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From the Townsend Letter
December 2008

Health Risks & Environmental Issues
by Rose Marie Williams, MA

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Healthful Gift Ideas
With the current economic crisis, no one wants to waste money on frivolous purchases or unappreciated gifts. This holiday season we can vote with each dollar we spend by purchasing healthful products for everyone on our gift list. This also sends a message to corporate America that we care about the products we use, the health of those involved in the manufacture process, and the long-term effects on the environment. The focus of this column has to been to inform readers of the many ways we are exposed to toxins in our environment from pesticides on food, toxic chemicals in personal care products, EMF exposures from cell phones, hazards of plastics and Teflon, and other assaults to our health. The intent is to raise awareness and empower consumers to make wiser choices in the market place. Choosing healthful, organic, Fair Trade products benefits everyone on our gift list, as well as workers and the environment.

Products from China have been a major cause of concern in recent months. First, it was contaminated pet food and tainted pharmaceuticals. Then, it was lead in children's toys and jewelry. Now, it is the milk scandal. The banned toxic chemical melamine, normally used in plastics and fertilizer, was added to milk powder to boost the milk's apparent protein content. The tainted baby formula has sickened over 6,000 infants in China, causing kidney stones and renal failure in children and killing four babies.1,2 This serves to make us all the more vigilant about the products we buy.

Whether we are shopping for a gift for a spouse, child, aging parent, friend, colleague, teacher, or staff member, there are many ways to improve upon the usual flowers or candy. More unusual but very useful gifts include EMF protectors, organic foods, 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 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 soil and water. Florists who handle the flowers in the United States are also exposed to toxic pesticides, as are the individual recipients who handle the flowers again when removing them from the box, trimming, and placing them in a vase. 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.

Last year, I received an organic bouquet of the most outrageously colored roses that my daughter ordered for a special occasion. The company, Organic Bouquet (, 1-877-899-2468) ships flowers directly from the farm and guarantees at least seven days of garden fresh beauty. They also offer organic fruit, cheese, wine, cookies, tea, wreaths, tea, and gift sets. Health care professionals who like to keep fresh flowers in their waiting rooms and offices might wish to 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, 530-891-6265. Their flowers are cut fresh in the early morning for next-day arrival.

Buying organic flowers helps support a healthy bee population, which is of utmost importance at a time when honeybee colonies are suffering severe losses around the world from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Much of the food crops we eat depend on honeybees for pollination. Buying local honey helps local beekeepers stay in business. Beware of cheap imports, especially from China where products have been adulterated with sugar substitutes and toxic ingredients. Buying organic honey is an even better choice.

Organic Foods
When choosing an appropriate gift becomes overwhelming, gift certificates are simple and welcomed solutions. Since everyone eats, a gift certificate to a local health food store where the recipients can happily choose their own gifts is 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 a great way to help ourselves and others. 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, several suggestions are made available for readers' convenience.

The Grain & Salt Society (, 800-867-7258) offers high quality Celtic sea salt, 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, and personal care products, water purifiers, organic clothing, cookbooks, and more. They carry bakeware, pressure cookers, and Silit ( enameled cookware from Germany, a high-tech ceramic fused over durable steel eliminating the transfer of chemicals into cooked food.

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 (, (888-729-9464) sells organic wild-crafted food, raw and vegan food, and health-related products, including goji berries, nut butters, organic olives, maca, bulk items, and gift and sampler packs.

Mountain Rose Herbs (, 800-879-3337) sells organic herbs and teas in bulk, plus 4,000 other natural and organic products. Unique items for the younger set are their books and 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 biodynamic and regular teas, gift certificates, tea samplers, teapots, and accessories. They even carry organic caffeine-free catnip.

Peace Coffee (, 888-324-7872) sells shade grown, organic, 100% Fair Trade coffee beans purchased from small farm cooperatives around the world. They even use delivery trucks that run on biodiesel fuel (vegetable oil) to further their message of peace.

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.

Gluten-free ready-to-cook meals, sides, and baked goods, meals for children with autism or for celiacs, and casein-free products are available from, 888-700-5610.

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, which are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and easily digestible sugars and have long been recognized for their cleansing properties. 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 is the small Four Chimneys Organic Winery (, 607-243-7502), which introduced organic wines in 1980. In Kettle Falls, Washington, is the China Bend Winery (, 800-700-6123), which offers organic unsulfited wine, organic salsas, pickles, and jams from their own organic gardens. 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 since its methods work with nature on all levels of planting and harvesting. Two wineries in the Sonoma Valley area of California run by the Benziger brothers raise biodynamic grapes. The Benzinger Family Winery (, 888-490-2739) 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 and balsamic vinegar.

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." (also
  • 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.

Babies and Chemically Sensitive Individuals
Many personal care products, including those used on babies and children, contain harsh or toxic ingredients – for example, 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, sleepwear, 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, 877-989-6321.

Cell Phone Protectors
You can hardly find an American youth walking around without a cell phone or iPod stuck to their ear or without their thumbs rapidly text messaging in the new-age shorthand. The electromagnetic frequency (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. Finally, experts in our own country are beginning to speak out about the often-denied health risks.

"Limit cell phone use because of the possible risk of cancer," is a recent warning issued to faculty and staff at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute by Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director.3 Toronto's department of public health has issued a warning for teenagers and young children to limit cell phone use to reduce potential health risks, a first of its kind in Canada.4 No one seems to be willing to give up his or her 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, I-Pods, computers, TVs, household appliances, cars, and more. The devices do not eliminate the EMFs but alter them to harmonize with the body's own frequency.

EMF harmonizers are available from, 800-370-3447,, 800-500-9395, and, 800-867-7258. Q-link is a personal EMF protector that can be worn around the neck. It is available from, 800-634-1380.

Break the Plastic Water Bottle Habit
Plastic is everywhere in the modern world, and so are the health risks associated with the chemicals that leach into our food and water from discarded plastic. One simple bold move is to substitute the ubiquitous plastic water bottles with safer stainless steel water containers. They are available at some sporting goods stores and from the following sources:, 800-634-1380;, 831-600-7744;, 800-919-2400; and, 800-752-2775.

Besides reducing personal health risks from plastic chemicals leaching into our drinking water, this simple act alone will reduce oil consumption resulting from the manufacture and transportation of bottled water; reduce toxic dioxins, which are the unwanted byproduct of manufacturing and incinerating plastics; and reduce tons of plastic accumulation in landfills. Consider buying a case of stainless steel water bottles to give as a goodwill gesture to those you care about who are still using plastic water bottles.

The N.E.E.D.S. company (, 800-634-1380) carries hundreds of products for healthy 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.

Another source of environmentally friendly products for the home, including furnishings, organic linens, clothing, shower filters, air and water quality products, energy-saving products, and media, is, 877-989-6321.

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

There are many more sources of healthful and environmentally friendly products that would make excellent gifts. It may be helpful to keep a copy of these websites handy for future gift buying. As consumers, we vote every day with our dollars. It is hoped 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 the ecosystem.

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

1. Behind bad baby milk, an ethical gap in China's business.
CS Monitor [online]. Available at: Accessed September 17, 2008
2. China milk scandal spreads to Hong Kong.
Poughkeepsie Jrnl. September 22, 2008. Poughkeepsie, New York.
3. Cancer institute chief issues cell phone alert.
Times Herald-Record. July 24, 2008, Middletown, New York.
4. Why children and teens should stay away from cell phones. Available at: Accessed August 13, 2008.




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