Heather – our Clean Cleaning Guru

An important part of our business is to challenge age-old damaging practises – the use of chemicals in holiday homes – and see if we can find a better way – for people, planet and for profit. One of these areas is chemicals. So much plastic is bought, so many chemical are used; they’re expensive, products smell grim, sometimes making us cough – yet no one talks about other options. 

One lucky day, I met Heather at the outdoor education cooperative where we both volunteer. Heather is a bright and smiley South African mum of two. She lives in Ashurst in the New Forest and is a passionate advocate of clean cleaning! 

Heather is now helping the team at New Forest Escapes to look at how to reduce chemicals. 

In 2010 she was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. She was told she probably wouldn’t have children and there was no known cure. Whilst on a road trip (from London to Cape Town – yes you read that right), belligerent and wise Heather got researching…

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC’s) – a hidden problem

Heather realised that her hormonal disruption was strongly linked to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC’s). She found that they’re in (nearly every cleaning product available), anything with synthetic perfumes in it and therefore most make-ups, shampoo’s, skin products, scented candles, room fresheners, even food packaging.

Singular exposure isn’t bad – and why it’s not a regulated chemical. But through the day, you will be in contact with 100’s of EDC’s in each product. The accumulation is the problem. EDC’s have been linked to hormone cancers; breast, prostate, blood cancers, and several other illnesses. For Heather, it resulted in Polycystic Ovaries which makes getting pregnant almost impossible. 

But Heather disagreed with doctors, she went organic, avoided all chemical exposure and after a really tough journey, got pregnant and has two children (now 8 and 10). She also teaches, writes and coaches people to reduce their exposure to damaging chemicals. Visit her website for more info here. www.natural-wholeness.com

She says, “Toxins are all around us, we are exposed multiple times a day. Whilst we can’t totally eliminate them, (they’re also carried in the air as pollution) we can choose to make huge reductions. I want my family and me to be safe, the cost saving is immense – and we’re just as clean as we were before, and now less likely to get sick”. 

 

In her blog about reducing toxins, she writes…

…..The endocrine system is the organs and glands in the human body that produce different hormones. Hormones travel through the bloodstream and regulate functions in the body like growth, development, behaviour, metabolism, digestion and reproduction. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC’s) are chemicals that disrupt the normal hormone function and can be found all around us and in many everyday products like sunscreen, till receipts, tin cans, shampoo, pesticides, nail polish and household cleaners. They enter our bodies each day though eating, drinking, breathing and are absorbed through the skin.

EDC’s are found in small amounts in products but the accumulation of exposure creates a load of toxins that the body cannot dispel and becomes stored in the tissues and fat cells, says Heather. 

EDC’s can be found in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, plastic packaging, pesticides, cleaning products, industrial chemicals, non-stick coating, electronics, furniture, textiles and car fumes. They are widespread in the environment, in rivers, water supply, air, soil and food.

I asked her, why are these chemicals allowed in our everyday products and not regulated by the authorities?

“The answer is that these chemicals are present in most everyday products and pose little threat in isolation. The safety of these substances are assessed independently but that is not how we are exposed to them. This accumulation is referred to as the Cocktail effect. The problem is that we are exposed to a multitude of toxins each day that has adverse effects on our health.

EDC’s pose the greatest risk during growth and development. This means that during childhood, in puberty and in utero during pregnancy, EDC’s have the greatest impact on our health. EDC exposure can cause hormonal cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, reproductive problems, thyroid problems, delayed neurological effects and immune disorders. It is so important for us to take ownership of our own exposure to these substances.

It is important to be aware of what goes into and onto your body, as many everyday products contain endocrine disrupting chemicals, (EDCs), such as Parabens, Phthalates, Triclosan and Bisphenols, which affect your hormones and may increase hormonal cancer. We all have complete control over what goes into and on our bodies and can limit our exposure to EDC’s. Living in a rural environment lowers your risk of toxic exposure compared with living in a city or large town. This may be because you are exposed to less air pollution.”

Source: breastcanceruk.org

What to do about it? How can I control reducing these EDC’s?

You may not be able to completely avoid toxic chemicals and it can feel quite overwhelming knowing how our lives are constantly bombarded with toxins that impact our health. Do not despair. Starting now, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure.

My rule of thumb is that if something has a logo, marketing campaign and comes in plastic packaging, then it is not food. It is a product that exists to make money and not for your health.

5 tips to reduce your toxic load

  1. Read the ingredients – funnily enough EDC’s aren’t labelled as such. But if there is ‘parfam or perfume’ in the product, instead of natural essential oils, then you can be pretty sure that this is the culprit. Avoid! 
  2. There’s an App for it – Think Dirty (Free) – there are many apps and websites to help you suss out the labels. Heather’s favourite is the Think Dirty app. Just scan the barcode of products you use for a rating out of 10.  Ten is the dirtiest. They also list the harmful ingredients and rate each one according to its possible harmful impact. I have searched many products that I currently use as well as products I knew and trusted growing up. I’ve been horrified at the harmful ingredients in many well-known products and brands, even ones marketed as natural and safe for babies. Almost always the offending ingredient is synthetic fragrance also known as ‘parfum’.
  3. Visit www.breastcanceruk.org.uk CHECK It’s scientific information is well written in an easy to understand and very practical way. Do check out their A-to-Z list of chemicals of concern and get to know the offending toxins that can wreak havoc on your hormonal health.
  4. Here’s Heathers AVOID LIST 
  • Cosmetics that contain parabens, phthalates, fragrances (parfum) 
  • Antiperspirants that contain parabens and aluminium salts
  • Toothpaste that contains triclosan and soaps that contain triclosan or triclocarban
  • Synthetic fragrances, scented candles, air fresheners and perfumed cleaning products
  • Sunscreen containing octinoxate and padimate O
  • Avoid using fly spray and flea powder on your pets
  • Avoid using plastic tableware
  • Wet wipes, especially those that contain synthetic fragrances

Source: breastcanceruk.org

Buy local and organic as much as possible

Heather suggests buying organic and local. It means that no pesticides were used to treat the food and soil. Buying local means that your food will not be subject to irradiation, refrigeration and chemicals to ripen and preserve them. Buying local also means that you can get to know your local farmers and growers have more connection to the origin of your food. Buying organic food can be more expensive so start with the dirty dozen, the food that is most likely to contain harmful pesticides. These are: 

  • Grapefruit
  • Soft citrus
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Dried grapes (sultanas, raisins)
  • Herbs
  • Pre-packed salads
  • Grapes
  • Lemons
  • Pears
  • Peaches and nectarines
  • Spinach

Source: pan-uk.org

When a product runs out, replace it with a more natural option

Heather directs people to making their own products. Her blog has many recipe DIY’s that can replace store-bought items, with many more to come. If making your own products seems too time consuming then consider swapping where you shop. There are many wonderful companies devoted to providing clean and toxic free products. Do be aware of the marketing on products that use the words ‘natural’ or ‘contains plant extracts’ as this doesn’t always mean that the product does not contain harmful EDC’s. Again, read those labels carefully please.

NFE prefers two British companies that are both BCorp – Wilton London and Delphis Eco. These are the two we’re using for our Safer for Us + Safe for our Seas project to reduce harmful chemicals in our holiday houses. 

Follow these great Instagrammers to learn more here and here

My final question for Heather was house fragrances –( and if you’ve made it this far in this super long blog – well done – we’re nearly done!)

She said – don’t bother, they’re all horrible. Get a diffuser and use essential oils. Heather volunteers her cleaning consultancy work but sells DoTerra essential oils. Whilst they’re not cheap, they are the best, you need use only a few drops at any time, and with a good diffuser you’ll get a wonderful house-wide smell. 

Rachel and Heather chatted around many a campfire for this interview, and the team at NFE are grateful for her knowledge, sense of humour and straight-forward nature.