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

Posts Tagged ‘reproductive health’

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

UPDATE: Bisphenol A (BPA) Bill in VT Legislature

The Vermont Senate Health and Welfare Committee is currently hearing testimony on S.247, a bill that bans the manufacture, sale, and distribution of reusable food or beverage containers, and infant formula or baby food, that is stored in a plastic container, jar, or can that contains Bisphenol A (BPA).

PPNNE’s Medical Director, Dr. Cheryl Gibson, testified in support of this legislation, strongly urging the committee to vote in support of the bill. 

Statehouse in the winterDr. Gibson’s testimony really dove into the science and health implications of BPA.  Here’s an excerpt of her testimony:

"BPA is found in the lining of metal food cans and in some plastic food containers, including some baby bottles, water bottles, microwave ovenware and eating utensils.  Because BPA is an unstable polymer and is fat-seeking, it can leach into infant formula and other food products, especially when heated.  Once in food, BPA can move quickly into people - a real concern for women of childbearing age and for young children."

"At PPNNE’s fall conference on women’s environmental health, Janet Gray, editor of the Breast Cancer Fund's State of the Evidence, illustrated how BPA in food containers can affect our health. Please take a moment and picture three petri dishes in a laboratory.  When estrogen was added to breast cancer tumor cells in a petri dish, the tumor cells divided and grew.  When BPA was added to breast cancer tumor cells in a petri dish, the tumor cells divided and grew.  When liquid from a BPA-lined can of string beans was added to breast cancer tumor cells in a petri dish, the tumor cells divided and grew." To read all of Dr. Gibson’s testimony, click here.

The real answer to eliminating BPA lies in chemical reform and policy change. That is why it's so important to contact your elected officials and ask them to support this bill.

In the meantime, here are a few ways to reduce your exposure to BPA.

Posted by on March 12th, 2010 No 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

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

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.


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

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

Some Good News about the Environment…For a Change

Ever since Al Gore started promoting his film “An Inconvenient Truth,” much of what we’ve seen or heard about the environment has been bad news. Whether it’s environmental links to cancer, widespread drought, or rising sea levels and melting polar ice caps, all this information can make you feel pretty hopeless. While there is plenty to be aware of -- and concerned about -- there's no need to despair.


On my way home from work the other day, I was lucky enough to catch an NPR story about the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, OH.


For those of you who don’t know, an oil slick and debris in the Cuyahoga River caught fire on June 22, 1969, drawing national attention to environmental problems in that state. Now, forty years later, the river is making a comeback and has gone from “fire to fish-friendly,” proving that when we set our minds to it, we CAN make a difference. 


Want to know more about what YOU can do? Register for PPNNE's “Critical Link” conference on September 10, where a panel of experts will address how all of us can protect ourselves and our families and exercise greater power as consumers and citizens in a discussion titled, “We ARE Part of the Solution.”



Posted by on June 25th, 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

Deca Bill Update

The bill to ban Deca passed the House Thursday as part of the health care bill.  Keeping a toxic chemical linked to developmental and reproductive problems out of our mattresses sounds like  a no-brainer, but the bill was not without controversy.  Citizens for Fire Safety (CFS), a faux grassroots group, bombarded Vermonters with robo-calls falsely implying the end of Deca would be the end of flame retardants.  Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the bill is on it's way to the Governor's desk.

What does this mean for your mattress? Not much.  As for your future mattresses, it means plenty:  you'll know they don't contain Deca.  After July 1st, 2010 it will be illegal to manufacture or sell mattresses & upholstered furniture containing Deca in Vermont.  After July 1st, 2012 the same will hold true for computers and televisions, though retailers will be able to sell inventory purchased before July 1st 2009.  The bill also includes safeguards against Deca being replaced with equally toxic alternatives.

Kudos to all the legislators who made this possible, including Representative Weston who spoke in favor of the ban.

Thank you also to VPIRG, the Professional Firefighters of Vermont, and the rest of the Alliance For A Clean & Healthy VT for your work on this important effort.


Posted by on May 9th, 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