Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Cosmetics. They are everywhere. They keep our face clear, our skin soft, our eyelashes fuller, and our teeth sparkle. Every year, the American people spend over 27 billion dollars keeping themselves pretty. Now I know that may not sound like a lot with all of this billion dollar bail-out-business that has been going on, but 27 billion dollars is A LOT of money. According to the Environmental Working Group, the average person uses 12 beauty product a day. One in four use 15. The average man even uses at least 6. The true cost however, may not be coming out of our pocketbooks. Recent research shows that many of us are paying with our health.

Ok, so I’ll admit, I am also part of the problem here. Until a few years ago, I was a beauty product junkie. I don’t know about you, but every time I walked into a CVS or a Walgreens, chances were pretty high that I was coming out with a new product. All those eye-catching packages, all the health claims; they got me every time. It might be something as simple as chap-stick (gosh, where do they all go??), but a product left the store with me nonetheless. Five years of trying to clear out my product stash, and I still have a host of unused products staring at me every time I open my linen closet.

So why the change? Well, it originally started with my attempt to eat healthier and more nutritious foods. I figured with all of the added emphasis to what was going IN my body, what was going ON my body should be just as important. After all, your skin is your biggest organ right? So I then fell into the marketing trap. I started purchasing more “natural”, more expensive products. While I bought less of them because they were so pricey, I still bought them. I was convinced that products containing organic sap moss from Iceland must be better for me…right? I read over each label making sure I could at least pronounce all the the ingredients listed and was sure to stay away from things like benzyl alcohol, animal parts, and petroleum bi-products.  

Then as the years passed, I started reading about parabens. Parabens are the most widely used preservative in cosmetic products.  And when I say cosmetic, I don’t just mean make-up. They are found in body lotions, shower gels, shampoos, over the counter topical creams, and  pretty much just about everything. The most common parabens used in cosmetic products are methylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. Check any product in your house and chances are very high that one, if not all three, are listed on the ingredient list. Although they are used in very small amounts, if you are using 10-12 products a day, you are being exposed to them in everything you use. While the FDA claims that they are safe, parabens have found in breast tumors from women with cancer. They tested 20 tumors and found parabens in ALL of them.  The study did not make the claim that parabens actually cause breast cancer, but many other groups and companies have started taking precautionary measures and taking these parabens out of their products. ANd why not? Simply because that study didn’t prove parabens caused cancer, it also didn’t prove that they didn’t. The study was enough for me to make sure they are kept out of my products.

And as if reading reports on parabens wasn’t enough, I soon started reading about phthalates. Pronounced “thay-lates”, these chemicals are mainly used as plasticizers in order to increase flexibility in plastc. Think about all those rubber duckies, plastic teething rings, and shower curtain liners. Chances are, they are full of them. So whats so bad about that? Well, phthalates are also known endocrine disruptors. They mimic the body’s hormones and have, in laboratory animal tests, been shown to cause reproductive and neurological damage. In one report, I read that the application of phthalates actually changed the sex of the frogs they were being tested on! According to the Environmental Working Group, phthalates have been linked to all sorts of problems in men including sperm damage, infertility, and reduced testosterone levels.  The unfortunate thing about them, is that unlike parabens, they are hard to find in products because they are not listed on the label. Due to patent laws, many companies can simply add the word “fragrance” to the list. It is under this, where many of these phthalates hide. They also hide them in acronyms such as DBP, DEHP, BzBp, and DMP.

Accoring to a PBS, Phthalates have been banned in the European Union since 2005. Nine other countries, including Japan, Mexico and Argentina, have also outlawed the chemicals. China, which makes 85 percent of the world’s toys, has developed two manufacturing lines, one for the European market and the other like-minded nations that ban phthalates, and another one for the United States and dozens mostly developing and third world countries that don’t restrict them. It took the US until the end of last year to pass a bill that would ban these and several other toxic chemicals from our children’s toys.  The next step should be to get them out of ALL of our products.

So what can you do? Well, you can start by checking out the toxicity of your products by going to the Environmental Working Group’s safe cosmetic database. One their site they also have a research section where you can look at a list of some of the toxic ingredients going into your products. Simply by refusing to purchase products with these things in them with say a lot to these companies. Remember purchasing power just that… power. With this knowledge, you can begin to make safer choices for yourself and your family.


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Plastics. They are everywhere. We walk on them, sit on them, eat off of them, talk into them, drink out of them, and right now, I am typing on them. They are filled with chemicals we cannot pronounce, they can be dangerous, and they are scary. Raising a child in a plastic-filled world is even scarier. As I began my quest for the facts on plastics, I was completely overwhelmed with the information I discovered. Here is just a tip of the iceburg of facts I came across:

  • A plastic milk jug takes about a million years to decompose
  • Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour, all of which is made from virgin material
  • An estimated 14 billion pounds of trash, much of it plastic is dumped in the world’s oceans every year
  • Nearly every piece of plastic EVER made still exists today.
  • Many chemical additives that give plastic products desirable performance properties have negative environmental and human health effects, including direct toxicity, endocrine disruptiors, and carcinogens
  •  Its estimated that over 10’s of thousands of seabirds choke or get tangled in plastic debris (including domestic waste and disused fishing gear) and about 100,000 seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins, other marine mammals and sea turtles suffer the same fate, although some scientists believe this figure to be much higher.

While the American Chemistry Company would like us to think that plastic is completely recyclable, the fact is, it isn’t. Most recycled plastic goes into making items like plastic lumber, textiles, and parking bumpers, all of which are unrecycleable. So its makes sense to hear that every 20 years, the amount of plastic we use doubles. When plastic is burned, it releases hazordous chemicals into the atmosphere, that cause severe health problems for those exposed. Have you ever burnt a plastic spoon on the stove? Not a pleasant smell. Little did you know, you were also ingesting hazardous chemicals. What exactly ar these dangerous chemicals you ask? Well here are just a few…

Bisephonal A or BPA – This chemical is a component of polycarbonate; that clear, hard plastic used in the manufacturing of baby bottles, reusable sports bottles, the lining of canned goods and dental fillings (to name a few). It has been linked to various cancers, early onset of puberty, Type II diabetes and neurobehavioral changes in offspring exposed in the womb. BPA is a hormone/endocrine disruptor. What many don’t know is that it actually mimics the hormone estrogen. It can interfere with the normal functioning of the hormone (or endocrine) system by duplicating, blocking or exaggerating hormonal responses. This can produce a wide range of adverse effects including reproductive, developmental and behavioral problems. It leaches into our food supply by ingesting foods and beverages contained in plastics bearing a #3 or #7. For more on BPA go here.

PVC- Commonly referred to as vinyl, is extremely hazardous. PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash.  Our bodies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats. It has been linked to various cancers, reproductive issues, and weakened immune systems. Its found everywhere: shower curtains, carpets, childrens toys, teethers, car seats, computer keyboards, etc. One way to be sure if the packaging of a product is made from PVC is to look for the number “3” or for the letter “V” inside or underneath the universal recycling symbol. This means that the product is made of PVC. Soft flexible plastic products that are made with PVC often have a distinct odor. Children can be exposed to these chemicals, such as phthalates, by chewing on vinyl toys. Often times if I am unsure about an item, I just refuse it, rather than take the risk.  For more on PVC go here.

Polystyrene (PS)Used in Styrofoam containers, egg cartons, disposable cups and bowls, take-out food containers, plastic cutlery, compact disc cases.  Leaches styrene, which is also an endocrine disruptor mimicking the female hormone estrogen, and thus has the potential to cause reproductive and developmental problems; long-term exposure by workers has shown brain and nervous system effects; adverse effects on red blood cells, liver, kidneys and stomach in animal studies. It is found in plastics marked with a 6.

So now the biq question is “what can I do?” Well, here’s a few tips that I generally go by when it comes to plastic.

  • Use Aluminum canteens instead of polycarbonate bottles for your drinking water. They can be found just about anywhere. Sigg and Kleen Kanteen are two I know offhand.
  • Steer clear of plastic baby toys. If you must buy plastic, make sure that it is PVC and BPA-free. Check out The Soft Landing on WordPress, she has a lot of good info. You can always ask or research the company as well.
  • Choose items packaged in glass if you have a choice. (The other day I made my peanut butter selection based on this)
  • Use cloth bags to do all of your shopping. I generally have a few I use for the grocery store, one for the library, and a few for the mall. If you happen to forget your bag, most stores have them for 99 cents at the register.
  • Avoid at all costs heating plastic in the microwave (this includes plastic wrap). This is when chemicals are found to leach the most.
  • Avoid plastic cups, utensils, and plates for meals. There are many alternatives out there (bamboo, glass, etc)
  • Limit your Ziploc bag use. WHile I must admit, I still use the freezer bags, I have stopped using sandwich bags. They make awesome sandwich wraps online, and Tupperware (although plastic) is a much better, reusable alternative.

While going completely plastic free is next to impossible, I feel that it is very possible to be conscious about the choices we make for ourselves and our children.

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