Posts Tagged ‘whole living tips’

Can Hanukkah Candles Poison You?

A Hanukkah Menorah

Silver Menorah by Ladislav Faigl used under CC license Wikimedia Commons.

Petroleum paraffin wax candles, of which most Hanukkah and Christmas candles are made, contain a slew of chemicals not meant for human inhalation–especially not inhalation by small children or those of us with sensitive respiratory systems such as expectant mothers, the elderly, those with asthma and allergies, and pets.

Paraffin wax, aka petroleum paraffin, emit toluenebenzeneformaldehyde and soot. The first three chemicals are carcinogens, neurotoxins, and reproductive toxins while soot acts as a respiratory irritant and contains suspected carcinogens.

Furthermore, many candles, especially those made outside the United States though also including some made within the U.S., have metal core wicks made of pure lead or lead-containing alloys such as commercial-grade zinc (the same alloy recommended as a lead wick replacement by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission).

Each of these substances release into the air when such candles burn.

Luckily, plenty of safer Hanukkah and Christmas candle alternatives exist which reduce or eliminate these harmful air pollutants including vegetable wax, beeswax, and olive oil lamps.


To learn more about the harm of petroleum-based chemicals and to find vegetable wax (including soy) and beeswax Hanukkah candles and olive oil lamp menorah cups, visit my more in-depth Squidoo page:

Keep Your Family Safe This December With Healthier Hanukkah Candles


Remember: Science is now finding that many man-made chemicals we’ve used for years is harmful to our health. We can’t eliminate everything all at once and will live in fear if we try to do so. I suggest taking things with stride and replacing one thing as a time as we buy new things and replace the old. Make your next candle purchase your next step.

Healthy Child Tip 62: Not All Candles Are Created Equal
Quick Tips: Enjoy Healthy Holidays


Energy Audit & Efficient-izing My Home: TO DOs

Visit Home Green Home's Website

Two weeks ago I invited Joe Page, Home Performance Specialist from Home Green Home, into my home to take a look around and tell me what I could do to make my home more energy-efficient. According to the company, our homes consume 60% of the energy that people consume and 20-40% of that energy is wasted; I wanted to fix these problems as soon as possible and especially before our first St. Louis winter in our new home. The energy audit took about an hour and a half and included a blower door test, thermal photography, visual and smoke inspections, and combustion safety analyses.

I knew my new home wasn’t efficient—it’s rarely comfortable in every room at the same time—but I laughed a little after the blower door test when Joe told me how much our house leaked air. An efficient home replaces about 25-30% of its air an hour, he said. Mine? 104%. Not the worst Joe had seen, but not good.

We couldn’t get into the attic (no entryway—I know; our new house is strange in other ways, too), but he showed me thermal images showing that there was, in fact, insulation in the slanted ceiling walls, though he couldn’t be for certain whether anyone installed insulation in the top of the roof.

Part of the air problem, he told me, lies with a lack of insulation between the lower portion of the gable roof and the inside of our home. We’d need to either attempt to create a block, seal it, and spray paper insulation around it—a challenging and probably messy but not impossible DIY task—or let a professional handle that one.

Things we could do ourselves:

  • Seal the leaks in our HVAC duct system (okay, technically he didn’t suggest this because I knew it needed doing  and so took care of this a week before he came by)
  • Install an insulation blanket around our gas water heater and add pipe insulation to the first five feet of hot and cold water lines (check!)
  • expanding foam sealant around a hose

    I sprayed expanding foam sealant in a large gap in the wood paneling around a hose in my utility room. After it dried I used my fingers to break off the pieces that stuck out. Not the prettiest job, I know, but it was quick...and it's in my utility room anyway.

    Caulk gaps in window and door trim and sills and spray and expanding foam sealant in larger gaps such as in the hole made in the wood paneling for our dryer (check!)

  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm on the second floor (check! we already had one on the first floor)
  • Have a qualified HVAC contractor install a return register on the second floor
  • Insulate around the outlets and switches on outside walls and the switch in our stairway (optional) (check! This is nitpicking, he said, but I did it anyway)

Other things I’m taking into account: the safety of the foam crack and gap sealant. The foam Joe recommended, Great Stuff, had danger warning all over it, and one thing I know about those warnings is that companies don’t want to put them on there unless they have too, and governmental regulatory agencies, affected by politics, tells a company when they must put a label in a product. If a warning says “use gloves” or “use in a well ventilated area,” take heed. I looked for a safer, more environmentally sound foam sealant and I found a foam at sears called Max Fill. It had fewer warnings, made with renewable resources and less petroleum, and claimed to be an eco-friendly air sealing foam. I don’t know if I’d call it eco-friendly, but I would call it a better option than my alternative. As the can prescribed, I wore gloves and safety glasses. (If you know of a better expanding foam sealant, please let me know in the comments.)

Up For Discussion

Does a safe, eco-friendly expanding foam sealant exist? How about joint compound? What other home improvement products have a safe, safer, or eco-friendly equivalent?

The Whole LIFE

The Whole LIFE details my attempts at living intentionally for excellence in WHOLE ways, including how I’ve learned to go against the grain to live more sustainably, what greener products work and which don’t, and how I’m working to protect my family from the toxic hazards of modern-day living.

Home Sweet New Home: Can You Move GREEN?

It’s been a while since I last wrote. Why? My husband and I bought a house, decorated the entire thing, and moved! What a stressful and exciting month and a half for us.

Which has made me think. What should and can we do to limit our negative environmental impact during our move? It isn’t just the environment I want to protect; I want to protect our family’s health. I don’t want to inhale unnecessary chemicals or accidentally allow toxins to absorb into our skin. But how much money can I spend to take these precautions, and what precautions do I need, anyway?

We had some tough decisions.

For example, I wanted to paint our home with an environmentally safe, no VOC paint such as Mythic Paint (recommended by Practically Green), and we needed quite a bit to paint all but 3 walls in our new home. We could get conventional paint for free from my husband’s work, though. Which do we choose? In this particular case we chose to use a low-VOC conventional paint and leave the house open for several days before we moved in (we had two weeks before we needed to move out of our apartment). We did not have access to good respirators while painting but we did make sure to buy reusable latex paint and odor respirator masks, paint with all the windows open, and break frequently to fresh air. We made sure to wear these masks when doing other mudding and sanding work, too. Not perfect, of course, but better than doing nothing.

Next, how to get rid of the weeds and grasses that reclaimed about 40 percent of our stone driveway? My mother-in-law wanted to use a conventional weed killer, of course, but that was out of the question; I wasn’t about to spray poison on the driveway, walk on it, and then bring it into our home on my shoes. I knew I could use a safer and all-natural week spray but, let’s face it, it’s still a poison meant to kill. We decided instead to use a rake to pull out the nuisance plants by the roots. It’s tough work and time consuming but it doesn’t require a single chemical. As the plants whose roots remain in the ground grow back I’ll use boiling water to spot-kill weeds and grass. Boiling water kills the plant at its roots, Healthy Child Healthy World says, though it doesn’t discriminate from wanted and unwanted plants. In this case, that’s irrelevant, as the nuisance plants are surrounded by rock. Boiling water also kills weed seeds.

We planted four fruit trees, two apple species and two peach species, so we can have nearly organic fresh fruit in the future. We’ll be able to control the substances used on our trees and can control the methods used to deter pests. After our trees were in the ground we applied a layer of worm castings around the base. of each tree. Using compost also helps build the soil for a healthier lawn and garden, including supporting the good organisms that allow your space to flourish. Compost is almost always safer for your family, of course, but it’s also better for your plants. Chemical fertilizer is fast releasing and much of it seeps past the roots and into underground water supplies, never being absorbed by the plants you want to nurture. Compost is slow-releasing; nutrients enter the soil gradually, meaning you don’t get the immediate turbo charge like chemical fertilizers but you will see prettier plants over a bit more time.

Your plants will be healthier, too. Chemical fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, the three main nutrients needed by plants. However, plants need other nutrients, too, found in compost but not in most fertilizers including natural fertilizers. Compost delivers these other essential nutrients. Think of it like this: we used to think that all humans needed for a healthy diet was the right proportion of macronutrients: carbs, fats, and proteins. Then we realized that vitamins and minerals, or micronutrients, play an important and essential role in keeping us healthy and feeling good. In the same way, plants need more than just the right proportion of N-P-K. They need nutrients found only in decomposing matter.


Did you move or make improvements to your home? What steps did you take to keep your family safe?


Healthy Child Healthy World: Kill Weeds Without Herbicides

Healthy Child Healthy World: Natural Garden Care

Eco Tweet Tuesday – Top Whole Living Tweets from the Last Week

You can learn a lot of great information and find great resources transmitted in 140 characters or less. Here are a few of my favorite Whole Living Tweets from the last week.

Do you tweet about environmental, natural health, or other whole living topics? Leave your Twitter address in the comments below and I may add you to my Twitter list.

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