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

Posts Tagged ‘Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’

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

Flouride: Healthful or Harmful?

I was scanning through a breastfeeding support forum and came across something kind of scary. As you can imagine, most breastfeeding moms who would visit such a forum are pretty down on formula. I started reading an article and then I started reading the comments. I don’t normally do this as they tend to rile me up, but I found an interesting comment from a woman in Ireland.

Ireland is one of the few countries in Europe that fluoridates their water.  The mom on the forum was upset about the fact that formula is made even more inferior to breastmilk by mixing it with fluoridated water. She didn’t get into details, so I looked into it myself.

There is an interesting website about fluoride called the Fluoride Action Network (FAN).  I like this website. They cite everything.

Apparently, fluoride is not as harmful when applied topically, like with toothpaste or as a mouth rinse. Drinking it is bad for you. It does nearly nothing to save your teeth as it spends so little time in contact with the surfaces of your teeth. Internally, it decalcifies bones and teeth, causes problems with livers and kidneys, and damages sperm. In nearly all animal trials, it reduced fertility in both male and female subjects.  I guess the warning about swallowing your toothpaste isn’t unwarranted. Actually, it’s more serious than that: if a kid under the age of about 9 ate an entire tube of standard fluoride toothpaste, the fluoride could kill them. Hence the warning, mandated by the FDA, on your toothpaste:  "WARNING: Keep out of reach of children under 6 years of age. If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately."

All that said, I’m going to send you the CDC’s website where you can see if your community fluoridates its water. Despite the warnings about consuming fluoride from the FDA and all the studies that FAN cites, the CDC is still down with the fluoride in your drinking water.

The EPA has a webpage on fluoride and it has two recommendations for removing fluoride from your tap water: distillation and reverse-osmosis.

I feel like we’re getting mixed signals from our government. CDC thinks fluoride is neater than sliced bread, but the FDA and the EPA have warnings about it. Personally: when in doubt, leave it out (or in this case, get myself a filter to take it out).

Posted by on October 3rd, 2012 2 Comments

Johnson & Johnson to Stop Using Harmful Chemical – Victory or Not?

As a mom (who was once a kid), I’m kind of rejoicing; as an American woman, I’m kind of ticked off.

Formaldehyde is a common ingredient in Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo. Now they're pledging to eliminate it (at least some of the time) from their products

Johnson & Johnson has promised to stop using harmful – possibly carcinogenic – ingredients in all their lines by 2015. Yay! That means that they’ve been paying attention to the threats from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and their allies. It means that J&J is waking up to the fact that American women really don’t want to slather themselves in toxic chemicals, nor do we want those chemicals anywhere near our kids.  It almost feels like a victory.

But is it?

 Johnson & Johnson has been carcinogen-free in countries all over the world for years. And according to their press release, they will still use chemicals that release formaldehyde "when no safe alternative will work .” But there must already be safer alternatives to these chemicals  if Johnson & Johnson products are on the shelves in places with stricter rules like the Europen Union and Japan.  

Their promises seem reassuring, though and this news make me want to support them. They are one of the few big companies actually changing policy and formulas because of consumer demand. A lot of that has to do with their huge line of baby products (moms are a very vocal group) and the problems they’ve had with public image in the wake of recalls on their pharmaceuticals – but it’s a step in the right direction that should be applauded.

What we really need to do is shake up the other cosmetic companies! Just because we aren’t the diaper and crayon set doesn’t mean we deserve toxic, carcinogenic, or hormone disrupting chemicals in our products: personal or beauty. L’Oreal (Maybelline, Garnier, Kiehl’s, The Body Shop, Softsheen-Carson), Procter & Gamble (CoverGirl, Pantene, Secret, Old Spice), Estee Lauder (Clinique, MAC, Prescriptives), Avon, and Unilever (Dove, Ponds, St. Ives, Axe) all need to be held to higher standards than the ones the FDA holds them to.  

I urge you to check out Campaign for Safe Cosmetics’ Get Involved page. Sign a petition, send an email, make your own lip gloss – Do something healthy and pretty!

Posted by on August 23rd, 2012 No Comments

Gross Green Products

“Going green” has been a rising trend in the United Sates since the 1970’s. An immeasurable number of Americans are trying to live eco-friendly lifestyles. But what we wonder is how open are people’s minds when it comes “gross” green alternatives?

Below is a list of “grimy” but “green” concepts provided by As they point out, “Some inventions on this list may seem weird now, but who knows… maybe fueling boats with our own fat will be the new norm.” Check out this list from Newser:

  • Fertilizer: Instead of using fertilizer from animals, try human waste or human remains.
  • Clothing: Would you wear something as dramatics as clothes made out of cigarette butts?
  • Motor oil: Instead of using biodegradable motor oil, you might turn up your nose at the idea that it’s made from beef tallow.
  • Feminine hygiene: Tired of tampons? Wear the Diva Cup for up to 12 hours instead. Of course you have to empty it afterward...
  • Fur handbags: Not just any fur. Fur taken by grooming your very own pets.
  • Boat: Instead of running on regular fuel, this green boat runs on human fat from liposuction clinics.

The list doesn’t end here.  If you want to read about some more green products that make your stomach and mind turn, here are a few more links:

Weirdest Environmentally Friendly Green Ideas

10 Odd Green Ideas

Top 10 Odd Environmental Ideas

Buying eco-friendly products and having a compost pile in your back yard is great, but who knows what could change if people accepted these gross green product ideas as a natural way of living.

What do you think? Which of these concepts would you be willing to try out? Which would you absolutely refuse to use?


Posted by on January 30th, 2012 2 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

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