Seven Undeniably Good Reasons to Drink Filtered Water – The Zen of Pure Living 12 Part Series: Week 1

12 Week Series Zen of Pure Living

Welcome to Week 1 of The Zen of Pure Living.

The first of 12 installments that will help you live healthier and wiser at home. You can rely on this advice because it’s science-based and thoroughly researched.

Let’s start with the basics – clean drinking water.

Seven Undeniably Good Reasons to Drink Filtered Water

Sometimes, you worry about what’s in your drinking water. Some of the stories you read strongly suggest that you should filter your water, but you feel like these stories may be exaggerated.

It’s troubling to think that your tap and bottled water may not be safe.

Aren’t regulations in place to ensure the cleanest drinking water?

The answer may surprise you. You may want to start drinking filtered water.

Here are seven good reasons why.

 1. Tap water has hundreds of contaminants from a growing list; a lot for a regulatory body to keep up with

Tap water has contaminants from agriculture (pesticides, fertilizers), industrial pollutants, urban runoff chemicals (car emissions, road surfaces, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, flame retardants), and water treatment chemicals (disinfectant byproducts like trihalomethanes & haloacetic acids).

It’s an overwhelming list, isn’t it? Especially since many of these contaminants have been linked to cancer and liver, kidney and nervous system problems.

So what’s the problem? New chemicals are being constantly developed, so the list of contaminants for the EPA to regulate continues to grow.

To see what type of problem this creates, think of what happens in an overcrowded classroom.

Say you’ve got an outstanding third grade teacher who starts the year with a class of 20 students. During the year, the principal sends a new student to his class every week.

How well do you think that teacher is doing by midterm when the class goes over 35? How about spring break when the class is over 45?

Probably not very well. In fact, you can imagine that this outstanding teacher is struggling terribly with a class that is too large and bursting at the seams.

The same situation applies to the EPA and water contaminants. Lots of contaminants, new contaminants piling up on the list and not enough time or resources for studies and regulations.

2. EPA enforceable standards may not be stringent enough

You’re probably not sure what this means. Did you know that the EPA sets two levels for water departments?

You may be wondering how this works.

The EPA sets two contaminant measures-one standard is enforceable while the other is not.

  • The unenforceable standard is called the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG). The MCLG is set at a level where no adverse health effects are expected.
  • The enforceable standard is simply called the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) – (this is often set higher than the goal)

Think of the MCLG as considering your health and the MCL as considering your health and the costs of removing contaminants.

As a result, your tap water may have unhealthy levels of contaminants (exceeding MCLG) but still be meeting the enforceable standards (meeting MCL).

It’s a troubling thought, isn’t it?

Your water is not as clean as the EPA experts think it should be for good health because the EPA also factored in the cost of meeting those safety levels.

To get an understanding of how this works, consider arsenic standards.

The EPA classifies arsenic as a known human carcinogen. Its MCLG is 0.00 meaning that to avoid the possibility of adverse health effects, water should not contain any arsenic. However, arsenic’s MCL or enforceable level is 0.01 which allows water supplies to contain arsenic and meet standards.

You’re probably not on board with drinking arsenic–didn’t think so.

3. The EPA does not regulate all pollutants

The EPA does not regulate all pollutants. In fact, in a 2009 study a total of 316 contaminants were detected and 202 of those contaminants had no safety standards. And, the study showed approximately 132 million people in the US had unregulated pollutants in their tap water.

Admit it. You’d much rather have safety standards for more contaminants.

In the 2009 study, only 1/3 had safety levels. Does that seem like enough to you?

4. Your water department isn’t perfect

Your water department may be failing on certain regulatory standards.

People make mistakes. Processes fail. Equipment malfunctions. When these mistakes happen, they can affect a large number of people.

For example, during 2004-2009, EWG reports that water departments serving 53 million people failed to meet the MCL for TTHMS or Trihalomethanes a “likely carcinogen” according to the EPA.

5. Your house plumbing can add contaminants

Your house plumbing may be contributing to contaminants because water pipes can add significant pollutants to your water.

So, as your tap water travels from your water treatment plant into your house, it could be picking up contaminants along with way.

6.  Fluoride levels may be too high

Tap water contains fluoride which can cause adverse health effects. A 2006 study of Fluoride in Drinking Water sponsored by the EPA recommended lowering the MCLG due to concerns about increased bone fracture rates and enamel fluorosis in children 0-8 years old. The committee also recommended further study about fluoride’s impact on endocrine (thyroid) and brain functioning.

The MCL and MCLG currently remain at 4 mg/L, an unsafe level according to the committee. For a full copy of the report, click here.

Seems hard to believe, right?

A huge study conducted by many experts from around the country says that the fluoride goal is too high nine years ago, and the goal hasn’t been reset.

7. Bottled water is unregulated

You may think that bottled water is a great solution since you believe it’s clean and pure. Bottled water is marketed as being pure, but how do you know?

The answer is…you don’t know.

Why? Because the bottled water industry is unregulated. No one is regulating or testing what goes into your bottled water.

And then there’s the problem with plastic waste as well as plastics leaching into your bottled water which makes bottled water even less attractive.

How to get the cleanest water

To get the cleanest water, use a water filter. You can easily install some solutions without a plumber.

Do you need help finding the best water filters? Learn more about water filters and solutions and which water filter solution is right for you.

Want to fast track this? You can find the right water filter type and brand using The Minimalist Guide to Water Filters for unbiased, performance-based recommendations.

Now, you’re armed with the facts about your drinking water, and you know that finding the right solution is pretty easy.

So, what’s stopping you?

Don’t miss the rest of the series! You’ll find out that indoor air is really dirtier than outdoor air and other myths will be debunked. Sign up for weeks 2-12.

Sources:

  • 2012 Edition of the Drinking Water Standards and Health Advisories; US Environmental Protection Agency
  • Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPAs Standards 2006. For full report http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11571.html
  • EPA.GOV: Fluoride at a Glance
  • Environmental Working Group: Study Finds Hundreds of Pollutants in Nation’s Tap Water, Dec 2009

The Truth About What’s In Your Cleaning Products

The Safest Cleaning Products Shopping List

Get The Safest Cleaning Product Shopping List.

You buy cleaning products labeled as “green” or “all natural” because you feel confident that these products are safer for you and the environment. You also closely read the ingredients trying to avoid the nastier stuff.

Unfortunately, neither approach works. Why? Because claims of “green” or “all natural” are simply unregulated marketing terms and because the ingredients are not required to be fully disclosed on the label.

It doesn’t seem right, does it?

Here are the facts that will help explain the truth behind what’s in your cleaning products:

    • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates laundry and cleaning products, air fresheners, and soap.
    • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates personal care products excluding soap.
    • The CPSC and FDA regulations are different. In this article, the focus is on laundry and cleaning products, so the CPSC regulations are relevant.
    • Regulations allow manufacturers a great deal of leeway on the ingredient list; they can list all, none or some of the ingredients.It’s a troubling thought that the ingredients listed are incomplete, isn’t it?
    • For fragrance formulations, if the manufacturer chooses to disclose fragrance as an ingredient, the general term “fragrance” can be used rather than listing the specific chemicals.
    • You may think that purchasing unscented products means a safer product. Unfortunately, many unscented products have fragrances to make the product smell unscented. Fragrances can be any one of 3000+ ingredients – many synthetic, petroleum-based and toxic.Kinda frustrating, right? You go to the trouble of finding an unscented product, but it might still have a scent?
    • Even the material safety data sheets (MSDS) do NOT need to list all product ingredients or list fragrance chemicals.
    • If the manufacturer deems the ingredient to be non-hazardous, then the ingredient does NOT need to be reported on an MSDS.
    • Some of the ingredients may be listed in general terms like “cleaning agents” or “softeners”, so you have no way of knowing what’s in it.Admit it. You’d like better disclosure, so you know what you’re using, right?

So the truth is, for the most part you simply don’t know what’s in your cleaning products. So what should you do?

Your Options for Safe Cleaning Products

If you truly want the safest, non-toxic cleaning products, you should make them yourself. Vinegar, salt, baking soda, lemon and tea tree oil in the right formulas can work amazingly well.

If you are recoiling at the notion of creating your own, you have other options.

Get The Safest Cleaning Product Shopping List. You’ll love it.

Pure Living Space compiled the safest cleaning products including all purpose, dishwashing, laundry, bathroom and kitchen cleaners. Simply print and take it with you shopping for the easiest way to find the right products.

Whole Foods has created an Eco-Scale rating system that requires all cleaning product ingredients be disclosed except proprietary fragrance and enzymes. This helps but still falls short of full disclosure. The Green and Yellow ratings mean that the product has no ingredients with “moderate” environmental or safety concerns. The ratings are supported by third party testing which is a good thing.

All products from Green Mission™ and GreenShield Organics have Green ratings while Earth Friendly Products, Ecover, Seventh Generation and Whole Foods Market Brand have a combination of Orange, Yellow and Green ratings so look for the Green and Yellow rated products. Clearly, if you can make your own, it’s better for you but these are good alternatives.

Perhaps starting with one home-created cleaning product would be a good way to ease into it. You could start by using vinegar and water (equal parts) to clean shower mildew or counter tops (except marble).

Then, move on to a great tile and grout cleaner. The ingredients are below. Tape the ingredients to the bottle so when it’s time to replenish, you don’t have to look up the recipe again.

  • 7 cups water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • Apply and let sit for 5-10 minutes before scrubbing a bit

The Safest Cleaning Product Shopping List

Get The Safest Cleaning Product Shopping List.

Six Things Cooking Geeks Know About Cooking Oils That You Don’t

Cooking Oils 101

Why is it so confusing to pick the right oil for sauteing, baking or frying? Why is there so little consistency from one source to the next?

There’s so much conflicting advice. Some say to use palm oil while others tout coconut or safflower, and many proclaim the ills of butter. And then there’s the countless smoke point tables, and none match!

You are confused. Heating oil in a frying pan seems fraught with problems, and, of course, everything causes cancer.

But, if you rely on experts who really know their stuff – the real cooking geeks, you’ll be able to saute, bake, broil, braise, fry and roast with confidence.

Here are six things cooking geeks know about cooking oils that you don’t.

1. Cooking geeks understand the difference between Refined and Unrefined Oils  

Refining oil raises its smoke point and lengthens shelf life; it creates a bland flavor and color which can be desirable for some dishes.

You may have heard that refined oils are unhealthy. But are they really?

A study that looked at the health benefits of vegetable oils concluded that there was little evidence to suggest that refining adversely affects the health benefits of vegetable oils.[1] The one exception noted by the study was olive oil. The study found that unrefined olive oil had more health benefits than refined olive oil.

So, based on this study, you can feel good about refined oils for high temperature cooking and your health. And you should use unrefined olive oil as a dressing or drizzle while reserving refined olive oil for cooking.

2. Cooking geeks know that smoke point tables are wrong 

Yep, that’s right. All those smoke point tables are wrong.

Ignore the hundreds of smoke point tables in cookbooks and online because every oil is different depending on how it was refined, and the cultivation of the raw materials. For instance, some extra virgin olive oil makers list their smoke points from 200 to over 400 degrees.[2]  

Trying to assign a single smoke point to oils of different origins is akin to expecting a French chardonnay to taste like a California chardonnay. They aren’t even close!

But, some general guidelines will help you.

Oils with high free fatty acids tend to have lower smoke points because the free fatty acids burn easily. Unrefined oils are higher in free fatty acids.

On the other hand, refined oils generally have reduced amounts of free fatty acids and as a result, have higher smoke points.

3. Cooking geeks know the ill-effects of oils above smoke point  

The smoke point is the temperature that causes oil to start smoking which produces toxic fumes and harmful free radicals–all things you’re trying to avoid.

If you’ve set off your smoke alarm, you’ve definitely reached the smoke point. Turn up your exhaust fan and open the windows.

By the way, always try to use your exhaust fan since cooking can create some unhealthy fumes, and your place will simply smell better.

4. Cooking geeks know the effects of reusing or long heat times on oils  

The longer oil is heated, the more free fatty acids are formed causing the smoke point to drop which is why you want to limit deep fryer oil use to once or twice. Prolonged heating also breaks apart unsaturated fatty acids and produces acrid and toxic compounds.[2]

Neither is desirable.

Infographic Cooking Oils 101

5. Cooking geeks know which Oils are high in Omega 3 & Monounsaturated Fats (both good)  

Looking for ways to increase your intake of Omega 3? Try Unrefined Flax Oil (for cold use only) or Hemp Oil.

Here’s your list of the oils with good fats – the monounsaturated oils.

  • Safflower
  • Hazelnut
  • Olive
  • Almond
  • Peanut
  • Pecan
  • Avocado
  • Sunflower
  • Macadamia

6. Cooking geeks know the oils best suited for high temperatures and medium temperatures

Here’s the list you’ve been waiting for. The oils to use safely for cooking without the misleading smoke points.

  • High Temperature Oils (searing, browning, roasting, and deep-frying)
    • Almond
    • Avocado (Unrefined/Raw)
    • Sunflower (High Oleic Refined)
    • Olive oil (Refined or “Light”)
    • Hazelnut (Refined)
    • Tea Seed (Not to be confused with Tea Tree)
    • Apricot Kernel (Refined)
    • Safflower (Refined)
  • Medium Temperature Oils (sauteing, baking, oven cooking or stir frying)
    • Macadamia
    • Canola (Organic)
    • Peanut
    • Coconut (Unrefined good for baking) avoid Hydrogenated

So where does extra virgin olive oil fall on the list?

You can lightly saute in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but your best bet is to save the good stuff for dressings, dipping and drizzles.

So, who are these cooking geeks that you can trust?

  • A Chemistry Professor who wrote “What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained” (seems knowledgeable right?)
  • The Author of The Cooking for Engineers website and about 100 of his contributors (engineers analyze the heck out of everything)
  • The Executive Chef from Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute along with several dietitians (he should know what he’s talking about)
  • A Researcher from the Center for Advanced Nutrition Study – Utah State (this guy conducted a large study of vegetable oils)
  • A Registered Dietitian – Eatingrules.com (this guy has an MS and RD and writes about food for a living)

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Match Your Cooking Oil to Your Cooking Temperature

Sources:

1. Health Effects of Commonly Used Vegetable Oils by Michael Lefevre, Center for Advanced Nutrition Utah State University

2. Where There’s Smoke, There’s a Fryer: The Washington Post by Robert L. Wolke Professor Emeritus of Chemistry University of Pittsburgh and author of “What Einstein Told His Cook”

3. Heart Healthy Cooking: Oils 101: Health Hub Cleveland Clinic by James D. Perko, CEC, AAC, Executive Chef for Cleveland Clinic

4. The Cooking Oil Comparison Chart by EatingRules.com and Andy Bellatti, MS, RD,

5. CookingForEngineers.com: Smoke points of various fats and general discussion

What’s Wrong With Your Morning Shower

What's Wrong With Your Morning Shower

Your shower produces significant amounts of airborne contaminants. You probably had no idea that this was happening in your relaxing refuge.

How can this be? It’s because your water contains treatment chemicals that when heated and sprayed create airborne contaminants.

So, it’s simply chemistry and much like high school chemistry, it’s not on your side.

But you can reduce your risks and enjoy your shower by making a few smart choices.

Why Should You Care?

Studies have shown that when you inhale these airborne chemicals, it can be more dangerous than drinking the chemicals in unfiltered tap water.

You also might want to know that these contaminants can increase your cancer risk, cause birth-defects and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

It’s a troubling thought, isn’t it?

It’s Safer For You To Bathe Than Shower

The data from one study sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences (Andelman 1986) indicates that your hot shower can release between 50-80% of the water treatment chemicals into the air.

If you like to bathe rather than shower, it’s better news. Emissions from hot baths are 50% lower because water droplets dispersed by a bath faucet have a smaller surface-to volume ratio than water streaming into a shower so fewer of the volatiles can vaporize.

It’s Not Just Your Shower That Is To Blame

Another more recent study by environmental engineers from University of Texas at Austin documented that your shower and dishwasher contribute to indoor air pollution. The experiments showed that significant pollutants were released into indoor air from dishwashers too.

So, what can you do to reduce your exposure?

  • Use shower filters to remove chlorine
  • Shorten your shower time
  • Reduce the temperature of your shower since colder water reduces the vaporization of the chemicals
  • Opt for baths rather than showers
  • Use a bath ball filter to remove chlorine from your bath water
  • Use the bathroom exhaust fan to remove the gases from your bathroom
  • Use an air cleaner that removes VOCs to absorb the gases that accumulated during your shower

Let’s be honest.

You are probably not anxious to turn down the heat or shorten your shower and who can blame you? If this is the case, you could opt for a shower filter, more baths, using the exhaust fan or going for an air cleaner.

Check out how great the Sprite Shower Filter looks in the shower with the matching brushed nickel finish.

The filters are easy to install. No need for a plumber or special tools. You’ll only need a wrench.

Sprite Shower Filter added to existing brushed nickel shower head. Looks great and is a top rated choice for removing harmful chemicals.

Learn more about the Sprite Shower Filter.

Which options are most appealing to you? Were you aware that your shower produced airborne contaminants?

Six Ways to Clean Your Laundry, Naturally

Six Ways to Clean Your Laundry, Naturally

Did you know that simply by doing laundry, you are polluting your indoor air? Because your laundry products have harmful ingredients, and your laundry room may be poorly ventilated, that clean laundry smell comes at a price.

What’s Lurking In Your Laundry Detergents & Softeners?
So, what’s in your laundry detergents and softeners?

According to a University of Washington study on air contaminants from consumer goods, between 18 and 20 chemicals were detected in four laundry products – including likely carcinogens, developmental toxins, and allergens.

It’s a troubling thought, isn’t it? Doing laundry pollutes your air.

Relax though because you can clean your laundry without dirtying your air.

Here are six steps to cleaner laundry and indoor air:

1. Try vinegar instead of fabric softener

Instead of liquid fabric softener add 1/2 cup white vinegar to your laundry final rinse. Many washers have a special rinse cycle setting that you can use.

2. Ditch your dryer sheets

Ditch the dryer sheets that release harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in favor of less toxic alternatives. Dryer sheet chemicals adhere to your laundry AND are released into the air.

See what you think of these alternatives:

  • Wool dryer balls – You can either make your own or buy them. These 100% wool dryer balls naturally soften your laundry in the dryer. If you like scented laundry, use a drop or two of your favorite essential oil like lavender on the dryer balls. The only downside to using the balls is the noise which, not surprisingly, sounds like you put several tennis balls into your dryer.
    • Feeling crafty? Check out this YouTube video on how to make your own dryer balls. It’s not a bad project. Don’t buy the washable wool because it won’t work right. YouTube has lots of videos on how to make dryer balls, but the three-minute version should tell you what you need to know.
    • To buy wool dryer balls, go to Amazon.com where you can get a set of six for around $20. They are reusable and last a while.
  • Use a fabric swatch and add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil. While this will not soften your clothes, it will add a pleasant scent, and will be quieter than the dryer balls.

3. Opt for a “clean” laundry detergent

Try a laundry detergent that is healthier for you and the environment. These are highly rated and tested:

  • Green Shield Organic Laundry Detergent – Free & Clear Regular & HE
  • Biokleen – Laundry Liquid – Free & Clear or Citrus Essence
  • Ecover – Zero Laundry Liquid Concentrate

4. Make your own laundry detergent

You can always make your own laundry detergent. Here’s a recipe for an easy and clean detergent.

  • 1 bar (4 oz) Castile Soap finely grated
  • 1 cup Borax
  • 1 cup Washing Soda
  • Mix and use 1/4 cup per load
  • A note about Borax: some people have concerns about Borax causing skin irritation, but it IS safe to use. It’s true that if you do hand wash with Borax, it may irritate your skin. This effect is due to Borax changing the water’s pH, so as long as you are not doing hand laundry, Borax can be used without harming your skin or releasing harmful VOCs. With it, your laundry will be bright and clean.

5. Ventilate your laundry room

Do your best to improve ventilation in your laundry room. Hot water causes the water disinfectant pollutants to vaporize creating significant VOCs.

How does this happen?

Your city water contains disinfectants to keep your water safe, and when these disinfectants are heated and sprayed into droplets, they can easily vaporize. This happens in the shower, bath, dishwasher and laundry primarily. Whole house water filtration systems do not remove these disinfectants, so your best bet is to use cooler water and/or ventilate your laundry room well.

Another way to tackle this problem is to use an air cleaner that is specially designed to clean up VOCs including the ones created by vaporized disinfectants.

6. Leave the door open

Always prop open the washing machine lid to allow the inside to dry out to prevent mildew growth.

So how do you clean your laundry without dirtying your air?

Get the shopping list of laundry and cleaning products that you can trust. You’ll find kitchen, bathroom, all purpose, glass and laundry cleaners and detergents in a handy shopping list format.

Suggested reading:

The Truth About What’s In Your Cleaning Products

Kitchen Cleaners: Safe, Non-Toxic Ways to Clean the Kitchen