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

Posts Tagged ‘PPNNE’

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

Organic Chocolate Makes Treats More Palatable

Cacao tree with fruit pods

Cacao tree with fruit pods

Ah, chocolate! The nectar of the gods. It’s decadent, delicious, and, in some cases, full of ingredients you don’t want in your body. I’m not just talking about fat and sugar, which can be detrimental to your health (and waistline), but more insidious stuff such as pesticide residues or even lead.

While high-quality, conventional chocolate is unquestionably tasty—and has been shown to offer powerful antioxidants and other health benefits—there can be pesticide residues present in the cocoa powder used to manufacture it, which can have harmful effects on the body.

The best way to satisfy your sweet tooth and minimize your risk of ingesting dangerous ingredients is to go organic. Organic chocolate is made from organic cocoa beans, therefore minimizing the use of pesticides. Plus, when eaten in moderation, it can contribute to heart health, suppress chronic coughs, add much-needed magnesium to the diet, help control blood sugar, and improve your mood. Not to mention all the ways it’s better for our environment.

Photo: Gary Coffey

Photos: Gary Coffey

Thank goodness there are now lots of places to buy organic chocolate, including Whole Foods, Hannaford and Shaw’s supermarkets, and Vermont’s own Lake Champlain Chocolates. (In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that my husband, Gary Coffey, works there.) Better still, with so many options to choose from , there’s no need to compromise on flavor!

 So go ahead and indulge—just remember to eat responsibly!

Posted by on January 5th, 2010 1 Comment

Reproductive Roulette

The Center for American Progress recently released a report entitled: “Reproductive Roulette: Declining Reproductive Health, Dangerous Chemicals, and a New Way Forward” and complimentary a fact sheet on dangerous chemicals and on their effect on our fertility.  The author of the presentation Reese Rushing, is director of regulatory and information policy at American Progress.


This presentation gives you a comprehensive description of the decline in reproductive health, the chemicals that effect fertility, and gives us clear steps on how to protect ourselves from these chemicals. We highly suggest you take time to read it!


Here’s what I learned:


-“Average sperm count appears to have steadily declined since the 1930s. Women report an increasing number of fertility problems, including women under 25 and women between 25 and 34. Female fertility problems increased almost 2 percent from 1982.”

 Sperm (more…)

Posted by on July 28th, 2009 No Comments

Maine, a Role Model

Efforts to ban specific toxic chemicals like Deca and BPA make a difference. The reality, however, is that there are  more than 82,000 different chemicals in production.  Dealing with harmful chemicals one by one could take a lifetime. Or more.  A more effective way to protect ourselves from exposure is through policy that takes a precautionary approach.  This framework requires thorough evaluation of chemicals so that unsafe chemicals don’t make it to the market in the first place and promotes the use of the least toxic alternatives.

Last April, Maine took a huge step in this direction last April with the passage of the Kid-Safe Products Law.  This landmark law will reduce children’s exposure to chemicals that based on “credible scientific evidence” may be harmful to our health.  PPNNE worked with Alliance for A Clean and Healthy Maine on the bill and applauds its passage.


Maine's State House

The Kid-Safe Products Law applies to children’s products, but don’t just think of sippy cups and toys. ‘Children’s products’ are defined broadly to include products to which kids are exposed. While exceptions are written in for some everyday products it is clear the bill was written with children’s safety in mind.  For example, while food  is generally exempt from the law, the law does apply to baby food and infant formula. Furthermore, the bill specifically  targets chemicals that are known or likely reproductive or developmental toxicants. It also singles out endocrine disrupters, which are frequently linked to reproductive health problems.

Roughly one year later implementation is underway in Maine, and the law has become a national role model of sorts.


Posted by on June 23rd, 2009 No Comments

Summer Reading

Do you want in depth information on the links between human health & the environment? Are you  just looking for a good book to read on the beach?  Do you doubt the existence of one book that fits both of these criteria? Please, allow Dr. Sandra Steingraber to prove you wrong!

Steingraber is a scientist and a storyteller. She weaves biographical information, history, and scientific data into a coherent picture of how “Lifestyle and environment are not independent categories that can be untwisted from each other: to talk about one is to talk about the other” (Steingraber, 1997).


Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment examines the link between chemicals and cancer, challenging the heavy emphasis we place on genetics and lifestyle as causes for cancer.  Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood discusses the ecology of pregnancy. Both books are a strong argument for the precautionary principle: that chemicals should not be released into the environment until we know they are “almost certainly not going to hurt anyone” and that least toxic alternatives should always be used (Steingraber, 1997).

Dr. Steingraber is the key note speaker at PPNNE’s upcoming Critical Link conference. She is as compelling a speaker as she is a writer. We hope you will come see her in person.

Read any good environmental health books lately? Let me know. I am looking for more summer reading.

Posted by on June 15th, 2009 No Comments

Hop on the BPA Ban Bandwagon

This session, PPNNE worked on bills to reduce our exposure to environmental contaminants  at the state level in the Maine & Vermont . Now state legislatures are wrapping up for the summer,  and we're watching the US Congress.

Remember Bishpenol-A (aka BPA)? Yes, that BPA-- the ubiquitous chemical linked to reproductive health problems including breast cancer, low sperm counts and early puberty.

Is Bisphenol-A lurking in this can?

Is Bisphenol-A lurking in this can?

It's time to make BPA a thing of the past! Senator Feinstein (D-CA) and Representative Markey (D-MA)  introduced the Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2009, a bill that bans BPA from food and beverage containers.  Over 90% of us harbor detectable levels of BPA in our bodies and food contamination is the primary culprit, so this is a common sense way to reduce exposure.

You can help speed up BPA's departure from our beverages and our bodies by  asking your elected officials to support this bill. Take action now!

Thanks to the Breast Cancer Fund and VPIRG for their work on this important issue.

Posted by on June 1st, 2009 No Comments

Join Us for Greendrinks!


Learn about the links between environmental toxins and reproductive health at a series of events designed to bring "Good Chemistry" to Portland (ME). Join PPNNE and other environmentally minded Portlanders on Tuesday, April 14, from 5:30-8:00 p.m. for trivia games, free condoms and snacks, and more at our kick-off Greendrinks event at O'Naturals. E-mail to learn more.

Posted by on April 12th, 2009 No Comments