What are parabens?  What are their names in personal care products and why worry about them?  First of all, they can have toxic effects on us!  Parabens are a class of preservatives.  The concept of use has been to prevent growth of bacteria, fungus, prevent spoilage and extend shelf life.

The public is led to believe by big manufacturers that this is the only way to insure safety and a shelf life.  The truth is, parabens may be a cheap fix when it comes to profit margins but there are options.

The four types of parabens found in many personal care products such as soap, shampoo, shaving cream, sunscreen, deodorant, cosmetics and more are methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben.

Methylparaben is the methyl ester of hydroxybenzoic acid.  According to an updated 2014 Livestrong post by Traci Joy on methylparaben, this compound has been discovered in breast cancer tissues.  Also, skin treated with creams containing this compound risks damage from UBV rays.  Methylparaben can also damage lining of the eyes and cornea.

Ethylparaben is the ethyl ester of hydroxybenzoic acid.  According to an updated 2014 post regarding ethylparaben, Wisegeek mentions that 60% of breast tumors are centered near the underarm where deodorant is applied.  (There are many brands of paraben-free deodorants in health food stores/coops, vitamin shops, natural product aisles, online).  In a study of 20 malignant tumors, 18 contained parabens. To replace ethylparaben, phenoxyethanol, a petrochemical, is sometimes used, but its risks appear to be even greater in toxicity to the immune system.

Propylparaben is the n-propyl of p-hydroxybenzoic acid.  According to an eHow post on propylparabens by A. Michelle Caldwell, there have been some side effects such as a “felt-like feeling in the mouth.”  High concentrations can irritate the respiratory tract and mucous membranes.  Eyes can become red and runny.  Sperm quality can be affected.

Butylparaben is butyl p-hydroxybenzoate.  Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep data base rates the health risk a high moderate.  Concerns include endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive toxicity, allergies and immunotoxicity.

There are so many names that parabens go by in our products that is is impssible to list them all here.  You can look for ingredients containing the words ethyl, methyl, propyl, butyl and paraben.  Some of the ingredient names are longer words like methylisothiazolinone, cocamidapropyl, isobutylparaben.  Or two words like ethyl ester, methyl benzoate, benzoic acid, ethyl parasept, or just one word like benzoate.

You can always do a computer search when you have questions about an ingredient.  There is a safer way to live.  Here are some helpful links:


The Danger of Non-EPA Approved Wood Burning Stoves

by S.K. LéVeillé

There are a number of reasons people use wood burning stoves.  They may believe it’s a safer/less expensive alternative, yet may not be fully informed.

It is one thing to use a non-EPA certified wood stove in a rural area where homes are not close together and quite another in metropolitan areas where regulations can be oddly lacking.  One’s entire home may end up smelling of the neighbor’s wood smoke.

Those affected complain about not being able to sleep at night, not being able to breathe properly, having no safe refuge in their own homes or yards from neighbor’s smoke.  What is happening?

According to a State of the Air, American Lung Association report, “Residential wood burning devices…are the largest source of particle pollution…wood burning also produces carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxides,” just for starters.

Wood burning stoves manufactured before 1995 can also produce dioxin, arsenic, formaldehyde, creosote, methane and black carbon.

Even though EPA wood burning stoves have been available for some time, in an article by the Clean Air Council, Bret Watson, president of Jotul North America is quoted as saying that even new standards won’t “address the five million to seven million dirty stoves in use now.”  Jotul started a stove changeout program in 2013 with $300 credit plus a $10 donation per stove to American Lung Assn.  The program was so popular that a total of $14,500 was donated to ALA and Jotul said they would “likely repeat the program this year.”

From 2005-2009, there was The Great American Wood Stove Changeout Program where EPA partnered with the Hearth, Patio & Barbeque Assn., the American Lung Assn. and others.

During that time, 1,100 wood burning stoves were replaced in Libby, Montana, 3,200 in Sacramento, California, 500 in Michigan and more in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, Wisconsin, Washington and Wyoming.  Sadly, not in Minnesota or many other states but it is proof that it can be done.

According to the Oregon Dept. of Environmental Quality, “Wood smoke particles are so tiny they can seep into houses even through closed doors and windows.  So neighbors of wood burners probably breathe in smoky air…health effects of wood smoke include breathing problems…and increased severity of lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.”

Currently, the American Lung Assn. Northeast has Woodstove Changeout Programs in the Connecticut counties of New London and Windham,  Massachusetts counties of Bristol, Norfolk and Plymouth and Rhode Island counties of Bristol, Kent, Newport, Providence and Washington.  Vouchers range from $300-4,000 depending on the appliance.

Holbrook, Arizona reported available rebates to residents of Navajo and Apache counties in 2010, changing out 350 stoves with about 17 tons of pollution removed.  In 2011, only 20% of available funds remained and the program ended December 31, 2011.

According to a Fox 11 Online news report out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, updated June 26, 2014, Wisconsin Public Service has partnered with the EPA and American Lung Assn.  As of the update, nearly $600,00 worth of rebates have been handed out.  Guidelines are available at–outdoor-air/wood-stove-exchange-program/documents/wood-stove-exchange-program.pdf

The HPBA co-sponsors changeout programs in parts of the U.S. and Canada.  For an update on which programs may be available, the website is:

The city of Minneapolis, Minnesota does not have an exchange program but the city does have an Environment Services department listed in the drop-down menu of the official city site.  Recommend going directly to Environment Services rather than dealing with 311 operators whose training may be limited.

The Lung/Action Network can give updates in the state you reside.  They can also help you find a representative in your state to contact and they have provided a message you can send and personalize if you wish.  The link is:

While progress is slower than we might like, it is heartening to see progress.  Much more needs to be done.  For tips on starting a wood stove changeout program in your area, see HPBA’s Starting A Program in Your Community at:


What is Holistic? Yours, Mine and Theirs

The word holistic comes from wholistic or “whole” and essentially represents the acknowledgment of the Mind/Body/Spirit connection.

There are also modalities and therapies that are sometimes referred to as Alternative or Holistic.  Alternative therapy isn’t necessarily holistic but it can be, given the practitioner.

On the other hand, some therapies are listed under the umbrella definition of “holistic,” using the word holistic as a category, but the practitioner may not have the background or ability to utilize the mind/body/spirit concept.

Here are some things that might be listed as either alternative or holistic:  massage therapy, yoga, meditation, hypnotherapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathic, homeopathy, herbal, nutrition, essential oils, holistic counseling, coaching or certain addiction rehab, bodywork, Reiki, colon therapy, metabolic, orthomolecular, breath work and more.

For me, my major focus is chemical-free food and products and an environment safe for breathing because I have a condition.  When the manufacturers care about me as a whole person it is a bonus.  All essential oils, for example, do not have holistic roots.  Some of the oils are fast-processed with heat which depletes the beneficial properties.  Some manufacturers lack ethics and may label lavandin as lavender (they do different things).  It’s Let the Buyer Beware.  Look for Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils to be safe.

For others, their main focus is bodywork, yoga, breath work and related disciplines.  If a person knows advanced yoga techniques can we assume they are holistic?  Not always.  Yoga does have a mind, body, spirit reputation but if you just take a local yoga class, the focus may be more on just the bodywork.

I once went to a chiropractor who worked in a clinic referred to as “holistic” and unfortunately assumed that this person would take into account my whole person, but no such luck.  For them, holistic meant there was also acupuncture available!

It depends what you’re looking for.  If you want a darn good chiropractic adjustment maybe you can overlook that the doctor doesn’t understand some of your other problems even if they think they are “holistic.”

There are a variety of types of holistic therapists who encompass the mind/body/spirit principle.  They identify themselves as holistic.  However, they may know little about other holistic disciplines.  They may or may not practice yoga, know anything about Reiki or hypnotherapy.  No matter.  If they make you feel whole and comfortable and you make progress or feel better, you can’t go wrong with a caring, ethical therapist.

There are counselors and coaches that address career, personal, health, life, nutrition and more.

Some are great and some are new and inexperienced (we all have to learn somehow) but if you run into a practitioner who exhibits unrealistic expectations regarding your limitations or is judgmental or harsh about how others define holism for themselves, just don’t go back.

A skilled hypnotherapist doesn’t have to be holistic to help people quit smoking.  I once had a past life regression for the heck of it.  The fellow operated out of his home.  There was even a recording of the session.  On the recording you could hear the therapist walk to the kitchen, open the cupboard and prepare food for his cat.  Later, you could hear his land line ring and him answer the phone and have a conversation on my dime.  I was distracted and felt my “past life” was something he got me to make up.  I have since pitched the recording of the session

I continue to search for good answers as I go.  Right now I have a good acupuncturist who doesn’t hang out a holistic shingle but she fosters a great mind/body/spirit connection.  There are differences between acupuncturists and also conditions we have and how they respond but my current treatment seems to be effective.

So am I holistic?  To a good extent, more or less.  I’m careful about what food and products are best for me and the air I breathe as well as my carbon footprint.  Is that holistic or green living?  They can be synonymous. It may not be your holistic or their holistic but I’m doing what’s right for me and feeling a bit more whole.