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

Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Class in session: Pesticides 101

Today at the New Hampshire Statehouse, a committee is discussing the health effects of children’s exposure to pesticides.  Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is a part of the conversation, urging legislators and opinion leaders to stop using pesticides at public play spaces such as school play grounds, and to use safer alternatives.  Let’s take a minute to answer some questions (pay attention, there might be a quiz):

What exactly are pesticides?
Pesticides are used to control or kill weeds, bacteria, rodents, fleas and ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects or pests. They are made up of more than 1,000 active chemical ingredients and come in different forms: liquids, aerosols, baits, powders, concentrates, and fumigants.

Who makes sure pesticides are safe? 
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for regulating pesticide use, but their regulations have weaknesses that allow hazardous chemicals on the market. These exposures are often sufficient enough to cause illness.

How do I become exposed to pesticides?
You can encounter pesticides in your everyday activities: residue in water, food, dust, homes, schools, commercial buildings, parks, and other recreation areas. Chemicals may be eaten, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin. You can also be exposed at work especially if you are an agriculture worker (farmer), landscaper, exterminator, or livestock breeder. (more…)

Posted by on June 15th, 2010 1 Comment

Happy Earth Day!

Sometimes it takes a little trash-talk to spark a revelation. This morning I dutifully snapped a new garbage bag, put in the garbage can, and then bent over to pick up the  sippy cup that had rolled across the floor.  Moments later, I noticed a really strong scent and a white powder floating in the air above the garbage can.  I realized the garbage bag is scented and my two year old and I were inhaling the powdery substance.  The crazy-neurotic-mommy in me wondered if the powder is hazardous to my son’s health.  Then I looked at the sippy cup with the chewed straw, and I wondered what unknown chemicals were lurking in the plastic.  All this worry on Earth Day, nonetheless – how’s that for irony.  Then came the revelation.  I should not have to worry about the chemical make-up of garbage bags and plastic cups  - especially before I’ve had a chance to finish my morning coffee.  I should not have to worry if my everyday products contain toxic chemicals that have been linked to infertility, early puberty, low sperm counts, miscarriage and cancer.  My family and I deserve better.  We deserve legislators who protect our health and the health of other families.  We deserve the passage of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010.

Today is Earth Day and what better way to celebrate by writing a letter to the editor urging Congress to pass Safe Chemicals Act of 2010?  Last week, members of Congress introduced the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010, a necessary first step towards protecting our families and our communities from harmful and untested chemicals found in our homes and workplaces.

Here’s a quick summary of the Safe Chemicals Act:

  • Provides EPA with sufficient information to judge a chemical’s safety.
  • Requires manufacturers to develop and submit a minimum data set for each chemical they produce, while also preventing duplicative or unnecessary testing. EPA will have full authority to request additional information needed to determine the safety of a chemical.
  • Prioritizes chemicals based on risk. Calls on the EPA to categorize chemicals based on risk, and focus resources on evaluating those most likely to cause harm.
  • Ensures safety threshold is met for all chemicals on the market and places the burden of proof on chemical manufacturers to prove the safety of their chemicals. All uses must be identified and determined safe for the chemical to enter the market or continue to be used.
  • Takes fast action to address highest risk chemicals and requires EPA to take fast action to reduce risk from chemicals that have already been proven dangerous. In addition, the EPA Administrator is given authority to act quickly if any chemical poses an imminent hazard.
  • Creates open access to reliable chemical information and establishes a public database to catalog the information submitted by chemical manufacturers and the EPA’s safety determinations. The EPA will impose requirements to ensure the information collected is reliable.
  • Promotes innovation and development of green chemistry and establishes grant programs and research centers to foster the development of safe chemical alternatives, and brings some new chemicals onto the market using an expedited review process.

So on this Earth Day, let’s ask – no, let’s demand -- that our legislators protect our health and the health of our families by writing a letter to the editor!

Posted by on April 22nd, 2010 No Comments

VT BPA Update: Bill Passes Senate, Headed for House Human Services Committee

Great news! Last week the Vermont Senate passed S.247, An Act Relating to Bisphenol A (BPA)--a  bill that would phase out BPA in reusable food and beverage containers and in infant formula or baby food that is stored in a plastic container, jar or can in favor of safer alternatives.

S.247 is an important step in providing much needed information about which products contain the harmful chemical BPA, so that all men and women have the ability to plan a safe and healthy pregnancy and family.

Chamber of the Vermont Senate. Photographed by Jim Hood, August 2007.

Chamber of the Vermont Senate. Photographed by Jim Hood, August 2007.

An amendment that would have weakened S.247 was proposed, but luckily it was defeated by a bipartisan vote of 16-14.  Here’s the list of Senators who voted against weakening the bill: Ashe of Chittenden, Ayer of Addison, Brock of Franklin, Carris of Rutland, Choate of Caledonia, Cummings of Washington, Doyle of Washington, Flanagan of Chittenden, Giard of Addison, Illuzzi of Essex-Orleans, Kitchel of Caledonia, Lyons of Chittenden, MacDonald of Orange, McCormack of Windsor, Racine of Chittenden, and Snelling of Chittenden. Special shout out to Senator Ginny Lyons who is the lead sponsor of this bill and has been working really hard to keep the momentum going.

The next stop for the S.247 is the House Human Services Committee.  PPNNE will be working hard to keep this bill moving along with our coalition partner the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Vermont. If you want to learn more or get involved, email

Posted by on April 12th, 2010 No Comments

Energizing the Chemical Reform Debate

CB002069The more we learn about the 80,000-100,000 unregulated chemicals out there, the more we realize how dangerous some are to our health.  There is growing evidence linking chemical exposure to infertility, pregnancy loss, adverse birth outcomes, various cancers and other health issues. Can you believe that the steepest rise in infertility in past 13 years—an increase of 41%—has been for women 25 and under? It’s time to clean up these chemicals.

State by state, environmental health advocates are pushing for chemical reform and now Vermont has joined that effort. Representative Willem Jewett is sponsoring bill H.484, an act relating to the regulation of toxic substances.  This bill is a common-sense first step to removing toxic chemicals from everyday products, getting important chemical information into the hands of consumers and retailers, and engaging market forces to encourage innovation and safer technology.

PPNNE’s Senior Public Affairs Director, Chris Quint, testified in support of this bill today.  Here’s an excerpt from his testimony:

“It is becoming increasingly clear to those of us who work for reproductive justice — who have long fought for a woman’s right to control her reproductive destiny — that we must begin to turn our attention to the environmental toxins that are affecting the ability of couples to become pregnant, have a healthy pregnancy, and give birth to a healthy child.  PPNNE believes that it is our responsibility as a health care organization to help our patients make the link between human health and the products we put in our bodies, on our bodies, and in our homes.  We also believe that it is appropriate and responsible for our government to do its part as well by working to prioritize the worst of the worst chemicals and require manufacturers to disclose the use of those chemicals in the products that Vermont women and families use every day.  For these reasons, PPNNE is proud to support H.484 and would urge the committee to join us.
This bill establishes a common-sense framework based on credible scientific evidence for promoting safer alternatives to known harmful chemicals that place kids’ health at risk from contact with everyday products.  The bill takes a first step toward fixing our broken chemical safety system.  It establishes a workable process, market incentives and new state policy tools.  Implementation of the bill can begin with existing state resources.  Vermont has already cost-effectively replaced toxics like mercury, arsenic and deca with safer alternatives.”
In order to pass this critical legislation though, we all need to voice our concern. I bet you are going to ask what you can do to help, right?  Call your local represenative and let them know you support Representative Jewett’s bill for comprehensive chemical reform and they should, too! You can also follow our live tweets from the testimony.

Posted by on January 27th, 2010 1 Comment

Eco-Friendly Tattoo Removal Method

tattoo removalAfter my recent break-up with my long term boyfriend, I decided that instead of feeling bad for myself I would reflect on the things I was thankful for. Number one: I didn’t get that tattoo of a heart with his name in it.

Not all of us are this lucky.  If a wild night in Las Vegas has left you with a winking smiley face on your backside…Or if you’ve recently learned of the toxins in tattoo ink, and want to safely remove yours—I have some good news—there are now eco-friendly means to get rid of that unwanted tattoo.  

Typically, doctors use laser surgery to remove a tattoo. To avoid scarring, they must keep your skin 70 degrees or cooler.  They previously used a chemical called tetrafluoroethane to keep skin temperature down. Unfortunately, tetrafluoroethane is very toxic, greenhouse gas which has a lasting impact on the environment.

A carbon dioxide spray has been introduced as an alternative. Unlike the tetrafluoroethane, CO2 is dry ice spray that cools the skin before turning into gas, making it much better for the ozone layer.

So while we all make mistakes, at least we now have eco-friendly means of righting those wrongs.

Posted by on January 12th, 2010 5 Comments

Curbside Leaves—Leaf Them Where They Lay

Ah, "stick season." We're nearly there. The leaves have almost finished falling from the trees. While getting my exercise raking the leaves in the back yard, I also got my exercise learning about the toxins in leaves. Even though those autumn leaves look beautiful, they have some not so pretty secrets.


It turns out that leaves that grow and fall along urban streets have tested positive for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, PAHs are a group of chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, or other organic substances, such as tobacco and charbroiled meat. PAHs can either be synthetic or occur naturally. The exhaust fumes from cars raise the level of PAHs, which makes the leaves in front of your home exposed and a bad choice for composting.

PAHs can affect your health in many serious ways; they can cause cancer and fertility issues. There is a lot of research on PAHs, many new studies are finding that they can be development and reproductive toxicants, interfering with the development of a fetus and causing harm to your reproductive system. Even more, a recent study cited men with high PAH exposure as having a 53% higher risk of infertility than men with low PHA exposure.

Pretty heavy stuff, eh? As a general rule, don't compost your roadside leaves.  Remember to check with your local solid waste and composting sites about your leaves. And by all means, don't burn them! Does anyone have any further suggestions about leaves?

Posted by on November 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

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