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

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Urge Senator Snowe and Senator Collins to Co-Sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011

Mainers, we need your help. Senator Snowe and Senator Collins have the opportunity to make real progress in the field of chemical reform. As you probably already know, there are more than 80,000 chemicals in the United States -- but only about 200 of them have ever been tested for safety. This lack of government regulation has let things like lead in lipstick, formaldehyde in baby shampoo, and BPA in our canned goods just slip by. And our health is suffering.

Sign your name below and ask Senator Snowe and Senator Collins to co-sponsor the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 -- an act that would repair our broken chemical system, so that chemicals are proven safe before being added to our homes, schools, and places of work.
Senators Snowe and Collins - Please build on Maine's progress toward safer chemicals, healthy families, and a stronger economy by co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 and helping advance it through Congress.
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Posted by on October 25th, 2011 1 Comment

Marketing BPA to Kids

My nephew absolutely adores the movie Toy Story, and is particularly infatuated with the character Woody. He owns the Woody doll, loves to scream out “Howdy, Partner!,” and would probably watch Toy Story on repeat for HOURS if we let him.

I also know if my nephew saw some canned Campbell’s soup with his buddy Woody on the cover, he would beg his mom to purchase it. She most likely would, thinking, “It’s soup. It’s gotta be better for him than most of the other junk food out there, right?”


As Seventh Generation pointed out in a recent blog post, BPA is showing up in many canned products, specifically targeted to kids. The endocrine disrupting chemical was found in soups, juices, and veggies at disturbing levels. Campbell's Toy Story Fun Shapes was no exception.

Posted by on September 24th, 2011 1 Comment


My 2-year-old nephew is very excited for Christmas. When I asked him what he would like Santa (aka, me) to bring, he exclaimed, “Toyyyyys!!!!” I should have known. 

Being the fastidious Aunt I am, I started researching presents. I came across what appeared to be common toys: train sets, stuffed animals, fire trucks, building blocks, books, puzzles. Then I came across a startling website that exposed the toxic truth behind many of today’s popular toys.

Toxic Toys R Us is working to inform consumers and investors about the dangerous chemicals lurking in children’s toys at Toys R Us—particularly PVC--the poison plastic. PVC has been linked to chronic diseases in children, birth defects, cancer, endocrine system disruption, reproductive impairment, and immune system suppression. Bottom line: PVC is really bad news.

You may be wondering why they are targeting just Toys R Us when there are numerous toy stores on the market. In 2008, Toys R Us made a promise to reduce PVC plastics, phthalates, and lead in children’s and infant’s toys--a promise they broke. Toys R Us continues to sell products containing PVC without warnings or labels of any kind.

A report from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ) points out “in order for PVC to be used in toys, it must be mixed with lead, cadmium or organic chemicals containing tin.” When ingested, these chemicals are extremely toxic, especially for children. I think about my nephew playing with a PVC-laden toy, and imagine him biting it, or sticking it in the mouth of his younger sister. Though toys aren’t meant to be eaten, kids inadvertently ingest chemicals from them all the time.

What can you do to make sure the kids you care about aren’t being exposed to toxic chemicals? Take action and sign a petition urging Congress to eliminate PVC in toys. Share this story with your friends and family to help expose the truth. And most importantly, avoid buying toys containing PVC. Sign up with CHEJ to download a PVC-Free Guide for Your Family & Home.


Here are some companies and makers of non-toxic toys, suggested by our readers:

Posted by on December 2nd, 2010 No Comments

Green Halloween

My friends and I take Halloween very seriously. Each year we have a “group theme,” and work on our costumes for weeks leading up to the big day. 

Although we consider ourselves Halloween experts, we were in the dark about how horrifically toxic this holiday can be. Lead in children’s face paints, phthalates in masks, and costumes made from PVC are just a few of the ghastly truths I unveiled in my research. Luckily, thanks to several informative blogs and websites, there are ways to have a Green Halloween.

Some tips:

  1. Avoid face paint. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetic’s Report Pretty Scary revealed children’s face paints contain lead, nickel, cobalt and/or chromium, among other unidentified ingredients like “fragrance.” If you need to paint your face, check out some of these home-made face paint recipes.
  2. Ditch the Colored Hair Sprays. They contain toxic chemicals and shouldn’t be sprayed around eyes, mouth, nose, and definitely shouldn’t be inhaled! As that is pretty much impossible to avoid, opt for a wig instead.
  3. Buy PVC-Free Masks & Costumes. Community Mama reports many Halloween masks and costumes are made from PVC (the poison plastic) which can leach harmful gender-bending phthalates. If you can’t avoid them, look for ones that are marked “PVC-Free,” or make your own from what you have at home.
  4. Avoid Phthalates in Masks & Teeth. The reason those false teeth and masks are so flexible is because they’re made with endocrine-disrupting phthalates. Try making your own mask instead, or painting your face with homemade face paint.
  5. Steer Clear of Traditional Nail Polish. Most contain formaldehyde, tolulene, and acetone. Get Green Be Well recommends Hopscotch Kids or Piggy Paint as a safer alternative.
  6. Decorate Naturally. Opt for pumpkins, gourds, and cornstalks, instead of plastic decorations. You won’t be harming your guests, and it will look a lot less cheesy.
  7. Light Soy Candles.  Planet Green reports traditional candles are made from petroleum-based paraffin, carcinogens, neurotoxins, and reproductive toxins. Soy candles are safer, renewable, and biodegradable.
  8. Hand out organic, or natural treats. Organic chocolate is pesticide-free and lead-free.  It’s also full of powerful antioxidants. 

Posted by on October 14th, 2010 No Comments

New Healthy Living Section on our Site

We know that the long-list of hazardous chemicals and products out there is overwhelming. Sometimes it feels like no matter how much you educate yourself, a new report emerges with evidence of another carcinogen, another endocrine disruptor.

So what should you do if you’re trying to keep your family safe but don’t have time to conduct your own research? Check out the HEALTHY LIVING section of our site, where you’ll find quick facts on environmental toxins and how to stay safe. We cover everything from Cosmetics to Cleaning Products and some in between. You can even print them out to keep on you while you shop.

Posted by on August 25th, 2010 No Comments

Safe and Organic Insect Repellent

A couple weeks ago I was bragging to my aunt about an upcoming camping trip. I told her of the site’s pristine hiking trails, its beautiful sandy beach, and its reputation for being a respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life.  My aunt listened, smiled at me, and left me with the following sentiment: “Just make sure you bring tons of bug spray. They have mosquitoes up there the size of small birds.”  Ugh.

Ok, so bugs are more or less inevitable in the summer, right? Especially while on a camping trip. 10-B&B-Bug-Spray-USDA-PHOTOBut for four days in a row, should I really douse my body in DEET and other nasty chemicals?  Thankfully, our wonderful intern Isabel got right to work and found some natural alternatives & tips for pest protection.

The following bug repellents are all free of DEET, parabens, phthalates, PEG’s, sulfates, dioxanes, propylene glycols, and synthetic fragrances. Best of all, they all scored a zero in the Skindeep database!

  • Bubble & Bee 100% Organic Bug Spray:  Made from all natural products like lemongrass essential oil, peppermint, and clove. The makers even tested it on themselves to see if it worked! So does it? They say, “You betcha.”
  • Burt’s Bees Herbal Insect Repellent: This one works because it’s made from oils that bugs hate, but all smell wonderful to humans. It’s an all-natural spray that provides safe coverage. It’s gotten some excellent customer reviews, as well.
  • Graham Gardens BugBar:  Who would have thought that the same ingredient in catnip is also about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET? That’s exactly the ingredient Graham Gardens harnessed for their BugBar—a bar that glides onto skin and works for hours.

Pay attention to these facts about bugs, to keep you and your fam bite-free!

  1. Bugs love fragrance, especially a synthetic one. So avoid scented products at all costs.
  2. Mosquitoes seem to be more attracted to floral prints. Protect your skin with lightweight clothing in solid colors. 
  3. Be mindful that mosquitoes are most active during dusk and dawn, so schedule outdoor time according.
  4. Stagnant water is an ideal breeding site for mosquitoes, so eliminate unnecessary opportunities for bugs to breed.

Here's wishing you a happy, healthy, and pest-free time during all of your outdoor activities!

Posted by on July 27th, 2010 No Comments

VIDEO: Toxic Chemical Lobby-Exclusive Leaked Footage

There’s nothing funny about infertility, miscarriage, lowered sperm counts, early onset puberty, or any other reproductive health problem. Unfortunately, chemicals in everyday products have been linked to all of these diseases and more. Congress has the opportunity to change this by supporting the Safe Chemical Act of 2010. You can help, too, by watching this video from Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and urging Congress to make sure the products we reach for, sleep on, and eat from every day aren’t loaded with toxic chemicals.

Chemicals aren’t sitting still and neither should you. Take action today.

Posted by on July 20th, 2010 No Comments

Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance

A while back, I did a post on my arch-nemesis –the perfume aisle. I couldn’t figure out why just the act of walking through it was giving me migraines, making me sneeze, and leaving me feeling miserable.

NotSoSexy_coverIn their new report, “Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance,” the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reveals exactly why fragrances can and do make people sick—they are filled with hidden, hazardous chemicals.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics commissioned tests of 17 fragranced products at an independent laboratory. The  Environmental Working Group assessed data from the tests and the product labels.  The products that were tested -- including celebrity brands J Lo Glow and Britney Spears’ Curious, and colognes Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce and Old Spice – contained multiple allergens and hormone disruptors, and many secret chemicals not listed on labels.

On average, these 17 products contained:

  • 14 secret chemicals not listed on labels due to a major loophole in federal law that allows companies to claim fragrances as trade secrets.
  • 10 sensitizing chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions including headaches, wheezing, asthma, chest tightening and contact dermatitis such as skin rashes.
  • 4 hormone disrupting chemicals linked to a range of health effects including sperm damage, thyroid disruption and early puberty.        

People are unknowingly exposed to hazardous chemicals that are hidden in their favorite perfumes, colognes and body sprays—chemicals that are then absorbed into people’s bodies. Even babies, our most vulnerable population, have these chemicals in their blood at birth. This is unacceptable.

Here’s how you can help change this:

  1. Stand up and tell legislators we need safer products and smarter laws to protect us from toxic chemicals in personal care products: Sign the petition to Congress to voice your support!
  2. Sign on to the letter to the celebrities whose fragrances were tested –ask them to show their true leadership by taking a stand against toxic chemicals in personal care products, beginning with their own fragrance lines.
  3. You can also contact other cosmetics companies to ask them to disclose their fragrance ingredients. We've put together talking points to get you started.
  4. Support companies that fully disclose ingredients in their products.
  5. Use the Skin Deep advanced search to find products that do not include fragrance. Read ingredient labels, because even products advertised as “fragrance-free” may contain a masking fragrance.  Remember, less is better: If you are very attached to your fragrance, consider eliminating other fragranced products from your routine, and using fragrance less often.

Everyone has the right to know what’s in the products they spray on their bodies and lather on their skin. Please show your support by standing up to the chemical industry today.

Posted by on May 12th, 2010 2 Comments

Environmental Health and Choice

We occasionally get dazed and confused looks when we mention Planned Parenthood is involved in environmental health.  People associate us with many things--abortion, birth control, condoms, annual exams, even cervical cancer screenings--but this environmental piece has really thrown some for a loop.

Our brilliant colleagues at Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, bridged this gap with a great little video on the relationship between environmental health and choice. Enjoy!

Posted by on May 5th, 2010 No Comments

Victory! Vermont Bans BPA!

Bill S.247, An Act Relating to Bisphenol A, has passed in Vermont!  This new bill will phase out BPA in reusable food and beverage containers and in the plastic containers, jars or cans that store infant formula or baby food, in favor of safer alternatives.

We thank all of you who helped pass this bill by contacting your legislator, writing a letter to the editor, or educating your friends and family on the harmful effects of BPA.  Because of you, the Vermont House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported the bill and passed it quickly.

As you know, we believe it is our responsibility as a health care organization to help our patients make the link between our health and the products we put in our bodies, on our bodies, and in our homes. S.247 is an important step in providing the much needed information about what products these harmful chemicals are in so that men and women who are planning their families can ensure that the products they use on a daily basis do not hinder their ability to have a safe and healthy pregnancy and family.

Posted by on May 4th, 2010 No Comments