We've been using natural and organic products for years, even before cancer struck our family. When you live a more natural lifestyle and actively try to avoid carcinogens (such as those in household or body care products) aren't you supposed to be in the clear? Not so much. I don't regret using natural products for all those years and still getting the cancer diagnosis. I'm happy that I can look back and know that we did what we thought was best at the time. Am I still using natural products? Of course! I still believe that exposing my kids to harmful chemicals could increase their risk of illness. Even though it didn't save us from cancer - it could save us from future problems.
Since our firstborn, Vienna, was about 3 months old we decided to begin using more "natural" products. Prior to her birth we hadn't given much thought to what we used on her skin because, well, if it's sold in the store it's safe - right? Wrong. This was just the beginning of my long journey in finding safe products for my family. I started using items with the words natural on them and the ones with more green on the labels (yes, marketing won me over). After using those types of products for a while I reexamined my products again. I soon found out that the pretty green labels were just a ploy to get me to buy them because they were more "natural" therefore they were "safer". If I can't trust a brand with a green label that says natural on it - what do I look for? I learned to look beyond the label and turn the product around! On the backside I found the ingredient label. But wait, the names of the ingredients are long and I can barely pronounce them. This is how they get people. They don't expect you to know what the ingredients are or whether or not they are safe, after all we aren't all scientists. No one is looking out for us when it comes to the products on the shelves as they are NOT regulated by the FDA. Only YOU are responsible to know about the products you are using.
Environmental exposure is one of the risk factors for developing cancer. You can be exposed to cancer-causing agents through inhalation or through your skin. Once exposed - these agents have the ability to damage the DNA. This damaged and altered DNA then has the ability to become cancer. Environmental factors is something we can (mostly) be in control of, unlike the risk factors age and genetics. For example, Formaldehyde is a well known carcinogen. But did you know it is a common ingredient in household products? Yep! It can be hiding under different names as well. Why are companies allowed to do this? Because it's an unregulated market. What we can do is learn how to dissect the ingredient label - for our families sake! Then you can feel good about doing all you can to maintain healthy children. We'll look further into labels in another post. If you aren't looking at your labels already, it's time to start and get familiar with them.