Mel Walsh

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August 8, 2008
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Mel Walsh: A geezer's guide to green living


You have a matched pair, all pink and pretty and I want you to keep them that way. I refer to your lungs, your portable oxygen tanks. You don't see them and if you are lucky, you don't hear them, though people with asthma hear them far too often.

Wheeze, wheeze.

You already know that smoking isn't good for your lungs, but did you know that cleaning sprays were connected to a 30 to 50 percent increased risk of asthma? One study of the subject involved 3,500 people from 10 countries and was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Researchers found that the regular use of sprayed fresheners, furniture cleaners and glass cleaners was linked in a significant way to breathing difficulties.

I've noticed this phenom in spades " spray an air freshener or a cleaner " have trouble breathing " that's my experience and my unscientific experiment of one. So if you've had your own experiment of one or are paying attention to the experiment with 3,500 other people, you may want to know what to do besides leaving the house a mess and smelling like yesterday's boiled cabbage.

Green Cleaning

Luckily, there are simple products that work and are deemed to be green, safe and friendly. They are the things your great grammy used, vinegar and baking soda being the stars of the eco-lineup.

But and however, I don't know if we older people have exactly been the first adopters of safe cleaning methods. I sense that our kids and their kids got out of the starting gate faster than we did. We are the Chlorine Generation, disinfecting everything that moves under a microscope with products sporting the phone number of a poison control center, products that little grandkids could take out from under the sink and investigate at their peril.

But better late than never, and here are two safe cleaning recipes from the public health section of the King County website in Washington State, www.metrokc.gov/health/asthma/facts/greencleaning.html:

Tub and sink cleaner. Sprinkle baking soda on the porcelain fixtures and rub with wet rag. Add a little liquid castile soap to the rag for more cleaning power. Rinse well to avoid leaving a hazy film.

Drain cleaner. This recipe will free minor clogs and help prevent future clogs. Pour 1⁄2 cup of baking soda down the drain first, then 1⁄2 cup vinegar. Let it fizz for a few minutes. Then pour down a teakettle full of boiling water. Repeat if needed. If the clog is stubborn use a plunger. If very stubborn, use a mechanical snake.

There are several other simple cleaning recipes on this web site, including the use of vinegar and water in a spray bottle to clean glass. Actually, I just dump some vinegar on my glass dining room table and rub it around. I use white or apple cider vinegar and the smell evaporates quickly.

Stale Rooms, Safe Fresheners

Some of us now live in fairly modern well-insulated houses, no fresh air coming in through chinks in the log cabin walls. This is good for our utility bills, but sealed rooms keep in all the gunky dead air. So open those windows and doors and let the fresh air in and out. Air is a great air freshener.

If you want a flower scent, grow or buy some lavender for potpourri and, when the scent gets weak, refresh with essential oil of lavender. I've also boiled cinnamon sticks in water on the stovetop for a few minutes. Last, I've tried to tell Cranky Pants that home-made oatmeal cookies are not the best way to make the indoor air fragrant, but he says cookies don't cause asthma.

Words for the Wise

Green living is a BIG subject and covers far more than cleaning products and air fresheners. A book that gets raves in the Amazon online reviews is "Easy Green Living: the Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-Friendly Choices for You and Your Home". Author Renee Loux is the host of TV's "Easy Being Green". Her book shows how to switch to a green lifestyle and how to make safer choices in all kinds of household products. As the review says, she is making the world safer, one cleaning spritz at a time.

Mel Walsh is a gerontologist and certifiable geezer. Her book of advice for older women, Hot Granny, is available at The Book Seller in Grass Valley and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


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The Union Updated Aug 8, 2008 02:41AM Published Aug 8, 2008 02:41AM Copyright 2008 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.