POSTED ON BEHALF OF BETH JIMERSON
Take a look at the alarming picture above. It points out the large number of chemicals that most of us come into contact with on a daily basis. How many chemicals do you recognize or come into contact with every day?
Not only do the chemicals found in everyday household and beauty products harm our bodies, but they also harm the environment. After being awakened to the alarming number of chemicals found in everyday products that we actually put onto our bodies on a daily basis, I decided to do some research into what exactly those harmful chemicals were, in order to avoid them. I then decided to go one step further to find natural ways to produce my own products as alternatives both to get away from the commercialism involved in beauty products and also to save some money, and the environment! Although this started out on more of a personal journey to health and well-being, I started to see the bigger picture of creating less waste and allowing fewer chemicals into our environment. The link below shows one of the websites that I found most useful and interesting, though there are many if you search around:
The chart (perhaps minus the half-naked model) could be used to exemplify some of the harmful chemicals that we come in contact with on a daily basis and start dialogue about what other products might contain these chemicals (such as cleaning products?). As the beginning of a lesson, students could check out the labels of products they use daily or ones that are in their cupboards for any of the above chemicals. They will probably be surprised at the amount of chemicals they come into contact with on a daily basis! They could then look at natural alternatives and decide what natural products have which properties. For example, one of the products often found in natural beauty aid is lavender. A quick search even on Wikipedia highlights the benefits of lavender as:
believed to soothe insect bites, burns, and headaches. Bunches of lavender repel insects. In pillows, lavender seeds and flowers aid sleep and relaxation. An infusion of flowerheads added to a cup of boiling water is used to sooth and relax at bedtime. Lavender oil (or extract of Lavender) is used to treat acne when diluted 1:10 with water, rosewater, or witch hazel; it also treats skin burns and inflammatory conditions. A recent clinical study investigated anxiolytic effects and influence on sleep quality. Lavender oil with a high percentage of linalool and linalyl acetate, in the form of capsules, was generally well tolerated. It showed meaningful efficacy in alleviating anxiety and related sleep disturbances.Lavender can be used to treat different types of cancers, such as, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, and liver cancer. Although it has not been completely proven that lavender is effective towards these cancers, many studies have shown that lavender has led to disease stabilization or tumor regression.Lavender may be very effective with wounds; however, Lavender Honey (created from bees feeding on lavender plants), instead of lavender essential oil has the best effects of uninfected wounds. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavender)
Students can explore using the recipes in the website, finding their own websites, or even experimenting with developing their own natural products through careful research on the different properties of natural products. It is important to point out that there can be negative effects of certain products as well, and allergies related to them. Even something as seemingly innocuous as lavender has shown to have the following negative effects:
In vitro, lavender oil is cytotoxic. It increases photosensitivity as well. Lavender oil is cytotoxic to human skin cells in vitro (endothelial cells and fibroblasts) at a concentration of 0.25%. Linalool, a component of lavender oil, may be its active component. Aqueous extracts reduced mitotic index, but induced chromosomal aberrations and mitotic aberrations in comparison with control, significantly. Aqueous extracts induced breaks, stickiness, pole deviations and micronuclei. These effects were related to extract concentrations.
However, according to a 2005 study “although it was recently reported that lavender oil, and its major constituent linalyl acetate, are toxic to human skin cells in vitro, contact dermatitis to lavender oil appears to occur at only a very low frequency. The relevance of this in vitro toxicity to dermatological application of lavender oils remains unclear.”
In terms of phototoxicity, a 2007 investigative report from European researchers stated that, “Lavender oil and sandalwood oil did not induce photohaemolysis in our test system. However, a few reports on photosensitivity reactions due to these substances have been published, e.g. one patient with persistent light reaction and a positive photo-patch test to sandalwood oil.”
In 2007, a study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine which indicated that studies in human cell lines indicated that both lavender oil and tea tree oil had estrogenic and antiandrogenic activities. They concluded that repeated topical exposure to lavender and tea tree oils probably caused prepubertal gynaecomastia in some boys. The Aromatherapy Trade Council of the UK has issued a rebuttal,  and it is also disputed by the Australian Tea Tree Association, a group that promotes the interests of Australian tea tree industry.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavender)
Also keep in mind that more extensive research can be done on the properties of such oils.
This exercise or one similar to it touches on the pillars of exploring approaches to peace by looking at peace as an environmental standpoint, and skill building by building, practicing and adopting life skills that bring about peace through attention to our environment. As is stated in our module on peace through environmental education, many agree that “life on Earth has entered its most precarious phase in history.” Environmental education considers how to balance respect for nature and its sustained health with human needs. While we might argue that we need certain products to feel good and feel good about ourselves, there are options to do so without harming our bodies or the environment. I challenge everyone to try just one of these recipes and cut out some amount of harmful chemicals from our daily routines not just for the environment, but for ourselves!