To Avoid Food-borne Illness, Wash Your Vegetables and Fruits

Blog_07162014_5767011_sIt’s midsummer in Minnesota, and despite the weather roller-coaster we’ve been riding, seasonal fruits and vegetables are ripe for the picking. Those of us with gardens are seeing tomatoes plump up and cucumbers and zucchini ripen overnight. Grocery store shoppers are enjoying fresher, more local produce, too. Before you sink your teeth into your favorite summertime fruit or veggie, take a moment to consider your safety. Whether you’re pulling your snack out of the ground or plucking it from a store shelf, all produce has been exposed to soil and water that may carry contaminants. If you’re buying from a store, your produce has been handled by many people and transported by truck or rail to your shopping cart. Hundreds of food products have been recalled by the FDA since the beginning of the year, including many fresh produce foods. The harmful bacteria salmonella and listeria monocytogenes are the primary offenders. How Do You Avoid Illness? Wash, Wash, Wash! To avoid getting sick from your favorite fruits and veggies, you need to get out the soap and water. Here are some tips for washing your produce.

  • Only wash produce when you’re ready to eat or cook it. Washing it before you store it may actually increase bacterial growth.
  • Wash your hands with warm soap and water before you wash your produce. You do not want to transfer germs on your hands to your food.
  • Clean your tools, including knives, cutting boards, and countertops, to avoid germ transfer.
  • Wash away bacteria. But bleach and dish detergents are no-no’s because produce can absorb the chemicals. I recommend washing your fruits and veggies with an organic, plant-based rinse.
  • Rub or soak vegetables to wash away bacteria. Firm fruits such as melons can be scrubbed with a brush.
  • Dry produce with a paper towel or clean cloth. This can also remove bacteria.
  • Trim outermost leaves of cabbage or head lettuce.

Produce-Specific Tips Some fruits and vegetables require extra care. Use these tips to make sure you’re washing your produce properly.

  • Soft fruits such as peaches and plums: Wash under running water and dry.
  • Firm produce such as apples and cucumbers: Wash well to remove any waxy preservative. Peeling is also an option.
  • Leafy greens:Discard outer leaves and soak the individual remaining leaves in water before rinsing them under the tap. Some people use vinegar on greens, but that will change the veggie’s taste and texture.
  • Grapes, cherries, and berries:Don’t wash these fruits until you eat or use them. Before you store them, get rid of any moldy or spoiled fruit. Wash under running water when ready to eat.

Summer is the time when many of us relish the tasty juiciness of fresh produce. Washing your fruits and vegetables will ensure that you’re safe while doing so. To learn more about keeping produce safe and healthy, contact me!

Here’s to breathing easy and living life to the fullest!

Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance

Toxic Cleaning Products Making You Sick?

Kindergarten teacher and children looking at globe in libraryRead about a 1st grade classroom going green!

What do many teachers and parents of elementary aged children complain about during the first few weeks of school in the fall? Often, after being healthy all summer, teachers and young kids catch the first colds of the school year. Mrs. C. was a first grade teacher at an elementary school in East-Central Wisconsin; in the fall of 2011, she commenced her final school year before retiring. Within a few months, she would convert her classroom over to green cleaning products. The results were amazing. I have attempted to capture her story in her own words as much as possible.

According to Mrs. C., “I started the conversion process strictly for personal reasons. I frequently have migraines, and the smell in the classroom would often seem to be a trigger. On many occasions, I would have nasal drip and feel as if I had a cold after being in my classroom for a while. In addition, my students would tell me that they had headaches and were feeling nauseated, or that the room just smelled bad. After considering the source of the bad smell, I made a decision. I banned the janitorial staff from bringing in any of the normal cleaning products that were being used throughout the rest of the school.

“I brought from home three cleaning products: an item called Sol U Mel (A multipurpose cleaner known for its deodorizing and cleaning power), Sol U Guard Botanical (a natural disinfectant) and Renew hand wash (A moisturizing hand wash that is not antibacterial). I used the Sol U Mel for cleaning any and all surfaces including the classroom sink. Also, we sprayed the natural-based disinfectant, Sol U Guard Botanical, on every single surface that was touched by the kids’ hands or mouths. This included door and sink handles, the pencil sharpener, the water fountain, the computer board and headphones, as well as the whisper phones. Last but not least, each time children left the classroom they washed their hands with the Renew hand wash upon reentering.” Before Mrs. C. brought in the natural cleaning products, it was pretty typical that each classroom teacher would have six to seven kids missing in any given day.

“By Christmas time the results were astonishing! My classroom had a zero truancy rate, which is when a child misses three days in a row. In addition, three-quarters of the students had not missed a single day; and on most days or weeks, I might have had only one child missing from school. Also–incredibly–I had not experienced a single migraine while at school. Better yet, the results continued throughout the year, making my last year teaching at this school a wonderful experience.”

Not only did these natural-based, green products improve the health of the entire class (and the teacher!), but they also were beneficial to the surfaces. It was common practice to use chlorine wipes continually to clean the tabletops in the classroom. Due to the harsh chemicals in the wipes, the laminate on the tables needed to be refinished every year. At the end of this year, however, Mrs. C’s tabletops were as good as new and could be used for another year.

Are you experiencing chemical sensitivity? Would you like to make your home, school or office a safer environment?

Want to know more?    I’d like to help you get started.

Hoping you’re breathing easy and living life to the fullest,

Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance

Natural Cleaners Improve Indoor Air Quality


How we stayed warm

How we stayed warm

Indoor air quality is two to five times more polluted than outside air, and we spend 90% of our time indoors. That’s why indoor air quality is one of the EPA’s top five environmental public risks.

Really? But why? Our forefathers did not have these issues, did they? I grew up in a home that had a rather large pot belly stove in the kitchen. Every morning my dad would fill the stove with firewood, stoke the embers and began the gradual warming process. He would briefly sit in the kitchen, enjoying his morning cup of coffee while smoking a cigarette. Somewhere in that process he would rouse me, shouting up the stairwell to wake me up; but truthfully, the aroma that floated enticingly up the stairs was the real trigger to get out of my cozy bed. The scent of the burning firewood, the coffee and yes, even his cigarette were telltale signs that there was work to be done. I guess in looking back at those fond days, this combination wasn’t so good for me, was it?

In today’s world we do not smoke inside most homes, and there usually isn’t a wood burning stove, which would leave me with only the coffee aroma. The “however” to the story is that we have introduced into our homes many other sources of pollutants. I place national brand (meaning synthetic) cleaning products high on that list of sources polluting our air. Hazardous cleaning products are potentially dangerous to your health.

In my free Lunch-n-Learn workshops, we discuss extensively about cleaning products and air fresheners. These items should be considered continuous sources for pollution that need to be eliminated. We explain what makes these products dangerous and how to enjoy a healthier life through organic living.

Why, you might ask, do I offer complimentary workshops? Is it enough to say that I’m passionate about your health? In itself, this fact is most likely not enough to convince you to make a change. But I hope you’ll think about the following. In the grocery store, most brands of cleaning, dish and laundry products use harsh chemicals like chlorine bleach, ammonia, phosphates and phthalates. Each and every one of them is considered to be hazardous to your health. These everyday cleaners can create unhealthy air through a process known as “out-gassing,” meaning that dangerous vapors escape the products. For example, most dish-washing detergents emit toxic fumes during use. That “clean” scent coming from the dishwasher isn’t really a “clean” scent. It’s toxic.

Conversely, with natural-based cleaners you don’t have to be concerned that the vapor coming from your dishwasher contains harsh fumes like chlorine gas. (Really . . . chlorine gas! Gasp!) The good news is that you can still get your home, laundry and dishes clean, while maintaining peace of mind. Today, living an organic lifestyle is easy. You can avoid polluting your home’s air by removing harsh chemicals and the fumes that come with them. You don’t have to sacrifice clean for safety. Would you like to make your home clean and safe for your family, visitors and pets?

I’d like to help you get started.

Hoping you’re breathing easy and living life to the fullest,

Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance

Washing your fruits & veggies, WHY & HOW!

Toxic chemicals are on your Produce!

Thanks to improvements in farming, shipping and distribution, shoppers today enjoy a wider selection of fresh produce than ever before. However, pesticide residue on some fruits and vegetables can be a cause for concern. In fact, fruits and vegetables on the ‘highest levels’ list contain 47 to 67 pesticides per serving.

 Most countries monitor residual levels of pesticides in produce, and establish legal limits for the safety of consumers. In some cases, however, these residual levels may be toxic for children, pregnant women and even pets. The US FDA maintains that consuming pesticides in low amounts is harmless, but some studies show an association between pesticides and health problems such as cancer, attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder and nervous system disorders and say exposure could weaken immune systems.

 A study by Consumers Union, the publishers of Consumer Reports magazine, examines and rates the residual levels of pesticides on many common fruits and vegetables. A report by the Environmental Working Group, using data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has found that much of the health risks associated with pesticides are concentrated in a relatively small number of fruits and vegetables.

The good news … Wash all of your fruits and vegetables … !!! When asked, most consumers tell me I wash with water.  That isn’t good enough! The simple answer is you must use a detergent based cleaner to cut the chemicals, effectively removing them from the surface of your food. While there are many products on the market I advocate using a natural based dish washing solution. The difference will astound you. Complex issues, simple solutions!

To see how a professional cook and shopper washes her produce watch this short video by Stacy Klone of Kitchen Werks. Good advice from a proven source!

p.s. If you get frustrated reading labels or don’t know where to find high quality, low cost natural based cleaning products, call Gene @ 651.261.0251 to talk about what Paco uses and approves.

1st graders healthier by using natural cleaning products

East Central Wisconsin

For 2 ½ months a substitute teacher took it upon herself to disinfect her classroom with a natural based, non toxic disinfectant, while influencing other1st grade teachers to do the same. The result, kids stopped becoming sick and classroom attendance underwent a dramatic improvement.

How in the world did this happen … Mrs. C., as previously reported in this blog (1st-grade-classroom-goes-green May, 2012) had previously experienced health improvements by cleaning her classroom with natural products. So as she moved into the role of substitute teacher, this was a natural thing to do.

In the spring of 2011 Mrs. C. retired from teaching, By the winter of 2012 she had accepted a substitute teaching position in her local community school system. After her very first week she realized she had major attendance issues in her classroom. Some days she had up to 8 students absent due to colds and flu.

Drawing on her previous experience she brought in Sol U Guard Botanical, the same natural based disinfectant she had used before. She immediately sprayed all of the surfaces in her classroom that the kids touched. Within 2 weeks her attendance started to improve.  Throwing caution to the wind she took bottles of the natural based disinfectant to each of the other 1st grade teachers and asked them to follow the same process she was using. She told me that she could tell things were happening because she could hear the squirting of the spray bottles as each classroom day ended.

The results after 2 ½ months … in the middle of February she had as many as 8 kids a day absent. By the end of April the entire 1st grade was experiencing their highest rate of attendance ever achieved, less than 1 student per week. While acknowledging that there are many factors that could be contributing to this improvement, it is the consensus of all of the 1st grade teachers that the natural based disinfectant was the main ingredient to the improvement. As one of the regular teachers commented; “our students are just not getting sick anymore”.

So how can you help … introduce me to a parent / teacher or principle that would be interested in hearing the details on how they can help improve their student attendance by being healthier.