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Follow our journey as we build Puristics, a new brand of anti-aging skin care without harsh chemicals. For us, the past 3 years have been filled with "aha" moments as we educate consumers about label literacy - knowing the ingredients in your beauty products, since harsh chemicals can end up on your skin. We welcome you to learn from our experiences both as businesswomen and busy moms, and please share your own stories, too!

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Monday
May312010

Memorial Day Plans

Happy Memorial Day! Today is not traditionally a day set aside to think about toxins, and I’m certainly not going to ruin anyone’s picnic with a bad mayonnaise story (thankfully, I don’t have one anyhow). Instead, I’ll offer a brief reflection on things to remember (it is Memorial Day) and a word or two on how that relates to toxins.

First, and most importantly today, we remember our war dead. Without the sacrifices of so many and their families, I might not be able to wake up this day with so much personal peace and optimism. The challenges of this world, including oppression, terrorism and poverty, continue unabated, but those who have diligently fought to bring an end to them deserve a moment of thanks and remembrance.  Please take a moment today to do so.

While we remember, we must also look forward. We must look forward to an end to the conflicts around the world and continue to hope and pray for the safe return of those engaged in those conflicts. We must look forward to the steady progression made in the environmental challenges we face in this world and believe that we will make the right choices to safeguard this world for our children and their children. Rather than railing about government action or inaction, we must examine our own involvement with each and every issue and decide what action each of us will take on an individual level to make a difference.

What can you do today to take inventory of your world and to think about the simple steps you’ll take to guard it for the future? My plan is as follows:

  1. On my 3 mile walk with my dogs, I'll bring extra bags and collect garbage as I go.
  2. I'll tune my bike up and learn to change a flat so I can bike the 10 mile (one way) commute to my office once a week.
  3. I'll use only organic fertilizer on my tomatoes, or nothing at all, even though I'm desperate to have a meaningful yield from my pitiful gardening efforts.
  4. I’ll place a rain barrel at the base of one of my downspouts to water above-mentioned tomatoes
  5. I'll use reusable plates, glasses, flatware and napkins at my summer picnics to reduce the waste from this favorite summer pastime.

Not much, not hard, but something. My steps aren’t specific to Memorial Day but today gives me the time and the occasion to stop and remember and to wonder why we fight and what we’re trying to save. As Socrates was quoted saying, “an unexamined life is not worth living”.  Let’s examine and then act.  Happy Memorial Day.

Thursday
May272010

Detoxify my home? Time to cry "uncle"!

I thought I had a really good handle on the toxins I was consuming and those I was applying to my body.  I’d made my choices and drawn my lines and accepted responsibility.  Then, I read Penelope Green’s piece in The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/27/garden/27clean.html?pagewanted=1&adxnnl=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1274955728-8B3x0N1BjrF077o8YYU2Zw and started to hyperventilate. 

It’s all so overwhelming that I’m not sure where to start, where to finish or whether I should bother at all.  The specialist cited in the article, Matthew Waletzke, makes some compelling arguments for paying attention to the toxins in our living environment, often the most polluted space in our lives. His argument for placing filters on showerheads makes infinite sense, “Your liver is going to detox what’s in the drinking water, but there is a school of thought that says since your skin is the largest organ in your body, you need to protect it”.  However, he fails to consider the fact that I just renovated by bathrooms at considerable expense, and I really don’t want my “rain shower” heads to look funny because of filters.  Shallow? Maybe, but that’s one of the lines I’m drawing.  I’ll consider it before my next remodel. (God forbid I have to go through one again!).

Mr. Waletzke, or anyone of his ilk, will never be permitted through the door of my house. Built in 1894, I’m sure I’ve got lead paint under the low VOC paint I’ve so carefully selected.  Our plumbing and wiring has been updated but what about lead solder deep in our plumbing system? Then there’s the basement. It’s exactly as you would expect in a turn-of-the-century Victorian: vast, dark and damp.  And, we had to have an asbestos abatement specialist seal up all the asbestos before we moved in.  To add insult to injury, I run on my treadmill in this lovely, inviting space (inviting for the Munsters, perhaps) 5 days a week, breathing deeply for 1 hour at a time.  Yes, it worries me.  However, it’s the best way I’ve found to fit running into my life as a working mother of 4.  Running keeps me fit and sane, so for now, the treadmill stays put, and I’ll continue to log the miles in the dungeon.

Mr. Waletzke tells us that people have different capacities for toxins. For now, I’ve taken the laptop off my lap, have launched a new search for my cell phone ear piece and open our windows as often as possible to let the good air in and the bad air out.  But, I’m still going to hit the treadmill and hope for the best.  Hopefully, my healthy eating habits and personal care choices will function like my own personal pollution off-setting credits and all will be fine until I check out at age 98.

Are you overwhelmed? What changes are you contemplating or will it be status quo for the moment?  Let me know.  

Monday
May242010

Soft plastic everywhere? Where do I turn?

Phtalates, bisphenol A, parabens.  The list of things to avoid seems to get longer every day and more and more of our regular household items are implicated in causing us potential long-term harm.  When will the news stop? What should we believe?  And more importantly what do we do about it?  As in all things, everyone has to set his or her own individual threshold.  I’ll tell you a bit about how I navigate my way through the sea of information and apply it to my own life. 

  1. I avoid all personal care products that contain parabens, phthalates, sulfates and many of the other potentially hazardous ingredients listed on the Skin Deep website (Cosmetic Safety Database backed by the Environmental Working Group). Click here to download the Shopper’s Guide to Safe Cosmetics from the Skin Deep website http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ and check your ingredient lists against the database.
  2. I don’t buy any soft plastic toys.  Luckily my children are old enough not to care, but my dogs would like some squeaky chew toys if I’d only let them in the house.
  3. I keep an ample supply of BPA free reusable water bottles in the house so we can bring water with us without the disposable, BPA-laden purchased bottles of water.

Beyond those steps (admittedly not a long list), I try to pay closer attention to the things I allow in the house.  As I’ve said in this space before, my ability to control all 4 of my children, particularly the teenagers, is limited.  Still, if I pay more attention, they’ll pay more attention and hopefully reduce the chemical load in their blood over time.  The phtalate exposure of greatest concern to me in my own little world is the exposure my son gets every 8 weeks.  To keep a medical condition under control, he must get an infusion at the hospital every 8 weeks.  I’m very grateful that medicines exist to keep him healthy, but I’m not too thrilled that he’s likely exposed to phtalates that leach from the IV tubes and bags while we monkey around with his immune system to keep him healthy.  Because of the nature of the disease and the treatment options, I’ll never know if pthalates are doing him harm.  Still, I’m a mom and so I worry.  As I said, we all have different thresholds and we have to make our own choices.  The CBS news program “60 Minutes” recently ran a piece on the dangers of phtalates and their omnipresence in our lives.  It tells both sides of the story well.  So, please read the transcript (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/05/21/60minutes/main6506892_page4.shtml?tag=contentMain;contentBody) or watch the segment and arm yourself with information you need to set your threshold. Legislating all chemicals away isn’t the answer.  As the story points out, there is no easy answer.  So for me, it comes back to individual responsibility, information and personal choice. 

How are you avoiding potentially harmful chemicals? I’d love any tips.

Friday
May212010

Do you want to be protected from information?

How much is too much?  I ask this of myself almost everyday.  How much TV or Facebook time is too much for the kids? When does my son’s texting (his girlfriend) become too much? Is that 2nd slice of pizza too much?  All fairly easy ones to answer.  The question gets harder when it comes to information.  How much should I tell my kids about my ill-spent youth? How much information is too much to share with office mates or Pure Talk readers or friends in the community?

When it comes to the products we buy, there are forces at play on both sides of the information sharing discussion.  Certainly FDA, EPA, FTC are all important information filters.  If we had to sort through all the data behind approved foods and drugs in order to determine their safety or the validity of their claims, we’d be lost.  Unfortunately, many manufacturers don’t regard the government standards as the least they should do but rather all they should bother doing.  I try not to lead a “lowest common denominator” life and would rather have a lot of information available so I can make the best possible decisions for myself and my family.  This, of course, means that I must assume responsibility for the decisions I make based on this information - - and I’m ok with that.

This week there were several items in the news involving the “how much information is too much” question.  (We’ll leave the information questions related to BP and the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster aside for now – aargh is all I’ll say).  Less frightening but certainly important to ponder is a story I heard on “Fresh Air”, the NPR interview show hosted by Terry Gross (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126833795).  Among the points made by the interviewee, Peter Gleick, were that bottled water may be subject to less rigorous testing than tap water, it’s origins may not be clear based on the labeling and that during its processing it may have minerals added back to ensure a uniform taste across the country.  The bottom line, you may not know as much about your bottled water as you think you do.  So, not enough information considering how many bottles of water are purchased each day.

In another story, ABC News asked if we would soon be getting too much information when we dine out (http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory?id=10637015).  Will too much nutritional information just confuse us and therefore should some of that information be kept back from us?  Personally, bring on the information and don’t insult me by asking such a question.  I’ll pull out the details (fat grams, calories, salt, protein) I want and leave the rest if I don’t want it.  Isn’t it better than trying to guess at which choice is least bad?

So, in the final analysis, I think everyone deserves more information so that we can each make the best possible individual choices.  We’re endeavoring to do that as we develop the Puristics line of products.  Our website will not only provide ingredient information but links to sites that can provide additional information.   We think that will help you to make the best choice for yourself.  That’s my position but let me know what you think.

Monday
May102010

Republicans, Democrats, Independents Agree: Houston, we have a problem!

Why are matters of health and safety so often bogged down in partisan politics?  If you’d like that answered, read no further because I don’t have a good answer.  If you’ve got an answer, please let me know. 

It was heartening to read Jim DiPeso’s blog in The Daily Green about the politics of carbon pollution. http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/blogs/republican/tea-party-climate-change-0507?src=rss.  While it doesn’t delve into the mess or arguing on either side of the aisle, it gives hope. Mr. DiPeso points out that carbon pollution and global climate change have become important issues to a broad swath of American consumers.  It’s unlikely that there will be common ground established as to how to deal with the problem, but the fact that most Americans express concern is a step in the right direction.

The same holds true for potentially harmful chemicals in personal care products and our food supply.  As a general matter, I am opposed to excessive government regulation because I believe that American consumers have the power to effect change and should exercise this power.  So, read the attached from The Daily Green and then think about what you can do in your daily life to reduce your carbon footprint.  Then, take a look at the food in your kitchen and skin care products in your bathroom and think about the changes you can make to reduce your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.  Alexandra Zissu is running a series in her blog, Ask an Organic Mom, about “the conscious kitchen”.  She’s got some excellent tips on how to take stock of all of your potential sources of exposure (http://www.thedailygreen.com/living-green/blogs/organic-parenting/).  While her goal is a bit ambitious for me, her step-by-step approach helps to break it down and enables me to follow the steps that work for me.  Take a look and then take a fresh look at the things in your bathroom.  Which personal care products need to go because you can make better choices with fewer potentially harmful chemicals?