Posts Tagged ‘EWG’

Is Sodium Lauryl Sulfate safe?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is a very common ingredient in nearly all shampoos, soaps, and even many toothpastes. You can even find it in Angel Food cake mixes. This is the ingredient responsible for the foaming action of the product. But, is it safe?

Until about a year ago, I thought the answer to this was yes. I had not yet done research on this chemical, but just in reading a few comments online, it seemed some people were OK with it and others were not.

When I finally had time to research SLS, I was surprised to learn it was contaminated with 1,4 dioxane.  This is a cancer causing by-product of the ethoxylation process, a process that makes otherwise harsh ingredient gentle. However, because it is not an original ingredient, this by-product is not listed on the ingredient list.

In this article by Dr. Mercola, he further explains the health risk with using SLS, and its cousins Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES, and Ammonium Laurel Sulfate (ALS), citing some of the over 16,000 studies showing toxicity. The Environmental Working Group gives SLS a moderate hazard rating for cancer, organ system toxicity and others. So it’s not the worst, but not the best.

Should you avoid SLS?
Anything you put on your skin is absorbed directly into your bloodstream and goes directly to your organs. It’s also important to note that 1 incidence of using SLS is likely OK, but the cumulative effect is what is worry-some.  While the amount in your shampoo, toothpaste, body wash, hand soap, etc. may be ‘safe’ amounts when used alone, using them all at one time could cause your exposure to jump into the unsafe level zone. But the cumulative effect has never been studied.

We do our best to avoid it in our house due to the cancer link. If you can’t avoid it entirely, limit your exposure by using less of the product containing it. Most people use twice as much soap product as needed.

How to avoid SLS
Read labels! Know what to avoid, as SLS can have other names, including Sodium dodecyl sulfate, Sulfuric acid, Sodium salt sulfuric acid. I use Dr. Bronner’s  bar soap in the shower and make my own foaming hand soap, which also makes a great foaming body wash. For shampoo I am currently using Kiss My Face, Frequent Use which is SLS and paraben free and I love it.

RELATED ARTICLES
Kiss My Face hair care review
Dioxanes found in popular organic body care products
California Baby product review
Badger Sunscreen product review

Safe sunscreens 2010

EWG's top-rated sunscreen

I never really thought about what was in my sunscreen until I had kids. Before my daughter was born, I was just beginning to learn about all the harmful chemicals in soap , shampoo, etc. So when it was time for us to take our yearly family beach trip, I sought out a safe sunscreen. Then I had to do the leg work myself, but didn’t really know what to look for either.

Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group came to the rescue 4 years ago with their Safer Sunscreen Guide. Every year, new research is available, shifting the list around a bit. This year, research shows that vitamin A may speed up the development of cancer. See their whole list of surprising facts about sunscreen.

And you definitely will not find the widely used and available  Baby Blanket, Banana Boat, Hawaiian Tropic, Panama Jack or Neutrogena anywhere near the top of the list, in fact, you will find these at the bottom of the list. Blue Lizard and Bull Frog are middle of the road. These chemicals sunscreens contain ingredients that are possible carcinogens. To me, it does not make any sense to slather on something that may cause cancer in an effort to protect yourself from something (the sun) that may cause cancer.

Non-nanoparticle zinc oxide based sunscreens are deemed to be the safest and most effective sunscreens available today. Zinc oxide is all natural offering sun protection without the harmful chemicals. And like other skin care products, you should be able to pronounce all the ingredients and it should be free of PEG compounds, parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrance and any other active ingredient other than zinc oxide (or possibly titanium dioxide).

This year, EWG tested 500 sunscreens and can only recommend 39 of them for safety and effectiveness. That’s 8%. Pretty lame.

Here is a list of the top-10 sunscreens as tested by the EWG, and the EWG rating (0-2 = low concern, 3-6 = some concern, 7-10 = high concern).
1. Badger Sunscreen Face Stick, SPF 30, Unscented 1
2. Badger Sunscreen for Face and Body, SPF 30 Lightly Scented 1
3. Badger Sunscreen for Face and Body, Unscented, SPF 30 1
4. California Baby Sunblock Stick No Fragrance, SPF 30+ 1
5. Loving Naturals Sunscreen, SPF 30+ 1
6. Purple Prairie Botanicals Sun Stick, SPF 30 1
7. Purple Prairie Botanicals SunStuff, SPF 30 1
8. Soleo Organics All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+ 1
9. Soleo Organics Atlantis Resort All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+ 1 –
10. Soleo Organics Wyland Organics All Natural Sunscreen, SPF 30+ 1

…….I have to toss CA Baby in here as it is one of my favorite lines
19. California Baby Sunblock Stick Everyday/Year-Round, SPF 30+ 2
20. California Baby Sunscreen Lotion Everyday/Year-Round, SPF 30+ 2
21. California Baby Sunscreen Lotion No Fragrance, SPF 30+ 2
22. California Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+, Citronella 2

Want to see the rest of the list and see how your sunscreen stacks up? Visit EWG’s mini-site dedicated to sunscreens and sunscreen safety.

RELATED ARTICLES
California Baby sunscreen review
TruKid Sunny Days Sunscreen review
Lead in the garden hose
Add sun protection to your clothes

Quality of bottled water questioned

Most people believe bottled water is better for you and contains less contaminants than tap water. After all, their advertising leads us to believe the water in the bottle comes from a beautiful and pure mountain stream and prices are often 1900 times that of tap water. According to a new study, this is simply not true. The Environmental Working Group recently tested 10 brands of bottled water and found alarming levels of contaminants known to cause cancer and other health issues. Contaminants include pesticide and fertilizer reside, pharmaceuticals, disinfection byproducts, caffeine, arsenic, industry chemicals and other contaminants.

It is important to note, that these levels exceed standard levels considered safe and several far exceed what California considers safe and allowable levels of certain by products, residues, etc.

EWG’s testing revealed chemical levels no different than tap water for Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Choice brand and Giant Supermarket’s Acadia brand.

“Several Sam’s Choice samples purchased in California exceeded legal limits for bottled water contaminants in that state. Cancer-causing contaminants in bottled water purchased in 5 states (North Carolina, California, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland) and the District of Columbia substantially exceeded the voluntary standards established by the bottled water industry.

Unlike tap water, where consumers are provided with test results every year, the bottled water industry does not disclose the results of any contaminant testing that it conducts. Instead, the industry hides behind the claim that bottled water is held to the same safety standards as tap water.”

Additionally, their testing showed:
“…10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in 9 states and the District of Columbia, contained 38 chemical pollutants altogether, with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand. More than one-third of the chemicals found are not regulated in bottled water.”

In 2007, the EPA issued this statement about bottled water:

“Some bottled water is treated more than tap water, while some is treated less or not treated at all. Bottled water costs much more than tap water on a per gallon basis… Consumers who choose to purchase bottled water should carefully read its label to understand what they are buying, whether it is a better taste, or a certain method of treatment (EPA 2007b).”

The EWG also surveyed 228 brands of water (websites, labels, marketing materials) finding less than half named the water source or a description of how the water was treated, if treated at all.

Environmental Impacts
Of course, many people avoid bottled water because of the environmental impact. We have certainly limited the amount of bottled water we use at our house.

“Of the 36 billion bottles [of water] sold in 2006, only a fifth were recycled (Doss 2008). The rest ended up in landfills, incinerators, and as trash on land and in streams, rivers, and oceans. Water bottle production in the U.S. uses 1.5 million barrels of oil per every year, according to a U.S. Conference of Mayors’ resolution passed in 2007, enough energy to power 250,000 homes or fuel 100,000 cars for a year (US Mayors 2007). As oil prices are continuing to skyrocket, the direct and indirect costs of making and shipping and landfilling the water bottles continue to rise as well (Gashler 2008, Hauter 2008).

Extracting water for bottling places a strain on rivers, streams, and community drinking water supplies as well. When the water is not bottled from a municipal supply, companies instead draw it from groundwater supplies, rivers, springs or streams. This “water mining,” as it is called, can remove substantial amounts of water that otherwise would have contributed to community water supplies or to the natural flow of streams and rivers (Boldt-Van Rooy 2003, Hyndman 2007, ECONorthwest, 2007).”

The EWG in their study of course recommended disclosure of contaminants in the bottled water, the water source and purification techniques, so we may become better consumers. I totally agree. I had heard a few years ago that many bottled water companies purely bottle tap water. I thought, what a scam!! Now I have proof it is.

It is important to note, not ALL bottled water is the same as or worse than tap water (except for the environmental impact), so we have not all been duped.

How do you avoid bottled water that contains contaminants?

If you want to still drink bottled water (which I am not saying to avoid it, though at least cutting back would help our planet!), it may require a little work if you really want to find the “best” and are willing to do a little work.

1. Only buy bottled water that names the water source. (extra credit: You can check that source to see if any contaminants are plentiful there.)
2. Only buy bottled water that along with the water source, lists the treatment techniques as well. Then determine what the process removes and how successful it is at removing contaminants. Note, not all treatments are created equal.
3. You could even call your favorite bottler and ask if the water has been tested for contaminants and ask for a copy of the findings.
4. Bring your own water that you filtered at home using a carbon filter. I bring my own cup to work, and have a stainless steel water bottle, like the Sigg or Klean Kanteen, that I can use on the go.
5. Get a LivePur filtered water bottle by Fit & Fresh. It removes many contaminates from tap water and you can refill the bottle anywhere you are and the water is filtered as you drink. 
 
Read the full report.

5 ways to avoid BPA

US News and World Report is weighing in with an article on 5 ways to keep BPA out of your food. I posted another article on this same topic a few months ago.

Here are their suggestions:

1. Buy your tomato sauce in glass jars. Canned tomato sauce is likely to have higher levels of BPA because the high acidity of the tomatoes causes more of the chemical to leach from the lining of the can. Think beyond plain tomato sauce to any canned pasta—like ravioli and those fun-looking kids’ meals.

2. Consume frozen or fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned. In addition to their BPA-free benefit, fresh and frozen produce usually have more nutrients, which often get lost in the process of canning. Eden Foods does offer canned beans that are BPA-free.

3. Purchase beverages in plastic or glass bottles. Canned soda and juice often contain some BPA. You don’t need to worry, though, about disposable plastic water bottles. Most don’t contain bisphenol A, and those that do are usually marked on the bottom with a number 7 recycling code.

4. Use powdered infant formula instead of ready-to-serve liquid. A separate assessment from the Environmental Working Group found that liquid formulas contain more BPA than powdered brands. [My suggestion here it to breast feed with the mother eliminating BPA from her food sources. If baby takes a bottle, whether breastmilk or formula, ensure the bottle is BPA free.]

5. Think in terms of moderation. You don’t need to avoid all canned foods. Just consult the chart below and follow a sensible approach, eating less of those foods that are high in BPA. Click here for the full report on canned foods.

Related Articles
BPA free bottles, sippy cups and more
BPA and phthalate free pacifiers
BPA and phthalate free teethers and rattles

Lead and PVC free lunch boxes
Avent introduces BPA free bottle
BPA in canned food
How to avoid BPA
BPA in infant formula
BPA linked to metobolic syndrome
New research links BPA to human disease

FDA criticized over BPA issue

As many of you know, the FDA once again met yesterday to review the safety of BPA and once again declared it safe for humans. This comes with praise from the plastics industry and the grocery manufacturers association (of course), but is drawing criticism from independent organizations including the Environmental Working Group.

Here is an excerpt:
“It is very clear that that the FDA cannot conclude with certainly that BPA is safe. That option is no longer open to you given these new data,” said John Peterson Myers, CEO and chief scientist at the group Environmental Health Sciences.

Some researchers criticized the FDA for concluding that ordinary BPA exposure is safe for infants, who may consume it daily if they are drinking formula from a plastic bottle.

Frederick vom Saal, a toxicologist at the University of Missouri-Columbia, told an FDA advisory panel that the ability of infants to metabolize BPA has not been well studied.

“Any talk about what is going on in a newborn baby is just based on a guess, an assumption,” he said. “This is a black hole of information.”

FDA officials said they have begun discussion with other scientific agencies, including the CDC, to continue studying potential health effects of the chemical. Members of the advisory panel declined comment following the hearing.

“We’re just beginning,” said Laura Tarantino, director of FDA’s office of food additive safety. “The agency has made a commitment to look at this, and we’re going to look at it carefully,” she told reporters.

“We have not recommended that anyone change their habits or change their use of these products,” Tarantino said.

They keep looking and looking – what are they looking for?? Someone to save their butt? They were presented with 5 independent studies, most where the levels of BPA were much less than what the FDA considers “safe,” and these 5 studies all point to health issues including brain alterations and abnormal prostate growth. Let me repeat – these BPA levels were less than what the FDA considers safe.

Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Babies R Us and likely other retailers are phasing out products made with BPA. Canada has banned BPA in baby products and Playtex and Nalgene are phasing BPA out of all their products. Popular baby bottle manufacturers for Dr. Brown’s (glass and polypropylene versions) and Avent (made of PES material) have released BPA-free versions of their polycarbonate, BPA-containing bottles.

The FDA really needs to just save face and at minimum not say BPA is safe. The National Toxicology folks, another government agency which is like a sister to the FDA, has concluded there is “some concern” over the safety of BPA. If the FDA would just admit that, I’d be spitting happy. But no, they obviously are well-funded by the plastic’s industry (at least from my POV), so their interests lay elsewhere and not with concern for public health and safety.

Source: WedMD release

Related Articles
BPA free bottles, sippy cups and more
BPA and phthalate free pacifiers
BPA and phthalate free teethers and rattles

Lead and PVC free lunch boxes
Avent introduces BPA free bottle
BPA in canned food
How to avoid BPA
BPA in infant formula
BPA linked to metobolic syndrome
New research links BPA to human disease