General rule: Avoid all chemicals/synthetic compounds. If the ingredients are not listed on the product label (some countries have no laws governing this so it is best to double check), don't buy the product. If you do not understand what the ingredients are or what affect they have on the environment or on your health (remember that anything bad for the environment is bad for you), do not buy the product. Use natural alternatives.
During the 19th century, Baron von Liebig (a German scientist/chemist) examined the ashes of plants and isloated the elements of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. He then wrote a paper called 'Chemistry in its application to Agriculture and Physiology' in which he concluded that the elements that dissolved in water would feed plants and that the insoluble parts of plant matter (humus) could not be utilitzed and were therefore of no use to plants in general. In spite of the fact that soils all over the planet have managed to stay healthy and fertile for millions of years prior to the baron, his theories have formed the basis of modern agriculture and are used as one of the 'reasons' for the production of chemical fertilizers.
Chemcial or inorganic fertilizers are relatively cheap and, over the short term produce high yeilds. The demand for chemical fertilizers is estimated as doubling every 10 years (as soils become more depleted through monoculture and the constant removal of organic matter, the demand for chemical fertilizers increases). It is important to note that, as well as altering the chemical, physical and microbial components of the soil, it takes enormous amounts of energy to produce these fertilizers. It takes 18,000 kilocalories of energy to produce one kilogram of nitrogen. Phosphates and potassium require 3,000 and 2,300 kilocalories per kilogram respectively. This uses up massive amounts of oil reserves and, if the projected increases in chemical fertilizer use continue, the world's potassium reserves and phosphate desposits will only last about another 80 years.
Introducing individual elements into the soil as opposed to enhancing the processes by means of which these nutrients are released, effectively kills of the natural life processes of the soil life and eventually kills the soil. The best example is the 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico, which is 7,000 square miles and has been caused by fertilizer run-off from farms, lawns and golf courses. The soil of the cotton fields in America has also become so saturated with chemicals and salts as a result of the addition of chemical fertilizers over many years that nothing will grow in it anymore.
All over the world we are beginning to see the affects of the use of chemical fertilizers. The soils in India and Africa are becoming depleted, the loss of humus in the soil results in the soil drying up and blowing away. The 'green' revolution is over.
Insecticides and other poisons
Our plumber's dog died from eating the body of a poisoned bird. This is just one tragic example of poisons killing more than just the original target. Poisons accumulate in the environment and kill indiscriminately. Natural predators like owls are eradicated and the rats on which they used to feed and keep in check have developed resistance to the poisons and continue to thrive.
Insects (rats are also known to do this) build immunity/resistance to poisons and they have been doing this for millions of years. When pesticide-resistant insect individuals produce new offspring, their genetic capacity for resistance is passed on to the new generation and all their offspring. It is a form of natural selection. The ability of highly adaptable, fast-breeding pests to resist the effects of poisons is a growing problem.
Pesticides, fungicides, insecticides etc. kill everything, including human beings. This war that we are waging produces untold collateral damage. It has been found that despite the increased usage of poisons the so-called pests are still out there, in increased numbers, still developing immunity, still thriving. These pests are thriving even better than before, thanks to the fact that we have killed off or are in the process of killing off their natural enemies. Thanks to the use of poisons, pests can breed in peace. Poisons do not work in the long term and bioaccumulate in the environment causing long term health problems for the environment and anything harmful in the environment affects humans.
Most cleaning agents, poisons and chemicals used in our homes and gardens are ineffective and are harmful. Use the simple, effective solutions described in the Healthy Homes page.
Fabric softeners are one of the most toxic products in the house and contain carcinogenic chemicals. If fillers were not used in the washing powders we use or if we wore natural fabrics, then there would be no static in clothes. There is nothing natural about fabric softeners and they contain synthetic fragrances. It is appalling that softeners are advertised in some countries as being 'good' for children.
Synthetic (chemical) fragrances
The word 'fragrance' in cosmetics, personal care and cleaning products can refer to any one of 4,000 different ingredients, most of which are synthetic, none of which come from flowers or herbs. Don't be fooled by names like 'apple blossom' or 'rosemary' etc. unless it is a natural product.
Cosmetic and hair products
65% of the cosmetic products sampled by the Food and Drug Administration in 1991-2 were found to contain carcinogenic contaminants.
Carcinogenic compounds are found in temporary, semi-permanent and permanent hair dyes. It is estimated that these hair dyes increase the incidence of cancer in women by more than 20%.
Harmful ingredients are readily absorbed through the skin and scalp.
All chemicals, poisons and artificial fertilizers are unnecessary and ineffective. If you care about your health and the health of your children, take care of the environment.