The scary truth about toxic chemicals

Updated 17 June 2016

The scary truth about toxic chemicals

The Toxic Consumer’ sheds light on the correlation between the rise of non-infectious health problems and the increase in our exposure to synthetic chemicals. Our confrontation with man-made chemicals is relatively recent. The first synthetic chemicals were created in the late nineteenth century; however the chemical industry really took off after the Second World War. Researchers working on chemical weapons for combat use understood that the lethal poisons they had created could fight against the damages caused by insects on the crops. Soon after, chemists were able to produce man-made chemicals which would improve our way of life. In other words, synthetic chemicals are used to make consumer products more attractive, easier to use and longer lasting.
“This book is concerned with toxic chemicals having either proven or strongly implicated effects on our health, but which we are often exposed to without any choice. They are chemicals that we don’t even know are there.”
Recently, the French consumer magazine, “Que Choisir” created an uproar by publishing a list of 185 cosmetic products containing undesirable substances. Most of the listed products (toothpastes, shampoos, creams, deodorants, etc.) are manufactured by well-known brands such as Nivea, Colgate, Sisley, Eucerin, Dove, Garnier and L’Oreal to name but a few.
The idea behind this list is to force the manufacturers to stop using potentially dangerous substances in many cosmetic products and to inform consumers about the presence of these health hazardous chemicals in products we use on a daily basis to brush our teeth, wash our hair and moisturize our face. The only way to deal with the unacceptable lack of labeling is to enhance our awareness of potentially dangerous products to minimize exposure to chemicals that might be harmful to us.
The authors give us a detailed list of some of the most common toxic chemicals to watch. There is growing evidence that certain chemicals found in everyday products can be disruptive to neurological function, cause cancer and finally compromise fertility.
“What is more, many of these chemicals are bioaccumulative: that is, they build up in our body fat and never leave.”
Musk is a very popular scent but real musk is extremely expensive. Only about 700 pounds of natural musk are produced per year and it costs approximately three times its weight in gold. The musk deer is now a protected species but chemists succeeded in isolating its main odorous element, muscone in 1926, thus giving birth to synthetic musk.
Synthetic musk is mostly used as fixative rather than a scent. As a fixative it makes smell last longer. It has the magical property to enhance and prolong the smell of whatever it is added to, which explains its success in the cosmetic industry.
To conclude it can be said that wherever there is fragrance, there is usually synthetic musk. Synthetic musk is found in shampoos, conditioners, shaving foams, body washes, detergents, air-fresheners, children’s toys, scented candles, toothpaste and almost any product that can be made more appealing by adding fragrance. The healthful alternative is to purchase all-natural cosmetics and prefer the fragrance-free versions.
Parabens should also be watched very carefully. They have been used since the 1920s, to prevent the growth of bacteria in foods and facial and body cosmetics. Their rapid excretion from the body led to a general assumption that parabens were not toxic but new scientific studies indicate that parabens have been found in breast tumors and may be implicated in breast cancer. A number of manufacturers are now responding to consumer concerns and developing products free of parabens.
The authors also focus on indoor pollutants and explain how to reduce indoor pollution. If there are obvious energy-saving benefits to tightly sealed windows and high levels of home insulation, it is essential to have outdoor air flowing into the home to reduce the concentrations of any airborne contaminants. Living in a house filled with chemically laden fixtures, furnishings, and products in a near-airtight environment makes for a very unhealthful living situation.
Furthermore, the presence in house dust of most of the toxic chemicals mentioned in this book is a clear indicator of the indoor level of contaminants.
Dust in the home represents a particular threat to children. Carpeting is a case in point since it can hold up to eight times its own weight in dirt, so the deeper the pile, the more toxic it can be. Similarly, vinyl (PVC} flooring is particularly toxic and has been associated with increased risk of asthma and allergies.
There are various alternative and healthful flooring options such as rugs or carpets made with vegetable fiber content such as sisal or even sea grass. Natural linoleum made from renewable materials is long-lasting, low-maintenance and made from renewable materials.
Another good renewable material is natural rubber as long as it does not have chlorinated content.
“Modern technology has given us a vast array of electronic devices to entertain ourselves with and to use to communicate with other’s while at home. TVs, DVD players, stereo systems, plasma screens, laptop and desktop computers, cordless and cell phones are popular domestic gadgets. They consist of plastic casings, semi-conductors, and quantities of toxic chemicals.
Make sure you turn electrical goods off when they are not in use. You must not let them overheat and finally you must check that the rooms where they are electrical goods remain at all times, well ventilated.
If you want to avoid chemical cleaners, you can use white vinegar mixed with water. It doesn’t smell and it cleans windows, glass and tiled surfaces.
It is also interesting to know that baking soda mixed with water turns into an all-purpose cleaner for sinks and baths. This mixture can also be sprinkled over carpets as a deodorizer. Finally, salt can be used to scour pots and pans and olive oil mixed with vinegar may be used to polish furniture.
The publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962 was a powerful wake up call to the world about the impact of synthetic chemicals on nature. Yet more than 60 years later, the regulatory systems are still floundering in the face of past mistakes and a flourishing chemical industry.
To reduce our dependence on common toxic products we need stringent laws requiring chemical companies to be responsible for their products’ effects on health and the environment. We also require a greater public awareness. Consumers must put pressure on the manufacturers to produce toxic free products.
“We know exactly how to change the ways of the world for a sustainable future, but we don’t,” write the authors.
Yet it is possible to dramatically reduce exposure to common toxic chemicals. We are consumers and have the power to question our retailers, product manufacturers and politicians. We must ask questions and demand answers.
This straightforward guide informs us about the presence of toxic chemicals in our food, cosmetic products, flooring, clothing and bedding. It helps us make the right choices to minimize the risks of being exposed to harmful substances.

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Saudi home-bakers cooking up sweet business on internet

Nada Kutbi started baking from home for family and friends before setting up her Sucre De Nada pastry shop to expand her home business. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 22 May 2019

Saudi home-bakers cooking up sweet business on internet

  • Thanks to social media, business is booming for Jeddah’s cake and pastry makers

JEDDAH: Enterprising Saudi home-bakers have been turning to social media to help cook up some sweet business success.
The Kingdom’s food producers are proving to be some of the rising stars of the internet, and none more so than 53-year-old mom Nada Kutbi.
Her Sucre De Nada pastry shop in Jeddah has become one of the go-to places for homemade desserts and cakes, and the online side of her business is also booming.
Kutbi’s daughter, Nassiba Khashoggi, told Arab News: “She has basically been baking all her life, especially after having children. She used to make cookies for us and whenever she tried a dessert somewhere else, she would recreate it.
“In restaurants or gatherings, she would always analyze sweets and make them at home for her family. That was how she started baking.
“I don’t think she ever thought she could pursue it as a career, but everyone loved her baking and one of her closest friends encouraged her to start her business when she was a stay-at-home mom.
“It was in 2011-2012, and her friend basically forced her to start by telling her, ‘yallah! make a cake and I will buy it from you now.’”
Khashoggi added: “In the beginning we just went by word of mouth, but when Instagram came along, we made an account and started posting pictures and the customers loved her creativity and uniqueness. I don’t think many people knew what banoffee was before my mom promoted it.”
Although Kutbi’s unique takes and touches went down a treat with customers, it was not until Ramadan last year that she officially opened her bakery in Jeddah.
But stepping up from running a home business presented new challenges. “When you are running a home business there are few staff and it is easy to control,” said Khashoggi. But expanding requires you to put more trust in other people and that was difficult for my mom. Also, when we increased the number of our products it became harder to maintain the quality of goods.”
Kutbi aims to avoid storing, pre-baking or freezing her products and is not a fan of mass production and blast freezing, according to her daughter. “In short, she is against commercial baking,” said Khashoggi. “What is unique about my mom is that everything she makes is made the same day from scratch. It makes it harder for her to redo everything but that’s what makes her special.”


• The Kingdom’s food producers are proving to be some of the rising stars of the internet, none more so than 53-year-old mom Nada Kutbi.

• Kutbi’s unique takes and touches have been a hit with customer, but it was not until Ramadan last year that she officially opened her bakery in Jeddah.

Sometimes customers even send pictures or pieces of dessert to Kutbi asking her to recreate their favorite foods.
Another Jeddah-based bakery thriving on the internet is Ganache. Run by Anas Khashoggi, 58, and Jamila Ali Islam, 48, the pastry business has been operating for almost 20 years.
Khashoggi supported his wife after spotting her talent for baking and took a leap of faith by giving up his job and starting an online bakery.
“At that time, there was no social media, but we made an introductory website, which helped us gain popularity,” he said. That was in 1996, and the couple’s first store opened later the same year.
“Ganache has its own unique spirit as a family business, and it is run by Saudi youth who are managing the bakery and understand the Saudi market. The family committee is the one that approves the products,” added Khashoggi.