"Greening Your Cleaning," Toxin Hysteria, and Mrs. Imus

I’m not dismissing all concerns about body burdens, environmental toxins, and indoor air pollution. I even avoid some products out of an abundance of caution, having done research and decided that where the cost of avoiding it is minimal, it’s worth it even where risk is speculative.

But my mom just lent me Deirdre Imus’s book, green this!, and in addition to the eye-gougingly obnoxious grammar of the title, the scaremongering and misinformation is pissing me off royally.

In a short perusal I’ve noted that the book opens with factoids and statistics meant to terrify, such as the cancer rate in children going up,* and linking these scaretistics to “toxins,” without illuminating any basis for such linkage. Now, I’m not closed to the idea that some pesticides, cleaning agents, and so on may actually have been shown to cause cancer or other ill effects, even when used properly. However, I have a sneaking suspicion her “logic” boils down to, “Lysol will hurt you if you drink it! Cancer rates are going up! Therefore, ingredients in Lysol are causing cancer!!!”

And I know damn well that she’s confused at best, and disingenuous at worst, when she lists “Health Problems Associated with Environmental Toxins in the Home.” While discussing the subsection, “Developmental Disorders,” she just sticks in a paragraph about rising autism diagnoses, followed by one about ADHD. She doesn’t say there is any reliable research linking these conditions with any environmental toxin, because there isn’t any. She just dishonestly gives the impression that they’re caused by household cleaners, then moves on to a cancer discussion that starts with the statement, “This year, 570,000 Americans will die from cancer,” and then uses uncounted weasel words and implications to give the impression that Scrubbing Bubbles will probably give your toddler a brain tumor.

Another item of note is her citation of the number of “toxic exposures” each year attributable to cleaning products, and how many of the cases were young children. This sounds damn scary, until one reflects that the “toxic exposures” she cites were reports to poison control centers, and most likely involved kids getting hold of Clorox and whatnot left stupidly in their reach. You know, if you leave the Jack Daniels on a low shelf and the kiddies drink it, it can kill them too. Somehow I think the answer to this problem is high shelves, not Deirdre’s own brand of green cleaners. The whole thing smacks of DiHydrogen Monoxide type hysteria to me.

Frankly, the scariest thing to me is that she talks about “greening” (shudder) medical centers and commercial kitchens so that they don’t use “toxins” like bleach. You know what? I WANT some goddamn toxins in my kitchen - as in “toxic to E. Coli and salmonella.” Alton Brown, Cook’s Illustrated, and the USDA agree that sanitizing surfaces that contact raw meat is vital, and that a (relatively weak) bleach solution is ideal. On the other hand, Deirdre says that the only requirement is soaking cutting boards in vinegar.** This scares me. And it’s indicative of the overarching attitude that scares me and pisses me off the most: people wring their hands over “toxins” and plead, “Won’t someone think of the CHILDREN?” and present themselves as using science and reason, and then completely ignore any cost-benefit analysis or balancing of risk. Do I use bleach to clean up peanut butter fingerprints on the counter? No. I agree that there’s no need to use such a caustic substance for something soap and water will cure. But I do use bleach to make sure my tiny child doesn’t wind up possibly dying of multiple organ failure due to E. Coli **toxins **getting into her system from contaminated kitchenware. (See, I can scaremonger for the other side! I even got to use the buzzword!)

Given that this is the Pit, and given the idiotic content of her book, and given the prominent position of her hooters in the cover photo, I think I’ll go ahead and call Deirdre Imus a muddle-headed ho.

*From some web research, this seems to be true. Of course she doesn’t mention that death rates from cancer are steadily falling (according to the National Cancer Institute, her cited source).

**I’m putting a General Question in about this, as well.

So, what I’m getting from this is my half-assed housekeeping is environmentally-friendly, because I clean so rarely. Cool!

You know, the way we’re going, I’m not sure I want to live to advanced old age. I might be looking into my former co-worker’s “Early Check-out Plan” - don’t look after yourself too well so you don’t live too long.

You know, the one woman I knew who made the most use of the word “toxins” and considered herself the Authority on human health… …she drank her own urine for the health benefits.

That’s fine, of course – but soft drinks? “Don’t you know that has sodium benzoate in it? You’re poisoning your body with all those toxins!”

She kept trying to feed me aconite supplements, too. She took a wormwood tincture every day, as well.

“You don’t know anything; it’s not a toxin, it’s an herb!” :rolleyes:

If it turns out the I-Woman is drinking her own weewee, I’m seirously considering saying fuck all this envorinment shit, I’ll just go back to shpritzing Windex and 409 everywhere and take the consequences.

Sounds pretty bad. Not that I was planning on reading it–I deal with toxics in the environment for a living and with people who actually know their shit.

There are some toxins/toxics* in the environment that do cause cancer and whatnot, but we try to make people clean that shit up.

I’m worried about endocrine disrupters more than cancer, in a big picture sense, but I won’t be here to see my progeny’s progeny mutate.

She should worry more about kids playing with mercury they find. EPA is almost done with the cleanup–there is still some work to do on the concrete. Our site manager says the kid is really doing much better–he still has the shakes, but he’s not delusional anymore.

*Oh, the arguments we have about these two words.

Larry Mudd: Tell her belladonna is an herb as well, and that it means “beautiful woman” in Italian, and we all know Italian women don’t get fat. Forget to mention that in English it’s more usually called deadly nightshade.

One of the big things that really gets to me is when people try to implicate vaccines in causing autism. Vaccines are one of the best things to ever happen to us as a species. Vaccines pushed smallpox (kills or leaves horribly scarred) and polio (kills or leaves largely paralyzed) and tuberculosis (kills or leaves largely unable to breathe) and german measles (also called rubella, if a pregnant woman gets it her baby can be born blind, deaf, and/or with severe brain damage) and other terrifying, untreatable or difficult to treat diseases to the margins or out of the picture entirely in at least some parts of the world. Vaccines, more than anything else, will stand as useful human accomplishments and will survive down through the ages as an example of something pure and good.

No, thimerosal isn’t worth worrying about when the vaccine is highly likely to prevent a disease that can do real damage. (Every year, flu season was a terrifying time for the old and the parents of the very young or sickly. The flu kills, and there is no cure. Vaccines have allowed us to forget that fundamental fact.) Especially since it has not only been in use since the 1930s but has been greatly reduced or even eliminated in modern decades. Plus, if mercury (the active component of thimerosal) were really that dangerous anyone who ever handled Mercurochrome, let alone had it applied to an open wound, ought to be so low-functioning as to be completely non-verbal.

I can’t really express my feelings on the subject. Maybe if people traveled to places where polio and the flu are still problems the way they were everywhere back in the old days, we would have some more rational judgment. But sharing secrets is fun and people are bad at judging risks. Which is fine, except for the poor kids who get sick for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

I do use green cleaners–simply because it’s easier and cheaper to clean things with liquid soap, baking soda and vinegar than specialized products. They work just as well if you give them time to work.

Most of us would be better off using the strongest cleaning agents in the kitchen (where the pathogens to be found in the home can cause the greatest trouble) and the “green” cleaners in the bathroom.

Carelessly (and unjustifiably) blaming autism on household cleaners is at least better than blaming it on vaccines. Mercury (thimerosal preservative) has been out of all routine childhood vaccinations since 2001, so if it was a major cause of autism you’d expect a dramatic decline in autism rates. Instead, autism diagnoses have continued to climb somewhat. Not that this has stopped the mercury militia from attempting to scare parents away from vaccines.

What gets me about the urine drinkers is that these are some of the same people who are convinced that their colons harbor horrific toxins and have to be “cleansed”. But wastes found in urine are magically good for you (if not magically delicious - bragggh). :dubious:

I consider myself toxic to steak.

The notmilk website blames autism on–what else–drinking milk: NOTMILK Poster: A IS FOR AUTISM & ADD

The funny thing is, I can get behind a lot of this. I do a lot of things that my mainstream friends find squirrelly, such as avoiding nail polish and seeking out fragrance-free everything, partially because I want to avoid potential hormone disruptors (especially during my childbearing and lactating years).

I have two basic cleaning products - orange oil cleaner and dilute bleach solution. OK, I do use the flushable toilet scrubbers, because that makes it much more likely I’ll actually clean the toilet. But I do agree that people who have buckets and cabinets full of different cleaners, and particularly things like air freshener and super-specialized cleaning products, are a.) overdoing it, and b.) exposing themselves to more potentially harmful fumes and residues than necessary.

So if there’s a book that sensibly talks about what products are really necessary for health and safety (something to kill the scary bacteria, viruses, and molds) and what products are largely marketing hype, and reasonably outlines the risks of common ingredients, and provides alternatives where the scarier stuff is unnecessary, I would be interested in that book. This book drives me nuts, because to the extent that it has any of that information, it’s undermined by the ridiculous new agey crap and hysteria.

And I totally agree about the autism-vaccine issue. It pisses me off in the same way, but on a larger scale. I still remember reading a *Mothering *magazine that had all sorts of allegedly science-based apologetics for the vaccine-autism assertion. Basically they latched on to any study, no matter how small or poorly designed, and talked about how all the mainstream science on the matter was inconclusive, and we needed to err on the side of caution, blah, blah. In the same issue, there was an article excoriating the proposed removal of Domperidone as a prescription for increasing milk supply. In that article, they went on about how a potentially beneficial treatment shouldn’t be abandoned due to some possible risks, emphasized the balancing of risk, and the potential benefits of the intervention. Their attitude toward science echoes that of creationists, and I’m never buying another magazine of theirs.

I can get behind some of the reasons to use simpler cleaners (still can’t use bleach unless it’s really dilute-- the fumes/smell just makes me ill), as you don’t need a different cleaner for every room/surface and many times, having an all-purpose cleaner and a disinfectant (bleach/lysol) are all you need. I still buy the toilet cleaning gel stuff, though; it’s easier to use and I get the citrus scented stuff so the toilet smells nice for the duration of the cleaning period. I’m not afraid of harsh cleaning products, but the overuse of them and scented products; it can’t be good for you to fill the air with all that stuff all the time.

The major reason why there are more diagnoses for cancer (and probably autism/ADD/ADHD as well) is that we’re more “vigilant” about testing for the stuff. NPR did a good commentary program on diagnoses of melanoma and how we’re doing a lot more biopsies, some of which lead to false positives and MORE biopsies in the future for these patients. We’re overdiagnosing and overprescribing to the point that there are more people getting incorrect diagnoses and unnecessary treatments for ailments that they don’t have in the first place.

As for the “cutting boards in vinegar” cleaning solution, I think I’ll stick to getting dishwasher safe cutting boards and letting the ridiculously hot water help kill the germs after I run them in a very dilute bleach solution. It’ll definitely rinse away whatever leftover bleach there might have been, and it’ll be lower maintenance. Just, uhm, throw out your cutting boards when they start showing signs that the cleaning isn’t working anymore. Colored streaks in plastic that don’t bleach out, or warping and softening of the wood are major signs that you need to get a new cutting board immediately.

Drinking your own urine, eh? Talk about second-guessing your own body - my body said get this crap out of here, and I’m going to drink it back into me again? No thanks.

Learning about plants and flowers, you’d be amazed at how many plants we come into contact with each day are toxic to some degree or another. “Natural” by no means means “safe.” Let’s see, some common ones - azaleas, apples, buttercups, cherries, daffodil, elderberry, flax, holly, iris, lily of the valley, oaks, peonies, potatoes, rhubarb, and yew, just for some examples.

A little knowledge badly applied really can be a dangerous thing.

Just in case anyone thought I was talking about mercury in vaccines, please click my link. I’m talking about mercury in a bottle being played with by adolescents and almost killing one of them.

And the toxics in our environment that we are concerned with cleaning up are more along the lines of lead, arsensic, TCE, PCE, dinoseb, BETX, dieldrin, DDT (yes, it’s still out there in our soils), etc.

Vaccines are more a health issue than an environment issue.

FYI, a study published yesterday found no link between mercury and autism.

If you can kill a dead cow you got some powerful mojo.

A lot of people like their steak rare but there is always someone that will something to the extreme.

How do you kill a dead cow?

Zombie cows, a la Diablo II.

I thought you were going to complain about Imus Greening the Cleaning household cleaners. After the whole Imus kerfuffle, I can’t help thinking about a line from the film Confederate States of America: “For a shine that’s jigaboo bright!”