What a LYE: Household Bleach and Hair Relaxers
What does household bleach and hair relaxers have in common?  Well, I guess I gave the answer away in the title, but if you still do not know the answer is LYE.  Lye is the common name for sodium hydroxide so I will be using them interchangeably.  This chemical can be found in most household cleaners, all stripping agents, pool chlorinators, and hair and body cosmetics. 

Lye has been used for hundreds of years and in the begin humans made it out of wood ash and water.  According to references on, “It is theorized that tribal people could have discovered this solution by washing cooking supplies which were laden with animal fat and cooking ash in water, inadvertently making the first soaps.”  But for the sake of “progress”, lye was later made with all man-made materials and no longer all natural.

We all use or have used products containing lye without considering the affects it has on our body and our environment.  Bleach is one of the most used products in households and most of us know that bleach is powerful enough to discolor and burn a hole in our clothes.   “Household bleach and pool chlorinator solutions are typically stabilized by a significant concentration of lye…as part of the manufacturing reaction. Skin contact will produce caustic irritation or burns due to defatting and saponification of skin oils and destruction of tissue. The slippery feel of bleach on skin is due to this process,” based on references on Wikipedia.

I must tell you that researching the affects of lye was a daunting task because there are very little studies on lye.  The studies that I did come across stated that small amounts of lye or sodium hydroxide did not seem to show any affects on humans.  But think about it for a moment, there are thousands and thousands of chemicals that we use that the general public is not aware of.  Some of the chemicals that we all know are harmful are continuously used on our bodies and in our homes. So I am no longer surprised by the lack of research on chemicals like sodium hydroxide.  Why spend the money on research when consumers choose to not research what they purchase or demand that changes are made to the products that we use?  You know what people say, ignorance is bliss.
Lye is used in cosmetic products as well. One of those products is hair relaxers. “With a pH of about 12, similar to that of household ammonia or soap, chemical relaxers are among the most caustic cosmetic products on the market”, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental organization. “Along with hair dyes, hair straighteners [hair relaxers] are the source of more complaints to the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Cosmetics and Colors than almost any other product.

I am guilty.  I paid people to put hair relaxers in my hair for fifteen years.  I remember my scalp being burnt so bad, that I my husband thought I had small rocks in my hair.  When I told him that my scalp was burnt from the chemicals that made my hair look flowing and beautiful, he thought I was crazy and urged me to go to the hospital.  What can I say, you live and you learn.

 Krissah Thompson, a Washington Post staff writer, reported “the emphasis on natural ingredients in hair products is growing. But there are no regulatory standards for labeling a personal-care product "organic" or "natural," a term that is even more ambiguous. “It's a trend that's been under way for a number of years, to be more natural and green and sustainable and all the things that seem to be popular now, and the move is mostly driven by consumer demand, said John Bailey, the chief scientist at the Personal Care Products Council, a trade group. "The cosmetics industry has always been good at responding to what consumers want."”

For the past seven years, Sean Gray, senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, has been part of the team producing EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. He stated “almost every product the non informed consumer uses—from your morning shower, to every time you wash your hands, to the time you wash your face at night and even in brushing your teeth—you can be exposed again and again. We’re seeing all these phenomena, like earlier puberty in girls and later puberty in boys, increased type 2 diabetes—which could be weight-related or environment-related—even an increase in juvenile type 1 diabetes, more birth defects. These things and others could indeed be related to all the parabens we are literally bathed in on a daily basis. That’s hard because we don’t have the studies yet to prove that they’re as bad as everyone in the environmental [advocacy] world believes them to be. The early data looks pretty bad, and it could be a lot worse.”

I am writing this post while washing clothes without the use of bleach.  I stop using bleach so I can decrease the amount of lye I use on my body and my environment.  The last time I purchased bleach was three months ago and my whites are not as bright as they were before, so I started to research bleach alternatives.  Most often oxygen bleach is recommended.  There are several different kinds of oxygen bleach.  The author of the blog the Pink and Green – Going Green with Six Daughters does an excellent job at breaking down the differences. 
The Lauren Daniels May/June Campaign will feature ecoSTORE USA’s household products, which consist of oxygen bleach named Pure Oxygen Whitener.  Like all oxygen bleach, Pure Oxygen Whitener, contains sodium percarbonate.  To make sodium percarbonate, you must use treated natural soda ash or mix natural borax with peroxide, which can occur naturally in nature.  The author of the blog the Pink and Green – Going Green with Six Daughters also did a great job of listing the advantages and disadvantages of using oxygen bleach as a cleaning, brightening agent:

 Advantages Oxygen Bleaches 
 • Better long term shelf stability than liquid hydrogen peroxide products
 • Acts as a disinfectant on both bacteria and viruses likely to be encountered in the home
 • Brightens fabrics
 • Oxygen bleaches can be mixed or used with other household cleaners
 • Non-toxic to animals, plants and humans
 • Very environmentally friendly as they break down into natural soda ash and/or borax  after the oxygen is released

 Disadvantages of Oxygen Bleaches
• Oxygen bleaching products can cost more to use than standard cleaning products
•They take time to dissolve in water
• While very effective, oxygen bleaches can take longer to work
• They are not suited for some finer grades of silk or wool

Now the hair relaxers – STAY AWAY.  Hair relaxer with or without lye is bad for your hair and for your health.  I stopped paying for someone to put lye in my head.  I have let my natural curls shine though with the use of natural products like henna and bentonite clay.  So, I have caught on to the lye and my hair, my body, my clothes, and my environment is better for it.



Did you get your free stack of pancakes? These 10 Americans did. I know I received my share.
Check out this video!!! 

Toxic Chemicals in Pregnant Women: Is this a surprise to you?

Last Friday, a study was released from the University of California, which found that 100% of the 268 pregnant women they tested all had toxins in their blood and urine.  The researchers were surprised to find that some of the toxins were banned in the US over 40 years ago.  As reported by Fox News, "This highlights the ability of some potentially harmful substances to endure in the environment and the human."
Some of the toxins they found include PCB's.  Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) do not occur in nature and it is completely man-made.  Companies started making PCBs in 1929 and it was banned in the US in 1977 by the Environmental Protection Agency.  According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, “PCBs break down very slowly and can be carried long distances in the air, in rivers, lakes and oceans.  [They] build up over time in the fat of people and animals... [because they] can build-up in the food chain."  This toxin is linked to cancer and other health problems.  This is only one toxin but the researchers found 163 other toxic chemicals in their sample of pregnant women.
Fox News reported that the "researchers are still concerned about fetal harm due to the mothers exposure to multiple chemicals and how they might interact.  Exposure to chemicals during fetal development may increase the risk of preterm birth and birth defects, childhood morbidity, and adult disease and mortality."
This study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, but are we really surprised by what they found.  We should not be surprised at all.  We cook our food in non-stick pots and pans that use man-made chemicals.  We wash our eating utensils with chemicals.  We wash our clothes in chemicals.  We moisturize our skin with chemicals. 
I have come to the conclusion that we are addicted to the chemicals that our parents and our grandparents used.  For example, in college I moved into my first apartment, I thought the tub wasn’t clean unless I used Ajax (AJAX® Powder Cleanser), because that is what my mom used.  Neither of us knew that Sodium Dodecyl Benzene Sulfonate, one of the main ingredients was a health hazard.  The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services put this chemical on their hazardous substance fact sheet.  This document states that this chemical can irritate the lungs and cause bronchitis.  The document also states that Sodium Dodecyl Benzene Sulfonate has NOT been tested “for its ability to cause cancer...or [its] affect [on] reproduction.  What also alarmed me was that this document was last modified in 2002. 
The government has to do better than this!  But we have to do better too.  Some of us act as though people who use all natural or organic products are brainwashed and companies are making money off of us while laughing to the bank. Well, I do not know about you but I would rather pay for a product that has ingredients that were NOT man-made and toxic to me or the environment.  In a discussion two years ago, a co-worker said that there are things in natural that is poisonous to us and our pets.  I say yes, but I know better than to pay for poison.  Do you?  Look around your home and see how much poison you paid for. 
I began writing a list of ways to decrease the amount of chemicals in your life but I decided that the “Walking with the Wise” blogger hit the nail on the head in her list:

1.  Eat certified USDA organic certified foods.  This will help limit consuming most genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils, artificial colors/flavors, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, irradiation, and synthetic hormones.  Also, seek out local farmers who use natural farming methods…or better yet, grow some food yourself!
2.  Don’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat.  This means avoiding most conventional skin care and make-up products in the grocery stores. 

3.  Use natural laundry soaps ...and avoid conventional name brand varieties. You can also make your own soaps with borax, baking soda and castille soap.

4.  Stop cooking in the microwave (I have not stopped doing this myself.L)and using non-stick cookware.  Teflon when heated creates a toxic gas and while convenient adds to the environmental body burden.  Use stainless steel, cast iron, glass and stay away from cooking in plastic or using plastic unless it’s BPA (bisphenol A) free.  Never cook in plastic as the petroleum byproducts can still leach into the foods.

5.  Avoid prescription drugs or try weaning off with the help of a physician (stopping cold turkey for many drugs can be dangerous).  Look for natural replacements or nutraceuticals to begin healing the body by not masking symptoms.  Course nothing beats a balanced low-sugar, nutrient dense diet, exercise, sunshine, adequate sleep and low stress for optimal health and prevention of drugs.  Read the others here.

Not preaching, just saying.

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