel constantly falling from the low-altitude planes overhead. mmmmmmm, nothing like inhaling a fine mist of jetfuel.
Hmm... if Taco Bueno is wrong, I don't know if I want to be right! =)

I have to admit that my life is probably fairly toxic. I was thinking of your post this morning as I enjoyed the smell of a freshly bleached load of whites. I also find it interesting to watch how different people protect their new babies from every speck of dirt or germs in varying degrees. I will probably be a middle of the road do-what-I-can-to-protect-them-but-understand-that-some-germs-will-get-through kind of mom. That's the only way they'll build tolerances, right?
Just to make sure: I totally agree that there are more toxins around than there used to be and that that is indeed part of the problem.

Along another vein to respond to something Lindsay said, it seems like different ages of babies call for different levels of vigilance. For instance, doctors tell you not to go anywhere in large crowds with a baby for the first two weeks of its life because its immune system simply will not be up to snuff. But after that the little ones are less danger.

I know I washed off pacifiers that fell butter-side-down (macon's and my way of saying that the part that goes in the mouth hit the floor) for six months, but after that, unless I could physically see something on the pacifier or if it fell in a particularly dirty area (say near a toilet or in a highly traveled public space) then I just said, "ah, more exposure to help him build up immunity". This is less dangerous for babies who are breastfeeding than those on formula because for as long as the little one is nursing, he or she is soaking up your immunities as well.

I think, though, that if Aidan had picked up any of Macon's allergies or asthma tendencies I might have been (and probably would be) more careful.

Anyways, I have really enjoyed getting to read your post, Jana. it has been more than fun to "see" you again!
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