Monday, March 25, 2013

Dangers lurking in your fabric softeners...and other fragrance-filled items?

Ain't nobody got time for that!

Sometimes, when we hear "this {everyday, common, household} item is toxic," we roll our eyes and think, "yeah, yeah, so is everything else!" or we may rebuff and minimize or choose not to believe it.  A common reply is, "I've used this product my whole life, and I'm fine."  Maybe that is true, but I know of a real account, that took place to a friend of mine, who was not fine.  And it involved a common household item.  Please read on...

They're marketed to us everyday in ads, commercials, in store flyers.  Buy these fabric softeners so your clothes will be soft and smell fresh.  Of course we want soft, clean-smelling clothes. Who doesn't? It's one of the comforts of fresh laundry and smells can evoke memories, pleasant thoughts, and lift mood.  According to, "the olfactory bulb is part of the brain's limbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling it's sometimes called the "emotional brain," [and] smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously" (source).  That's why the scent of dryer sheets, or the smell of a laundry detergent our parents used growing up can remind us of pleasant childhood memories.  

But what lies behind those fragrances is not always so pleasant.

My friend, "E.," who has a young daughter in elementary school, became a little alarmed when she noticed signs of early puberty and development in her 8 year old.  She noticed she was already showing signs of developing breasts and was experiencing some vaginal discharge.  This was not normal for her family history to begin puberty so early, nor had it begun happening yet to her other daughter, who was only a year older.  My friend was asked by her sister, "What are you using in your laundry?  You need to look at your fabric softener."  Initially, the idea seemed so unusual to her. "No, no, it could not be my laundry!" 
But, mortified by what she was noticing in her daughter, she continued to look into what was causing this sudden development.  
Someone else told her it might be the fragrances in her detergent and fabric softener, and she still was unmoved to believe it.
It took a third person mentioning it, and a visit with a chiropractor who does muscle-testing, to confirm what her friends knew was probably true.  It was indeed the fragrance in her fabric softener leading to the signs of early development in her young daughter.
[As a sidenote:  already ate a clean diet of grass-fed, hormone-free meats and dairy products, so she knew the source was not from additional hormones or antibiotics in her meat and dairy products.]

Relieved, shocked, and disgusted, she began on a mission to let everyone know to avoid these.  As soon as she took out the fabric softener, over the course of 4 weeks, her daughter's signs of puberty began to dissipate. Now she is looking to remove all signs of fake fragrance from her home.

Why fabric softeners contain a nasty ingredient and you don't know about it
As I googled "fabric softeners" and let my browser auto-populate for me, the first suggestion was "fabric softeners toxic."  I found that fabric softeners contain many toxic ingredients which can enter the body through our skin or through inhalation (source).  
One of the ingredients is phthlates, which are "used in scented products to help the scent last longer, phthlates have been linked to breast cancer and reproductive system problems" (source), emphasis mine.

There are at least 9 more toxic ingredients in fabric softeners, according to

  • Alpha Terpineol: can cause central nervous damage and respiratory problems
  • Camphor: causes central nervous disorders, is easily absorbed through skin
  • Chloroform: a carcinogenic neurotoxin preferred by Ted Bundy
  • Benzyl Acetate: linked to pancreatic cancer
  • Benyl Alcohol: respiratory tract irritant
  • Ethanol: on the EPA’s “hazardous waste” list, can cause central nervous system disorders
  • Ethyl Acetate: a narcotic on the EPA’s “hazardous waste” list
  • Limonene: a known carcinogen that irritates eyes and skin
  • Linalool: causes central nervous system disorders and depresses heart activity (source) says instead of using a chemical-based toxic fabric softener, "buy a $5 set of dryer balls, switch to a soy-based softener, or add a quarter-cup of baking soda or vinegar to your wash cycle."

There are alternatives to fabric softeners are simple, but did you know that these "phthlates" lurk in other items we may use in our homes?  It's used in "perfume, hair spray, deodorant, almost anything fragranced (from shampoo to air fresheners to laundry detergent), nail polish, insect repellent, carpeting, vinyl flooring, the coating on wires and cables, shower curtains, raincoats, plastic toys," just to name a few (source).

Seems I'm not the only one concerned.  In January 2013, Maia James, blogger at, wrote about phtalates on  She wrote:  

"Phthalates are thought to mimic and displace hormones and interrupt their production. This can have a range of unpleasant effects.
Some examples:
• In 2009, a small Taiwanese study on humans showed that phthalates passed from mother to fetus through the placenta affect female babies, sometimes resulting in abnormal sexual development.
• Boys who are exposed to higher levels of certain types of phthalates in the womb may show less masculine behavior (measured by playing with trucks and play fighting) than boys who are exposed to lower levels.
• Pregnant women exposed to phthalates in the workplace were found to be two to three times more likely to deliver boys with the reproductive birth defect known as hypospadias.
• A 2009 study determined that phthalate exposure correlated with premature breast development in young Taiwanese girls.
• A 2007 study found that higher levels of phthalates detected in the urine of adult males was associatedwith increased waist circumference and insulin resistance" (source, emphasis mine).
James shared ways to avoid phthalates and shared since they're not likely to be labeled on products as such, but rather under the names "fragrances" or "parfum."  Avoid these like the plague and look for items that say "scented with essential oils" or "phthalate-free" or "no synthetic fragrances."  
I know those glade plug-ins and febreze air fresheners are ever so popular and it is lovely to walk into a home that smells good, but James cracks down on the synthetic air fresheners and offers some synthetic-free alternatives at  Check it out.  
For now, I'm going to be using baking soda & vinegar in cleaning, maybe testing out some essential oils, or letting some mulling spices (cinmamon, anyone?) simmer on the stove if I want my house to smell nice.  

This is Megan with your neighborly public service announcement.  ;)

What would you do? Have you ever known anyone to have such side effects from fragrances?  What are your plans to eliminate?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Real Food Changes: Salt

Almost every food belief I ascribe to these days probably flies in the face of modern conventional health, but if today's health scene doesn't delight you (and it probably shouldn't, seems like there are loads more diseases and obesity problems today than there were a century ago), then it might be worth a shot to start looking at some other options.

Salt has been giving a bad rap; it raises blood pressure, throws things off, and contributes to cardiovascular disease.  This is definitely true if you are using regular table salt, which is simply 97 to 99 percent sodium chloride, but may contain additives (source:
(I know, why can't the normal things we normally use just be safe?!)

But guess what, the solution isn't hard.  If you live near me, then you definitely have access to the best kind of salt, REAL sea salt, just a few minutes down the road at your health food store. You might even be able to find it at Super Target (I did once & did an internal happy dance)!  It is delicious, full of minerals, and is all-natural.  If you are reading this blog then I also assume you have access to the internet and you can find it online at as well! Link here: Redmond Real Sea Salt.  Redmond also sells as these major retailers:

Why this kind of sea salt?
According to The Healthy Home Economist, "celtic sea salt contains over 80 minerals, including iodine, and is part of a healthy diet [...] helps normalize all functions in the body that require salt to take place such as protein and carbohydrate digestion, brain development in children, and optimal functioning of the adrenal glands" (source: choosing a healthy salt).
If your salt is purely white, it means that most of the nutrition and minerals have been removed!

I love throwing this salt on my savory dishes, and using it in baking.  It is delightful on popcorn, scrambled eggs, or mixed in with ground beef to make hamburger patties.  You can even order little travel-size shakers of Real Sea Salt so you never have to dine without it!  Horses love it too.  (Just ask my brother Luke.)

What's your favorite kind of salt? Have you ever tried the pink salts? Himalayan? Real sea salt?

I'm craving something salty for a quick snack!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Getting the Sleep we Need

I saw this photo of a newspaper excerpt on my Facebook feed today and man, did I *like* the junk out of it.

Do you feel you get enough sleep? Chances are, if you're a parent of small children, probably not.  Nearly every mom I talk to says the minute their kid(s) go to bed is the time they take to get things done around the house or do something for their own leisure.  Plus, with TV, social media and our smartphones, sometimes it's impossible to disconnect and really hit the hay.

This has been on my mind lately as I've thought about how crazy kids can get when they're overly-tired; imagine how it must be draining to us adults as well on so many different levels: physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.  Not giving our bodies a chance to renew itself every night takes its toll.

So, here's my confession that I need to do a better job of "unplugging" and hop into bed at an earlier hour, and also not to feel guilt that I don't jump out of bed in the morning like Greg but instead to try to catch a few more Z's until I'm the only responsible adult left in the house.

Also, here's a handy tool to help you figure out what time to go to bed if you're trying to get the most restful sleep based on REM cycles.  Check it out!

Let's get more sleep! :D

*Actual article linked here: 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Natural Fever Remedy (that you probably already have!)

sad, feverish Gabe
If you've ever had a small child with a fever, you know that they are pitiful little things.  The last thing you really want to do is prolong their suffering, but that can be hard when you know that fevers serve a purpose and letting it break on its own without medical intervention is usually best.

At our house, we try many tricks to try to allay the woes of a fever, and lately, we've been able to let fevers run their courses in both of our children without dosing them up with Tylenol or Motrin.

Until this week.  Gabe ran a hot-for-him fever of 102 for 2 nights in a row.  It would, as fevers tend to do, go low-grade during the day, but it was the most uncomfortable I'd ever seen him with a fever.  He was sleeping fitfully during his naps, and between the hours of 8pm till midnight on both nights, both Greg and I took turns soothing him as he would cry about every 30 minutes.  He was not happy.  The first night of the bad fever, we ended up giving him a small dose of Motrin. I'd just been reading about how toxic Tylenol is now considered for the liver (and I used to think Tylenol was the better of the 2! See here: But the Motrin did its trick, and he slept peacefully until 6am, woke up for a quick drink, and then slept till 10am!  He was a tired boy!

However, during the day Friday, his fever crept back up again. I knew if we kept medicinally reducing it, it would probably not have a chance to reach its breaking point anytime soon and he'd just be struggling with it again over the next few days.  So, I was scouring my resources for what I could try.  We'd tried Aconite, elderberry syrup, Vitamin C, probiotics, and an essential oil rub (all at various times).  I remembered reading or hearing somewhere though that cut up onions on the feet underneath socks could help. (  The onions brought the fever out and in the morning, they'd basically be cooked little wimpy things in the socks.

I thought it was worth a shot, and I had a fresh onion, so why not?  Greg definitely looked at me like I was crazy, but this is not the first time I've ever done something insane in the name of health.

Onion: 1, Fever: 0
So I cut up just the very tip of the onion -- Gabe's feet aren't enormously large so therefore I didn't need a lot of onion -- and I placed a couple rings each on the bottom of his feet and put his socks back on.  He smelled delicious, like it was time for tacos, but it wasn't, it was time for bed.  He was still resting fitfully like he did Thursday night (pre-Motrin), and so Greg & I took turns helping him get back down and sleep.  Right before midnight (the last time he'd wake up), I thought he was starting to feel just a little less hot.  I put him back down and never heard another peep from him until 8am!  *heavenly chorus*

When he woke up this morning, he was not burning up.  I could tell he was still feeling unwell, but he was not feverish like he'd been.  Did the onions work?  Our case size was 1, and our experiment only lasted 1 night, but in this case, I'm going to say Onion: 1, Fever: 0.

He just woke up from a 3 hour nap and is not burning up.  We'll see how the rest of the day unfolds, but his energy and temperament already appear better.

Would you try onions? Do you have any unusual tried-and-true home remedies for fevers?

In case you want to read anecdotal evidence about onions, here's some reading enjoyment:

If you are curious about why fevers serve a purpose, read here: