Good Chemistry: Green Tips for Better Health, from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

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Green Choices Benefit the WHOLE Family

10-Stella 002My husband and I recently learned that our 12½ year old dog, Stella, has lymphoma, a relatively common canine cancer. Although we suspected that something serious was going on when we brought her to the vet, the diagnosis was devastating.

As any pet lover knows, Stella is not just a dog. She’s a beloved member of our family. We “adopted” her after having two miscarriages, and refer to her as our “firstborn” and “big sister” of our kids. And despite a couple (OK, a few…) really distasteful habits, she’s pretty much the perfect dog. Easy going. Gentle. Great with children.

Desperate for alternatives, I turned to the Web. Since lymphoma is one of the most common malignant tumors in dogs, I found loads of information—and lots of heart breaking stories from pet owners who were equally desperate to find cures for “Bear,” “Kodi,” and “Marty.”

The main treatment for lymphoma is chemotherapy. But spending thousands of dollars on chemo and visiting the vet twice a week, simply isn’t an option for our family. Not to mention the side effects and invasive nature of the regime… 

Our goal is to make Stella’s last days as comfortable as possible—and to enjoy her company for as long as we can. So, when I came across some information about treatments that promise to do just that, my hope meter soared.  

enviornment and petsAccording to numerous sources, including Ted Schneck, author of “Curing Canine Cancer: Natural Cancer Treatments That Work,” cleaning up your dog’s environment is one of the top things you can do for them.

“Our environment is filled with chemicals that we use every day. Pesticides for the lawn, ammonia and chlorine for cleaning around the house, chemicals in our foods, the list goes on and on. All of these can be helpful in some areas of life, but they’re DREADFUL for your dog fighting cancer.... That's why to give your dog a fighting chance these chemicals need to disappear from his environment fast.” 

Making more health-conscious, environmentally friendly choices may not cure Stella, but it certainly can’t hurt. And, I know it will provide benefits for the rest of my family, too.*

*Check with your vet before giving your pet any medication or remedy. My vet cautioned that some of the recommendations I found online could actually make Stella’s condition worse.

Posted by on February 2nd, 2010 3 Comments

Organic Chocolate Makes Treats More Palatable

Cacao tree with fruit pods

Cacao tree with fruit pods

Ah, chocolate! The nectar of the gods. It’s decadent, delicious, and, in some cases, full of ingredients you don’t want in your body. I’m not just talking about fat and sugar, which can be detrimental to your health (and waistline), but more insidious stuff such as pesticide residues or even lead.

While high-quality, conventional chocolate is unquestionably tasty—and has been shown to offer powerful antioxidants and other health benefits—there can be pesticide residues present in the cocoa powder used to manufacture it, which can have harmful effects on the body.

The best way to satisfy your sweet tooth and minimize your risk of ingesting dangerous ingredients is to go organic. Organic chocolate is made from organic cocoa beans, therefore minimizing the use of pesticides. Plus, when eaten in moderation, it can contribute to heart health, suppress chronic coughs, add much-needed magnesium to the diet, help control blood sugar, and improve your mood. Not to mention all the ways it’s better for our environment.

Photo: Gary Coffey

Photos: Gary Coffey

Thank goodness there are now lots of places to buy organic chocolate, including Whole Foods, Hannaford and Shaw’s supermarkets, and Vermont’s own Lake Champlain Chocolates. (In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that my husband, Gary Coffey, works there.) Better still, with so many options to choose from , there’s no need to compromise on flavor!

 So go ahead and indulge—just remember to eat responsibly!

Posted by on January 5th, 2010 1 Comment

Kicking the Bottle…Again

SIGG is offering a free Bottle exchange before October 31st.

SIGG is offering a free bottle exchange, before October 31st.

You know those shiny metal water bottles you replaced your old NalgeneTM ones with? (Yeah, the ones you practically maxed out your credit cards to buy…) Well, it turns out that some of them – most notably those made by so-called eco-friendly manufacturers SIGG and Gaiam – may be lined with a material that leaches bisphenol A (a.k.a. BPA), the nasty endocrine-disrupting, cancer-causing chemical you were trying to avoid in the first place! (Scroll down to read one of our older blog posts or visit to learn more about BPA and how you can reduce your exposures.)

The “good” news is that SIGG is offering a voluntary exchange program if you have a SIGG bottle that was made prior to August 2008. (Here’s how to tell whether or not you have one of the bottles in question.) You may also be able to return your bottle to any major retailer, such as EMS, in exchange for a new BPA-free version. Either way, make sure you act fast! The program ends on October 31st.

If, like me, all this information makes your head swim and leaves you thirsty for some unbiased suggestions about what kind of bottle you should (or shouldn’t) buy, The ZRecs 2009 BPA-Free Water Bottle Showdown” includes reviews for nearly 40 alternatives.

Posted by on October 16th, 2009 No Comments

Bagging a Bad Habit


I have a confession to make. I’m addicted to single-use plastic bags…


I’ve tried to quit. I’ve tried substituting paper for plastic. And of course I own a bunch of Chicobags and a plethora of other reuseable shopping bags. But as a busy working mom who lives 30-minutes from the nearest supermarket, I often shop when I can. Which means I don’t always have bags with me when I head to the store. I know, it’s shameful. But awareness is the first step toward making change, right?


Perhaps because of my pervasive plastic habit, I was struck by a recent news story about Yvonne Benedict, a so-called “bag lady” in northern, VT, whom the reporter described as “an unlikely environmental superhero.” Hey, if an 86-year-old woman can find a way to help the environment, I can too. Have a look at what Yvonne is doing to keep plastic bags out of local landfills. 


Still wondering about that age-old question: Paper or plastic?
In addition to contributing to environmental devastation, studies show that the inks and colorants used on some plastic bags contain  lead, proven to damage the brain, kidneys, and reproductive system, and cause birth defects, slow growth, and  hearing problems. 


They say admitting your addition is the first step in kicking the habit. Now that my secret is, well, no longer secret, I'm committed to redoubling my efforts to bagging my bag habit. I'll keep you posted.

Posted by on August 20th, 2009 No Comments

Some Good News about the Environment…For a Change

Ever since Al Gore started promoting his film “An Inconvenient Truth,” much of what we’ve seen or heard about the environment has been bad news. Whether it’s environmental links to cancer, widespread drought, or rising sea levels and melting polar ice caps, all this information can make you feel pretty hopeless. While there is plenty to be aware of -- and concerned about -- there's no need to despair.


On my way home from work the other day, I was lucky enough to catch an NPR story about the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, OH.


For those of you who don’t know, an oil slick and debris in the Cuyahoga River caught fire on June 22, 1969, drawing national attention to environmental problems in that state. Now, forty years later, the river is making a comeback and has gone from “fire to fish-friendly,” proving that when we set our minds to it, we CAN make a difference. 


Want to know more about what YOU can do? Register for PPNNE's “Critical Link” conference on September 10, where a panel of experts will address how all of us can protect ourselves and our families and exercise greater power as consumers and citizens in a discussion titled, “We ARE Part of the Solution.”



Posted by on June 25th, 2009 No Comments

Deodorant Stinks

I’ve known for a while that conventional deodorants — which often contain triclosan and/or aluminum — do more than stop sweat in its tracks. Unfortunately, many of the deodorants and antiperspirants on the market are also linked to adverse health effects, such as problems with sweat glands after years of use, discoloration in the skin, and possibly even Alzheimer's and breast cancer.


Whether or not the research is conclusive, there’s enough evidence to warrant a switch. But at what cost?




I recently traveled to Ames, IA, with eight kids between the ages of 8 1/2 and 12. (It’s a long story, but only two of them “belonged” to me...) Long before reaching our final destination, my all-natural deodorant up and died. While the preteens I was traveling with didn’t seem to notice, I was mortified every time I had to raise my arms to stow luggage in the overhead bins. So, what’s a girl to do?


Given my sweat-inducing situation, I opted for an antiperspirant/ deodorant with a natural-sounding cucumber and green tea scent for the return trip. Knowing that you can’t judge a book by its cover — or MOST personal care products by their label — I visited Skin Deep, an online safety guide created by the Environmental Working Group. WORRIERS BEWARE: You’ll never be able to look at those benign-looking tubes, jars, and bottles the same way! According to their database, the product I’d chosen earned a “hazard score” of 5 (with 10 corresponding to highest concern). Not horrible, but 61% of antiperspirant/deodorants have lower concerns. With so much to choose from, I’m hopeful that I can find an effective, healthier alternative — without breaking a sweat. Please feel free to send suggestions!

Posted by on June 11th, 2009 No Comments

Clean Up in Aisle 5!


Some people hate grocery shopping. I like it. If I'm not in a rush to get somewhere, pick up my kids, etc., I'll stroll up and down the aisles looking for fresh produce, sale items, and culinary inspiration.

Now that I know a little more about the ubiquitous nature of environmental contaminants (they're practically EVERYWHERE), food shopping is a little more stressful, however. (So much for retail therapy!) Fortunately, there are resources like the Environmental Working Group a non-profit whose mission is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. They offer all sorts of facts about human health and toxins, consumer tools and tips for reducing your exposure to nasty chemicals, and their recently published "Shoppers Guide to Pesticides" that you can download to your home computer or iPhone. This free guide will help you decide which produce to buy organic, and which conventionally grown fruits and veggies are okay if organic isn't available (or is too expensive).

If you're not sure what to do once you get past the produce section, PPNNE just created a series of fridge-friendly brochures that will give you insight into which fish are safest to eat (such as tilapia and pollack) , what cosmetics and personal care products to avoid, how to identify "poison plastics" (mentioned by Val in an earlier post), and even how to make your own cleaning products. Let us know if you'd like us to send you a set. There are also lots of great websites and other resources listed on this site. Check them out!

Posted by on May 22nd, 2009 No Comments

Intoxicating Toxins


Not so long ago, I used to LOVE that new shower curtain smell. You know the one I mean. I remember inhaling so deeply, that I’d sometimes get a bit dizzy. Now I know that the intoxicating smell I once enjoyed was actually TOXIC – and perhaps reaping havoc with my health and reproductive system. In fact, according to the Center for Health, Environment and Justice new laboratory testing found that those innocuous-looking vinyl shower curtains can release over 100 chemicals into the air, some of which can damage the respiratory and reproductive systems, and even cause cancer. (And I thought mold and mildew were the culprits!) The good news is that safer PVC-free curtains are widely available. So, if it’s time to replace that grungy old shower curtain or liner but you’re worried about bringing toxic chemicals into your home, check out this FREE resource: Pass Up the Poison Plastic - The PVC-Free Guide for Your Family & Home. In addition to providing some alternatives to PVC-based products, this comprehensive guide includes info about other plastics to avoid (such as polycarbonate and polystyrene) and tips for what you can do to shop smarter.


Five Easy Steps to Begin Going PVC-Free in Your Home


1. When remodeling your home, use PVC-free building materials.

2. Buy PVC-free baby products and toys for your children, grandchildren, and relatives.

3. Replace your PVC shower curtain.

4. Shop for PVC-free electronics.

5. Don’t buy products that are packaged in PVC.


Just remember: bad news comes in threes, don’t buy PVC.



From Pass Up the Poison Plastic - The PVC-Free Guide for Your Family & Home


Posted by on May 13th, 2009 No Comments