Cleaner Living: Picking our Battles


Last week I was honored to have been asked to give a speech at the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy CT’s annual meeting.  The Coalition is comprised of citizens, health professionals, workers , environmental justice groups, educators, and others seeking preventive action on toxic hazards and they are committed to raising awareness of the health impacts associated with toxins in every day products and fighting for new government policies to reduce exposure and protect consumers.

Below is the text of my speech (edited of my corny opening jokes!).  I really wanted to speak to moms who are already overwhelmed with the prospects of protecting our kids, from the womb and beyond.  Those of us who want to educate others need to relay that taking action in our homes and beyond is not an “all-or-nothing” approach.

That it is ok to “pick our battles.”

A little over a year ago, Michelle asked me to be a blogger for   For those who do not follow us, you should, and for those who do, you know it has been quite a year!

We talk a lot about the work/life balance moms have to navigate, and I wanted to start a column in which I could impart some of the things I have learned about toxin exposure while at the same time making it practical for moms to takes steps to a healthier life.  As part of the Cleaner Living column I ran a series called the 12 Days of Toxins, focusing on a toxin a day.  Our readers really took to the series positively, and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics even featured it on their site.   However, many moms expressed that they felt overwhelmed, and as I looked back at it I realized that the information was exhausting, especially for over-worked, sleep-deprived, already guilt-ridden moms, and I had just added one more stress to their lives.

As moms we are constantly having to pick our battles.  We battle over sharing toys in the sandbox, we battle over eating veggies, we battle over taking a bath, and we battle over going to bed.

And now, with all of this new-found “wisdom,” a mom’s battles look more like this:

“Before we play in the sandbox, we have to make sure that the sand is not cancer causing and the plastic toys will not disrupt your hormones. “

 “Eat your veggies. Mommy spent a lot of money and gas trying to find ones that are organic or don’t appear on the Dirty Dozen list of the most pesticide-ridden produce. “

 “Now that I have successfully wrangled the oiled pig, I mean child, into the bathtub, I must then pour over lists of ingredients, I can’t pronounce, to make sure none of them are carcinogens or endocrine disruptors.”

 “And in my nightly prayers for a child that sleeps through the night, I can now add my hopes that the mattress they sleep on does not contain harmful fire retardants.”

On top of all that, we are expected to let our children out into the big scary world – The one that we can’t always control.  Out there is the pressure of deciding whether we prohibit our kids from participating in activities that we deem harmful, or we put the blinders back on to avoid ruining our kids reputation or becoming known as the “crazy chemical lady.”

So now, not only am I exhausted- I’m angry.

I’m angry for being put in this position by greedy businesses more concerned about a dollar than our kids’ health.

I’m angry that government agencies that were put in place to protect consumers have been cut and deregulated to further help those greedy businesses line their pockets.

I’m angry that there are even more dangers in the world that I have to navigate to keep my kids and family safe.

So what is the answer?

The answer is we do what moms do best.  We pick our battles.

We make sure that we arm ourselves with the knowledge we need to keep our kids safe.  We pick the battles that are worth fighting at home and in the real world.  Maybe we encourage our child’s daycare to stop using cancer-causing play sand, or to use more earth-friendly/less harmful cleaners.  Maybe we buy organic fruits and veggies at home, but accept that our kids are probably going to eat an apple that has been sprayed with pesticides during the “Apple Unit” at school.  Maybe we choose to buy BPA/phthalate-free toys for home, but not freak out when Grandma brings over her latest “yard sale find.”

The answer is not to battle with our family and friends.  The answer is to fight the corporations who view our most precious gifts as a dollar sign.

The answer is to demand that regulatory agencies are once again beholden to us, the consumer.

The answer is to continue to support groups like the Coalition for A Safe and Healthy CT and the work that they do on our behalf.  It is this important work that helps us navigate this scary world; that helps us tuck our kids in a bit safer at night; and that will hold greed accountable and eventually free us from having to make these decisions.

Here’s to the day that my only battle will be with Brussels sprouts.

6 comments on “Cleaner Living: Picking our Battles”

  1. Thanks. I started the No Poo and Oil Method Facial Cleansing because of your series and I am so happy with the results – my hair, skin, and wallet thanks you too!

  2. Dena, your speech was right on the money. I felt exhausted just reading your run down of sandbox, to veggies, to bath, to mattress, because these are exactly the things my husband and I stressed about when i was pregnant! I remember we would only shop at health food stores for our groceries, and he almost made me feel like a farm animal- i could only input certain organic and grass-fed, non-processed foods into my body, and he bought me special lip glosses and shampoos that were chemical-free for my hair, and i had to try to combat my pregnancy cravings for dying my hair, pepperoni pizza, and Maple Giant Grinders. (all of which are major offenders!) So, we learned to literally pick and choose our battles. Jake drinks organic 1% milk, and we buy all white meat chicken nuggets for him. I’m back to my normal hair and lip gloss routine, but it never stops me from thinking about the deadly dozen. I’m so glad you bring attention to this!

  3. As someone who was fortunate to see this speech live, Dena was excellent! Thanks for everything you do – we need moms with strong voices to stand up to big companies in order to protect the health of ALL of us!

  4. So true! It is crazy how companies get away with some of the things they put in there products. I am going to have Brusstl sprouts tonight too!

  5. Omg, I absolutely LOVE you!!! This gave me chills, Dear Sister. Very, very important words and important work. Once again I’m so honored to be a part of this community of Wise Women. ♥

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