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

Choosing Safer Beauty Products–There’s An App For That

Just in time for Black Friday, there’s a new app to help you shop for safer products. “Read the Label” tells you how safe ingredients are (or are not) in your beauty products.

“Read the Label” includes more than 26,000 chemical ingredients found in common cosmetic products. Search for ingredients to see where they rank in terms of safety: safe, low risk, medium risk, or high risk. For example, Triclosan, an ingredient found in many hand sanitizers, is rated “high risk.”

All of the information in the app comes from the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database by the Environmental Working Group—one of the largest and most comprehensive databases on personal care ingredients in the world.  All rating in the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database are backed with up-to-date scientific evidence by independent researchers.

The app is available on the iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad in iOS 4.3 or later, and is also available on Android.

Posted by on November 21st, 2011 No Comments

Decoding Labels

Is there a difference between products labeled “natural,” “non-toxic,” or “eco-safe”?  Is one better for our health? Or worse? Beth Greer at the Huffington Post tackled this label confusion in a recent article about cosmetics and personal care products

Greenwashing, a trick used by many manufactures, is the act of using labels which are misleading, vague, or even present false claims about the eco/health benefits of a product.  Below is list of greenwashed words Greer says to be wary of the next time you’re shopping.

Top 10 Greenwashing Watchwords

10. “Environmentally friendly” and “eco-safe.”

9. “Dermatologist tested,” “sensitivity tested,” and/or “hypoallergenic”

8. “Allergy-friendly fragrance” and “fragrance-free”

7. “Nontoxic”

6. “Derived from…” (For example, “derived from coconut oil”)

5. “Free of…”

4. “Certified Green”

3. “Natural”

2. “Organic”

1. “Made with…” (For example, “made with real lemon”)

For more information about each of the 10 Greenwashing Watchwords, go to the article, “10 ways to tell if a product is (or isn’t) really ‘natural’”

Posted by on November 14th, 2011 No Comments

Green Halloween

While most people have been brainstorming costume ideas, we’ve been brainstorming ways to make this year’s Halloween a greener holiday! You’ll be happy to know these tips won’t affect your favorite tricks or treats.

Our post about Halloween from last year told us the scary truths of toxic chemicals found in our favorite costumes, decorations, and treats.  Check it out to learn more about chemical exposure during this eerie holiday season.

Here are some other tips for an more environmentally-friendly holiday:

1.  Re-use costumes
Trade with friends, look in thrift stores, or tear apart your closet for old clothes or fabric. Find accessories at yard sales.  Don’t forget to avoid plastic masks and makeup containing harmful toxic chemicals, especially face paint. When Halloween is over, make sure you save your costume for next year, or trade it to someone who might find a good use for it. 

2.  Find a unique and reusable trick-or-treat bag
Get creative with this aspect of your costume and re-use a bag.  Kids will love to create their own personal trick-or-treat bag by decorating a blank canvas bag or old pillowcase with non-toxic paint or non-toxic markers.

3. Serve healthier treats.
If your family chooses to opt-out of sugary candy, think out of the box for other treats kids enjoy. Here are a few ideas:

  • Stickers
  • Yarn bracelets
  • Seashells
  • Acorns
  • Seed packets
  • Home-made barrettes or hair clips
  • Coins
  • Pencils made from recycled material
  • Polished rocks
  • Small pumpkins

4.  Support local farmers by eating and decorating locally
Shop for foods in-season, and stick to organic and pesticide-free options. Purchase natural decorations such as pumpkins, gourds, haystacks, and corn husks. If you’re hosting a party, use big bowls of snacks to serve guests rather than individually packaged treat bags.  Plastic food containers and candy wrappers quickly add up this time of year, and taking small steps to cut down on your own packaging makes a huge difference in plastic trash accumulation.

5. Spread the word and inspire others to use Greener Halloween ideas this season!

Posted by on October 28th, 2011 No Comments

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.
(* Required)


Posted by on October 25th, 2011 1 Comment

Shameless Shout Out for Breast Cancer Fund

When we scour the web for you, seeking great resources for women's reproductive health, we occasionally bump up against a real gem.  We are newly converted (and HUGE!) fans of the Breast Cancer Fund.

On their home page, they offer a little widget that let's you explore your living spaces.  You choose an area in your house or outdoors, then scroll over the little icons, which inform you of the dangers that lurk.  Cupboards, canned food, anti-bacterial soap...they cover it all

But the Breast Cancer Fund goes far beyond creating cool widgets for their site.  They are educating about breast cancer prevention are strong advocates to remove BPA from our environment, greening the chemical industry and demanding safe cosmetics.  Their site is also full of resources, like the video below:

Check 'em out!

Posted by on October 24th, 2011 No Comments

Greening up Your Tailgating Party

The leaves have turned, the temperature has dropped, and that can only mean one thing: Football season is upon us. With it comes one of the sport’s biggest traditions—tailgating. Whether you are a die-hard fan who shows up to each game with a blue-painted face and stomach, or whether you only catch a game or two a season, we’ve got some tips for greening up your tailgating.

1. Propane vs. Charcoal

Whether your prefer propane or charcoal, you have green options. Although propane is a fossil fuel, it burns cleaner and more efficiently and thus creates less waste. If you favor charcoal, go for cleaner, more natural briquettes.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try the Flamedisk. It’s small, portable, inexpensive, disposable, and best of all, it uses ethanol as its burning agent.

2. Recycle

When you’re tailgating, provide different garbage bags for glass, compost, plastics, paper products, aluminum, etc. Your waste will be equal to what you’ve brought, so space shouldn’t be a concern. For additional brownie points, use recyclable garbage bags.

3. Reduce and Reuse

If you can’t recycle your dinnerware, ditch the disposable and opt for reusable options instead. You can either bring your own from home, or you can explore options such as Green Party Kits, that are perfect for tailgating and are made 100% from recycled materials. Additionally, use cloth napkins over paper napkins to reduce waste and spending.

4. Buy Local and Organic

Organic beer is a key ingredient for a healthier, greener tailgating. Due to recent popularity, it can be more readily found at any local grocery store, especially here in northern New England.

Choose local, organic beef whenever possible. When choosing snacks, look for those that aren’t loaded with sodium, preservatives, saturated fats. A great way to avoid all of these hazards is to make your own snacks, so you know exactly what is in your food.

5. Don’t waste your Car Battery

For music, opt for either an emergency crank radio, or use rechargeable speakers instead of playing through your car.

Have fun, be safe, and enjoy the game.

Posted by on October 19th, 2011 No Comments

Ask your Maine Senators to support The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011

Maine heroes have stepped up to the plate to defend our kids from toxic chemicals linked to serious health problems, from cancer and learning disabilities to diabetes and asthma.  In 2008, Mainers came together to pass the common-sense Kid Safe Products Act to help phase-out toxic chemicals that pose a danger to our children.  But all over Maine, too many parents still worry about buying products that are safe for their kids.  Too many families suffer from health problems linked to chemical exposure.  And too many businesses are plagued by high healthcare costs. 

Maine can't go it alone!

80,000 chemicals are currently in use--and only 200 of them have been tested for safety. It's time for reform!

We need a hero in Congress who can build on Maine's common-sense laws by fixing our national chemical safety policies, which are badly broken.  For 35 years the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)of 1976 has not protected the health and safety of our kids, allowing thousands of untested chemicals onto shelves and into our homes.  Out of 80,000 chemicals in our products, barely 200 have been tested under TSCA – clearly, it’s time for reform. 

We have a unique opportunity to fix this broken system.

The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 (S. 847), introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, will immediately phase out chemicals that we already know are dangerous.  It will also require safety testing for chemicals before they end up in our products, and provide a lot more information to consumers.  Plus, this law would also reward innovative companies who are creating safer technologies. 

We just learned that the Safe Chemicals Act is on-track for a Committee vote this fall!

We need the Senators' support now - TAKE ACTION!

It could be a matter of weeks before the Safe Chemicals Act makes its way out of committee.  Now is the time for Senators Snowe and Collins to be our heroes by co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011.  Maine has already led the way passing state laws to phase out toxic chemicals like lead, mercury, and BPA from every-day products.  Now we need Maine's Senators lead the way to sensible chemical safety reform.  Urge your Senators to act now!

Posted by on October 10th, 2011 2 Comments

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

Styrofoam Show Down

Congressman Peter Welch recently offered an amendment to a legislative appropriations bill which seemed like a no-brainer: to ban the House cafeterias and buildings from using Styrofoam.

Believe it or not, when the House leadership changed hands, so did the food containers and utensils…to Styrofoam. I remember stopping by the cafeteria just a year ago and being so impressed by the compostable and recyclable food containers and utensils, a program then Speaker Pelosi started. And now they’re back to Styrofoam. These cafeterias not only serve Congressmen and women, they also serve their staff and visitors.

“Congress should be leading the way in making environmentally sound business decisions,” Welch said in a statement. “The decision to replace environmentally-friendly utensils with Styrofoam is a major step backwards. Using Styrofoam is outdated, environmentally harmful and hazardous to people’s health. McDonald's saw the light 20 years ago and stopped using Styrofoam.”

Welch’s office explains the harmful effects of Styrofoam are well documented: cancer-causing chemicals are used during its manufacture, it is difficult to recycle and most Styrofoam containers end up in landfills or incinerators where toxic byproducts are released. A 1986 EPA report on solid waste identified the Styrofoam manufacturing process as the 5th largest creator of hazardous waste. Additionally, toxic chemicals can leak from Styrofoam containers into the food and beverages they hold.

We give Congressman Welch and his staff props for standing up on this issue! Unfortunately, the House voted 179 to 234 against Welch’s amendment.

Watch Welch encourage his colleagues to be leaders in resource stewardship:

Posted by on September 1st, 2011 No Comments

Back-to-School Basics

Hey Parents…September is right around the corner and the time has come for back-to-school shopping! Take this year as an opportunity to green your back-to-school shopping and teach your kids the importance of recycling and using environmentally friendly products.


  1. Make a list before you shop – Instead of buying all new supplies, take a look around the house and make sure that you don’t have anything from the year before that could be reused. 
  2. Buy necessities, not gimmicks – Stick to buying the must haves and what is on the school supply lists provided by teachers.
  3. Buy in bulk – When getting supplies, buy in larger amounts to cut down on the amount of packaging used as well as limiting the number of trips to the store for more pens which cuts back on pollution as well.
  4. Look for products made of recycled or eco-friendly materials –Eco-conscious items are available in many stores, or you can look online for companies that offer green school supplies.

-          Smencils offers pens and pencils made of recycled materials, TreeSmart is another great option

-          Stores like Staples offers notebooks with paper made of sugarcane, New Leaf Paper is another green distributor to check out this fall

  1. Be green for school lunch - Get your kids a reusable cloth or metal lunchbox. Many plastic lunchboxes may contain PVC or BPA, two chemicals that are toxic and harmful to our and your children’s health.

-          Citizenpip is a fun company that offers fun chemical-free lunchboxes that even come with color-coordinated accessories.

-          Laptop lunches also offers metal lunch boxes with partitions perfect for the picky eater!

  1. Need a new backpack? Backpacks are usually made from manmade fibers and plastics, that are harmful to the environment. 

-          This year go for the green options like the PETE backpack which is made from recycled plastic.

-          Another sustainable and cute option for kids comes from Beatrix.

 For more reading…

Posted by on August 30th, 2011 No Comments