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The Rant: A Monday Morning View - Chemical Exposure and Human Health

Updated on February 10, 2013

Inspiration for writing comes from the strangest places and so it was not surprising when I found myself standing in the supermarket taking the picture for this hub. I'm not a shopper so the supermarket is a chore that I loathe. Why I had my camera with me remains a mystery so I'll have to assume it was divine intervention.

The topic for The Rant today is not new to me. It's something I've been thinking about for a while now but I suppose I was subconsciously waiting for some catalyst to inspire the writing. The cleaning supply isle in the supermarket was just what I needed.

My stop at the supermarket was to be brief. I only needed to pick up some fruit and soy milk. Like most, I can easily walk in to pick up only one or two items and end up with a cart full if I'm not disciplined. I was determined not to let that happen on this trip and so I took a short cut down the cleaning supply isle on my way to the dairy section. That's when it hit me.

Look at the photo above. What do you see?

The first thing you probably noticed is the price. I did too. I couldn't believe a bottle of Febreeze is now over $5.00. No wonder I don't buy it. What I hoped you might notice was the number of bottles. There's ten of them. Ten! Each one a different scent or intended purpose. I stood there staring and thinking - just how many choices do we really need? And then, what happened to "clean" being a desirable scent. When did smelling "clean" stop being enough? And finally, are we so lazy that we need chemical perfumes to present an impression that things are clean?


That's what's bothering me. It's the chemicals. Our obsession with scents is the fuel for manufacturers to keep coming up with new perfumed products to keep our homes, cars, and clothes smelling like Berry Burst or Tropical Paradise. They come in sprays, candles, oil diffusers, gels, and potpourris. Really? They sure know how to dangle a carrot, don't you think?

This rant isn't just about our weakness for marketing strategies or our scent fetish. It's really about something more important - chemical exposure.

What Are We Doing?

Do you ever think about the number of chemical's you're exposed to on a daily basis? Probably not. Most of us live lives of convenience. Our choices are generally made from our need to do more and to do it faster. We choose convenience over intelligence. Despite what we know about plastics and microwaves, we still do it. In spite of what we've heard about toxins in plastic water bottles, we are still a country obsessed with bottled water. So, let's look at some of the things we do that expose us to chemical hazards and then ask ourselves, what is the cumulative effect?

  • Pesticides: Do you have a contract with an exterminator who sprays your home monthly to keep roaches, ants, spiders, away? Do you know what it contains? Some pesticides can affect functioning of the nervous system.
  • Bottled water: Do you stock cases of bottled water for your family? Do you know what's in the bottle? Bis-phenol A (BPA), a compound in hard, clear polycarbonate plastics that is known to mimic Estrogen and can possibly cause uterine cancer and early mammary development in children.
  • Plastic food containers: Are you using only microwave safe plastic containers in your microwave? If not, stop! The FDA has a thorough approval process for plastic food containers that prevent chemicals from leaching into your food. If your container isn't FDA approved, you're taking a risk.
  • Hair Dyes: Do you know what's in your hair dye? Some hair dyes contain chemicals that may cause allergic reactions and possible neurological effects. Para-phenylenediamine (PPD) is found in many permanent dyes and is a known allergen and carcinogen. There are alternatives to conventional dyes such as plant-based dyes or infrared techniques.
  • Deodorant: Paraben is a component in most commercial deodorants and there has been some concern that paraben can leach into breast tissue and cause tumors. Studies are inconclusive so far but, it may be worth our effort to consider alternatives.
  • Hormones in food: Growth hormones are given to cows and chickens to increase weight and milk production and hormones are known to cause early puberty in children. Again, studies are incomplete but it is suspected that early puberty is also relative to the increased incidence of breast cancer in young women and prostate cancer in younger men. When hormones are used in dairy cows, milk production is stimulated so cows can be milked more frequently. This process of over-milking can lead to infections which must be treated with antibiotics which may result in residual antibiotics making their way into milk production.
  • Antibiotics: There is a reason that physicians have become hesitant to prescribe antibiotics and that's because over time, bacteria, the cause of infection, becomes resistant to the drugs. We are seeing an increase in incidence of MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus).
  • Formaldehyde: I know, you think you don't have any formaldehyde in your home. Read some labels. Start with cleaning products and make your way to toothpaste, mouthwash, and antiperspirant. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen. How much exposure are you getting?
  • VOC's: Found in many cleaning products, VOC's (volatile organic compounds) can cause asthma and other respiratory problems, allergies, and headaches. They are used in air fresheners, dish detergent, floor wax, rug cleaners, bleach, oven cleaners, and more.

Have you had enough?

It's scary, isn't it? This list could go on and on but I didn't come here to tell you everything you're doing in your home that can pose a health risk. I just came to tell you that the way we're living has the potential to reduce the quality of our life or, to shorten the length of it.

When I think of all the chemicals (proven hazardous or not), that I'm exposed to daily, it concerns me. As we become more advanced as a society, we are taking more short cuts and using the technology available to make us feel more comfortable. But at what cost?

You're probably sick of me telling stories of my youth, growing up in a modest household but you know, things were just a lot more simple back then, and probably safer too. We got our milk from the farm down the road. He wasn't a big milk producer but he provided for the neighborhood. His cows didn't get hormones and antibiotics were only given when a real problem existed. My Mom used good old soap and water to clean with, and a lot of elbow grease. Our clothes were hung out to dry rather than spinning around the dryer with some perfumed dryer sheet. We didn't have a microwave. My Mom slaved over the stove for the evening meal we ate together as a family.

I know times have changed and we can't go back but I think we can be smarter than we are. We can stop putting all those chemicals around the house in the forms of scents that make it smell like we cleaned today and, we can stop feeding the beast called "corporate greed". There, I've said it. Enjoy your day.

© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.

Read more of my hubs here.


Submit a Comment
  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    6 years ago from Central Virginia

    RTalloni - it takes a bit of thought and planning but I am really trying to make the change. I appreciate your spending time reading my hubs.

  • RTalloni profile image


    6 years ago from the short journey

    Reminds me that it is indeed "a gift to be simple" and there are many reasons to live without the toxic chemicals in products available in stores today. Making thoughtful choices is important!

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    6 years ago from Central Virginia

    Thank you so much SilverGenes. I really did have a wonderfully simple childhood and am glad you are enjoying my stories. Kudos to you too for your efforts to limit chemical exposure. I would love to hear about your parsley cleaner. I've not heard about that one. It appears we have the foundation for a "hubpages" friendship. Welcome to my world!

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    You are right on target with this! I started using natural cleaners and found they often work better than their chemical cousins. My current favourite is a parsley cleaner and it smells wonderful - beats the others hands down! Orange and lemon smell wonderful, too, and do a great job. Stripping away all the dangerous chemicals really does save money! I also want to mention that I am enjoying the stories from your youth. It reminds me of my childhood, too :)

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    6 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi tirelesstraveler! Obviously, the article referenced a broken link but having done a search on the referenced authority, I was taken to this site which should tell you more about BPA.


  • tirelesstraveler profile image

    Judy Specht 

    6 years ago from California

    Great rant! Lots of old fashion ways to clean. I followed your link for bpa and got to a great article, when I followed the link to the authority that was supposed to have authored the study was an advertisement.

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    6 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi debbie, white vinegar is awesome. I use it and lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide too. But white vinegar is my favorite.

  • debbiepinkston profile image

    Debbie Pinkston 

    6 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

    Something I learned from my grandmother-she uses white vinegar for cleaning and many other things around the house! Its natural and very effective!

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    6 years ago from Central Virginia

    Thanks sunshine652. I'm with you on the store brands and I'm working on eliminating as many chemicals as possible. It's a bit challenging but worth the effort I think. Thanks for reading and encouraging me.

  • Sunshine625 profile image

    Linda Bilyeu 

    6 years ago from Orlando, FL

    Rant on! I agree with the different scents to so many items! Even bleach. Seriously? Bleach is bleach. It's just to get more shelve space so the companies could sell more product. I don't fall for "scents" because I couldn't care less, I just want the product that gets the job done. Store brand works just fine. Well done Linda!

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    6 years ago from Central Virginia

    Two peas in a pod Shauna. :-) This subject really is frightening when you think about the abundance of stuff we put onto and into us every day. Thanks for reading. I'll check out your Gree Tip series too.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 

    6 years ago from Central Florida

    Way to go, Linda! I have addressed many, if not all of these issues in my Green Tip series. It's refreshing to see a hubber whom I respect riding the bandwagon with me!

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    6 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi Pamela! Thanks for reading this. I'll look for your hub later today too. I also appreciate the vote up. I'm glad you mentioned livestock. I thought it might be a bit much for the hub but if you really want to know abut meat (and haven't seen it), watch the video that was narrated by Joaquin Phoenix called Earthlings. It will make you never want to eat meat again. I do, but I never do without thinking of this video. The link is . It's long, about 1 hour 20 minutes but is a real eye opener. Let me know if you watch it and what you think when it's over. It's pretty graphic.

  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 years ago from Sunny Florida

    It is scary to know that all those things contain pesticides. I wrote a hub about the things that livestock is given and it makes you want to become a vegetarian. I'm glad you wrote this hub as it will help people to know what to look for in products to be safe. Voted up and useful.

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    6 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hi debbiepinkston! Thanks so much for stopping in and reading my rant. You are so right about there being too many choices. It makes no sense to me. You are right about aspartame as well. So glad you added that in the comment.

  • debbiepinkston profile image

    Debbie Pinkston 

    6 years ago from Pereira, Colombia and NW Arkansas

    Linda, that was a "great" rant. I many types of air freshener do we really need? When I return each year to the U.S., I stand in the grocery store and just stare at the isles...there are way to many choices and I feel overwhelmed. It's ridiculous! Our nation is far too spoiled and marketing has gone too far.

    From what I understand aspartame turns to formaldehyde, thus I try to stay away from diet drinks and most diet products. It's no wonder that cancer continues to touch just about every family in the U.S.

    Thanks for saying what many of us have been thinking!

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    6 years ago from Central Virginia

    It is scary isn't it Bill, the way our thoughts collide in space and, the world we're living in. I've started a list of topics to write about because too often we are on the same frequency and I don't want to appear that it is a conspiracy. lol

    I did read Rachel Carson's book and agree 100%. I also worked as a Cancer Registrar for 7 years, crunching local cancer statistics and conducting studies. You don't want to come near me if you're using a tanning bed, drinking bottled water, or using an exterminating service. I go completely nuts.

    Write your comedy sir, we need all the humor we can get in this life. Hope the sun shines on your world today!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    6 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Linda, it is starting to scare me the way you and I think alike. I was planning a comedy hub about the chemicals I discovered while reading the ingredients on a bottle of mustard. I am choosing to make a comedy of it because otherwise I would cry.

    Did you ever read Rachel Carson's book on is enough to scare you off of all store-bought vegetables and fruits.

    Great awareness hub! Your voice can be heard loud and clear.

    Have a great day and stay away from the grocery store.



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