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Friday, June 12, 2015

Part X: Male Infertility, Miscarriage, Food Toxicity, Cancer - Paint, Ink, Detergent, Canned Food, Plastics, and Green Tips

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There are many useful things around the house that may look harmless but pose significant effect on the human well-being because of their chemical content. These chemicals are called endocrine disrupters.  They contain hormone disrupting compounds (HDCs) which mimic estrogen, the female hormone, which cause low sperm count, male infertility, miscarriage, and toxicity in food and diseases.

These chemicals started as solutions for pesticides, herbicides and disinfectants such as:

1. DDT or Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane 

DDT is a colorless, tasteless, and almost odourless crystalline containing organochloride.  This was used during World War II to control malaria and typhus. After the war, DDT was used as an agricultural pesticide but was banned in the USA in 1972. Eventually, it was also prohibited worldwide. Later on, it was allowed for use as an ‘indoor residual spray’ to control malaria in poor nations where it remains a continuing health problem. The use of DDT remains controversial because of its adverse effects on the human health and environment.  

2. Lindane 

Lindane was used worldwide as a pesticide.  It contains an organochlorine chemical which was banned for agricultural use. Now, it is being used in shampoos and lotions in the USA to control head lice and scabies. A study shows that 62% of people tested reveal lindane components in the blood.  

Infants are also exposed to lindane through the placenta and breastmilk.  Lindane residues contaminate common foods like rice and potatoes when it is used as agricultural pesticide. It has damaging effects on the nervous system, causes cancer and liver toxicity.  Lindane interferes with the hormone levels of men causing a lowering sperm count. A high level of this substance in pregnant women may also cause miscarriage or premature birth.

A report from International POPS Elimination Network showed there are alternatives to lindane.  Since California banned lindane in 2001, their water has been cleaner. There was significantly lesser risk and exposure to chemicals according to Environmental Health Perspectives.

3. Dioxin

Dioxin is the undesirable by-product of manufacturing herbicide and disinfectant, which are clearly two of the most toxic man-made substances. 

Dioxin is scientifically called dibenzo-p-dioxin, a compound of benzene, chlorine, etc. which enter  fatty tissues of the body causing chronic cancer, skin disease, muscular dysfunction, impotence, birth defects, genetic mutation and nervous system disorder. 

In 1976, there was an overheating of Dioxin in Seveso, Italy. This caused the evacuation of 700 residents because of its explosive reaction. This incident contaminated plants and animals around the area. 

Dioxin was also used in Vietnam as an herbicide to destroy the grass where railways and highways were being constructed. 

There is also dioxin contamination when plastics are being burned in incinerators. After burning, more residues of this toxic waste remain.

After decades, these Hormone Disrupting Compounds (HDCs) are now in commercial products which invade our homes through the practical products we enjoy.  

1. Phthalates is a component of plastic vinyl flooring, paint, and ink.

2. Alkyphenols compounds are ingredients of detergents, paints, and shampoos.

3. Bisphenol A are in food cans, metal bottle tops, and toys.

4. Organochlorines produce compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB); polyvinylchloride (PVC), chloroform and chloramine compounds.

These hormone benders are found in vegetables and food that are treated with pesticide, and in synthetic products such as food packaging materials, children’s toys, detergents, cosmetics, household cleaners, air fresheners and more. These synthetic compounds build up in the fats of fish, poultry and livestock which can contaminate even breastmilk of nursing mothers.  Since organochlorines were formulated originally for pesticides, herbicides and disinfectants, its compounds have the ability to exist as vapor, oil or in solid form.  

This is reality. Thankfully, there are ways to avoid or minimize the adverse effects of these harmful compounds in our homes.


Take note of the following when choosing paint for your home.

a. Use paints from natural resins.
b. For low odor paint use hospital paint.
c. Dry excess paint first if you plan on throwing it out.
d. Look for limewash mineral- based or plant-based paint for walls and ceilings.
e. Choose solvent-free products.
f. Choose natural unpainted finishes.


Choose plant-based resins and plant-based solvents which allow wood to breath. Wood reacts to oil and resins. 

Pure beeswax or linseed oil is good for finishing wood surfaces. It gives a beautiful shine, scent and prevents static.


When using plastic, remember the following:

a. As much as possible, use paper bags. After use, these paper bags may be donated or sold to the Bote Dyaryo man (recyclable collector) who buys bottles and newspapers from households, and resells them at Php1 per kilo for paper and Php2 per kilo for cartons.
b. Avoid using damaged soft or hard plastics for food.  Any scratch or breakage in plastic containers releases toxic synthetic chemicals and preservatives that cause food contamination.


Use organic or natural detergent because clothes are closest to the skin.  (Read more on Home Cleaners.)


Use organic shampoo or natural shampoo like Gugo bark.  You can make your own shampoo. (Read more about Hair Care.)


Organic chicken, beef, eggs, vegetables and other food are recommended for good health since these are naturally grown.  The natural taste of vegetables are mild and sweet. Chicken, beef, and other meats are tastier. A little of it is enough to give flavour to dishes. 

Try simple gardening and harvest the best benefits. (Read more on Make Herbal Gardening Your Workout.)


Use herbs as natural pesticides. Oregano leaves or any minty herb may be crushed in water. The solution can poured or sprayed on the leaves and the stems of plants to drive away pests. 

The bitter leaves of Neem Tree and Serpentina, and the fragrant leaves Citronella and Lemon Grass are effective pesticides. (Read more about Serpentina and Citronella and Neem Tree.)


Minimize eating canned goods altogether. Should you buy canned goods, remember to check the expiration date and make sure there are no dents or damage on the cans.  Do not eat the content if it does not taste good. 

If you are recycling, donating or selling the cans make sure they are cleaned properly to prevent bacteria, especially salmonella bacteria, from spreading around the community.


Glass bottles are preferred to plastic bottles because glass bottles may be reused. Plastic bottle covers are better than metal ones though because these rust in time.


Choose natural products that use wood, rattan etc. as furniture. 

Some chemical solutions produce more problems than solutions.  May your awareness of these ‘endocrine disrupters’ be your guide in the next purchases for your family and your home. Remember, your choices affect your loved ones’ present and future. 

Up Next: 
Part XI: Toxic Gases from Plastics: Clothes, Food Containers, Construction Materials, etc.

The Gardener


Encyclopedia Brittanica. (1992) 15th edition, Micropedia 7, p. 371 

Encyclopedia Brittanica. (1992) 15th edition, Micropedia 4, p. 113

Callard, S., Millis, D. (2009) The eco-living handbook: A complete guide for your home and life, pp. 40-43, 52-61, 72, London, UK: Carlton Books Ltd.

Lindane. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2015, from 

Sadasivaiah, S., Tozan, Y., & Breman, J. (n.d.). Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) for Indoor Residual Spraying in Africa: How Can It Be Used for Malaria Control? Retrieved June 8, 2015, from 

DDT. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2015, from

PCBs Polychlorinated biphenyls. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2015, from

Basic Information. (n.d.). Retrieved June 8, 2015, from

Monday, April 20, 2015


PART IX: Electromagnetic Radiation - Television, Computer, Appliances, Cell Phone and Green Tips

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Every modern home is loaded with modern technology.  As we enjoy man-made inventions, we should also be aware of our responsibility to human well-being and the world we live in, even if we can easily afford the costly power bills. There is reason for alarm since every electronic equipment in our homes produces electromagnetic radiation (EMR) in our atmosphere.

EMR can be classified in three categories.


This differ in intensity as follows:

a. Electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) are produced by power cables, radio, television,
computers and IT Equipment, nautical and maritime navigation equipment and more.  EMFs emit intense frequencies. To communicate, the telephone produces radio waves at 10,000 hertz while the high fidelity sound produces 20,000 hertz.

b. Extremely low electromagnetic frequencies (ELFs) are produced by LED lights (light emitting diodes), food warmers in restaurants, microwave oven for food and more.  ELFs have a range of 1 to 100 hertz cycle per second and a wavelength of 1 to 100 meters long wavelength. The microwave oven produces a 100 hertz cycle per second with a 100-meter long wavelength.  These less intense frequency can affect the electrochemical balance of the brain and development of the fetus if the waves are modulated at a low frequency between 5 and 100 hertz per second, because these has the same magnitude as brain wave frequencies according to Encyclopedia Brittanica. The proximity to extremely low electromagnetic frequencies like power transmissions or directly using gadgets like heating blankets has adverse effect on the health and balance of the brain.

The widely used mobile phone or handheld cellular phone and tower-based antennas expose the users to radio frequencies or radio waves. The cell phone has 1,800 to 2,200 megahertz. It has the same frequency as the cordless telephone except that the cordless gadget has limited range and has less power.  This non-ionizing radiation is easily absorbed by the body tissues closest to the handset, tower-based antenna equipment or cordless telephone.  Using these for about 30 minutes a day is a cause of concern for risk of illnesses like brain tumour, salivary gland tumour and genetic damage.
Also, working with a computer exposes the user to two radio frequencies - strong electromagnetic frequencies and extremely low electromagnetic frequencies. The result is eye strain, headache, high blood pressure and stress.

But there are ways to minimize the risk of these illnesses when using these equipment and gadgets.

Here are some green tips:

a. Reduce exposure to cell phone by having shorter conversations or using landline phones.
b. Use a hand-free device to have a distance between user and cell phone.
c. Switch off and unplug all electrical equipment when not in use.
d. Position workplace near the window preferably near the garden which is stimulating.  Eco-research showed people work more productively in natural lighting.
e. Do not leave appliance or equipment on standby. Plugged appliances when not being used account for 20 to 40% of the power bill because power keeps running and being registered in the electric meter.
f. If the computer, lights or appliances will not be used within 15 minutes, better switch or plug them off.  
g. Screen savers are not energy savers.
h. Recycle personal computers by donating to charity instead of throwing into landfills, because computers are toxic and will surely pollute the earth.


Ionization produces radiation as classified below:

a. Non-ionizing radiation.  These are sound waves, microwave for communication and food, infrared radiation lamps (ex. LED lights), radio, television, cell phone and tower-based antenna, and more.  Non- ionizing radiation has enough energy to move a molecule around to cause them to vibrate but not enough to remove the electrons from molecules.

The side effects of using these are hay fever, migraine and stress.  To minimize health inconvenience, here are some green tips:

1. Limit the number of electrical and electronic devices at home.
2. Use natural materials for furniture and walls.
3. Bring in plants as natural ionizer. (Make sure it gets sunlight first and to take it out at night.)
4. Use electric ionizer.
5. Make sure your home has adequate ventilation.

b. Ionizing radiation. These are x-ray machines, CT scans, and other medical equipment. Ionizing radiation have enough energy to break chemical bonds between 2 carbon atoms. Ionizing radiation is capable of removing directly or indirectly electrons from most molecules. These medical equipment are managed by professionals for safety purposes.


These are emissions that have weak charges of electricity which cannot be unearthed due to the presence of insulating materials such as rubber and synthetic carpets. But when these static build up, metals near the computer can be charged since metals are good conductors of electricity.

To reduce the risk of static, here are some green tips:

a. Use materials like wood and leather which will allow static to disperse.
b. Metals conduct electricity thus, avoid metal furniture, beds with frame or springs near the computer.
c. Use anti- glare screens for computers.
d. The use of pure beeswax or linseed oil for finishing surfaces combat static.

As we use technology, let us remember the needs of our natural beings.  Using computers cause health-related injuries called Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI.

Here are some precautionary measures:
a. Stop for 10 min. for every 40 to 50 min. using computers. Do some stretching.
b. Adjust depth vision by focusing eyes in far objects every 30 minutes, because eyes become tired after focusing at short range for a long time.
c. Blink and look away from computer regularly.
d. Keep mouse clean since grease and dirt build- up makes it slow down.  It is harder to use because there is increased effort and there is a tendency to develop RSI. Using key board connects more.
e. Position mouse at the same height with keyboard to avoid shoulder strain.
f. Buy a wrist rest to support your hands
g. Relieve yourself from stress by means of exercise or listening to music.
h. There are also herbs that remove stress like holy basil or tulsi. Tarragon is also relaxing. Just check out for more of these herbs.
i. Sit well back from the screen but not to one side because it is at the sides that radiation is leaked.
j. The desk should have enough space to sit properly. Your distance from the screen is preferably 20 inches or 50 cm.
k. Supportive chair should be adjustable to prevent slouching.
l. Choose a light bulb that will serve one’s specific needs. There two kinds of light bulbs that are widely used to suit one’s needs:
        1. LED or light emission diodes gives directional light with minimum emission and saves energy cost.
        2. Incandescent light bulbs produce 90% energy that is only converted to heat, while it only produces 10% light.

Aside from different waves that we receive from technological pollution, the power plants produce a large amount of greenhouse gases to be able to serve our power demands.  Electricity produced from fossil fuel emit sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide, while those produced from coal emit carbon dioxide.

Our Creator has provided all our needs out of nothing - the air to breathe, space to move around, eyes to see, plants and herbs to feed and relieve us, and many more. Man created something out of nature we call necessities. Let us evaluate our ‘real needs’ and mere wants. Wants arise from a “propaganda of false needs” that push us to excessive use which conflict with our human nature and ecology.

Let us exercise discernment! The benefit of limiting our use of technology to moderation or even a minimum will manifest not only in our health but in our lower power bills at home. Our return to the simple life is our recourse to protect the world we live in.

The human heart emits two Hertz cycle per second which adversely reacts to electromagnetic fields emitted outside.  We are living witnesses to technological advancements that have caused serious illnesses and man-made calamities. Let us heed Mother Nature’s call for prudence while enjoying modern privileges!

Em-em Tinasas, MBA 
The Gardener

Callard, S. and Millis, D. (2009) Eco-living handbook: A complete green guide for your home and life. London: Carlton Books Ltd.

Radiation: Non-Ionizing and Ionizing. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Ionization. (1992). In Encyclopedia Brittanica (15th ed., pp. 200-202).

Mobile phone radiation and health. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Cell Phones and Cancer Risk. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2015, from

The Hidden Dangers of Cell Phone Radiation. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Friday, April 10, 2015

Part VIII: Baby Care Products - Diapers, Skin Care, Toys and Green Tips


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The trend nowadays is convenience. Gone are the days of washing diapers, carrying along thermo bottles for hot water and canned milk.  Everything is available in manufactured and processed form. But time and convenience must not be an excuse for the good health and safety of babies for they are the hope of the future.

Here are some green tips to give extra care to our bundle of joy:

I. Disposable diapers are composed of chemicals like bleach, perfume, plastics and additives.  According to the Eco-Living Handbook, these take hundreds of years to decompose and these also emit methane gas.  Even bio-disposable diapers contain absorbent gelling materials which raise the temperature of the baby’s delicate part.  This may affect their development, especially of male babies.

Here are some green tips for disposable diapers:

1. Use washable diapers.
2. Use disposable inner liners and washable outer cloth.
3. Avoid using fabric softener and sanitizers. According to the Women’s Environmental Network, you can use the following instead:

a. Add small cup of white vinegar in the last rinsing.  This keeps nappies soft.
b. Add a few drops of lavender oil.

In the Philippines, young mothers have started the trend of using fashionable washable diapers. And they are happy to use these because they can help care for the environment as well.

II. Skin Care

What is bad for the environment is bad for babies.  There are so many manufacturers offering the gentlest products.  But it is important to read the ingredients.

Here are more baby care green tips:

1. Baby oil contains mineral oil content which is a petroleum product.
2. Avoid using detergents and strong cleaning agents on the baby’s room and the home. (Check our blog post on Home Cleaners.)
3. Use organic laundry soap and cleaning agents.
4. There is no need to used powder and lotion on the baby unless his or her skin is dry, or has skin problems.
5. Clean baby’s bottom with warm water and organic cotton instead of processed wipes.
6. Make your own organic wipes using undyed cotton.

Also, diaper rash may be caused by acidity.  Here are tips to remove diaper rash:

1. Give baby plenty of water.
2. Cranberry juice in the bottle helps neutralize acids in the urine.
3. Try organic laundry soap for washing baby’s clothes and washable diapers.
4. Make your homemade lotion for diaper rash. See the recipe below.
a. Put 1 tablespoon of chamomile in 1 cup of hot water.
b. Keep it covered while steeping until it cools.
c. Strain and add 2 tablespoons of cod liver oil to the chamomile water.
d. Shake well and apply to diaper rash. Make sure you wash the area first.

III. Toys

Once baby starts teething, he or she would start biting and toys.  It is preferable to avoid buying toys that are made of polyvinyl plastic toys because this is a toxic material.

A contented baby will be enjoyed more by his or her doting parents. And, when the little one is nurtured with a true love and care for nature, he will grow up with a delicate appreciation of God’s creations. Thus, he will be a good and able steward of Mother Earth in the future.

Em-em Tinasas, MBA
The Gardener


Callard, S. and Millard D. (2009) The eco-living handbook, A complete green guide for your home and life. London: Carlton Books, Ltd.

Todd, J. Herbal. Home remedies. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishing (P) Ltd.

Sunday, January 18, 2015



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Hair is man’s crowning glory, and that’s why many hair products promise beautiful, shiny hair. Yet many users end up with falling or damaged hair due to toxic chemicals. The toxic chemicals in shampoo also contribute to the pollution at home, which eventually flows to the sewerage system.  It is not really easy reading the ingredients of personal care products, while burdened with a long grocery shopping list.  As mentioned previously in Body Care, there are many ways to get educated like perusing over websites that expose carcinogens in personal care products.

Hair is not just the attractive locks and curls, or the shiny, straight d├ęcor that people see.  Its appearance manifests a person’s health.  Hair is attached to the skin, that’s why it hurts when its strands are pulled.  It has a specialized protein called keratin that serves as its protection from harsh wind, different seasons, rough handling, strong heat and the sun. On the other hand, the hair color depends on the natural pigment of the cortical cell called melanin.  The hair, skin, nails, sweat and oil glands comprise the Integumentary System of the body.

The Integumentary System regulates body temperature, eliminates waste and functions as pressure and pain receptors. To function well, it needs the following:

1.       Vitamins A, B Complex, C, E, D, biotin, folic acid, bioflavonoids, and pantothenic acid;
2.       Minerals like silicon, calcium, fluorine, iron, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, iodine, copper, manganese, magnesium, and zinc;
3.       Food - avocados, sea vegetables, cucumber, rice polish, sprouts;
4.       Drinks – carrot/celery/lemon juice and cucumber/endive/pineapple juice;
5.       Herbs – aloe vera juice taken orally or topical hair application.

Hair is important because it protects the head, in the same way the head shields the brain. According to Dr. Shiv Dua, writer of the book Hair Care, there are factors that affect hair health. Below are some factors that affect hair health:

1.        Food has a direct effect on the mind and body.  In Ayurveda, food is classified as:
a.        Satvik food – These are food which give peace, calm, and purity of mind. These are cereals, butter, milk, cheese, curds, wheat, tomatoes, fruits and vegetables;
b.       Tamsik food – These are food which induce darkness, and anger in the mind. These food include meat, onions, garlic, wine and tobacco;
c.       Rajasvic food are food luxuriously mixed with masala, oil, and servings of different food varieties.  Masala is an Indian black tea made with Assam and mixed with warming spices such as ginger and green cardamom pods. Spices like peppercorn, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise and fennel seeds are also added to enhance its flavor.  (Read: Tea Break Time for more information on Black, Oolong and Green Tea.)
2.       Sleep and rest are very much needed to form new cells.  Hair needs rest from all the combing, harsh winds, rain, storm, heat and cold;
3.       Good blood circulation strengthens the hair. Water is necessary for blood circulation, digestion, healthy hair and body temperature regulation. Since the body consists of about 75% water, it is important to drink 10 to 12 glasses of water every day. (Read: Do you Drink Water Sip by Sip for more information.)

Hair care is not limited to the shampoo and conditioner one uses. It takes much more discipline to have beautiful hair. Below are some tips to name a few.  

1.       Do not drink carbonated drinks excessively because these makes the blood acidic. Acidity starves the hair from minerals.
2.       A cold shower improves blood circulation and strengthens hair.
3.       Tying hair too tightly causes breakage.
4.       Brush and comb gently. Do not lend or borrow personal things like combs.
5.       Massage hair before or after a bath.  Use the tips of the fingers to separate hair when applying oil.
6.       Apply oil when hair is dry.
7.       When a strand of grey hair is pulled, 10 more strands will come out.  It is suggested to just cut these grey strands near the roots.
8.       Anxiety causes scalp muscle tension. This prevents nutrients from reaching hair follicles and is one of the leading causes of falling hair.
9.       Using a hair dryer is harmful because of the hot air it emits.  It is healthier to air-dry hair.

Now, here are some simple and natural preparations to enhance the crowning glory. 

1.        Aloe Vera can be:
a.       Used directly on the scalp before taking a bath;
b.       Made into a simple bottled mixture used for rinsing. It is composed of aloe gel, water and half a teaspoon of white natural vinegar. This mixture makes the hair soft and manageable. (Check out Aloe Vera for more information.)
2.       Gugo is the traditional Philippine shampoo made of Gogo bark, which was used by our ancestors for soap, shampoo and laundry.  Aside from having healthy hair, it removes dandruff and stops falling hair. There are 2 ways of using the bark. One may opt to;
a.       Squeeze the Gugo in a dipper with water. When it makes suds, it means it is ready for application;
b.       Make a simple bottled mixture with procedure like that of Aloe Vera. (Check Gugo for more information.)
3.       Apple Cider Vinegar can remove dandruff.  Just dilute it with warm water and apply on the scalp. Lemon can replace vinegar.

4.       There are plenty of shampoo substitutes. Just beat an egg and massage the scalp.
After rinsing with vinegar, rinse with plain water.  This makes the hair healthy and shiny.

5.       Herbs can also be added in ordinary shampoo.  Rosemary and lavender can be added for normal hair, while mint can be added for greasy hair as follows:
a.       Infuse 6 tsp. of fresh (or 3 tsp. of dried) herbs of your choice in 1/2 cup of boiling water. 
b.      Cool and keep in the refrigerator. 
c.       Add 1 tablespoon to shampoo before every bath.

6.       Mayonnaise can be used as shampoo since it has olive oil and egg.  It can be left in an hour on hair before rinsing.  Apple cider vinegar may be used for the rinse.

As natural beings, our hair needs natural solutions. There are many ways to enhance the crowning glory using the least or, preferably, with no synthetic chemicals at all.  This will surely benefit people as a direct user, and their home, too, where chemical pollution moves around for some time because of the enclosed house walls.  These natural and eco-friendly hair DIYs will be a welcome to our sewerage systems that will eventually flow into the creeks, rivers, seas and oceans of Mother Earth.

Watch out for the next installment of the It’s Twice or More Polluted Inside Homes series, Part VIII – Baby Care – Diapers, Baby Skin Product, Toys and Green Tips!

The Gardener

Callard, S. and Millis, D., 2009. The eco-living handbook: A complete guide to your home and life. London, UK. Carlton Books, Ltd.

Retrieved from

Dua, S. 2009. Hair care: A complete solution to your hair problems. New Delhi, India, B. Jain Publisher (P) Ltd.

Handa, P. 1998. Speaking of skin care. New Delhi, India. Sterling Publishers Pvt., Ltd.

Todd, J. 2012. Herbal home remedies. New Delhi, India. B. Jain Publishers (P) Ltd.

Friday, November 14, 2014



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There are many beauty and body care products competing in the market.  According to the World Wildlife Fund, chemicals commonly found in beauty and body care products have contaminated the environment. These are classified as:

1.        Chemicals that break down slowly or not at all, which accumulate in the bodies of people and wildlife;

2.       Chemicals called Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), which interfere with the hormone systems of animal and humans;

3.       Chemicals that cause cancer, reproductive problems, or damage DNA.

These chemicals are used in a variety of products such as phthalates, acryloamide, formaldehyde, and ethylene oxide which have been found to act as carcinogens or reproductive toxins.

In Europe, laws were passed against cancer, mutation, and birth defect-causing chemicals. In California, a Safe Cosmetics Bill was passed which forces companies to notify the state when using chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects.  In the Philippines, cosmetics are monitored by the Food and Drug Administration.

Awareness is the key factor to reduce pollution and health hazards in our homes.  The Eco-Living Handbook recommends:

1.       Checking the website of World Wildlife Fund which is also the proponent for ‘Earth Hour’, and Women’s Environmental Network which can give you a toxic tour;

2.       Checking the Skin Deep database which gives safety information of 25,000 body care products at This will also show companies that have signed the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics;

3.       Being aware of every ingredient in beauty products before we buy them. Many chemicals are not manifested in the list of ingredients. Below are some trivia and tips to help you the next time you buy beauty products:

a.       The term ‘parfum’ includes byproducts of chemicals produced while undergoing manufacturing process;
b.      If in doubt, choose a product with the least ingredients;
c.       Choose a beauty product with essential oil instead of fragrance;
d.      Avoid products with preservatives, colorants, emulsifiers, and detergents. Buy organic products. Beware of some products that use the term ‘natural’ loosely. Some countries allow this despite the use of minimal natural ingredients in the product; 
e.      Anti-bacteria ingredients make the user immune to bacteria after long usage;
f.        Choose plant-based products rather than petroleum-based products. Mineral oil is a byproduct of petroleum oil;
g.       UV absorber is a chemical protecting another chemical from fading from sunlight.

It is enlightening to know that there are natural and unprocessed products that are helpful to the skin.  Here are some Beauty and Body care Green Tips:

I.                    Skin

A.       Use organic soaps or choose one with neither color nor fragrance;
B.      Choose bar soap over liquid soap.  Save leftover soap by putting it in a container with water. You can use this to clean cemented areas around the house and the pet area;
C.      Use Gugo scrub. Gugo is a bark from the Philippine Gogo tree.  It was used as shampoo, body soap and laundry soap by our ancestors.  Since it is a bark, it can be used as exfoliant.  You can use it as an exfoliant after using the Gugo as shampoo. (Click here for more information.)
D.      From D-I-Y
1.       Milk sponge bath –
a.       Chilled milk can be applied everyday as mild exfoliant for both the face and body;
b.    Chilled milk can be applied every other day with the use of face towel;
c.    Lemon may also be added to lighten the color of the skin and scars. Just  
       let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.
2.     Banana peel
        To make pores look smaller, apply the inner portion of the banana peel on skin     
        and leave for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not rub.
       E.     Ginger Bath                           Ginger tea is serves as detox and soothes aches and pains, relieve colds, fever, and                                 menstrual cramps.

II.                   Bath Oil – before or during bath

A.      Do-it-Yourself Breath of Mint Oil.  You can make your own oil out of Peppermint and Spearmint or herbs of your desire. (Click here for instructions.)
B.      Do-it-Yourself Citro-Mint Oil which mixes Citronella, Peppermint and Spearmint together. You may also opt to just make Citronella oil. (Click here for more information.)
C.      If you have an available essential oil, you can mix it with cup of olive oil or whatever oil you have available.

III.                Powder

 – Choose organic corn flour or cornstarch powder.

IV.                Shaving

        Choose plant-based shaving cream or old-fashioned soap and water. The aerosol propellant is a pollutant inside your home.

V.                  Food

 – The skin, hair, nails, oil and sweat glands are called Integumentary System.  The best food for this system are avocados, sea vegetables, cucumbers, apples, carrots, brown or red rice, sprouts, and pineapples.

VI.                Herbs for youthful skin are Aloe Vera, Dokudami and Ashitaba because of their anti-aging properties. (Visit for more information.)

A.       Aloe Vera can be made into the following:
1.       Syrup gel with honey;
2.        Be applied to skin directly;
3.        Aloe Vera rinse is a simple preparation which makes the skin smooth and the hair manageable. (Click here for more information.)
B.       Dokudami can be eaten raw. It serves as an antioxidant and anti-aging, prevents anaphylactic shock (allergic reaction to medicines) and relieves nose congestion and respiratory system.
C.       Ashitaba is eaten raw.  It is an antioxidant, all the while being anti-cancer and anti-aging.

We cannot avoid processed body and beauty products, but we can aim to live green by being aware of their ingredients, and exert more diligence to make our own beauty products.
We will be featuring Hair Products in our next’ Its Twice or More Polluted Inside Homes’ chapter. Stay tuned!

The Urban Farmer

Callard, S. and Millis, D. (2009) The eco-living handbook pp. 138 – 148, London, UK: Cartlon Books Ltd.
Handa, P. (1998) Speaking of skin care, pp. 7 -8, New Delhi, India: Sterling Publishers Ltd.

Jensen, B. (1993) Foods that heal, p. 62, New York, USA: Avery Publishing Corp.

Friday, May 16, 2014


PART V: HOME CLEANERS – Laundry Soap, Bleach, Cleaners, Air Freshener, Insecticide and GREEN TIPS

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Our aim to keep our homes as clean and comfortable makes us vulnerable to highly- advertised chemical solutions such as:

1. Laundry soap which contains chemically- based surfactant;
2. Bleach which contains synthetic chlorine;
3. Household cleaning aids which contain chemicals like phosphate, chlorine, scents, and dye.

Every year 6,000 chemical compounds are developed and many of these are marketed for home use.  A British study, according to Eco-Living Handbook, found that frequent use of household chemicals are linked to wheezing and asthma.
I used to experience that sick feeling so, I shifted to back-to-basic solutions such as white vinegar, fresh lemon (or Philippine Kalamansi), sodium carbonate (baking soda), and herbs.

Here are economical green tips and guide in choosing your cleaners:
1. Laundry soap –
a. Most preferable is the laundry soap which is biodegradable, phosphate-free, dye-free, perfume-free, and with vegetable-based surfactant. There are several         natural herbal or organic laundry soap available in the supermarkets and organic markets.

Here are more laundry tips:

a. Do not follow the manufacturer’s recommended tablespoon, scoops, or cups for washing. According to Eco-Living Handbook, half of the recommended is enough.
b. Conserve water by adding Sodium Carbonate (baking soda) when rinsing.  Baking soda is repacked at bakery supply stores in the Philippines, which are cheaper          by the kilo.
c. Powdered soap is better than liquid detergent.  Liquid detergent contains 4x more chemical surfactant. Chemical Surfactant is the most toxic ingredient in              laundry products, according to the Environmental Detergent Manufacturer’s Association of United Kingdom. Surfactant is called surface-active agent such as          detergent which when added to a liquid reduces its surface tension increasing its wetting and spreading properties.
d. Conventional washing powders contain several chemicals such as pigments, fluorescent whitening agent, and silicone de-foamer.  According to a Study of Ethical          Consumer Magazine of UK, a typical laundry detergent has 12 to 16 ingredients but only few are listed on the package.
e. Anti-bacterial agents and musks, according to World Wildlife Fund( WWF) and Green Peace have been found in tested blood samples from babies and mothers in a          ‘Study on the Presence of Man-made Chemicals in the Blood’.
f. Concentrated soap is better than standard powder.  Concentrated soap does not contain active filler ingredients to fill up the bulk of ordinary powder.
g. The best drying is by means of sunlight because it disinfects as well. Just make sure your clothesline is clean.

2. Bleach – Using synthetic chlorine creates more toxic substances, which is harmful to the environment. Thus , here are some effective ways of removing stains:

a. Lemon or white vinegar can remove food, fruit, and vegetable stains.
b. I/4 cup of vinegar removes odor and dirt from clothes.
c. Sodium carbonate (baking soda) when dissolved in water can be used to wash clothes to remove stubborn stains.
d. 1 can of cola removes grease from clothes.
e. Oxalic crystals are used as acid rinse for laundry stained by rust or ink.  Soak stained clothes, towels etc., in water and place oxalic directly on affected          area overnight. Oxalic acid is an organic compound. It is colorless and toxic.
f. Lemon is a disinfectant. It can also be applied on stubborn stained clothes, added with soap and exposed flat under the sun.
g. Sunlight is a good bleaching agent. Simply, soak white or stained laundry in soap and water, spread clothes in a basin and expose under the sun.  

3. Floor  tiles

a. Use environment-friendly cotton dishcloth for polishing floors.  We also have coconut and coco coir husks for polishing.
b. Use environment-friendly string mop instead of foam.
c. Mix Sodium Carbonate in warm water to clean tiles and surfaces.
d. White vinegar cleans floor tiles.
e. For a stronger solution, mix white vinegar with Sodium Carbonate.
f. Use old toothbrush to clean corner edges.

4. Kitchen

a. Most preferable is concentrated herbal dishwashing liquid which is biodegradable, paraben-free, phosphate-free, dye-free, perfume-free, and with vegetable-        based surfactant. There are several organic or natural dishwashing liquid in the market.

Other kitchen green tips are:
a. Sodium carbonate (baking soda) can be used to clean as follows:

(1) Mix with warm water to clean the refrigerator.
(2) Add to water when rinsing dishes for shinier plastic containers, cups and utensils.  
         This also conserves water since utensils are easily cleaned.
(3)      Mix with dishwashing liquid and essential oil as kitchen floor cleaner.

b.      Soak white vinegar on lime scale of sink, iron, and kettle to remove the stain.
c.      Clean kitchen tiles with warm water and soap.

5. Toilet/Bathroom Cleaner

a. Fresh lemon juice or Philippine kalamansi disinfects surface, removes grime at the base of faucet, grout, and edges.
b. White vinegar cleans toilet and lime scale from sink.
c. A can of cola cleans toilet bowl and tiles.  Make sure it is warm and has no fizzes before using. (Also good for cleaning of tires)

6. Glass cleaner

a. Glass and mirror – Mix a proportion of ½ white vinegar and ½ water for wiping.

7. Furniture cleaner

a.      Mix a proportion of  ½ white vinegar and ½ water to remove fingermarks on polished wood.
b. Mix olive oil with white vinegar to remove wood stains
c. Mix 1 tsp olive oil with ½ cup of lemon juice in small pan.  Pour mixture into cloth then dust off and polish the furniture. The clean leftover solution can be         kept for a week.
d. To minimize pollution from furniture paint and spray paint, you may put a bowl of the following in a room:
1) A bowl of vinegar;
2) Charcoal;
3) Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
e. Chrome cleaner – Cut fresh lemon chrome and apply to the chrome.

8. Floor wax

a. Mix 4 Tablespoons of Paraffin with 8 cups of Mineral Oil in a crystal bottle with a wide opening. Cool before covering the solution. The solution is         concentrated and has no waxy odor.  I bought the paraffin from a religious store, and the mineral oil from the drugstore.

b. Mix 30% beeswax and 60% coconut, then, add scented oil. This solution comes from Satinka who owns a store at the Sunday Organic Market at Legazpi Village,         Makati, Metro Manila.

9. Air Freshener

a. Citronella –

1) Boiling leaves in water spreads the fragrance all over the house.
2) Make a wreath and tie with ribbons.  You may hang it anywhere like doors. You may even put it near the electric fan or air conditioning unit to spread         fragrance.
3) Make homemade scented oil.  Check Citronella at for the procedure.  Put drops of oil and water at the top of the candle holder. When the         candle is lighted, the Citronella scent will waft in the house.
4) After the homemade citronella oil is safely placed in a bottled container, the leftover leaves are still useful as potpourri for the room or toilet.
5) Dried Citronella leaves can be placed in pillows, under bed sheets, throw pillows, and more.
b.      Orange – Boil in water to freshen air.  This process also cleans aluminum kettles.

10.     Insect/pest repellant

a. Mosquitoes –
(1) Citronella - same procedure as air freshener.
(2) Neem – boil or soak neem leaves overnight.  Put in a sprayer to drive away mosquitoes.

b. Citronella and Pandan leaves for Cockroach and Flies. (check

(1)     Cockroach - Put in garbage can and around the garbage area.
(1)     Flies – Put inside flower vase.

c. Garden pests –
(1) Tie citronella leaves around the stem.
(2) Cut leaves of citronella, oregano, lemongrass (Tanglad) and mint leaves into sme all pieces and put on the topsoil of the plant.
(3) Put different herbs pots beside each other so that pests would not dominate a certain type of plant. Pests do not like fragrant and minty herbs.
(4) Soak leaves of either Neem Tree , Serpentina, minty herbs like basil, mint, rosemary, etc. overnight with water.  Then, add more water for pouring on plants         and pots, or just pour inside a sprayer to spray on the leaves.
d. Rats –  Rats do not like the peppermint smell.

The use of old fashioned cleaners like vinegar, lemon, herbs, sunlight, etc. have been a common practice in remote areas while ready-to-use products are used in the metropolis to adopt to its fast-moving lifestyle. Now, environment is suffering because the Wisdom of Mother Nature has been replaced with chemicals created inside laboratories.

There is so much pollution confined in our homes, that in reality, it is a necessity to go back to the basics of green living. Luckily, these environment-friendly cleaners are just within our reach ever ready to help us enjoy cleaning and make our homes a real comfort zone!

* Watch for Part VI:  Body Care.  Share with your friends!  

The Gardener


Callard, Sarah and Millis, Diane, Superbugs p. 98, Detergent pp. 99-102, Cleaners pp. 101-105, The Eco-Living Handbook, London, UK, Carlton Book Ltd. 2009

Jazmines, Tessa, Indoor Air Pollution p. 2, Home Chemicals pp. 19-20, The 3M Handy Book of Health and Personal Care 2005 edition, Pasig City, MM, Philippines, Anvil Publishing, Inc.

Todd, Jude C., Cleaners, Fresheners, Laundry pp.260-263, Polish and Wax p. 264, Herbal Home Remedies 2012 edition, New Delhi, India, B. Jain Publishers(P)Ltd.edition

Encyclopedia Britannica Wikepedia, Definition Oxalic

Wikepedia, Definition of Surfactant

Saturday, March 29, 2014



Photo from:

There are viruses and bacteria in our homes. Recognizing these intruders may help us reduce the risk.

A. Virus 

Virus  is airborne.  But, according to Public Health Agency of Canada, 80% of sickness like colds and flu come from contaminated hands.

Green Tips:

1. Eat  healthy food and more green leafy vegetables to maintain a strong immune system.
2. Make sure hands are clean before eating, after using the comfort room, and before preparing food.
3. Avoid touching your face, nose, and mouth with your hands.

B. Bacteria

The human skin has natural resistance to infection.  Most simple cuts and abrasions heal quickly because the human skin has a bactericidal property.

We both have beneficial bacteria and harmful bacteria existing within our human selves.

1. Beneficial Bacteria

        Not all bacteria are harmful.  To mention a few:

         a. Lactobacillus Acidophilus

               These bacteria grow inside the lower gastrointestinal tract which help normalize the intestinal flora

and improve regular bowel movement. This gut flora carries 100 trillion microorganisms in the intestine more than the number of human cells of the body.

Beneficial bacteria synthesize Vitamin K in the lower intestine. But it is sad to know that antibiotics and constipation destroy the friendly Acidophilous bacteria.

               Banana feeds the natural Acidophilous bacteria of the bowel. There are milk products that contain                Lactobacilli. I take a  concentrated product called Lactobacilli (Carica product), which is taken                  by spoonful that my doctor recommended for asthma and allergies.

          b.  Saprophytic 

               This bacteria acts as an agent to break down dead organisms and organic wastes for                                    decomposition.  This bacteria is present in our compost to be able to produce organic fertilizer.

          c. Bacteria for food industry

               Different bacteria are used for the production of buttermilk, yogurt, cheese, pickles, etc.

2. Disease-causing Bacteria

Some of these harmful bacteria that we should be careful about are:

         a. Salmonella -  Causes typhoid, gastroenteritis from food contamination), blood poisoning.
         b. Meninggococcal -  Infects the brain.
         c. Tubercule – Infects the lungs
         d. Staphyloccocai- Infects the skin (acne), blood stream (blood poisoning), and bones                                    (Osteomyclitis)

Green Tips:

1. Keep the kitchen clean
         - Sponge absorbs most of micro-organisms from utensils according to a study.  So, it is best to                       change the sponge regularly and expose it under sun.
         - Clean the kitchen sink using soap and hot water to kill microorganisms.
2. Clean the fruits and vegetable very well. Wash them even if you will not the eat the outside covering.
3. Separate raw meat and seafood from other food when storing.
4. Use different knives and chopping boards for meat and seafood, and for fruits and vegetables.
5. Thaw meat in the chiller of the refrigerator or in a container that has no leak. The temperature of  40 or         140 degrees Fahrenheit  or 4 to 60 degrees Celsius will cause bacteria to produce fast.
6. Heat food, sauce and soup at 70 degrees Celsius.
7.      If food is cold, keep cold. If hot, keep hot.  Food should be eaten within 3 to 4 days.
8. When grocery shopping...
       - Make sure fruits and vegetables have no damage so bacteria would not enter.
       - Check expiration date.
       - Always wash reusable shopping bags or baskets. Those with meat and fish drippings should be                    washed with soap and hot water to kill bacteria.
       - Travel time of frozen food from the point of purchase to the home should be 30 minutes.
9.  Eating in restaurants...
        - Check the cleanliness of table cloth, plates, waiters, etc.
        - Leftover food should reach the home within 2 hours especially if temperature outside is 32 degrees               Celsius according to the Food and Drugs Administration of the United States.

 True, there are many microorganisms that  pose a threat inside our homes. But as humans, the superior species, we can counteract through diligent care and simple housekeeping solutions.

Watch out for Part V : HOME  CHEMICALS and DIY GREEN TIPS
*Share with your friends

The Gardener


Jazmines, Tessa, Most Common Allergies pp. 49 – 50, Clean Air Act p. 18, The 3M Handy Book of Health and Personal Care copyright 2005 Pasig City, Philippines, Anvil Publishing
Gumising Magazine,  Be Clean p. 5, Be Careful in Preparing and Storing Food p. 6,  Be Watchful When Eating in Restaurants p. 7,
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of the Philippines, Inc. 2012, Philippines,(Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania),
Wikepedia, Lactobacillus Acidophilus
Jensen, Dr. Bernard, Fruits and Vegetables, p. 114;  Problems with Proteins, pp. 55-56, Foods That Heal 2004, New Delhi, India, Kuldeep Jain for Health Harmony
Encyclopedia Britannica, Infectious Agents pp. 589 – 590, Macropedia 21,  Salmonella p. 360 Macropedia 10, Immune Response p. 591, Bacterium p. 779 Macropedia 1,