Does Organic Really Matter?
There is a lot of hype and sometimes controversy about the word “organic.” And though most people staunchly embrace or refuse the idea of organic living, there seems to be some confusion about what it means.
Before you read further, please know my intentions are not to use scare tactics or guilt you into changing your lifestyle. I believe moms have so much on their plate these days, and I hope to make decision making easier while offering strategies to protect your health and the health of those you care for.
The Bad News
When I started doing research about pesticides and toxins, I thought organic was just a designation for food. What I quickly learned was that there are three ways to absorb toxins into our bodies:
- what we ingest
- what we breathe
- what we put onto our skin
Organic food is produced without synthetic chemicals or fertilizers, genetic engineering (GMO’s), radiation or sewage sludge according to the Environmental Working Group. The effects of pesticide residue are dangerous to human brains, nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone disruption, skin, lung, and eye irritation. Even scarier, studies show pesticide residue in children is linked to pediatric cancers, behavioral problems and decreased cognitive function.
Indoor air quality can be highly toxic thanks to overuse of formaldehyde, dioxins (bleach), and sodium borate (borax). One not-so-fun fact is that stay at home moms are 54% more likely to die of cancer than working moms (don’t panic yet). Other concerns for prolonged exposure to inhaled chemicals are infertility, asthma, allergies, and cancer.
Toxins absorbed by the skin are of concern for products containing chemicals, such as quaternium-15 and artificial fragrances. Parabens are used in most personal care products, yet they are one of the most dangerous ingredients as they are known to disrupt hormone function.
The Good News
I selectively use the word “prolonged exposure” in my description above, because I am a firm believer of everything in moderation. And I do not believe we should live in a bubble for fear of being exposed to potentially dangerous substances.
Most cancers are multi-factorial, meaning it is an unlucky combination of genetics and lifestyle. While most carcinogens are environmental, we don’t always have control of the puzzle pieces (i.e. where we live). I say this because I never want anyone to feel like contracting a disease is their fault.
The most important piece of good news is that there is something you can do to reduce your risk for disease! Organizations like the EWG and EPA make easy consumer guides for families on a budget to educate them on safer products so that reading and understanding labels won’t be such a daunting task.
Depending on your lifestyle, you may be wondering “Do I really have to buy organic?” or “Where do I even start?”
When is it most important to choose organic?
Green cleaning and USDA organic stickers usually bring up anxiety about cost. If you’re on the fence about whether or not you want to venture into eco land, consider where most of your time is spent.
Are you a stay at home mom?
Maybe you would consider swapping out some of your cleaning products for solutions by Wellness Mama. If you insist on using bleach, read the label for toxicity precautions and be judicious about which surfaces you clean. Wipe down with water afterward.
Consider an air purifier, such as this one, to reduce the risk of allergies and asthma.
West Elm offers affordable organic cotton bedding with modern style.
Do you travel for work a lot?
Consider upgrading to a reusable glass bottle with a filter to reduce exposure to BPA-ridden plastic and bacteria in tap water.
Also, you can invest in travel sized containers for your shampoos, lotions, and soaps so you can control what products you use in your hotel room. Most hotel brands are loaded with parabens and fragrances. Bring your own bath bomb for a spa-like experience!!
Do you spend a lot of time cooking or prepping meals?
If you’re leaning towards organic, but are not ready to make the full investment, check out the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 list to help you decide what to start with. Always wash conventional produce or peel the skin.
Farmer’s markets are popping up all over the Crescent City. Most local farmers do not use harsh pesticides on their crops because they are not as concerned with shelf life or mass production.
Consider joining Hollygrove Market’s delivery service where you can get a bag full of local produce and farm fresh eggs for just $35!! Buying produce in season also reduces your exposure to pesticides.