Posts Tagged ‘Going Green’

High Fructose Corn Syrup contains mercury

A new study shows half the samples tested contained mercury. This includes 1/3 of 55 popular name brands where HFCS is the first or second ingredient.

Mercury contamination is very harmful and toxic in all forms. It should be avoided. Pregnant women are advised to avoid certain fish because of high levels of mercury.

High fructose corn syrup is a synthetic sweetner that has replaced sugar in many items. It’s much cheaper than sugar, so is used by many companies in all types of foods and all kinds of brands. 

“Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply,” said the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies.

The use of mercury-contaminated caustic soda in the production of HFCS is common. The contamination occurs when mercury cells are used to produce caustic soda. So the good news is HFCS can be produced without caustic soda, the bad news is us consumers do not know if the HFCS containing products we are consuming are produced using caustic soda or not.

What can you do? Avoid HFCS. Read the labels, if it contains HFCS, put it back on the shelf. This is what I have done, even before knowing about the mercury contaimination.

We try to avoid sythetically produced ingredients in our house, opting for the safe and natural stuff. HFCS has also been linked to behavioral problems, but not sure anything has been proven there. Though I know several kids who were taken off HFCS and their behavior improved drastically with this change alone. Proof enough for me. 

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The Real Story Behind Bisphenol A

How a handful of consultants used Big Tobacco’s tactics to sow doubt about science and hold off regulation of BPA, a chemical in hundreds of products that could be harming an entire generation.

I always liked FastCompany magazine. There are always great articles. Well, they have recently looked into the BPA controversy / debate as well and published an article here last week. They looked at both sides, the history, how the studies were done, what the FDA reviewed and who funded the studies, etc. Pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about the BPA issue. They interviewed several folks from both sides. It’s a very long, but very interesting read.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the article:
“The United States has a long tradition of keeping harmful substances — lead, DDT, tobacco, PCBs — on the market for decades after scientists find adverse effects.”

“Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, who has launched numerous investigations into the agency, contends, “The FDA has got to be a watchdog, not a business partner with industry.”

“If these low-dose findings were counterintuitive to toxicologists, they made perfect sense to developmental biologists. After all, BPA is a synthetic hormone. Any physician knows that at small doses, most hormones are extremely powerful in stimulating their target organs, while at higher doses — above a certain threshold — they can paralyze these same organs. (Testosterone powers the male sex drive, for instance, but at high doses causes impotence.)”

Very interesting indeed. I could pull more quotes, but then I may as well copy the whole article! They have uncovered what many of us already know – there is enough evidence that it may cause harm at any dose so it is best to just avoid BPA altogether. Retailers such as Babies R Us, Wal-Mart and Target had said they would stop selling polycarbonate baby bottles at the end of 2008 (though I have seen them on the shelves as of last week). Nalgene has gone to a BPA-free plastic water bottle as consumers demand a safer product and the FDA sits and takes money from the plastic industry and tries to convince us that BPA is safe when there are over 100 studies not funded by the plastics that claim otherwise.

BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a hormone-mimicking chemical found in plastic polycarbonate baby bottles, water bottles, dental filings, in the lining of canned foods, etc. Even at low doses it can affect the endocrine system. Learn more here

I have several lists with safer alternatives to polycarbonate plastics.
BPA free bottles, sippy cups and food storage
BPA and phthalate free pacifiers
BPA and phthalate free teethers and rattles
 
BPA free dishes, utensils, snack containers and food storage for kids

And I am finishing up my BPA free food storage list in between nursing my newborn, so please check back!

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Chemicals that could contaminate baby formula

Recently parents have been scared by melamine tainting baby formula, even in the US, but the Daily Green has a list of 5 chemicals that could be lurking in infant formula and offers tips on how to reduce your baby’s exposure to these chemicals.

Obviously, breastfeeding is the best way to avoid this situation, eventhough yes breastmilk can contain chemicals as well. But the many benefits to breastmilk far outweigh these risks.

The 5 chemicals that could be found in formula are BPA (from the lining of the metal cans); chemicals such as weed killer, pesticides, arsenic, etc. found in water that is used to mix the formula; manufacturing by-products; MSG; and genetically modified ingredients.

Simple solutions include using BPA free bottles and sippy cups for feeding and organic formula (such as Earth’s Best or Baby’s Only) in plastic (not metal) containers.

To read the entire article and learn more tips on how to protect your baby here

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Crack the code on organic food labels

The Daily Green has a quick little guide to help crack the code on those organic food labels. Check it out here.

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Product Review: Charlie’s Soap Laundry Detergent

I saw Charlie’s Soap on Amazon as an eco-friendly laundry soap. On a trip to Whole Foods, they had some in the store, so I decided to try some since I was in need of laundry detergent anyway.

The soap is intended to clean your clothes without leaving behind any residue. In fact, they recommend running a load with just Charlie’s Soap to clear the washing machine of all detergent residues. I will admit, I did not do this. I did do a small load the first time, though.

The soap cleans well, does not leave residue and is not scented. In fact, the package says “If you want flowers, go pick some.” It works just as it promised to do. It is great for people with sensitive skin. I will say that they do not recommend fabric softener, but I found my clothes still needed it. They were a little stiff without it. I used Seventh Generation’s fabric softener.

In fact, I did not realize the difference until I picked up an article of clothing tht had not yet been washed in Charlie’s Soap and I was surprised how much detergent and fabric softener residue I could feel on the garment. I am not sure how I wore those clothes washed in conventional detergent (sorry Proctor and Gamble).

The best part is it’s economical as well. It’s about $13 from Amazon  for a bag that will do 80 loads so that equates to 16 cents a load (though truth be told, I am pretty sure I got mine from Whole Foods for less than this on sale). And yes, 1 tablespoon of the soap is all that is needed, so that bag is small as well. So it is eco-friendly in that respect too.

Overall I give this product an A. I would go ahead and try without fabric softeners as they recommend, and if you find you do need one, I would recommend Seventh Generation’s fabric softener, I personally like the blue eucalyptus

Also available in liquid form
This review refers to the powder form.

Dioxanes found in popular organic body care products

study released in March 2008 commissioned by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a watchdog group, analyzes leading “natural” and “organic” brand shampoos, body washes, lotions and other personal care products for the presence of the undisclosed carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-Dioxane. A reputable third-party laboratory known for rigorous testing and chain-of-custody protocols, performed all testing.

Excerpt which describes the process of how 1,4 dioxane makes its way into body care products:
Ethoxylation, a cheap short-cut companies use to provide mildness to harsh ingredients, requires the use of the cancer-causing petrochemical Ethylene Oxide, which generates 1,4-Dioxane as a by-product. 1,4-Dioxane is considered a chemical “known to the State of California to cause cancer” under proposition 65, and has no place in “natural” or “organic” branded personal care products. 1,4-dioxane is also suspected as a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant, among others, according to the California EPA, and is a leading groundwater contaminant. Although previous studies have revealed 1,4-Dioxane is often present in conventional personal care products, this new study indicates the toxin is also present in leading “natural” and “organic” branded products, none of which are certified under the USDA National Organic Program.The group is calling for the mislabeling of organic products. 1,4 dioxanes have no place in true organic products.

 

Some of the Leading Brands Found to Contain 1,4-Dioxane:
JASON Pure Natural & Organic
Giovanni Organic Cosmetics
Kiss My Face
Nature’s Gate Organics.

Brands Found not to Contain 1,4-Dioxane:
All USDA Certified brands tested in this study were 1,4-Dioxane-free, including:
Dr. Bronner’s
Sensibility Soaps
(Nourish)
Terressentials

All German Natural “BDIH” Certified brands tested were found to be 1,4-Dioxane-free:
Aubrey Organics 
Dr. Hauschka

How to avoid 1,4 dioxane
To avoid 1,4-Dioxane, the OCA urges consumers to search ingredient lists for indications of ethoxylation including: “myreth,” “oleth,” “laureth,” “ceteareth,” any other “eth,” “PEG,” “polyethylene,” “polyethylene glycol,” “polyoxyethylene,” or “oxynol,” in ingredient names. In general, the OCA urges consumers to avoid products with unpronounceable ingredients. “When it comes to misbranding organic personal care products in the US, it’s almost complete anarchy and buyer beware unless the product is certified under the USDA National Organic Program,” says Cummins.

The products/brands tested can be found here with the level of 1,4-Dioxane detected, if any, along with ethoxylated ingredients listed on the label. Note, only certain products of these lines were tested, not all products in the line and certainly not all natural and organic products were tested.

Here are the products from the study that were found to be FREE of 1,4 dioxane. However, one still needs to read labels to avoid parabens and synthetic fragrance (due to the possibility of the presence of phthalates). All dish soaps  tested were found to have 1,4 dioxanes present. Surprisingly, so were a couple conditioners. And oddly enough, some brands, like Kiss My Face had 1,4 dioxane present in their body wash tested, but not the shampoo.

1,4 Dioxane Free Products
Alba Very Emollient Bath & Shower Gel (Island Citrus) (EWG rates a 4, contains fragrance and parabens)
Aubrey Organics Natural Baby & Kids Bath Soap 
Aubrey Organics Swimmer’s Normalizing Shampoo 
Avalon Organics Nourishing Shampoo
Burt’s Bees Body Wash 
Circle of Friends Buenas Noches Bubble Bath (EWG ranks a 6, contains fragrance)
Desert Essence Body Wash  
Desert Essence Organics Hair Care Lemon Tea Tree Shampoo 
Dr. Bronner’s and Sundog’s Magic Orange Lavender Organic Lotion
Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One Organic Fair Shikakai Conditioning Hair Rinse
Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One Organic Fair Trade Shikakai Soap 
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps 18-in-1 Hemp Almond Pure Castile Soap
Dr. Hauschka Apricot and Sea Buckthorn Shampoo  
Dr. Hauschka Body Wash Fresh
EO All Purpose Soap
EO Nourishing Shower Gel 
EO Volumizing Shampoo
Head Organics Clearly Head Shampoo 
Kiss My Face Obsessively Organic Whenever Shampoo 
Lamas Soy Hydrating Shampoo for Chemically Treated, Dry or Damaged Hair 
Nature’s Gate Organics Fruit Blend Shampoo 
Nourish Food for Your Healthy Skin Organic Chai Vanilla Body Wash from Sensibility Soaps 
Nourish Organic Vanilla Yogurt Body Butter 
Origins Ginger Up Aromatic Conditioner
Pure Basic Natural Bath & Body Wash Wild Banana Vanilla (contains fragrance) 
Shikai Natural Everyday Shampoo 
Shikai Natural Shampoo 
TerrEssential Organic Baby Wash 
TerrEssential Organic Body Wash Organic Cool Mint 
TerrEssential Organic Fragrance-Free Facial Cleanser 
TerrEssential Organic Sultry Spice Pure Earth Hair Wash 
Zia Fresh Cleansing Gel with Sea Algae
Zia Skin Basics Daily Moisture Screen SPF 15 with Cucumber  
 
Hand soap
Avalon Organics Glycerin Hand Soap 
Burt’s Bees Citrus & Ginger Root Hand Soap 
Method Hand Wash 
TerrEssential Organic Real Soap for Hands Jammin’ Spice with Organic Tea Tree Oil

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Environmentally friendly Zero VOC paint

Traditional paints contain VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), which is the “smell” in paints and are toxic to humans and the environment. VOC’s contribute to air pollution and global warming; and can contaminate ground water and soil. It becomes a problem in homes where VOC’s can be present at as much as 1000 times greater than out door air (typically after painting or paint stripping)!

The EPA says this about the health effects of VOC exposure:
Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.  Key signs or symptoms associated with exposure to VOCs include conjunctival irritation, nose and throat discomfort, headache, allergic skin reaction, dyspnea, declines in serum cholinesterase levels, nausea, emesis, epistaxis, fatigue, dizziness.

The ability of organic chemicals to cause health effects varies greatly from those that are highly toxic, to those with no known health effect. As with other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors including level of exposure and length of time exposed. Eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment are among the immediate symptoms that some people have experienced soon after exposure to some organics. At present, not much is known about what health effects occur from the levels of organics usually found in homes. Many organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals; some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans.  For more information on health effects, see EPA’s Substance Registry System on VOCs.

We recently painted several rooms in our house using a low-VOC paint. And zero VOC paint is becoming more popular and accessible. We actually used Benjamin Moore’s Harmony paint, which is zero-VOC but because we did color-matching, the tint added a small amount of VOCs. So watch for this if you truly want a zero VOC paint. The great thing was the odor was very minimal and we easily slept in our room the night it was painted! It was actually odd not having days of over-powering paint smell. We still ventilated the areas we painted.

These paints are just as good and durable as traditional paints. There are only 2 cons: there can be limited paint options because the colors are premixed which is how they are able to produce a zero VOC paint. Low-VOC paints can do color-matching. The other con is it is a little more expensive. A gallon is typically $35-$50.

Zero VOC paints include:
Bio Sheild 
Yolo Colorhouse (premixed colors)
Mythic
Harmony by Benjamin Moore
Natura by Benjamin Moore (available on the west coast, nation-wide in Spring 2009)
Freshaire Choice, available exclusively at Home Depot 
Olympic has a zero-VOC line

Low-VOC paints include:
Aura by Benjamin Moore

GreenSeal is an organization that certifies zero- and low-VOC paints. You can view their list here:

Earth Easy has an even wider list of zero-, low- and eco-friendly natural paints.

The Today Show did a segment on green painting this morning. Check it out here.

Besides in paint, VOC’s are found in many common household products including paint strippers, and other solvents; wood preservatives; aerosol sprays; cleansers and disinfectants; moth repellents and air fresheners; stored fuels and automotive products; hobby supplies; dry-cleaned clothing.

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