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Introduction

Originally published in my book Toxic Free

Within each one of us is an immeasurable capacity for love, understanding, compassion, creativity, joy, and all positive qualities. The tragedy of illness is that it prevents the full expression of outgoing healthy emotions and creative abilities…

I feel that the achievement of health is worth considerable effort and expense because it can add happiness to our lives and to others, can help us to know love and warmth, song, laughter, and music, to experience the joy of creativity and the satisfaction of accomplishments well done.

– Adele Davis

If you are reading this book, it is likely you have toxic chemicals in your body that are making you sick.

That’s a bold statement, I know, but throughout this book I will show you the truth of it.

I will also tell you how you can reduce the toxic chemical load in your body and how you can remove the consumer products that are making your home toxic, so that you and your loved ones can enjoy the good health that is your birthright.

I have been living without toxic chemicals in my home for more than 30 years. Creating a toxic-free home changed my life:

  • I recovered my health
  • I save money on health care costs
  • I enjoy life more because my body feels good—I can work and have fun.

It was my father, actually, who first introduced me to the idea that toxic chemicals might be making me sick.

When I was 24, I moved back home from living on my own to take care of my mother, who was dying of cancer. She had tried many treatments, but now the doctors told her that her time was short, and I moved back to my parents’ house to take care of her during her last days. She lived only another month. She was only 51. Both my grandmothers also died of cancer. When I began to write this book, two of my friends were battling breast cancer, and one died before I finished.

One night, shortly after my mother died, I was sitting at the piano, playing a very beautiful and moving piece of music that could bring tears to anyone’s eyes, but I started crying uncontrollably. I just couldn’t stop crying.

Now I had plenty of reason to cry, but my father saw it differently. While my mother was living, he had wanted her to have intravenous vitamin C treatments. The hospital wouldn’t administer the treatments, so he found a doctor who would. The doctor was one of the first to practice what is now called “environmental medicine.” While waiting for my mother to get her vitamin C, my father learned that one of the symptoms associated with toxic chemical exposure was hysterical crying. I went and got tested and was diagnosed with an immune system dysfunction caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, known then as environmental illness, and now called multiple chemical sensitivities, or MCS.

It wasn’t any disease that I could recognize. Hysterical crying was only part of it. I had a whole set of symptoms that seemed totally unrelated. At my worst I had constant headaches and insomnia every night. Taking a shower made me feel faint and most of the time I couldn’t think clearly. I had strong, sudden uncontrollable urges to eat anything and everything that had sugar in it—a carton of ice cream, a box of cookies, a whole coconut cream pie—and I usually was very depressed.

I couldn’t go anywhere because there were toxic chemicals everywhere that would make me sick. I had a diagnosis, but no treatment. I knew toxic chemicals were making me sick, but I didn’t know what to do to get well.

About a year later, having not improved at all, another woman with MCS asked me, “Are you still sleeping on permanent press sheets? They have a lot of formaldehyde on them, you know.” This question changed my life. It actually had never occurred to me there were toxic chemicals in my home that were making me sick. Wasn’t the government watching out for things like that? Apparently not.

This was the first time anyone had suggested to me that I find out where the toxic chemicals were in my home that were making me sick. And so I did.

When I first started studying toxic chemicals and their health effects in 1978, there was not a lot of information. I had to dig up whatever I could find from poison control centers, medical libraries and toxicology books. There were no indoor air quality studies, or nonprofit organizations devoted to researching toxics, or household hazardous waste collection programs (we didn’t even know then that there was household hazardous waste). And the results of toxic chemical studies certainly weren’t in the news almost every day as they are today. It was like playing detective. My quest to find where toxic chemicals were hidden in my home was what got me out of bed every morning. I wanted to know what was making me sick so I could get well.

Day by day I began to associate particular symptoms with specific exposures. When I put on perfume, immediately I would get a headache; when I stopped wearing perfume, my headaches stopped.
Because I felt faint in the shower, I asked my father to rig up a filter that would remove chlorine; when he installed it, I no longer felt faint when I showered. After reading that formaldehyde caused insomnia and that formaldehyde was in the permanent press finish on bedsheets, I changed my sheets to pure wrinkled cotton and could finally sleep.

As I learned more and more about where toxic chemicals were hidden in consumer products I was using every day, it began to seem like everything in my house was toxic (and, in fact, it was). One day I decided I needed to get all the toxic chemicals out of my house. And I did. Like a tornado, all in one day I swept through and removed all the products that contained toxic chemicals from my home.

When I was done, all that was left with was four bare walls, a cement floor with dried paint spatters all over it (which had previously been covered by carpet), and a metal rollaway bed frame with a pile of cotton thermal blankets for a mattress.

But there were no toxic chemicals in the room.

And my body began to heal.

When I saw that exposure to toxic chemicals in the consumer products I used in my home had made me sick, and that I could improve my health by avoiding them, I could see that this entire ordeal I had gone through with my health could have been prevented.

I didn’t want anyone else to needlessly get sick because they didn’t know they were being exposed to toxic chemicals right in their own homes. And so I started writing about toxic chemicals in the home and safe alternatives.

I started with a little book that I self-published by making Xerox copies. And doors started to open. The makers of Bon Ami Polishing Cleanser sent me on two national media tours because I was recommending Bon Ami as a nontoxic product.

Then I met a book editor and wrote my first real book, Nontoxic & Natural, which was published in 1984. In 1986, I wrote The Nontoxic Home, a primer for identifying household toxics and getting started with making changes. Both Nontoxic & Natural and The Nontoxic Home were updated in the early 1990s to Nontoxic, Natural & Earthwise, and The Nontoxic Home & Office. In 1997, they were combined into Home Safe Home, which was re-released in a revised edition in 2004. As I write today, my books on household toxics and safe alternatives have been continuously in print with the same publisher for more than twenty-five years.

Three significant things have happened since I wrote my last book:

  1. many more nontoxic and natural products have been introduced into the marketplace,
  2. much more information has become available on the health effects of toxic chemicals found in consumer products, and
  3. legislation is being introduced at both federal and state levels to strengthen the laws that govern toxic chemicals in consumer products.

Practically every week now there is a new study in the news about toxic chemicals in consumer products and how they can make us sick.

There is no longer any question that there are toxic chemicals in consumer products or that they affect our health. The question we are faced with today is: what can we do to protect our health from all these toxic chemicals?

The answers are here in this book.

There is now so much information about household toxics and safe alternatives that I am not even going to attempt to be comprehensive.

Instead, I am going to open a door to a new world for you to explore with a “quick-start” guide. My aim with this book is to give you, in easy-to-understand language:

  • a basic understanding of how toxic chemicals in consumer products can affect your health,
  • easy first steps, that anyone can do, to remove toxic exposures from your home,
  • tips on how you can reduce the amount of toxic pollution you put into the environment, and
  • tools you can use to help your body detox and recover from the toxic burden it already has.

There are many reasons why you might choose to be toxic-free.

The most obvious, of course, is that it is better for your health. We now know that exposure to toxic chemicals can contribute to virtually every illness (more about that in Chapter 1).

But you can also save money on medical bills. A report released in 2010 by Safer Chemicals Healthy Families (www.saferchemicals.org) estimates that 5 billion dollars would be saved on health care costs in America each year if we eliminated just a fraction of toxic chemicals in consumer products. 133 million people in the United States—almost half of all Americans—have some sort of chronic disease or condition related to toxic chemical exposures. Seventy percent of deaths and seventy-five percent of U.S. health care costs are now attributed to toxic chemicals in consumer products we use in our homes every day.

Many of the consumer products we use at home can also affect the environment, releasing toxic substances either in their manufacture, use, or disposal. A large majority of the products that are toxic to humans are synthesized from petrochemicals, which cause pollution ranging from oil spills to toxic waste, to which we are then exposed through air pollution, water pollution, and food grown in contaminated soil.

But while finishing up the writing of this book, I learned something more that made me realize how urgent it is right now to address the problem of toxics in consumer products.

I was reading a book called Radical Medicine by Dr. Louisa Williams. I met Dr. Williams in 2008 when I was speaking at the Weston Price Foundation conference in San Francisco. She knew exactly who I was, as she had read my books. She was delighted to meet me and gave me a copy of her 5-pound, 3-inch thick book, in which she had cited one of my books as a reference. I noted her book was about treating illness as a result of toxic chemical exposure, brought the book home, and put it on a shelf to read as soon as I had time.

Finally, on Winter Solstice 2010, I opened the book, and on the very first page Dr. Williams said:

An apple a day won’t keep the doctor away…nor can the most optimum diet possible, drinking pure water, exercising regularly or even diligently supplementing with mega-doses of vitamins and minerals ensure the preservation of good health for most Americans. A healthy lifestyle [is] simply no longer adequate to fend off degenerative disease and help individuals regain their birthright of optimal health…

Dr. Williams went on to say that such natural practices as chiropractic and other natural remedies are no longer as effective as they were 100 years ago, before our bodies began to be inundated with toxic chemicals. I asked a friend of mine who is a chiropractor about this and he said, yes, this is true, many chiropractors are now offering other services, such as nutrition, because classic chiropractic does not work as it did when it was first developed in 1895.

I was stunned to read this. Since 1987, my basic truth has been if I just follow nature’s ways all will be well. It is not that we shouldn’t all be eating whole foods, drinking eight glasses of water every day, taking vitamins, exercising, getting enough sleep, or availing ourselves of the many natural remedies available—it’s that, alone, these common sense health guidelines are not enough to handle the onslaught of toxic chemicals we are daily exposed to in our homes and the environment, or the toxic chemicals that are already stored in our bodies from past exposures.

We can’t even lose weight by dieting alone anymore, as Suzanne Somers pointed out in her newest book Forever Sexy. The first step in her new weight loss program is to reduce your toxic exposures and detox stored toxic chemicals from your body. Then correct diet will work.

Our human bodies now have a new condition that wasn’t in the original plan: toxic overload. We no longer live in a world where our bodies can be healthy solely as a result of a healthy lifestyle. We need to address our toxic exposure first. Every decision now needs to be made around the question: Does this action contribute to or reduce toxic exposure to individual humans or the environment?

As depressing as this might sound, learning that we are at a point where our bodies now may be too toxic to be healed by natural means only gave me hope. Because there are many things we can do to detox our bodies and clean up our homes and the environment. It became clear to me that NOW is the time to do them. And do them big time. Everyone. Everywhere. We’ve hit bottom. Now it’s time to come up.

Today it is easier than ever to replace toxic products in your home with safe ones, and there are gentle—yet effective—detox methods to remove toxic chemicals from your body that are as simple as placing a few drops of flavorless liquid in a glass of water.

All you need to do reverse the harmful effects of toxic chemicals on your health is choose to be toxic-free, learn what to do, and do it.