Sunday, February 17, 2008

Memories (installment 8)

As most of my readers, we grew up before the advent of "green" anything. My parents WERE part of the original organic gardeners, even having a rooster that appeared on a cover of the original Organic Gardening Magazine. However, we were part of a community that thought very little of doing things organically, or "green", as it is known today.

When we lived on the dairy farm, we used chemicals to clean, and fed hormones to the cattle...that was just how things were done...if you wanted to maintain your "Class A" rating with the health department, you used sodium hypochlorite and acids to clean the equipment, and iodine and bleaches to clean the cows. Finding feed without the hormones was next to impossible. We did not spray our hay or silage, and certainly never put Sevin-dust on our gardens, though we had friends who did.

We also would get vegetables from our friends who planted "truck gardens". Gardens that were dusted with sevin-dust and sprayed for bugs. We got eggs from our own chickens...who mostly had scratch-feed, though who also got some commercially produced feed. We butchered our own beef, grass raised (by the way, pet peeve....just because beef is "certified Angus" does NOT mean it is any better than any other beef. Angus normally carries more fat on it than do other beef is MOSTLY a marketing ploy!), and hand butchered and carved, and ground....yes, my parents still own their hand-powered meat grinder. Let me tell you, that thing is HARD to turn!

However, as I mentioned, our friends and neighbors did NOT care so much about doing things in such a "green" manner. They DID use Sevin-dust and other pesticides and herbicides on their gardens. They used harsh cleaners in their homes and the church and school buildings. Strong perfumes, air fresheners, candles, deodorants, etc.... At our school, there were always strong chemical smells, Magic markers, dry-erase markers, white-out, name it.

Somewhere along the way, my family started realizing that we had problems with all of those chemicals. My little brother started having nosebleeds at school....every day. I had headaches, every day, and I would come home crying from what was termed "growing pains." Our whole family would come home from church with headaches, sore joints, and basically feeling like we had the flu. This got exponentially worse when our church put new carpet in both the church building and in the school building. I also had severe problems with my skin while we were living at the dairy...constant cracked, bleeding, and blistery fingers....year round. At college, the school was remodelling the dorms and some of the classroom buildings, and I was treated by the nurse for "shin splints" with 6 weeks on crutches (huh?), and taking huge doses of ibuprofin.

Then, during my freshman year in college, we went to visit a new-to-us doctor called an environmental allergist. Finally, someone who recognized that people *could* actually have problems with chemical sensitivities. We went through two days of testing. I came away from that realizing that my life was going to be different. I learned that I was sensitive to "aldehydes"...naturally occuring, as well as those found in common chemical compounds....formaldahyde is found in almost every cleaner, new carpet, fabric, piece of clothing, and definitely in the "plug-ins" and spray deodorizers. Naturally occurring "aldehydes" are in apples and pineapples....very sad for me...I LOVE pineapple anything..... I also found out that I have problems with sulfites. As many are probably aware, hotdogs have long been known to be ladened with sulfites. Most are NOT aware, however, that most bananas and grapes in this country are also sprayed with sulfites. The banana thing was not too much of a problem to me...I can't stand the smell, taste, texture of them.....but grapes(!) was such a hard one....I LOVE green, seedless grapes. We found 1 source of grape juice that did NOT have sulfites....Welches RED grape juice.

Alright, big changes. No more purfumes, colognes, air fresheners, smelly candles, potpourri, smelly lotions, hair spray, smelly soaps, smelly clothes detergents, fabric softeners, and limiting (as much as possible) all exposure to the above, plus gas fumes, diesel fumes, pesticides, new carpets, new fabrics, paint fumes, cigarette smoke (including such fumes eminating from the clothing and skin of smokers), was a HUGE change. We learned in a hurry how to clean with vinegar, baking soda, and water. We learned which products were okay to use, and which we'd better NEVER come into contact with (like Tide laundry soap....horrible....and fabric softeners.....). We learned what foods helped our bodies "cleanse", and which made things worse.

Fast forward a few years. After some time of limiting exposures, my body was less sensitive to some of those things. Now, I can occassionally have grapes or pineapple, or apple. I still won't have bananas. I try to clean with "greener" cleaners, but I can handle some of the milder cleaners. I still get migraines from exposures to cigarette smoke, air fresheners, and strong colognes. My skin still goes numb when I come into contact with fabric softeners. My joints hurt when I spend too much time in malls, or stores with lots of new fabrics.

I feel very fortunate. One of the fears was that my chemical sensitivities would render me unable to have children....we've definitely disproved that one! I do have friends whose sensitivities are MUCH worse than mine. We also have friends who have not acknowledged their chemical sensitivities, nor made any changes to their lifestyles....and they have ended up very disabled.

I am very grateful for the changes in attitude toward "green" alternatives in building, cleaning supplies, and more healthy eating. That change in attitude has made things easier for me to find supplies I can use. It has also made it easier for me to explain my sensitivities to people I come in contact with.


Laura said...

General thought and practice sure has come a long way.

GoOrganic said...

Hi Laura,
hmm... yes our generation skipped over all things good for you and moved towards all things quick.
Do you grow your own food? I'm just wondering because eating organically can be sooooo beneficial and even negate some of the harmful everyday toxins we're exposed to.
Plus you've got a small army of helpers. I can imagine you with an enormous organic garden, making your own preserves, jams, sauces etc.
Kind regards,

Laura said...

Ohhh....I just tagged you in a meme!

MondaythroughSunday said...

wow..I have a daughter that is sensitive to different soaps..when she was tiny she would break out everywhere..she has gotten much better now.