Let’s talk Mouth washing- Part 2

CaptureToothpaste:

Before we tackle toothpaste and the environment, how about a fascinating and brief history of this essential item:

CaptureSeems that about 5000 years ago, the Egyptians came up with the predecessor of toothpastes, a form of tooth powder which consisted of a mixture of, to us modern readers, odd items. In fact, the world’s oldest tooth powder recipe was found in a collection of papyrus documents from the 4th century AD at the National Library in Vienna, Austria. An ancient Egyptian scribe had carefully written down a recipe for “white and perfect teeth” –  one drachma (a measure equal to one hundredth of an ounce) of rock salt , two drachmas of mint, one drachma of dried iris flower and 20 grains of pepper, all of them crushed and mixed together. Sounds fresh though abrasive!

The Romans and Chinese fiddled about with the recipe.

In the 9th century, the polymath Iraqi singer, oud player, composer, poet, and teacher, Ziryab, added a pleasant taste to the functionality of the product. And now let’s rush through the ages to 1881, when Doctor Washington Sheffield of New London, CT manufactured toothpaste into a collapsible tube. Tooth pastes as we know them, were introduced in around the 1900s.

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..And on to the toothpaste of the 21st century which comes in all sorts of tastes and shades, always in plastic tubes and with an ingredient list that could well be written in Aramaic for all that we understand it.

Shall we decode some of it? Here are some of the chemicals in your toothpaste:

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is added to cause foaming (which is a cosmetic effect and does not clean at all) and can lead to canker sores. SLS can interfere with your taste buds by breaking up the phospholipids on your tongue. This is why after brushing, you can’t taste certain things.
  • Propylene Glycol: An active component in antifreeze, propylene glycol acts as a wetting agent and surfactant in toothpaste. The Material Safety Data Sheets for propylene glycol warns that the chemical can be rapidly absorbed through the skin, with prolonged contact leading to brain, liver and kidney abnormalities.
  • Aroma: A term encompassing a whole host of unknown chemicals brands are not obliged to publish. Remember what I wrote on Fragrance here?
  • Chemicals which are harmful to the environment like the synthetic dye Red 30 ( CI73360), Zinc Oxide, Cocamidopropyl Betaine and Zinc Citrate found  in Colgate Total, Pentasodium Triphospahte found in Sensodyne Rapid action, Zinc Lactate found in Oral B Pro Expert etc.
  • Bio-accumulation: Check out my post here.

And what about the tubes? Toothpaste tubes have traditionally been impossible to recycle because they are made from a mixture of plastic and aluminium. Consumers get through 20 billion packs of toothpaste every year with discarded tubes contributing to the plastic pollution crisis.

So, what can we do?

Buy solid toothpastes

CaptureYup, they exist. You can buy them on a stick, in a pot, in the form of pastilles….so many forms and very little packaging which tends to be biodegradable and or in re-usable containers.

For those hardy souls who want to, press here to find out how to make solid toothbrush. Personally, it is not as easy to make as the below one but hey ho!

 

 

Make your own toothpaste/ tooth powder

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You’ll be amazed at how simple and fast it is to make your own toothpaste and in a re-usable jar.

Recipe 1: The coconut oil toothpaste:

CaptureIngredients:

  • 60 gm / 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 30 gm/ 1 tbsp sodium bicarbonate
  • 5-10 drops Stevia (depending on how sweet you like your toothpaste)
  • 10 drops Mint or Lemon Essential Oil
  • Optional: 5 drops Cinnamon EO to destroy cavity causing bacteria
  • Optional: 1 tsp activated charcoal for stain removal ( bear in mind your sink will need a bit more attention but your teeth will get more attention 🙂

Method:

Basically put everything in a jar and mix with a fork. Voilá.

  • Use within 3 months
  • In summer, keep in the fridge as it tends to melt and separate. Rake the solid mixture with a fork before usage
  • Wash the recipient thoroughly before refilling

Recipe 2: The Bentonite clay toothpaste:

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp Bentonite clay
  • 1/4 cup filtered/boiled water or more, if needed
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 15-20 drops of essential oils (as in above recipe

Method:

In a glass or ceramic container (do NOT use metal as the clay loses its effectiveness because it absorbs the metals that it comes in contact with it), mix together bentonite clay, melted coconut oil, and water with a non-metal spoon until well-mixed

Add baking soda and essential oils and mix again.

If the toothpaste is too thick, add a little bit of water at a time until it reaches the right consistency. Done!

Recipe 3: Bentonite tooth powder

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp Bentonite Clay (removes toxins & alkalizes your mouth)
  • 1 tbsp Organic Cinnamon (fights bacteria & adds flavor)
  • 1 tbsp Baking Soda (helps remove stains, bacteria and plaque; reduces irritation; exfoliates & alkalizes your teeth)

Method:

Mix ingredients in a glass jar with a non-metal utensil (see above)). Store with a lid.

To use: wet your toothbrush slightly and apply a pea sized amount of tooth powder onto your brush or run your toothbrush through the powder and pour some water with your fingers on the brush- whichever suits you.

Any other suggestions? Please feel free to enlighten us all 🙂

Let’s Promote Environmentally Friendly Ways Of Working

Did you know that it is not just paper work but also computer work and the Internet which have a strong environmental impact? How? Mainly because of servers.

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There are about 3 million data centers in the US alone and 8.4 million worldwide. Data centers and computers need huge amounts of power to send, filter, and read messages. The information communications and technology industry –internet and cloud services – produces more than 830 million tons of CO2 every year. That adds up to about 2% of all global CO2 emissions and about 7% of the world’s electricity.

These data centres also require huge amounts of water. In fact, most of the energy used  is to keep processors cool as these heat up from being in use 24/7, and increase water usage indirectly from water being used in the same way at the power plants they get their electricity from. In the US alone where most of these data centres are, these were responsible for consumption of 626 billion liters of water in 2014, which includes both water consumed directly at data center sites and water used to generate the electricity that powered them that year. The researchers expect this number to reach 660 billion liters in 2020” (Data Center Knowledge).

But the problem is not just water or energy usage per se but also the type of energy being used which is mainly fossil-fuel based. A 2016 Greenpeace report says the following: “The transition to the cloud could in fact increase the demand for coal and other fossil fuels despite significant gains in energy efficiency and adoption of a commitment to 100% renewable energy because of the dramatic growth in new data center construction by cloud and colocation companies such as AWS and Digital Realty in Virginia and other hot spots that have some of the lowest percentages of renewable electricity in the U.S.

Here is an interesting fact, ADEME (French environmental and energy management agency) cites that the average digital items (mail, download, video, web request) travels about 15,000 km before getting to your screen! Good grief!

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WHAT’S THE CARBON FOOTPRINT OF EMAIL?

Spam e-mail: .3 grams of CO2
Regular e-mail: 4 grams of CO2
E-mail with large attachment: 50 grams of CO2

HOW TO REDUCE YOUR ONLINE CARBON FOOTPRINT

  1. Be proactive about maintaining a small inbox. Remember that those e-mails from last year aren’t just sitting in your inbox, they’re requiring energy to store them on servers. Delete, delete, delete! (And unsubscribe from unnecessary newsletters to lessen your work next time!)
  2. Stop sending unnecessary messages. When possible, avoid messaging and, communicate face-to-face. This avoids putting more strain on data centers as well as building up your work relationship.
  3. Support companies that use renewable energy to power their cloud. This is an article comparing Google, amazon and Microsoft re the greenest cloud. A rivetting read!
  4. Avoid vampire power. When your computer’s turned off but you’re still plugged in and charging, your device will draw .5 to 2 watts of energy per hour. Not a lot, but still… it all begins to add up. Make sure to unplug all electronic devices when not in use to conserve power.
  5. Can you try sending 5-10 less emails per day?

Good luck!

Let’s talk about Mouth washing- Part 1

toothbrush

We eat, drink, love and talk with our mouth. Some even pull trucks and do other varied and wonderful things….and we also put in and take out stuff from it, sometimes rather carelessly too.

Have you ever thought of ALL the products you use in your mouth and how ecological and or sustainable they are? Did you just shudder? Don’t worry, below are some ways you can achieve zen-ness, and remember, EVERY step counts:

Tooth brush:

This simple tool has been around in many forms including chew sticks, toothpicks etc. for about 5000 years or more though it is believed that the toothbrush in its most known form originated in China in 1498. Press here for some fascinating  toothbrush history. Handles over the ages have been made from natural materials like bamboo, bone, ivory or wood and the bristles were made from hogs’ hair etc. During the 1900s though, celluloid (a type of thermoplastic) replaced these natural handles gradually. Jump to the 21st century and we see that plastic has so fully infiltrated toothbrush design that it’s nearly impossible to clean our teeth without touching a polymer. In modern manual toothbrushes, the handle is made from polypropylene plastic, the rubber grips are made from styrene-based thermoplastic elastomers and the bristles are made from nylon, which are all sourced from non renewable fossil fuels. And because plastic is essentially indestructible, that means nearly every single toothbrush made since the 1930s is still out there in the world somewhere, living on as a piece of trash. How horrific is that? If everyone around the world replaced their toothbrush every 3-4 months, as recommended by the American Dental Associations, about 23 billion toothbrushes would get trashed annually.

So, what can we do?

Check out bamboo toothbrushes

toothbrushThey are cool and tend to come in unbleached cardboard packaging but bear in mind a few things:

Get your toothbrush from sustainable, local  (when possible) and ethical companies.

Make sure to dispose of them properly. This shows you in detail how you can do that.

Many companies claim that their bristles are 100% biodegradable but many are made from nylon so make sure to check the material of your bristle ( If they are made of nylon, they will melt) before you dispose off the brush.

Check out recyclable heads for your electric toothbrush

If you love your electric toothbrush but also love ecology, you could investigate the 2 options below:

oral bApart from the non biodegradable products in the brush head itself, it is disgusting how 4/5 of the brush head is wasted. So, you could look for recyclable heads but check what they mean by “recyclable” as this doesn’t mean biodegradable and that you can throw the head in your composter or the plastic bin but rather, that you have to send it to the manufacturers for them to recycle.

 

toothbrush

 

I saw these Bamboo replacement heads online but not sure about them as you have to buy in gross (5000 pieces) plus they come from China and I am not sure how ethical or ecological they are. But they sure look good!

Let me know if you find a better option!

Check out less plastic in your toothbrush head

brushette

Look for companies like brushette.com where after a small initial investment in buying the tip holder, all you buy is the tip and save up not just on plastic but also on money. They send you an envelope where you collect the tips and once you have a reasonable amount, you send it back for them to recycle responsibly plus they credit your account. How cool is that.

Write to your toothbrush manufacturer asking for green and sustainable solutions

I am an eco nut but even I make some concessions. One of my few concessions is using an electric toothbrush because I always end up hurting my gums with a manual one. Worried about my own trash, I recently wrote to Oral-B Spain seeking solutions. I was disheartened as what they basically said was that they cared more for the hygiene and security of their products than the end of life of their own products. They had no solutions for the customer who ends up with tons of packaging and a non biodegradable product which adds to a landfill or mars nature- their solution was to basically put the problem on to othes. Weirdly enough, the UK site has an address where you can send your brush head for recycling. I guess the Brits care more about this topic than the Spanish, the French or the Americans ( Oral-B sites sites I checked). But you can be sure that if more of us write, they will start taking more and more care and look for sustainable alternatives to make their products from.

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Translation:

Dear Julie,
We thank you for taking the time to share your opinions and suggestions regarding the packaging and manufacturing of our products and we regret that you do not want to continue to use our heads.
Our first priority is to offer a hygienic and safe product to our consumers. We package each brush head individually because people normally use only one at a time. If several brush heads are packaged together, and that packaging remains open, they may be exposed to dust, bacteria or other potentially harmful substances that could affect users.
We strive to minimize the impact of packaging on the environment using mainly two components: PET plastic blisters and cardboard supports, both being recyclable materials.
Our current brushes and heads consist of multiple components and the options for processing these materials can be reported at your local recycling plant. We are working to increase the use of recycled materials and committed to launch recycling programs in as many countries as we can.
We continue working continuously to improve our products and in this sense, comments like yours are welcome. It means a lot to know how our users feel about the evolution of our products and packaging and I will be in charge of transmitting their comments to the corresponding Departments.
Sincerely,
Javier

 

 

What are E-Numbers? Are they good or bad for me?

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E numbers with the “E” standing for “Europe” are codes for substances used as food additives for use within the European Union and European Free Trade Association ( a trade organization consisting of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland).

These codes relate to a set of EU rules about which foods can contain them and how much you should be able to consume in a day. Below is a quick guide to these numbers while in this link you have more detailed info.

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E numbers have had a lot of negative publicity but despite what you might think, when you research them in detail you find that not all E-numbers are harmful. Some examples:

  • Sulfite in wine:  Sulphur dioxide has been used in wine-making for thousands of years, ever since the ancient Romans discovered that it would keep their wine from turning into vinegar. In modern times, it is sometimes added during the fermentation process to prevent acidification (and preserve flavor), enhance color, and remove fermentation by-products such as acetaldehyde (which many scientists think cause hangovers—although, unfortunately, adding sulfites won’t make you hangover-immune either). Sulfites are common not only in wine, but in some ciders, dried fruits, and dried potatoes. E-numbers: 220-228
  • Nitrates and nitrites in cured meats: Curing red meats also includes adding sodium nitrate and potassium nitrite to the meat in order to preserve its color, prevent fats from becoming rancid, and killing harmful bacteria. You have these ingredients to thank for keeping you safe from illnesses—such as botulism poisoning—that are caused by food spoilage. E-numbers: 249-252
  • Antioxidants in pre-sliced fruits: Antioxidants are often added to pre-sliced fruits you buy in the store to remove oxygen and prevent browning. These and other fruits may be treated with ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, which has natural antioxidant characteristics. E-numbers: 170, 300, 302, 330
  • Preservatives in caviar: For those of you who can afford it or like it, guess how the shelf life and taste of caviar is preserved while avoiding bacterial activity? E-numbers: 284-285
  • Essential nutrients and vitamins: Many of these additives are actually essential nutrients and vitamins and are important for good nutrition. A few E-numbers essential for the human body are: E-numbers: 101 (vitamin B2), 300 (vitamin C), 306-9 (vitamin E) , 948 (oxygen!).

On the other hand, research into possible links between food colours and hyperactivity in children has found that consuming certain artificial food colours could cause increased hyperactivity in some children. These are called the Southampton Six and are:

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  1. E110: Sunset yellow FCF
  2. E104: Quinoline yellow
  3. E122: Carmoisine
  4. E129: Allura red
  5. E102: Tartrazine
  6. E124: Ponceau 4R

Food and drink containing any of these six colours must carry a warning on the packaging. This will say ‘May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children’.

And then, of course, there is all the debate about:

  • E621: the flavour enhancer, Monosodium Glutamate:
  • E250: the preservatives, Sodium nitrite and E251 or sodium nitrate
  • E211: the preservative, sodium benzoate
  • E282: the mould inhibitor, Calcium propionate
  • E951: the artifical sweetners aspartame and E952 or cyclamate
  • E320: the anti-oxidant, BHA –butylated hydroxyanisole. Etc……

UntitledSo, what is the take-away from all this? Well, that E-numbers are not all bad. And you really must educate yourself on food labels. However, as said in my last post on bio-accumulation, the less we expose ourselves to man-made chemicals, the better it is for our holistic selves. Ergo, always buy organic when possible and make most if not all your food at home. Avoid as much processed/ packaged food as possible so Be Happy and Stay Happy!

 

Bio-accumulation & Bio-magnification

Bio
Picture Creator:Bridger

BIO-ACCUMULATION

WHAT?  As said in my previous post, Bio-accumulation is the gradual accumulation of harmful substances, such as pesticides, or other chemicals in an organism.

HOW? One way is by an amount of the chemical coming into the living organism faster than the organism can break it down and use it. To put it simply, there is more input than output, therefore causing the chemical to accumulate in the organism.

The other main way is by the chemical coming into the living organism and the organism not being able to break it down or excrete it in any way whatsoever. Ergo, the chemical continues to accumulate until it eventually becomes deadly to the living organism.

Here are some examples of how this would occur: Let’s take car emissions – they are a huge contributory factor as they release chemicals into the air. Now picture these building up in trees and birds. Upon raining, these chemicals would then get washed out of the air and seep into the ground where they would certainly enter plants and the animals which eat these plants.

Another example is illustrated below and in water:

Bio accumulatiom

As humans, we sit at the top of the food chain, and those droplets of toxins in plankton/krill can be quite substantial by the time we ingest they get to us through the links in the food chain.

BIO-MAGNIFICATION

WHAT? Also known as bio-amplification/biological magnification, Bio-magnification is a cumulative increase in the concentrations of a persistent substance (e.g. pesticides, metals, etc.) as it moves up the food chain.

The below drawing nicely illustrates what this is, with mercury being the heavy metal

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HOW? Bio-accumulation occurs at the base of a food web, usually within primary producers like phytoplankton. These microscopic organisms absorb POPs or Persistent Organic Pollutants like DDT ( an insecticide) or PCBs (flame retardants) directly from the seawater and accumulate them in their bodies over time. The toxins build up in their tissues because they are absorbed from the water at a rate faster than they can be metabolized. Bio-magnification then occurs when slightly larger organisms called zooplankton feed upon the contaminated phytoplankton and in turn absorb POPs into their own tissues at a higher concentration. The POPs can be passed from producer to consumer (to consumer, to consumer, and so on…) Bio-magnification can continue all the way up the food web or chain. Because the amounts of POPs become more and more concentrated at each link in the food chain, some of the ocean’s apex predators are at risk of gaining potentially fatal levels of POPs within their bodies, like orcas for example.

EH?

Now consider this: All the toxins we ingest through our foods bio accumulate in our bodies and as apex predators, these toxins are bio-magnified through the food chain. To top it, we live in increasingly polluted cities and use products with known and unknown chemicals on our bodies ( soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, toothpastes, perfumes, makeup etc, in our homes ( detergents, air fresheners, anti-dust sprays, sprays to polish and clean furniture etc), in our offices ( sprays to clean surfaces, floor cleaners, air fresheners etc) far from nature in concrete jungles …is it any surprise that we are increasingly sick, depressed and unhappy? 

So, I feel one should reasonably avoid as many chemicals as possible and try to simplify life by making careful, sustainable choices which work out not just for us as individuals but us as a society. And in the long run, it will work out for your pocket too!

 

Parabens

methylWHAT? Parabens ( Cool tongue-twisting chemical names: parahydroxybenzoates – whoaaaaa or, esters of parahydrobenzoic acid) are a family of related artificially made chemicals. They are a white to off-white crystalline powder. The parabens used most commonly in cosmetics and food are methylparaben, propylparaben and ethylparaben. Butylparaben is also commonly used but just in cosmetics. As you can see from their names, they are quite easy to identify on labels. Until you come across E numbers, that is. More on those later….ethyl-e1528211243964

WHY? Parabens are commonly used as preservatives in pharmaceutical products and cosmetics as they reduce spoilage from air, fungi, bacteria, or yeast. They are also used as food additives as due to their above properties, they increase shelf life.

WHERE? In pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs and cosmetics. Cosmetics that may contain parabens include makeup, moisturizer, hair care products and shaving products, among others. A few brands of deodorants might also contain parabens.

WHEN? The public hue and cry on parabens started whenpropyl P. D. Darbre et al (2004) published a study on parabens which suggested that these chemicals which mimic the female sex hormones (oestrogen) and/or damage genes at a celular level, when applied in bodycare cosmetics around the breast area could be a contributory factor in the rising cases of breast cancer. This was the first time that parabens had been shown to be present as intact *esters within the human body and in the human breast. But this study led to more questions than answers. alas, plus the subsequent villification of parabens by the media, despite the authors expressing the need for “larger studies.” So, what has happened since then? Many, many studies have since been done ( I will put the links to just a few) and they show the following:

  1. The concentration of parabens in human urine which confirms systemic human absorption. Here is a study and here another.
  2. The fact that methylparaben is the paraben that was detected at the highest level but possibly because of its wide usage in cosmetics and also because it penetrates the most into the skin. I could only access the abstract of the study by El Hussein et al., 2007, alas. Wish all studies could have open access!
  3. Accumulation of methylparaben can occur in the outermost layer of the skin through repeated usage of a product during the day and/or multiple applications of different products each containing parabens.
  4. The presence of parabens in raw sewage, whether through human excretion or as wash off products.
  5. Parabens in aquatic systems: secondary and additional treatment of wastewater shows that parabens and their derivatives which have become chlorinated once in contact with the chlorine in tap water, are NOT likely to produce biological effects. Thank god for small mercies!

HOW?Butyl

But, as per UC Berkley’s adjunct associate professor of nutritional sciences and toxicology, Dale Leitman, existing chemical safety tests, which measure the effects of chemicals on human cells, look only at parabens in isolation. They fail to take into account that parabens could interact with other types of signaling molecules in the cells to increase breast cancer risk. Heard of Bioaccumulation? This is the gradual accumulation of substances, such as pesticides, or other chemicals in an organism. Yup, merits another post!

So, what is my take on Parabens in general? Though the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel “supports the safety of cosmetic products in which parabens preservatives are used”, I would avoid ALL products with these due to their bio-accumulation in our bodies. 

DISCLAIMER: I have not been paid/advised by anybody to write/research the above. I have no links whatsoever to big pharma or any personal hygiene product company. The views in this post are my own.

*Ester: an organic compound made by replacing the hydrogen of an acid by an alkyl or other organic group. Many naturally occurring fats and essential oils are esters of fatty acids.