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From the Townsend Letter
December 2007


Health Risks & Environmental Issues
Rose Marie Williams, MA

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For the past eight years, this column has focused on helping readers recognize the myriad ways in which we are exposed to toxic substances in our daily lives – from pesticides on food, toxic chemicals in personal care products, EMF exposure from cell phones, and other assaults to our health in the modern world. The intent is not only to raise awareness, but also to empower readers to make wiser choices in the marketplace. As my dear friend and colleague Helena Baldyga always says, "The consumer votes with their dollar." This holiday season I hope to empower readers to let their dollars vote when they shop for gifts for their families, friends, and associates. Buying healthful products for those we care about increases the value of the gift. It also sends a message to corporate America that we care about the products we use, the health of those involved in the manufacturing process, and the long-term effects on the environment.

Whether the recipient is a spouse, child, aging parent, cherished friend, colleague, teacher, or staff person, you can find many ways of improving upon the usual flowers or candy, as well as discovering more unusual choices, like EMF protectors, organic food, clothing, cosmetics, and more. Gift shopping takes place all year long with births and birthdays, graduations and retirements, engagements, weddings, and anniversaries. Once we begin to think about healthier gift giving, it becomes a mission, at least for some of us.

Organic Flowers
A gift of flowers brings joy to everyone. Unfortunately, most consumers don't realize how toxic commercially raised flowers can be. A high percentage of cut flowers are raised in Central and South America, where temperatures are moderate and labor is cheap. Pesticide exposure to workers is seldom regulated, nor is pesticide contamination of local soil and water sources.

Local florists who handle the flowers are also exposed to toxic pesticides. I shudder to think how many beautiful wedding cakes are decorated with pesticide-laden flowers, and no one gives it a second thought. A much better solution is to purchase organic flowers that minimize damage to the ecosystem, improve conditions for farm workers, and are more healthful for the recipient.

Several months ago, I received an organic bouquet of the most outrageously colored roses from my daughter for my birthday. She knows I like bright colors, and these were exquisite. The company, Organic Bouquet (, 1-877-899-2468) ships flowers directly from the farm and guarantees "at least seven days of garden fresh beauty." In my bouquet, two of the roses began to wither around the fifth day, so I phoned the company, and to my surprise, they sent another full bouquet, which extended my enjoyment of the flowers for a second full week.

One would hope that hospitals would start carrying organic flowers, instead of exposing patients to more toxic chemicals. Health care professionals who like to keep fresh flowers in their waiting rooms and offices might consider voting with their dollar for organic bouquets, with a handy supply of business cards that patients could pick up for ordering their own organic flowers. Another company that offers a selection of organic flowers, as well as organic seasonal fruit and organic chocolate, is (530-981-6265). Their flowers are cut fresh in the early morning for next-day arrival.

Organic Foods
When choosing an appropriate gift becomes overwhelming, gift certificates are simple and welcome solutions. Since everyone eats, gift certificates to a local health food store where recipients can happily choose their own gifts are always appreciated. Wise shoppers already familiar with health food stores will truly value such a gift, and for others, it can provide an opportunity to a whole new world of healthful exploration.

Organic foods are healthier for the consumer, agricultural workers, and the environment. Avoiding toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and genetically modified foods is one way we can help others and ourselves. Where access to health food stores is limited, the following mail order companies offer a large variety of healthful selections. While not endorsing any particular company, I offer several suggestions for readers' convenience.

The Grain & Salt Society (, 800-867-7258) offers high quality Celtic sea salt, plus specialty oils, condiments, organic nut butters, jams, pickling crocks, spices, juicers, personal care products, and much more. Natural Lifestyles (, 800-752-2775) carries a wide variety of organic dried beans, grains, herbs, teas, Fair-Trade coffee, and condiments; bakeware, pressure cookers, woks, and beverage bottles made of stainless steel; personal care products, water purifiers, organic clothing, cookbooks, and more. Breaking the plastic water bottle habit by switching to stainless steel, or another metal, is a great way to reduce plastic chemicals from one's diet.

LILIPOH, which stands for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, is a quarterly publication representing the anthroposophic approach to health, education, agriculture, and nutrition. They offer three websites for finding local organic and biodynamic produce,, and Natural Zing (, 410-379-6174) sells organic wild-crafted food, raw and vegan food, and health-related products.

Mountain Rose Herbs (, 800-879-3337) sells organic herbs and teas in bulk, plus 4,000 other natural and organic products. A unique item for the younger set is their wild-crafted board game that teaches about medical herbs and the importance of cooperative teamwork. The Strand Tea Company (, 888-718-6358) offers 100 fresh organic and regular teas. Peace Coffee (, 888-324-7872) sells shade-grown, organic, 100% Fair-Trade coffee.

Gluten-Free Foods and Organic Pet Supplies
For the increasing number of individuals who are gluten-intolerant, a special treat they can enjoy would be most welcomed. Grandpa Po's ( sells Nutra Nuts, crunchy organic popcorn snacks with soybeans that are gluten, dairy, and GMO free. Shop Natural ( offers 5,000 natural and organic grocery, health, and beauty items, including gluten-free foods and pet care items. N.E.E.D.S. (, 800-634-1380) offers a wide selection of gluten-free foods and pet care items. Pet Guard Organics ( offers organic food, supplements, and grooming products for cats and dogs. They do not use wheat gluten or source ingredients from China.

Organic Wines
Wine is a very popular holiday gift item. Health-conscious consumers are learning about the many benefits of grapes. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and easily digestible sugars and have long been recognized for their cleansing properties. In some cultures, the grape diet has been touted for its therapeutic benefits. Grapes are grown with a lot of pesticides, and many consumers are sensitive to sulfites. Organic wines are great to give and to receive.

In the Finger Lakes area of New York, the small Four Chimneys Organic Winery (, 607-243-8156) introduced organic wines in 1980. In Kettle Falls, Washington, the China Bend Winery (, 800-700-6123) offers organic unsulfited wines. The Organic Wine Company (, 888-326-9463) guarantees 100% satisfaction of their wines, claiming they are well-tolerated by the chemically sensitive.

Raising organic production a notch higher is biodynamic farming, which is even more eco-friendly, working with nature on all levels of planting and harvesting. Two wineries run by the Benziger brothers in the Sonoma Valley area of California raise biodynamic grapes. The Benziger Family Winery (, 800-490-2739) offers eight biodynamically prepared wines. The Imagery Estate Winery and Art Gallery (, 877-550-4278) sells biodynamic, organic, and sustainably grown varieties. The Cooper Mountain Winery in Beavertown, Oregon (, 503-649-0027) is another small winery offering organic and biodynamic wines.

Natural and Organic Personal Care Products
A gift certificate for organic make-up or personal care products is sure to please any young (or not so young) woman on your shopping list. These items tend to be a little pricier than what is available in the discount department stores that flaunt tempting colorful lipsticks, nail polishes, and eye make-up filled with toxic ingredients. Giving organic body care products is a wonderful way to help people we care about avoid inhaling, ingesting, or absorbing harmful chemicals such as paraben preservatives, anti-microbial pesticides, and petroleum-based dyes and fragrances.

The following list is a mere sampling of the growing number of companies meeting consumer demand for organic or synthetic free products:

  • AUBREY Organics ( was one of the first companies offering organic cosmetics.
  • Miessence ( cosmetics are both "Australian Certified Organic" and "USDA Organic."
  • offers a selection of 300 cosmetics, toothpaste, household cleaners, and personal care products for men, women, babies, and pets.
  • Dr. Bronner's ( offers a line of organic lotions, balms, and soaps.
  • MyChelle Dermaceuticals LLC (, 800-447-2076) offers skin products, plus lip, cheek, and eye colors that are free of toxic synthetic ingredients.
  • Herbalix Restoratives (, 866-387-4222) sells chemical-free products for hair care, massage, men, sports, and dance, plus products and treats for pets.
  • The Druide Company (, 800-537-8433) in Canada carries all natural balms, shampoos, conditioners, and gels.

Gifts for Babies and Chemically Sensitive Individuals
Many personal care products, including those used on babies and children contain harsh or toxic ingredients, including estrogen-mimicking chemicals that are endocrine disruptors. A good supply of baby-friendly products makes a great gift for new mothers.

Parenting By Nature (, 800-537-8433) offers 100% chemical-free organic baby care products, diapers, sleepware, baby carriers, and a lot more. Eco-Beauty Organics' (, 208-267-9819) products are designed for delicate baby skin. Organic baby clothing and linens are available from Gaiam (, 800-869-3446).

Cell Phone Protecters
You can hardly find an American youth walking around without a cell phone or iPod stuck to his or her ear. The EMF controversy rages on, with industry and government denying any health risks, while a growing body of scientific research from outside the United States appears to disagree. No one is willing to give up their cell phone or iPod for health reasons, and trying to convince young people to limit their use is futile. What to do? Err on the side of caution, and use an EMF harmonizer.

Several companies sell little button harmonizers that attach to electronic devices, such as cell phones, iPods, computers, TVs, large appliances, cars, and more. The devices do not eliminate the electro-magnetic frequencies (EMFs), but alter them to harmonize with the body's own frequency.

EMF harmonizers are available from, 800-370-3447 and, 800-500-9395. Q-link is a personal EMF protector that can be worn around the neck. It is available from, 800-634-1380.

The N.E.E.D.S. company (, 800-634-1380) carries hundreds of products for healthful living, including air and water purifiers, gentle household cleaners and bedding for the chemically sensitive, books on health, plus vitamins and supplements at discount prices. More environmentally friendly products for the home, including furnishings, shower filters, organic linens and clothing are available from Gaiam (, 800-869-3446).

The Cutting Edge Catalog (, 800-497-9516) carries a huge variety of healthful items, including products for vision therapy, natural home and garden products, light & color therapy, air and water purifiers, energy testers, personal care, and more.

It may be helpful to keep a copy of these websites handy for future gift buying. As consumers, we vote with our dollars. I hope that this holiday shopping season more of us will vote by buying products that help sustain our health as well as the health of workers around the world and that of the eco-system.

Rose Marie Williams, MA
156 Sparkling Ridge Road, New Paltz, NY 12561


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