Archive for October, 2010

Are Bedroom Chemicals Causing Your Child’s Asthma, Allergies or Eczema?

Friday, October 29th, 2010


toxic chemicals and allergies, asthma and eczemaHaving a Naturepedic crib mattress will help handle many of the potentially toxic chemicals in your child’s bedroom. But the chemicals in crib mattresses are not the only ones you have to watch out for. In fact, some of the other common chemicals have now been linked to asthma, allergies and eczema in children. Check out this new study.

This recent study, conducted in Sweden focused on analyzing the air in children’s bedrooms. The researchers were looking for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – gases that are emitted from liquids or solids and which can damage the environment and human health. They tested the air for 8 different VOCs in the bedrooms of 400 children. Nearly half of the children suffered from allergies or asthma, and the other half were healthy.

What they found was a link between the presence of PGEs – propylene glycol and glycol ethers – and asthma, allergies and eczema. In fact, children with PGEs in their bedroom air were between 50 and 180 times more at risk of developing asthma, rhinitis (cold symptoms) and eczema than children whose bedroom air was free of these chemicals.

The study also linked bedroom air containing PGEs to a higher incidence of kids developing antibodies to cats, dogs and pollen. In other words, they are sensitive to pollen and cat or dog dander (usually), and may develop allergic symptoms in the future or already have them.

PGEs can be found in water-based paints and cleansers as well as some plastic toys and packaging. Propylene glycol is also a common ingredient in personal care products – everything from shampoos, soaps, creams, ointments, deodorants and toothpaste to laundry detergents, floor wax and processed foods. So, there is plenty of opportunity for it to get into household air.

Propylene glycol penetrates the skin very quickly and, in addition to the allergy symptoms, can cause damage to the brain, liver and kidneys. In fact, the Environment Protection Agency recommends that people working with propylene glycol avoid skin contact.

Amazing, isn’t it, that propylene glycol is so common despite these warnings?

The researchers involved in the study concluded that more testing had to be done. That’s pretty standard – one test after another. But they did also commit to the idea that PGE exposure causes or exacerbates multiple allergic symptoms.

How do you get rid of PGEs? Well, start by removing products containing them from your home. And don’t buy anymore.

How do you know which products contain propylene glycol and glycol ethers and which don’t? Some products list them on the label and many, probably most, don’t. In food, propylene glycol is listed as E 1520. For some types of products, like industrial applications and cosmetics, there is no legal requirement to list these ingredients at all. However, there is a household products database that can give you the information – just type the name of the product into the search box to see the contents. For personal care products and cosmetics, check Skin Deep. They also have a good search engine that lists tons of products.

To find alternatives, check the Internet for things like non-toxic cleansers, cosmetics, and so on. Also, Debra’s list has non-toxic alternatives for just about everything. For PGE-free food, simple buy organic and fresh, but continue to read labels of packaged products and investigate further if needed.

It seems there’s no end to harmful household toxins. But, in fact, there is. Once you get the hang of it and know what to look for, you’ll find that finding and using products that are not harmful is easy. And as a result, you and your children will be healthier!

New Study Reveals Toxic Chemicals in Flooring and Wallpaper. Are They in Your Child’s Nursery?

Monday, October 25th, 2010


Whether you’re a DIY’er or having your child’s nursery (or any other part of your home) renovated or decorated professionally, you might want to take a look at the recent study done by HealthyStuff.org and the Ecology Center on the toxic chemicals found in flooring and wallpaper.

HealthyStuff.org tested a whopping 3,300 home improvement products – 1,106 samples of flooring, and 2,312 samples of wallpaper.

None of the products tested are currently subject to any regulation regarding toxic chemical contents. In fact, the database of the results is the largest publicly available database of toxic chemicals in home improvement products.

The results were pretty amazing. Here are the overall findings from the horse’s mouth:

“Heavy metals and other additives are commonly found in residential flooring and wallpaper. These chemicals include lead, cadmium, flame retardants, tin compounds and phthalates — harmful chemicals that are linked to asthma, reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, hormone problems and cancer.

“Home improvement products are largely unregulated for chemical hazards and contain hazardous chemicals additives, called phthalates, at levels prohibited in children’s products by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). CPSC prohibits the presence of 6 phthalates in children’s products at levels greater then 1,000 ppm.

“PVC building materials were 7-times more likely to contain hazardous additives, compared to non-vinyl alternatives tested in this study. All PVC materials tested – 1,350 of 3,019 contained hazardous additives; Non-PVC materials – 18 of 273.

“Over 1/2 (53% – 1,234 of 2,312) and 15% (119 of 793) of flooring had one or more hazardous chemical additives.

“Levels of hazardous chemical additives in flooring and wallpaper are commonly found in household air and dust at levels 5-100 times higher then outdoor concentrations.”

You’ll probably recognize ‘phthalates’ – they were recently banned in crib mattresses and other children’s products. Three types of phthalates were banned in some types of children’s products, and six in others (anything a child under 12 might put in their mouth.) The ban covers a wide range of products – everything from the vinyl waterproof covering on many crib mattresses (not in Naturepedic crib mattresses, of course) to the rubber ducky your little one plays with in the bath. According to the study, nearly half of the PVC/vinyl products tested contained hazardous additives – which would include phthalates – so it’s not just the products that were banned we have to worry about.

Looking at renos? Watch out for hazardous chemicals. Your best bet is to look for companies that don’t use them in their products. Also, check out the full HealthyStuff.org study. You can search the product results by brand, type and levels of detection.

Some States Offer Protection Against Harmful Chemicals

Thursday, October 21st, 2010


If you live in New York state and are concerned about protecting your children, and yourself, from the potential toxic chemicals in household cleaning products, you’re going to have a helping hand from New York state government in the very near future.

Even though Federal law does not currently require companies to list their household or industrial cleaning product ingredients, individual states are free to make their own laws and set their own policies.

The state of New York, just one state that is taking action, has had a law on the books for nearly 40 years that requires household and industrial cleaners to provide “unusually detailed breakdowns, complete with percentages,” as well as any research the companies have done on the effects of the ingredients in their products on our health and the environment.

The law has never been enforced. But now, amid growing evidence of the potential health hazards of some of the chemicals used to make these products, and under pressure from consumer groups, New York will finally enforce the law.

The American Cleaning Institute, known until June as the Soap and Detergent Association, says research linking cleaning product ingredients to various health problems – including asthma, antibiotic resistance, and hormone changes – is flawed and the products are safe if used correctly. They also say that the products encourage human health by inhibiting the spread of disease.

But, as we know, there are plenty of non-toxic cleaning products available; and even things as simple as baking soda and vinegar will help prevent the spread of disease.

Some companies are very cooperative, even going as far as listing the chemical contents of fragrances and dyes, which is very unusual. Others feel that disclosing information in that detail risks giving away trade secrets.

Find out more about New York’s plans at NY to Seek Info On Cleanser Contents. Also, New York is not the only state taking action. Find out more about what’s going on in your state on the Safer States website.

Are Antibacterial Socks, Shoes and Underwear Safe for Your Kids?

Monday, October 18th, 2010


It is understandable that parents would want to keep their kids away from fungus, germs, and other bacteria. Consequently, it’s no surprise that we can now buy such things as anti-bacterial socks, shoes and underwear for our kids. But are these products safe? In fact, some of the antibacterial materials used in these products are under investigation by the FDA and EPA.

There are many natural ways to remove or inhibit the growth of fungus and bacteria – baking soda, certain essential oils, and so on. But many of the products contain something called Microban®, of which one of the ingredients is triclosan.

We wrote about Triclosan in a blog not too long ago – see Germs or Toxic Chemicals – Do We Really Have to Make that Choice? – but, at the time, didn’t realize that triclosan was also in Microban.

The FDA approved triclosan for use – but that was 30 years ago. Since that time, studies have linked triclosan to cancer, hormonal disruption, including thyroid conditions, liver problems, allergies, and more.

Triclosan – largely known as an ingredient in cosmetics, soaps, body washes and other personal care products – is now on the EPA’s Chemicals of Concern list and under investigation. How long it will be legal is up in the air. Rumor has it the results of the investigation were supposed to be available this fall but, so far, they haven’t been released.

We can assume that if triclosan is banned, Microban might be on the way out, too.

Read more about Microban and triclosan in Is the Chemical Triclosan in Your Socks?

Parents, in the meantime, would be wise to stay away from Microban products until the jury has returned its verdict.

Of course, there is no shortage of socks, shoes, underwear, and so on that pose no risk whatsoever! They don’t contain these potentially dangerous chemicals. Generally, these are natural cotton, wool, silk and other natural materials. However, there are some products that may say ‘naturally antimicrobial’ on the label because they fight germs with natural substances inherent it the materials. If there is any question about what chemicals or substances are used, contact the manufacturer.

New Toxic Chemicals Act Didn’t Pass in Congress – But Don’t Give Up!

Thursday, October 14th, 2010


For parents and others concerned about the toxic chemical ingredients and materials in products we use every day, the new Toxic Substances Control Act not getting enacted in Congress is quite a disappointment (read more at Reform of Toxic Chemicals Law Collapses as Industry Flexes Its Muscles). Discouraging as it may be, the real truth is this: no matter who flexes their muscles, we, each of us, are still in control. And there is hope on the horizon.

The bill, as it was worded, had the potential for real protection – one provision of the bill, for example, was that companies would be made responsible for ensuring that the chemicals they use in their products aren’t harmful. A very big change from the way things have been done, and that’s only one section of the bill.

The bill will be re-worked and presented again, and change will happen. The many individuals and groups, too numerous to mention, who have worked so long and hard on getting things this far will continue, along with others who join the ranks, and there will be progress.

But government tends to change slowly and, for now, we’re still on our own. It’s not illegal to give consumers toxic chemicals and that’s unlikely to change in the near future. So, we’re still living our lives with ‘buyer beware’ as our mantra and we have to be vigilant.

In all truth, we can live and consume safely. There are hundreds or thousands of companies that choose not to use toxic chemicals in the materials, manufacturing and finishing of their goods.

At Naturepedic, for example, we choose to make crib mattresses and other goods without toxic chemicals. We founded the company with that purpose in mind and we will continue to fulfill that purpose. That is what parents want, and that’s not going to change.

Companies that have that purpose will continue to thrive, more will start up, and still others will adopt that purpose. Eventually, the government will catch up. And industry will get the idea that toxic chemicals are just not acceptable.

Sometimes things have to be done over and over again in order to create change – don’t be discouraged. It will happen.

In the meantime, check sites like Debra’s List to find companies that are dedicated to providing non-toxic products.

GREENGUARD Contest Helps You Provide Clean, Non-Toxic Indoor Air for Your Child

Monday, October 11th, 2010


Click to Enter in Paragraph 2 of This Blog

There are several cities that provide a pollution index on news and weather stations. The index is used to let people know when the air is so polluted that it’s safer to stay indoors. But these indexes don’t take into account the studies that have shown indoor air to be potentially far more polluted than the air outside. Would you like a nursery for your child that is full of clean air? Here’s your chance. A new contest!


This new contest from GREENGUARD offers the winner a chance to hand-pick each item in their child’s nursery from a selection of GREENGUARD-certified (which means no off-gassing of harmful chemicals) items. All you have to do is enter the GREENGUARD Big Bundle of Joy $10,000 Nursery Giveaway. You don’t even have to buy anything!

This is a great opportunity. You’re not just getting $10,000 worth of ‘stuff’, it’s $10,000 worth of some of the best, healthiest, safest stuff available for kids. You can do your entire nursery in attractive, high quality goods and materials that will not off-gas potentially harmful vapors in the room. Your child’s room will look great – and you will have peace of mind!

You can win a crib mattress from Naturepedic, cribs and other furniture from Q collection junior, hardwood flooring from Anderson, and more.

Even if you’re not the grand prize winner, it’s still worth entering the contest: five second-place winners will get a Naturepedic mattress, and 30 third-place winners get Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaning System.

Although the GREENGUARD guys are probably full of heart, there’s another reason they’re doing this contest: they want to raise the awareness of indoor pollution. In the words of GREENGUARD’s Executive Director, Henning Bloech:

“Indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, and up to 100 times more polluted following renovation or new construction. Much of that pollution comes from chemicals called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which can off-gas from furniture, furnishings, cleaning products, and other materials.

“Exposure to airborne contaminants like VOCs can cause or exacerbate a multitude of short- and long-term health complications—including asthma, the world’s fastest growing incurable chronic disease among children. Other chemicals to which children are regularly exposed have not been thoroughly studied, so their potential health impacts are currently unknown. And because children’s bodies are still developing, and because they inhale more air more rapidly than adults do, children are especially vulnerable.

Really, this isn’t just about a game or a sweepstakes,” Mr. Bloech added. “It’s about the health of our children and the quality of the air they breathe.”

The contest is over 1/31/2011. Take advantage of it, and tell your friends!

New Pesticide Marketing Campaign May Be Confusing. What Should You Believe?

Thursday, October 7th, 2010


In the not too distant future you may see advertisements, information hand-outs, signs in the produce areas of grocery stores, you might even hear radio advertising, all promoting the idea that the pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables really aren’t harmful. If you’re concerned about pesticides – which would make you part of a whopping 90% majority of the U.S. population – you might wonder if other information you’ve received on the dangers of pesticides is actually true. Well, here’s the story behind the ads.

Recently, the Federal government approved $180,000 for the Alliance for Food and Farming to “help with a public education campaign to correct misconceptions that some produce items contain excessive amounts of pesticide residues.” The ‘produce items’ being referenced are those on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen List – the top 12 on a list showing the pesticide residue on about 50 fruits and vegetables.

EWG suggests we buy organically-grown Dirty Dozens so we can avoid the pesticides. The Alliance group, on the other hand, says there is no evidence of a health risk.

The EWG information is based on analysis of 89,000 tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The tests were on fruits and vegetables that had already been washed and/or peeled – basically, in the same conditions under which they would normally be eaten.

So, there is no doubt that the pesticide residues are there.

Why does the Alliance say there is no health risk? One of the Alliance associates said the EPA rules protect us. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a rigorous, health-protective process for evaluating the potential risks of pesticides on food. This process includes considerations for fetuses, infants and children as well as adults.”

But, the EPA doesn’t have the same faith in their ability to protect us – as is clear from a speech given by EPA administrator, Lisa Jackson, in her address to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco:

“A child born in America today will grow up exposed to more chemicals than a child from any other generation in our history. A 2005 study found 287 different chemicals in the cord blood of 10 newborn babies – chemicals from pesticides, fast food packaging, coal and gasoline emissions, and trash incineration. They were found in children in their most vulnerable stage. Our kids are getting steady infusions of industrial chemicals before we even give them solid food. Now, some chemicals may be risk-free at the levels we are seeing. I repeat: some chemical may be risk-free. But as more and more chemicals are found in our bodies and the environment, the public is understandably anxious and confused. Many are turning to government for assurance that chemicals have been assessed using the best available science, and that unacceptable risks haven’t been ignored.

”Right now, we are failing to get this job done. Our oversight of the 21st century chemical industry is based on the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act. It was an important step forward at the time – part of a number of environmental wins from the 1970s, like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, not to mention the formation of the EPA. But over the years, not only has TSCA fallen behind the industry it’s supposed to regulate – it’s been proven an inadequate tool for providing the protection against chemical risks that the public rightfully expects.”

Add to that the revelations and recommendations made in the 2010 President’s Cancer Panel Report, entitled Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now:

“Many known or suspected carcinogens first identified through studies of industrial and agricultural occupational exposures have since found their way into soil, air, water and numerous consumer products…Some of these chemicals have been found in maternal blood, placental tissue, and breast milk samples from pregnant women and mothers who recently gave birth. Thus, chemical contaminants are being passed on to the next generation, both prenatally and during breastfeeding.”

“Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing, to the extent possible, food grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers…Similarly, exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxic run-off from livestock feed lots can be minimized by eating free-range meat raised without these medications.”

It’s pretty clear from the EPA and President’s Cancer Panel statements that the pesticide concerns of 90% of the U.S. population are well-founded.

I hope this information helps you in the decision making process if the marketing campaign that $180,000 is supposed to pay for ever does become a reality.

Get Prepared Now for a Safe, Non-Toxic Halloween

Monday, October 4th, 2010


non-toxic halloween costumeHalloween is just around the corner and many of us are going to be dressing our kids up and taking them out trick-or-treating. But did you know that the make-up, facemasks, synthetic hair and even costumes can contain toxic materials?

Lipsticks and face paint, for example, often contain lead – which can impair brain development even at low levels.

Nail polish could contain phthalates and toluene – both of which have been linked to hormone disruption and cancer.

But don’t despair! There are also plenty of safe products that will do the trick.

If you’re getting your little guys out there for Halloween, do it safely. Read more about what to avoid and safe, non-toxic alternatives at Tips to Green Your Halloween.