For some people, slicing a raw onion is no big deal, but for others, it causes a stinging reaction that results in tears and mild discomfort. What’s to blame for this teary reaction? Enzymes in the onion that release a pungent gas when you slice into it, and when the gas comes into contact with your eyes, it forms sulfuric acid, which is responsible for that telltale stinging sensation. “The more pungent the onion is, the more likely it will make you tear up,” says Irwin Goldman, PhD, department chair and professor of horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That means that yellow onions popular in cooking are the biggest culprits, and sweet, mild Vidalia onions are the least likely to trigger tears. Luckily, onions are the only type of vegetable that cause this crying reaction, because of their unique sulfur compounds. So why do onions make you well up, but don’t seem to make your partner weepy at all? Dr Goldman says it’s probably due to the individual chemistry of your eyes: Some people have little or no reaction to sulfuric acid, while others have a stronger sensitivity. And while some people find that wearing contact lenses reduces their onion-related tears, others may find it makes no difference.
Dry up those onion tears
To minimise onion-triggered weepiness, Goldman recommends freezing or chilling onions before cutting them up. The cold temperature causes a slower release of the enzymes, which helps reduce your reaction. “You can also start chopping an onion from the top end—where the skin comes together—instead of from the bottom end, where the stem is,” he adds. Enzymes are more conentrated in the bottom of the onion. If onions cause you to tear up excessively, consider wearing eye protection when you slice them. “Swimming goggles really do work,” says Goldman. Or just delegate the chore to another cook in the kitchen.
Reducing hazardous waste at home
Some household products contain ingredients that are harmful to people, pets, and the environment. Many of the products we use in our homes today can be harmful to our health and that of the planet. Direct contact with or inhaling these chemicals, which are often labelled with words like “danger,” “warning,” or “caution,” can lead to health problems such as irritation of the skin, eyes, or throat, headaches, and even cancer. These chemicals can also have a profound impact on the environment as hazardous waste. When disposed of through household drains, they can pollute water supplies and threaten marine life. Learn about simple steps you can take to recycle or dispose of them properly.
Scale back on cleaners
Many drain cleaners contain sulfuric acid, and oven cleaners contain potassium hydroxide—two highly corrosive chemicals that can cause severe irritation of the skin, eyes, or lungs through inhalation or contact. Some cleaners contain petroleum distillates, grease-cutting chemicals that can cause damage to the lungs if inhaled. To reduce hazardous waste: Use natural-ingredient products to clean whenever possible. Keep drains clear with baking soda and hot water, use vinegar and lemon, and opt for other non-toxic household cleaning products.
Put down the paint and polish
Some common ingredients in paints, paint removers, glues, and polishes for metal, wood, and shoes include toluene, phenols, perchloroethylene, and petroleum distillates—compounds that can be poisonous or harmful if swallowed or inhaled. To reduce hazardous waste: Seek out and use natural and environmentally friendly ingredients and products. Contact your local sanitation department to find out how you can safely dispose of household hazardous waste
Rethink pesticides. Pesticides are essentially poisons. Products that have been formulated to kill bugs, weeds, fungus, rodents, and other pests are not only deadly for their intended victims, but they can also harm many other living organisms that come into contact with them, including humans and pets. To reduce hazardous waste: Use alternative ways to handle unwanted plants and pests, such as natural grade diatomaceous earth to get rid of bugs, pulling weeds out by hand, and using covers in gardens to ward off insects. (everydayhealth.com)