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

Author Archive

Bug-Sex Each Day Will Keep the Pesticides Away

Plant Crusher Culprit #1-Buddy the Cat

Plant Crusher#1-Buddy the Cat, a.k.a. Dr. Destructo

Spring has sprung in northern New England, and I, for one, couldn’t be more excited. Among the many things I look forward to, starting a vegetable garden is on the top of my list. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as raising your own food against the odds. What odds do I face? The weather, my cats who think it’s their job to lie on top of my seedlings, and the biggest obstacle of all—the Very Hungry Caterpillar who tries to eat his way through everything I plant!

Since I can’t bring myself to use pesticides, I am delighted to hear of a new way of keeping crops pest-free! The answer? Over-sexed male bugs, or a “stud bug."

Researchers have come up with a plan to introduce “super-sexed” sterilized male bugs into the world, whose sole purpose in life is to get it on with females. These sterile males copulate with wild females, who are then unable to lay fertile eggs, thus reducing their population.

grasshopperWhile this may seem like a mean joke to those unsuspecting grasshoppers and fruit flies…Trust me when I say that this sex solution is a much kinder alternative to the traditional Death By Pesticide Asphyxiation. It’s also a win-win for humans, as it reduces the number of chemically-doused fruits and vegetables we consume each day.

Until these over-sexed males show up in my backyard, I guess I’ll just have to put up with my hungry friends. But if anyone has organic suggestions, please let me know.

Posted by on April 26th, 2010 No Comments

Green Gifts

This holiday season, why not give gifts that are good for the environment, health, or both?

We have complied a list of great eco-gifts.  We want to thank all of our Facebook and Twitter fans and followers for your awesome recommendations!  And if you have any to share after reading this, please let us know. We can always add.

Happy shopping!



Organic Wine Need a host gift?  Bring along a bottle of organic wine to share. For a comprehensive review of reasonably priced organic wines, a quick education and hilariously candid and amusing reviews go visit Steve at Vinoclock. You can't go wrong.
Why It’s Green: Made from grapes free of harmful pesticides and chemicals. Less sulfides.
Health Benefit: Contains antioxidants, which are beneficial to the heart.
Brands: Frey Vineyards, The Organic Wine Company, EcoWine, and two great wine blogs Vinos Ambiz VinO'Clock

Organic chocolateOrganic Chocolate by Lake Champlain Chocolates. Everyone has a chocolaholic on their list. Give them chocolate that’s better for them.
Why It’s Green: USDA Organic Certified. Preservative-free and Kosher-certified.
Local Perk: Made in northern New England, in good old Burlington, VT.


Organic clothingGreen Clothing - Including Hemp, Organic Cotton and Bamboo
Why It’s Green:
Free of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and other harsh chemicals.
Health Benefit:  Fabric feels softer and is easier on your skin since it's grown naturally.
Shops: Alternative Apparel, The Hempest, Soul Flower, Patagonia, Nordstrom

Recycled ClutchRecycled candy wrapper clutch
Why It's Green:
Made from recycled, defective candy wrappers rescued from being brought to landfills.
Unique Perk: Hand crafted, ensuring no two bags are alike.

Recycled jewelryRecycled Jewelry
Why It’s Green: Jewelry maker Kathleen Plate uses recycled materials such as real beer, Coca-Cola, wine and water bottles to make her stylish creations.
Unique Perk: One-of-a-kind jewelry that isn't a cookie-cutter gift you’d find in a mall or department store.


Samsung phone Ten Cell Phones with the Lowest Radiation. Research this list before you buy:  find the cell phone with the lowest amount of radiation.
Background: The Federal Communications Commission requires all cell phones be rated at 1.6 watts per kilogram or lower.
Health Benefit: The lower the amount of radiation, the less risk for brain and mouth tumors and behavior problems in children.

ipod nanoApple Products—iPhone 3G, iPod nano, iPod classic and iPod touchare now all BFR and PVC free.
Background: Electronic companies have been using brominated flame retardant (BFR) and DECA as flame retardants for years, which are known reproductive and developmental toxicants.
Health Benefit: Apple now offers BFR and PVC-free products, which help reduce reproductive concerns (delayed onset of puberty, changes in adult brain function, and hormone imbalance).


Sigg bottleStainless Steel or Aluminum Water Bottles.
By giving this gift, you’ll help protect your loved one's health and the environment.
Why It’s Green: BPA-free and lead-free and waste reducing.
Health Benefit: Unlike plastic water bottles, these don't leach BPA.  They reduce the risk for reproductive abnormalities, breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, heart disease and sexual dysfunction in males.

french_pressFrench Press If someone asks for a coffee maker this holiday season, your safest best bet is a French press. (Note to self: should do future blog post on organic and fair trade coffee!)
Background: Many commercial coffee makers filter steaming hot water through plastic to make coffee. This leaches the chemical BPA.
Why It’s Green: BPA-free and does not require the use of filters, which saves paper, waste and transportation thereof.
Health Benefit: See scary BPA info above.

Protect our air recycled glassesRecycled Glasses These frosted glasses are made from the bottom halves of Semillon bottles rescued before reaching the landfill.
Why It's Green: Made from recycled glass.  Because they are made from prefab bottles that don't need to be crushed or melted, the glasses use less energy to create than normal glassware.
Unique Perk: Recycled, each set is one-of-a kind and has a unique frosted tint.

Seventh GenerationSeventh Generation Gift Basket Put together a basket of Seventh Generation products
Why It's Green:
Seventh Generation offers non-chlorine bleached, 100% recycled paper towels, bathroom and facial tissues, and napkins; non-toxic, phosphate-free cleaning, dish and laundry products; plastic trash bags made from recycled plastic; chlorine-free baby diapers, training pants, and baby wipes; and chlorine-free feminine care products, including organic cotton tampons.
Health Benefit: Their products save natural resources, reduce pollution and keep toxic chemicals out of the environment and your home.

Cast iron cookwareCast Iron or Stainless Steel Cookware. If you need to buy cookware, **avoid "non-stick" at all costs**.
Background: "In two to five minutes on a conventional stove, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces can exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases linked to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pet bird deaths and an unknown number of human illnesses each year," according to the Environmental Working Group.
Health Benefit: The above ought to convince you.


Do it yourself perfumeDo It Yourself Perfume
Background: 95% of scented products on the market are made largely or entirely of synthetic chemicals, usually derived from petroleum or coal tar, thought to be endocrine disruptors, which can interfere with hormones, puberty and growth and even cause birth defects and cancer.
Health Benefit: You'll encourage your loved ones to wear a safer alternative, reducing their health risks. Plus, they'll smell great!

lipstickNontoxic Cosmetics
Background: Like perfume, cosmetics are not regulated by the FDA. The chemicals they contain, such as lead in lipstick, have been linked to various cancers, developmental/reproductive toxicity, and endocrine disruption.
Health Benefit: You'll not only protect your loved ones by making their gifts with safe ingredients, but you'll educate them on the ugly side of the beauty industry.

PETS--Why leave out Fido and Sparky?

animal toySafe Squeaky Toys for Dogs
Why It’s Green: Made from 100% organic cotton and natural dyes from plants and minerals.
Health Benefit: Certified non-toxic, chemical-free, saliva resistant and has a reduced allergy level.

Dog bedEco Nap
Why It’s Green: Made from 100% Post Consumer recycled plastic.
Comfort Perk: Eco Nap has inner stuffing for added comfort and top stitching for added support.

Why It’s Green:
Made from 100% recycled materials.
Usability Perk: Clear, side-release adjustment at the handle makes it easy to clip around anything.

Eco me CatEco me cat
Why It’s Green: Made from 100% natural, everyday kitchen ingredients and essential oils like rosemary, citronella and lemongrass.
Health Benefit:
Unlike traditional flea remedies which use toxic chemicals and have which have been linked to thousands of animal poisonings and deaths, this is safe for your pets health.


solar powered bagVoltaic Daypack Backpacks
Why It’s Green: Keeps your electronics charge through solar power.
How It Works: It charges your mobile phone, camera, MP3 player or PDA by using waterproof solar panels.  An internal Li-Ion battery pack stores the power power.

flashlight Crank Powered Radio/Flashlight
Why It’s Green: Generates power by hand crank, instead of batteries or wall plug.
Usability: Great for power outages and outdoor activities, like camping.

Other Websites and shopping guides:


*Bubble and Bee Organic
*Campaign for Save Cosmetics
*Environmental Working Group
*Ethical Shopper

*Seventh Generation
*Tree Hugger  and their holiday gift guide
*Uncommon Goods

Posted by on December 14th, 2009 7 Comments

“Secret Ingredient”….BPA???

CB005663Thanksgiving is nearly upon us and people everywhere are busily preparing their shopping lists and menus.  You may want to reconsider any canned items on your list,  in light of this startling news.

A new test by Consumer Reports has found a wide range of chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) in 19 name-brand canned foods, including soups, vegetables, juices and more. (As an aside, the Vermont legislature will be introducing a bill that bans BPA from certain products...we'll keep you posted.)

BPA, which has been used for years in clear plastic bottles, PVC water pipes, medical equipment, electronics, cash-register receipts and food-can liners, has been linked to reproductive abnormalities and a heightened risk for breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, heart disease, and most recently, sexual function in males.

The study revealed canned green beans and canned soups were among foods with the highest amounts of BPA.  Canned Del Monte Fresh Cut Green Beans Blue Lake for example, averaged a BPA level of 123.5 parts per billion, or about 80 times more than what experts recommend you ingest each day.

Organic canned foods aren’t off the hook either—according to the study, organic canned foods did not always have lower BPA levels than their non-organic counterparts.  BPA was even found in cans claiming to “BPA-Free".

What you can do this Thanksgiving and throughout the rest of the year to reduce BPA exposure: (more…)

Posted by on November 23rd, 2009 No Comments

Seventh Generation’s Million Baby Crawl

Since March, we’ve been focusing on products and chemicals that negatively affect women’s reproductive health. 


This week, we want to focus on one company that’s actually doing something right—and has been for years—Seventh Generation.


Seventh Generation is the leading brand of green cleaners, laundry detergent, dishwashing soap, diapers, baby wipes, tampons, recycled toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels. They believe in creating products that are not only effective, but are safe. Go figure.


Currently, Seventh Generation is in the middle of a very important campaign for chemical reform. It’s called the Million Baby Crawl and it is a virtual baby crawl to Washington, D.C. to say “no” to toxic chemicals found in our homes. Seventh Generation has teamed up with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families to demand toxic chemical policy reform. They hope for a bill that will:  
•Take quick action on the most dangerous chemicals.
•Require full information on the health and environmental hazards associated with all chemicals.

•Protect all people and vulnerable groups - including children and pregnant women – using the best science.

Last night, as part of the Million Baby Crawl, Seventh Generation held “A Crawl to Action,” at the ECHO Center in Burlington, VT.  Participants had the chance to learn more about the crawl, snatch up some Seventh Generation giveaways, and even get up on their “soapbox” to talk about toxicants. We had a great time.  


 How can you join the fight against toxic chemicals?  Help Seventh Generation reach a million names for their petition by Creating a Crawler today.  While you’re on the site, forward some info to a friend or family member via Twitter, Facebook or email.  Sign up for the next Crawl to Action Event. Want to do more?  Contact Congress to let them know you think it’s time to update laws governing toxic chemicals.

Posted by on November 4th, 2009 No Comments

Pale and Fabulous

It was brought to our attention this post was not as inclusive as it should have been.  Regardless of the color of your skin, “All racial groups should wear sunscreen,” says Dr. Susan Taylor of The Skin of Color Center.  PPNNE urges all to avoid over-exposure to the sun and take responsible measures to protect yourself (sunscreen, hat, umbrella, etc.).  For more information, check out this report from CNN

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years, you should have heard by now how terrible tanning is for you (Attention Rock Dwellers—read this article by the International Agency for Research on Cancer). Yet, ironically, our culture continues to idolize bronze bodies.

What sort of alternatives do you have if the sun damaged, wrinkled raisin look isn’t for you?

Accept your skin the way it is. Pale is beautiful.  Take Snow White, for example. Her name literally meant she had skin the color of snow and she was regarded as “the fairest of them all."

Okay, so Snow White isn’t exactly real.  But there are plenty of gorgeous, real life women who are pale inspirations. Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Anne Hathaway, all come to mind, among many others.

If you can’t live without some color, try a safe bronzer (safe being the operative word here). We recommend Afterglow’s Organic Bronzer for it’s low hazard score on EWG’s Skin Deep Database.

Get back to the basics. If you have to be out in the sun for a long period of time, wear sunscreen, sunglasses, a sunhat, and bring along a sun umbrella.

Bottom line, we live in northern New England. No one expects you to be tan. In fact, you may ridiculed if you show up to work or school five shades darker. My advice, if I may quote Olay, “Love the Skin You’re In.” There are way more important things to worry about in life…like looking like this:


Posted by on October 2nd, 2009 No Comments

Environmentally Trendy: Finding Fashionable and Sustainable Fibers

Going “green” doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. There are many alternatives fabrics out there that are both good for the earth and good for your body. Here are some of our fav’s.

Organic Cotton: Unlike its evil-twin, regular cotton, this organic variety is free of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and any other harsh chemicals. Many avid wearers believe this type of fabric feels softer and is easier on your skin, since it’s grown naturally. One of the best things about organic cotton clothing is it comes in a variety of styles. From sports wear to evening-wear, and everything in between, organic cotton is one of the leaders in sustainable fabrics.

PPNNE Employee Sporting a bamboo dress from Sweet Lady Jane (Burlington, VT)

PPNNE Employee sporting a bamboo dress from Sweet Lady Jane (Burlington, VT)

Bamboo: This fabric is no longer just for koalas! Bamboo is toted as one of the softest fabrics around, with a feel similar to silk. Bamboo as a plant absorbs 35% more carbon dioxide than equivalent trees, which means it helps to fight global warming. Plus, bamboo is extremely absorbent (great for towels and bathrooms), it’s hypo-allergenic and it’s an extremely breathable fabric. Ahhh… Those koalas are so smart.

Hemp: Did you know the original Levi Strauss jeans were made of hemp? Hemp has definitely come a long way since Levi’s, but it’s always been regarded as a strong and durable fabric. Hemp is great for the environment in part because it is so easy to grow. It is literally a weed, meaning it requires very little water or fertilizer. Like organic cotton, organic hemp is free of harsh chemicals making it safe for our earth and our bodies.

Turns out Kermit had it all wrong—it is easy being green, with eco-friendly clothing.

Here are two other websites to check out that are great resources:

Posted by on September 16th, 2009 1 Comment

Poisonous Perfume

I’m pretty sensitive to smells, especially when it comes to perfume. The fragrance section in a department store is a guaranteed trip down Migraine Lane, leaving me no choice but to pop copious amounts of ibuprofen, draw the blinds and don a cold wash cloth for the rest of the night. Until recently, I chalked this phenomenon up to a weak stomach, weird DNA, whatever—all I knew was that perfume was not for me.

After doing some research, I learned there are plenty of reasons why perfume makes people sick.

95% of scented products on the market are made largely or entirely of synthetic chemicals, usually derived from petroleum or coal tar [1].

These synthetic chemicals can cause asthma, headaches (hello, department store!), dizziness, allergic skin reactions and nausea [2]. They can disrupt the endocrine system, instrumental in regulating hormones, growth, development and puberty. Some perfumes contain carcinogenic compounds that can cause birth defects and cancer.

Which perfumes are the worst culprits? Unfortunately, most of the top sellers. The EWG’s (Environmental Working group) Skin Deep cosmetic safety database rated Ralph Lauren’s Romance an 8 out of 10 for health hazard (10 being the most dangerous); Lancome’s Attraction a 9, and Diesel’s Fuel for Life a 10 (maybe that stuff really does contain diesel?).

Does it mean we should never wear perfume again? Perhaps we just need to be more cautious when choosing a scent.

Look up your scent. If it doesn’t score well, consider switching to something less harmful, especially if you have been experiencing any of the mentioned symptoms. There are plenty of alternatives free of harsh chemicals. Some even have samples for less than $3!

Please post recommendations!

8/27/2009: Update from our friend Swallowfield.  Apparently Indie Fixx offers a good do-it-yourself perfume alternative.

[1 & 2] Neurotoxins at Home and In The Workplace. Report 99-827. Committee on Science and Technology September 16, 1986.

Posted by on August 25th, 2009 1 Comment