Page 1


Testimonials ‘After having a child who had multiple chemical sensitivities, exploring a natural, chemical free way of living was a must. I have seen firsthand the positive impact of an organic diet and having a safer home with fewer chemicals. Dr Lok has provided an excellent resource full of helpful tips that will help you to understand the dangerous chemicals found in our food, skincare and cleaning products – without having to spend too much extra money. Natural way of life is the way to go!’ Fiona Lewis Author, Speaker and Coach www.mumpreneursonline.com ‘I am the owner of an eco-friendly lodge in the oldest rainforest in the world and very aware of the impact chemicals cause to the environment, let alone the damage caused to our bodies. Dr Lok’s common sense approach to managing our lives without chemicals should be essential reading. There are in most cases alternative products that can be used but product labelling can be confusing. Dr Lok has given us the resource material to refer to when purchasing. This book is a must read!’ Leonie Shepstone Owner, Daintree Wilderness Lodge www.daintreewildernesslodge.com.au


DISCLAIMER This book is intended as a general reference book and all material in this book is for information only. It may not be construed as medical advice or instruction and is not meant to replace the advice of a medical practitioner. This book has been compiled from the author’s personal experiences and own research into multiple existing public references and previously published scientific studies. The author does not guarantee the accuracy of the information obtained from these sources and disclaims liability for the accuracy of the information. The organic industry is developing rapidly and many changes are occurring. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this book is complete and accurate at the time of printing. However, the information is subject to change. Readers are advised to take care when dealing with businesses offering goods and services either offline or online. The inclusion in this book does not imply endorsement by the author or publisher. Neither the author nor the publisher is responsible for the information, products and services provided by these businesses. We include information that we believe may be of interest to the reader at the time this publication is researched. The readers are advised to form their own judgements about which products suit their individual needs. Neither the author nor the publisher shall be liable or responsible for any loss or damage to any individual or group arising from any use, misuse or misunderstanding of any information or suggestion in this book.


First Edition 2011 Digital Edition 2012 Copyright Š 2011 by Dr Esther Lok. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission from the publisher. National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry: Go natural : the no 1 organic handbook / Dr Esther Lok. 1st ed. ISBN: 9781921630644 (pbk.) Organic living. Green products. 640.41 Published by Global Publishing Group PO Box 517 Mt Evelyn, Victoria 3796 Australia Email info@TheGlobalPublishingGroup.com For Further information about orders: Phone: +61 3 9736 1156 or Fax +61 3 8648 6871 Digital edition published by Port Campbell Press www.portcampbellpress.com.au ISBN: 9781742981536 (ePub)


Conversion by Winking Billy


I dedicate this book to all who have chosen to live a truly natural organic lifestyle and to be part of a sustainable and healthy future for the next generation and beyond. Dr Esther Lok


Acknowledgements I would like to thank God for giving me life, the most important gift of all. It has been an honour and a privilege to write this book. As with any major project, there are a number of special people who have contributed to making this publication a success. I would like to take this opportunity to say ‘thank you’. It has been a privilege to serve in the medical profession for the past fifteen years. I am tremendously grateful to all my patients whom I have had the opportunity to meet during this time. Your ailments and sufferings have inspired me on my journey of discovery which has eventually led to the desire to write this book. A special thank you to all of the pioneers in the organic movement who have courageously paved the way forward and as a result, given all of us a healthier alternative way of life, free from chemicals and additives. I would like to say a huge thank you to all the awesome people who are featured in this book. Your dedication to the organic movement and willingness to share your experience is a priceless gift. It has been an honour and a tremendous privilege to work with every one of you and I’m sure that thousands of people’s lives will be influenced by the stories and insights that you have shared. I would like to say a big thank you to our publisher Global Publishing Group and their awesome team, for their dedication and commitment to the book’s success. I would also like to say a very special thank you to my father, mother, brother and sister for their utmost love, faith, prayers and encouragement. And finally, I thank my business partner who is an enduring source of encouragement, hope, creativity and understanding. Your great passion for a truly natural way of living and for the environment has been the greatest inspiration to me. I’m truly grateful for your absolute faith and trust in everything that I do, and for keeping up and putting up with me during the challenging moments. You’re simply one-of-a-kind and I thank you for your loyal support.


Contents Foreword Introduction Chapter 1 What is organic? 1.1 History of the organic movement 1.2 What is organic? 1.3 Why is there a need for organic certification? 1.4 How to tell genuine organic products? Chapter 2 Why go organic? 2.1 14 Key Reasons Why You Should Go Organic Chapter 3 How to live organic? 3.1 What Is Organic Living? 3.2 Top 10 Tips For Healthy Organic Living Chapter 4 Go Natural Food 4.1 Additives in Your Food 4.2 Organic Food Products 4.3 Genetically Modified Foods 4.4 Dairy Products 4.5 Grains


4.6 Fruit & Vegetables 4.7 Meat & Poultry 4.8 Seafood Rob’s Story James & Monica’s Story Chapter 5 Go Natural Body 5.1 Chemicals In Your Body Care 5.2 Nanotechnology 5.3 Baths & Showers 5.4 Hair Care 5.5 Skin Care 5.6 Oral Care 5.7 Personal Care 5.8 Cosmetics 5.9 Fragrances 5.10 Sunscreens Chapter 6 Go Natural Fabric 6.1 Synthetic Vs Natural Fabrics 6.2 Cotton 6.3 Wool 6.4 Hemp 6.5 Linen 6.6 Ramie 6.7 Bamboo


6.8 Silk Peter & Maureen’s Story Chapter 7 Go Natural Home 7.1 Toxic Chemicals In Your Home 7.2 Floor Coverings 7.3 Wall Coverings 7.4 Paints 7.5 Timber Finishes 7.6 Furnishings The Story of Colour – A Family’s Passion Chapter 8 Go Natural Cleaning 8.1 Cleaning Products In Your Home 8.2 Natural Cleaning Solutions 8.3 In Your Living Room 8.4 In Your Kitchen 8.5 In Your Bathroom 8.6 In Your Laundry Tracey’s Story Chapter 9 Go Natural Garden 9.1 Site Selection 9.2 Soil Preparation 9.3 Composting 9.4 Green Manure


9.5 Worm Farming 9.6 Organic Fertilisers 9.7 Mulching 9.8 Seed Selection 9.9 Watering 9.10 Pest & Disease Management Bevan’s Story Jeff & Frances’s Story Author’s Final Word Resources Listing: State by State Retailers Listing About the Author


Foreword

There are numerous scientific studies that link many of our diseases to the synthetic chemicals used in the production of our food, cosmetic, skincare, cleaning and household products. In 2010 the Report by the US President’s Cancer Panel clearly stated that environmental toxins, including chemicals used in farming are the main causes of cancers. This report was written by eminent scientists and medical specialists in this field and recommended that people consume food grown without pesticides, fertilisers and growth hormones. More peer reviewed studies continue to be published that validate the report by the US President’s Cancer Panel. As an example four new studies have been published in the peer reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives adding to the extensive volume of scientific evidence that prenatal exposure to organophosphate insecticides (OPs) adversely affects the neurological development of children. Each study was conducted independently; however they all came up with very similar results. This was that foetal exposure to small amounts of OPs will reduce the IQ of children. A study of farm worker families in California has shown that by age three and a half, children born to mothers exposed to OP insecticides have lessened attention spans and are more vulnerable to attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Male children were more likely to be impacted. The studies were conducted by researchers at the Columbia University Center


for Children’s Environmental Health, the University of California, Berkeley and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Parents should have considerable concern that the Columbia University study found that there was no evidence of a threshold in the observed adverse impact on intelligence. This means that very low levels of exposure could lead to reductions in a child’s intelligence. Very significantly the majority of people get most of their exposure to OPs through food, especially fresh fruit and vegetables. The good news is that peer reviewed scientific studies show that eating organic food will reduce the risk significantly as these chemicals can be quickly eliminated from the human body. Contrary to popular belief, washing or peeling conventional produce only removes a percentage of the pesticides as they tend to be absorbed through the whole of the produce. The most effective way to avoid pesticides is to eat organic food. A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that children who eat organic foods have lower levels of pesticides in their bodies. The primary goal of Go Natural is to promote the benefits of organic living and to raise awareness of the hazardous effects of conventional food, skincare, cosmetic, household and cleaning products while promoting and building the organic industry within Australia. This makes it a valuable book that will help improve the health of all Australians. Yours Sincerely,

Andre Leu Chair


Introduction Hi I would like to start by thanking you for purchasing this book. You are probably wondering why I would choose to write a book on the subject of an organic lifestyle. Most of us would not normally consider that there is any problem with the conventional lifestyle we lead. The modern high paced world we live in has conditioned us to accept rather than question many issues that face us, as we simply feel there is not enough time to devote to problems that do not seem to affect us. I have been a medical doctor for the past fifteen years and specialise in emergency medicine. I have had the tremendous privilege of meeting and treating many patients from all walks of life, who have presented with acute injuries and medical illnesses. These include patients with acute medical illnesses such as allergic reactions, heart attacks, stroke and those with exacerbations of their chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, cancers and many, many more. A few years ago, I began to ponder over the many ailments people suffer from and wondered why it seems that more and more of us are suffering from allergies, cancers and lifestyle related illnesses such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Over this period of time there was one question that kept coming back to me. Is it possible that the food that we eat and the environmental pollutants and chemicals we are exposed to in our daily lives, are contributing to the rise of these illnesses? Many of us would personally know of family members, friends or workmates who have been affected by these illnesses in one way or another. This question has led to my own personal journey of searching and discovery of a natural, chemical-free and organic lifestyle that is not just good for our wellbeing but also for the environment in which we live. If you are thinking of taking the first step towards an organic life, I hope this book will inspire you to start your own journey towards a healthier life.


This book will help you to be well-informed, save money and make organic choices about everything from what you eat and wear to how you furnish your home and maintain your garden. It details the hazardous chemicals that are found in body care and cleaning products. It also describes how you can change from using these synthetic and often toxic chemicals to using natural substances that are equally effective. Within this publication, you will meet inspirational, everyday Australians who have invested and devoted an endless amount of their time, energy and resources into bringing us outstanding 100% certified organic and genuine natural products. They have been very generous in sharing their personal experiences, challenges and triumphs on their own journey towards a chemical-free lifestyle. By choosing organic foods, making choices that lessen the impact on our environment, switching to non-toxic cleaning products and using natural instead of synthetic materials in and around the home, we take control over all these areas in our lives. Small changes can have great impact if we all play our part. If you are reading this introduction, I do hope you will read the rest of this book and then pass it on to your family, friends and workmates. Together, we can make a difference in our health, the health of our loved ones and the health of the world we live in. Wishing you a long, prosperous, healthy and happy life! Dr Esther Lok


History of the organic movement What is organic? Why is there a need for organic certification?


How to tell genuine organic products? ‘Conventional farming is all about killing things. Organic farming is about promoting life.’ Rob Bauer

History of the organic movement The organic movement is more of a renaissance than a revolution. Until the 1920s, all agriculture was generally organic. Farmers used natural means to feed the soil and to control pests. Food reached our table in much the same form as it left the farm. We ate seasonal, organic produce grown locally or harvested from the land and sea, transported a short distance, then purchased and consumed within days. Often, we grew our own vegetables or knew the people who grew them. Today we eat food sourced from all over the world, often as a product of questionable farming practices. Food is generally picked unripe, sprayed or waxed to preserve it, kept in cold storage, transported long distances, gassed into ripeness and then sold on supermarket shelves, weeks or months after it was first picked. Farmed seafood and animals in most cases are fed on unnatural pelletised diets fortified with hormones and antibiotics and bred in an inhumane, crowded and unnatural environment. It wasn’t until the Second World War that farming methods changed dramatically. It was when research on chemicals designed as nerve gas showed they were also capable of killing insects. In 1939, Paul Muller developed DDT, the first of a new class of insecticides – chlorinated hydrocarbons to counter the pest problems. Since then, a new way of farming emerged, where the use of chemicals was heavily promoted. This led to the outright dismissal of organic farming methods. The modern organic movement began at the same time as industrialised agriculture. It began in Europe around the 1920s, when a group of farmers and consumers sought alternatives to the industrialisation of agriculture. The first organic organisation was set up in 1929, based on the teachings of Rudolph Steiner (1861), an Austrian scholar who was concerned that the use of chemicals undermined the fertility of Germany’s land.


Steiner’s theory of biodynamic farming is an enhanced method of organic farming which creates rich, living soil essential to the health and vitality of life on a farm. It is a holistic approach that includes application of organic standards, use of special formulations and natural preparations for pest control, compost and manure treatments, companion planting, astrological timing, lunar cycles and considers the spiritual interactions between people, plants and the universe. The Bio-Dynamic Agricultural Association is based in Europe with offices in many countries including UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Bio-dynamic farmers and growers use the symbol ‘Demeter’ which is an internationally respected accreditation. In Britain, the organic movement had gathered pace in the 1940s. Lady Eve Balfour wrote The Living Soil, a book on organics, inspired by the work of Sir Albert Howard and Sir Robert McCarrison. In 1946, she joined with several others to set up Soil Association in the UK, which became the largest organic certifier in the UK. Sir Albert Howard, a colonial British living in India, reinvented the compost pile, developed hundreds of strains of wheat and developed a soil drainage and irrigation system that allowed wheat to be grown without the use of fungicides. He discovered that crops grown in soils with a high organic content were more disease and insect resistant than the same crops grown with chemical fertilisers. Sir Robert McCarrison, a director of nutritional research in India, had discovered a relationship between diet and health. In 1962, science writer Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a book where she criticised the indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides, fertilisers and weedkillers. The book title refers to the ultimate disappearance of songbirds because of the effects of DDT. In the book, she exposed the toxic effects of pesticides through a process whereby synthetic chemicals used in agriculture magnify through the food chain. The ‘be natural’ approach of the 1960s and 1970s, the growing consumer interest in health and nutrition, the growth of the green movement, the focus on conservation and environmental issues stimulated the development of the organic market and encouraged farmers to adopt organic methods. In the middle of the 20th century enthusiasts brought organic techniques from Europe to Australia. The organic movement has sprung directly from the customers’ demand as they become sick of the health hazards associated with use of chemicals in food and


household products. With growing consumer interest in how and where food is produced, organic food has become more popular. Products offered only through health food stores in the 1970s and 1980s spread to the corners of supermarkets in the 1990s. Today, organic products occupy prime shelf space in the big chain supermarkets.

What is organic? In 1995, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) in the USA defined organic as follows: ‘Organic is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony’. Organic foods and products are characterised by the following features: 1) Sustainably farmed Organic farmers have a total focus on soil health. It uses sustainable agricultural principles that build up the soil fertility with composts and green manures, and prevent top soil degradation and erosion. This is important since it has been estimated that it takes 500 years to form 2.5 cm of fertile topsoil naturally. Keeping the soil in good condition and preventing its erosion is vital in achieving a natural balance with the environment in which a farm exists and is as self-sustaining as possible. 2) Free of chemicals Organic produce is grown without the use of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilisers, and with consideration to the health of the soils, animals and ecosystems that are involved in its creation. In organic farming, diseases, weeds and pests are proactively and preventively managed through cultural methods such as good soil health for natural plant resistance, selection for physically stronger plants and resistant crop varieties, crop rotation with appropriate sowing times, companion panting, the maintenance of habitats for natural predators and beneficial insects as well as composting for disease control. Physical means such as crop covers, grease bands around tree trunks, slashing,


manual, flame or steam weeding and hand plucking beetles off plants are also used in addition to the cultural methods. Organic farmers can use natural oils or plant derived, biodegradable pesticides as a second line of defence. These are strictly monitored and used under tight restriction. Organic products are processed without the use of artificial colourings, preservatives, flavourings, fillers, hydrogenated or trans-fats, enhancers, stabilisers, sweeteners and all other additives. 3) Not irradiated Organic food is not subjected to irradiation, a process in which food is exposed to high-energy ionising radiation to kill insects, pests and moulds, reduce levels of bacteria and delay rotting and ripening so that food can be kept longer. 4) Not genetically modified Organic food does not have artificial human intervention as genetic modification is not allowed in the production and processing of organic food and food products. Genetic modification (GM) is different from selective breeding as it involves taking genes from a completely different species and inserting them into the DNA of a plant or animal. It is uncertain whether artificial insertion of genes could destabilise an organism and encourage mutations. The long term effects of GM for our health and our planet’s biodiversity are unknown. 5) No antibiotics and growth hormones in live stocks Organic live stocks are allowed to mature naturally without the use of growth promoting agents. Organic dairy cows are not given growth hormone to increase their milk production. Antibiotics are not routinely used to prevent diseases. Use of homeopathic and natural treatment is preferred when treating illnesses. 6) Humane treatment of livestock Organic livestock are treated humanely, given access to fields, clean water, daylight and adequate ventilation, allowed plenty of space to express their natural behaviour, given comfortable bedding and good shelter from prevailing


winds. They eat their natural diet and supplemented by organic, not genetically modified grain. There are fewer animals stocked on every acre of field to prevent overgrazing. Organic poultry can wander outdoors instead of spending their lives in a cage or packed in a shed. The practice of de-beaking where the beaks of all birds are seared off with a hot blade to prevent them from attacking each other in a confined cage is banned as it causes immense pain to the birds. Organic poultry are not fed food that contains any animal wastes or growth enhancing agents or anything containing GM ingredients. They are raised differently from battery hens, thus organic eggs are far less likely to contain salmonella. The cramped, unhygienic conditions in which battery hens are raised form a breeding ground for diseases such as salmonella.

Why is there a need for organic certification? Organic certification ensures that all stages of production and processing are subject to inspection and meet the predetermined Organic Standards. It protects producers of genuine organic produce against misrepresentation of conventional produce as organic. Organic certification is your guarantee that what you are eating and consuming has been grown or produced using rigorous organic standards. This certification protects consumers against deception in the marketplace.

How to tell genuine organic products? There is a very strict set of guidelines that governs any product that bears the label ‘certified organic’. Organic standards cover every aspect of registration, certification, food production, allowable inputs for soil management, pest and disease control, animal health, conversion, natural resource management, permitted and non-permitted ingredients, processing, packaging and distribution. Organic standards are enforced by certification bodies around the world. Certification by a recognised organic body is a lengthy process, involving careful assessment to ensure that all of the strict criteria are satisfied. It takes time (two to three years depending on the country) to convert to a fully certified organic farm. In Australia, biodynamic farming is regulated under the same standard as


organic. Australia has had a national organic standard since 1992. The Australian Organic Standards have enabled the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) to accredit organic and biodynamic certification organisations, on the basis of their ability to certify their growers as meeting the national standard. This co-regulatory system was set up to ensure buyers of organic products could be confident that certified produce was grown and processed according to organic or biodynamic principles. Certifiers conduct annual audits and unannounced spot checks on organic producers and operators to ensure they comply with the strict Organic Standard. All operators must maintain an Organic Management Plan and report annually. All product sold by a certified operator must have a clearly documented traceable trail. AQIS in turn performs an annual audit of the certifier’s inspection system at various organic farms, processors, wholesalers and exporters. Organic foods are certified at the farm or during the processing and manufacturing stage for processed foods. Producers must be capable of satisfying the requirements of the standard for at least one year before products can be labelled as ‘organic in-conversion’. Producers must then continue to meet the specified requirements for a further two years before being permitted to use the term ‘certified organic’. Landless systems are farms where an agricultural product is not grown in the soil. Aquaculture and mushroom farms do not go through the three year conversion process as there is no soil involved and no potential chemical residues to be removed. However, they are still subject to the certification system and must have two audits throughout an entire production cycle before they can achieve organic certification. Processors, wholesalers and retailers do not have to go through the same threeyear conversion period that farmers do as there is no land to convert. However, they are still subject to the strict certification system to ensure they comply with the Australian Organic Standards. Certified organic products contain (excluding water and salt) at least 95% organically produced agricultural ingredients. The remaining ingredients (up to 5%) can be non-agricultural substances or non-organically produced agricultural ingredients with strict criteria such as absolutely no synthetic chemicals or genetic modifications. Where organic ingredients comprise between 70% and 90% of a processed


product, this can be labelled ‘contains certified organic ingredients’. Single ingredient products or any products labelled as ‘100% organic’ must be 100% organically derived with the exception of any water or salt contained in the products. Currently, there are seven AQIS-approved organic certifiers in Australia.


National Certified Regulatory Mark (Voluntary) Following the agreement of certifying organisations, AQIS has recently developed an ‘Australian Government Certified’ regulatory mark. The mark does not replace the logos of certifying organisations but will help provide greater assurance for consumers wishing to purchase certified organic and biodynamic produce. While the mark is voluntary, its use is governed by formal conditions enforced by AQIS.

Organic Growers of Australia (OGA) is a program for small producers to become certified organic. It is for domestic market only and farmers can market their produce in local shops, farmers’ markets, box scheme home deliveries or from their farm gates. ‘Many organic practices simply make sense, regardless of what overall agricultural system is used. Far from being a quaint throwback to an earlier time, organic agriculture is proving to be a serious contender in modern farming and a more environmentally sustainable system over the long term.’ David Suzuki


‘Many people put more time into the maintenance of their cars than into their own body! Buy yourself organic vegetables and eat them. Invest in yourself.’ Annie Padden

14 Key Reasons Why You Should Go Organic


Numerous studies have shown that organic food is substantially healthier than conventional food because it has higher nutritional values and negligible chemical residues when compared to conventionally farmed food. 1) No chemicals Organic fresh produce and food products are free of chemicals such as pesticide residues, artificial colourings, preservatives, flavourings, hydrogenated fats (trans-fats), enhancers, stabilisers, fillers, sweeteners and all other additives that could have cumulative health effects. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that between 3.5 and 5 million people globally suffer from acute pesticide poisoning every year. In Australia, more than 7200 registered pesticides such as insecticides, fungicides and herbicides are used for agricultural purposes.1 These pesticides are used in the food production industry to kill insects, diseases and weeds. Most agricultural and veterinary chemicals leave residues in food. This is why residue tolerance level called the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) is set for these chemicals. Governments also place legal limits on the level of pesticide residues known as the Maximum Residue Level (MRL) that can be present in food. When animal testing shows that a certain dose level of poison has no observable ill effects, this dose forms the basis for determining the ADI. Authorities then claim that any residue levels below the ADI are too low to cause health problems. The MRL is usually estimated by testing individual pesticides on rats. However, many studies have shown that most conventionally grown foods have a cocktail of pesticides and other chemical residues instead of just individual chemicals.2, 3, 4, 5 The 20th Australian Total Diet Survey conducted by the Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) in 2003 detected about 36 different pesticide residues in foods. The majority of agricultural pesticides were not included in residue testing. Some of the most widely used herbicides such as Atrazine, Glyphosate and Paraquat were not included in the testing.6 Most agricultural poisons also leave residues of breakdown chemicals when they degrade.4.10 There is virtually no testing to detect the residues of these breakdown chemicals in our food. Most agricultural poisons are mixtures of one or more active ingredients and other so-called ‘inert’ mostly toxic chemicals such as solvents and surfactants.


Only the active ingredient is individually tested to determine a safety level for the ADI. The actual registered product, which is the mixture of chemicals used by farmers, is not tested to determine the safety levels in our food. Farmers also tend to use a combination of the biocides together with synthetic fertilisers in food production. Most of the 7200 registered pesticides in Australia are not tested for long term effects such as reproductive problems, birth defects, hormone disruption, nerve damage, immune system disorder and cancers. Pesticides are normally tested individually for a relatively short period. Virtually nothing is known about the cumulative effects of consuming combinations of potentially hundreds of different chemicals over the course of a life time. A good body of scientific research is showing that repeated exposures to cocktails of small amounts of synthetic chemicals have a range of adverse health effects including disruptions to the immune, hormonal and nervous systems. Studies have linked agricultural and other synthetic chemicals to increases in autoimmune diseases and cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia, breast, uterine and prostate cancers.4,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14 The majority of people get most of their exposure to pesticides through food, especially fresh fruit and vegetables. The 2010 report by the US President’s Cancer Panel recommended that people consume food grown without pesticides, chemical fertilisers and growth hormones.15 A detailed scientific analysis of organic fruits and vegetables in USA showed that organic foods have significantly less residues and are less likely to contain multiple pesticide residues than conventionally grown foods.2 A similar study in Australia by Ruth McGowan for the Victorian Department of Primary Industries conducted thousands of tests on three hundred samples of certified organic produce. The study concluded that Victorian organic produce is virtually ‘chemical free’.16 Both of these studies showed that organic produce have a lower incidence and level of pesticide residues than non-organic produce. Where residues were found, these were due to environmental pollution from pesticides used in conventional farming. Washing or peeling conventional produce only removes a percentage of the pesticides as they tend to be absorbed through the whole of the produce. The


most effective way to avoid these toxins is to eat certified organic produce grown without the use of any synthetic and toxic chemicals. 2) Healthier Kids Feeding our children with organic food will significantly reduce their exposure to pesticide residues. Studies have found that children with predominantly conventional diets had greater levels of pesticide metabolites in their urine than did children with predominantly organic diets.5,18 The 20th Australian Total Diet Survey had found pesticide residues even in infant food. They also found the dietary exposure to these chemicals was highest for the toddler age group.6 However because this dietary exposure is below the ADI, many regulatory authorities continue to state that these low levels of pesticide residues do not cause any problems. The Minimum Residue Levels for pesticides do not take into account the combination effect of eating a variety of these residues or the differences between children and adult. Infants and children are more susceptible to the effects of chemicals due to their larger intake of food per kilo of body weight, narrower range of food consumed, increased intake of more high risk food such as fruit and vegetable and the reduced ability of their developing vital organs in eliminating toxins. Until the age of six, a child’s body has more water and less fat than an adult’s. In an adult, fat tissues trap and store pesticide residues, but in a child with lesser amount of fat tissue, more toxins will be circulating in the blood. A child’s immature liver and kidneys have a reduced ability to break down these toxins. Many scientists believe these exposures of minute quantities of biocides are very significant for children. Independent studies have shown that exposure to amounts more than 1000 times lower than previously regarded as safe caused serious health and developmental problems. 4,7,17 3) No Antibiotics, Hormones or Pathogens Food-borne illnesses are becoming increasingly common as food-producing animals are reared in close confines and given broad spectrum antibiotics to promote growth. The overuse of antibiotics reduces the immunity of the animals making them more susceptible to diseases which can potentially be passed on to the consumers. This practice also favours the emergence and spread of resistant


bacteria in both animal and human populations. Resistant bacteria carried by food-producing animals can spread to humans through consumption of contaminated food, from direct contact with animals or by environmental spread such as contaminated water. The genes coding for antimicrobial resistance can potentially be transferred from micro-organisms carried by animals to micro-organisms that cause disease in humans. Even though cattle in Australia are not fed growth hormones, many cattle have slow release implants containing Hormone Growth Promoters (HGPs) placed under the skin on to the back of their ear to improve their growth rate and help them convert feed to meat more efficiently. HGPs have been used in Australia since 1979. In the period from 2006 to 2007, around 40 per cent of cattle were raised using HGPs, with a total of 6.56 million HGP doses used on farms and in the feedlot industry. (Meat & Livestock Australia, 2008) Resistant bacteria such as Vancomycin Resistant Enterococci (VRE) can potentially spread via the food chain from the use of HGPs. A ban on the use of HGPs by the European Union since 1988 had resulted in a reduction of VRE in animals and its presence in the general population. (World Health Organization, 2011).19 Organic farmers are not allowed to routinely give their livestock antibiotics as growth promoters or preventative medical measures. If you are eating organic meat, you are much less likely to be eating food that contains antibiotic residues or pathogens. A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) report in July 2000 concluded that organic practices can actually reduce E-coli infection that causes food poisoning and also reduce the levels of contaminants in foods. 20 A study of organic and conventional chicken operations in North Carolina found conventional barns have a higher prevalence of Salmonella in the faecal samples, higher likelihood of contamination of feeds with Salmonella and higher incidence of multi-resistant Salmonella.21 Organic livestock have lower levels of pathogens due to high animal welfare standards and the prohibition of routine antibiotic use. The organic farmer is also prohibited from using feeds that contain animal by-products which could have been contaminated with pathogens. 4) Better Nutrition


Organic farming produces healthier plants as they are grown on soil that has not been impoverished by intensive farming methods. They in turn produce healthier foods that give our bodies the nourishment to function at an optimum level. In contrast, the use of synthetic fertilisation of soil, early picking, over-processing and extended storage of food in conventional farming depletes their nutritional value. A scientific study published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition in 1993 clearly showed that organic food is more nutritious than conventional food. On a perweight basis, average levels of essential minerals were much higher in the organically grown than in the conventionally grown food.22 Two independent studies that compared the differences between organic and conventional foods concluded that there is overwhelming evidence that organic food is more nutritious than conventional food. 23,24 5) No Genetic Modification The only way to be sure your food has not been genetically modified (GM) is to buy certified organic foods. Genetically modified foods may present serious hazards to human health. In an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, Nestle (1996) commented that the transfer of genes from microbes, plants, or animals into foods raises issues about the unintended consequences of such manipulations. Genes encode proteins and proteins can cause allergic reactions. Biotechnology companies may be introducing allergenic proteins from donor organisms into the food supply. 25 There is a large body of scientific evidence that shows that GM crop and food products are highly prone to unpredictable effects when they were fed to animals.26,27,28 When GM foods are fed to humans, they can potentially produce unpredictable and serious health consequences. GM foods have not been independently tested for their long term effects on our health. 6) No Irradiation Most of the food in the American diet is already approved by the US. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for irradiation. These foods include beef, pork, lamb, poultry, wheat, wheat flour, seeds for sprouting, vegetables, fruits, shell eggs, herbal teas, herbs and spices.


In Australia and New Zealand, only herbs and spices, herbal infusions and some tropical fruits have been approved to be irradiated. Organic produce and food products cannot be subjected to irradiation. Irradiation damages food by breaking up molecules and creating free radicals. Apart from killing some bacteria in food, these free radicals can combine with existing chemicals (like pesticide residues) in the food to form new chemicals called unique radiolytic products (URPs). We cannot assume URPs are safe as scientists have not studied the long-term effect of these new chemicals in our diet. There is also limited scientific evidence on the long term effects of irradiated foods on babies and children. Irradiation can cause changes to both macro and micronutrients in foods, depending on the irradiation dose. It causes the loss of vitamins including Vitamin A, B complex, C, E and K. The amount of loss depends on the dose of irradiation and the length of storage time. The amino acid and essential polyunsaturated fatty acid content in food can also be affected. Irradiation also destroys the natural digestive enzymes found in raw foods. 7) Better Taste Higher soil nutrients, healthier plants grown in season, fewer early pickings, reduced time in storage, lack of over-processing, higher natural sugar content and happier animals raised in a natural environment, all contribute to a better quality and flavour in organic produce. 8) Safer Home By choosing organic, you will live in a safer, chemical-free home where indoor pollution and toxic chemicals play little part in your daily life. The garden will be a safe, chemical-free place for your children and pets to play in. Your home will become a sanctuary from the dangers of our modern world, creating certainty and a more positive outlook for you and your family’s future. 9) Better Future With governments seemingly unwilling to act, it is our responsibility to ensure that we do all that we can to promote a cleaner world for future generations. Buying organic increases the demand for organic products, this in turn, encourages farmers, food manufacturers and retailers to produce more organic


products. This will make organic food more readily available, less expensive and therefore more affordable to all. Increasing the demand for organic produce ultimately will lead to the reversal of conventional farming practices and the damaging effects they are having on our health and environment. 10) Healthier Ecosystems Organic farming practices reduce the amount of toxins and chemicals in our food and the environment. They help to eliminate chemical leaching, thus protecting and conserving our environment and water resources. Organic farmers are required to set aside at least 5% (with most contributing more) of their farming land to biodi versity areas where there is no intensive agricultural production. These areas are vital in the conservation of our fast disappearing natural wildlife and their habitats. Organic farmers also create healthier habitats for native animals by revegetating with native species, creating ponds and nurturing wildflowers and native pastures. This helps to promote the re-establishment and balance of the native ecosystems that have been lost through decades of conventional farming practices. The heavy use of chemical fertilisers has resulted in high nitrate concentrations in many conventionally farmed foods, especially in fruits and vegetables. These agricultural chemicals also affect our environment as they easily leach away from the land, accumulating in the sediments of our rivers and estuaries where they enter the food chain. The leaching of nitrates has also resulted in high nitrate levels in some drinking water supplies around the world. High nitrate levels within our food and drinking water, when consumed, can be converted into nitrite, which can react readily with amines and amides to form nitrosamines which are known carcinogens. Nitrates may also pose a risk of methaemoglobinaemia, a condition resulting in symptoms such as tiredness and a general feeling of being unwell, and a form of ‘Blue Baby Syndrome’. Methaemoglobinaemia can occur in infants and in adults with a reduced ability to secrete acid in the stomach. A rise in the pH in their digestive system allows bacteria to proliferate, increasing the conversion of nitrate to nitrite. These nitrites react with the haemoglobin in the blood, forming high amounts of methaemoglobin which lacks the ability to carry oxygen in the blood.


11) Sustainability Organic farming practices are considered to be highly sustainable and are based on the principal of building and nurturing the natural biodiversity and structure within the soils and the surrounding environment. Structure and essential nutrients are created through the application of natural mulches, composts, animal and green manures. This process naturally stimulates microbial action within the soil structure resulting in healthy fertile and productive soils, full of nutrients. Organic farming practices create a beneficial long term solution to the agricultural problems facing the world today. Decades of conventional farming techniques with their associated synthetic chemical inputs and mono cultural approach have all but destroyed much of the world’s most fertile farming soils leaving them almost devoid of life and highly susceptible to erosion and in some cases unable to support life. 12) Biodiversity Conventional farming is about killing everything that poses a threat to the maximum yield of the crop being produced. This is commonly achieved through the use of synthetic chemicals. The implications of this are considered secondary to the yield of the crop. The effects of these chemicals on our environment are cumulative and long lasting. Over 29,500 tonnes of herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and plant growth regulators are used each year in Australia (Australian Govern ment Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2006). Organic farming is about preserving and nurturing life and promoting diversity within the environment. Organic farming encourages natural biodiversity and preservation of the natural genetic variety of plants, insects and animal species. Organic farmers often grow traditional heirloom and unusual varieties of fruits and vegetables that are becoming increasingly difficult to source. They are also more likely to rear traditional breeds of livestock that will be more suited to the local conditions and will generally produce a more superior outcome. Conventional farming tends to rely on fewer seed types and animals, chosen for their size and yield of body mass to increase profitability. This has resulted in a


loss of variety in the types of fruits, vegetables and meat products available to consumers. The use of genetically modified seed stock, which is usually controlled by few large corporations, is of concern to the organic industry. These genetically modified plant crops may pose a threat to the organic farmer’s ability to grow and cultivate traditional varieties as cross pollination will almost certainly occur, resulting in the contamination of the traditional varieties. 13) Animal Welfare Organic standards ensure strict animal welfare conditions are met. Organic livestock practices are more humane and allow livestock to grow in a natural environment with free access to fields or outdoor areas, natural bedding and plenty of indoor areas. They are not mutilated, confined or caged. They graze on organic pasture and are fed natural organic feedstuff that has not been contaminated with chemicals, animal by-products or genetically modified products. 14) Farmer Wellbeing Conventional farmers and their families are exposed to numerous chemicals, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides. A US National Cancer Institute study found that these farm workers have a higher risk of developing cancer compared to organic farmers who do not use any of these chemicals.15 A case-controlled study published in 1999 showed that non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) is linked to exposure to a range of pesticides and herbicides including glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. 11NHL has gone from being one of the world’s rarest cancers to one of the most common cancers amongst those exposed to agricultural chemicals. The latest report in 2010 by the US President’s Cancer Panel clearly stated that environmental toxins, including chemicals used in farming, are the main causes of cancers and raised particular concern over the exposure levels for children. It was written by eminent scientists and medical specialists in this field and published by the US Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute. This report also stated that the current methods of testing and regulating chemicals such as pesticides are inadequate. Several critical issues were also


raised including higher levels of chemicals in women, exposure of children to chemicals in utero, the increasing rate of childhood cancers, children having special risk for cancer due to environmental contaminants and a higher rate of leukaemia in children exposed to pesticides.15 The Agricultural Health Study (AHS) is the largest-ever assessment of the health of workers involved in US agriculture and has been underway for almost two decades. It looks at the relationship between pesticide use and exposure and elevated cancer risk in farm workers. Lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and brain cancer were among the cancers elevated in children of farmers who use pesticides.29 A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed that developing foetus and children are at risk from common agricultural chemical mixtures found at levels below those that authorities regard as safe. These low dose mixtures can influence the developing neurological, endocrine and immune systems and potentially can cause diminished learning ability and behavioural problem.30 A study of farm worker families in California has shown that by age three and a half, children born to mothers exposed to organophosphate (OP) insecticides have lessened attention spans and are more vulnerable to attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Male children were more likely to be impacted.31 Biotechnology research such as genetic modification is done predominantly by private corporations. There are concerns that a few powerful companies will end up dominating and controlling the market in the agricultural sector. This could have detrimental effects on small scale farmers all over the world. Small scale farmers may end up having to pay for crop varieties bred from genetic material that originally came from their own farms. Some biotechnology companies may be developing technology that could prevent a crop from being grown the following year from its own seed. This means farmers will no longer have the ability to save their own seeds for planting in the next season, which has been common practice for thousands of years. In this world of chemical-driven mass agricultural production, organic farming is a survival means for small, independently owned family farms. Every time you purchase certified organic products you are investing in the future of our country, and its hard working and caring farmers and their families.


This is a future we can ill afford not to invest in and we have the power in our own hands every single day of our lives to make this difference. If it is one thing we actively and positively do every day of our lives it can be this simple act of asking for and purchasing certified organic products. ‘A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as that of his fellow men, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.’ Albert Schweitzer

References: 1. InfoPest (2004) Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries 2. Baker B, Benbrook C M, Groth III E and Lutz Benbrook K (2002) Pesticide Residues in Conventional, Integrated Pest Management-Grown and Organic Foods: Insights from three U.S. data sets. Published in Food Additives and Contaminants; Vol. 19: No 5: 427-446 3. Short K (1994) Quick Poison, Slow Poison 4. 4 Storrs, Sara I and Kiesecker Joseph M (2004) Survivorship Patterns of Larval Amphibians Exposed to Low Concentrations of Atrazine. Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol.112: No10:1054-1057 5. Curl C L, Fenske FA, Elgethun K (2003) Organophosphorus Pesticide Exposure of Urban and Suburban Preschool Children with Organic and Conventional Diets. Environmental Health Perspectives; Vol. 111: No 3 6. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (2003) 20th Australian Total Diet Survey 7. Hayes T B, et al (2003) Atrazine-Induced Hermaphroditism at 0.1 ppb in American Leopard Frogs (Rana Pipiens): Laboratory and Field Evidence. Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 111: No 4 8. Buznikov G A, et al (2001) An Invertebrate Model of the Developmental Neurotoxicity of Insecticides: Effects of Chlorpyrifos and Dieldrin in Sea Urchin Embryos and Larvae. Environmental Health Perspectives; Vol. 109: No 7 9. Cabello G, et al (2001) A Rat Mammary Tumor Model Induced by the Organophosphorous Pesticides Parathion and Malathion, Possibly through Acetylcholinesterase Inhibition. Environmental Health Perspectives; Vol.109: No 5


10. Garry V F, et al (2001) Biomarker Correlations of Urinary 2, 4-D Levels in Foresters: Genomic Instability and Endocrine Disruption. Environmental Health Perspectives; Vol.109: No 5: 495-500 11. Hardell L and Eriksson M (1999) A Case-Control Study of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and Exposure to Pesticides. CANCER; Vol.85: No 6: 13531360 12. Harras A, et al (1996) Cancer Rates and Risks. NIH Publication; No. 96691: National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, pg.17 13. Nordstrom M, et al (1998) Occupational Exposures, Animal Exposure and Smoking as Risk Factors for Hairy Cell Leukaemia Evaluated in a Casecontrol Study. British Journal of Cancer; Vol. 77: 2048-2052 14. Steingraber S (1997) Living Downstream; An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment. 15. US President’s Cancer Panel report (2010) Full report (http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/pcp.html) 16. McGowan Ruth (2003)”Government test prove…” Results of Victorian Government chemical residue survey substantiates ‘clean’ claims for organic produce. Published in the proceedings of the Organic Futures for Australia, 2nd National Organic Conference, Adelaide 17. Hayes T B, et al (2002) Hermaphroditic Demasculinized Frogs After Exposure to The Herbicide Atrazine at Low Ecologically Relevant Doses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Vol. 99:5476-5480 18. Lu C, et al (2001) Biological Monitoring Survey of Organophosphorus Pesticide Exposure among Pre-school Children in the Seattle Metropolitan Area.Environmental Health Perspectives. 19. World Health Organization (2011). World Health Day 2011: Policy Briefs. (http://www.who.int/world-healthday/2011/presskit/whd2011_fs4d_subanimal.pdf) 20. FAO (2000) Twenty Second FAO Regional Conference for Europe, Porto, Portugal, 24-28 July 2000 Agenda Item 10.1, Food Safety and Quality as Affected by organic Farming 21. Alali W, et al (2010) Prevalence and Distribution of Salmonella in Organic and Conventional Broiler Poultry Farms . Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, Vol. 7: No. 11: 1363-1371 22. Journal of Applied Nutrition (1993); 45:35-39. Organic Food is More Nutritious than Conventional Food 23. Heaton, S (2001), Organic Farming, Food Quality and Human Health: A review of the evidence, Bristol: Soil Association 24. Worthington, V (2001) ‘Nutritional Quality of Organic Versus Conventional


25. 26.

27. 28.

29.

30.

31.

Fruits, Vegetables, and Grains. Published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine; Volume 7: Number 2: 161–173 Nestle M (1996) Allergies to Transgenic Foods—Questions of Policy. New England Journal of Medicine, 334:726-728 Pusztai A and Bardocz S (2006) GMO in Animal Nutrition: Potential Benefits and Risks. In: Biology of Nutrition in Growing Animals, eds. R. Mosenthin, J. Zentek and T. Zebrowska, Elsevier Limited, pp. 513-540 Schubert D.R. (2008) The problem with Nutritionally Enhanced Plants. Journal of Medicinal Food, 11: 601-605 Dona A. and Arvanitoyannis I.S. (2009) Health Risks of Genetically Modified Foods. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 49: 164– 175 Weichenthal S, et al (2010) A Review of Pesticide Exposure and Cancer Incidence in the Agricultural Health Study Cohort. Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 118: No. 8: pages 1117-1125 Porter W, et al (1999) Endocrine, Immune and Behavioural Effects of Aldicarb (Carbamate), Atrazine (Triazine) and Nitrate (fertilizer) Mixtures at Groundwater Concentrations. Journal of Toxicology and Industrial Health 15: 133-150 Marks A R, et al (2010) Organophosphate Pesticide Exposure and Attention in Young Mexican-American Children: The CHAMACOS Study. Environmental Health Perspectives . Vol. 118: No.12


What is organic living? Top 10 Tips For Healthy Organic Living ‘What is necessary to keep providing good care to nature has completely fallen into ignorance during the materialism era.’


Rudolf Steiner, Father of Biodynamics Farming

What is organic living? Organic living is a philosophy of life. It means embracing the whole organic philosophy and making it a part of our everyday life. Living an organic lifestyle means not only looking after ourselves by reducing toxic chemical consumption but also taking care of the environment in which we live. It is about enjoying a healthy, happy lifestyle that is in tune with the natural world. When you choose to live organically, you are choosing to be part of a solution providing a sustainable, healthy future for yourself and generations to come. It embraces a sustainable approach in farming, manufacturing and consumption of goods. It ensures that food needs are met, our environment and natural resources are protected, with non-renewable resources being used efficiently and the quality of life for our farmers and the community as a whole is enhanced. When you buy organic, you are supporting a complete agricultural system that will affect the future of the world around us. It simply means being a more responsible consumer, taking an environmentally responsible and healthy sustainable approach in our lives.

Top 10 Tips For Healthy Organic Living 1) Choose genuine organic products To ensure genuine organic products, look for the term ‘certified organic’ with the certifiers’ logos. Watch out for misleading labelling such as ‘organics’, ‘natural’ and ‘organically produced’ without any evidence of certification. When shopping for any products, always read the label carefully. 2) Research supply sources Find a good organic directory. Locate a good local health food, wholefood or organic shop. Buy local and reduce food mileage. Some local supermarkets have also increased their lines of organic products. Look for websites, mail-order, direct-sale companies and delivery services that sell and deliver organic products. Ask suppliers whether they can provide you


with other products as they might not list all the products that they can supply. If you are unsure about new organic products, see if you can get them in sample trial sizes. Look for local farmers’ markets, box schemes or co-operatives. Organic farmers’ markets sell goods that are certified organic but ordinary farmers’ markets can be just as good. A local farmer is more likely to use organic methods in that they allow their animals to roam freely, give them chemical-free feeds, avoid the use of antibiotics and growth hormones, use chemical-free, natural pest control and avoid genetically modified crops. A local farmer is less likely to use conventional, intensive farming methods that are necessary to produce huge crops at cheap prices. If the local farmer cannot provide organic certification, they can usually tell you how the produce was grown. Before organic became a legal definition, many local farmers used organic farming methods. 3) Take small steps Some people find the prospect of going completely organic overwhelming and too expensive. Living organically does not imply a whole scale lifestyle change. An organic lifestyle is not an ‘all or nothing’ choice. Take things slowly. You can start to gradually adopt an organic lifestyle wherever you are, and however large or small your budget. It is about adapting your life in a progressive way simply by modifying your habits and routines. It’s easy to implement a few changes that will make a big difference to you and your family’s overall health. Consider introducing organic products one at a time. Simply buy organic products as you need them. Replace the conventional products one by one with the healthier alternatives. Look at other healthier options before you purchase the products you have always used. Work out what you can afford, based on the foods you eat most frequently. Choose as much organic food as you can find and afford. Make fruit, vegetables, milk, grain, meat and baby food your first priority. 4) Find ways to save money We know that organic food costs more because organic farms tend to be much smaller than conventional farms and organic farming is more labour intensive


than conventional farming. The good news is that the cost difference between organic and conventional products is narrowing as demand increases, with larger farms gaining organic accreditation. You might consider reviewing your overall spend on food and identify areas where you can cut costs and redirect those savings to buy organic food products. Cutting down the amount of pre-packaged, processed meals and unhealthy, conventional snacks and junk foods will save you money. You will feel better and reduce the weekly cost of your grocery bill. Eating more vegetable protein instead of meat will cut down the cost too. Eat local, seasonal produce as it will be cheaper and more nutritious than supermarket produce that usually spends long periods of time in cold storage. You will get the best flavour when buying in season as it is freshest. Buy organic cereals, grains, nuts and seeds loose and in bulk from a natural foods store rather than purchasing them pre-packaged from a supermarket. Look for alternative sources of food supply such as a local farmer box scheme of fresh fruit and vegetables, usually delivered weekly or your local farmers’ market to reduce your supermarket requirements and grocery bills. Buying online from home-delivery sources or direct from manufacturers might be cheaper as they frequently bypass one or two links in the supply chain resulting in lower overheads. You will gradually learn how and where to get the most affordable organic products. 5) Choose a natural way of living Whether you are caring for your body, choosing your food, cleaning your house or tending your garden, moving towards an organic way of life is about living well and caring for the environment. If you are unable to source genuine organic products, you should choose products that are as natural and environmentally friendly as possible. Unfortunately this is easier said than done. In today’s market the term ‘natural’ does not carry the same meaning that we are all familiar with. Many companies deceptively market their products as being ‘natural’ when in most cases they are far from natural in the true sense. Food labelling standards allow products that use the word ‘natural’ to contain a minimum of only 1% of ingredients derived from natural sources. It is extremely important to understand


this when choosing products labelled ‘natural’ as almost certainly they will be far from being truly natural. 6) Choose natural fabrics Replace fabrics with certified organic cotton or hemp as they come up for renewal. There are many certified organic clothing, bedding and towels now available. Beware of many so-called ‘natural’ fabrics that have been processed using a myriad of toxic chemicals. Some of these fabrics are derived from plants grown with pesticides and extracted using processes that have negative impact on our environment. 7) Choose a chemical-free home Educate yourself on the dangers of the chemicals found commonly in many products you use. Consider the cleaning products in your cupboard and decide what you really need. Do the same with your personal hygiene, toiletries, body care and cosmetics. Choose those without harmful synthetic chemical ingredients and read the labels carefully. Experiment with natural alternatives. You will be surprised how well they work, even without the long list of ingredients that are so commonly found on conventional chemical-laden products. 8) Grow an organic garden Start a compost heap. It offers a great way to reduce and recycle waste and a natural means to fertilise your garden. Use organic seed, natural pest control and fertilisers. Before long, you will be picking fresh produce from your very own organic garden. Not only will you save money, you will be amazed at how much better it tastes when compared to produce that has been picked and stored months before it appears on the shelves in the supermarkets. 9) Spread the news Share your positive benefits of an organic lifestyle with your family and friends. This will encourage more people to adopt the organic lifestyle and increase the demand for organic food and products. The benefits of increased demand will help our organic farmers and also reduce our costs, encouraging a healthier way of living for all.


By choosing organic foods, skin care, household products and adopting organic methods in your garden and around your home, you will be helping to encourage the demand for products that consider our welfare as well as the biodiversity of the planet. 10) Watch out for pitfalls The unhealthy organic product movement is on the rise as manufacturers jump on to the organic bandwagon. Products such as chocolates, cigarettes, soft drinks, cookies, biscuits, cakes, tinned foods, sweets, snacks and wines are all available organically. It is absolutely possible to have an unhealthy organic diet. If your diet is based on refined foods, you will not be getting the nutrients you need for good health. These products do not encourage your body to function at its optimum level as they lack the essential vitamins and nutrients your body requires daily. Eating organic treats means that you have less exposure to chemicals but they should not replace fresh and healthy organic produce. Whether you smoke organic cigarettes or not, you will still be exposed to the risk of developing lung cancer and other illnesses associated with smoking. You will only have reduced exposure to toxic chemicals associated with the conventional brands. The basis of health is the same, whether you choose organic or not. An organic diet is only healthy if it contains all the elements of a healthy, balanced diet. ‘The key is to live simply.’ Ed Begley, Jr


Additives In Your Food Organic Food Products Genetically Modified Foods


Dairy Products Grains Fruit & Vegetables Meat & Poultry Seafood ‘The packaging for a microwavable “microwave” dinner is programmed for a shelf life of maybe six months, a cook time of two minutes and a landfill dead-time of centuries.’ David Wann It is no secret that many illnesses have been linked to the food we eat. With today’s hectic, high paced life, the majority of people in the developed world eat excessive quantities of highly processed pre-packaged foods. Most of us have little idea of the chemicals and toxins we are exposed to everyday through the food we eat. The reality is that although we would like to be more well informed about what is in the food we eat, we are simply too busy to read all the labels thoroughly. Even if we do find the time, most food labels can be difficult to understand because manufacturers use long and complex chemical names and mysterious numbers to list the ingredients or are simply not declaring them at all. It is not enough to rely on the regulatory bodies alone to protect us. Certain ingredients have been approved based on scientific studies provided by the food manufacturers themselves, without any independent studies conducted by the regulatory bodies. The best insurance we have is to choose certified organic food and food products. These products have been through a strict process of certification to ensure that they do not contain any toxic chemicals and have not been irradiated or genetically modified. It is vitally important that we reduce our dependence on heavily processed, convenience food and return to the habit of eating fresh fruit and vegetables and other wholesome, nutritious foods.


Additives in Your Food In Australia, there are more than 300 substances that are approved for use as food additives including synthetic chemicals made from petroleum. Each of these is identified by its name and a number. Even though these names and numbers are the same globally, some countries such as Europe place an E in front of the number. Food additives in Australia are classified by the functions they perform such as anti-caking agents, anti-foaming agents, antioxidants, bleaching agents, bulking agents, colouring, emulsifiers, firming agents, flavour enhancers, flour treatment agents, food acids, glazing agents, humectants, mineral salts, preservatives, propellants, sequestrants, solvents, stabilizers, sweeteners, thickeners and vegetable gums. Additives are used in foods to replace the nutritional value and taste lost in processing, enhance their texture or appearance, prolong shelf life, stop food from decaying and facilitate the preparation of processing. These are also used to replace ‘real’ ingredients to enhance flavour, giving extra taste to otherwise bland products and to make junk foods more appealing. Food additives are used widely even though most of their long term safety is untested and questionable, especially the combined effect of literally hundreds of synthetic chemicals found in food. Many have been linked to allergic reactions, rashes, headaches, mood problems, asthma, hyperactivity in children, obesity, heart disease and cancer. Under the current legislation, manufacturers are not required to list additives if they are present in an ingredient that comprises 5 per cent or less of the product. Manufacturers also do not have to specify whether additives are natural or synthetic on the labels of products. The law also does not require many additives in processed foods to be labelled as such. Some manufacturers like to use the word ‘natural’ whenever possible to attract customers. Food additives derived from natural sources are not necessarily safer than other additives. Be aware of this when choosing food products and don’t be swayed by deceptive marketing tactics and claims of natural ingredients. The following is a list of commonly found additives in our food. They are by no means exhaustive as there are hundreds of additives out there. The only way we can avoid the harmful effects of food additives is to educate ourselves and choose foods that do not have ‘nasties’ in them.


Artificial Sweeteners Artificial sweeteners used in Australia include Aspartame (951), Acesulphame Potassium (962), Cyclamates (952), Saccharin (954) and Sucralose (955). They are often marketed as Equal, NutraSweet, TwinSweet, Sweet’n Low and Splenda. These food additives are not only used in diet foods and drinks but also found commonly in mainstream foods such as snacks, desserts, cordials, juices, yoghurts and chewing gum. These artificial sweeteners have been linked to various forms of cancer in laboratory animals. Aspartame is an ‘excitotoxin’ and excessive exposure can cause damage to the brain cells. Foetuses, infants and young children are particularly vulnerable because the underdeveloped blood-brain barrier allows excess Aspartame to be delivered to the brain. After ingestion of Aspartame, some consumers have reported symptoms such as migraines, headaches, dizziness, mood swings, visual disturbance, nausea, diarrhoea, sleep disorders, memory loss, heart palpitations and convulsions. People who suffer from phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot metabolise phenylalanine and should avoid Aspartame as it is made up of 50 per cent phenylalanine. Overexposure to phenylalanine can lead to serious complication including death. Colourings Artificial colourings serve no purpose in food. They are only used by manufacturers to enhance the appearance of their products especially those marketed to children. Many artificial colourings such as Amaranth (123), Food Green (142), Brilliant Black (151) and Brown HT (155) have been linked to cancers in animals and some can be contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals. A 2007 study by the University of Southampton UK, published in medical journal The Lancet confirmed that Tartrazine (102), Quinoline Yellow (104), Sunset Yellow (110), Carmoisine (122), Ponceau Red (124) and Allura Red (129) could cause hyperactivity in children. Even though these six colours have been removed from all foods in the UK and banned in other countries, they are still used regularly in hundreds of products in Australia, including cordials, snack foods, yoghurts, lollies, breakfast cereals, fruit juices and fruit snacks.


Natural colourings are often marketed aggressively using the label ‘No Artificial Colouring’ but they are not necessarily safer than synthetic ones. Carmine or cochineal (120) is a dye made from ground-up husks of beetles which gives the red colouring. Annatto (160b) is derived from the seed of the Achiote tree to produce a yellow to orange colouring. Both have been linked to allergic reactions and hyperactivity. Even though manufacturers describe Caramels (150 i to150 iv) as natural colours on labels, they are produced synthetically using ammonia, ammonium sulphite, sulphur dioxide and sodium hydroxide. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) MSG (620 -625) is a white powder with no taste of its own and no nutritional value. It is used as a flavour enhancer, commonly in Chinese food and is linked to ‘Chinese restaurant syndrome’ which can include dizziness, headaches, nausea, cold sweats, irritability and heart palpitations. It may also provoke an asthmatic attack. MSG is also found in other foods such as snack foods, chips, savoury foods, sauces, packet soups, packaged meals and preserved meats. Low levels of MSG are found naturally in foods such as broccoli, tomatoes, spinach and grapes. Normal levels of glutamate play an important role in allowing brain cells to communicate with each other. However, excessive amount of glutamates will kill brain cells because they are ‘excitotoxins’ that cause overstimulation of cells resulting in cell death. MSG has also been linked to learning disorders, hyperactivity and neurodegenerative brain disease. As with aspartame, foetuses, infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effect of glutamates. As consumers become more aware of the detrimental effects of MSG, manufacturers are increasingly using other non-regulated ingredients that contain MSG to avoid having to list MSG on their labels. Some examples of these ingredients include hydrolysed vegetable or plant protein, plant protein extract, yeast extract, flavourings and seasonings. Nitrates & Nitrites Sodium nitrate (250) and sodium nitrite (251) are used in processed meat and fish products to preserve the meats and protect the meat’s lovely colour. They


inhibit the growth of bacteria that causes botulism. They can react with amines in meats to form nitrosamines which are known to cause cancers in laboratory animals. Once ingested, some nitrates convert to nitrites which may react with stomach acids to create nitrosamines. Nitrates may also pose a risk of methaemoglobinaemia, a condition resulting in symptoms such as tiredness and a general feeling of being unwell, and a form of ‘Blue Baby Syndrome’. Methaemoglobinaemia can occur in infants and in adults with a reduced ability to secrete acid in the stomach. A rise in the pH in their digestive system allows bacteria to proliferate, increasing the conversion of nitrate to nitrite. These nitrites react with the haemoglobin in the blood, forming high amounts of methaemoglobin which lacks the ability to carry oxygen in the blood. Sulphites (220 -228) These additives are listed as sulphur dioxide, sodium sulphite, sodium and potassium bisulphite or metabisulphite and are used in foods to prevent spoiling and discolouration. They may be found in fruit juices, soft drinks, dried fruit, wine, beer, salad dressing, sausages, sauces, pickles, shellfish, fruit and vegetables. They may provoke an asthmatic attack in asthmatic and can trigger severe allergic reactions. Trans-fat Trans fats can be found naturally in meat and milk from certain animals. It can also be created artificially by the hydrogenation of fats and oils. This hydrogenation process is used to solidify liquid vegetable oils to make products such as margarines and vegetable shortenings. They also have higher heat stability and resistance to oxidation, so they are used for frying, deep frying and baking. They are most commonly labelled as vegetable oils, partially or fully hydrogenated fats containing no cholesterol and marketed as better than animal fats. However, they cause formation of fatty acid plaques causing blockage in blood vessels resulting in heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure. They also cause increased level of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and decreased level of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol. Labelling legislation requires only the amount of total fat and saturated fat to be


listed on all food labels. The amount of trans fat in food is only required to be listed on the label if a nutrition claim is made about cholesterol, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated fats; omega-3, omega-6 or omega-9 fatty acids.

Organic Food Products For a processed food product to be labelled ‘certified organic’, it must contain 95 per cent or more organic ingredients (excluding water and salt) and each organic ingredient must be labelled as such in the ingredients listing. Non-organic ingredients (less than 5 per cent) can only be included when they are not available organically. They cannot be made of synthetic chemicals, genetically modified or irradiated. Products that have between 70 and 90 per cent of organic ingredients can be labelled as ‘contain certified organic ingredients’. Every step in the production chain starting from the growers to the processors must be certified. All ingredients are checked and approved by the organic certification body before production. Ingredients are processed in the most natural way possible, preferably by physical or biological methods to maintain the natural quality of the product. Organic products are stored, handled and processed separately to non-organic products to prevent cross-contamination. No synthetic chemicals are used in the pest control and cleaning of the processing plant. The use of chemical additives is restricted in organic products. They may be used only when they are essential to ensure safety of food or when required by the law. They are allowed in organic foods only if the product cannot be produced or preserved without them. The total additive ingredients cannot exceed five per cent mass of the final certified product excluding water and salt. The additives permitted include organic ingredients as well as non-organic ingredients that are naturally occurring substances of agricultural origin. They cannot be genetically modified (GM) or irradiated. Natural additives include acetic acid (vinegar), agar-agar, albumen (egg white), alginates (from seaweed), beta-carotene (from carrots), citric acid (from citrus fruit), dextrose (from corn sugar), Guar gum (from a seed grown in India), Gum tragacanth (from a thorny shrub native to the Middle East), lactic acid (from corn starch, potatoes, molasses and whey), lecithin (from soya beans, eggs and corn)


and sodium chloride (salt). ‘Any scientist who tells you they know that GMOs are safe and not to worry about it, is either ignorant of the history of science or is deliberately lying. Nobody knows what the long-term effect will be.’ David Suzuki

Genetically Modified (GM) Foods GM crops are already being cultivated in many places around the world including Australia. In the USA, many thousands of hectares of land have been dedicated to the cultivation of GM soybean, canola, corn and cotton. This has led to the widespread introduction of GM ingredients in processed foods. While only three GM crops (cotton, canola and blue carnations) are approved for growing in Australia, there are imported GM ingredients such as GM soybean, canola, corn, potato, sugar beet and cotton that have been approved for consumption in Australia. These ingredients can be found in confectionary, snack food, breads, pastries, baked products, oils, fried foods and soft drinks. Currently, there is no GM wheat grown commercially anywhere in the world. Plans to introduce GM wheat in North America were abandoned in 2004. In 2010, 233 consumer and farmer groups in 26 countries have joined the “Definitive Global Rejection of GM Wheat” statement to stop the commercialisation of GM wheat. The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) in Australia has approved an application from CSIRO to conduct GM wheat and barley trials in Australian Capital Territory (ACT). As a result of these studies, there is a real prospect that the Australian population could become one of the first countries to grow and eat genetically modified wheat and wheat products. Wheat is a fundamental part of our daily diet, the basis of bread, pastries, pasta, noodles and many other foods. Corn is used to make starches, corn flour and syrups. Cotton provides cottonseed oil used in deep frying and in the production of dried fruit. Canola is used in a range of processed foods or as a cooking or salad oil. Soy is used in a wide range of food products in the form of flours, oils and lecithin. It is also used to feed poultry and pigs. Under current labelling laws in Australia and New Zealand, very few GM foods are labelled. The following foods do not require GM labelling: highly processed


products such as cooking oils, starches and sugars from GM crops; products derived from animals fed GM crops such as meat, milk, cheese and eggs; and foods that are prepared at bakeries, restaurants and takeaways. In addition, labeling is not required where there is no more than 1% (per ingredient) of an approved GM food unintentionally present in a non-GM food. This means labeling is not required where a manufacturer genuinely orders nonGM ingredients but finds that up to 1% of an approved GM ingredient is accidentally mixed in non-GM ingredients. There is an urgent need for the full labelling of GM foods so consumers can make informed decisions to either choose or reject GM foods. The safety of GM food is a central issue driving the GM controversy today. Proponents and critics of GM food have very different views about GM plants. Proponents argue that the GM plant has not changed significantly and is substantially equivalent to the parent plant and does not need safety testing. Critics argue that with GM technology in its infancy, unknown and unintended long term consequences on human health may result. In keeping with the precautionary principle, comprehensive safety testing by independent researchers of all GM foods should be undertaken before feeding them to millions of people. With the rapid development and introduction of GM crops and products into the food chain with uncertain long term effects to our health and environment, we should all be concerned about the serious ramifications of this technology and devote time to look at the independent research that has been conducted. In the meantime, the best way to avoid consuming GM or GM-derived foods is to choose certified organic food and food products. Another way is to avoid processed foods as much as possible and choose fresh, wholesome foods. In Australia, at the moment there are no approved GM fresh foods, such as fruit and vegetables.

Dairy Products Conventional dairy products The administration of growth promoting hormones including Bovine Somatotropin (BST) in dairy cattle is banned in Australia. BST is a genetically engineered growth hormone that is used to increase milk production in dairy


cattle in America. BST in milk has been linked to increased risks of breast, prostate and colon cancer due to high levels of a growth factor called EGF-1. In Australia and New Zealand, dairy herds are almost exclusively pasture-fed. Conventional dairy cows could be grazing on pastures that have been treated with synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. Conventional dairy farms tend to manage the cows to maximise milk production. Cows are treated as milk producing machines. High tech milking platforms usually managed by computers process cows with speed and indifference. For example, an 80-bail rotary platform can milk more than 600 cows per hour. The modern dairy cow can yield around 35 to 50 litres of milk per day, about 10 times more milk than what her calf would need. Producing large quantities of milk puts a significant strain on the animal. The great weight of the udders often causes painful stretching or tearing of ligaments and foot problems such as laminitis. Dairy cattle are also susceptible to mastitis, painful bacterial infections of the udder. The milking machine itself may render the cow more susceptible to infection. Mastitis and other infections will need to be treated with antibiotics. Conventional dairy products may contain antibiotic residues and mastitis bacteria (pus). Constant milking wears a cow out prematurely. The natural life span of the cow is around 20 years but few dairy cows are older than seven when slaughtered. To keep producing milk for human consumption, a dairy cow must produce a calf each year. Calves are usually taken from their mothers’ within 12 to 24 hours of birth. The separation of the calves from their mothers breaks a strong maternal bond causing great distress to both the cows and calves. The dairy industry produces hundreds of thousands of dairy calves. They are either used as herd replacement (heifer calves), raised for veal (bull calves) or slaughtered as ‘waste-products’ of the dairy industry, usually at around the tender age of five to six days old. Dairy calves are not valued as they don’t grow at the same rate as beef calves and their meat quality is considered sub-standard by the beef industry. Organic dairy products Organic milk is produced the way nature intended and without the use of antibiotics, synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. Organic dairy cows graze on


organic pastures that contain nutrient-rich grasses and plants that have not been treated with any synthetic chemicals. They are provided shade from the sun and shelter from the weather. They cannot be kept indoors in unhygienic and cramped conditions, thus less likely to suffer from health problems associated with overcrowding. When a cow becomes ill, it is treated with natural remedies and no antibiotics are administered. If antibiotics or other treatments have to be used as a last resort treatment, the milk from that cow cannot be sold as organic for six months. Organic dairy cows are treated with respect and dignity. They are not subjected to intensive milking. Dairy calves are not treated as waste products of the industry. Cleaning products used to clean the milk collection vats must be made from natural ingredients. The Danish Institute of Agricultural Research claims that organic milk has higher levels of vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamin E, beta-carotene, antioxidants and omega-3 fats than non-organic milk. Organic dairy products such as yoghurt, cheese, butter, ice cream, sour cream and cream use only organic milk with no GM ingredients, synthetic additives, colourings and flavourings.

Grains Grains and whole grains are the seeds of grasses cultivated for food. They come in many shapes and sizes. Whole grains are unrefined grains that still contain all the bran, germ and endosperm. Refined grains are milled, a process that strips out both the bran and germ to give them a finer texture. Whole grains contain more fibre (from the bran), vitamins (from the bran and germ) and trace elements such as selenium, potassium and magnesium (from the bran) and antioxidants (from the germ). Common whole grains include wheat, oat, brown rice, spelt, rye, millet, quinoa, buckwheat and popcorn. Wholemeal products are made by grinding whole grains in order to make wholegrain flour. Common whole grain products include wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, rolled oats and breakfast cereals made from whole grains. Refined grains such as white flour only have the endosperm remaining and many nutrients including fibre are stripped by the milling process. Common refinedgrain products include white bread, non-wholemeal pasta and cereals, crackers,


desserts and pastries made with refined grains. Conventional grains Conventionally farmed grains are heavily sprayed with toxic, synthetic pesticides. They absorb more chemicals than other foods because the grains are very small. Wholemeal breads have more chemical residues than white breads because pesticides and other chemicals sit on the husk of the grain, which forms part of wholegrain breads and other products. Most conventional bakery products use synthetically made commercial yeasts to speed up the fermentation process. Other chemicals are also used to improve their shelf life, keep the bread soft, increase the volume of the dough and provide colour and flavouring. White breads are made from flour that has been bleached. Some of the vitamins stripped during intensive processing may be added back synthetically through a re-enrichment process. The other concern is that of genetically modified crops. Imported grain products such as pasta and cereals and those made locally with imported raw ingredients might contain genetically modified materials. Current Australian GM labelling laws do not require GM ingredients in the refined forms such as soy lecithin, canola or cotton seed oil to be listed. Organic grains Organic grains are grown without the use of any synthetic pesticides or fertilisers. They are milled, processed and stored within certified organic facilities that have not been fumigated or treated with toxic chemicals. Organic grains are processed in the most natural way possible, commonly by physical methods such as stone milling. The stone ground process is a slower, traditional method that avoids overheating and dehydration. This process ensures all the germ, bran and endosperm of the whole grain, along with the vitamins and minerals are retained and distributed evenly throughout the milled flour. All organic bread, organic baked goods, pastas and cereals must contain at least 95 per cent of organic ingredients, and be without any artificial preservatives or colourings and genetically modified ingredients. For bread to be certified organic, individual ingredients and the bakery itself must be fully certified. Organic bread are exempt from otherwise mandatory fortification with iodised salt, folic acid and thiamine. Organic flour cannot be bleached and synthetically


made commercial yeast is prohibited. Many organic bakers do not even use yeast, but prefer to allow the bread to rise naturally. In making sourdough breads, the slower fermentation process of 18 hours allows the beneficial lactobacilli to fully develop.

Fruit & Vegetables Conventional fruit & vegetables Conventionally farmed fruit and vegetables are grown using pesticides such as insecticides, herbicides and fungicides. Producers are not required to declare whether these chemicals have been used to grow the fresh produce. Research has shown some of the most heavily sprayed foods include oranges, pears, apples, strawberries, lettuce, celery and carrots. Overexposure to pesticides has been linked to a variety of health problems such as skin inflammation, irritation to eyes and respiratory tract, intestinal disorder, chronic fatigue, hyperactivity, infertility and other reproductive problems, headaches, neurological disorders and cancers. Most insecticides are derived from four synthetic chemical groups: organochlorines, organophosphates, carbamates and pyrethroids. Organochlorine pesticides were among the first of the modern pesticides to be used in the 1940s. In general, they are highly stable compounds that persist in the soil and water resulting in long term environmental pollution.They degrade slowly and being fat-soluble, accumulate in the food chain, eventually ending up in the fatty tissues of our bodies where they are toxic to the nervous system. The use of organochlorines such as DDT, aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, chlordane, hexachlorobenzene has been banned in Australia. Even though these pesticides have been banned, residues remain in soil for decades and are taken up by deep-rooting crops grown in contaminated soil. Residues of some of these pesticides can still be found in food products today. Organophosphorous pesticides (OP) are the most widely used insecticides in Australia. They are used on fruit and vegetables such as carrots, apples, bananas, cabbages, broccoli, mushrooms, potatoes and soft fruits. They are also used on grain, pasture seed, cotton and on livestock and domestic animals. OP such as acephate, chlorpyrifos, dimethoate, malathionand methyl parathion act on the central nervous system and can cause difficulty breathing,


convulsions, paralysis and even death. They inhibit the enzyme responsible for the metabolism of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that signals between nerve cells and between nerve and muscle cells, resulting in nervous system dysfunction. Carbamate pesticides such as aldicarb, carbaryl, fenoxycarb and pirimicarbare are neurotoxins and affect the central nervous system similar to OP. Even though OP and carbamates are more biodegradable than organochlorines, because of their fat solubility, they can still accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals and humans. Synthetic pyrethroid pesticides such as permethrin, cypermethrin and fenvelerate are synthetic insecticides which have a similar chemical structure to natural pyrethrins found in chrysanthemums. Even though pyrethroids possess lower toxicities than the first three groups, they are highly toxic with high dose exposure. Herbicides such as glyphosate (Roundup) are used to increase the yield of crops by killing weeds that compete with crops for water, nutrients and sunlight. Various studies have linked glyphosate with toxic effects on our health such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Glyphosate has also been linked to birth defects and DNA damage in laboratory animals. Glyphosate was marketed as a product that breaks down rapidly and harmlessly in the environment. Claims of the environmental safety of Roundup have been overturned in court in New York and France. Non-organic mushroom growers use chemical pesticides, methyl bromide and fungicides. Mushrooms are commonly grown in compost made from manure from animals fed on a proportion of GM feed. They are often frequently fumigated with formaldehyde to give them a longer shelf-life in the supermarket. Conventionally farmed foods are also sprayed with harmful preservatives and ‘cosmetic’ chemicals to increase their shelf life and improve their appearance to consumers. They often have high levels of chemicals, fewer nutrients and have been stored for weeks or months before they reach the supermarket shelves, by which time most of the goodness has been diminished. Paraffin wax used in coating fresh foods to maintain freshness and improve their appearance is a petrochemical derivative and may interfere with digestion and the absorption of vitamins. Some fruit and vegetables found overseas have also been genetically modified so


they freeze and defrost well. There are serious concerns that organic crops could become contaminated with GM materials causing organic farmers to lose their organic certification. Bees, birds, insects, wind and rain have carried genetically modified pollens into adjoining fields and contaminated the DNA of crops of organic and nongenetically modified farmers. In USA, this has also resulted in litigation by the GM companies. Organic fruit & vegetables Organic fruit and vegetables are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. As they are grown in organic soils that contain a rich source of nutrients, they tend to have more nutritional value and superior taste. As organic produce is grown naturally, they can be oddly shaped and appear slightly blemished, unlike conventional fresh produce that have been treated with chemicals to give them a perfect appearance. Organic fresh produce is not subjected to irradiation and is not treated with harmful preservatives or other chemicals. They are not grown from genetically modified seed stock.

Meat & Poultry Conventional meat & poultry Conventionally raised animals such as chickens, pigs and cattle are commonly raised in overcrowded and cramped conditions. The focus is mostly on scale, intensity, efficiency and profit rather than animal welfare. Big factory-style sheds or feedlots are used to provide an artificially controlled environment to maximise production. Animals are not allowed the freedom to express their natural behaviour. This predisposes them to stress and sickness. Disease in these intensive livestock production systems is managed by routine vaccination, antibiotics and other medication regimes. While the use of the growth hormones in food-producing animals in Australia is banned, growth-promoting agents such as antibiotics and Hormone Growth Promoters (HGPs) continue to be used in conventional poultry and livestock industries.


Some animals are fed a diet of pellets which are often based on crops grown with synthetic pesticides and fertilisers; and may contain genetically modified ingredients. Antibiotics are added as part of their feed to promote growth and prevent many diseases that result from close confinement. Some feeds can also contain offal, slaughter products, same-species material, food industry by-products treated with solvents, synthetic additives, appetisers, preservatives and artificial colourings. Some of these feeds can be contaminated with bacteria including multi-resistant species that can be passed on to these food-producing animals contaminating the food chain. More than half of the world’s antibiotics are used to promote growth in animals raised for meat. Scientific research has shown that antibiotics used in factory farm animals are creating antibiotic-resistant pathogens that are infecting people who eat these animal products. These pathogens present a serious threat to both animals and humans as they can be difficult to treat given their resistance to antibiotics. Organic meat & poultry Organic livestock are grown in a way that conforms to the natural processes of growth and development. Animal welfare is high priority on organic farms with emphasis placed upon allowing the animals to express their natural behaviour and social interaction. Organically farmed animals have free access to fields or outdoor areas with adequate shade, shelter and protection from predators at all times. They are also provided with natural bedding, plenty of indoor areas, clean and fresh drinking water. Organic livestock graze on organic pasture totally free of any synthetic chemicals, herbicides and pesticides. Any grains, hay or other feeds must be certified organic, with up to 5% chemical-free, non-organic feed allowed only where absolutely necessary. The use of synthetic nitrogen supplements, animal by-products, additives, growth hormone promoters and genetically modified products is prohibited. On organic farms, animals are not subjected to mutilation and painful procedures such as tail docking, grinding, clipping of teeth and nose rings (in pigs); debeaking (in chicken); or castration and de-horning (in cattle). Good nutrition, rotational grazing practices and natural treatments are used to


help prevent pests and diseases in organic livestock. Routine vaccination is not permitted unless required by law or where it can be verified that organic management practices cannot control the disease in question. Antibiotics can only be used under exceptional circumstances and the treated animals and their products must not be sold as ‘certified organic’. Organic livestock farmer has to document and implement an organic management plan for stock transport. Animal transport and handling is arranged in such a way as to minimise stress and prevent contamination. Trucks are cleaned to eliminate residue from previous transport. There must be enough room to ensure the animals are not injured and synthetic tranquillisers are not permitted. Certified organic feed and clean water are to be made available before and after transport. Organic standards also extend to how livestock are slaughtered and must be handled by certified organic abattoirs. Slaughter must be carried out quickly and without undue stress. Organic livestock are processed before conventional animals if the abattoirs are also used to handle conventional livestock. Certified organic retailers such as butchers are important as the last link in the production chain of carefully grown and handled organic products. They provide the assurance that what you buy is organic all the way from paddock to plate. Meat is processed in accordance to the strict Organic Standards. Nitrates and nitrites are not allowed as preservatives in organic cured meat. Organic meat, poultry, hams and bacon do not contain any added fillers or water.

Seafood Conventional seafood Fish in our oceans are accumulating toxins from within their own environment. The consumption of everyday conventional products has led to the dispersal of many toxins into our oceans and waterways. Wild fish caught in coastal waters may be contaminated with industrial pollution such as mercury and persistent organic pollutants (POP). Women who have been exposed to mercury during pregnancy have been known to have given birth to children with serious birth defects. High levels of mercury contribute to the development of heart and brain problems in infants and young children, with fatigue, headaches, loss of memory, joint pains, kidney dysfunction, nervous system disturbance and cardiovascular effects in adults.


POPs are chemicals that won’t dissipate in the environment or in the body and may accumulate, causing increased levels of exposure over time. This includes polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), a by-product of the plastic and synthetic chemical industries. High levels of POP are potentially neurotoxic, meaning they affect the nervous system. Globally, intense commercial fishing pressure has created major issues for the world’s oceans and the species that it supports. The United Nations has classified two-thirds of the world’s fishing areas as overexploited. Collectively, we humans have managed to remove 90% of predatory fish from the world’s oceans in just 50 years. By-catch is of enormous concern to the ecology of our oceanic environment. Modern commercial practices do not discriminate between the intended target species and all other species present. Most by-catch species are discarded as waste with many of those species being dead upon retrieval. By-catch species include seabirds, turtles, dolphins and other fish species as well as some mammals. According to the Australian Marine Conservation Society, less than 1% of Australia’s marine environment is fully protected from commercial fishing and mining activities. Marine habitats including coral reefs are also negatively impacted by activities such as land clearing, soil erosion, the use of synthetic pesticides and irresponsible coastal development. Many of Australia’s commercially caught fish are fully or overexploited with an increasing number of marine species becoming threatened every year. As a result of our dwindling natural resources, aquaculture is on the rise. In Australia, salmon, prawns, mud crabs, abalone, mussels, oysters and freshwater species such as silver perch are some examples of the seafood produced by the aquaculture industry. They are raised under controlled conditions in contained areas such as ponds on shore; in the open seas; in net cages located in our bays; or in freshwater tanks. The overall environmental impact of these farms depends on the species, how it is raised, fed and where the farm is located. Conventionally farmed fish can be fed a diet that often contains recycled dead fish, fish oils and colourings, padded with bran and chemicals to increase their body mass. They are more susceptible to disease if large concentrations of fish are stocked at high densities. Many farmed fish species are raised in water that has been sterilised through the use of chemicals.


Antibiotics and other chemicals such as algaecides and pesticides can be added to feed in order to prevent and treat diseases. Residues can potentially be passed on to the consumers and could lead to antibiotic resistance in humans. When farmed fish escape into the wild, there is the potential of spreading disease, antibiotic residues, and parasites to resident wild fish in the surrounding waterways and oceans. The critics of fish farming also raise the issue of the environmental effects of high nutrient loads as a result of fish waste and uneaten food. Another problem with conventional fish farms relates to the production of fish pellets to feed fish in fish farms. It takes about five kilograms of wild fish to produce one kilogram of salmon. This requires catching of the ‘fish food’ species which may cause depletion due overfishing. ‘Fish food’ species may contain high levels of contaminants. In the USA, conventionally farmed salmon are likely the most PCB contaminated protein source in the US food supply. They are fed a diet of ground up small fish that have accumulated PCBs in their fatty tissue. Seafood sold unpackaged at retailers is exempt from labelling requirements. Many additives such as sulphur dioxide, ascorbic acid, sodium and potassium sulphites, erythorbic acid, sodium, calcium and potassium ascorbates are permitted in fish and fish product. Organic fish Fish taken from the wild cannot be labelled as organic as there is no control over the pollution levels in the habitat of the fish and what they eat. Only farmed fish can be certified organic. Organically farmed fish are produced in a sustainable manner. They have lower stocking densities and must meet standards in breeding, animal welfare, water sourcing and quality, disease management, harvesting, feeding and environmental impact. They have to be grown using methods that ensure minimal impact on the environment and natural fish communities. Organic fish farmers cannot feed fishmeal from commercial fishing practices, synthetic colouring, growth regulators, synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, appetite stimulants and GM ingredients. Fish are fed with certified organic feed, with no synthetic preservatives or additives permitted for use. The organic aquaculture industry is currently in its infancy. There are very few


certified organic fish farms in Australia at the moment although that number is expected to increase in the coming years as the demand for pesticide and chemical free seafood increases. ‘Food is power. Are you in control of yours?’ John Jeavons

Interview Dr Lok: Hi Rob, What was it that inspired you to be a farmer? Rob: Right from when I was very young I always wanted to be a farmer. By the time I was old enough to work with my father on the farm, chemicals were all the go. I thought it would be all about working with nature and driving tractors


but instead it was all about mixing chemicals and learning rates and withholding periods. When my father passed away aged 53, from cancer and a number of my neighbours, also farmers, died in their 50s from leukaemia, I started to think there wasn’t much future in doing it this way. I used to get quite sick when I sprayed and hated seeing so many dead birds laying around the farm. I thought about the way the Aboriginals lived here on this same land without chemicals for thousands of years and the way my grandfather and great grandfather farmed organically. At that stage I started to question the need for spraying chemical poisons onto our food and the need to add tonnes of man-made fertilisers to our soil. Our soils are rated among the most fertile in the world. So in the early 1980s I decided to go organic. Dr Lok: Can you tell us about your business? Rob: We run Queensland’s largest certified organic vegetable farm. Our farm incorporates six farms in total, covering some 1000 acres in the Mt Sylvia area of the very fertile Lockyer Valley in South East Queensland. Dr Lok: How and when did you establish your business? Rob: The main part of our farm was settled in 1885 by my great grandfather, Karl Bauer. My grandparents and my great grandparents were all organic farmers. The Bauer family name actually means Farmer in German! Dr Lok: What is your business philosophy? Rob: We aim to provide customers with a very high quality, consistent supply of healthy organic vegetables. We believe organic food should look as good as chemically produced food but taste even better and far more nutritious for you. Dr Lok: What were the major obstacles to start with? Rob: There were a few major obstacles in the beginning. Back then the soil was completely dead and crops didn’t want to grow initially. I found it difficult as there was very little information out there at the time, so I simply took lessons from nature. At that time the market for organic produce was also very small, so we had to grow with the market. Dr Lok: So what is Bauer’s Organic Farm and what can it do for people? Rob: Bauer’s Organic Farm is Australian owned and family operated. It has


become one of the largest suppliers of top quality organic vegies in Australia. Once you have tasted the wonderful flavour of our vegies, you’ll be hooked and can never go back. Dr Lok: What products do you produce? Rob: We grow a range of organic vegetables including potatoes, carrots, celery, broccoli, pumpkins and other varieties of vegetables at different times of the year. Dr Lok: You must be very proud of your brand. What is it that has made your produce as respected as it is today? Rob: We are very proud of our organic vegetables and we have won a number of national awards, even against conventional foods of all sorts. Our awards include a Vogue Produce Awards Gold Medal. Some of Australia’s most famous chefs use our produce and rave about the quality and flavour. For many years our produce has been quite sought after as we always aim to provide a consistent supply of a good quality product. Growing vegies organically in some of the most fertile soils in the world certainly brings out the best in our produce making it some of the best there is. Dr Lok: Is your produce available throughout Australia? Rob: Our produce is available throughout Australia wherever certified organic vegetables are sold. It is delivered fresh to most capital cities a few times a week. It is sold through organic outlets, home delivery services, farmers markets and supermarkets. We export some as well. Dr Lok: What does it mean to be organic? Rob: Being organic means farming without the use of poisonous chemicals, but it also embodies so many good environmental practices. Conventional farming is all about killing things whereas organic farming is about promoting life. Dr Lok: What is involved in getting an organic label on your produce? Rob: To have the certified organic label on our produce, we must strictly adhere to the rules of the certifying body. In our case it is the Australian Certified Organic Body. We must be very vigilant in our record keeping as annual audits are very intensive and we may also be subjected to a ‘spot’ audit. Similarly our produce is sometimes randomly checked at the store level. We thoroughly encourage the certifying bodies to maintain a high standard in order


to gain customer confidence in the certified organic logo. Dr Lok: Is all your produce certified organic? Rob: All of our produce is certified organic and through our farm tours we aim to help people learn just what the certification actually means and how good a guarantee it really is. Dr Lok: How do you overcome pest problems without the routine use of chemicals? Rob: To manage pests we work in harmony with nature. Approximately half of our farm is used for growing vegies while the other half provides habitats for the birds and predatory insects to live in. Because everything is now in balance we don’t have pest problems. However, we do have an ongoing battle with weeds. Dr Lok: What would you say have been the highlights so far for your business? Rob: There are a few highlights. Top chefs like Kylie Kwong regularly sing our praises publicly and we have been featured in a number of wonderful publications. Winning national awards is also very satisfying as they are judged by a range of people including top chefs. Hosting approximately 50 coach-loads of visitors to the farm each year is also really enjoyable. Helping people to learn about organics and put them on the path to a healthier lifestyle and a longer, happier life gives us an amazing sense of achievement. Dr Lok: What gives you the most pleasure? Rob: It would be in knowing that we are producing for our customers, a top quality, flavoursome product that is full of goodness and free from harmful chemicals. We are genuinely looking after our customers, our workers, ourselves and the environment. Dr Lok: What is your vision for the future? Rob: I would love to see all of Australia go organic. We are only a young and relatively clean country so this is quite achievable. Wouldn’t it be great to be living in a clean, green paradise? We enjoy living and working every day in our own 1000 acres of organic paradise.


Dr Lok: Now how can people find out about you and your business? Rob: For more information go to our website: www.bauersorganicfarm.com.au

Rob’s Tips For Keeping Your Vegies Fresher Longer CARROTS To prolong their life and keep them firm and crispy, make sure that you really restrict the air flow around the carrots. Keep them in the bottom of your fridge in the bags they came in. If you just put them into the fridge loose they will go floppy within a couple of days. Keep the top of the bag folded over and they will last for ages. The small holes in the bag won’t matter as long as you keep the bag closed. Air and heat are the enemies. BROCCOLI Refrigeration is essential. Keep broccoli in the crisper or bottom of your fridge. As with carrots it’s a good idea to restrict the air flow around the broccoli. If broccoli is left out of the fridge - exposed to the air and the heat it will go really soft in no time at all. We go to great lengths to cool it quickly and keep it cool to extend its shelf life for you. Keep it in the same manner and you will ensure its longevity and goodness. POTATOES If you want to keep them for a fair period of time, the fridge is the go! Potatoes are taken straight from the cold ground to the cold room on the farm, then transported in refrigerated trucks and stored in cold rooms at the wholesalers and often at the retailers. It is temperature controlled every step of the way. Do not take them home and just put them in the cupboard of your warm house, you will wake them up and encourage them to shoot and go soft. Warmth is their trigger. The ideal temperature to prolong the lifespan of potatoes is between 4°C and 15°C so the refrigerator is ideal. We know what they say about the starches turning to sugars below 9°C but


this is mainly a problem if you are deep frying (the chips are inclined to go a bit black), but this transition can be reversed by taking them out of the fridge for a number of days before use. At home, we only steam and mash, or roast them for our meals, so we just use them straight from the fridge.

Interview Dr Lok: What was it that inspired Monica and yourself to launch Whole Kids? James: Around 15 years ago Monica led an aid team to a remote village in


Indonesia where we worked on a program assisting children in poverty. Monica has always wanted to work towards making a difference to children’s health. It wasn’t until years later while working as a fitness instructor, she saw first-hand the frustration mothers experienced in finding healthy snack foods for their children. She thought wouldn’t it be great if we could create a food business that really cared for kids health and developed programs to also assist children in need. We were constantly hearing from our brothers, sisters and friends with young kids about the lack of healthy, natural snack foods that also tasted great and were convenient enough to put in lunchboxes. Most of the snacks aimed at children contained artificial additives, colourings, flavours and preservatives, and were very high in sugar, salt and fats. We set up Whole Kids to provide mums and dads with yummy, healthy and convenient organic snacks for their kids, and to remove the worry about not knowing what’s really in the foods they give to their children. Dr Lok: How did your company actually get off the ground? James: In 2005 we took the money we were saving to buy a house and set up Nourish Foods and manufactured our first run of Whole Kids organic products. Most of the time our small rented house in Richmond was packed so full of cartons that we sometimes struggled to find space to have dinner. At that stage we didn’t even have a single customer yet! In 2005 we packed our bags and set off to the inaugural Organic Expo in Sydney to see what would happen. I remember when the expo doors finally opened, we were both very nervous. We had spent our life savings and thought no one would even visit our stand. But we made a promise to each other, if we got a few smiles and encouraging words from mums and kids about our products, we would toss in our proper jobs and devote all our energy to Whole Kids. Well we were totally blown away by the response. Parents really appreciated what Whole Kids was about and the kids themselves just loved our yummy snacks. We were over the moon. After the Expo we made true to our promise - we gave up our jobs as soon as we got back to Melbourne. Australia’s first range of organic snacks for kids was officially launched and we were off and running.


That’s just the beginning of the Whole Kids journey. We have so many exciting ideas and plans to help improve the health and nutrition of kids everywhere. Dr Lok: What were the major obstacles you had to overcome in the beginning? James: In the early days it was just the two of us. We would do everything from packing and delivery of orders to sales and managing finances. Time was the thing we lacked most. But deep in our hearts we knew we were on the right path as we had extensively researched the market. We had tested the products and spent lots of time talking with mums and kids about what they wanted. We never could have predicted what was around the corner though. About three months after signing the lease on our first warehouse in Melbourne, we had a torrential downpour that caused the roof to collapse and flooded the whole warehouse. Most of our stock and equipment was damaged and even though we had insurance, the delay in getting everything back up and running was so long that we really thought Whole Kids would be out of business just a few months after launching it. Because we had belief in what we were doing, we somehow found a way through all these problems. So far we haven’t looked back! Dr Lok: Can you tell us a bit more about your business? James: We produce a range of certified organic snack foods for children. Our product lines include dried fruits, popcorn, fruit bars, corn chips, juices and fruit smoothies. We were the first business in Australia to provide a range of organic food specifically created for children. In 2010 we introduced a new organic range of smoothies called Frooshies, to coincide with the launch of our new non-profit organisation called “One Percent for Our Kids”. We donate 1% of all our sales revenue to support and fund projects to improve the health of children and their environment. Dr Lok: What is your business philosophy? James: Our philosophy is quite simple really. We believe in helping kids experience a healthy life and a healthy world. Everything we do is driven by this fundamental belief. Health and environmental sustainability are two of our core values. We believe in nourishing and nurturing our children and our world in a way that is respectful and responsible. We achieve this by striving to create the highest


quality, most wholesome, naturally nutritious and best tasting products available for children. We also believe everything we do in some way impacts our relationship with each other and our environment. We are a small family business with big ambitions and aim to make a real and positive difference to children’s health and their environment. Dr Lok: Is Whole Kids Australian owned? James: Yes, Whole Kids is a wholly Australian owned family business, and proud of it. Dr Lok: Are all your products available throughout Australia? James: You can find our products throughout Australia in quality organic food stores, health food stores, specialty food stores, independent supermarkets and local grocers. You can also buy our products online through our website at www.wholekids.com.au Dr Lok: What is it about organic food that is important to you? James: Organic food contains more of the good things our bodies need like vitamins, nutrients, minerals and essential fatty acids without any of the nasty things we don’t need like synthetic pesticides, growth hormones, artificial additives and genetically modified organisms just to name a few. Our children are at greater risk from pesticide residues for two reasons. Firstly, they ingest more food and water per unit of body weight than we do, so their exposure is greater in proportion to their size. Secondly, their vital organs are still developing so their immature bodies may have limited ability to remove these residues. Now that we have our own little girl Chloe, who is about to turn two, we are even more driven and committed to create healthier food and a healthier environment for kids everywhere. Dr Lok: Are all your products certified organic? James: Yes, all our products are certified organic by the Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA). Dr Lok: What is it about organic living that is important to you and your family? James: We strongly believe living an organic lifestyle not only provides better


nutrition and health, but also provides an opportunity for all of us to reconnect with the natural food chain. With aisle after aisle of processed food in our supermarkets, it is easy to lose touch with the source of our food, where ingredients come from and how they are grown. Our modern urban environment increasingly disconnects us from the natural world, and particularly impacts our children’s understanding of where food comes from. Living an organic lifestyle helps us to reconnect with the natural world and allows us to teach our children the benefits of a healthy natural way of life. Dr Lok: What is your vision for the future? James: We consider ourselves a value-based business. We believe that our business has a social responsibility not just to our customers, suppliers and staff, but also to the wider community and environment, now and into the future. More and more people are looking to businesses to be far more proactive on social and environmental issues as many governments seem incapable of taking action. The environmental problems facing our planet are urgent and critical. People are increasingly aware of these issues and are seeking out companies with a social and environmental conscience. Whole Kids has been founded on deep social and environmental principles and will be driven by these beliefs and values into the future. Dr Lok: How can people find out about you and your business? James: You can find out more about Whole Kids on our website (www.wholekids.com.au) or call us on 1300 099 744. You can also find us on Facebook – just search for “Whole Kids”.


Chemicals In Your Body Care Nanotechnology Baths & Showers Hair Care


Skin Care Oral Care Personal Care Cosmetics Fragrances Sunscreens ‘It’s important to say that household cleaning and personal care products aren’t the only source of chemicals in your home, but they are the easiest ones to replace! What can we do? The answer is to start in small ways at home!’ Dr George Grant - Founder of the International Academy of Wellness You can have a naturally healthy looking skin without using a cocktail of products. Drinking plenty of filtered water, eating a balanced diet rich in fresh, organic fruit and vegetables, taking regular exercise, doing relaxation and facial exercise, sleeping well, avoiding over-exposure to strong sunlight, avoiding smoking, excessive alcohol, caffeine, refined sugar and salt will all contribute to your skin looking and feeling healthy. Since the advent of petroleum ingredients in the mid-1900s, chemicals have proliferated. The practice of using some substances with the assumption that it was safe until proven otherwise became routine. Only limited research has been done on many of the chemicals that can be legally used in beauty products. Remember your skin is the largest organ of your body and it absorbs many substances it comes into contact with. Consider carefully what you put on your skin as chemicals applied topically can be absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream and through that, to vital organs. There is growing concern that daily exposure to a combination of toxic ingredients found in most skin care, personal care and cosmetic products could result in detrimental long term health effects. Cosmetics and toiletries ingredients are only loosely regulated. Legislation on


labelling is not universal. Currently, there is a lack of labelling legislation protecting the words ‘natural’ and ‘organic’. Often products can be labelled ‘natural’ provided at least one per cent of their ingredients are from natural sources. Manufacturers can claim that a product is ‘organic’ when it contains only one organic ingredient with possibly hundreds of others that are not. ‘Natural’ is a term used widely and loosely in the cosmetic and toiletry industry. Many companies use it to make their products appear ‘green and eco-friendly’ when in fact they contain multiple synthetic chemicals which are anything but ‘natural’. There are no official definitions for misleading terms commonly used by those in the cosmetics industry such as ‘ hypoallergenic’, ‘low sensitivity’, ‘unscented’, ‘non-comedogenic’ and ‘dermatologist tested and approved’. Many chemicals will never be listed on the ingredients listing because they are hidden within the generic term of ‘parfum or fragrance’ or they are not actually ingredients, rather a by-product of manufacturing. Current legislation requires cosmetic labels to list ingredients in descending order. As a general rule, the first third of ingredients makes up 90 to 95 per cent; the second third makes up 5 to 8 per cent; and the last third makes up 1 to 3 per cent of the product. Some products have long lists of bewildering ingredients which makes it hard to distinguish which are good or bad. If in doubt, choose the products with the least number of ingredients of any kind. Body care products should be free from petrochemicals, artificial fragrances, harsh foaming agents, synthetic additives, animal ingredients and colourings. Choose products with ingredients from renewable resources and with minimal packaging. Since it is considered unethical to test potentially harmful substances on humans, animals have been subjected to scientific procedures to determine harmful effects on humans. Many animals have been poisoned, tortured and killed in the process. Look for cruelty-free labelling and buy products that have not been tested on animals. The best option is to always choose certified organic body care and cosmetic products. However, in Australia, the only organic certification available for skincare is a general food standard. To attain a ‘certified organic’ status, a


minimum of 95 per cent of all ingredients (excluding water and salt) must be organic, sourced from a certified organic supplier. The remaining 5 per cent non-organic ingredients have to be all natural such as natural minerals and other allowable inputs as defined by the Organic Standard. Synthetic chemicals, genetically modified (GMOs) ingredients and harsh chemical processes such as hydrogenation and sulphuration are not allowed. Animal testing is prohibited. Products labelled as ‘made with certified organic ingredients’ must contain at least seventy per cent of certified organic ingredients (excluding water and salt). The remaining ingredients must be all natural such as clay and minerals or nonorganically produced agricultural ingredients, with strict processing criteria such as no synthetic chemicals or GMOs. If certified organic products are not readily available or affordable, choose those that are mineral-based or made with natural ingredients such as natural pigments and essential oils from plants grown without pesticides or artificial fertilisers, thus avoiding the potentially harmful effects of synthetic chemicals. Always do a patch test first to test for an allergic reaction before using any new skin products. Always seek professional medical advice prior to using essential oils and herbal extracts as they may interact with certain medications and exacerbate underlying illnesses. Do not use essential oils in pregnancy as they can be harmful. Keep them out of reach of children.

Chemicals In Your Body Care There are three types of chemicals that are of particular concern. They are commonly found in beauty and body care products. Chemicals that cause cancer or damage DNA; endocrine disrupting chemicals or hormone disrupters that interfere with the hormone systems of animals and people; and persistent organic pollutants that won’t dissipate in the environment or in the body and may accumulate and cause increased levels of exposure over time. You can use the ‘SIRI Material Safety Data Sheets (or MSDS)’ or online chemical database search facility to research the chemicals found in body care products. MSDS is recognised as the international standard for providing safety information about chemical ingredients used by humans. Petrochemical based products contain ingredients such as mineral oil, petrolatum, coal tar, paraffin, parabens and any ingredient that has the prefix


ethyl-, methyl-or propyl-. Petrolatum or petroleum jelly is used commonly as an emollient; it strips the skin of its lubricating oils and may cause premature skin ageing. Mineral oil or liquid petroleum is a by-product in the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline. The less refined forms are used as industrial lubricants, coolers or sealants while the more refined white oil is used extensively in skincare because it is very cheap. They coat the skin like plastic, clogging the pores and blocking the skin’s natural function of respiration and toxin elimination. According to the International Agency for Research into Cancer in Geneva, mineral oils are most likely carcinogenic. They are also skin and eye irritants. Alcohol or ethanol is often used as a co-preservative and regardless of its origin, is not suitable for use on the skin due to its drying and irritating effect especially on dry or sensitive skin. It strips your skin’s natural acid mantle, making us more vulnerable to micro-organisms. Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) & Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) are used as moisturizers in skin creams, foundations with sunscreens and dandruff shampoos. They are suspected to increase cell turnover and reduce the outer skin thickness. Artificial colourings and synthetic dyes are used to make a product more appealing. Many of these colours are made from coal tars or are aluminium lakes, both of which can be stored in our organs and fatty tissues. Coal tars can potentially cause nausea, mood swings, headache, fatigue and are potentially carcinogenic. Dyes derived from precipitating soluble colours with aluminium are called lakes and can potentially cause nervous system disorder. Chemicals such D&C Red 33, Green 3, FD&C Blue 1, FD&C Yellow 5 & 6 are potential carcinogens and can possibly damage the bone marrow. Monoethanolamine (MEA), Diethanolamine (DEA) and Triethanolamine (TEA) are ammonia derivatives that are highly allergenic and can cause eye, skin and respiratory tract irritation. They bind oil and water together and act as detergents and emulsifiers in body care products. They are also used in cosmetics to adjust the pH, and used with many fatty acids to convert acid to salt, which then becomes the base for a cleanser. These amines react with nitrosating agents to form nitrosamines which cause cancers in experimental animals. Examples of commonly found nitrosating agents in body care products include Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, Sodium Laureth


Sulphate, Formaldehyde, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, Imidazolidinyl Urea, MEA, DEA and TEA derived compounds. Many body care and cosmetic products contain preservatives such as Kathon GC, formaldehyde-releasing chemicals and parabens. Kathon GC (scientific names: methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone) used in shampoos and conditioners, is thought to damage cell processes and can potentially cause cancer. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and can cause irritation to skin, eyes, mucous membranes and respiratory tract. As a cosmetic ingredient, it is not easy to recognise as it is associated with the additives DMDM hydantoin, 2-bromo-2nitropropane-1,3diol, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea or quaternium-15. It is used in shampoos, conditioners, hand washing liquids and nail hardeners. Parabens are derived from petrochemicals and used as inhibitors of microbial growth to extend the shelf life of water-based products. There are a few types of parabens including methyl, ethyl, propyl, isobutyl and butyl parabens. They can cause irritation to skin, eye and respiratory tract. Research in the UK showed they mimic oestrogen and could potentially upset the oestrogen balance in animals including humans. They could possibly cause osteoporosis, prostate disorders, sperm abnormalities, testicular and breast cancers. Phthalates such as Dibutylphthalate (DBP) &Diethylphthalate (DEP) are highly allergenic petrochemicals and have been found to cause birth defects in rats. They are used in skin creams as emollients and to enhance absorption. They are also used in nail polishes, hardeners and mascara to create a flexible film. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) is a water soluble polymer derived from petroleum, used as detergents, emulsifiers, moisturizers and cleansing agents. It can be found in cleansers, body cream, cosmetics, toothpaste and personal lubricants. It can contain harmful impurities such as ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, both carcinogens; and heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, iron, lead and nickel. Propylene glycol, a petroleum derivative is commonly found in skin and personal care products. It is a cheap substitute for vegetable glycerine. It is used as a solvent to dissolve oil and to thicken product. It is also used to make extracts from herbs. It has been found to cause cancer and reproductive abnormalities in experimental animals. According to MSDS, inhalation may cause throat and respiratory irritation, central nervous system depression, blood and kidney disorders. It can also cause skin and eye irritation.


Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (‘quats’) such as Benzalkonium Chloride and Quaternium-15 are used in lotions, shampoos and conditioners to impart a slippery feel to the skin and hair. They also have anti-microbial properties and are commonly used as preservatives. They can cause irritations to skin and respiratory tract, and some people are highly allergic to them. ‘Quats’ are slow to degrade in the environment and are highly toxic to marine life. The most common surfactants (foaming agents) added to soaps, cleansers, toothpastes, shampoos as well as many detergents are the Linear Alkyl Sodium Sulphonates (LAS). These include Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) and Sodium LaurethSulphate (SLES), mostly derived from petroleum. These anionic surfactants can affect your skin by partially dissolving the membrane of your skin cells. Cell membranes are made up primarily of fat molecules which are very similar in nature to anionic surfactant molecules. Therefore, it is not surprising that these surfactants are very readily absorbed into the skin cell membranes. At first, you might not notice the damage taking place to your skin whenever you use these surfactants. Only at sufficiently high concentrations of SLS on your skin will you detect the damage that it is causing. At lower concentrations, you will still suffer cellular damage but you will not be able to tell it is happening. In addition, SLS can potentially cause hair loss, allergic reaction, irritation to eyes and mucous membranes. It can also mimic oestrogen and act as a hormone disrupter, affecting the reproductive system. It may react with other chemicals found in body care products such as DEA to form nitrosamines, which cause cancers in laboratory animals. SLES is the alcohol form of SLS. Even though it is somewhat less irritating than SLS, it cannot be metabolised by the liver and therefore, its effects are much longer lasting. It can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane as a by-product of the manufacturing process. 1,4-dioxane is a carcinogen and irritant to kidney, lung and the nervous system. Plant-based surfactants derived from coconut and palm oils can be contaminated with toxic chemicals such as dioxins and benzenes during the manufacturing processes. Not only are they harmful to the person who uses the detergent that accidentally contains them, these toxic chemicals are frequently leaked into the environment during the manufacturing process. Dioxin is a manufacturing by-product of chlorine and plastics, thus not listed as


an ingredient. It can contaminate any product that has been bleached or packaged in plastic such as toilet papers, facial tissues, cotton balls, tampons, sanitary pads, deodorants, antiperspirants, shampoos and other body care products. It can accumulate in our bodies being stored in the fat cells. It may also affect the immune and reproductive system and is a probable carcinogen.

Nanotechnology Nanotechnology in the beauty industry involves making products with nanoparticles that can go deeper below the skin’s surface. A nanoparticle is approximately one billionth of a meter, one thousandth the width of the human hair and can only be seen by a very powerful microscope. These nanoparticles can penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream to reach the vital organs such as the brain, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. There is limited research on the long term effects of these particles on our health. Many companies are incorporating nanoparticles into their cosmetic products such as anti-aging creams and sunscreens despite the unresolved safety issue of these particles. Some are not even identified specifically as nanoparticles on the label.

Baths & Showers Manufacturers are not required to list the ingredients in soaps because they are not considered as cosmetics. Soap is made from fat and lye (caustic soda or sodium hydroxide). In most conventional soaps, the fat comes from animals. In vegetable-based soaps, the fat usually comes from palm, olive or coconut oils. When the fat and lye interact in a process called saponification, soap forms and glycerin is the by-product. Commercial soap manufacturers remove the glycerine for use in other more profitable lotions and creams. Some soap makers use glycerine to make the clear ‘Melt and Pour’ soaps that contain about 15% - 20% pure glycerine. This high glycerine content causes the soaps to dissolve more rapidly in water than conventional soaps. Conventional soaps also contain a variety of petrochemicals including SLS; synthetic fragrances and colourings, Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), a synthetic antioxidant; Tetra sodium EDTA, as a preservative; and Disodium phosphate as a buffering agent to adjust the pH. Chemical plasticisers are also


added to soaps to make them easier to mould. Antibacterial soaps contain triclosan which has been indicated as potentially harmful to the liver. When mixed with tap water, triclosan can also form potentially carcinogenic chlorine gas. Vegetable-based soap is made primarily of water and vegetable oils such as palm, coconut and olive oils. Each type of oil offers quite different fatty acid content resulting in soaps of distinct feel. Soap made from pure olive oil is sometimes called castile soap and is reputed for extra mildness. There is also a wide variety of castile variants that use oil from plants such as coconut and jojoba. Choose vegetable-based soaps which are plain, uncoloured and unscented. If you would like it scented, choose those that use essential oils and herbs for fragrance. Use soap with added bran and seeds for a good body scrub. Alternatively, you can try ground soap nut, derived from a tree in India and Nepal that has been used for thousands of years. Most conventional bath oils have detergents, foaming agents or preservatives. Even though some claim to have a relaxing and invigorating effect with the addition of essential oils, most have too few oils to have any real therapeutic effects. Try making your own bath oils by adding a few drops of your favourite essential oil to a quarter of a cup of carrier oil such as apricot oil. You can also add a few drops of essential oil directly to the running water in your bath.

Hair Care Commercial shampoos often contain: Quaternium-15, which releases formaldehyde; detergents such as SLS and SLES; foam boosters such as cocamide DEA; liquid plastic polymer PVP, thickeners, preservatives such as DMDM hydantoin, paraben and Kathon GC; modifiers, artificial colours and fragrances, propylene glycol and other chemicals. Some of these chemicals produce highly toxic vapour, which is particularly concerning given the combination of the shampoo and a hot shower will facilitate optimal absorption of the vapour via the skin, scalp, nose and mucous membrane. Ingredients in conventional conditioners have been linked to health effects such


as skin, eye and lung irritation; toxicity to kidneys, the reproductive and nervous systems; and cancers. Use organic shampoo based on plant materials or you can make your own using food ingredients or soapwort. Soapwort contains saponin which produces lather similar to soap. Instead of using shampoo, beat an egg and massage it into the scalp and rinse in warm water. Use the juice of half a lemon in the final rinse for added shine. Rub baking soda into wet hair after shampooing and rinse off. It makes a great, natural hair conditioner. When you change from conventional shampoo and conditioner to those made from natural and certified organic ingredients, you might experience ‘hair detox’. This is due to previous use of conventional hair care products that coat your hair with silicone. Your hair can initially be a little tangled until all residues from the previous products are gone. Anti-dandruff shampoos generally contain cytostatic chemicals that reduce the rate of cell growth in the scalp’s epidermis. They may contain selenium sulphide, a potential carcinogen that may also cause eye and skin irritation and damage to the liver; zinc pyrithione which may cause dermatitis; and resorcinol that may cause eyes and skin irritation. Coal tar and salicylic acid may also be used. Coal tar is a carcinogen and skin irritant; and salicylic acid can cause dermatitis. For treatment of dandruff, try rubbing lemon juice into hair roots and scalp. Some have found natural treatments using essential oils that reduce inflammation and improve the health of the scalp to be effective. Identify and remove aggravating factors such as excessive use of hair styling products, heater and air conditioning, additives in processed foods and even stress. Hairsprays are largely filled with petrochemical derivatives and emit a fine mist that is easily absorbed not only via the skin but inhaled to cause respiratory illnesses. The two most common active ingredients in hair sprays, octinoxate and oxybenzone, have both been linked with a host of health problems. Hair gel and mousse may contain mineral oil or paraffin, formaldehyde, artificial fragrance, alcohol and plastic polymer PVP, which cause eyes and nose irritation. Hair colouring products can contain many toxic chemicals including paraphenylenediamine (PPD) and ammonia or ammonium hydroxide. PPD which is used to produce the black colour in hair dyes can cause severe skin reactions and is potentially carcinogenic. Both ammonia and ammonium hydroxide have been linked to skin, eye and lung irritation. Hair dyes have been linked to non-


Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukaemia, ovarian and bladder cancer. You can use natural hair colourings based on plant ingredient such as henna to dye your hair. The active ingredient in henna is lawsone, which produces an orange or red colour depending on the original colour of the hair. Black henna can contain additives such as silver nitrate and lead acetate which are highly toxic. If you do choose to use henna, make sure it is pure henna without any harmful additives and seek advice as results are variable. Conventional hair removal creams, wax, gels and foams contain many synthetic petroleum-based chemicals including fragrances and colourings. Use natural beeswax strips instead as they do not contain any chemicals and are reusable. If you prefer to shave, choose a natural or certified organic shaving cream.

Skin Care Conventional skin moisturisers can contain petrochemicals such as paraffin, mineral oils, parabens, SLES and propylene glycol. Many emollients used in skin moisturisers also contain animal derived ingredients such as glycerine and lanolin. Glycerine is mostly made from animal fat as a by-product of soap manufacture. It is considered a humectant, which means it attracts moisture. Since glycerine stays primarily on the surface as a ‘skin protectant’, it either absorbs moisture from the air or draws moisture out from the skin. Therefore, unless the humidity of air is over 65%, glycerine draws moisture from the lower layers of the skin and holds it on the surface, thus drying the skin from the inside out. Lanolin is a natural wax coating found on sheep’s wool and is extracted by boiling the wool and collecting the wax. It can be contaminated with pesticides and fertilisers as sheep are dipped in pesticides (some containing organophosphates) and fed grasses grown with synthetic fertilisers. It should not be used unless it is purified. Choose either certified organic skin care products or those made from natural ingredients. Crushed strawberries and cucumbers are great for dry skin. For very dry skin, use pure almond oil, peach or avocado weekly to replenish the skin’s natural oils, soften and moisturise it. Natural organic yoghurt, rose water, cucumber juice and cooled chamomile tea can be used as a skin cleanser. If your skin is slightly greasy, use rosemary tea as it acts as an astringent. Organic apple cider vinegar and rose water makes a great


skin toner. Facial and body scrub can be made from a mixture of sugar, salt and/or baking soda. For a nourishing facial mask, beat the white of an egg, apply to your skin and leave it to dry before washing off with warm water. Add 1 tablespoon of honey or 1 teaspoon olive oil if you have dry skin and 1 teaspoon lemon juice if you have oily skin. A weekly steam facial is excellent for deep cleansing of the skin as it opens up the pores and assists in releasing impurities. You can also use diluted fresh lemon juice to wipe your face clean of oil and close the clean pores.

Oral Care Conventional toothpastes can contain fluoride, SLS, saccharin, artificial flavourings and colourings. Choose toothpastes that are made from natural ingredients such as fennel and eucalyptus. You can also use baking soda, which makes a good tooth cleaner and is mildly abrasive enough to remove plaque from teeth. Press a damp toothbrush into a small amount of baking soda before brushing. Alternatively, you can make a paste by mixing 1 teaspoon of baking soda with a few drops of peppermint essential oil and enough water to produce the desired consistency. Conventional mouthwashes often contain high content of alcohol together with artificial colours and ammonia. High levels of alcohol can cause irritation to the gums and mucous membrane and cause the burning sensation associated with many conventional mouthwashes. Choose mouthwashes that are made from all natural ingredients or you can try making your own using cool mint tea. Add 1 teaspoon fresh mint to 600ml boiling water and leave for 20 minutes, then strain, cool and use as a gargle.

Personal Care Chlorine bleaching of the wood pulp used in toilet paper, facial tissues, sanitary pads and tampons produces dioxin. Dioxin pollution is a serious worldwide environmental problem and is found throughout the environment in varying levels. It accumulates in the fatty tissues of animals and humans. Research suggests that dioxin is a hormone disrupter compound that mimics oestrogen and disrupts hormonal function within the body. It has been linked to breast cancer, endometriosis, low sperm counts, early puberty and immune


system suppression. Toilet paper and facial tissues may have been bleached with chloride and can also contain formaldehyde, artificial fragrance and dyes. Choose unscented, undyed and unbleached toilet paper and facial tissues. Certified organic toilet papers means that the trees used for their production meet organic standards. The mucosal lining of the vagina is one of the most absorbent areas of the body yet women expose themselves to a variety of hazards through the use of tampons every month. Even though the safest material is 100 per cent certified organic, unbleached cotton, the majority of tampons manufactured today contain rayon and rayon-cotton blend. Rayon is a synthetic fibre derived from wood pulp that is commonly chlorinebleached to make it fully absorbent. Surfactants are also used in tampons to increase absorbency. These super absorbent fibres absorb not only the menstrual blood, but also normal vaginal secretions resulting in dryness of vaginal tissues. The fibres can also become embedded in the vaginal walls and amplify the production of Toxic Shock Syndrome Toxin. Tampons can also contain synthetic fragrance, genetically modified (GM) cotton and pesticide residues used in the cultivation of conventional cotton. These can be absorbed into the bloodstream. There is no research to support the claim that tampons containing GM cotton have been safely evaluated. There is also no regulation that requires manufacturers to specify GM cotton on labels. Sanitary pads are subjected to the same considerations as tampons when it comes to the fibres used and the chemicals used to treat the fibres. Pads are often made with a dry-weave plastic cover sheet that has been linked to allergic reactions and local irritation. Although they are not in contact with the internal vaginal wall, chemicals from the pads can still enter the bloodstream through contact with the external mucous. Use sanitary pads instead of tampons to minimise the risk of developing Toxic Shock Syndrome, a potentially fatal illness. Choose unbleached and unscented sanitary pads made from 100 per cent certified organic cotton. The safest option is to buy reusable sanitary towels made from certified organic cotton. They come with a holder and just require washing after use.

Cosmetics Conventional cosmetics such as foundation, lipstick, lip balms, eye shadow and


eyeliner are made using petroleum-based colourings, preservatives, thickeners and waxes such as ceresin. Choose make-up foundations made from natural pigments and certified organic ingredients. Conventional lipsticks can contain ingredients such as wax, mineral oils, synthetic colourings and fragrance, preservatives, antioxidants, propylene glycol, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), sodium saccharin and lead. Natural lipsticks are available with ingredients such as beeswax, mineral pigments and essential oils. Natural lipsticks do require special handling because they are softer. They should not be left in a hot car or in direct sunlight because they melt more easily than conventional lipsticks. Certain colours such as hot reds or bright oranges might not be readily produced from natural colour pigments. Most conventional lip balms have ingredients derived primarily from petrochemicals. The inactive ingredients have moisturising abilities; which include petrolatum, mineral oil, cetylalcohol, cetylpalmitate, paraffin, propylparaben, polybutene, camphor and menthol. The active ingredients are essentially sunscreen; which include dimethicone, oxybenzone and padimate. Some of these ingredients are known to cause harmful health effects. Herbal based lip balms usually contain a blend of castor oil, which is used to relieve inflammation of the skin and mucous membrane. They can have other ingredients such as coconut oil, vanilla oil, calendula oil, almond oil, olive oil, cocoa butter, cocoa powder, shea butter, honey and beeswax Nail polish has many harmful chemicals such as toluene, formaldehyde resin and plasticiser DBP. Don’t be deceived by brands claiming to have added vitamins as these cannot be absorbed by the nail. Acetone is found in nail polish removers and can potentially damage liver, kidneys, mucous membrane in small doses and cause death in large doses. Buy nail products that avoid the use of these chemicals or avoid using nail polish altogether. Bring a natural shine to nails by applying a small amount of vegetable oil and buffing with a nail buffer.

Fragrances More than 90 per cent of fragrances are synthetically produced and used as cheap substitutes to natural oils and essences. Many are derived from petrochemicals and often contain multiple ingredients including carcinogens


such as methyl chloride and phthalates which are hormone disrupters. Synthetic fragrances used in cosmetics can have hundreds of ingredients that may cause irritation to the skin, eyes, mucous membranes and respiratory tract. In the name of trade secrets protection, fragrance manufacturers do not have to disclose the ingredients in fragrances, thus there is no way of knowing whether they are safe or not. These chemicals can also persist in the environment and contaminate waterways. Look for fragrance that is based on essential oils as it is free from petrochemicals. Essential oils are extracted from plant oils and distilled to make natural fragrances. They come in 3 grades. Pure grade oils are very potent and usually mixed with a base oil or water, and never taken internally. Normal or perfume grade oils which may also be labelled as ‘extract’ or ‘tincture’ have been diluted with alcohol and/or plasticisers to make them resilient. Food grade oils can be taken internally. Many essential oils on the market have been mixed with synthetic fragrances. Choose certified organic oils as they will be free of pesticides, fertilisers, genetic modification and other chemicals. You can make your own fragrance by adding a few drops of your favourite essential oil to almond oil. Most commercial aftershave has a high synthetic alcohol content which makes the skin dry. Choose aftershave with natural ingredients such as rose water and witch hazel. Both deodorants and antiperspirants can contain aluminium which has been linked to dementia. They may also contain triclosan, ammonia, formaldehyde and artificial fragrance. It is better to avoid antiperspirants altogether as they block the pores and inhibit natural sweating, a process through which toxins are eliminated. Choose deodorants with natural and plant-based ingredients. Baking soda is an inexpensive but effective and natural deodorant. Just pat on a little with the fingertips after washing while the skin is still slightly damp. Avoid using talcum powder as it could possibly cause female reproductive cancers and it could be contaminated with asbestos fibre.

Sunscreens The active ingredients in sunscreens work by either reflecting ultraviolet (UV) radiation or absorbing UV radiation. Sunscreens that block both UVA and UVB


rays would provide the most protection. One of the earliest active ingredients used in sunscreen was para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA). While PABA is a powerful UVB absorber, it does not absorb UVA rays. PABA can also attach to skin proteins so it is not easily washed off while swimming. It also stains clothing. Since PABA needs to be mixed with alcohol for application formulas, it can sting when applied to skin. Most sunscreen manufacturers had abandoned its use as a result of perceived sensitivity to PABA and its ester derivatives. Compounds such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide physically block both types of UV rays by reflecting the rays like a mirror. Zinc oxide is more effective than titanium dioxide. Since they are not absorbed into the skin, they do not appear to cause any skin reaction or photosensitivity. Titanium dioxide however, has recently been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a Group 2B carcinogen - ‘possible carcinogen to humans’. It can cause DNA damage due to the formation of superoxide radicals, active oxygen radicals and hydroxyl radicals when exposed to light. Both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are derived from chalky, reflective materials, thus resulting in a white appearance when applied onto the skin. Nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been developed because they do not scatter light and therefore, do not appear white when applied to the skin. The safety of these nanoparticles is quite controversial. The debate is whether these particles are small enough to penetrate the skin and possibly cause cancerous cells by promoting the generation of free radicals. Active ingredients in conventional sunscreens that absorb UV rays include chemicals such as octyl-methoxycinnamate (OMC), oxybenzone and benzophenones. They penetrate the skin, get into the bloodstream and have been linked to harmful effects on the body. They should all be avoided. OMC acts as a chemical UV filter in sunscreens and can cause allergic skin reactions. It has been found to bind to DNA (genetic material in cells) and produce free radicals known to be toxic to cells and may contribute to skin ageing. When OMC was applied to the cells of laboratory mice, in much lower concentrations than those found in the majority of sunscreens, about half of the cells died.


Oxybenzone is rapidly oxidised in the presence of light and inactivates important antioxidant systems in the skin. A study by the U.S. Centre of Disease Control found oxybenzone reacts negatively with sun exposure, resulting in formation of free radical chemicals that may be linked to cell damage. Other effects include allergic reactions, hormone disruption, absorption through the skin and prolonged accumulation in the body’s fatty tissues. Benzophenones have been shown in some studies to promote generation of free radicals, which can potentially cause cell damage. Look for sunscreens that contain the UV filter, oryzanol which occurs naturally in rice-bran and has enough UV absorption to offer some UV protection. Its action can be further potentiated by the addition of Vitamin E. The best method for avoiding UV exposure and the associated risks is to take a common sense approach. Limit your exposure by minimising time spent in the direct sun during the hottest time of the day. Covering up with long light-weight clothing, made from natural organic fibres will provide protection and also keep you cool. Always wear a hat and good quality sunglasses.


Synthetic Vs Natural Cotton Wool Hemp Linen


Ramie Bamboo Silk ‘As crude a weapon as the cave man’s club, the chemical barrage has been hurled against the fabric of life’ Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962

Synthetic Vs Natural Fabric Until the turn of the twentieth century, the only fabrics available were natural fabrics made from fibres that came from animal, insect and vegetable sources. Natural fibres include cotton, wool, linen, hemp, silk, ramie, jute and sisal. Bamboo has gained popularity in the last few years. In the last century, petrochemical based synthetic fabrics gained popularity over natural fabrics due to the short term economic advantages of synthetics. However, we are now seeing a shift back to natural fibres as more and more people become aware of the environmental and health costs involved in the production of these petrochemical based fibres. Synthetic or man-made fabrics include fabrics such as rayon, acetate, nylon, acrylic, polyester, fleece, olefin, spandex, lastex and kevlar. They are made from chemically produced fibres and fibres created by scientists including some manufactured from natural materials like cellulose and wood pulp. Most synthetic fibres are manufactured from polymer-based petrochemical materials such as polyamide (nylon), polyester, aramid, or other spun thermoplastics. It is an energy intensive process requiring large amounts of crude oil, coal or natural gas. It releases toxic emissions including volatile organic compounds (VOC), particulate matter and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride, which can cause respiratory problems. Toxic by-products contained in the wastewater from manufacturing plants pollute our waterways, killing marine animals and disrupting the aquatic eco-system. There is a vast difference among synthetic fabrics, just as in natural fabrics. Both types of fabrics have their different characteristics such as cost, strength, durability, ease of maintenance, shrinkage and stretchability depending on the type and quality of fibres, the manufacturing process, type of dyes used, the


weave and finish of fabric and fabric design. Synthetics can be durable, easy-care, and fade-resistant, but that does not mean that natural fibres are less durable, higher-maintenance and prone to fading. Cotton fabric can be delicate and sheer or heavy and durable like denim. Some synthetic fabric like acetate is crease-proof, so is natural fabric such as wool and silk. Acrylic and polyester fabrics are harder to clean than wool. Natural fibres like linen, cotton and wool pill less and the pills fall off, whereas the synthetic fabrics containing fibres like polyester and nylon tend to pill more and they do not fall off on their own. Synthetic fabrics do have some qualities that cannot be achieved with natural fibres. With synthetic fibres, one can create waterproof fabrics and fabrics with an excellent amount of stretch used for swimwear and water sporting attire. Both synthetic and natural fabrics can have synthetic dyes and other chemicals added to make the fabric softer, more colourful, crease-free, fire-resistant, waterresistant, stain-resistant, soil-resistant and moth-repellent. While all these qualities are desirable, they can have harmful effects on our health and the environment. Most cotton-polyester blend fabrics, especially bed linen have formaldehyde finishes to make them crease-resistant. Polyester-filled pillows, pillowcases and acrylic blankets give off vapours when they warm up against the skin. Polyurethane foam in mattresses is often sprayed with fire retardant which contains formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen (causes cancer) and its vapour can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, skin reactions and headaches. Synthetic fabric dyes are used in both synthetic and non-organically certified natural fabrics. They are unstable chemicals and can be released from damp fabrics and absorbed through the skin. Some fabric dyes such as dichlorobenzidene are potentially carcinogenic. Wash dyed synthetic and natural fabrics before use to remove excess chemicals. A better option would be to choose unbleached and undyed fabrics. If we are going to minimise our exposure to chemicals in our lives, we need to get used to less vivid colours and fabrics in their natural, undyed state. We should also avoid buying fabrics that need to be dry cleaned as chemicals used in the dry cleaning industry are toxic and their production has resulted in stockpiles of waste that


have devastated parts of our environment and have proven extremely difficult to dispose of. Most synthetic fabrics do not ‘breathe’, absorb minimal moisture and inhibit evaporation resulting in the body feeling hot and sweaty especially during summer. Whenever possible, try to avoid wearing synthetic fabrics. Synthetic fabrics are not bio-degradable and remain stable in the environment for a long period of time. The problem is that we use synthetic materials in all aspects of our lives. As a result we are filling our planet with waste material that takes nature hundreds of years to decompose, leaving behind the chemicals that it contained. Although natural fibres are derived from renewable sources and are biodegradable, those that are not certified organic may still have pesticide residues and may be processed or treated with chemicals during the manufacturing process. Certified organic fabric is always the best option. It is derived from fibre crops grown and processed without toxic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, fertilisers and toxic chemicals such as harsh acids, synthetic surfactants and bleaching agents and formaldehyde. By buying certified organic fabric, you can also be certain that standards regarding working conditions have been adhered to throughout the production process.

Cotton Cotton is a natural, cellulose fibre that grows in the seed pod of the Gossypium plant. It is the most important fibre used in large-scale textile production and is very versatile, can be used as clothing, bedding, window dressing, upholstery or accessories. Untreated fibre comes in various natural colours ranging from ivory to light brown. However, there is a wide range of colour options available as it takes dye well. Cotton is also breathable, renewable and biodegradable. With an increasing awareness of the amount of chemical usage in conventional cotton production and its impact on our health and the environment, more people are searching for alternatives such as certified organic cotton or other fibre crops that require fewer chemicals such as hemp.


Cotton plants are highly susceptible to pests and diseases and conventional cotton farmers are responsible for 25% of global pesticide use. Cotton is one of the most environmentally destructive agricultural crops. Heavy use of pesticides depletes the soil nutrients resulting in the need for synthetic fertilisers, thus creating a dependent cycle of increasing chemical use. Cotton farming also requires large volumes of water. Some use chemicals such as defoliants before and after picking the cotton to clean plant residue out of the cotton. In addition, it may be bleached with chlorine-based chemicals, which are known to be toxic to the environment. During the conversion of conventional cotton into clothing and fabric, many hazardous materials such as softeners, silicone waxes, harsh petroleum scours, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, ammonia, and formaldehyde are used and added to the product. Be wary of any fabric labelled static-resistant, wrinkle-resistant, easy-care, permanent-press, no-iron, stain-proof or fire-resistant because these qualities are most likely the result of toxic chemical processes. Finishes and synthetic or heavy metal dyes may also contain harsh and harmful ingredients. Conventional cotton manufacturing processes often result in large volumes of toxic wastewater that carry away residues from chemical cleaning, dyeing and finishing. This toxic waste pollutes our waterways, depleting the oxygen from the water and destroying marine animals and disrupting ecosystems. Most chemicals applied during the cultivation and processing of conventional cotton leave chemical residues in the fabrics, which could cause allergies, skin irritations, chemical sensitivities and other health problems. On the other hand, organic cotton is grown in soil that is certified free of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Organic cotton farmers use environmentally sustainable systems that replenish and maintain soil fertility, promote biodiversity and natural pest control. They use natural fertilisers such as compost and animal manure that recycles the nitrogen within the soil. All the ‘nasty’ chemicals used in the processing of conventional cotton are prohibited in organic cotton processing. Only certain biodegradable, low impact dyes and oxy, hydrogen peroxide bleach is allowed in organic certification. Therefore, organic cotton is non-toxic and hypoallergenic, thus ideal for those with allergies and chemical sensitivities. Beware of marketing gimmicks with descriptions such as ‘green’, ‘hand-picked’


and ‘best practice’ as these are no guarantee of environmentally responsible practices in the cultivation and processing of conventional cotton. The only guarantee is to buy certified organic cotton. Organic cotton is becoming increasingly available but it does cost more than conventional cotton in the short term. However, we do need to consider all the hidden, detrimental long term costs of conventional cotton to our health and our environment.

Wool Wool is woven primarily from the shorn fleece of sheep and is the most durable of the natural fibres. It is breathable, hard-wearing and can be soft or scratchy, delicate or sturdy, warm or cool, depending on the type of fabric produced. Wool is biodegradable, renewable, and recyclable. Wool is also very versatile, can be used for clothing and any decorating application from carpeting to upholstery to window dressing. The down-side is that some people are allergic to some or all wools. Conventional wool production uses far fewer chemicals in the manufacturing process than conventional cotton. However, sheep are subjected to organophosphate dips and drenching for parasites control and often treated with antibiotics, vaccines and hormones. They graze on pastures that have been sprayed with herbicides and feeds could contain genetically modified products. Mulesing, the painful slicing of a patch of skin off the rear of merino sheeps to prevent flystrike, is commonly practised in conventionally raised sheep. In the processing of conventional wool, chemicals are used to clean and scour the wool, formaldehyde to make it fire resistant and synthetic dyes to make it more colourful. Certified organic sheep do not receive routine chemical treatments such as drenching or dipping for parasites control. Organic sheep are bred for resistance to parasites and are fed outdoors all year round on certified organic pastures that are free from herbicides. Genetically modified feed is prohibited, and even though mulesing is not prohibited in the Organic Standards, it is not practiced. Organic farming uses sustainable, low environmental impact practices that focus on soil health, good pasture management, healthy stock ratios, good nutrition and homeopathic treatments of their livestock. No synthetic inputs such as antibiotics, vaccines or hormones are used on the livestock. However, if an


animal is unwell, it must be removed from the herd and treated appropriately. Certified organic wool is processed without any use of chemicals. Once the sheep have been shorn, the wool is washed with biodegradable soap flakes and hot water and it is not treated with formaldehyde to make it flame retardant. Organic certification does not allow the use of synthetic or heavy metal dyes. Organic wool is somewhat rare and can be rather expensive. Wool is one of nature’s most comfortable materials. It is highly sought after by fashion designers as it has a soft and luxurious feel, drapes well, is flexible and tailors easily. The wool fibre is unsurpassed in its flexible strength and elasticity. Each wool fibre is made up of millions of ‘coiled springs’ that stretch and give rather than break. For this reason wool blankets and throw rugs are difficult to tear and will return to their natural shape even after being twisted and stretched. Wool’s innate elasticity also makes it wrinkle-resistant. Wool insulates against heat and cold efficiently, keeping you warmer during winter and cooler in summer. Wool fibres trap millions of microscopic pockets of air creating a natural insulation. When wool is used in bedding, it is this trapped air that keeps us warm during the coldest of winter nights. Wool also breathes well and averts dampness. Its unique vapour management system moves moisture away from the skin allowing you to stay cooler and drier with a more consistent body temperature throughout the night, whatever the season. Moisture vapour is absorbed into the wool fibre structure reducing moist conditions, which also discourages the propagation of dust mites. Wool has very little tendency to collect static electricity because it naturally absorbs moisture from the air. Being static resistant, wool is less likely to attract lint and dust, cling uncomfortably, or generate a dangerous spark in potentially explosive environments. The crimp in the fibre and its waxy outer layer resists dirt and stains from penetrating the fabric. Wool’s unique structure of amino acids makes it fire resistant. A 100% woollen fabric is difficult to ignite, burns slowly, and has limited ability to sustain a flame. As wool does not melt when burnt, it does not stick to the skin and cause more serious burns. Wool is easy to dye because the proteins in the core of the fibre absorb and combine with a wide variety of dyes and allows the wool to hold its colour. Natural plant derived dyes can be used to good effect on woollen fabrics. When


buying wool products, check they are naturally dyed. There is a wide range of woollen bedding products available such as blankets, under blankets, mattress overlays, wool-filled quilts, pillows and mattresses. Woollen blankets and bedding are often treated with chemicals to make them moth-proof. Choose untreated ones and store with herbal moth-bags. Australian Merino is softer than traditional wool because its fibres are much finer. It has the innate ability to both absorb excess moisture as well as repel large quantities of liquid, which means Merino can minimise odour and resists soiling. These properties make Merino particularly suited to the sportswear and undergarment markets Wool has a ‘hand wash’ reputation over the years but developments initiated by Australian Wool Innovation have delivered Merino garments that can be machine-washed and tumble dried.

Hemp Hemp is one of the oldest plants used by mankind and has been cultivated for thousands of years as a source of fibre for paper, cloth, sails/canvas and building materials. Hemp is the longest and strongest natural plant fibre. Hemp is a dense, fast growing plant reaching up to five metres in height and can be cultivated in as little as 100 days. It can be grown in most climates and is tolerant of a wide range of conditions including frost and a high degree of salinity in the soil. It is easy to grow hemp organically, thus eliminating many of the ecological problems associated with conventional cultivation of other fibres. Hemp does not require herbicides to grow as its dense foliage blocks weed growth, keeping the field weed free for the next crop. Unlike cotton, hemp does not have a high water requirement. It has a deep tap root system that aerates the soil and draws nutrients and water from deeper soil layers, eliminating the need for fertilisers and irrigation. Hemp actually enriches the soil it is grown in, thus it can be grown in the same field year after year with no negative impact on the land. After the crop has been harvested, the leaves rot down and return a high proportion of nutrients back to the soil. It is pretty much organic by nature. Hemp fibres are easy to remove from the plant and immediately ready to comb


and use. It is extremely durable and can be used in the production of textiles, clothing, shoes, rugs, upholstery, canvas, rope, cordage, archival grade paper, paper and construction materials. Anything that can be made from cotton or linen can be made from hemp. It is very versatile as it can be as comfortable as linen and ramie, as soft as the softest cotton flannel and as strong as denim. Hemp is an amazingly durable fabric that softens with every wash, rendering it a great fabric for items such as jeans. Due to the strength of the fibre when wet, it does not weaken or lose its shape with washing. It is extremely hard wearing and outwears other natural fibres. It rapidly absorbs moisture, which accounts for its coolness and comfort when used for clothing or bedding. Hemp is naturally resistant to mildew and provides UV protection more effectively than other fabrics. Hemp is eight times stronger than cotton and four times as durable. It is more absorbent than cotton and therefore takes dyes better. Despite its desirability, hemp production was illegal in many countries for years as it is closely associated with the recreational drug, marijuana. Industrial hemp and marijuana are varieties of the Cannabis Sativa plant. Industrial hemp contains almost untraceable amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the “active” ingredient in marijuana. Marijuana contains a much higher level of (THC) than hemp. The growth of hemp was first made illegal in the United States of America in the early part of the 20th century and the rest of the ‘Western’ World followed the US lead. However, hemp is starting to be grown under special government license in some Western countries. China has had an uninterrupted hemp trade for about 6000 years and is currently the primary producer of hemp.

Linen Linen is one of the world’s oldest fabrics and was once considered suitable only for royalty. It is a vegetable fibre derived from the woody stem of the flax (Linum) plant, which grows 80 to 120cm high. It requires little, if any, use of fertilisers or pesticides and uses less water than cotton. The quality of the finished linen depends largely on the quality of the plant itself. It is available in different qualities varying from almost silk-like to sack-linen, making it really versatile for use in clothing, bedding and in every type of decorating application.


Linen is labor-intensive and expensive to manufacture. The flax fibres are found in the stalk, which is picked by hand to preserve the fibres’ integrity. Separating the fibres is also a long and tedious process if performed correctly. It is often sold in its natural, unbleached ivory colour and pre-shrunk as it shrinks when being washed the first time. Linen and cotton blends are common When linen is made into garments, it is valued for its exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather due to its high air permeability and heat conductivity properties. Heat conductivity of linen is five times as high as that of wool and 19 times that of silk. When linen fabrics are in contact with the skin, the nodes along the length of the fibre absorb perspiration, then swell and release the moisture to the outside air, thus creating a fabric cooled by evaporation. As a result, linen cloth always feels fresh and cool and is a popular choice for bedding particularly in hot climates. Linen is virtually lint free, non-static, non-allergenic, antibacterial, naturally insect-repellent and resistant to dirt. Linen reduces gamma radiation nearly by half and provides UV protection. Because it is a natural fibre, it is also sustainable, biodegradable and recyclable. Linen is renowned for its spectacular durability and long life. The tensile strength of linen thread is twice as high as that of cotton and three times that of wool. It can be washed many times without changing shape. Over time, linen becomes softer and improves in comfort. The disadvantage is linen fabrics do wrinkle very easily and requires more ironing. It is often blended with other fibres to prevent or minimise wrinkling.

Ramie Ramie is a flowering, stingless nettle plant that is native to China and sometimes also called Chinese Grass. It grows in the form of stalks with heart shaped leaves that sprout up from an extensive underground root system. It has the characteristic small silvery hairs associated with nettles. The ramie plant is harvested and extensively processed to yield strong fibres also called ramie, one of the oldest vegetable fibres. It can be harvested up to six times a year. The fibres need chemical treatment to remove the gums found in the bark. The process of transforming the ramie fibres into fabric is similar to the process used for manufacturing linen from flax.


Once processed, ramie can be spun into thread or yarn to be used in the production of textiles, upholstery, canvas and sacking. It shares the properties and uses of linen. Ramie fibre is very fine like silk and has a smooth, lustrous appearance. It is naturally white so does not require bleaching. Ramie is often blended with cotton to make woven and knit fabrics. Within the textile and clothing industry, ramie has many advantages. It takes up dyes easily and is highly absorbent making it comfortable to wear. It is also naturally resistant to insects, bacteria, mildew and stains. Like cotton and linen, ramie is also washable but unlike linen, it does not shrink. Its smooth lustrous appearance improves with washing. It increases in strength when wet and withstands high water temperatures during laundering. It is strong and durable, reported to have a tensile strength eight times that of cotton, seven times greater than silk and four times greater than linen. Ramie is expensive due to high labour requirements in the production, harvesting and decortication process. It lacks resilience and elasticity, thus is prone to wrinkles. It is often blended with other fibres such as wool to minimise wrinkling. When blended with cotton, it results in increased lustre, strength and colour.

Bamboo Bamboo is the fastest growing grass in the world and can grow up to a meter a day. It reaches maturity quickly and is ready for harvesting after about four years, which makes it an extremely renewable resource. It is a hardy plant that does not require large volumes of water to grow and different varieties are grown all over the world. Bamboo plants thrive naturally without the use of harmful chemical fertilisers. Herbicides and pesticides are not required as few insects prefer this as a food source and its dense thicket deters weed from growing. Bamboo also has a unique anti-bacterial and bacteriostatic substance called ‘bamboo-kun’ which keeps it healthy and strong without the use of pesticides. Bamboo does not require replanting after harvesting because its extensive root network continually sprouts new shoots. This eliminates the need for agricultural tending and heavy machinery to plant seeds and cultivate the soil. The large and deep root system also holds soil together, prevents soil erosion and retains water. As a natural cellulose fibre, bamboo fabric can be 100% biodegraded in soil by


micro-organisms and sunlight. Bamboo is becoming increasingly popular in the textile industry as it is versatile and can be made into different varieties of fabric types including knit, woven, denim, linen textured fabrics, velvet, silk-like textured fabrics and more. Designers love it because of its luxurious softness and silk-like draping qualities. Bamboo is also cheaper compared to silk and cashmere. It also absorbs dyes faster and more thoroughly than cotton. Bamboo fibre is light and strong with good insulating qualities making it an increasingly popular choice for use in decorating fabrics, window shades, blinds, trims and floorings. Bamboo fibre is highly absorbent and helps keep the wearer drier, cooler and more comfortable especially in warmer, humid weather conditions. Bamboo fabric possesses excellent natural anti-bacterial and deodorising properties because the ‘bamboo-kun’ found within the plant is maintained in the finished bamboo fabric as it is bound tightly to the bamboo cellulose molecular structure. This anti-bacterial property is retained even after multiple washings. It is impossible to transform the very short (less than 3mm) fibers of bamboo into yarn in a natural process. There are two ways to process the bamboo fibers; either mechanically or chemically. Most of the bamboo used in the textile industry is made out of the fibres with heavy employment of chemicals. Mechanically manufactured bamboo is sometimes called bamboo linen because of its similarities to flax processing. The woody parts of the bamboo plant are crushed and natural enzymes used to break the bamboo walls into a mush so that the natural fibres can be mechanically combed out and spun into yarn. Very little bamboo linen is manufactured for the textile industry because it is more expensive and labour intensive. Chemically manufactured bamboo is sometimes called bamboo rayon because the processes are similar to those used to make rayon. Bamboo leaves and woody shoots are soaked in chemicals such as sodium hydroxide (caustic soda or lye) and carbon disulphide. The fibres are extracted through a process of hydrolysis, alkalisation and multi-phase bleaching, which are then extruded through mechanical spinnerets. Both sodium hydroxide and carbon disulphide have been linked to health problems. Breathing low levels of carbon disulphide can cause lethargy,


headache and nerve damage while low levels of exposure to sodium hydroxide can cause irritation of the eyes and skin. Even though growing bamboo plants is environmentally friendly and sustainable, the manufacturing of bamboo into fabric raises environmental and health concerns due to the use of strong chemical solvents.

Silk Silk is the finest natural fabric, a soft, lightweight and absorbent material that can be made into bedspreads and clothing. Despite its fragile look, it is a very durable and long wearing fibre. It is very versatile and can be used in a variety of home dĂŠcor items including rugs and tapestries. Silk is insect fibre which comes from the cocoon of the silkworm, a caterpillar that feeds on the leaves of mulberry trees. The silkworm spins a cocoon made of fine, long filaments. A single filament from a cocoon can be as long as 1600 meters. During the traditional process of making silk, the cocoons are boiled before the larva change into a moth. The silk is believed to be the finest at this stage because when the cocoons open to release the moth, the continuity of the fibre is believed to be lost. There is another way of producing silk without killing the silk worms. This so called peace silk is obtained by waiting until the moths emerged through a small hole in one end of the cocoon and then spinning the cocoons into yarn which in turn is woven into fabric. Peace silk is more expensive than conventional silk because it is more labour intensive. Cocoons must be checked to make sure the moth has flown out. Since it is made on handlooms, it takes about two months to spin the yarn and another month to weave it. Even though peace silk is less lustrous than conventionally produced silk, it is strong and durable, wrinkle resistant, softer and drapes better. Silk is considered an animal fibre because it has a protein structure. Just like other animal fibres, silk does not conduct heat and provides excellent insulation to keep our bodies warm in winter and cool in summer.


Interview Dr Lok: Hi Peter, Can you tell us about your business and how it started? Peter: Organature was established by necessity back in 2004. After being diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), it was necessary for me to find bedroom and household products that we could use in our home, which would not affect my health. These products needed to be without any of the toxic chemicals used in conventional textiles. After years of research we discovered the health benefits of certified organic cotton. This is when we decided to start Organature. Since then our business has


grown to include several non-toxic product lines. These products are produced in the clean air of the South Gippsland region in a clean chemical-free environment. Dr Lok: What do you aim to achieve in business? Peter: We aim to educate people about the proliferation of chemicals in today’s world whilst helping to relieve the symptoms of MCS and other diseases and syndromes, such as autism, Asperger syndrome, asthma and eczema. We do this by providing the products and giving the advice necessary to create a safer living environment. Dr Lok: What is your business philosophy? Peter: Our philosophy is first and foremost; that everyone should be entitled to live in a chemical-free environment. It is this philosophy that has given us our direction for our business now and into the future. Dr Lok: What were the major obstacles to start with? Peter: The main obstacle was my own personal health. I was always keen to help others but I was generally too unwell to provide assistance. My main symptoms were constant brain fog (inability to think straight), muscle fatigue which meant I found it difficult to get out of bed, irritable bowel and jangling nerves. There were ‘feelings of doom’, sweats and rashes and constant heart palpitations, mood swings and almost constant ‘flu-like’ symptoms. Sourcing certified materials was also a major obstacle in the early days. Back then, we managed to purchase the only crop of organically grown Australian cotton. Unfortunately we had to get it spun in Indonesia as all of our manufacturing machinery was shipped overseas along with the rest of Australia’s textile industry. This was a huge investment for us back then but with the aid of the farmer who grew the cotton we managed to get the process underway. Dr Lok: When did you first become passionate about the organic movement and what is it about organics that is important to you? Peter: For us it is all about being as chemical-free as possible. Our passion started about 20 years ago when my health made me aware of the chemicals in our food. Almost 10 years later, I became very aware of the chemicals used in the textile industry. Extensive research over many years has enabled me to create the most chemical free home environment possible. The key to this is the use of organically produced cotton textiles.


Dr Lok: What are some of the problems associated with traditional cotton farming? Peter: Conventional cotton is a water hungry crop. It not only uses the largest volume of chemicals but also some of the most dangerous chemicals of any commercial crop. Extremely high volumes of water are needed to dilute and disperse these chemicals. World Health Organisation estimates that between 20,000 to 40,000 people die from accidental pesticide poisoning each year, and they attribute a large proportion of this to conventional cotton farming. Most people do not realise that the textiles they wear and sleep in are also full of toxic chemicals. Our skin, which is our biggest organ, absorbs these toxins without any filtering. Dr Lok: What other problems are associated with the use of pesticides? Peter: Pesticides are toxic and many are harmful to human health. Some pesticides have been linked to cancer and some are based on World War II nerve gases. These damage the nervous system, and many also disrupt the hormonal balance in our body. They threaten our potential to reproduce, and to have healthy offspring. Some pesticides remain in the environment for decades they accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals and contaminate the environment far from where they were originally used Dr Lok: What products do you produce? Peter: We produce a full range of household products. Our main product lines are organic cotton fabrics, bedding, mattresses, bed linen and clothing. Our Innerspring and Futon Mattresses are made with 100% certified organic cotton. They are free from fumigants, fire retardants, mould inhibitors or formaldehyde and are safe for people suffering from chemical sensitivity related illnesses. We have recently recognised the need for natural timber bedroom products and have included several into our range. Dr Lok: What should people look out for when buying this type of product? Peter: When shopping for these products you should always look out for products that are certified organic if possible. Beware of phrases like ‘Non-iron’, ‘Easy care’, ‘Wrinkle free‘, Permanent press’,’ Ultra Fresh’ and ‘Flame proof’. This is secret code for chemicals! Avoid these products as they will most


certainly contain formaldehyde! Dr Lok: You mentioned timber products, what are the dangers to MCS sufferers? Peter: Imported timber products are finished with chemical paints or varnishes and often fumigated for quarantine purposes upon arrival into Australia. Most furniture made in Australia will also contain harmful chemicals within the timber itself and also the finishes applied to them. By bringing these products into your home, you are bringing the chemicals with them. Dr Lok: What makes your business special? Peter: Our business was actually founded through the genuine motivation of poor health, unlike many other businesses who simply started to “Jump on the band wagon” in order to make a profit from the shift in people’s thinking. We are 100% Australian, family owned and operated. Dr Lok: You must be very proud of your brand; what is it that has made your products as respected as they are? Peter: We believe in providing the most superior product possible. We are very proud of our product and stand by what we do. Our policy is to keep our prices as low as possible as our focus has always been helping our customers with their health requirements rather than turning huge profits. Our prices have not risen since 2004. We are proud to be one of the few businesses in this industry still manufacturing within Australia. All our cotton fabrics are converted to fine quality product mostly on our own premises here in South Gippsland, Victoria. Dr Lok: What is your philosophy when it comes to product development? Peter: When it comes to developing a new product we always ask ourselves,’ Will this product assist our customers in creating a more chemical free home environment? ‘We recently introduced our own line of beds and futon bases made from Australian hardwood. This means no fumigated foreign timbers upon import and none in your home. Dr Lok: Where do you obtain your raw ingredients? Peter: Due to the climate conditions in Australia, cotton cannot be grown organically as it only uses water that falls from the sky and as a dry nation, Australia cannot consistently sustain this production.


Our organic cotton is grown in places like India and Turkey, and is processed in certified mills under the Global Organic Textiles Standard and is certified by Control Union. Unfortunately, there is no mill in Australia to accommodate the requirements of certified organic cotton. If we could grow and mill in Australia, we most certainly would. Dr Lok: Are all your products certified organic? Peter: All of our products are made from 100% certified organic cotton. We go above and beyond any regulations specified by the organic certifiers. For example, we only use true cellulose film for packaging NOT plastic as is allowed under organic certification. Our whites only use oxybleach, we do not use optical brighteners as is also allowed by organic standards. Our cutting table is Australian hardwood NOT chipboard or MDF. Our family staff do not use any scented personal products or cleaning agents in order to avoid contamination of our products. Dr Lok: What do you hope to achieve for the future? Peter: Our vision for the future is to inspire and educate people to the many benefits of going organic, not only for our own personal health and well-being but for the health of our planet, our children and generations to come. Dr Lok: What aspect of your business gives you the most pleasure? Peter: It would have to be reading the hundreds of unsolicited testimonials we receive from our customers. They are often telling us about how our products have helped change their lives for the better. It is very rewarding to see the growing awareness of the general public towards the benefits of organic cotton textiles, in particular parents of newborn children. Dr Lok: How can people find out about you and your business? Peter: We are available on the internet at www.organature.com.au. You can call us on (03) 5663 6245 or come and visit us at The Sustainable Living Festival at Melbourne’s Federation Square or at Melbourne’s Organic Expo.


Toxic Chemicals In Your Home Floor Coverings Wall Coverings Paints


Timber Finishes Furnishings Toxic Chemicals In Your Home ‘For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.’ Rachel Carson Chemicals have become a part of our everyday lives. They have infiltrated every aspect of our daily lives including the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the air we breathe. Many chemicals have been found to be toxic with serious implications for our health and the environment. In fact, many toxic chemicals can be found right in our homes. CSIRO studies have shown that occupants of new Australian homes may be exposed by up to 20 times the maximum allowable limits of indoor air toxics, for up to ten weeks after completion. CSIRO estimates that indoor air pollution costs the Australian community in excess of $12 billion a year in illness and lost productivity. Many of our household and cleaning products, personal care products, home furnishings and building materials contain hazardous chemicals. Exposure to these toxic chemicals can result in allergic reactions, skin, eye and respiratory tract irritation, asthma, headaches, dizziness, nausea, behavioural problems in children, various forms of cancer, and even death. The health consequences from these chemicals depend on many factors such as the degree and duration of exposure, the toxicity of individual chemicals and the synergistic effect from a cocktail of chemicals present. Many of our furnishings, paints, carpets, floor and wall coverings contain toxic chemicals such as toluene, xylene, ammonia, formaldehyde and many others that emit fumes that pollute the air we breathe within our homes. Many tend to continue off-gassing for years after installation. Gas and wood stoves may also release dangerous chemicals. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and can cause skin, eye, nose and throat irritation, asthma, coughing, headaches, nausea and vomiting. It is the most common air


pollutant in homes as it is found in so many other household items such as upholstery, permanent press fabrics, foam insulation, laminated and particle board furniture. It is also found in fabric softeners, skin care products and cosmetics. Many everyday products contain plastics, which are derived from petrochemicals. There are more than 50 different types of plastic. Thermoplastics and thermosets are the two main categories of plastic. Soft plastics or thermoplastics account for around 80 per cent of all plastics produced and include organochlorines such as polyvinyl chlorine (PVC) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polypropylene, polythene, nylon and acrylics. They emit harmful fumes known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Hard plastics or thermosets include polyesters, formaldehyde and silicones. VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids such as toluene, xylene and formaldehyde. Toluene is a clear, water-insoluble liquid, typically found in lacquers, leather tanners, paints, paint thinners, adhesives, chemical reactants, rubber, printing ink and disinfectants. Xylene is a colourless sweet smelling, highly flammable solvent that is used in the printing, rubber and leather industries. Formaldehyde is a toxic gas used predominantly in the embalming industry to preserve human remains and fixing of the tissues. It is also used in the textile, furniture and paint industries. Other sources of VOCs include stored fuels, automotive products, paints, varnishes, wax and lacquers, paint strippers, aerosol sprays, dry-cleaned clothing, cleaning and disinfectant agents, air refreshers, moth repellents, degreasing agents, pesticides, building materials and furnishings, wood preservatives, office equipment such as copiers and printers, correction fluids and carbonless copy paper, graphics and craft materials including glues and adhesives, permanent markers, photographic solutions, cosmetic and body care products. The US Environmental Protection Agency studies have found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be two to five times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas. Depending on the extent and duration of exposure and the type of VOCs, exposure can potentially cause allergy, skin, eye, nose and throat irritation, respiratory problems, headache, fatigue, dizziness, memory impairment, loss of coordination, nausea, damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system.


Many VOCs are known to cause cancer in animals and some are suspected of causing cancer in humans. Hormone disrupting compounds are found everywhere in the average home. They mimic oestrogen and may cause related hormonal changes such as early puberty, low sperm count and male infertility. They include dioxins; organochlorines which are widely used in pesticides, detergents, air fresheners and plastics; alkylphenolic compounds found in detergents, shampoos and paints; bisphenol A which is used in plastics, disinfectants, bottle tops and food cans; and phthalates found in paint, vinyl flooring and plastics. Children are often more susceptible to the toxic effects of chemicals as they are growing rapidly and their developing organs handle toxins less effectively than adults. In addition, children are at a higher risk of exposure as they tend to crawl and play in areas that could be contaminated and obviously are unaware of the potential hazards. They also have an increased hand to mouth activity, putting them at further risk. We need to do everything we possibly can to protect our children within our homes. We need to educate ourselves and learn more about toxic chemicals, check labels carefully when we shop and make an effort to use non-toxic, natural products, keeping all hazardous products well-marked and away from children. Chances are majority of us have already been exposed to a vast range of chemicals in our home and the workplace. However, as you learn more about these harmful chemicals, you can reduce your family’s exposure to these chemicals by knowing what to buy and what not to buy for your home.

Flooring Coverings Synthetic floorings such as faux wood and laminate products are made of synthetic materials which produce off-gassing and can cause allergy or respiratory problems in the household. Vinyl is a synthetic plastic product and contains phthalates (used as softeners) which are released into the air. Ceramic tiles are made from materials like terracotta and porcelain. They are a popular choice for flooring as they tend to be extremely sturdy, waterproof, aesthetically pleasing, easy to clean, and heating and cooling systems can be installed beneath them to radiate through the floor. Porcelain tiles are made out of a more refined material that is fired at a higher temperature making them harder in composition and more resistant to absorbing


water than terracotta tiles. It is more difficult to install porcelain tiles as they are harder to cut but better for outdoor applications as they are more frost and stain resistant. Porcelain tiles may also have full body designs where their patterns go all the way through the tile compared to a terracotta tile’s pattern which often resides in the glazing on the surface. Even though ceramic tiles are made from natural clay, they are fired in a kiln using a huge amount of energy causing a great deal of pollution. Glazes often contain toxic chemicals including zinc and lead. Using recycled tiles would reduce the environmental cost and it will also be far cheaper than buying new ones. Slate tile is made from slate, a metamorphic rock which can be found in large deposits all over the world. It comes in a range of colours such as red, orange, brown, green, blue or grey, often with veins of colour running through the tile. Slate tile is durable, thermal-resistant, easy to clean and has a mildly rough surface preventing slippage even when the floor is wet or greasy. Heating and cooling circulating systems can also be installed underneath the tile, creating radiant heating and cooling. Stone is a hard, strong, water resistant and non-polluting, natural material that is ideal for use in bathrooms and kitchens. However, the cost can be high depending on the rarity and quality of the stone. It is expensive to transport stone because it is very heavy and labour intensive There are many other different types of natural floor coverings to choose from including linoleum, cork, bamboo, rubber, leather and timber flooring. Linoleum is made from linseed oil, ground cork, softwood powder, chalk and pine tree resins, baked slowly at high temperatures and fixed under pressure to a natural jute backing material. It is soft, warm underfoot and will insulate your home. It is also static-free and kills off harmful bacteria found on the floor. It is ideal for use in the kitchen as it is easy to clean. However, make sure that you have a damp-proof surface as moisture can damage the backing of the linoleum. Cork is created from bark peeled from cork oak trees. Once it is 25 years old, the bark can be harvested once every nine years without killing the tree. Cork is made up of millions of air pockets thus provides good sound proofing and insulation. It is non-allergenic and has microbial properties to fight bacteria and repel insects. Floor tiles made of cork are useful in areas like the kitchen and bathroom. Buy


unvarnished tiles and then seal them yourselves with natural sealant such as water-based varnish or beeswax polish. When you are laying cork or linoleum flooring, try to use adhesive that is made from natural materials rather than a solvent-based one. Bamboo grows quickly and offers a sustainable option for flooring material. Bamboo flooring is harder and more dimensionally stable than some hardwood. It is one of the fastest growing plants as it can grow a metre a day and takes five years to reach maturity compared to hardwoods that can take 50 to 200 years to mature. Rubber flooring comes in a number of styles, shapes and colours. Round stud rubber flooring which includes small round studs is perfect for slippery areas such as inside the bathtubs and showers. Smooth rubber flooring with a smooth surface is an increasingly popular choice for homeowners and is ideal for the bathroom and kitchen. Leather floor tiles are made of recycled leather mixed with natural rubber and bark from the acacia tree which re-grows without damaging the tree. The leather can be maintained with periodic natural wax treatments. Timber flooring is a healthy natural material without toxic emissions. It reduces dust mite and pesticide exposure. If possible, buy sustainable timber local to where you live, avoid imported wood and all endangered tropical hardwood species. Even better, use recycled wood floorings sourced from the deconstruction of older buildings. Loose cotton rugs, woven wool, sheepskin rugs, hemp, coir, jute, sisal and seagrass on bare wooden floors will create a natural home environment. They are easily shaken and aired outdoors. Make sure there is no synthetic backing on the rugs you choose. Coir and jute are very durable and ideal for high traffic areas such as stairs and hallways. Sisal is more delicate and is more suitably used in low traffic areas such as bedrooms and living room areas. Coir is a 100 per cent natural and renewable fibre found between the husk and shell of the coconut. Coir fibres are softened, spun into yarn and then woven to make coarse mats that are ideal for kitchens and bathrooms. Flooring made from coir is very long lasting and non-allergenic. Jute is a long, soft, shiny plant fibre and one of the cheapest natural fibres. It is a 100% biodegradable and renewable resource as the plant only takes four to five


months to reach maturity. It has little need for fertiliser or pesticide. Jute fibres are extracted from the stem of the plant, soaked in water and then spun into coarse, strong threads. Most jute comes from India. Jute is second only to cotton in terms of global production and has a variety of uses. It is also used to make a number of products such as rope, twine, furniture coverings, curtains, sacks and hessian cloth. Jute is also used as a backing for linoleum, carpets and rugs. Its low thermal conductivity, exceptional heat and sound insulating and antistatic properties make it a great home textile. Despite the fact that jute threads tend to be coarse, fine threads can be produced to create imitation silk. In addition, jute is increasingly being seen as an alternative source for making pulp and paper, thus reducing the need for deforestation. Due to its biodegradable nature, jute is still used as pots for planting young trees directly into the ground, thus avoiding disruptions to the roots. It is used for seed protection, weed control and soil erosion control while allowing natural vegetation to become established. Sisal is a strong fibre that comes from the sword-shaped leaves of the Agave plant. The stalk grows to about one to two metres in height. Fibre is extracted by a process known as decortication, where the leaves are crushed and beaten and the pulp is scraped from the fibre. The sisal fibre strands are usually creamy white in colour. Traditionally sisal has been used for rope and twine because of its strength, durability and ability to stretch. Today, sisal has many uses including paper, dartboards, buffing cloth, wall coverings, fabric, mattresses, carpets, rugs and mats. The lower-grade fibre is processed into paper while the medium-grade fibre is used for making ropes and twines. The higher-grade fibre is spun into yarns and woven to make carpets, rugs and mats. They give the room a fresh, natural smell without any toxic gas emission. Sisal is also used as clothing but a high degree of labour intensive beating and pulping is required to turn the coarse fibres into silky fabric resulting in a highly priced fabric. Seagrass is grown in seawater paddy fields and is used to make flooring that is water and stain resistant. The seagrass is twisted and then woven into chunky textured squares that are then sewn together into a durable and economical floor


covering. Check that synthetic dyes or bleaches have not been used in the manufacturing process. Seagrass starts out with a green tinge, but eventually becomes a slightly mottled pale brown. Paper twine made by twisting resin-coated strips of paper has been used as floor coverings and furniture since the end of the nineteenth century.

Carpets Synthetic carpets are mostly made from nylon and plastic with many chemicals including VOCs such as xylene, toluene and formaldehyde. Styrene, a suspected carcinogen is used to make the synthetic latex backing and adhesives are used to secure the carpet to this backing. If you must use synthetic carpet, ask the installer to leave it outside in an open area for a few days or so to air and to allow some of the toxic fumes to emit before bringing them into your home. It is important to note that after installation, new carpets will still be emitting VOCs. Therefore, it is essential to keep doors and windows open as long as you still smell the odour of the carpet. Use tacking strips instead of glue to fasten carpet to the floor. After installation, try to steam clean the new carpet with water to remove chemical residues present on the surface. Whenever possible, buy PVC-free carpets. Choose natural carpets made from organic cotton, wool, sisal or hemp but make sure they do not have latex backing made with styrene. Look for natural alternatives such as woollen felt backing that provides a comfortable surface to walk on and offers good sound insulation. Wool is fairly stain resistant and easy to clean. The naturally occurring lanolin oil in the fibres acts as a repellent so that liquid does not immediately penetrate. This allows time to remove the stain with absorbent materials such as paper towel. The natural oils in wool disperse moisture and keep you dry and warm. It also provides a reliable under foot temperature all year round. Wool is also porous and allows your skin to breathe. Wool’s natural anti-bacterial properties also minimise allergy. In addition to its superior warmth and comfort, wool is one of the safest fibres to have in the home due to its natural flame resistance and anti-static properties. It also contains natural noise absorbing fibres. A wool carpet will retain its


appearance and durability over other fibres, providing outstanding quality and value for money.

Wall Coverings Natural wood panelling is great for areas in the home that need extra protection such as the hallway. It is a very durable material and will protect the walls from wear and tear. It also provides good insulation, keeping the house cool in summer and warm in winter. Felt is a natural fabric that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing woollen fibres together. It comes in many colours, shapes and sizes and can be used for furnishings and wall coverings. It has become popular again over the last couple of years due to the increased awareness of chemicals within our home. Wallpaper is also making a comeback. Conventional wall paper often has a vinyl or synthetic plastic finish to make them easier to wipe clean. Wallpaper pastes often contain chemical solvents that have been treated with fungicides. Choose wallpaper made from recycled cotton, clay-coated papers or recycled paper with soy-based inks and water-based wall paper pastes. Wallpaper is a good way to decorate sustainably due to its durability and minimal off-gassing.

Paints Prior to the discovery of petroleum and toxic chemicals, paints were made from natural ingredients such as lime from limestone, casein from milk, turpentine, citrus oil, hemp oil, linseed oil and chalk. Natural pigments derived from plants were used to add colour to the paint. Conventional paints are made from a cocktail of petrochemicals including solvents such as xylene and toluene that give off VOCs. These compounds offgas at room temperature and emit the typical new paint odour common in all newly painted homes. Even after the strong ‘new paint’ odour has diminished, these same paints emit toxic chemicals and fumes into the atmosphere of your home for many years after their application. These toxic fumes evaporate easily, making the air you breathe a chemical cocktail that can trigger asthma, allergies, flu-like symptoms and disorders of the nervous system.


They also contribute to the formation of ozone at ground level called smog. It is estimated that each year in Australia more than 60,000 tonnes of VOCs are released into the atmosphere, with a significant amount from the paint industry. The production of petrochemical and solvent based paint is energy-intensive and not sustainable as oil is a non-renewable resource. The production of one tonne of solvent-based paint can produce 10 to 30 tonnes of mostly non-biodegradable toxic waste. These toxic wastes need to be properly treated and disposed responsibly to avoid adverse environmental impacts. Oil-based paint contains between 40 to 60%VOCs and chemicals such as pigments, resins and additives such as de-foamers (chemicals that break down the foam caused by chemical reactions), stabilisers, plasticisers, preservatives, deodorisers and fungicides such as aromatic mercury compounds. Although conventional water-based paints contain lower levels of VOCs (about 10 per cent), they still have 3 to 7% solvent content and may include chemicals such as formaldehyde, glycol ethylene and propylene, glycol ethers, alcohol, monomers, amines (ammonium hydroxide, amino-2-methyl propanol), volatile plasticisers, ammonia and biocides such as copper, arsenic disulphide, phenol, permethrin, carbamates, and quaternary ammonium compounds. No VOC paint might still contain other toxic chemicals such as ammonia and formaldehyde. Don’t confuse low- or no-VOCs paints with low- or no-odour paints that might have more added chemicals to mask the offensive smell of paints. Some major paint manufacturers in Australia still use tints that contain high levels of VOCs. Avoid non-drip paints as they may contain polyurethane. Whenever possible, use matt or satin finish paint instead of high gloss paint as they have less petrochemical solvents and emit fewer VOCs. Conventional paint strippers contain a solvent known as dichlormethane (DCM) which is potentially carcinogenic. Some paint removers have methanol, a wood derivative which is also known as wood spirits or methyl alcohol. It should be avoided as they can cause blindness and severe skin and eye irritation. Contemporary household paints contain less than 0.1% lead. Houses painted prior to 1971 may have paint that contains high levels of lead. If you are renovating or repainting an old home with flaking paint, it is important to treat the lead paint properly and seek professional advice. Lead can be dangerous, especially to pregnant women and young children. All care must be taken when removing lead paint.


Natural paints are made from naturally occurring ingredients derived from plants and minerals such as lime, clay, citrus peel extracts, essential oils, seed oils, tree resins, inert mineral fillers, casein, marble powder and chalk. They are water based and created from plant-derived pigments, solvents, binders and fillers instead of synthetic chemicals. Natural paints do not contain any petrochemicals, VOCs, synthetic pigments or additives. They are hypoallergenic with lower risk of causing allergies. They are the most sustainable and environmentally friendly type of paints because they do not require a high level of processing and many of the ingredients are made from renewable resources. Natural paints allow the substrate to ‘breathe’, improve air quality and discourage mould growth. Natural paints are not as stain-resistant as acrylic paints but can be easily and safely over coated without VOC emissions. Mineral-based paints such as lime or clay paints bond with the substrate and they gradually wear away until it is time to re-paint. However, they do not crack or peel in the process. They also offer outstanding durability for exterior masonry surfaces. Lime paint has no smell or toxic chemicals. It does dry quickly, so apply it with a large, natural bristle in broad strokes for a smooth finish. Casein powder, a byproduct of milk, can be mixed with water and a small amount of natural pigment to make a matt and smooth finish for interior walls. Clay paint has no toxic chemicals and is solvent free. It can be applied to most interior surfaces such as timber, masonry, brick, plaster board and fibre cement without priming. It is permeable to vapour and absorbs variations in humidity providing a more comfortable living space. It can also be used on exterior walls in frost free regions and water protected areas. Any dried-up remains from natural paints can be added to the compost pile because they are bio-degradable and are not harmful to plants. Leftover lime paint can be painted onto the trunks of fruit trees as it deters pests.

Timber Finishes Try to buy unsealed timber whenever possible and then treat it yourself with natural stains, oils, varnishes or waxes that contain plant-derived resins, oils and pigments. Unlike conventional timber treatments that form a plastic film on the timber, plant-based solvents allow the timber to breathe and stabilise the


humidity level inside the house. Natural timber stains stain the timber to a desired colour, often highlighting the grain and enhancing the natural beauty of the timber. They do not form a plastic coating and are usually overcoated with a longer-lasting oil or varnish in order to protect the timber. Natural timber oils work by penetrating deep into the timber and saturating the timber in oil molecules that repel water. Regular annual re-application is required as the oily molecules do not form a film and will eventually wear off. You can simply clean the timber surface with a pH balanced cleaner and then, apply another coat of the oil yearly. Varnishes work by forming a water-repellent barrier and often contain ultraviolet (UV)-resistant substances. They prevent greying of the exposed timbers caused by the damage of timber’s cells by the UV rays. When exposed to air, the molecules in the varnish link up to form a continuous film that provides sun and water protection. They require less maintenance than timber oils but when the time comes for re-application, the timber needs to be sanded prior to recoating. Pure liquid beeswax is a natural treatment that can be used as a finish on timber and cork. It gives a beautiful shine and a wonderful aroma to the room. Shellac is a 100% natural gum derived from lac, a scale-insect secretion. It is good for sealing any treated wood surface as it prevents emission of toxic fumes. It is also used as a varnish on wooden fixtures to create a clear, hardwearing surface. It is easy to apply, smells good and takes two to three hours to dry to a matt finish.

Furnishings Home furnishings, such as furniture, upholstery, window dressings, carpets and wall coverings may be treated with chemicals and are potentially harmful. Choose furniture made from metal, cane, rattan, bamboo or timber with natural finishes rather than those made from petrochemical materials. Look for unfinished timber pieces so you can treat these using plant-based natural stains, washes and varnishes. Avoid furniture made from composite boards such as particle boards (wood chipboard), laminated boards (plywood) and medium-density fibreboard (MDF) as they contain adhesives and formaldehyde which emits VOCs. However, if you


already have these in the house, you can seal them with shellac. Synthetic fabrics such nylon, polyester, acrylics, viscose rayon and PVC do not breathe, absorb minimal moisture and inhibit evaporation. They retain grease and oil, so they are difficult to get really clean without the use of strong detergents that contain harmful chemicals. Fabric coverings for furnishings pose off-gassing hazards as most have been manufactured using toxic chemicals such as PVC and formaldehyde to make them flame-proof and resistant to shrinking and creasing. Formaldehyde adhesives may have been used to secure fabrics to the furniture frames. Let new items sit outside in an open area for a few days or more to air out some of the chemical gases before bringing them into your home. Antique and second-hand furniture is often toxic free as it may be old enough to pre-date the use of synthetic petrochemicals such as formaldehyde adhesives or it may have already released the toxic fumes associated with these chemicals through years of off-gassing. You can also have second-hand furniture reupholstered using natural materials and it is also a great way to get exactly the look you want. Used or antique furniture pieces can often be purchased for considerably less than new ones. To create a natural home, furnish your home with natural fabrics such as linen, cotton, wool, silk, leather, hemp or ramie. If you love the coloured fabrics, look for vegetable-based dyes. Natural materials almost always look, feel and smell better than synthetic products. Linen is a completely natural resource and is biodegradable and recyclable. Its high air permeability, heat conductivity, virtually lint free, non-static, nonallergenic, naturally insect-repellent, spectacular durability and long life properties make it an excellent choice for upholstery. Choose organic cotton as conventional cotton is grown using herbicides, pesticides and fungicides and manufactured using synthetic dyes, bleaches and formaldehyde finishes. Buying organic is the only way of ensuring that no harmful chemicals have been used in the production process. Wool is the natural choice for soft furnishings because of its comfort, warmth, long life performance ratings and safety factors. Due to the innovation of the natural fibre, wool-based upholsteries have the ability to bounce back from years of everyday family wear and tear. Upholstery is more exposed to greasy soiling because of the frequent handling it


receives, especially on the arms of chairs. Wool’s ability to resist soiling and shed soil during cleaning allows wool fabrics to retain their appearance when others become matted and dirty. Wool’s natural breathability also prevents the build-up of heat, dampness and odours. Felt is created by steaming and pressing wool to achieve a durable structured fabric that can be used as furnishings. Silk is a fine, soft and lightweight material that can be used to make curtains and cushion covers. Choose furniture with leather upholstery as they can be easily cleaned and maintained dust-free. Hemp is a fast growing plant and produces a fibre that is stronger than cotton and is suitable for use in furnishings. Ramie, also called China grass, is taken from a stingless nettle and blended with cotton to make upholstery. Flax, derived from the same plant as linseed oil, Linum Usitatissimum, is another natural fibre used in fabric production. You could use curtains made from natural fabrics or wooden shutters, blinds or screens. Wooden venetian blinds are great as a sunscreen on very bright days and also allow plenty of natural light to penetrate on less sunny days. Other natural alternatives include bamboo stick or rice paper blinds. If you choose bamboo blinds, make sure the bamboo comes from a managed source where the canes are harvested in a sustainable manner. More detailed information on different types of natural fabrics can be found in Chapter 6 - ‘Go Natural Fabric’.


Interview Dr Lok: Can you tell us about your business? Edmondo: Colours by Nature distributes a range of natural building options such as wool insulation, Eco clay thermal boards, timber finishes and truly natural paints. Our sole purpose is to provide an alternative to chemically derived products at the most affordable price. We provide our customers with information and hands on training through regular workshops. Our workshops will arm you with the knowledge necessary to make the most environmentally conscious decision when building or renovating your home.


We are a 100% Australian owned family run business. We started out as an online business in 1997. Since then, we have partnered with like-minded businesses and now offer our products through retail outlets, green architects, builders and painting professionals. Dr Lok: Tell us how you got started and your background? Edmondo: The idea for establishing our business was born out of necessity really. Back then several of our family members had developed allergies and chemical sensitivities. This was causing them a number of problems. It didn’t take us long to realise that something had to be done. We made the decision to move out of our city home and relocated to a country property just outside Canberra. We built our new home from the ground up with non-toxic, natural materials in order to provide a chemical-free environment for our family. It was the best decision we ever made. Dr Lok: How did you source the materials for your house? Edmondo: It took us months to research and source the natural building products necessary for our home. We couldn’t believe how little information was available at the time. So, we decided to address this issue and cater for this need by setting up our own business. Sharon even qualified as a Naturopath in the process. Dr Lok: How did the company get off the ground? Edmondo: Like most businesses, it was word of mouth and community participation that started everything. We began supplying the products to our family and friends after they noticed the health benefits we were experiencing from our non-toxic home! From there, it spread to the wider community as more people found out through word of mouth. We then developed our website in order to capitalise on the momentum and build even more awareness of the health benefits associated with these types of building materials. Dr Lok: What were some of the challenges in the beginning? Edmondo: Probably the biggest challenge would have been convincing people that these products were a worthy substitute for the conventional synthetic products. Given that we were a small company at that time, it was quite difficult to compete with the big corporations, with their huge advertising budgets and deceptive marketing tactics. They had most of the general public convinced that


synthetic products were the only way to go. The other big challenge was to prove to potential customers that the quality of our natural paint products was equal to, if not greater than, conventional paints. We had to rely on testimonials and referrals from other like-minded businesses and customers to build confidence in our products. Dr Lok: Can you tell us what natural paints are? Edmondo: Natural paints are manufactured from ingredients that are more ecologically balanced. They are made from raw ingredients such as water, plant oils and resins, plant dyes and essential oils; natural minerals such as clay, chalk, talc, milk casein, natural latex, bees wax, earth and mineral dyes. The colour pigments are based on naturally occurring substances such as earth and metal. Water-based natural paints give off almost no smell while our oil-based paints have a pleasant fragrance of citrus and other essential oils. Natural paints are naturally ‘greener’, unlike the many so-called petrochemical-based green paints promoted by the big players. Our natural paint products are sourced from three different manufacturers, Bio paints which are Australian made, along with Livos and Volvox who are leading European manufacturers. Dr Lok: Why would I choose your product compared to a chemical based range? Edmondo: All our products are formulated to be as non-toxic as possible with little or no VOCs, they are safe for baby’s nursery and pregnant mums as well as being well tolerated by most asthmatics and allergy sufferers with no toxic offgassing. They represent a far more sensitive choice than conventional chemically-based paints. Dr Lok: Is there any difference in the application of natural paints compared to other paints? How long do natural paints last? Edmondo: Yes, there is. Natural paints are applied in the same manner as conventional paints however they do take longer to dry. Natural paints are just as long lasting as conventional paints. This does however depend on climatic conditions and obviously the level of wear and tear. Dr Lok: How do I clean the brushes used with natural paints? Edmondo: Brushes used with our water-based paints can be cleaned using warm soapy water. For oil-based paints, we suggest using natural thinners such as Bio


or Livos Thinners, followed by washing them in warm soapy water. In both cases the cleaning residue can be spread over the garden without any detrimental effects. Dr Lok: How can natural oil-based paints and thinners be environmentallyfriendly? Edmondo: In an ideal world, all paints would be water-based. However, we cannot escape the fact that some applications for oil-based coatings will continue to exist. All of the ingredients contained in our oil-based paints and thinners have been extracted from plants or natural minerals. These ingredients include lemon oil and paraffin oil for thinners. As for paints they include castor oil, tung oil, pine resin, lemon peel, paraffin oil, lecithin, bentone, ethanol, lead free drying agent, talc, feldspar, iron oxide, metal and mineral pigments. All are cadmium, chromate and lead free. Our Bio thinners do not have any of the toxic chemicals such as toluene, benzene, xylene, ketones and many other ‘nasties’ used in conventional thinners. Bio thinners are used as a diluting agent for our Bio Enamel products. Dr Lok: Are there any natural products that I can use to treat timber? Edmondo: You can choose from a variety of varnishes, lacquers, oils and waxes such as the Bio Hard Oil and Livos Hard Oil, just to name a few. These can be used to treat timber both for interior and exterior use and on either softwood or hardwood. Dr Lok: Your Eco Clay Thermal Building Board sounds interesting. What does it do? Edmondo: It is the environmentally friendly alternative to the commonly used plasterboard, and is made from coir reinforced clay. Clay is the most ancient and simple of all building materials; yet it is flexible, strong, fire-, rot- and termiteproof. Clay’s thermal qualities are remarkable and are a natural way to keep buildings cool in summer and warm in winter. Thermal insulation boards have a positive effect on the room climate as they absorb moisture, diffuse vapour, help bind odour and shield the effect of high frequency electromagnetic radiation. You can use them for interior timber stud frames, dry bare brick, concrete and timber walls. They are also suitable for ceilings with strengthened substructures and for attic constructions.


Dr Lok: You mentioned wool insulation earlier. Why did you choose natural wool insulation? Edmondo: In 1997 we were building our very first natural paint storage facility in south-eastern NSW. We typically experience temperature variations from -11 degrees in winter to 38 degrees+ in summer in this area. We chose to insulate with wool due to its thermal qualities, natural source, lack of potentially harmful fibres and resins. We were so impressed with the quality and its performances that we have continued to use wool insulation and are now proud suppliers of the Higgins eco-range of insulation. Dr Lok: What makes Colours by Nature special? Edmondo: We strive to deliver good old fashioned service. The products we offer have been chosen specifically to address the issues facing many people within their own homes, particularly those of us who suffer from allergies and multiple chemical sensitivities. Our products are as non-toxic as possible, 100% natural, organically plantderived, most are either totally free from or have extremely low levels of VOCs and are safe for the environment. We ensure all our products come from manufacturers who comply with our philosophies and their manufacturing plants conform to high environmental standards and pollution control. Our focus on quality, health and environment is something we will not compromise – we are passionate! Dr Lok: Where are your products available? Edmondo: Our products are available throughout Australia and internationally. Dr Lok: What is the most satisfying aspect of your business? Edmondo: I would have to say the fact that we started out with the intention of finding a solution to our own personal problem and ended up with a business that helps many other people achieve that same goal. For us this is very satisfying. Dr Lok: Who would you say has inspired you in the past? Edmondo: Dr David Suzuki has inspired me greatly. Being an environmental scientist and a visionary in this field, he lives his life according to the principles he believes in. Dr Lok: How can people find out about you and your business?


Visit us at www.coloursbynature.com.au or call us on 1300 249 347 or (02) 6100 3889 or follow us on Twitter.


Cleaning Products In Your Home Natural Cleaning Solutions In Your Living Room In Your Kitchen


In Your Bathroom In Your Laundry ‘Why do we insist on liberating toxic petrochemicals from the earth when there are vast opportunities for natural alternatives?’ Darren McKay

Cleaning Products in Your Home We all want our homes to be clean and free of germs so we can live in a safe and healthy environment. In the quest for a clean fragrant home, we regularly apply a combination of chemicals to our household surfaces as well as releasing them into the air we breathe. We can smell the toxins whenever we use these cleaning agents. The label even warns us to wear gloves, avoid contact with skin and eyes, and not to breathe in the fumes. Children are particularly vulnerable as their vital organs are still developing, any damage can be long lasting. They are smaller in size than adults and their developing organs are at greater risk of being affected by toxins. They also have a reduced ability to eliminate toxins from their developing bodies. Household pets may also be susceptible to these chemicals. We are constantly bombarded with clever marketing campaigns that promise a sparkling home with a liberal use of whatever cleaning agent is being promoted. Many people think a different product is required for each item that needs to be cleaned. Generally we use too many chemical cleaning products and spend too much money on them. The average home today contains more toxic chemicals than the average chemistry laboratory at the turn of the century. Most homes contain too many plastic bottles full of toxic, polluting cleaning agents. These cleaners create packaging waste that is disposed of in our already, overloaded landfills. In addition, the chemicals in cleaning products can damage our health and the environment. More than 72,000 synthetic chemicals have been produced since World War II. Most have been derived from petroleum and coal tar. The majority of these synthetic chemicals have never been tested for their acute or long-term effects. Neither have they been tested for their combined or cumulative effects.


Many of these synthetic chemicals have been added to our food, skincare and cleaning products without our consent and knowledge of their potential effects. Many of these chemicals have also been dispersed widely into the environment contaminating our soil, water and air. Some will persist in the environment for decades and even centuries because they biodegrade slowly and incompletely. Soaps and detergents are used for cleaning because pure water can’t remove oily and greasy stains. Soap cleans by acting as an emulsifier which allows oil and water to mix so that oily grime can be removed during rinsing. Detergents were developed in response to the shortage of the animal fats and plant oils used to make soap during the world wars. The difference between soap and detergent is that soap is composed of a single surfactant and nothing else, while modern detergent is composed of a whole mixture of substances often including more than just one type of surfactant along with many other ingredients. Detergents are primarily surfactants, which lower the surface tension of water and separate dirt from the object being cleaned. The main ingredients used in the manufacture of surfactants are fatty alcohols, which are derived primarily from petroleum-based chemicals but can also be produced from plant oils and animal fats. Apart from surfactants, modern detergents can also contain enzymes to degrade protein-based stains, bleaches to add power to the cleaning products, builders such as water and fabric softeners, synthetic colourings and fragrances. Most colourings and fragrances are derived from petrochemicals and are not necessary for the action of the cleaning agents. Most washing products, dishwashing liquids, all-purpose cleaners, toilet and bathroom cleaners contain detergents derived from petrochemicals. They can potentially cause allergic reaction and irritation to the skin, eyes, mucous membranes and lungs. They have also been linked to cancers and damage to the reproductive and nervous systems. Legislation on labelling does not require manufacturers to list specific ingredients on labels, making it hard for consumers to know the true ingredients in their cleaning products. Petrochemical derived ingredients include chemicals such as xylene, ethylene, propylene, benzene, mono-ethanolamine, diethanolamine and tri-ethanolamine. ‘Green-washing’ is a marketing technique used by many companies these days to convince us that their products are ‘eco-friendly’, ‘natural’, ‘green’ and


‘environmentally safe’. The fact is in most cases this is far from the truth as the majority of companies these days are motivated by profits rather than genuine concern for the environment. A good example would be the widespread use of palm oil in many so-called ‘green’ cleaning products. The palm oil industry has a huge negative impact on sensitive eco-systems and habitats within the countries that produce it. Many species that inhabited the forests which once stood where palm oil plantations now exist, have been displaced and are being driven closer to extinction. Current labelling regulations within Australia do not require manufacturers to disclose a full list of ingredients in their products. This creates difficulty in making an informed decision when it comes to purchasing cleaning products for your home. What can you do to protect your loved ones from the harmful effects of all these cleaning products? Most importantly, educate yourself and use safer alternatives as much as possible. Choose those with no synthetic chemicals if possible. Minimise cleaning agents to a few essentials that can do the entire job and you will also save money in the process. Use non-toxic alternatives made from basic ingredients such as baking soda, washing soda, lemon and white vinegar. Always read and follow the instructions on the label and use only the amount of product required for the job. When using chemicals, ensure there is adequate ventilation, wear goggles and rubber gloves. Never combine cleaning chemicals as they can interact in dangerous ways and give off toxic fumes. Stop using the product if you feel dizzy, nauseated or develop a headache. Minimise the use of harsh chemicals. Store all cleaning products in their original containers out of reach of children. What does biodegradable detergent mean? The Australian Standards AS1792 states that 80 per cent of the mixture must break down within 21 days. The product must naturally decompose in the environment, usually with the help of micro-organisms.

Natural Cleaning Solutions We do not need to use chemical-laden cleaning products to have a clean, fresh smelling home. In fact, most of the natural cleaning solutions outlined in this


chapter have been used for hundreds of years. With the advent of petrochemicals these time tested chemical-free methods of cleaning seem to have all but disappeared. By using natural cleaning agents, your family will breathe easier and your home will smell fresher without the health hazards associated with toxic chemicals and fumes. You can make your own natural cleaning solutions using natural ingredients such as baking soda, fresh lemon, pure soap flakes, salt, washing soda and white vinegar as they all have cleansing, scouring and antiseptic properties. The best cleaner in the world is water. Most bacteria are killed by hot, soapy water. Soaking is one of the most effective ways of removing dirt. If you have hard water, add a small handful of baking soda as a natural water softener. Baking soda, a common baking ingredient is a naturally occurring mineral (known as sodium bicarbonate) with many great cleaning properties. It cuts through grease because it reacts with fatty acids to form mild detergents. It also softens water, removes stains and acts as a whitening agent, therefore great for the laundry. When added to washing and dishwasher powder, it improves the performance and reduces the amount required. Its abrasive quality serves as a gentle scouring powder without scratching your kitchen or tile surfaces. Fresh lemon juice contains citric acid that can deodorize, remove stains, brighten whites in the laundry or kitchen, clean glass, inhibit mould and disinfect toilets. It cleans bath edges and showers plus grouting on tiles. When used neat (full strength), it will remove grime at the base of taps. Pure soap flakes are crystal like flakes of pure soap concentrate made from 100% pure vegetable oils and purified water. They are a natural and biodegradable washing agent. Hot water and pure soap flakes with a little washing soda will perform most cleaning jobs. Salt is a disinfectant and a natural, gentle abrasive. It is useful for clearing drains and cleaning stained kitchen utensils. It cuts through grease when added to baking soda. It removes burn marks from the edges of dishes and stains from china ware. It whitens discoloured bread boards if used with cold water as a daily scrub. Washing soda is a natural product (known as sodium carbonate) and one of the oldest products used for cleaning. It is a stronger base than baking soda. Washing soda is preferred for really tough stains like grease or petrol stains on garage floors etc. It is a natural water softener and cuts through grease well.


Washing soda can also be used as an effective heavy-duty cleaner for painted walls, hard floors and kitchen surfaces. Though washing soda does not produce fumes in direct air, it is recommended to wear gloves and masks while using it as a cleaning agent. The high alkalinity of washing soda also makes it an ideal stain remover for tough fabrics and clothes. White vinegar is a very versatile cleaning agent. It contains acetic acid that will dissolve calcium build-up in dishwashers, coffee pots, kettles, sinks, shower screens and windows. It cuts through grease and soap scum and helps to carry away foul odours as it evaporates. This makes it an ideal cleaner and disinfectant for the bathroom and toilet. It can polish off cup rings and other stains on wood when mixed with olive oil. Vinegar mixed with salt or baking soda will polish up brass and copper. Vinegar is a great household disinfectant and you can mix vinegar, salt and water to use as a cleaning compound. Use natural cleaning tools such as scrubbing bristle brushes, cellulose sponges, linen cloth, steel wool and some elbow grease! Use old garments to make rags instead of buying newer synthetic ones. Use a wooden bristle brush instead of a plastic brush with nylon bristle. Use cellulose sponges instead of synthetic ones. Microfiber cleaning tools can be used to clean surfaces without any cleaning agents. Microfibers are finer than human hair and bring more water into contact with whatever surface is being cleaned. They act as a solvent, loosen dirt particles and trap them in the fibres. However, microfiber materials are made with synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon which are derived from petrochemicals, a non-renewable and non-biodegradable resource.

In Your Living Room All-Purpose Cleaners These include ‘spray and wipe’ types of products that work by loosening grime and grease. They can contain disinfectants, solvents, fragrances, colours, bleach, pine oil, phosphates, phenol, ethanol, isopropanol and butyl cellosolve. Most can cause irritation to skin, eyes, nose and throat. Synthetic solvents can cause liver, kidney and nervous system problems. Propylene glycol ethers are commonly used as co-solvents in cleaning products. They help the mixing of oil and water and increase the uptake of oils. They can cause eye and skin irritation and have been noted as experimental teratogens and carcinogens in laboratory animals.


Warm water mixed with pure soap or white vinegar makes a cheap and natural general cleaner that can be used throughout the home, without risk to you and your family’s health. Disinfectant Cleaners These cleaning products may contain triclosan, an antibacterial agent used in common household products including dishwashing liquids, soaps, mouthwashes, toothpastes, deodorants, hand sanitizers, chopping boards and scourers. There are real concerns that the use of disinfectants could potentially lead to micro-organisms developing cross-resistance or co-resistance to other antibacterial agents but studies investigating this possibility have been limited.1 Studies have also linked triclosan to allergic contact dermatitis in some individuals.2,3 It has been suggested that triclosan can combine with chlorine in tap water to form chloroform,4 which the United States Environmental Protection Agency classifies as a probable human carcinogen (causes cancer). Carpet Cleaners & Stain Removers Most formulas work by overpowering the stain itself by using highly toxic chemicals. Some include perchlorethylene, a known carcinogen that can also cause damage to liver, kidney and nervous system; and ammonium hydroxide, a corrosive which is extremely irritable to skin, eyes, mucous membranes and lungs. Acetone may remove some stains but it melts man made cellulose fibres and removes dye colour from other synthetic fibres. It can cause irritation to eyes, nose and throat. Isopropyl alcohol, used to remove stains is a petrochemical derivative, which can cause skin irritation. Perflourooctane sulphate found in stain repellent used in protecting carpets and upholstery from staining, is a persistent organic pollutant (POPs) and potential hormone disrupting compound. For a safer and natural solution, sprinkle baking soda on carpet before vacuuming to remove any odours. It is also a great stain remover. Just vacuum or brush up when dry. Soda water can be used to remove red wine spills. Immediately after spilling, use a towel to blot as much red wine as possible, then


pour soda water onto the stain, leave for 30 seconds, blot and repeat the process. Window Cleaners Ammonia can be found in conventional window cleaners. It is a very volatile chemical which can irritate the skin, respiratory tract, eyes and mucus membranes. It is extremely dangerous when mixed with other chemicals such as bleach as this can lead to hazardous compounds such as chloramines. The use of ammonia also adds nitrogen to our environment disrupting natural ecosystems, affecting fish, plants and animals. For an effective natural window cleaner, add half a cup of vinegar to a litre of warm water. Mix ingredients in a spray bottle or bucket and use on glass surfaces. Rub with a lint-free cloth and polish with crumpled newspaper moistened with vinegar to get a beautiful sheen. If the windows are especially dirty, wash them first with warm soapy water. Sticky substances can easily be removed using eucalyptus oil on a cloth by rubbing until dissolved. Air Fresheners Air fresheners with synthetic fragrances work by interfering with your ability to smell so you don’t smell anything. They disguise bad smells either by releasing a chemical that coats your nasal passages with a film of oil or by deadening the olfactory nerves. Toxic chemicals found in air fresheners can include methoxychlor, a pesticide that accumulates in fat cells; formaldehyde and benzene which are known carcinogens;5,6,7 phenol, a highly flammable and corrosive substance that causes serious skin reactions; methylene chloride and many more that have not been tested for their cumulative effects. Organochlorine (organic chemical containing chlorine) such as paradichlorobenzene is used as deodoriser in air fresheners. Its vapour is toxic and can cause headache, skin irritation and has been shown to cause cancer in animals. It can also potentially cause liver damage if high concentrations are inhaled over a long period of time. Aerosol sprays used as air fresheners once contained chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) until they were banned because of effects on the ozone layer. The most common replacements are mixtures of volatile hydrocarbons such as methylene


chloride, propane, n-butane and isobutane, all flammable petrochemicals. You can eliminate household odours by opening windows daily, installing extraction fans to remove moisture from kitchens and bathrooms, preventing dampness and emptying rubbish bins daily. To remove household odours naturally, bring a cup of water and 1/4 cup white vinegar to boil and let it simmer for 30 minutes to an hour to remove odours from the air. Natural air refresher can be made from water and your favourite essential oils. Lemon and cedar wood are both excellent. Fill a spray bottle with water, add a few drops of essential oil, replace the top and shake. A few squirts into the air will eliminate pungent odours. Heat up a few drops of essential oils in a vaporizer, diffuser or ceramic oil burner and its vapour will scent and refresh the air naturally. Do not use essential oils in pregnancy as they can be harmful. Keep them out of reach of children. Use natural scents from fresh plants and flowers such as jasmine, lilies, roses or lavender. You can also make your own potpourri using leaves from dried herbs or flower petals mixed with cinnamon. Put the mixture in a bowl and gently stir from time to time to release the fragrance. Sprinkle a few drops of essential oil to revive its scent.

In Your Kitchen Dishwashing Products Conventional dishwashing detergents may contain petrochemicals, solvents, synthetic dyes and fragrances, ammonia, formaldehyde, dioxins, diethanolamine (DEA) and ethoxylated alcohols. They can cause irritation to skin, eyes and mucous membranes. DEA can react with nitrites to become carcinogenic and dioxins are known carcinogens that bioaccumulate within our environment where they will remain for decades. Fish are commonly found to contain dioxins within the fatty tissue. Mixing dishwashing liquids with bleaching agents can produce chloramine fumes that may cause eye irritation, congestion, coughing, asthma-like symptoms, headache and nausea. Bleach is corrosive and may burn the mouth and throat when ingested. Dishwashing liquids are labelled ‘harmful if swallowed’ Every time you wash your dishes, some residue is left on them and your food picks up part of the residue when you eat it.


Dishwashing detergents commonly contain naphtha, a fuel used in camping stoves. Naphtha is a central nervous system depressant and a neurotoxin, which can cause headaches, lack of concentration and confusion. Dishwashing detergents can emit vapours of xylene, n-undecane and n-dodecane which have been shown to cause immune system suppression and possibly cancers in laboratory animals. These cleaning agents are particularly insidious because the user is in close contact with the products and usually inhaling the chemicals when washing the dishes in hot water. Detergents used in dishwashing machines are usually petroleum-based and contain alkaline ingredients, phosphates, sodium silicate and dry chlorine. Chlorine releases toxic fumes in the steam when you open the dishwasher and can cause eye and respiratory irritation. Use pure soap to wash the dishes. One of the best ways to clean glasses is to use hot soapy water containing a little vinegar. Alternatively, you can add the juice of half a lemon into the water in your sink to wash the glasses. Dry immediately to avoid streaking and polish to a shine with a soft cloth. Tea stains on cups can be removed by rubbing the cut surface of a lemon over the stained area. Clean metal pots and pans by rubbing in baking soda with a damp cloth or an abrasive pad and rinsing off with water. As for burnt metal pots and pans, sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda and add boiling water to cover it, leave overnight and then scour with steel wool. To clean knives, dip them in diluted lemon juice and rub off stains with a steel wool pad. Wooden chopping boards can be cleaned with the juice of half a lemon mixed with 1 tablespoon of table salt or baking soda. A cut lemon can remove stains and smells left on chopping boards by fish or garlic. Surface Cleaners To clean kitchen bench tops, sinks, refrigerator or freezer surfaces, use baking soda on a damp cloth. Wipe the inside of the fridge with either baking soda or vanilla essence to remove any stale fridge odours. Keep a small bowl of baking soda in the corner of the fridge to combat odours and change every few weeks. Oven Cleaners These caustic cleaning agents usually contain lye and ammonia which causes irritation to the skin and respiratory system. They also leave residues in the oven


which can release toxic fumes the next time you turn your oven on. Avoid these caustic oven cleaners. Wipe the oven down while still warm with a soapy cloth. To clean the interior of the oven, you can also rub with wet steel wool, sprinkle baking soda over the dirty surfaces and rub clean with a damp cloth. Mechanical action is the key.

In Your Bathroom Surface and Tap Cleaners The talc in bar soaps and silicon in shampoos cause soap scums and greasy build up in showers. To minimise this problem, switch to liquid soap or natural soaps without talc and shampoos made from genuinely natural ingredients. Clean your shower once a week to reduce the greasy build up. Shower curtains can be sponged with water and baking soda. Rub lemon juice on persistent dirty marks and around drainage holes to remove grease and lime scale. Steel wool and elbow grease can remove lime build-up and rust stains. Use a mixture of 25g of salt with 150ml of white vinegar to remove brown stains caused by dripping taps. Soak showerheads clogged with lime scale overnight in diluted white vinegar. Clean tiles, sinks, toilet surfaces, baths and taps with baking soda and a damp cloth. Use a soft cloth dipped in white vinegar to remove lime scale and hard water deposits on taps. An old toothbrush coated with a mixture of 1 teaspoon salt to 1 teaspoon lemon juice can be used to scrub away rust and grime around the tap fittings. Use undiluted white vinegar to wipe hard water deposits on plastic and glass doors. Leave for 10 minutes and then, rinse off and buff to a shine with a soft cloth. Toilet Bowl Cleaners These may contain quartenary ammonium compounds, petrochemical based surfactants, synthetic colours and fragrances, sulphuric acid, hydrochloric acid, oxalic acid, hypochlorite bleach, phenols, ammonia, naphthalene and organochlorine such as paradichlorobenzene. Quaternary ammonium compounds are industrial-strength detergents and the skin absorbs these easily. The manufacturers recommend using protective gloves and thorough rinsing if cleaner touches the skin.


Hydrochloric and sulphuric acid can both cause blindness and severe skin burns. Oxalic acid is irritating to skin, eyes and respiratory tract and corrosive to oral mucosa and the stomach. It can also cause kidney and liver damage. Hypochlorite bleach is a corrosive irritant that can burn the eyes, skin and respiratory tract. Phenols are carbolic acids suspected to cause damage to the liver, spleen, kidneys, respiratory and nervous system. They are very toxic and potentially carcinogenic. They also kill beneficial bacteria in sewage treatment and septic systems. Naphthalene is a member of the carcinogenic benzene family derived from coal tar or made synthetically. It is irritating to the skin, eyes, mucous membranes and upper respiratory tract. It also accumulates in marine organisms when washed into waterways. Organochlorine compounds are pollutants that break down slowly in the ecosystem and store in the fatty tissues of animals. Petroleum-based products are non-renewable resources, not biodegradable and contaminate our air and water. Synthetic disinfectants in toilet cleaners give off volatile fumes that can potentially damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, spleen and nervous system. To clean your toilet bowl without the use of these toxic chemicals, pour 150ml undiluted white vinegar into the bowl and brush before flushing. Baking soda can also be used to clean and disinfect your toilet. Corrosive Cleaners They are perhaps the most toxic household cleaners as they are extremely alkaline, abrasive and corrosive and usually contain ammonia, sodium hydroxide (lye) and sulphuric acid. Lye can burn the skin, eyes and throat when they come into contact. If ingested, it causes severe damage to oesophagus and stomach. Sulphuric acid can cause severe skin burns and blindness. Ammonia found in some drain cleaners is highly volatile and toxic. It can burn the skin, eyes and throat when in contact and can be fatal if swallowed. Use chrome drain strainers over plugholes to limit waste matter going into the drain. For a natural drain cleaner, mix a handful of baking or washing soda into 115ml white vinegar and pour it down the drain and leave it to work to keep the


drains clear. If the drain is blocked, pour half a cup of baking soda down the clogged drain followed by half a cup of vinegar and leave for a few minutes, the bubbly reaction should unclog the drain. Then pour down a kettle of boiling water. You can also use a hand plunger to unblock drains. Place the plunger tightly over the drain opening, push down and then pull up rapidly, keeping the plunger over the hole. If the seal is tight, the air and water inside the pipe will be forced back and forth, hopefully dislodging the blockage. If this fails, call your plumber who can use a metal snake to remove the blockage.

In Your Laundry Conventional laundry detergents contain petrochemical or plant based surfactants, builders, fillers, dyes, fragrances, optimisers, stabilisers, optical brighteners, phosphates, bleaches, enzymes and countless other chemicals. These chemical residues left on your clothing and bedding get absorbed through your skin, potentially causing various skin reactions. Many of these chemicals also pollute the air we breathe and the waterways disrupting the ecosystem and marine life. Laundry powder detergents usually contain sodium carbonate, sodium silicate, sodium dodecyl benzene sulphonate with bleaching agents. Direct contact may burn the skin and cause permanent eye damage. Prolonged exposure to powder dust may cause dizziness, headaches and respiratory problems. Phosphates (salt of phosphoric acid) are used to improve cleaning by keeping dirt from being redeposited on clothes. They are an ecological nightmare. Phosphates are washed into our waterways and river systems where they contribute a heavy nutrient load allowing toxic algal blooms to occur. Once an algal bloom dies, the decomposing algae robs large amounts of oxygen from the water and mass fish and plant deaths usually occur as a result, having a major impact on the ecology of the waterway. Optical brighteners are used in washing powder to give the illusion of whiteness by attaching themselves to fabrics to reflect white light. They are derived from petrochemicals, can cause rashes and skin irritations and are also detrimental to aquatic life once they reach our waterways. Surfactants such as Linear Alkyl Sodium Sulphonate (LAS) and AlkylphenolPolyethoxylates (APEs) are used to reduce the surface tension of


water and dislodge ingrained soil, dirt and grime. These petrochemical-based, synthetic surfactants are slow to biodegrade and can damage animal, plant and marine life. Nonylphenols, the breakdown products of APEs are considered xenoestrogens or endocrine disruptors. Once introduced into the body, they bind with and activate oestrogen receptors. They can mimic the action of oestrogen produced normally in cells or alter the hormone’s activity. Prenatal exposure can potentially lead to abnormal reproductive development in the foetus. They could possibly increase the risk of reproductive system abnormalities such as testicular and breast cancer, undescended testes, urinary tract defects and lowered sperm counts. Even though plant derived surfactants are derived from natural plant materials, most of them would have undergone extraction with solvents and reaction with chemical reagents making it more like a ‘synthetic’ rather than a ‘truly natural’ ingredient. Chlorine was used as an agent of chemical warfare in World War II. After the war ended, there was an abundance of this cheap chemical. In the name of huge profits, it was added to our water supply, marketed for use in our swimming pools and many cleaning products such as bleaching agents, toilet cleaners and dishwashing liquids. Chlorine releases toxic fumes that can cause headache, respiratory illnesses and irritation to skin, mucous membranes and eyes. Ingestion can cause oesophageal damage, stomach irritation, nausea, vomiting, pulmonary oedema (fluid in the lung) and coma. It damages natural fibres such as wool and silk and also undermines the bacterial action that helps break down sewage in septic systems and sewage treatment plants. Chlorine creates toxic substances such as organochlorines when broken down. Organochlorines have been linked to many cancers including breast cancers. Chlorine products should not be mixed with ammonia or acid-based cleaners as they form chloramine, a very toxic gas that causes long term damage to the respiratory system. In the last two decades, there has been an increasing number of biological laundry detergents containing enzymes such as proteases, amylases, lipases, cellulases and genetically engineered enzymes. The race to build the most effective detergent has led to formulations containing multiple enzymes. Enzymes have been considered a miracle cleaning agent as they direct the natural, cleaning ability of water to remove protein stains. They are effective in


cleaning heavily soiled fabrics without the need for hot water, thus saving energy consumption. However, there are concerns that enzymes could potentially cause skin irritations, allergic reactions and asthma. There is little information available on the long term effects of these enzymes on our environment. Fabric softeners can contain chemicals such as chloroform, formaldehyde, benzylacetate, pentane and many more dangerous chemicals. Perchlorethylene is a dry cleaning agent derived from petrochemicals and can cause skin rashes, headaches and dizziness. It is also potentially toxic to the brain, liver, kidneys, reproductive and nervous system and possibly carcinogenic. Even the dry cleaners’ bag that carries the cleaned garments can carry this toxic chemical into your home. Choose safer laundry detergents made from natural ingredients such as pure soap, baking soda, washing soda or soap nuts. If you live in a hard water area, add baking soda to minimise the re-deposit of dirt on clothes. Baking soda also acts as a water softener and natural fabric softener. Add half a cup of soda to the water in your washing machine and let it dissolve prior to adding your clothes. Soap nut is the fruit of the Ritha, a tree found primarily in India and Nepal. It is completely natural, renewable and biodegradable. The shell contains saponin, a natural surfactant. Put six to eight half shells into a cotton bag and place in your washing machine. They should last four to six washes. When they look darker and soft, remove them and put on your compost heap. Soap nuts can also be ground to make washing powder. Remove stains prior to wash by soaking clothes in baking soda solution. It is great for removing blood, chocolate, mud, coffee, mildew and urine stains. Lemon juice and vinegar can be applied to fruit and vegetable stains. To remove egg stains, gently scrape off as much egg as possible with a dull blade and soak in lukewarm salty water. Soak any blood-stained fabric in cold salty water while the stain is fresh as salt will break down the albumin protein in blood. Chocolate stains can also be removed with lukewarm soapy water. Natural bleach made from percarbonate (soda and oxygenated water) is the environmentally responsible alternative to chlorine based bleach. It effectively removes stubborn stains, brightens colourfast fabrics and naturally whitens whites. A better option would be to use one cup of lemon juice in a half bucket of water and soak overnight to whiten whites and brighten colours. ‘We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our


children.’ Native American Proverb References: 1. Yazdankhah SP, Scheie AA, Høiby EA, et al. (2006). “Triclosan and antimicrobial resistance in bacteria: an overview”. Microb. Drug Resist. 12 (2): 83–90. 2. Bhutani T, Jacob SE. (May 2009). “Triclosan: a potential allergen in sutureline allergic contact dermatitis”. DermatolSurg35 (5): 888–9. 3. Campbell L, Zirwas MJ. (Dec 2006). “Triclosan”.Dermatitis17 (4): 204–7. 4. Rule KL, Ebbett VR, Vikesland PJ. (2005). “Formation of chloroform and chlorinated organics by free-chlorine-mediated oxidation of triclosan”. Environ. Sci. Technol . 39 (9): 3176–85. 5. International Agency for Research on Cancer (June 2004 ). IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans Volume 88 (2006): Formaldehyde, 2-Butoxyethanol and 1-tert-Butoxypropan-2-ol . 6. National Toxicology Program (June 2011). Report on Carcinogens, Twelfth Edition. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Toxicology Program. 7. WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, Overall Evaluations of Carcinogenicity: An Updating of IARC Monographs, Volumes 1 to 42, Supplement 7


Interview Dr Lok: How and why was Clean Conscience formed in the first place? Tracey: My partner Andrew and I started Clean Conscience in 2003 when I was first diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivities. My body was suffering from chemical overload. I had to cut down on chemical exposure in my everyday life. We were forced to find alternatives to all the chemical-laden products in and around our home. Up until this point, I had never really read any ingredients label or tried verify the company and its claims. Learning what was actually in


the food I was eating was a shock!! I could not believe the amount of chemicals that are allowed to be put into the food we eat. I then turned my attention to cleaning products. These used to give me instant headaches and nausea, a clear indication that something was not good for me. I have since learnt about the poisons contained in these cleaning products. Frustrated and disappointed with the amount of ‘greenwashing’ being spruiked by so called “companies you can trust”, I turned my attention back to basic ingredients such as bicarbonate soda, vinegar, castile soap and essential oils. I could not believe how well they cleaned and all my symptoms disappeared. With a lot of mixing, blending and testing, I came up with a couple of fantastic products. Wanting to share these with friends and family, I handed them out and waited for the verdict. Reactions were very enthusiastic. Word of mouth spread and Clean Conscience was born. Dr Lok: What is your business philosophy? Tracey: We believe in the honesty and simplicity of our products. We believe in using basic ingredients, most of which have been around for centuries. There is little need to test our ingredients as they have already withstood the test of time. We thoroughly research both the ingredients used in our products and the companies that supply them. We believe in a rigorous process of scrutiny to ensure we deliver a genuine, ethical and trustworthy eco-cleaning product. My conscience is attached to every product sold. Dr Lok: How did the company get off the ground? Tracey: I approached the first health food store about a year after we registered the business. To be honest, it was not so hard to convince stores to give a Tasmanian brand a go. Tasmanians are a proud and close knit bunch and most stores I approached were happy to stock our range. That was six years ago and all of these stores still stock our products. They have all grown with us. We also did a lot of hard yards attending festivals, fairs and markets around Tassie. We then ventured to a larger expo in Melbourne. From this expo we received an enquiry from one of the most respected online eco stores in Australia who was keen to stock our products. This was our big break. Once they took us on, others followed. We have slowly and steadily grown since then and in 2008 I left my full time position as a fire-fighter with the intent of taking Clean Conscience to its full


potential. We now have stockists Australia wide and have also received orders from overseas. Dr Lok: What were the major obstacles to start with? Tracey: Probably my biggest obstacle was not having experience in running a business. Dealing with issues like cash flow, account systems, bulk purchasing, manufacturing and pricing represented a big challenge for me in the beginning. Dr Lok: Tell us about the products you produce under the Clean Conscience brand? Tracey: Our range of cleaning products includes multi-purpose sprays, creamy cleanser, window cleaner, dishwashing liquid and laundry powder. Soon we will be adding air freshener and hand & body wash to our range of products. Our laundry powder is the first in the world to be palm-oil free. It is made from certified organic soap nut powder, bicarbonate soda, soda ash and eucalyptus oil. It is extremely economical as it only costs 11 cents per wash! Dr Lok: What is it that is special about your products? Tracey: The use of basic and simple ingredients, most of which can be found in your kitchen cupboard, makes us unique compared to all other so-called ecoproducts in the marketplace. Our products do not have any harmful chemicals, synthetic surfactants, fillers, enzymes or palm oil. We give our customers the power to make an informed decision by displaying full ingredient disclosure on our labels and website. We do not hide behind false and misleading words. What you see is what you get‌ simple, safe and effective cleaning products. Our products are produced locally in Tasmania, with minimal processing to achieve the least environmental footprint possible. Dr Lok: What is your philosophy when it comes to product development? Tracey: We believe our ingredients must be safe for humans and the environment. They must not be tested on animals and definitely do not contain palm oil. We strongly believe animal testing is barbaric and unnecessary. We believe less is best; a long list of ingredients does not deliver a better clean. The more ingredients in the bottle, the more will be washed into our environment. Many cleaning products contain fillers to bulk them out, we only use the necessary active ingredients needed to get the job done.


We do not believe in the use of “green chemistry” which is plant derived surfactants used by most “green” cleaning products today. “Plant based” or ingredients derived from plants might have a catchy environmental ring to it and yes those ingredients may have started out as a natural plant but the processing involved to turn it into a cleaning agent is far from environmentally friendly. At the end of the day the finished product is just another synthetic ingredient. Most of these plant based ingredients are made from palm oil which have huge negative environmental impacts on sensitive ecosystems and habitats. Dr Lok: Where do you obtain your raw ingredients? Tracey: We source all of our ingredients in Australia except for our soap nut powder, which is manufactured in India. We are more than comfortable with this choice as soap nuts have amazing environmental credentials along with their fantastic cleaning ability. They are grown wild without the use of chemical fertilisers, are sustainable, certified organic and fair trade. Dr Lok: Why would I choose your product compared to those of a chemical based range? Tracey: Evidence has shown that it is cheaper and quicker to add chemicals to the manufacturing of cleaning products. Hence, most large companies tend to go down this path. At Clean Conscience we are ruthless in our manufacturing process – it may take us longer and be more labour intensive but it ensures our products stand up to our rigorous ethics and standards. Dr Lok: Are your products completely natural? Tracey: I quite dislike the use of the word ‘natural’ for products in today’s’ market, as it is used in many different shapes and forms. Aggressive marketing has totally manipulated this word and reinvented a new meaning without telling the general public. When the word ‘natural’ appears on any product these days, that product is allowed by law to contain only a minimum of 1% of its ingredients derived from natural sources. It is extremely important to understand when choosing a product, the word ‘natural’ does not have the same meaning that we were all taught at school when we grew up. Spring water, essential oils and soap nut powder are about the closest to natural, unprocessed ingredients you will find, all of which we use for this reason. Dr Lok: Do you use any preservatives in your products?


Tracey: We do not use any synthetic preservative, instead we use essential oils as the natural preservative system. Our products have a shelf life of 12 to 14 months. We also produce smaller batches more frequently to ensure freshness at time of delivery. Dr Lok: What is your vision for the future? Tracey: My vision is to make people more aware and inspire them to make better choices when purchasing truly ‘green products’. ‘Greenwashing’ is so prevalent in today’s market and companies are cashing in on uneducated and misguided consumers with savvy marketing campaigns and claims of so-called ‘natural’ products. The use of palm oil in cleaning products is dominant and it is the cause of many atrocities such as deforestation, human right issues, live pet trade and the pending extinction of many beautiful species whose homes have been destroyed. I am certain the average person would choose not to support this if they only knew of the destruction caused. Dr Lok: Who would you say has inspired you in the past? Tracey: My late grandmother has always been my source of inspiration. She was beautiful, wise and like so many others of her era, she was happy with the simple things in life. She taught me how to clean with bicarbonate soda and vinegar. I think she would be very proud of the path I have chosen. Dr Lok: How can people find out more about your products? Tracey: Visit us at www.cleanconscience.com.au or give us a call on (03) 6265 8466.


Site Selection Soil Preparation Composting Green Manure


Worm Farming Organic Fertilisers Mulching Seed Selection Watering Pest & Disease Management ‘Garden making, like gardening itself, concerns the relationship of the human being to his natural surroundings.’ Russell Page Creating a garden can be a wonderfully life-enhancing experience as it teaches us about natural rhythms and allows our creative juices to flow. Simply being outdoors working with the soil is great exercise and fun. It also provides a sanctuary from the pressures and stresses associated with our fast paced twentyfirst century life. You can teach your children where food really comes from and the wonder of nature. They will not grow up thinking that food only comes from the supermarkets. You can grow your own fresh, organic fruit and vegetables by following some basic guidelines. Organic gardening simply means gardening naturally, using methods that support and cooperate with nature’s way of doing things. By using natural methods, you will produce healthy, flourishing plants, a vibrant garden ecosystem, a natural habitat for wildlife, and food that is safe, tasty, nutritious and free of chemicals. You will also help reduce the amount of pesticides and fertilisers that are polluting our waterways and create a safe environment for your children and pets to play in. Visit local, organic gardens or farms for inspiration. Decide what you want from your garden before you start. Consider how much time and effort you are willing to put into your garden and how much space you have. Try to create a garden in accordance with the local conditions for weather, available sunlight and soil type. For an ornamental garden, it will be much easier


to grow plants that are native to your area and the plants will be of greater benefit to you and the local wildlife. When choosing native plants, look for the traditional varieties rather than newer hybridised types.

Site Selection It is good practice to observe your intended garden site at different times of the day. Take notice of where the sun reaches at each time of the day, where the wind has the greatest impact and where the heaviest frosts normally occur. Choose a sunny but sheltered site that is the least exposed to the impact of wind and frosts. Selecting the right site is essential to your success and will eliminate the stresses associated with poor crop performance due to incorrect site selection.

Soil Preparation ‘Soil is the substance of transformation.’ Carol Williams The most important factor in any organic garden is the balance and fertility of the soil. In organic gardening, the soil is fed with organic matter such as compost and manure. These encourage worms and the micro-organisms required to keep the soil balanced and fertile. The top 15cm of healthy soil is the most biologically active, containing a thriving, organically rich community of insects, worms and beneficial microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. These organisms will feed on the plant debris and organic matter in the soil, breaking them down so that they can be used by plants as nutrients. The decomposing organic matter also helps to retain moisture and provide aeration for the plants’ root system. Start by first breaking up the soil with a fork. This will help to aerate it and clear it of weeds. Avoid walking on the freshly turned soil to prevent compaction and disturbance to the natural processes that will occur. Check the soil type by taking some soil in your hand and rub it between your fingers. If it is crumbly and dry, then it is a chalky soil. If it is sticky and rolls into a ball, then it is clay soil. If it is gritty and will not form a ball, then it is a sandy soil. If it is silky and smooth, then it is silt. Your soil type will determine the preparation required to produce the best results.


Use a pH testing kit to check the balance of the soil. Excessive alkalinity or acidity will interfere with the uptake of nutrients by your plants. The ideal pH range for most plants will be between 6.0 and 7.2. If your reading indicates below 6.0 then it is too acidic. You can apply ground limestone to raise the pH making it more sweet or alkaline. The amount of limestone needed will be determined by your pH reading and soil type. If your reading indicates above 7.2, your soils are too alkaline. Adding good doses of acidic organic matter such as pine needles and mulch will assist in lowering the pH, reducing your soils alkalinity. Check the pH periodically and re apply treatment if necessary until you have the desired pH range.

Composting ‘However small your garden, you must provide for two of the serious gardener’s necessities, a tool shed and a compost heap.’ Anne Scott-James The backbone of any good organic garden is the compost heap. It creates a rich, nutritious, organic matter that will provide your plants with a well-balanced ‘food’ source. It also helps to improve the soil structure by increasing aeration, aiding water retention and helping to break down heavy soils. A compost heap is also a great way to recycle household wastes, thus reducing the environmental impacts associated with our landfill sites. The basic principles of composting are simple. You need to provide food, air and water in order for the microbes, worms and insects to turn your waste into compost. There are generally two methods of composting, depending on whether they rely on bacteria that are aerobic (oxygen users) or anaerobic (non-oxygen users) to break down the raw materials. Aerobic composting generates sweet, nuttysmelling compost rapidly and can reach temperature hot enough to sterilise weed seeds and kill many disease organisms. Anaerobic composting is slower and takes place at cooler temperatures and generates undesirable odours. You can set up your own composting system, buy a commercial compost bin or use locally produced organic compost. Commercial compost bins look neat and tidy, don’t take up much space, exclude animals and vermin, provide insulation and allow microbes to remain active longer in the cooler season. To set up your own composting system, place compost heaps in a warm, wind


protected area but not an overly hot one, which would dry the heap unnecessarily. The compost pile should be at least 50oC in order to kill off weeds and diseases. In order for a compost heap to heat effectively, it should be at least 1m wide, long and high, the larger, the better. It is a good idea to cover your compost heap to help maintain its temperature. ‘A good compost pile should get hot enough to poach an egg, but not so hot it would cook a lobster.’ Anonymous Never construct a compost heap around a tree as the bark itself will compost, letting in unwanted disease organisms. Keep the compost heap away from the vegetable patch since the bugs it attracts such as snails and slugs will attack the crop. A good compost heap allows oxygen to be drawn up and vented through the heap. You can achieve this by building the pile on top of an open bed of thick, branched stick and woody shrub pruning. To provide venting inside the heap, place stakes vertically into the pile after the first layers have been established. Continue to build the pile around the stakes. When it is complete, wriggle the stakes loose and carefully pull them out. This will allow air to be drawn upwards. Turn your heap every few weeks with a garden fork for extra aeration. You can use wire mesh to construct the walls as it cheap, easy to build with and dismantle. It also allows air flow from the sides of the pile and will not degrade. You can drive four wooden posts or metal star posts into the ground and fix the wire to them. You can also use straw bales to build the walls. In cool climates, the straw bales help to insulate the heap from heat loss. The walls themselves contribute to the compost and are easily dismantled when the process is completed. The partly composted straw bale walls can be used as the foundation of the next heap. The food you add to the compost heap should comprise a mixture of high carbon and high nitrogen materials. A suitable mixture might include materials such as autumn leaves, plant remains, annual weeds, lawn clippings, soft pruning, old straw and hay, old flowers, sawdust and wood shavings, animal manure (except cats and dogs), fruit and vegetable scraps, teabags and coffee grounds, shredded cardboard and paper. It is best to compost leaves in their own container as they need more light and


less air to rot down than other compostable materials. It can take up to three years before you get good compost from leaf mould but it is well worth the wait. A well-made compost heap is moist and holds water like a squeezed sponge. If the items are dry, water well before you put them into the heap. However, if it gets too moist, it will not heat and become anaerobic. Crushed eggshells will help reduce the acid levels of the carbon-rich material and stop it becoming too moist. The greater the surface area of material exposed to the activities of composting micro-organisms, the more rapidly they will be able to convert a compost heap to usable compost. Shred woody material into chips, chop larger pieces of pruning and clippings with a spade, break up the tough stems of corn stalks and cobs and other tough vegetables with a hammer and crush eggshells before adding to the compost heap. Never compost materials that may have been sprayed with chemicals, diseased plants, meat and fish scraps (which might attract pests), cat litter and dog faeces (may contain parasites), disposable nappies, glossy magazines (contain toxic glues and formaldehyde), newspaper, coal and coke ash (contain petrochemicals). Add ‘compost activators’ such as young weeds, grass cuttings, chamomile, poultry and horse manure to help speed up the process. The composting process is complete when the pile has cooled and the content has the appearance and texture of a dark rich, crumbly earth. A few tough, fibrous ingredients like corn cobs and bits of twigs might remain. They can be added to your next compost pile. Protect the top of the finished compost pile with a water proof cover, otherwise the nutrients will be leached out when exposed to rain.

Green Manure Green manure plants are planted to prevent soil erosion and leaching of nutrients. They also improve the quality of the soil, increase organic matter and beneficial micro-organisms, retain moisture, discourage weeds and enhance plant growth. They have strong, deep root systems that help to break up compacted soil, draw nutrients up to the surface for future plantings and improve water and air penetration to the soil. They also provide habitat and food for beneficial, pest-


controlling insects. They are usually nitrogen-fixing plants, which form a symbiotic relationship with rhizobia, bacteria that live within nodules on the roots of the plants. The bacteria take nitrogen from the air and convert it to the form nutrients plants normally obtain from the soil. These types of plants include alfalfa, mustard, beans, peas, buckwheat, fenugreek, lucerne, clover, and yarrow. The idea is to grow them on vacant soil during winter or in between different crops of vegetables during summer. They quickly produce a mass of weed smothering foliage. They should be slashed while still green and then dug back into the ground to enhance the soil’s organic content. You should leave a gap of at least one month between digging the green manure in and sowing seed as the decaying green manure may inhibit seed germination.

Worm Farming ‘Earthworms are the intestines of the soil.’ Aristotle Worms are natural recyclers as they convert organic material from the soil into rich castings full of nutrients. As they tunnel, they help to break up the soil, allowing water and oxygen to more easily penetrate. Like your compost heap your worm farm is very useful for disposing of your kitchen scraps. Only species adapted to living in decomposing organic matter are suited for worm farming. These types can be purchased from most good garden centres at a very reasonable price. When starting a worm farm it is important to consider its position. Worms are active only between a temperature range of 12°C to 25°C. Choose a site that is cool in summer and away from direct sunlight. Your worm farm can be moved to a warmer area and insulated in winter. You can make your own farm from a suitably sized container or bin or buy a commercial kit. If you are making your own, you should ensure it is vented with air holes around the sides and about 5cm below the rim. Ensure it has a good row of drainage holes at the base so that the fluids produced by the worms can escape and be collected to make liquid fertilizer. The best time to start your worm farm is late spring or summer when the worms are most active.


Organic Fertilisers Organic fertilisers come in both solid and liquid form. They are produced from natural organic matter such as rotted-down leaves and plants, including seaweed or animal manures. The finest organic fertilizer is liquid seaweed fertilizer. Seaweed is a source naturally high in trace elements, stimulating root growth and improving nutrient intake. Being a liquid it can be sprayed onto your plants as a foliage feed or watered into your garden beds where it will be rapidly absorbed by plants’ root system. You can easily make liquid fertilisers in your own backyard. Here are a few that will prove useful. These should be diluted at a rate of 10:1 prior to application. Liquid Seaweed: Fill a hessian or mesh sack with seaweed and immerse it in a large container of water, cover it and leave this for one to two weeks. Decant as necessary Nitrogen rich weed fertiliser: Almost fill a large container with weeds collected from your garden. Cover the weeds with water, place the lid on top and leave it until the weeds have broken down. Manure soup: Fill a hessian or mesh sack with manure. Place the bag in a large container of water, place a lid on top and allow it to sit for one to two weeks. Always remember to dilute your fertilisers prior to use. Apply them when the soil is moist and water thoroughly after application. Never apply fertiliser to dry soil as this can burn the plant roots.

Mulching ‘Mulch is used for a number of reasons, the most popular being weed control.’ Debra Lidstone Mulch is a layer of material spread around plants on the surface of the soil to conserve moisture by reducing evaporation from the surface and increasing water penetration. It regulates soil temperature by keeping the plant roots cooler in summer and warmer in winter. It reduces soil splash on plants and excludes light to help prevent weeds from germinating. During winter months it helps to prevent nutrients being leached from the soil. It is particularly important to mulch in spring, when seedlings are developing, and in the autumn, to keep the ground warm enough to sustain growth during


winter. Ensure that your soil is well watered and whatever nutrients need to be added have been applied before mulching. Mulch should be spread to provide a blanket layer over your soil that is about 10cm thick. It should not be dislodged by wind and rain. It should be applied lightly to allow air and water to penetrate the soil beneath. Do not place mulch too close to the trunks of trees and shrubs as it can cause collar rot. Organic mulches provide organic matter to the soil as they break down, improve soil structure and encourage beneficial micro-organism activity. They include hay, grass clippings, leaf mulch, pine bark, red gum chips, alfalfa, straw, newspaper, compost, rice husks and sugar cane. Alfalfa, sugar cane and compost have high nitrogen content and improve soil fertility but they rot down quickly and need to be replaced every few months. If you use grass clippings, it is best to dry them out in the sun first before applying them otherwise they can become too slimy and may inhibit aeration. To make leaf mulch, pile the leaves into a bin liner and pierce holes in the side, leave to rot for up to one year before use and apply to the soil in autumn and early spring. Saw dust and wood chips are often used as mulch but they rob the soil of nitrogen when they start to decompose. They often contain levels of tannin high enough to inhibit plant growth. Inorganic mulches such as black polythene, carpet or woven plastic add nothing to the soil structure and tend to raise the soil temperature and make it difficult to incorporate soil additives.

Seed Selection ‘A good gardener always plants 3 seeds - one for the bugs, one for the weather and one for himself.’ Leo Aikman It is essential to choose seeds from healthy and productive plants that have the variety’s typical and desirable characteristics. Buy certified organic seeds to ensure that they have not been genetically modified or treated with chemicals. Parent plants must be grown organically according to the strict organic standards for at least one genera tion before their seeds can be sold as organic. Conventional seeds are often given a chemical coating to combat fungus or


disease and prolong shelf life. You can buy a seed sowing chart from garden centres which will help you with sowing times and methods in different climate conditions. Always read the growing instructions that come with the seed packets. Check out your local garden clubs or gardening columns for information and growing tips. Once your garden is established, you can harvest seeds from your own plants and plant them again. Seeds should be separated out from any dead plant material, dried and stored in labelled packets in a cool, airy place before sowing the following year.

Watering Make sure you have easy access to water as vegetables need plenty of water to grow. Set up a water-collecting system such as rain water tank connected to a system of pipes that collects run-off rainwater from roofs and gutters. Instead of using sprinkler or hose pipe, use an efficient irrigation system such as a trickle or drip type that will deliver small amounts of water directly to the soil. Alternatively use a porous soaker hose that allows seepage along its full length. Water plants early in the morning or in the evening when water will not simply evaporate in hot conditions. Water loss through wind and evaporation can be prevented with the use of mulching. Reduce the drying effects of wind by installing windbreaks, hedges and fences. Composting will also help the soil to retain water.

Pest & Disease Management Healthier plants are more resistant to pest and disease attack. Therefore, choose the healthiest plants that are suited to the local climate and soil conditions. When planting, avoid overcrowding since pests and diseases are more common in cramped conditions. Keep the soil in top condition by using compost, mulches and organic fertilisers. Organic materials from compost provide food and habitat for beneficial microorganisms and increase biodiversity within the soil. Mulches will create habitat for insect predators such as spiders and ground beetles while helping prevent nutrients from leaching out of the soil.


Good garden housekeeping will eliminate many diseases and pests. Be vigilant and monitor your garden closely for early signs of diseases and infestations. Aim for prevention rather than cure. Dealing with problems as they arise will minimise the impact pests and diseases will have. Covers and traps can be used to exclude pests. Covers made of finely woven, transparent cloths protect vegetables and fruit trees from insect pests while still allowing water and maximum light and air through. Crushed egg shells around garden plants will discourage slugs and snails. Make a trap for snails by placing cabbage leaves on the ground overnight. They will be attracted to the juicy leaves and you can collect and destroy them in the morning. Use sticky boards and flypapers to catch whitefly in a greenhouse. Handpicking off eggs and insects such as sawfly, caterpillars, slugs and snails is an effective way of controlling them. Place non-drying glues made from natural wax, vegetable oil and gum resins on a paper collar around the base of the plant to prevent insects from migrating up the trunk. A thorough clean up at the end of summer or early autumn is essential. Digging the garden beds over will expose over wintering larvae of various pests and assist with the preparation for the next planting. Make sure no fruits or vegetables are left on the ground. All garden waste should be composted and returned to your beds for maximum benefit. Crop rotation and companion planting are key elements in the management of pests and diseases in an organic garden. The basic principle is to never plant the same crop family in the same bed two years in a row. Each crop family has its own group of pests and diseases associated with it, so by rotating your crop families you will prevent the associated pests and diseases from becoming infestations within your garden beds. Generally the more beds you have the better this system will work as it will increase the time span between the same crops being planted in the same bed. You do not need masses of space for this system to work. Ideally aim for at least four beds giving you a four year rotation cycle. If space is an issue, reduce the size of each bed so that you can have as many beds as possible giving you a longer cycle of rotation. You will be surprised at just how much can be produced from a well managed 1.5 metre square bed. Companion planting involves selecting neighbouring plants that are known to work well together. You will be able to find companion planting charts showing


antagonistic and beneficial companions from most garden centres. Some companion plants give off strong aromas that can confuse the olfactory senses of pests, whilst others have defence mechanisms such as thorns and stinging hairs or produce compounds that are poisonous to insect pests. Some plants provide shelter for others, aerate the soil, assist in draining excess water and attract beneficial insects. Some plants lure pests away from the main plantings to protect them from attack. ‘Let us permit nature to have her way. She understands her business better than we do.’ Michel de Montaigne The aim of natural pest control is to manage your garden as an integrated ecosystem. Cultivate a healthy ecosystem in your garden to encourage natural predators that will consume a large portion of your pests. Pests such as aphids, caterpillars, grasshoppers, flies, slugs, snails and grubs form part of the biodiversity of a garden. They provide food for natural predators such as birds, lady bugs, ground beetles, spiders, bees, wasps, lizards, frogs, centipedes and butterflies. Create a bird-friendly garden by providing safe, private nesting sites that exclude predators such as cats and dogs. Providing a reliable source of water for birds such as a birdbath encourages them to nest within or in close proximity to your garden. In order to increase the number of natural predators, grow plants and flowers that provide food and nectar. As part of the landscaping design, include rocks, logs, mulches and hedges that act as shelter for the beneficial insects and lizards. Use natural or organically certified pesticides as a last resort and be careful not to disrupt the ecosystem of your garden by over application. Avoid spraying chemical pesticides such as glyphosate completely. Choose sprays that are plant derived and biodegradable such as pyrethrum which is made from a certain type of chrysanthemum; or neem, made from the kernel of the neem tree, a native of India. The vast amount of information available out there on organic gardening might seem overwhelming but the good news is you don’t have to know everything before you can take the first step toward setting up your very own organic garden. You will be amazed at what can be achieved by simply following a few


basic principles.

Interview Dr Lok: How did McLeod’s Agriculture come about? Bevan: We first started McLeod’s Agriculture in the 1980s as a diversification to our dairy business in South-East Queensland. Back then I was selling silage equipment and supplements for large animals. Over time, my body started to stress and I became really worried about the chemicals being used on the farm


and the implications on myself and my animals. It was then that we started looking into organic options for the farm. In 1996 we started selling organic fertiliser. We now oversee and develop a special blend of ingredients to make our signature product, McLeod’s Soil Conditioner. Dr Lok: What is your business? Bevan: We are an Australian owned and operated business supplying fully accredited organic products to householders and farmers across the country. Dr Lok: What is your business philosophy? Bevan: Our philosophy is simple. We believe in assisting people and the environment by improving the structure and health of our soils without the use of chemicals. I am a member of the community as well as a business person. I stand by what I tell people, a healthy soil leads to a healthier lifestyle – the vegetables you grow are better, the grass your kids play on is better, your flowers will attract more beneficial insects and your crops will yield more highly. Everyone has their own bit of agriculture in their life, from large-scale properties to a potted vegie garden on their balcony or in the back yard. Many of our repeat customers have become friends over the years and have also adopted the same philosophy. Our products speak for themselves. Dr Lok: What does your business do for people? Bevan: McLeod’s Agriculture provides services to assess and improve the overall health and condition of your soils. The first thing we will do is take a good close look at your soil, feel it and smell it and really examine it closely. We then carry out a complete scientific analysis in order to determine the correct solution for the problem. Each consultation is tailored to the individual, no matter their need. Some of the more interesting jobs we’ve completed include improving an awardwinning golf course, assisting a pineapple grower with a major turnaround in yield and getting an avocado farmer back into full production – all through balancing their soils correctly. I always have people bringing me samples of their fruit and vegetables at markets and even on the streets people stop me and ask advice. It is a good feeling to know that our business is having a positive effect in many people’s lives. Dr Lok: What products and services do you provide?


Bevan: We have our flagship product, McLeod’s Agriculture Soil Conditioner, which is made up of a special blend of organic matter, nutrients and microbes. This is an essential tool in reconditioning soils for organic production. We have just added Burn Off to our stock range. Burn Off is a natural alternative to glyphosate which is really getting people talking. I do not believe glyphosate products are safe or should be used in organic practices. We also supply nutrients like calcium, phosphate, magnesium, zeolite and pretty much any nutrient your soil may need. Dr Lok: What is your philosophy when it comes to product development? Bevan: It’s important to stick to science and passion. You have to believe in your product and make sure you stand by what you are selling. I will always trial a product someone wants me to sell before adding it to my range. Dr Lok: What makes the business special? Bevan: When we named the business, we went with my surname, McLeod. People told me ‘no-one can take that away from you’ and I believe that. Having my name on all the branding also means that people know they are talking to the owner of the business, they can ask all the questions and it’s easy for them to follow-up, give feedback and of course re-order! Being a small business, you can have that hands-on approach and really keep an eye on quality control. This is our highest priority. Our soil conditioner produces such great results because we do not allow it or any other product to be bagged until all our tests prove it is balanced and ready to enhance our customers’ soils. We use a recipe of aged organic matter, zeolite, microbes and a special blend of nutrients that have a small carbon footprint, sourcing everything from the local southern Queensland area. Dr Lok: What do you hope to inspire in others? Bevan: The organic journey is fun and can be shared by the whole family. My biggest goal is to get as many people as possible growing at least some of their own produce. You don’t need to have a massive backyard, you could have a balcony; the most important ingredient is good soil and the desire to start something. Dr Lok: What gives you the greatest pleasure? Bevan: There’s nothing better, I think, than digging your hands into a plot of


really healthy soil, seeing all the life within it and then harvesting a crop from that same soil. That could be silverbeet in a pot or 1000-hectares of sorghum. One of my greatest pleasures in business is being there for the ‘light bulb’ moment, when people realise the importance and benefits of switching to sustainable organic practices. It’s especially satisfying when it happens with people who, despite generations of operating their farming business the same way as their forefathers, have the courage to do something different and then reap the benefits. Dr Lok: What have been some of the highlights so far for your business? Bevan: We have a great amount of pride in our business. We have met some great people and have the pleasure of a large client base of repeat customers. Probably one of the moments that I was really proud of was a fellow who had bought soil conditioner from me about five years ago and he returned this year to buy another lot of bulk soil conditioner to spread across his paddocks to increase his yield. The victories are plenty; I often sell a small bag of soil conditioner to a customer who then returns in a few weeks to buy a larger bag because they have seen the huge difference it has made on their vegies or flowers. One of the great things about a balanced soil is that pests aren’t so prevalent and the beneficial insects, the ones that assist in the growth and the health of plants are encouraged. Pollination occurs more easily and effectively and the whole, natural process runs smoothly. We have also discovered a technique to eliminate pathogens in our soil conditioner. We had to take samples of our soil to the blood bank for them to test for pathogens, then using a contracted scientist, we worked out how to get the soil, pathogen-free – that’s a major achievement I think. Dr Lok: What are your biggest challenges? Bevan: There is so much going on. Organic principals are really catching on. I remember being asked to leave a farmer’s property years ago when I suggested he investigate going organic! I think getting the message out there has been a huge challenge, but people are catching on and it’s a really exciting time now. That also means there are lots of businesses and individuals claiming to be organic who don’t have the passion or the accreditation. There are a lot of misconceptions out there as well. We don’t use any glyphosate.


We do not believe in it; there are far more natural alternatives. We also tell people they have to be careful with their mulch because there are some that claim to be ‘natural’ that have been made from trees that are toxic. We use a lot of black microbes to treat our mulches to make sure they are safe. Be careful of fungus mulches as they can be high in pathogens. We make sure any mulch we use or sell has been heat treated to eliminate this risk. Dr Lok: Who would you say are the people who have most inspired you? Bevan: Some of the most inspiring people to me have been customers who are so thrilled with their plant growth and the way their soil feels after using the soil conditioner. I have also been inspired by the great organic farmer Don McFarlane as well as Biological Farmers Association’s Doug Haas and Holly Vyner. These people have helped me realise when you get the soil right, the beneficial micro-organisms stay and play and help us grow healthier higher quality produce without the need for chemicals. Dr Lok: How can people find out about you and your business? Bevan: The best thing to do is give me a call and we can discuss your needs and tailor something specifically to your requirements. Website: www.mcleodsorganicfertiliser.com Free call: 1800 062 616 Mobile: 0419 669 115


Interview Dr Lok: Hi Jeff, Tell us a bit about your background? Jeff: Frances and I both come from different backgrounds and also opposite sides of the world. We met at an international permaculture conference in 1989. It didn’t take long to realise that we both shared a common passion for a sustainable lifestyle. We both had the same desire to help others learn the skills of organic food growing at home. Frances is a trained horticulturalist with teaching credentials in horticulture, permaculture and plant biology. She is a 5th generation Australian and is one of


Australia’s foremost figures in the growing of edible plants. I was born in America and spent my childhood and university years in suburban California. Shopping at food co-ops, commuting by bicycle and tending a community garden bed in San Francisco made me realise that our daily actions and choices do make a difference. For 20 years Frances and I lived, planted and tended trees and edibles at Crystal Waters Permaculture Village. We have managed to combine our skills, ethics and deep environmental commitment into a life together including a green business. Dr Lok: What was it that inspired Frances and yourself to create Green Harvest in the first place? Jeff: We had always been very keen organic vegetable gardeners and permaculture practitioners. In the 1990s we lived in a remote permaculture village with little in the way of employment opportunities. We started running training and education programs for adults during this period. We realised in running these courses and other workshops that there was a big problem for people who understood and desired to choose a more sustainable, organic lifestyle. It was difficult for them to find the resources to do so. Frances recognised that in our desire to have a working life that did not contradict our inner ethical selves we would have to start a business. We wanted this business to encourage and inspire more people to live healthier and greener lives. We set about seeking out and selecting, based on environmental and organic criteria, a range of gardening products that would be beneficial to all those seeking a more sustainable future. We started posting these all over Australia. Dr Lok: Can you tell us a bit more about your business? Jeff: We are a small family business, currently located in a small rural town supplying products to enable all Australian home, market, school and community gardeners to grow and harvest their own organically produced vegetables and sprouts. It is our goal to make home food growing easier, safer and more productive. We are a Biological Farmers Association accredited, certified organic company and have an extensive range of products in five main categories including seeds, edible plants, pest control, gardening and propagation tools, books and information.


We also print and distribute the Australian Organic Gardening Resource Guide. This is a very unique guide distributed at no cost to all who are interested. It is packed full of gardening tips, organic gardening products and information to help people in all climate zones. It is suitable for both urban and rural dwellers. Our website has been hailed as the best organic gardening website in the world. People spend hours reading our information on raising seed, food preserving, pest identification and purchasing Australian written gardening books and unusual tools and propagation aids. Dr Lok: What were your major obstacles to start with? Jeff: In the early 1990s, organic gardening was considered a fringe fad with very little media coverage and a low public profile. In many ways we were the pioneers in our field, offering organic gardening products by mail order, Australia wide. Our biggest obstacle was establishing Green Harvest in a rural area; being 30 minutes drive from the post office, and one and a half hours from a capital city, with broadband internet, freight, postal and courier services virtually nonexistent. Our rural location still poses major challenges today, 20 years on. Dr Lok: What are some of your major achievements so far? Jeff: I would probably have to say Green Harvest being the first certified organic seed supplier in Australia. We were also the first supplier to offer mail order perennial edibles and our catalogues were the first in Australia that were presented as an informative educational guide. Dr Lok: Tell us about your seed products and edible plants Jeff: Our seed is sourced from certified organic seed producers. We supply a wide variety of vegetable, herb, soil improver, sprouting and flower seeds. All are stored without chemicals and packed fresh in our seed warehouse. In order to maintain a high quality and our 100% satisfaction guarantee they are only sold directly to the gardener through our mail order system. In the early spring and autumn we have a range of edible water plants including water chestnuts as well as starchy tubers like potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and yam, with garlic, yacon, strawberries and horseradish offered when in season. Dr Lok: Tell us about the products you produce under the Green Harvest brand


Jeff: We produce, package and manufacture products in most of our five categories. Many of our products are trademarked. As we only sell directly to the end user, they are not found anywhere except on the Green Harvest website or in our catalogue. We are especially proud of our pest management products, which include a range of exclusion sleeves, bags and nets. Leading the way is our ‘Pest Guard Bags’. These are custom manufactured to enable home gardeners to produce beautiful crops of tomatoes without spraying them with chemicals. They are constructed of light gauzy material that allows for full flavour and colour while keeping out fruit fly. This is an organic solution that works by excluding the pest, not poisoning it. We also source and pack hundreds of varieties of certified organic seed and we are constantly told that our germination rates and seed packet information is the best in Australia. Our trademarked and best-selling’ Good Bug Mix’ is a blend of 12 different annual and perennial flowering plants. This mix attracts thousands of pest control ‘operatives’ to your garden. These good bugs are voracious and persistent in their work, eating the insects that are a problem to your garden. This is a perfect example of how pests can be controlled in your backyard without the use of dangerous chemicals. Dr Lok: What should I use to control pests in my garden? Jeff: We have adopted the notion that growing organically is not simply the replacement of one bottle of toxic spray for one which is derived from plant oils. There are many techniques we can use to control pests in our garden and around our homes. The first step is correct identification, most of the insects around our gardens are beneficial and when encouraged they will keep the pests in balance. For many insects we have pioneered exclusion products, many of which are designed and sold only by us. We provide information in our catalogue and on our website to help gardeners first identify and then select the most suitable techniques and least toxic strategy to manage their pest problems. Dr Lok: How green is your business? Jeff: Despite having 13 people within our business premises from 9am until 5pm, Monday to Friday, Green Harvest generates less waste than the average Australian home. Over the 20 years we have been in operation, all our paper,


cardboard, envelopes, pallets and other organic matter have been returned to the garden, with our food scraps being consumed by our chooks. We have also for the last 20 years been collecting boxes and filler materials like shredded paper and plant starch bubbles from local businesses. These have all been returned to the earth through our composting system doubling the life of already manufactured packaging. Dr Lok: You must be very proud of your brand; what is it that has made it as respected as it is today? Jeff: I think we have got the correct mix of excellent gardening products; 13 dedicated and passionate staff whom are all gardeners; unsurpassed willingness to listen and respond to customer feedback; an embrace of the internet in terms of providing information and offering organic products for sale; a fantastic commitment and reputation for processing internet orders and shipping them on the same day. Dr Lok: How can people find out more about you and your business? Jeff: People can either call us on 1800 68 10 14 to request a free copy of the Australian Organic Gardening Resource Guide or visit our web site at www.greenharvest.com.au to view a full range of our organic gardening products.


Final Word ‘I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country… Corporations have been enthroned, an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the moneypower of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.’ Abraham Lincoln [1864]

Congratulations. You’ve made it! It is my sincerest hope that this book has inspired many of you to become active in the push against toxic chemicals in our everyday lives. If you are feeling absolutely overwhelmed with all the information on these harmful chemicals and how they affect you, your family and our environment, this is totally understandable. It is a lot of information to digest in a short period of time. The simplest and easiest thing by far, would be to do nothing. We can carry on with our lives just as we have done for years and hope that a bad situation will not get worse, or we can take action today. We must realise that we have the power to change this situation. We can say ‘NO’ to all these chemicals by voting with our pockets. Every time we shop, we have the opportunity to support an industry that promotes the health and wellbeing of all, and one that respects and values our environment; or we can choose to continue to support an industry that sees profits as its primary objective. Through the years, we have allowed the proliferation of chemical substances by corporate entities whose motivation is for increased market share and massive profits at the expense of our health and environment. If you find yourself questioning the role that you play in making any significant difference, you must remind yourself that by supporting the organic industry


every time you shop, you are saying ‘NO’ to the dangers associated with these chemicals. There is overwhelming evidence to support action against the use of these chemicals, however, those producing these chemicals will always argue in favour of their use. How long are we willing to gamble the health of our children, the environment and our future? Together, we can say ‘NO’ to harmful chemicals in our lives. Dr Esther Lok PS: Our website www.gonaturalbookseries.com will provide you with additional resources and information to assist you in your journey towards a chemical-free life. Also, we’d love to hear and receive your letters or emails if you have been inspired by any of the stories or information in this book, so please contact us with your feedback.


Resources STATE BY STATE RETAILERS LISTING Northern Territory Greenies Real Food www.greeniesrealfood.com.au Shop 12 Rapid Creek Business Village Rapid Creek Darwin 08 89851922 Queensland BRISBANE Fundamental Food Store www.fundies.com.au 219 Given Terrace, Paddington 07 3368 1855 Mrs Flannery’s Natural Grocer www.flannerys.com.au 1) Shop 5/1 Bryants Road Loganholme 07 3806 0994 2) 191 Moggill Road Taringa 07 3720 9474 3) 52 Annerley Rd Woollongabba 07 3891 7199 4) 2021 Wynnum Road Wynnum 07 3348 6888


5) Corner Road & Webster Roads Chermside 07 3861 5477 The Meat-ting Place www.themeat-tingplace.com.au 1) Shop 3B Paddington Central, 107 Latrobe Tce Paddington 07 3369 9522 2) Shop 6/7 North West Plaza, 97 Flockton St, McDowall 07 3353 8541 Wray Organic www.wrayorganic.com.au 1) 110 Enoggera Rd Newmarket 07 3356 0444 2) 14 Lambeert Rd Indooroopilly 07 3871 3411 3) 70 Warwick Rd Ipswich 07 3812 3300

GOLD COAST Mrs Flannery’s Natural Grocer www.flannerys.com.au 1) Shop 7, Easy T Centre Robina 07 5562 5858 2) Bronberg Plaza, Slatyer Avenue Benowa 07 5597 4900 3) 2184 Gold Coast Highway Miami 07 5526 1991 Relish Organics ,www.relishorganics.com.au Bell Central Shopping Centre, cnr of Bell Place, Railway St & The Link Way Mudgeeraba


07 5522 9711 Wray Organic www.wrayorganic.com.au 1) 19th Ave Shopping Centre Palm Beach 07 5576 7111 2) Oasis Shopping Centre Broad Beach 07 55921007

SUNSHINE COAST Forest Glen Organic Meats www.forestglenorganicmeats.com.au Shop 6, 354 Mons Road Forest Glen 07 5445 2912 Mrs Flannery’s Natural Grocer www.flannerys.com.au Central One, 45 Plaza Pde Maroochydore 07 5479 3522

CAIRNS Neils Organics www.neilsorganics.com.au 239 -241 McLeod St Cairns 07 4051 5688


New South Wales SYDNEY 7th Heaven Wholefoods www.7thheavenwholefoods.com.au 122 Belmore Road Randwick 02 9326 5006 Earth Food Store www.earthfoodstore.com.au 81a Gould Street, Bondi 02 9365 5098 Granny Smith Natural Food Market www.grannysmith.net.au 6 Princes Street Turramurra 02 9988 3787 Sam the Butcher www.samthebutcher.com.au 129 Bondi Road Bondi 02 9389 1420


Whole Foods House www.wholefoodshouse.com.au 1) Level 1, 3/9 Danks Street Waterloo 02 9319 4459 2) 109 Queen Street Woollahra 02 9363 9879

Victoria MELBOURNE Belmore Biodynamic Meats www.organicmeatsupply.com.au 137 Miller Street, Thornbury 03 9484 0469 Belmore Meats www.belmoreorganics.com.au 1) 340 Belmore Rd Balwyn East 03 9857 9379 2) 706 Glenferrie Rd Hawthorn 03 9818 7707 Joe’s Organic Markets www.joesorganic.com.au 64 Victoria Rd Northcote 03 90772746


Kew Organics www.keworganics.com.au 4/79 Willsmere Rd Kew 03 9852 8955 Organic Gertrude www.organicgertrude.com.au 108 Station St Fairfield 03 9481 4718 Organic Wholefoods www.wholefoods.com.au 1) 483 Lygon St Brunswick 03 9384 0288 2) 277 Smith St Fitzroy 03 9419 5347 Passion Foods www.passionfoods.com.au 219 Ferrars St, South Melbourne 03 9690 9339 Rendina’s Butchery www.rendinasbutchery.com.au 253b Belmore Rd Balwyn North


03 9857 6669 Ripe the Organic Grocer www.ripeorganics.com.au 23 Victoria Avenue Albert Park 03 9699 6405

Tasmania

City Organics www.cityorganics.com.au 34 Criterion St Hobart 03 6231 1465 Eumarrah 39 Barrack St Hobart 03 6234 3229

South Australia

Bridgewater Greengrocer & Cafe www.bridgewatergreengrocer.com.au


Bridgewater Shopping Centre Bridgewater 08 8339 6753 The Organic Store & CafĂŠ www.theorganikstore.com.au 37 Broadway Glenelg South 08 8295 7767 The Organic Market & CafĂŠ www.organicmarket.com.au 5 Druid Avenue Stirling 08 8339 4835

Western Australia

Boat Shed Market www.boatshedmarket.com.au 40 Jarrad St Cottesloe 08 9284 5176 Fresh Provisions www.provisions.com.au


1) 258 Canning Hwy Bicton 08 9339 5333 2) 303 Stirling Hwy Claremont 08 93833308 3) 77 Walcott St Mt Lawley 08 9227 6309 Organic On Charles www.organiconcharles.com.au Shop 7, 299 Charles St North Perth 08 9227 7755 Peaches Fresh Food Market www.peachesfresh.com.au 1-3 / 195 Hampton Rd South Fremantle 08 9430 5025 The Organic Collective www.organiccollective.com.au Shop 1/3 Greenslade St Hamilton Hill, Perth 08 9331 5590 Tony Ale Fruit & Vegetable Market www.tonyale.com.au 86 Hammond Road Cockburn Central


08 9414 8015


About the Author “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

Dr. Esther Lok

Medical Doctor, Author, Speaker & Founder of The Organics Institute of Australia. Esther is a best-selling author and is recognised as a leading specialist in the area of Medicine & Health, wealth, success and organic living. She is passionate about helping people make more informed choices and creating healthier and happier & successful lifestyles. As the founder and CEO of The Organics Institute she speaks and consults around the world. Esther’s achievements and dedication to health are many having formerly been awarded the FJ Brown Prize for Obstetrics & Gynaecology, First Class Honours MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery), Top Medal in Australasian College of Emergency Medicine and the Central Clinical School Teaching Award for Excellence in Teaching. For the past 15 years Esther has worked, travelled, consulted and spoken to people in over 5 countries including doing special missions work in Sri Lanka in 1993. Esther started her wealth creation at a young age buying and renovating over 20 properties in just 7 years; a passion which led her to creating successful


businesses. Now Esther shares her passion helping other people to become healthy, wealthy and successful in all areas of their lives. She is the author of the best-selling book series “Go Natural�. Esther is the co-founder and board member of The Organics Institute and a member of the Australian College of Emergency Medicine and a member of the Australian Medical Board. She has a Doctoral Degree in Medicine & Surgery from the University of Sydney. For over a decade she has supported many charitable organisations and volunteered in Medical Disaster teams such as the Christmas Bushfires in 2001. Esther currently lives in Australia.


Profile for Halls of Knowledge

Go Natural The No 1 Organic Handbook  

Go Natural The No 1 Organic Handbook  

Advertisement