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

Health Complications Originating in the Respiratory System

Respiratory diseases & air quality

Respiratory diseases & air quality

Several times every minute, you draw air into your lungs so it can harvest oxygen, which allows you to live. When human beings experience problems with the respiratory system, your body is not capable of harvesting oxygen efficiently, causing the body to develop varying degrees of distress. Illness is soon to follow.

To deepen your understanding of respiratory illnesses, I have included a list of the most common conditions or diseases.

Adult respiratory distress syndrome, ARDS, wet lung, white lung – acute lung injury characterized by coughing and rales; inflammation of the lungs which become stiff and fibrous and cannot exchange oxygen; occurs among persons exposed to irritants such as corrosive chemical vapors or ammonia or chlorine, etc.

Pertussis, whooping cough – a disease of the respiratory mucous membrane

Cold, common cold – a mild viral infection involving the nose and respiratory passages (but not the lungs); Will they never find a cure for the common cold?

Asthma, asthma attack, bronchial asthma – respiratory disorder characterized by wheezing; usually of allergic origin

Bronchitis – inflammation of the membranes lining the bronchial tubes

Emphysema, pulmonary emphysema – an abnormal condition of the lungs marked by decreased respiratory function; associated with smoking or chronic bronchitis or old age

Pneumonia – respiratory disease characterized by inflammation of the lung parenchyma (excluding the bronchi) with congestion caused by viruses or bacteria or irritants

Atypical pneumonia, mycoplasmal pneumonia, primary atypical pneumonia – an acute respiratory disease marked by high fever and coughing; caused by mycoplasma; primarily affecting children and young adults

Interstitial pneumonia – chronic lung disease affecting the interstitial tissue of the lungs

Pneumoconiosis, pneumoconiosis – chronic respiratory disease caused by inhaling metallic or mineral particles

Hyaline membrane disease, respiratory distress syndrome, respiratory distress syndrome of the newborn – an acute lung disease of the newborn (especially the premature newborn); lungs cannot expand because a wetting agent is lacking; characterized by rapid, shallow breathing and cyanosis and the formation of a glassy hyaline membrane over the alveoli

SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome – a respiratory disease of unknown etiology that apparently originated in mainland China in 2003; characterized by fever and coughing or difficulty breathing or hypoxia; can be fatal

Cough, coughing – a sudden noisy expulsion of air from the lungs that clears the air passages; a common symptom of upper respiratory infection or bronchitis or pneumonia or tuberculosis

Indoor air quality is two to five times more polluted than outside air, and we spend 90% of our time inside our homes, workplaces and other buildings. It’s time to take charge of your life; start now on living a chemical-free lifestyle! 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


A Fresh Approach to Living an Organic Lifestyle

Gene WoodIn case you’ve been wondering, I didn’t mean to take a sabbatical from writing my blog at Life’s Pure Balance . . . but considering the fact that I’ve not posted since February, I guess I did it anyway. Of course, sometimes a sabbatical is necessary for rejuvenation, especially when it’s time to clarify direction, and that’s just what I’ve been doing. During the blogging break, I’ve had the pleasure of hosting an intern who has been working by my side and helping me to consider a new perspective.

Since you heard from me last, I’ve been working on a fresh approach, not only for the blog, but for my business in general. So . . . prepare yourself! Life’s Pure Balance is about to begin showing a new side. You’ll continue hearing from me about natural household cleaning products like botanical disinfectant, improving your health through organic living, and child-safe, pet-safe cleaning products.

You’ll also be reading more about carcinogens in cleaning products and the negative effects of hazardous cleaning products, organic housecleaning products and techniques, and making your own cleaning products.

With the changes, I’d appreciate your input. Maybe you’ve experienced an allergic-like reaction to household chemicals, or perhaps you just want to know the best way to wash fresh fruits and vegetables. Do you have concerns about your child’s or pet’s safety when it comes to household cleaners? Please contact me to request a specific blog topic. Paco and I will get right on it.

— Gene Wood, Life’s Pure Balance