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

Posts Tagged ‘phthalates’

Reform our broken federal chemical safety laws!

ACHM Plane Picture


 


Help send Mainers to Washington to demand safe toxic-free products! Send your message with them by signing the petition below.

To My Senators and Representatives,

No child should be exposed to chemicals linked to cancer, obesity, or reproductive problems. But children's health is threatened every day by dangerous chemicals in their homes.

Our nation’s chemical safety system is badly broken. The Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) is a good start but needs to be strengthened. Please help strengthen the CSIA to achieve real reform that protects our families from toxic chemicals.

Posted by on October 14th, 2013 No Comments

TOXIC TOYS R US

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.

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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

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

Cosmetics: Beauty and Health are More Than Skin Deep

unsafe cosmeticsSkin is the largest organ of the human body, which is why we should be more thoughtful when we slather, coat, and camouflage it.  People have been using cosmetics for thousands of years, yet the cosmetic industry is one of the least regulated industries in the United States.  Lack of regulation could be why a large number of cosmetic products contain lead, formaldehyde, parabens, and phthalates.  Since our bloodstream absorbs up to 60% of the products we apply to our skin, we should all be aware of what we’re putting into our bodies.

Currently, cosmetics and personal care products are not required to undergo testing in the United States, and their effects on human health are not monitored. An independent study in 2007 by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics revealed that 61% of the 33 lipsticks they tested contained lead—up to 0.65 parts per million.  The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics challenged the FDA to conduct its own test. Two year’s later the results were in, revealing lead in 100% of the lipsticks tested by the FDA. The CDC states that there is no safe level of lead exposure, and yet, because of the lack of regulation, the average lipstick wearer will ingest 6 to 10 pounds of lipstick over the course of her lifetime, through regular application and wear.

Nail polish isn’t any better than lipstick. For at least a decade we’ve known that nail polish contains phthalates, which are linked to problems with male reproductive health.  Both diethylhexyl and dibutyl, phthalates commonly found in U.S. cosmetics, have been banned in Europe due to safety concerns but are perfectly legal here.  Nail polish also contains other harmful chemicals including toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate, chemicals all linked to cancer and birth defects.

What can be done to keep these toxic ingredients out of our personal care products? Legislation has been introduced in some states to ensure safe cosmetic legislation, but something needs to be passed at the federal level.  Until that happens, it is essential for us consumers to be conscious of the ingredients and potential health effects in our cosmetics.  Because researching safe cosmetics can be overwhelming we’ve provided a couple of websites to help navigate your way:

To learn more about the campaign for safe cosmetics go to:  http://www.safecosmetics.org
To search for a product, ingredient, or company go to:  http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/
To see the top 10 cosmetic toxins to avoid go to: http://www.thegoodhuman.com/2008/05/14/top-10-cosmetic-toxins-to-avoid/

Posted by on June 1st, 2010 1 Comment

Go to the Head of the Class With Smart School Supplies

Aaahhh…September is right around the corner.  September signals summer slowly winding to an end, and for many adults, signals a renewed sense of purpose.  I think many of us “grown-ups” regard September as a kind of “New Year” as we are so used to associating this month with the start of a new school year.  So, in the spirit of my pseudo holiday, I have decided to take on a September New Year’s Resolution - I hereby resolve to send my sons back to school with PVC-free school supplies.

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PVC, polyvinyl chloride, has been notoriously deemed the “poison plastic” for good reason.  Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is unique among plastics because it contains dangerous chemical additives used to soften or stabilize it. These harmful chemicals include phthalates, lead, cadmium, and/or organotins. One could argue that no other plastic contributes to the release of as many reproductive health toxicants than PVC.  PVC’s lifecycle is one of the largest sources of dioxins in our environment.  Exposure to dioxin has been linked with birth defects, decreased fertility, inability to carry pregnancies to term, lowered testosterone levels, decreased sperm counts, and decreased testis size.  Furthermore, several studies have detected measureable amounts of dioxin in women's breastmilk.

Additionally, PVC is responsible for the consumption of over 90% of all phthalates worldwide.  Phthalates must be added to PVC in large quantities – and can make up to 60% of the final product by weight.  Over 5 million tons of phthalates are used in vinyl every year, and more than 80 million tons of phthalates are estimated to be contained in the stock of PVC products now in use in buildings and other applications.  Exposure to phthalates has been linked to reproductive problems including shorter pregnancy duration, premature breast development in females and sperm damage and impaired reproductive development in males.

You may be thinking to yourself, “Yes, PVC is bad, but what on earth does PVC have to do with school supplies?”  Parents across the country are getting ready to stock up on binders and lunchboxes, and while it’s easy to know the healthiest foods to pack in those lunchboxes, many parents are not aware of the toxic plastic used to make them.  In fact, the average child’s character-themed backpack is filled with supplies and materials made from toxic PVC. Lunchboxes, binders, vinyl backpacks, and even art supplies are frequently made out of PVC.  (more...)

Posted by on August 5th, 2009 1 Comment

Savvy Sunscreen Selection

I have been committed to slathering on suntan lotion for some time now.  In my 20s I foolishly sought a sun-kissed glow to add to my appeal, but I usually ended up looking like a giant red-lobster. Now, in my 30s, I am trying to “make-up” for all of my blistering burns, so I have been applying copious amounts of high SPF sunscreen.  My husband tells me I am the easiest person to spot on a beach – he simply looks around for the palest (we’re talking white) body and there I am.  While the ingredients in the sunscreen have been working to block out the UV rays that cause my skin to burn red, the ingredients have not necessarily been working to shield my health.

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UVA and UVB rays both contribute to skin cancer, wrinkling, and skin aging.  I was always under the belief that a higher SPF meant greater protection from UV rays.  However, according to Environmental Working Group, SPF, Sun Protection Factor, “is only a measurement of the how well a sunscreen will protect skin from UVB rays, the kind of radiation that causes sunburn.”  SPF does not measure a product’s protection from UVA rays.  Look for products labeled UVA/UVB or broad spectrum for protection against both types of UV radiation.

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Posted by on June 28th, 2009 3 Comments