Safe and Clean

Living Healthy in a Toxic World Simple Steps to Protect You and Your Family from Everyday Chemicals, Poisons, and Pollution, by David Steinman and R. Michael Wisner Perigee, $12, 228 pp.OK, so Kirstie Alley wrote the foreword and John Travolta endorsed the book. But Living Healthy in a Toxic World is a serious attempt at grappling with the poisons in the modern world.For anyone renovating, cleaning or even decorating a house, this guide is a handy resource. Its 49 lean chapters sound the alarm on poisons in every area of our lives, including carpets (fumes can cause skin, lung and brain damage), window-cleaning fluids (kidney damage) and bedside digital clocks (their electromagnetic field causes cancer).Lists of referenced facts and colorful anecdotes fill each chapter, although the authors disguise their sources by turning them into characters.One, the "California Power Athlete," experienced depression and severe fatigue. Doctors diagnosed solvent poisoning, but she drank only bottled water and ate organic food. An investigation showed that her blood was laced with TCE, a common drinking water pollutant. As it turned out, the steam from her thrice-a-day showers had contaminated her blood. The book contains useful techniques for avoiding day-to-day nasties. Some are easy -- don't stand in front of the microwave when it's on; don't drink diet sodas with aspartame or saccharin -- but not all. While actor Tom Cruise says he found the tips "easy É and inexpensive," the average Joe or Josephine probably won't.More complicated mandates include replacing your carpeting with hardwood flooring, and starting your own company to get the real information about what's in household products.One of the best chapters is "Clean House," which lists harmful -- and fatal -- household cleansers and offers safe homemade alternatives. I used distilled white vinegar and water on my wood floor and it worked great. Despite the Hollywood endorsements, the book seems to be an intelligent attempt at dealing with the poisons we eat, breathe and absorb every day. It's horrifying to learn how bad the situation is. These facts may be enough to prompt a few lifestyle changes.Although, as Alley writes, "I like my life. I am not about to start É rubbing two sticks together and eating berries." I won't be eating many California raisins either.CLEAN CLEANERSTips from Living Healthy in a Toxic World:* All-around cleanser: Mix 3 teaspoons Borax, 4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar and 2 cups hot water (to dissolve Borax) in a refillable spray bottle; shake well. Best used when warm.* Grease cleaner: Mix about 1 teaspoon washing soda (sodium carbonate) with approximately 1 teaspoon liquid soap.* Bleach: Use hydrogen peroxide or sodium perborate.* Wood furniture polish: Mix 1/2 teaspoon walnut or olive oil and 1/4 cup vinegar. Cover when stored.* Wood floors: The best way to keep wood floors looking beautiful is to sweep and dust frequently. To wash, use 1/2 cup vinegar to 1 gallon water. Change solution as it gets dirty.* All-purpose floor cleaner: Mix 1/4 cup liquid soap and 1/4 cup lemon juice in 2 gallons of warm water.* Natural disinfectant: Mix 2 tablespoons of Australian tea tree oil with 2 cups of water in spray bottle. Amy Mindell is a local freelance writer.

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