Archive for the ‘Chemicals in consumer products’ Category

Demand for Safer Chemicals Gets Broader Acceptance

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Debate continues to rage regarding reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Many industry watchers are guessing that any reform of the national law is becoming less and less likely to happen before the close of 2014.

Legislative reform or not, the topic of safer chemicals in consumer products is capturing public attention, and businesses are noticing. High profile initiatives by retailers Wal-Mart, Target and Whole Foods underscore the burgeoning realization that safer products makes good business sense.

Of course any reform or initiative is only as good as the details within the effort. Simply participating in a “safer chemical” program does not a safer product make. Nonetheless, these initiatives show that concerns have moved out of the insular world of environmentalism and into the broader consumer base. TSCA after all was passed back in 1976, and only ten years ago its existence was largely known only by environmentalists and legislators. Now in 2014 the law now is being discussed by parent, consumer and health organizations and the individuals that make up those groups. Awareness has grown.

In earlier posts we’ve mentioned the American Sustainable Business Council and its Companies for Safer Chemicals Coalition. Here are some of the many other efforts looking to curb toxic chemicals in products.

0 ZCHC logoRoadmap to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) This voluntary initiative for apparel manufacturers and retailers began in 2011, with the goal of moving the industry towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.

 

Healthier Hosptials Initiative logo Twelve large health systems joined with Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), the Center for Health Design, and Practice Greenhealth to create the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI). HHI is designed as a guide for hospitals to reduce energy and waste, choose safer and less toxic products, and purchase and serve healthier foods.

 

BizNGO logoA collaborative of businesses and environmental groups working toward safer chemicals. BizNGO.org has pioneered the GreenScreen method for companies to better assess chemical choices.

 

Safer States logoSafer States, part of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, provides discusses efforts  by state, both public and private, working to reduce questionable chemicals. This site offers a variety of information and provides a bill tracker to show the progress of proposed legislation for safer chemicals by state. Additionally, the site provides a good snapshot of efforts occurring nationally.

The above initiatives indicate that the topic of safer chemicals is likely not going away. Further, the ease of sharing information provided by the Internet is bringing the topic mainstream and into the business world, where it needs to be.

After all, safer products benefit everyone, not just environmentalists.

Regrettable Substitutions

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

 

Questionable chemicals associated with health and developmental issues such as cancer, thyroid disruption and learning disabilities can show up in the most innocuous of consumer products. These chemicals sometimes, although infrequently, garner enough bad press to get them removed, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Unfortunately, removal may not be what it seems.

beakersWhy? Because an offending chemical can be removed simply to be replaced with a similar, possibly worse chemical. Called “regrettable substitution” by the Environmental Defense Fund and other organizations, this strategy may temporarily solve a company’s marketing or PR problem but does little to get an actual safer product to the consumer. And there are virtually no regulations to prevent this.

BPA

Take for example Bisphenol-A, or BPA. Following an outcry from the private and academic sectors on BPA’s links to hormonal disruption and connections to cancer and diabetes, the FDA banned it from baby bottles and sippy cups in 2012 (although according to the FDA it was not banned for health reasons but due to industry abandonment). Even before the ban, companies had begun making “BPA-Free” products and parents breathed a sigh of relieve.

The problem, however, is that BPA was commonly replaced with an equally questionable chemical.  Current regulations require no safety testing or even disclosure.  BPA-free does not necessarily equal safe.

Phthalates

Similar responses occurred with the phthalate DEHP (phthalates are plasticizers used to make vinyl plastics softer and more pliable). Following associations with disruption of male reproductive development, products, particularly those marketed to the healthcare industry, began being advertised as “free of DEHP.” While technically truthful, DEHP can be replaced with other phthalates, possibly trading one problem for another.

Curious about what phthalates can be used? Congress banned three types of phthalates (DEHP, DBP, BBP) in any amount greater than 0.1 percent in some children’s toys and select child care articles. Additionally, Congress banned on an interim basis the phthalates DINP, DIDP, DnOP in any amount greater than 0.1 percent, but only for articles that can be placed in a child’s mouth or sucked.

In other words, out of more than a dozen currently used phthalates and phthalate substitutes, six have been banned in very specific product uses for children. For a children’s item that can’t be placed in a baby’s mouth, unless the consumer has access to a chemical testing lab, there is no way to know if phthalates are being used or which ones or whether they are safe.

Lack of Regulation

Lack of regulation and transparency not only puts the consumer at risk, but also makes life difficult for companies legitimately looking to offer safer products. For us at Naturepedic, the answer was to avoid the questionable chemicals altogether.  Rather than attempt to find a safer phthalate (or flame retardant or many other chemicals) we simply don’t use them, period.

While consumers should continue to do their homework regarding product safety, they should also insist on stronger safeguards against harmful chemicals. Discussions have begun on potential reform to the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) of 1976, but real progress has yet to be made.

For more information on the risks of BPA-free products, read Environmental Defense Fund’s Sarah Vogel’s article “BPA-Free” plastics may pose equal or greater hazard than predecessors. For tips on avoiding BPA and phthalates, read the tip sheet from the Silent Spring Institute.

New Study Looks at Chemicals Linked to Breast Cancer; Flame Retardants, Chemicals in Consumer Products Make Priority List

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

 

On May 12, 2014 the journal Environmental Health Perspectives published a new peer-reviewed study identifying seventeen types of chemicals specifically linked to breast cancer. Of the 102 chemicals in the study, many are ones women may be exposed to on a daily basis from everyday products.

Silent Spring Institute logo

Silent Spring Institute logo

The study was conducted by researchers at the Silent Spring Institute (named after Rachel Carson’s influential book) and the Harvard School of Public Health. While it may not come as a surprise that a number of the chemical types can be found in tobacco smoke and vehicle exhaust, some of the priority chemicals are found in common consumer products like ink jet and laser jet printers, hair dyes and paint. These are all chemicals legally used and virtually unregulated.

The study also identified flame retardants used in foams found in mattresses and furniture cushions and chemicals found in certain textile dyes as priority threats. Under current laws, manufacturers are not required to disclose the flame retardant chemicals or chemical dyes used in their products.

At Naturepedic we are proud that all of our mattresses for all ages, baby, youth and adult, meet flammability standards without the need for chemical flame retardants or barriers. Because our mattresses meet strict organic guidelines such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), you are guaranteed they do not contain toxic chemical dyes, either.

Our mattresses let us make a positive difference in people’s lives in our area of specialty: mattresses. To learn other ways you can avoid common carcinogenic chemicals, check out easy tips from the Silent Spring Institute published on the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families website.

State of Vermont Passes Stricter State Law Concerning Chemicals in Children’s Products

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Vermont state flagWhile national efforts to reform the outdated federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) continue, the state of Vermont has pushed forward on its own to create more stringent chemical safety standards than currently afforded.

On Friday, May 9, 2014, Vermont bill S.239 passed the Vermont Senate with a vote of 26 to 3, making the bill law and sending it to the Governor’s desk. The new state law gives power to the Vermont health department to require manufacturers to label or outright ban chemicals from children’s products sold in Vermont that the health department deems harmful.

Currently, the definition of “children’s products” is still being debated. For example, debate is underway if products that children commonly come in contact with, such as carpeting, should be included in the definition.

The Vermont legislature follows The Children’s Safe Products Act  enacted in the state of Washington as well as state laws in California and Maine. As part of the Washington state law, the state has established a Reporting List of Chemicals of High Concern to Children (CHCC) independent of federal law.

Currently, one point of contention in efforts to reform the national Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the rights of states to enact stricter laws than the national level, with some national legislators arguing that a national chemicals law must preempt state rulings.

 

Naturepedic Founder Barry Cik Discusses Chemicals in Crib Mattresses and University of Texas Study

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

A recent study published February of this year by a team of environmental engineers from the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin has found that infants are exposed to high levels of chemical emissions from crib mattresses.

Below, Naturepedic founder Barry A. Cik explores aspects related to this report to provide a greater understanding of the overall topic of chemicals in crib mattresses.

 

Friends and Colleagues,

I’ve been asked by several people to comment on the University of Texas study regarding chemicals in crib mattresses.  In particular, people want to understand the practical implications of chemicals in crib mattresses.  I’ll use a Q & A format.

 Are Chemicals Really a Problem?

The chemical problem is quite well established.  For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics says the following:

“Over the past several decades, tens of thousands of chemicals have entered commerce and the environment, often in extremely large quantities…A growing body of research indicates potential harm to child health from a range of chemical substances…there is widespread human exposure to many of these substances…These chemicals are found throughout the tissues and body fluids of children and adults alike…”   [Policy Statement – Chemical Management Policy: Prioritizing Children’s Health; American Academy of  Pediatrics, April 25, 2011; http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/04/25/peds.2011-0523 ]

Naturepedic Founder Barry A. Cik talks chemical safety during the grand opening of the company's Beverly Hills gallery

Naturepedic Founder Barry A. Cik talks chemicals during the grand opening of the company’s California gallery

There are approximately 84,000 chemicals in the marketplace.  Most have been created since World War II, and never existed on planet Earth before.  An additional 1,000 new chemicals are created every year.  Most (actually, virtual all) chemicals have never been tested for toxicity or health concerns.  The EPA has the authority to take action for many other concerns, but, for chemicals, the EPA has virtually no authority.  Of the 84,000 chemicals in the marketplace, the EPA has so far banned five (5).

What Are the Primary Types of Chemicals of Concern in Crib Mattresses?

Flame Retardant Chemicals -  These primarily include Phosphate, Brominated, and sometimes Chlorinated or Antimony Flame Retardants.  When a chemical gets undue attention, and certainly if it gets banned, manufacturers tend to turn to other flame retardant chemicals.  But these substitutions are frequently known as “regrettable substitutions” because the new versions generally prove to be no better than the previous versions.  Various flame retardant chemicals have been associated with toxicity, mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, developmental issues, endocrine disruption, and reproductive issues, etc.

Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs) – PFCs are used as water-repellants and stain-repellants, and are frequently used to make the surface fabric of a crib mattress water-repellant.  In addition to being carcinogenic, one fairly recent study associated perfluorinated compounds with Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities [Philip J. Landrigan, Children’s Environmental Health Center, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York & Luca Lambertini, National Institutes of Health; published in Environmental Health Perspectives, Volume 120, Number 7, July 2012.]

Phthalates – Phthalates are used to soften vinyl, and are linked to cancer and developmental issues.  Six phthalate chemicals were banned by Congress several years ago (as part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008) and a seventh has been added to California Prop 65.  Meanwhile, there are at least an additional seven or eight new phthalate versions now on the market, as well as other phthalate substitutes, which are technically legal (i.e. not banned) and are being used.  No one knows the effects of these substitute chemicals, and whether they will ultimately be shown to have better or worse or substantially the same health concerns.

Where Are Flame Retardants Found?

They can be found in the surface fabric of a crib mattress, and/or in a flame barrier directly beneath the surface fabric, and/or in the foam inside the mattress.  Most synthetic fabrics on the market are flame-resistant because flame-retardant chemicals have been added into the fibers when the synthetic fibers were made.  In the case of natural fabrics, being that the fibers themselves are natural and not synthetically created, the flame-retardant chemicals are generally added at any of several later stages of the fabric processing.

What About Using “Inherently” Flame Resistant Fabrics?

The industry sometimes uses the word “inherently” loosely.  When a mattress manufacturer buys a fabric to be used on the mattress, the mattress manufacturer generally would not even know the exact chemical formulation of the fabric (which may have been made by a third party, and perhaps in China), and would not know what flame retardant chemicals have been added into the fibers.  If the fabric that is used on the mattress passes the flammability test, then the mattress manufacturer will frequently simply call it an “inherently” flame-retardant fabric.  However, the only truly “inherently” flame-resistant fabrics in the marketplace are fabrics that are made with fiberglass.

What About “Soybean Foam”?

Soybean Foam, Soy Foam, Eco Foam, Harvest Foam ™, Plant Derived Foam, etc. are all marketing terms.  They are all Polyurethane Foam, except that some soybean or castor oil has been used to replace some of the polyols in the mix.  The Law Label regulations require that these materials not be identified by their marketing terms.  Rather, they must be identified by their correct technical term – which is Polyurethane Foam.

What About GREENGUARD and Other Certification Programs?

GREENGUARD is an excellent emissions certification program (and was introduced to the mattress community by Naturepedic).  However, even GREENGUARD has its limits.  For example, GREENGUARD only tests for the legally banned phthalates, but doesn’t test for all the replacements in the marketplace that are being used.  There are other certification programs available as well.  In each case, it is helpful to understand what is and is not being tested or evaluated.

Of all the certification options available in the marketplace, the certified organic program offered by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the most thorough.  It requires the use of certified organic fabrics and fill, and provides a high degree of chemical safety vetting for all other non-organic components that are required in a mattress.

How Do We Stop the Use of Inappropriate Chemicals?

Manufacturers and consumers can take several steps right now.  Chemicals of concern used in the manufacturing of a mattress can be replaced with less hazardous alternatives.  This reduces the risk up-front.  Then, exposure can frequently be limited in the product design and/or by separating the baby from the consumer item.  In the case of a crib mattress, this might include the use of an organic pad over the mattress.  Then, of course, manufacturers should be required to disclose and be transparent regarding what is being offered to the consumer.

Ultimately, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it best:  “Manufacturers of chemicals are not required to test chemicals before they are marketed…Concerns about chemicals are permitted to be kept from the public…those who propose to market a chemical must be mandated to provide evidence that the product has been tested…relevant to the special needs of pregnant women and children…”   [ibid]

-  Barry A. Cik

 

Are Your Lawn and Garden Pesticides Poisoning You?

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

After a long, hard winter, gardening season is finally upon us. Naturally, we want to have the prettiest lawn and the most productive flower and vegetable gardens possible. And many of us rely on chemicals to achieve that. But did you know that the chemicals we use on our lawns and gardens are infiltrating our lungs, the food we eat and water we drink, and are even being absorbed through our skin?

The pesticides drift from our yards into the air in our homes, land on our tables, chairs, couches, beds and so on. Tests conducted on the levels of pesticides in our home have shown a 10-fold increase before and after outdoor application.

baby_lawnHow many people are affected by these chemicals? A study conducted by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did blood and urine testing for 23 pesticides on 9,282 people across the country. They found pesticides in 100% of those who did both the blood and urine testing. The average person carried 13 of 23 pesticides tested.

How Dangerous is the Presence of Pesticides in Our Body?

According to a June, 2013 beyondpesticides.com report – which consists of information gathered from the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), The Pesticide Management Education Program at Cornell University, European Union Commission on the Environment, and several other noteworthy sources – 30 of the most commonly used pesticides are associated with various types of human toxicity.

• 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogenicity
• 13 are linked with birth defects
• 21 with reproductive effects
• 26 with liver or kidney damage
• 15 with neurotoxicity
• 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system.

This might well be the answer to why the population of the U.S. is so ill compared to other countries.

And, of course, it’s even harder on children – whose immune systems are undeveloped and who tend to spend a lot more time on the grass, floors, chewing on their contaminated fingers and toys than we do.

Our homes, and the homes of our neighbors, are not the only places these pesticides wind up. Of those 30 pesticides in the beyondpesticides report, 17 are detected in groundwater, 23 have the ability to leach into drinking water sources, 24 are toxic to fish and other aquatic organisms vital to our ecosystem, 11 are toxic to bees, and 16 are toxic to birds.

What Are Your Alternatives to Toxic Pesticides?

Eartheasy recommends compost, corn gluten, and offers a host of other natural lawn care tips. Check them out and see which ones work for you.

And enjoy your garden!!

Are You Getting the Whole Truth About Your Personal Body Care Products?

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

 

Toxic chemicals in mom’s body pass through to the baby

warning dangerous chemicalsCreating a healthy environment for our kids doesn’t start with the food we feed them, the personal products we use to keep them clean, the air they breathe or the materials we use to clothe them.  It starts with their very first home – mom.

So many things in mom’s body pass through to the baby during development in the womb, it’s extremely important for mom to make the right decisions about her own food, her personal care products, the air she breathes and the materials she uses for clothes.

For the uninitiated, it might seem difficult to figure all that out. Especially with the rampant ‘green-washing’ – labels that make a product look safe for us and for the environment when, in fact, it’s not.

Let’s take personal body care products – soaps, lotions, shampoos, body lotions, cosmetics, and so on – as an example.

Are Body Care Products with Natural Ingredients Safe?

You’ve probably seen many personal body care product with special labels – not just the ingredients list, but a little special announcement on the front of the container. They say the product is made with or contains aloe vera, coconut oil, honey, natural botanical extracts, shea butter, lavender, milk, essential oils, Vitamin E, or any number of ingredients that seem, and may well be, natural, or even organic.

A perfect example of green-washing. And very effective on those who are not aware of green-washing techniques.

When I first saw these products on the shelf I was still uneducated in this arena. I bought them and used them, pretty proud of myself for taking the high road with my health.

Then I looked into things a little more and, what do you know, it turned out that the aloe vera, shea butter or botanical extracts only represented a tiny fraction of the ingredients. Many of the remaining ingredients were either proven to be toxic or were linked to diseases of various sorts – even though the cause and effect had not been fully established.

That ‘fully established’ thing can be really tricky. Sure, they haven’t proven it’s going to kill you, but when there’s a lot of evidence pointing in that direction, why take the chance?!

Don’t be Fooled by Green-washing – Read and Understand the Ingredients

Okay – reading the ingredients is one thing, pronouncing them another, and understanding their significance yet another. Fortunately, we don’t all have to quit our jobs and spend all of our time researching chemicals – plenty of others are already doing that, that’s their job.

One of the best sources of such information – which chemicals are safe in personal care products and which are not – is the Environmental Working Group.

Here’s a list from them – chemicals you should avoid in personal care products and cosmetics – which I edited for the sake of brevity. More info on these chemicals is available on a special page of EWG’s website, under “Shopping tips by ingredients”:

BHA: Reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen (agent that causes cancer). Can cause skin depigmentation, liver damage, stomach cancers, reproductive and hormonal system malfunction.

Boric acid and Sodium borate: Disrupts hormones, harms the male reproductive system, causes testicular damage to mice, rats, and dogs in studies.

Coal tar hair dyes and other coal tar ingredients (including Aminophenol, Diaminobenzene, Phenylenediamine): A known human carcinogen.

Formaldehyde: A known human carcinogen, causes asthma, neurotoxin, developmental toxin.

Formaldehyde releasers – Bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea, Imidzaolidinyl urea and Quaternium-15: They kill bacteria, but they also generate formaldehyde. Enough said.

Fragrance: Can contain hormone disruptors. Fragrances are also among the top 5 allergens in the world. Recent research from EWG and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found an average of 14 chemicals in 17 name brand fragrance products, none of them listed on the label.

Hydroquinone: Tumor development and a skin disease called ochronosis –blue-black lesions that, in the worst cases, become permanent black caviar-size bumps.

Lead: This neurotoxin relates mostly to men as it is found in Grecian Formula 16 and other men’s black hair dyes for men. But the lead from the dyes travels from hair to doorknobs, cabinets and other household items which when touched, may be absorbed through the skin of women and children.

Methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone and benzisothiazolinone: Preservatives. Among the most common irritants, sensitizers and causes of contact allergy. Lab studies on mammalian brain cells suggest that methylisothiazolinone may be neurotoxic.

Nanoparticles: Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles appear to be among the safer and more effective active ingredients in U.S.-marketed sunscreen creams because they do not penetrate the skin. But avoid sprays and powders containing these nanoparticles, which could penetrate your lungs and enter your bloodstream.

Oxybenzone: Linked to irritation, sensitization and allergies. Can cause decreased birth weight among newborn baby girls and greater birth weight in newborn boys. Studies on cells and laboratory animals indicate that oxybenzone and its metabolites may disrupt the hormone system.

Parabens (specifically Propyl-, Isopropyl-, Butyl-, and Isobutyl- parabens): Mimic estrogen, disrupting the endocrine system and causing reproductive and developmental disorders.

PEGs/Ceteareth/Polyethylene compounds: Frequently contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a probable human carcinogen.

Petroleum distillates: May cause contact dermatitis and are often contaminated with cancer-causing impurities.

Phthalates: Studies indicate damage to the male reproductive system.

Resorcinol: Skin irritant, toxic to the immune system and frequent cause of hair dye allergy. Can disrupt normal thyroid function.

Toluene: Generally found in nail polish, exposure to toluene vapors during pregnancy may impair fetal development. Associated with toxicity to the immune system, and possibly linked to malignant lymphoma.

Triclosan & Triclocarban: Disrupts thyroid function and reproductive hormones.

Vitamin A compounds (retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinol): When applied to sun-exposed skin these compounds can increase skin sensitivity. Sunlight breaks down vitamin A to produce toxic free radicals that can damage DNA and hasten skin lesions and tumors in lab animals.

Many of these chemicals stay in the body for a very long time. So, if you’re pregnant, or could become so, make sure you don’t fall for those green-washing labels. Instead, always check the ingredients in your personal care products and choose products that you know are safe for yourself and your baby.

In fact, everyone should do this. Why take a chance with potential poisons being absorbed into your body?

Want to Do Something About It? Get Into Grass Roots Chemical Reform

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

mind the store

Let’s face it, not too many corporations are socially conscious enough to make changes in the products they manufacture or sell just because they contain chemicals suspected of causing health problems. Changes can be expensive, so they’re not likely to happen, unless the government steps in with new laws and regulations that even the playing field for everyone. But even without that official pressure, big corporations can be moved in the right direction.

How?

There is one person who can exert enough pressure on a company to force them to do something – and that person is you.

On April 16, 2014, for example, the public – you – descended on 50 different Walgreens stores and returned products that contained toxic chemicals. They also delivered postcards to the managers. The move to get Walgreens to do more to get rid of these products has been ongoing for some time. In the last year, consumers and health professionals have sent Walgreens 60,000 letters on the subject. But today’s blitz was motivated by a recent study.

The study, for which 44 products were purchased from Walgreens and then analyzed for toxic chemicals, was conducted over the last few months.

What did the study find?

According to HealthyStuff.org, which conducted the study, the products contained chlorine, PVC, phthalates, antimony-based and brominated flame retardants, organotins (chemicals identified by Methyl and Butyl in their names – you’ve seen them on the shelves, and even lead. And all were present in amounts that set off alarms.

This study, and the recent events at Walgreens, are part of a Safer Chemicals Healthy Families project called Mind the Store – a project that is working towards getting the 10 largest retailers to change their ways when it comes to serving up potentially dangerous chemicals.

The specific chemicals Mind the Store focuses on are the Hazardous 100+, which have been linked to everything from cancer to endocrine disruption and developmental and reproductive abnormalities. Here’s a full list of the chemicals and the references regarding their toxicity.

A lot of progress has been made, but since Walgreens was lagging a bit behind, Mind the Store decided to step up the pressure with today’s actions.

Not that Walgreens has been stagnant by any means. The company even developed their own ‘green’ brand, called Ology.

Across the board, most of the progress made on getting rid of toxic chemicals in consumer goods has been the result of consumer demand.

At Naturepedic, we involve ourselves in many such projects. In just the last few weeks, Barry Cik, our founder, spoke at the Great Lakes Green Chemistry Conference and our David Anthony (you may have seen him at one of our events) lobbied the White House (see his blog Meet Me at the White House). We also joined Companies for Safer Chemicals. That’s just a few of the projects we’re involved in.

You CAN affect the changes you’re looking for. You CAN affect the laws, and you CAN motivate retailers.

All you have to do is find and support a grassroots activity – to whatever extent works for you. Every bit counts.

Meet Me at the White House

Friday, April 11th, 2014

(c) wikipedia

Many years ago, I had the chance to meet the President of the United States. The honor and reverence that the Presidency deserves also applies to other distinctly American offices, buildings, and processes. So, when I had the chance to lobby at The White House before The White House Environmental Council, my patriotism swelled and I took the assignment more serious than any other effort. Speaking of serious, I was fortunate to be discussing one of the most serious and important issues facing our nation and our citizens . . . potential reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act.

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed by the United States Congress in 1976. Just to put that into perspective, in 1976 gas was $.59 a gallon, Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford for the Presidency, Nadia Comaneci was winning gold in the Olympics, and some upstart named Sylvester Stallone was in a new movie called “Rocky.”

TSCA was supposed to regulate the introduction of new or already existing chemicals. Many have viewed it as a tremendous failure mostly due to the fact that it grandfathered most existing chemicals at the time – while also giving chemical manufacturers a long period of time to introduce new, untested chemicals before the new law took effect.

Bottom line, it is absurd and scary the lack of impact this legislation has had in protecting our fellow Americans. Seriously… is this a joke… our government leaders haven’t addressed the use of dangerous chemicals in our lives and consumer products in nearly 40 years?

Last year, the bipartisan team of Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced legislation to start the TSCA review process. Tragically, Lautenberg died a short time later but there is still activity in Congress to get something done in 2014 with either modified or new TSCA related bills.

Although these efforts are good news, the devil is in the details and concerned citizens should push for TSCA reform that protects consumers. The chemical industry also claims to be supportive of TSCA reform but that should be greeted with a raised eyebrow. The bad bills that are currently introduced could actually do more harm than good. A bad bill supported by the chemical industry could give them tremendous protections, remove concerns about current state requirements, all the while giving them the chance to feign being a good corporate citizen.

newlogoOur company, Naturepedic, is a great story: we make organic crib and adult mattresses. We were founded 10 years ago when our owner, an environmental scientist with a prolific chemical background, went into a baby store to buy a crib mattress for his grandchild. Thanks to his technical science background, he knew it was ludicrous to put a baby on a mattress made with plasticizers, flame retardants and other questionable chemicals.

In a life changing moment, upon his questioning, the clerk stated, “Well, it must be safe or else the government wouldn’t allow us to sell it.” The truth is, there are around 80,000 chemicals in use today with only a miniscule fraction that have truly been tested for their potentially dangerous impacts. Most average citizens have no idea what chemicals they are exposing themselves to and the government has failed them.

The good news is there are some great companies leading the fight. As stated, Naturepedic doesn’t want you or your baby sleeping on a pile of chemicals.

The American Sustainable Business Council is leading the fight to remove harmful chemicals from consumer products. Naturepedic and Lullaby Earth support this initiative. Other responsible companies like, for example, Seventh Generation and Ben and Jerry’s, have also joined with the ASBC to remove harmful chemicals from consumer products.

There are “better” chemicals . . . and there are better ways of doing things without some chemicals . . . and if done correctly, TSCA reform could be one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed. Congress still teeters around 18% approval ratings. Here is a bipartisan effort that both sides could agree on that would mean everything to the safety of our people . . . whether they knew it or not. Editorial boards across the country need to become engaged and use their influence to let Congress know this is one issue they better get right.

Naturepedic at 2014 Great Lakes Green Chemistry Conference

Friday, April 4th, 2014

2014-logo

Naturepedic Founder Barry Cik was a panelist speaker at the 2014 Great Lakes Green Chemistry Conference, held in Cleveland, Ohio April 1-3. This year’s focus was “Innovating for Success in Green Chemistry”.

Active in organizations at both the national and local levels, Cik has long been a champion of finding safer, healthier alternatives for companies to make products and conduct business.

Barry_GLGCC

Naturepedic founder Barry Cik takes the podium at the Great Lakes Green Chemistry Conference in Cleveland, Ohio

The conference explored how innovations in green chemistry can accelerate change in the Great Lakes Region (where Naturepedic is based), not just in business, but also in policy and public health and safety. The conference looked at ways to promote collaboration between business, academia, and legislators.

Naturepedic was previously recognized by an award from the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) as a charter member for its 2025 Safer Chemistry Challenge Program.

The Challenge Program, began by NPPR in collaboration with the Great Lakes Green Chemistry Conference and Clean Production Action, recognizes company operations that reduce the use of hazardous and toxic chemicals by finding and selecting alternative, safer materials and chemistries.