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

Posts Tagged ‘toxic’

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

The Truth About Tampons & Pads

There’s no denying how bad tampons are for the environment. The facts are staggering:

  • A menstruating woman uses on average 11,000 tampons in her lifetime.
  • 7 billion tampons are dumped into landfills each year (plus another 13 billion sanitary pads!)

In short, feminine hygiene products are polluting our rivers, lakes, streams, and world.  

What many people don’t realize is that conventional feminine hygiene products are also harming our bodies. Conventional tampons and pads contain chemicals, toxins, additives, and synthetic materials. They are often made from chlorine-bleached and pesticide-grown cotton blends. These chemicals are known carcinogens (substances directly involved in causing cancer) and are being directly absorbed by our vaginal walls.  

To really “go green,” you gotta start with your monthly visitor. Last summer, we posted some information about these hidden dangers and offered some safe, smart alternatives. Here’s to celebrating those alternatives again.

Although getting your period may be a nuisance to some women, it should never be life threatening. Thankfully, there are companies making products you can buy and feel good about, like Seventh Generation, Natracare, and the Diva Cup: They all have the health of women on their minds. 

Research on the dangers of conventional tampons is ongoing. But we have enough information and alternative options now to make conscious and safe choices for our bodies and our environment. Empower yourself, your friends, and your family, and tell them about alternative, affordable, organic, and sustainable feminine hygiene products.

Posted by on June 15th, 2011 No Comments

Nail Polish You Can feel Good About

Somewhere around the age of 8, painting your nails becomes one of the more exciting things a girl can do. A decade and a half later, the feeling has resurfaced for me. I’m 22 years and want nothing more than to paint my nails on a Thursday night with friends. No big deal right?

Unfortunately, my conscious and environmental studies background lead to an overwhelming sense of guilt when it came to this indulgence. Smothering my nails with toxic chemicals so they can look pretty, and then removing the polish with another toxic product was something I was no longer willing to do. I agonized, let my fingers go bare for weeks, told myself I didn’t need the color, and the sweet, smooth, glossy finish that catches my eye as I click away on keyboards in the library (it’s the little things).

On the first day of my Women’s Health and Environment class I divulged my guilty secret, and I was not alone! My peers had the same woes. Fortunately for all of us, we came across nail polish we could actually feel good about: Scotch Naturals. They are even approved by the skin deep database!

I purchased several Scotch Naturals nail polish colors for my painting pleasure: A tri-pack of darker hues-- a dark blue, tan/brown, and a midnight purple.  I find the the polish goes on smooth and leaves a shiny finish as promised!  The nail polish remover works too, and has no stinky chemical smell! The only downside- without a toxic top coat, my tips tend to chip quicker, but that can be easily retouched! 

Happy paintin'!

Posted by on February 23rd, 2011 No Comments

An Environmental Health Night @ UVM

With growing awareness of the tightly woven connections between our environment and our health, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is making a commitment to protecting both. With a desire to share this important information with our communities we will be showing the documentary Living Downstream, an adaptation of the book by Dr. Sandra Steingraber. The movie follows Dr Steingraber and her work around the country promoting awareness of the dangers of toxic chemicals as they contaminate our world and eventually our bodies. Though the film is not set in Vermont, the issues raised are relevant in our state. Despite best intentions Vermonters, too, are exposed to dangerous chemicals via consumer products and our environment.

Please join us Wednesday, January 26th at 7pm for an evening of action as we screen the documentary Living Downstream, an adaptation of the book by Dr. Sandra Steingraber.  Watch the Trailer Here

A conversation will follow the film as we talk about the relevance of this critical link in our communities and the need for comprehensive chemical reform in Vermont.  Our hope is that you’ll agree with us that toxic exposure is unnecessary and voice your concern to your legislators here in Vermont.

Environmental Health Night: Documentary and Discussion
Wednesday, January 26th at 7pm
Sugarmaple Ballroom 4th Floor Davis Center, University of Vermont

This is a FREE Event!

Hosted by Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, a member of The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Vermont & the Environmental Studies Department.

For questions e-mail Naani.Sheva@ppnne.org

Posted by on January 24th, 2011 No Comments

New Year’s 2011

Green Up Your Health in 2011
This new year, make a resolution to “green up” your health.  Below are some ideas for healthy New Year’s resolutions that can help you eliminate some toxins from your life and get a fresh start in 2011!

Use triclosan-free Products
We’ve previously discussed the dangers of using the chemical triclosan, which can disrupt the endocrine system.  It is a common ingredient in hand sanitizers and liquid soap.  However, you can’t stop washing your hands, especially during cold and flu season!  Instead, switch to triclosan-free products.  The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database has a list of triclosan-free liquid soap and hand sanitizers.

Be mindful of your fruits and vegetables
Recently, the Environmental Working Group released a list of the 12 fruits and vegetables that have the highest and lowest amounts of pesticides:

The 12 Dirtiest: Peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes (imported), spinach, lettuce, and potatoes.

The 12 Cleanest: Onions, avocado, sweet corn (frozen), pineapples, mango, asparagus, sweet peas (frozen), kiwi fruit, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and papaya.

Fret not, if your favorite produce made the dirty list—you can always buy organic.  Be sure to wash and scrub all of your produce, and consider planting a garden or getting involved with a community-supported agriculture program this summer.

(Almost) spring cleaning
Sometimes, I make a resolution to give my house a thorough cleaning.  Before you finally scrub down the shower or organize your closet, check out our reference page on cleaning products for tips on making your own non-toxic cleaners and avoiding harmful chemicals.  Be sure to regularly vacuum, wash and dust surfaces, and remove your shoes before entering your home.  Dust is filled with everything from residues given off by electronics to oil you might have walked through in a parking lot.  You don’t want to be breathing that all winter, do you?

Quit smoking
It’s not news that smoking is a leading cause of death in the United States.  If you smoke, resolve to quit this year—you will be protecting not only your health, but the health of those around you.  Some local resources to help you quit include The Vermont Quit Network, The Main Tobacco HelpLine, Tobacco-Free Maine, and Try To STOP TOBACCO New Hampshire.

Have a healthy and happy New Year!

* Photos by luigi diamanti, Bill Longshaw, graur razvan ionut, Paul, Suat Eman, obtained from freedigitalphotos.net.

Posted by on January 3rd, 2011 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

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

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Environmental Justice

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let’s take a brief walk down memory lane and reflect on the close relationship between toxic environmental exposure and the disenfranchised populations in America.

It wasn’t long ago that hazardous and polluting industries were predominantly located in Black, Latino, and indigenous communities. I’d like to say this is a problem of the past, but unfortunately it is still an issue. More than 4.5 million people reside within 1.8 miles of the country’s hazardous waste facilities.

The groundwater in these communities is polluted with hazardous chemicals such as benzene, trichloroethylene, and pesticides like DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane).  These toxins are inhaled on a daily basis by the populations living there, triggering such irreversible illnesses discussed in this article and also here.

In the 1980’s, after hundreds of years of oppression in so many poverty-stricken populations, the environmental justice movement took root. Today, community and environmental activists, including Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, continue to work towards legislation that will protect not only our environment, but the people living in it.

PPNNE believes that all people, regardless of race or income level, have the right to receive non-toxic health care. With that end in mind, we are working toward the goal of “doing no harm” with our practices by doing everything we can to minimize reproductive contaminants (such as mercury, latex, and vinyl) in our health centers. And, because we feel that it is appropriate and responsible for our government to do its part, we’re also working to eliminate harmful chemicals in our air, water, and food by advocating for better public policy.

We hope you will take some time today to reflect on how far we have come in this social, racial and environmental justice movement. Please also remember that the fight for a green world for all is not yet over.

Posted by on January 18th, 2010 No Comments

Fragrances Stink–Especially While Pregnant

The birth of a child is a highly anticipated moment.  It’s the culmination of months of preparation, patience, and dare I say it, resisting temptation. Everything from coloring your hair, to eating sushi, to drinking alcohol is put on hold the moment you find out you’re pregnant. Here’s another “no-no” to add to your list: artificial fragrances.

Synthetic chemicals found in umbilical cord blood of American newborns.A study by the Environmental Working Group revealed 232 contaminants in the umbilical cord blood of 10 newborn American babies. Synthetic musks, common components of fragrance, were found in 7 of the blood samples.

These results are significant because artificial fragrances are toxic and have been linked to developmental illness, infertility, even birth defects and cancer.

What’s even more disturbing is due to labeling laws, the ingredients in fragrance products are considered “trade secrets,”  and do not need to be disclosed.

If you’re pregnant –or planning on it—here are some precautionary measures you can take:

  • Choose products free of synthetic fragrance.
  • Make your own cosmetics.  The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has great recipes.
  • Be proactive. Contact the manufactures of your favorite lotions, perfumes, and lip balms, and encourage them to use non-toxic ingredients and to fully disclose this information on labels.

As wonderful as it is to look and smell nice, consider the risks of the products you’re using and their effect on your newborn.  By forgoing those toxic perfumes, you’ll be able to enjoy that new baby smell even more.

Posted by on December 29th, 2009 3 Comments

Horrific! Heavy Metals Found in Face Paint

facepaint3

I love Halloween and last year I was incredibly excited to be invited to a costume party. I had the perfect geisha outfit and matching wig; all I needed to complete the look was white face paint. Last fall was when I really started to learn about contaminants in products we use on our bodies and in our homes, so when I set out to find my geisha make-up, I laboriously read all of the face paint labels in Party City. I eventually selected the only brand which claimed to be “toxic free”. I will tell you what is truly scary – my “toxic free” face paint may not have been toxic-free at all.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition of nonprofit health and environmental groups, sent 10 children’s face paints to an independent lab to test for heavy metals, and also reviewed ingredient labels of Halloween products sold at a seasonal holiday store. The findings, compiled in the new report, Pretty Scary, include:

•Ten out of 10 children’s face paints contained lead at levels ranging from 0.05 to 0.65 parts per million
(ppm).

•Six out of 10 children’s face paints contained the potent skin allergens nickel, cobalt and/or chromium at
levels ranging from 1.6 to 120 ppm – far exceeding industry safety recommendations of 1 ppm.

•Snazaroo Face Paint, labeled as “non-toxic” and “hypoallergenic,” contained some of the highest levels
of lead, nickel and cobalt found in the study.

“Lead is dangerous to the developing brains of children at any level. It is now widely accepted in the scientific community that there is no threshold level below which lead is safe,” said Phil Landrigan, M.D., Director, Children's Environmental Health Center Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that parents avoid using cosmetics on their children that could be contaminated with lead.

(more...)

Posted by on October 27th, 2009 No Comments