By Dr. Summer Beattie, ND — Non-Toxic Living: If Alaska is home then you live in one of the most picturesque and pristine environments in the world. It is perhaps the beauty and opportunity of the land that drew and keeps you here.  If you were born here, you know it is a part of who you are; no matter where else you may live or visit.   For that reason, the residents of Alaska take great effort and pride to keep in balance the health of our community.  With the Legislative season wrapping up, its gives us a chance to pause from the “big picture” agendas and focus a little more closely on our individual homes. Health really does begin in your home, and I’m excited to briefly share just two changes you can make in your home to begin to live in a way that is healthier for you, and our community.

Things are not always as they appear. A house may look clean and smell inviting, but did you know that many common household cleaners contain chemicals known to adversely affect your respiratory system, cause skin irritation and allergies as well as have negative impacts on reproduction. Chronic exposure even at low levels may play a role in cancer.  There is of course always the risk of accidental burns or poisoning; safe storage and use practices for these products is critical. Synthetic fragrances have been linked to conditions such as hormone and nervous system disruption, and may contribute to a host of conditions from feelings of anxiety and irritability to headaches, digestive and musculoskeletal complaints as well as fetal development concerns.

So for a truly clean home choose products that are non-toxic. My personal favorites are simple: vinegar and baking soda. This allows me to have complete confidence that as my toddler is cleaning alongside me (something she loves to do and I encourage) I never have to worry that I’m possibly harming her health and development. If you prefer to purchase more conventional cleaning products absolutely rely on the guides at the Environmental Working Group (  I hate to have to say it, but labels, even “natural” and “organic” are grossly misleading across all product categories.  Labeling laws are loosely regulated, do not require full disclosure and you almost have to have a chemistry degree to decipher them once you do make the shift to always reading the label!  As I share future articles, you will see that I reference EWG a lot. They truly do a fabulous job of compiling data and creating lists that are valuable and usable when shopping for toxic free food, personal care products, and of course cleaning products.

So what about those fragrances?  Any synthetic fragrance is problematic from a health perspective. In your home, think about personal perfume sprays, scented hair care or cosmetic products and of course room fresheners: scented cleaners, carpet and fabric deodorizers, plug ins, scented reeds, candles, etc.  For personal care products my family chooses third party certified organic, toxin free and essential oil scented.  I love the convenience of wax pot warmers, and to use them safely I fill the warming reservoir with coconut oil and then add a few drops of pure essential oils.  The coconut oil is solid at room temperature which minimizes spilling when not in use, it never reaches a temperature that might cause burns, and it lasts a very long time.  In fact you will likely need to add more drops of essential oil before you need to replace the oil.  In the winter a pot of water with whole plant material is a constant in our home, with clove and citrus peel being a favorite.  Traditionally our local Labrador Tea Ledum groenlandicum was boiled on stoves with rosehip to stave off a variety of ills.  While not especially fragrant Ledum does have a soft pleasant aroma.

As our weather becomes increasingly warmer I encourage you to open the windows, let the breeze freshen your home and then get outside yourself, breathe deeply and commit to live well.

Dr. Summer Beattie, ND is a graduate of Bastyr University.  She has over 8 years experience as a Naturo-pathic Doctor specializing in women’s health with an emphasis on environmental medicine.  Having served two terms on the board of directors for the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians, she has also worked in the medical aesthetics field since 2008.  You can reach her at or