Four Responses to “I Grew Up Eating/Using These Things and I’m Fine.”


“I drank Diet Coke and ate Oreos for 47 years and I’m fine!”

“My mother used Windex and lived to be 96!”

“Millions of people eat at McDonald’s and they’re doing just fine!”

I can not tell you how many times I hear this! And not just from older generations, but from people younger than me.

People don’t want to believe that what they can’t see will hurt them. They are resistant to change, defensive of the brand names they grew up with. It’s often a combination of stubbornness, nostalgia, and not being open to being convinced otherwise.

So what do I say when people tell me that their 86-year-old grandmother eats Cheetos and wears drugstore perfume and she’s strong as an ox? Here are four things I like to point out.

1.The products you grew up with are likely not the same recipe on the market now.

For better or worse, chemical cocktails have evolved over the years, and your favorite breakfast cereal has likely gone through a few changes. There are now around 84,000 chemicals on the market and only about 1 percent of them have been studied for safety. Each year, an estimated 2,000 new ones are introduced for use in such everyday items as foods, personal care products, prescription drugs, and household cleaners – and with the way things are going, we shouldn’t expect mandatory testing at the federal level anytime soon. In 2010, Lisa Jackson, then the administrator of the EPA, noted, “A child born in America today will grow up exposed to more chemicals than any other generation in our history.” Simply put, your childhood did not experience the equivalent of the average chemical consumption of the average child in 2017.

2. Are you really 100% fine?

Are you sure? Did you have fertility issues? Do your kids have asthma? How are your allergies lately? Have you ever had a migraine? Do you know for a fact that you won’t be diagnosed with cancer tomorrow due in some part to bioaccumulative chemicals in your body?

“Fine” is a relative term. Don’t discount your health issues to “luck of the draw” – there may be more to them than you realize.

“Whatever, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow.”

Yeah, I was. It was called sepsis. But doctors credit my amazing recovery with having been in such good health to begin with. If I’d had diabetes or emphysema or any number of other ailments I may not be here today.

Now, could I do everything “perfect” and still get cancer? Absolutely. But if giving up some shitty perfume will help stack the odds in my favor, it’s not a huge loss.

3. If you are truly fine you are very lucky. But not everyone fares so well.

Some people may be more genetically susceptible to issues which can be amplified by hormone disrupting chemicals and carcinogens. Why not hedge your bets in your family’s favor? When you wear hormone-disrupting perfume and spray Febreze everywhere, you aren’t the only one who has to inhale the phthalates. When you serve Kool-Aid at a party, all the kids are going to drink it. Am I saying you’re a monster for serving juice? Of course not! And, look, I get that half these party places don’t even let you bring your own food. Perfect isn’t possible. But if you can offer something with less artificial additives, why not?

4. Do you really want to spend your money supporting companies who are harming others?

If we really want to take care of ourselves and each other, and move the needle “closer to fine” (cue Indigo Girls), let’s support companies that offer products that are better for our health and the planet. From small local businesses to the larger B Corporations, safer products are more affordable and accessible than ever. When we vote with our dollars, we send a clear message with our wallets. Better is always possible.

  • Mary-Anne Bush

    I think it’s wonderful that this generation of parents are doing whatever they can to use safe food and products for the sake of their children. Kind of makes us old folks feel bad that we raised our kids on Oreos and mirrors cleaned with Windex….but hey… long as you don’t become obsessed with all this….go right ahead and investigate. Believe me, 25 years from now they’ll be telling you that everything you ate and did today was potentially poisonous. It’s just the way it goes. I say…..Relax! Enjoy life!… and remember, stress will kill you faster than an Oreo!

  • Timely article, Paige!

    The other day I was morbidly joking to a friend about the level of invisible radiation we voluntarily expose ourselves to. Daily I have my cell phone in my pocket, and there haven’t been enough truly long-term studies on this technology to know how we’ll be faring in the future. Well, I’m “fine” so far…

  • Vanessa

    I am 31 years old and I eat chips ever since I was a kid. The time I learned that a friend died because of kidney failure, I stop eating them and minimized my sodas. They said that he’s guilty of consuming chips, sodas and energy booster drinks almost every day. So I decided to stop and minimize some. Thanks for this post, I realized that I should push on eliminating soda consumption and convince the whole family to do the same.

  • Beverly Payton

    Thanks for this important post, Paige. Despite breastfeeding and trying to feed my children organic foods and forbidding my mom from smoking in my house after my twins were born, both of them still had fertility issues in early adulthood. I’m certain it was because of chemicals they were exposed to, either in the air, or the water. While we can’t avoid every toxin we owe it to ourselves and our families to do the best we can. And you are absolutely right, we can not trust government entities to test products for safety, we have to vote with our wallets to support responsible companies that avoid putting harmful chemicals in our food, hygiene and cleaning products. We may pay a few extra dollars for those products, but it’s far better than the price we will pay in the future when the cumulative effects of those toxins take their toll.

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