the ecovangelist


Air Fresheners, are they really freshening your air? November 10, 2011

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Oh the fresh scent of roses and lilacs. Don’t you wish your home could smell so fragrant all the time? Well with more then 100 varieties of air fresheners, sprays, plug-ins, you can get the artificial scent of “ocean breeze”, “clean linen” or “country garden” whenever you’d like. While I personally have banned the use of any sort of air freshener in my home, I was surprised to learn that 75% of US households use either a plug-in, gel-fragrance, spray or stand-alone air freshener. So you must be wondering what’s the big deal, air fresheners are little boxes of scented joy!! Unfortunately, air fresheners are horrible for your health.  They have been found to trigger asthma, sinusitis, and allergies.  Also, they are extremely high in phthalates (check out my post on phthalates), which have been linked to:

                  • Decreased sperm count
                  • Infertility
                  • Cancer
                  • Decreased pulmonary function
                  • Asthma
                  • Brain development in fetus and infants
                  • Reproductive development
                  • Endocrine and Thyroid disruption
                  • Anti-androgen effects
                  • Obesity and type II diabetes

Even air fresheners labeled as all-natural had high levels of phthalates.

Many common ingredients used in air fresheners are: formaldehyde, dichlorobenzene (a carcinogen), chloromethane (a neurotoxicant) among several other harmful chemicals.  In addition, air fresheners contribute to indoor air pollution and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  High levels of indoor air pollutants are linked to asthma, respiratory disease and inflammation.  In fact, allergists at Emory University have discovered that asthmatics lung function changes when they are exposed to chemicals in air fresheners. A report from the NRDC also found that chemicals in air fresheners could effect reproductive development.

So next time you want to “plug-in”, go and buy some fresh flowers.  Here are some other tips on what you can do to freshen the air:

  • Open your windows and doors to circulate air
  • Use naturally fragrant items like flowers, cloves or cinnamon sticks
  • Lemon, Lime or Orange Peel
  • Vanilla Essence or Mint Extract
  • Try to eliminate the source of the putrid smell
  • Use baking soda to eliminate odor

For more information check out:


10 easy ways to decrease your home energy bill November 2, 2011

Filed under: Home — theecovangelist @ 1:16 pm
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With energy bills constantly on the rise, here are 10 easy tips on how to decrease your home energy use.

1.   Insulate your hot water heater-purchase a water heater blanket or jacket.
2.   Install low flow faucets, shower heads and low flow toilets- low flow toilets consume 30-40% less water.
3.   Hang dry your laundry- this is not only great for cutting energy, but hang drying your clothes makes them last longer as well.
4.   Set your washing machine to use cold water and do a full loadhot-water uses much more energy then warm or cold-water settings.  Also washing clothing in hot-water does not clean them more effectively then warm or cold-water settings.
5.   Plug appliances on a power strip and unplug unused chargers- appliances not in use account for 20% of energy bills.  Plug your appliances on power strips and turn the strip off when you are not using them.
6.   Add more insulation- adding insulation in your walls and attic. Only 20% of homes built before 1980 have proper insulation.  This is a great way to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
7.   Install door sweeps- air easily escapes from under your door. Rubber door sweeps are cheap and simple to install and can easily cut on your heating and air conditioning use.
8.   Purchase energy star CFL lights indoors and solar-powered landscape lighting outdoors- outdoor solar lighting cost about $30 and require no electricity and no wires.
9.   Get a portable space heater- if you only need to heat one room for a short period of time, use a portable space heater rather then using central heating. *note if you are going to be in multiple rooms for an extended period of time then central heating might be more energy efficient.
10.  Purchase energy star appliances- these products are approved by US department of Energy and can lead up to 41% less energy use when compared to conventional appliances.

How much does each appliance cost to use?

*Source U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Energy Savers booklet.


New BPA study shows exposure may effect behavior October 24, 2011

Filed under: In your body — theecovangelist @ 3:29 pm
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A new study released by the Journal of Pediatrics reinforces our previous fears about bisphenol-A (BPA). The study found that 3-year old girls who were exposed to higher levels of BPA while in the womb, were more aggressive, hyperactive, anxious and depressed. BPA is a chemical used to make plastic and we are exposed when BPA leaches into our food through the lining of canned food, plastic packaging, and plastic bottles. BPA has been found to be estrogenic and an endocrine disruptor. Limiting exposure to BPA is important for everyone, but is especially imperative for children and pregnant women. Joe Braun, the author of the study says, “These results suggest that the girls may be more vulnerable to the effects of gestational BPA exposures and there is this unique window of brain development that is susceptible to BPA exposures.”

Check out my previous post on bottled water and BPA for more details.

To reiterate, you can limit your and your children’s exposure to BPA by:

* Limiting your exposure to plastic products

* Avoid canned products

* Do not use liquid infant formula that has BPA lined in the bottles (this generally only occurs in the pre-made infant formula

* Use bulk food, rather than food that comes in plastic packaging

* Avoid plastics #7 and #3

* Use stainless steel or glass containers and bottles

* It is very difficult to completely eliminate our exposure to plastics, but if you take away one tip from this post, please do not microwave plastic containers. Even if they are BPA free, they still might leach other chemicals into your food.

For more information:


Turmeric, the Wonder Drug!! July 29, 2011

Filed under: In your body,On your body — theecovangelist @ 3:26 pm
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Whenever I go camping or hiking, I always pack a small container of turmeric in my first aid kit. You read correctly…in my first aid kit!! Turmeric works phenomenally to stop bleeding and helps reduce the appearance of scars! Turmeric has been used for years in India due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antibacterial properties. It is widely used in Indian cooking and its what gives curries that lovely yellow color. Turmeric has several health benefits when consumed and also when applied externally.

When consumed:

  • May prevent or reduce effects of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Possibly help with weight loss
  • Shown to prevent/reduce the risk of several cancers: 
    • Breast cancer
    • Melanoma
    • Leukemia
    • Prostate cancer 
    • Colorectal cancer
  • Helps with sore throats when consumed with a glass of warm milk or hot water (add a teaspoon into one cup of milk or water)
  • Reduces risk of myocardial infarction  
  • Improves digestive and gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Strengthens bone structure
  • Helps with liver health
  • Eases joint pain and arthritis inflammation

Applied externally:

        • Use it as a disinfectant, antibacterial agent for cuts, burns and bruises (apply as a paste, mix the powder with water)
        • Reduces appearance of scars
        • Acne treatment
        • Improve skin, anti-aging agent
        • Reduces body hair growth

Sounds like the wonder drug to me! You can either incorporate turmeric into your cooking, or consume turmeric capsules. Just be careful when you are cooking or applying turmeric, since it stains very easily.  Also, while there are not many major negative effects with consuming turmeric, those suffering from congestive heart disease, gallstones, liver disease or blood clotting disorders should consult their doctor before consuming supplements.


Dangers and Benefits of Oil and Butter Video July 28, 2011

Filed under: In your body — theecovangelist @ 3:29 pm

You’ve probably already read my blog post Olive Oil! The Heat is on!!  Please check out the Video Blog I did on my sister Pallavi’s Indian cooking recipe site: Dangers and Benefits of Olive Oil, Ghee, Butter, and other Oils 


Protecting your largest organ! June 24, 2011

Filed under: Around your body — theecovangelist @ 12:22 pm
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Now that summer is here and we’re all spending more time in the sun, it’s probably a good idea to review why it’s important to wear sunscreen and the FDA’s new guidelines.

Your skin, why you should protect it:

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US
  • One out of five people will develop skin cancer in the US
  • One to two million Americans develop skin cancer every year

Earlier this month, the FDA released new sunscreen guidelines

Here’s a summary of the FDA’s main points:

  • Sunscreens can no longer be labeled as sunblock, waterproof or sweat proof; since according to the FDA, there is no such thing.
  • Sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB will now be labeled as broad-spectrum. 
  • In case you forgot the difference between UVA and UVB:
    • UVA-accounts for 95% of UV exposure; penetrates through skin deeply causing accelerated aging and wrinkling; initiates skin cancer; can penetrate through glass.
    • UVB-primary cause of skin cancer; burns the surface of your skin; can not penetrate through glass.
  • Water-resistant sunscreens are effective, but should be reapplied once out of the water.
  • Sunscreens should be reapplied every two hours.
  • Sunscreens with SPF 2-14 will be required to state that they have not been shown to prevent skin cancer.
  • Many companies have already started changing their labeling, but technically have until next summer to do so.

Applications (no pun intended):

  • While some of the ingredients in sunscreens have been in question, the benefit of using sunscreen outweighs any risk from the ingredients.
  • What’s the difference between SPF 15, 30 and 50?
    • SPF 15-blocks 92% of UVB rays
    • SPF 30-blocks 96.7% of UVB rays
    • SPF 50-blocks 98% of UVB rays
    • SPF 100-blocks 99% of UVB rays
  • Use SPF 15 for everyday use and at least SPF 30 or higher when in the sun for extended time.
  • Many think that just because they have darker pigmentation, they don’t need sunscreen. This is far from the truth. While having greater melanin does partially protect you from getting sunburned, people with darker pigmentation still need protection from UVA and UVB rays.
  • Even if you are wearing sunscreen, this does not fully protect you from the sun. So while in the sun be sure to wear a hat, long-sleeve shirts/pants and avoid prolonged time.
  • Limit sun exposure from 10AM-2PM, since suns rays are strongest during that period.

But I love my iphone…..can it really cause cancer? June 14, 2011

Filed under: Around your body — theecovangelist @ 1:28 am
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Unless you’re living under a rock, you must have heard about the recent hype linking cell phone use as a carcinogen.  I’ve been asked by several folks if this legit…or if it’s fear mongering tactics that the media has taken out of control. Honestly….I don’t know for sure. 

In one of my cancer courses we had an expert from the CDC tell us there was nothing to worry about with cell phones. However, when The World Health Organization (WHO) and International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) release a statement saying we should be worried, I take it seriously.

The IARC Press Release and Interphone Study both raise some concern.

Here is a brief summary about WHO/IARC’s conclusion in case you do not want to read the whole thing. 

  • WHO/IARC announced that mobile phones are now classified as 2B  carcinogenic hazard category. Which means “a positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer…”
  • To put that into perspective, there are 5 cancer classifications, and cell phones are now in the same cancer group as DDT, HPV, Gasoline and pickled vegetables (now that’s a whole other blog post).
    • Group 1 Carcinogenic to humans
    • Group 2A Probably Carcinogenic to humans
    • Group 2B Possibly Carcinogenic to humans
    • Group 3 Not classifiable (ie need more data)
    • Group 4 Probably not carcinogenic to humans
  • There is some evidence linking glioma and acoustic neroma brain cancer.
  • Cell phones emit non-ionizing radiofrequency (RF), a form of electromagnetic radiation, which is what is under investigation for causing cancer.
  • If you would like more info, here is a nice fact sheet that the National Cancer Institute released: NCI FACTSHEET

My suggestion, take the precautionary principal.  Be a little cautious with your cell phone use until the WHO, the CDC, the phone manufactures understand the full scale effects of cell phone use on our bodies.

  • Try to always use a headset or hands free set, which have been shown to emit less radiation.  I personally use a wired headset and not a blue tooth, because blue tooth still emits radiation.
  • Turn your phone off when you go to sleep.
  • If you must leave it turned on, do not leave your phone in your bedroom while you are sleeping. Many people place their phones right next to their head on a side table or dresser, turned on….I know I use to.
  • Go old school, get a land line.  While you’re at home try to limit the use of your cell phone and use a land line.
  • Hold the cell phone away from your body.
  • According to IARC, a poor signal emits more radiation, so limit your use if you do not have a strong signal.
  • A moving phone emits more radiation….more reason to not use your phone while driving.
  • Research your next phone, here is a list of radiation emission from available cell phones Cell phone radiation level
  • Children should not use or play with cell phones.  Since their skulls are thinner, radiation penetrates deeper and faster then it would with adults.
There are several studies disputing what WHO/IARC have found. However the truth of the mater is brain cancer develops over a long period of time. Since there has been a boom in cell phone use only in the past 10 years we may not see the true effects for another 5-10 years.