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Clean Happens Blog

May 09

The Cost of Disease in Children Caused by Toxic Chemicals: $76.6 Billion in 2008


That's "Billion" with a "B." But, that's just the assigned dollar amount to the cost of disease. This doesn't address the human struggle and suffering that are associated with these diseases.

Mother's DayYesterday, my 4 year old daughter climbed up into my lap and told me Happy Mother's Day. She said she loves me because I keep her safe. Yeah. Chew on that one for a little while.

Now, I'm a pretty laid back parent. I'm by no means an alarmist. My pediatrician knows that if I'm actually calling, then there is really something wrong. I'm a free range-ish kind of mom, but let me tell you, friends, the alarm in my head is going off.  More and more evidence is mounting connecting our skyrocketing childhood cancer, autism, learning disorder, asthma, rates to the myriad of chemicals our children are exposed to everyday.

Last night all I could think about was the article I had read just a couple of days before. The authors, Leonardo Trasande and Yinghua Liu, looked at the costs of lead poisoning, mercury poisoning, asthma, ADD, autism, and childhood cancers, all of which are believed to have environmental causes. As in, the child wasn't born to have asthma, the environment she was born into contributed to her developing the disease.

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What enrages me is that I have for years put my faith in the Environmental Protection Agency. There is, after all, a Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that has been in effect since 1973. We wouldn't really have to worry about known carcinogens in our shampoos and lotions. Because, well, who would put known carcinogens in the things we put on our bodies? My naivete knew no bounds.

Do you know that the EPA has listed more than 84,000 chemicals manufactured, used, or imported in the U.S. into it's TSCA inventory? Do you know that the EPA is unable to publicly identify nearly 17,000 of these chemicals because the chemicals have been claimed as confidential business information under TSCA by the manufacturers? Did you know that of the thousands of chemicals approved by the EPA for widespread use, there were no required studies on toxicity? Of the 84,000+ chemicals in widespread use, only 10% have been reviewed for safety. There is a Voluntary Children's Chemical Evaluation Program that the chemical companies agreed to, to placate the EPA in 1998. Do you know that in the six years this program has been running only 6 chemicals have been reviewed? Not quite the thorough job that I had assumed was happening.

We have gone a long way to reducing chemical exposure in our house; from the food we eat, to the products we bathe with. So now what? How do I reduce the exposure to my children?

For one thing, I'm not buying that proprietary nonsense. Literally. If you won't tell me what is in the product you are selling me, I'm not buying it. Period. (Better Life has always listed all of our ingredients.) And remember, just because a product calls itself "GREEN" doesn't make it so.


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Secondly, I approached my children's school, where they spend the majority of their day, about eliminating the highly toxic, institutional cleaning products that are used in the building. I'm in the process of putting together a proposal for the school board to get the school switched to non-toxic, completely safe cleaning products. The proposal includes information regarding links to asthma and learning disabilities. (When I'm finished, I will post the proposal here so that you can also approach your children's school or daycare.)

And thirdly, I have written my congress members about rewriting the Toxic Substances Control Act.

While I know that I can't protect my children from everything, when there is a real, known, threat to their health and well-being, I can't sit idly by and not do what I can to eliminate it. The chemical environment has changed dramatically since we were children, this isn't a situation where we can say, "Well, I turned out ok!" Because the amount of chemical exposure for today's children is many times greater than what we faced. My daughter trusts me to keep her safe. I have to do the best I can.



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Posted by Kate Frowzy on May 09, 2011 5 Comments

Apr 02

Week 4 Project: Simplify- Fridge/Pantry


I've been participating in Simple Mom's Project:Simplify (except for last week, but I am still determined to clean the playroom) and so far it has been a great experience. I have loved having a direction and I have loved having a new organized/simplified space.  This week's project was very exciting for me, because as I have told you in the past, I am a total fridge voyeur.  So, I hope hope hope that you are going to participate, too and then post pictures on our Facebook page after you link them on Simple Mom's post.

Unfortunately for this project's needs, our refrigerator is filled and emptied on a weekly basis. So, it does not have a chance to build up many science experiments. I did wipe down all the shelves and drawers with What-EVER. This is such a great product for cleaning surfaces that come in contact with food. Why wash your produce or even buy organic and then put it into a container with toxic chemical residue?

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The stainless steel front I cleaned with Einshine, and I got to tell you that these pictures do not even begin to do this product justice. Honestly. Einshine blew me away and is the product that won me over to Better Life permanently. Mr. Frowzy likes to tease me because I will pull it out when we have guests over so I can show them how amazing it is. truly.

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The side had some kind of dried splatter on it that I sprayed with What-EVER and cleaned with a little scrub brush to get into the grooves of the texture. I certainly didn't actually "scrub."

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The pantry on the other hand was definitely do for a make-over. We have very little cabinet space so our big pantry is a hall closet right off the kitchen. Here at the Frowzy house we refer to this as the Y2K stash. It's where I put all of our bulk food purchases when I make them. This was a good time to clean it out because it is a little on the low side.
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After I removed everything I pitched a couple of opened boxes of pasta and put all the canned food except the beans (not much, but mostly canned tomatoes) into the food pantry donations. I have such mixed feelings about this. I am getting rid of the food because of the health consequences from BPA in the cans, and I'm donating them to people who are not only food insecure, but also medical care insecure. So often food pantry donations are unhealthy processed foods that exacerbate at risk people's health issues. But, I also don't want to just throw them in the trash.

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I diluted some What-EVER in a bucket and wiped down the shelves and floor. While doing that I discovered two odd things.

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a cache of Hershey's kisses from last Easter.

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And poor little Bitty Bear who had been in Time-out for God knows how long. (This actually totally creeped me out, but then I have a fear of evil toys that come to life to seek their revenge.)

I know it doesn't look much different, but believe me it is. My biggest challenge was the 3+ cases of baby food I got a great deal on. Those new squeeze packages are nice, but the boxes take up so much room. I decided to put a selection on the door rack and put the rest on the top shelf.
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My next step is to eliminate all of the plastic containers. I just haven't replaced them yet, and since my dishwasher just made a very ungraceful exit from this world (apparently just couldn't live without the stove that crapped out last month!) That investment is going to have to wait a little while.

I hope you participated in this week's project! You know I want to see the inside of your fridge and pantry! If you did, don't forget to post your pictures or blog links on Simple Mom's post and then again on our Facebook wall if you want to win a Starter Kit!

Posted by Kate Frowzy on April 02, 2011 2 Comments

Mar 18

Week 2 Project: SImplify...Paper Clutter


We are in Week 2 of Simple Mom's Project: Simplify. 5 weeks. 5 hot spots. Organized. This week's hot spot is paper clutter. Paper clutter is not a serious issue for me at the moment, but that's because I recycle pretty much everything. Even things I should probably give more of my attention to.  Still, I had two big paper clutter messes that I wanted to tackle. Both were tools that when implemented work effortlessly and perfectly. But, both had seen the neglect that comes post-partum and both needed to be whipped back into shape.

These are my two notebooks. My household notebook is on the left and my recipe notebook is on the right. The information in the household notebook has not been updated for a couple of years and various scraps of paper have been shoved into the front all willy nilly.  The recipe notebook has quite a backlog of recipes to be entered.

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My household notebook is a binder divided into eight sections and then several pages of business cards. Each section has a blank address page I printed from Organized Home, a double sided folder, and a clear sleeve (or two). It is such a great tool to keep all the pertinent information in one place as well as controlling the paper clutter. This is how I divided my notebook:

Bills: Has a clear zipper sleeve where I slip the bills after I have written them on my calendar. This section also has stamps and envelopes, in case I ever need them.

Helpful Numbers: This has our block list (info for all the peeps on my block), a sheet with various community phone numbers, and a sheet with all of the city service phone numbers.

Medical Info: This has an address page with all of the various doctors, dentists, orthodontists, counselors, pharmacies, etc. Plus photocopies of shot records.

School: This section has a general double-sided folder and then one for each child. The folders contain all of the information sheets that come home, supply lists, classroom lists etc.

Take Out: This section has an address page with the numbers of all of our favorite take out places and the clear sleeves are filled with menus and coupons.

Babysitter: This section has an address sheet that lists our sitters and an information page that contains all vital info the sitter might need.

Household Info: This address page lists all of the service people we have used and liked. The plumber, roofer, furnace guy, various contractors, etc. The folder is where I slip ideas from magazines that I think someday I will actually get around to doing to the house.

Kids' Activities: This address page has the phone numbers for piano teacher, YMCA, coaches etc. The double-sided folders hold schedules, receipts, brochures for possible future activities, etc.

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I realized while cleaning it out that among other useless papers, there were work invoices and quotes for the house from 2 years ago. The doctor information was very outdated. And there were bills from over a year ago.  I updated all of the phone numbers and cleaned out all the no longer relevant paper.  Now, it is back to being organized and useful.

Tired of keeping piles of magazines because there were a couple of recipes I wanted, but never actually going back to find them, I started my recipe notebook. It is a binder where I put all of the recipes I tear out of various magazines or print off the internet. I trim them and slip them into clear sleeves.

I would like to tell you that I have them organized in some sort of understandable manner, but the reality is that when I started the notebook I was more worried about fitting the recipes onto a page so their size mattered more than their dish type. Now 50 pages later and it will never be more organized than that because let's face it, I'm never going back and reordering the whole thing. Besides, flipping through to find a recipe, reminds me of the recipes I haven't tried or haven't cooked in awhile.

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I went and purchased some new sleeves and trimmed up all of the recipes I had piled up in the back of the binder and fit them into the sleeves. It is so nice not to have to worry about picking up the notebook and having a cascade of paper come tumbling out if I don't get a hold of it just right.

So, did you clear up your paper clutter? If you did be sure to post a link to Simple Mom's page for this week's project and then post your pictures on our Facebook page to get a chance at winning a Starter Kit.

Posted by Kate Frowzy on March 18, 2011 3 Comments

Mar 04

Joining "Project: Simplify"


The Frowzy House is joining Simple Mom and her get ready for Spring organizational binge called Project: Simplify.

I'm pretty excited about this! For the next 5 weeks Simple Mom will be guiding us through 5 hot spots to declutter and organize. Each Monday she will tell us our project and then on Friday we will post the picture of our before and after.  I really like the idea of being told what to do (for 5 weeks), knowing that I am not alone doing the tasks, and being given a definite deadline. These are all PERFECT for the ADD house that we live in. Plus, organizing these hot spots is perfect prep work for the big SPRING CLEAN.

If you post your pictures on the Simple Mom Flickr page or write a post about it on your blog, you will be entered to win a weekly prize from Simple Mom.  You can see the guidelines on her website. Click the button above/

If you post a picture on our Facebook Page, we will pick a weekly Starter Kit winner, as well. If you participate in all 5 weeks, you'll be entered to win a YEAR SUPPLY OF BETTER LIFE.

So get ready! We start on Monday March 7th!

Posted by Kate Frowzy on March 04, 2011 1 Comment

Dec 06

Housekeeping and ADD: Clutter


When a person with ADD talks about clutter, they are talking, believe it or not, about an organizational system. A flawed system, to be sure. But a system nonetheless. For us, the whole "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" thing is not just a handy expression, it's real ya'll.

It's the reason that the library books that I kept all in one place on a top shelf so that we wouldn't lose any of them back in May...are still sitting on that cursed shelf.  It's the reason that my husband's doctoral paper that I promised to read and edit and so I slipped it into my work bag (where I wouldn't lose it) two weeks ago, only just this morning got read and edited after Mr. Frowzy had a good righteous pout. It's the reason that the cell phone bill that I filed away in a lovely little "to be paid" folder wasn't remembered until I reached for my phone to call my dear mother and there was no service. Again. These things were literally out of sight and therefore completely out of mind.

So, we ADDers leave things laying around in plain sight. But, the irony of that is once you start leaving several things laying around in plain sight, before long it looks like this:

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Of course, the irony is that there is no longer anything in plain sight. And all I have is a huge eyesore full of clutter. And let me tell you, this guy's tail enthusiastically trotting through the room can wipe half of that mess onto the floor in the blink of an eye...er, the wag of a tail.

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Now, you might think that we ADDers don't like neatness or thrive on disorder, and well we might tell ourselves and you that, the deep, dark truth is that I crave order and structure like I do those sea salt caramels they sell at the Farmer's Market. I have spent more money on books about organization and reducing clutter than I care to admit, because it got me absolutely nowhere. Again, I wallowed in failure, and embarrassment, and shame because they made it sound so easy and I really, really wanted to be a grow-up. If only I would just put out more effort.

Once I realized that defeating the ADD was not going to happen and that an organizational fairy godmother wasn't going to flit by and transform me into a glass slippered neat freak (but how cool would that be!), I decided to work with my ADD. And find out what I need to make things happen. And on time.

As I said in my article on ADD and cleaning, you will probably have to find out what really works for you. And if you have children who have ADD or you are suspicious might have it, try to think in these ways for them as well. For instance, we have lockers in our foyer. On the boys' locker is a magnetic clip with Oliver's homework he left on the desk and he needs to remember to take in. On the girls' locker are the forms to hold Eleanor and Fiona's place in preschool for next year that I need to remember to take in. (Yes, those stickers will be a future Whatever Wednesday.)

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(And don't be fooled by those big blue eyes. She'd kill you as soon as look you. well, at least mess up your place real good.) If I left these in an "out file" on the desk, they would stay there f.o.r.e.v.e.r. This is my tidiest way of keeping things in sight and organized so they can go out the door to where they need to be.

Before Eleanor (we'll call that B.E.), I kept a basket at the front door on a little table. I would put everything I needed to take somewhere in the basket, so that on my errand running day I would just pick up the basket and take it to the car with me. It worked beautifully and those cursed library books wouldn't still be on that cursed shelf. I have yet to find another similar way that is Eleanor proof.

The same OSOM issue works with my school and work stuff, too. I have lovely calendars and planning notebooks that have lots of lovely events and plans written in them. But, once the cover is closed it's Out of Sight. So, I make sure that my assignments are never Out of Sight.

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On the left hand side of my computer screen there is a super cool post-it note that has my weeks' worth of work on it.  I have no choice but to look at the darn thing clucking its disapproval at me every time I answer another Facebook quiz instead of doing my work. (Yes, that is 52oz of icy cold Dr. Pepper goodness. Don't judge. It's a part of the creative process. and yes, that is 16lbs of chubby baby delightfulness. He makes darling noises when you squeeze him. And why YES that is the Better Life Twitter page! What? You don't follow us?! *gasp*)

If you were to come into my kitchen, you would find a giant calendar that has everything written on it, including the bills and their amounts due on their due dates. And yes, that gets transferred to my post-it note so I can pay the bill online. Next to the calendar there is also a bulletin board, that can start to look pretty cluttered, that has other essential and timely papers on it that need to say in my mind.

Information that I want to keep but put out of mind until I need it, go into my household notebook.  Coupons and menus for take out, handyman's phone number, school information etc all goes into one place. It's truly been a godsend. (And needs to be cleaned out at the moment.)

This is how we combat needed stuff so it doesn't become clutter. The rest gets tossed and recycled.  When dealing with a surface, you have to be ruthless. Clutter is a fertile little thing that reproduces quickly once given permission. The first thing that you allow to settle on a surface is just going to give permission to other things to settle on there, too. I have a drawer and my husband has a drawer. When his stuff lands on the buffet, it gets stuck in his drawer. That way if he can't find something, chances are good that it's in that drawer. Same with my stuff.

One major source of clutter is school. So much cursed paper! Each of the school age kids has bin in our art room. They choose what they want to keep and put it in the bin. If the bin gets full, they have to cut back on the "keepers."

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These are some of the ways that we combat the clutter and work with the ADD. We aren't always perfect by any stretch, because as I said before, ADD works in cycles. but, 80% of the time we have most of the clutter under control. You can embrace your ADD through trial and error until you find a way that works for you.

Posted by Kate Frowzy on December 06, 2010 7 Comments

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