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

Posts Tagged ‘toxins’

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

You & The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

Think about all the personal care products you use in the course of a day.  Shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toothpaste, make-up, baby powder, after-shave… The average American uses about 10 of these products a day.  I, for one, am generally half-asleep when applying, and not always thinking of the more than 100 unique chemicals and toxins I am exposing myself to.

Thankfully, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is thinking about it. They’ve introduced the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 to ensure personal care products we all use are free of harmful ingredients, and that the ingredients are fully disclosed to consumers.  Legislation won’t just benefit us—the consumer—but also small business and innovation in green chemistry.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has been providing us with the truth behind our once-favorite brands and helping us navigate the unsafe terrain of the cosmetics and personal care aisle for years. They’ve taught us all about the well-advertised, highly toxic, unregulated products that sit on store shelves and in our homes. And now it’s our turn to support the Safe Cosmetics Act by making our voices heard. 

TAKE ACTION! Make sure your legislators understand the importance of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 and ask them to co-sponsor the bill. Already, Congressman Mike Michaud of Maine has signed on as a co-sponsor. Stand up for your health and your right to know what’s in your products!

 Tell your friends and family to SPEAK UP to your legislators; don’t let them disregard the products that affect all of us—men, women, children, and the environment.  You can also check out the Campaign for Safe Cosmetic’s list of other creative ways to get involved.

 After you contact your legislator, remember to check out Skin Deep—the database that reveals what’s in your products and ranks their toxicity.

Posted by on August 2nd, 2011 No Comments

Maine Passes Deca Amendment

Earlier this week, the Maine Senate unanimously voted to amend a ban on the flame retardant Deca. The bill, LD 930, now gives greater flexibility for manufacturers to find safer, approved alternatives.

Deca is part of a series of PBDE (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers) chemicals that are used as flame retardants in furniture, electronics, and other consumer products.  They are known reproductive and developmental toxicants that have made their way into the environment and into our bodies.  PBDE levels in breast milk, blood and tissues have increased by a factor of 100 in the past 30 years, doubling about every five years. This is alarming--studies link PBDEs to reproductive and developmental problems, including delayed puberty. The Environmental Health Strategy Center has more information about the impacts of Deca on the health of women and children.

Last year, Maine banned Deca from shipping pellets and prohibited manufacturers from replacing Deca with other brominated and chlorinated flame retardants.  The amendment passed this week requires any alternatives to be approved by Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection.  We applaud LD 930 because it allows manufacturers flexibility in finding alternatives, which is important as full non-halogenated alternatives to brominated or chlorinated flame retardants don’t exist, yet. 

Developing laws that protect human health from toxic products, and creating safer alternatives should be a top priority. That’s PPNNE is working with the Alliance for Clean and Healthy Maine to advance comprehensive chemical policy reform with the passage of the Safer Chemicals Act of 2011. The policy is a long-overdue modernization of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that provides greater consumer and worker information about toxic exposure, strengthens the Environmental Protection Agency’s oversight on harmful chemicals, and promotes innovation for safer alternatives.  

Ask Maine Senators Snowe and Collins to co-sponsor the Safer Chemicals Act of 2011 and to continue Maine’s leadership on chemical policy reform.

Posted by on May 26th, 2011 No Comments

Ana Soto to Speak at UVM (2011)

Update: This event occurred in 2011. For more information about Ana Soto, please visit the Tufts website


Ana Soto to Speak at UVM
Thursday March, 31st,  2011 @ 4pm
Carpenter Auditorium, UVM Campus
Given Building E131

We’ve been sharing a lot of information with you on environmental health recently. Well here is your opportunity to hear it FIRST hand, from one of the leading researchers in the field, Dr. Ana Soto, an amazing woman and a pioneer in the field.

Ana Soto, M.D., is Professor of Cell Biology at Tufts University School of Medicine and Professor of Cancer Development at the University of Ulster in Coleraine, U.K. Dr. Soto was one of the earliest investigators of endocrine disruption and its role in the development of cancer, and was one of twenty scientists at the 1991 Wingspread Conference who developed the term "endocrine disruptors.” Her research interests include the mechanisms of steroid hormone action, control of cell proliferation, breast and prostate neoplasias, and endocrine disruptors, including Bisphenol-A (BPA). She is now using animal models, 3D tissue cultures, and mathematical modeling to study the role of stroma-epithelium interactions in carcinogenesis and in tumor regression


Posted by on March 30th, 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

Posted by on January 24th, 2011 No Comments

The Story of Cosmetics

Lead in lipstick? Carcinogens in baby shampoo?  Synthetic chemicals in fragrances?  It's easy to let the cosmetic industry bring you down...but hope is not lost.

Join Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Maine Women's Policy Center for the screening of the new film "The Story of Cosmetics," and learn from a panel of experts about what you can do to give the beauty industry a makeover.  

Authored by Annie Leonard, The Story of Cosmetics explores health implications for consumers, workers, and the environment, and shows how we can move the industry away from hazardous chemicals and toward safer alternatives. 

Check out the film teaser below, and then join us on July 26th for the full film.

Event: Screening of The Story of Cosmetics
Date: Monday, July 26, 2010
Time: 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM
Address: 561 Congress St
Portland, ME 04101

Posted by on July 13th, 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

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

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

Seventh Generation’s Million Baby Crawl

Since March, we’ve been focusing on products and chemicals that negatively affect women’s reproductive health. 


This week, we want to focus on one company that’s actually doing something right—and has been for years—Seventh Generation.


Seventh Generation is the leading brand of green cleaners, laundry detergent, dishwashing soap, diapers, baby wipes, tampons, recycled toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels. They believe in creating products that are not only effective, but are safe. Go figure.


Currently, Seventh Generation is in the middle of a very important campaign for chemical reform. It’s called the Million Baby Crawl and it is a virtual baby crawl to Washington, D.C. to say “no” to toxic chemicals found in our homes. Seventh Generation has teamed up with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families to demand toxic chemical policy reform. They hope for a bill that will:  
•Take quick action on the most dangerous chemicals.
•Require full information on the health and environmental hazards associated with all chemicals.

•Protect all people and vulnerable groups - including children and pregnant women – using the best science.

Last night, as part of the Million Baby Crawl, Seventh Generation held “A Crawl to Action,” at the ECHO Center in Burlington, VT.  Participants had the chance to learn more about the crawl, snatch up some Seventh Generation giveaways, and even get up on their “soapbox” to talk about toxicants. We had a great time.  


 How can you join the fight against toxic chemicals?  Help Seventh Generation reach a million names for their petition by Creating a Crawler today.  While you’re on the site, forward some info to a friend or family member via Twitter, Facebook or email.  Sign up for the next Crawl to Action Event. Want to do more?  Contact Congress to let them know you think it’s time to update laws governing toxic chemicals.

Posted by on November 4th, 2009 No Comments