Archive for the ‘Chemicals in consumer products’ Category

3 Spring Cleaning Tips For Your Healthiest Home Yet

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Non-toxic spring cleaning tips

The daunting chore of spring cleaning marks an opportunity to make your home less toxic. There are many hidden hazardous chemicals in common cleaning products and household items—from glass cleaner to hand soap to your living room sofa—so we’ve compiled a short to-do list to help make your home safer. This list is not extensive, but it’s a start. And, by completing these three simple tasks you can start removing many questionable chemicals from your family’s abode.

Alright, let’s detoxify:

  1. Ditch antibacterial & toxic cleaning products:
  2. Did you know that products labelled “antibacterial’ or ”antimicrobial” contain pesticides? Or that many common cleaning products contain ingredients like ammonia and coal tar dyes? Unfortunately, American manufacturers are not required to warn consumers about the health and environmental hazards associated with long-term exposure to chemical ingredients in cleaning products.

    Preventative measures: forgo cleaners with a laundry list of chemical ingredients. Try ones with simple, non-toxic ingredients. Some reputable brands to consider are Method, Molly’s Suds and Seventh Generation. Or, save some money by trying these easy-to-make homemade mixtures:

    General cleaner: one part white vinegar and nine parts water—spray it on and let it dry on its own. When you’re finished cleaning, dump the solution down your garbage disposal or toilet. (bonus tip: add lemon juice for increased odor control)

    Glass cleaner: mix one part white vinegar with one part water, and spray.

    Kitchen counter cleaner: first, wipe your surface with hot, soapy water using unscented castile soap and then follow with a vinegar-water solution. (bonus tip: spray a little hydrogen peroxide after using your vinegar-water mixture to kill extra germs)

  3. Avoid flame retardant chemicals and chemical barriers:
  4. Some are potentially very harmful, like: Flame retardant chemicals surround us. They can be in everything from our curtains, bedding and carpet to our couches, mattresses and other upholstered furniture. And some are potentially very harmful, like:

    Halogenated flame retardants: (also known as organohalogen flame retardants) contain chlorine or bromine bonded to carbon.

    Organophosphorous flame retardants: contain phosphorous bonded to carbon.

    These chemicals are seriously everywhere. According to the New York Times, “Flame retardants have been found in Antarctic penguins and Arctic orcas; in North American kestrels and barn owls; in bird eggs in Spain, fish in Canada and, indirectly, in bees — honey from Brazil, Morocco, Spain and Portugal has been found tainted with flame retardants.

    Refresh your bedroom and nursery with mattresses, as well as sheets and pillow covers, made without flame retardant chemicals or chemical barriers. Avoid new furniture that has a tag that says “complies with California Technical Bulletin 117.” California requires all upholstered furniture to be flame retardant and nearly all furniture sold in the U.S. is compliant with California law.

  5. Go unscented (for the most part):
  6. “Whether it’s your car air freshener, laundry detergent, cologne, or ‘pine fresh’ after shave, if it’s scented, it’s likely laden with phthalates,” according to the Center for Environmental Health (CEH). In other words, anything labeled “fragrance” or “perfume,” if not derived from natural ingredients like essential oils, may include questionable chemicals. Heather Patisaul, a phthalate researcher at North Carolina State University told CEH, “You’ll usually just see the generic term ‘fragrance’ to describe a proprietary mixture of chemicals.”

    To avoid irritating allergens, buy unscented products (that are also free from harmful chemicals… see Tip #1… even unscented products can contain harmful ingredients) and stop using air fresheners. To deodorize your home, try opening up a few windows and setting out a cup of baking soda.

PS. Don’t forget your four-legged family members. Artificial and various natural scents can really irritate a dog’s nose. Their sense of smell is way more sensitive (about 10,000x more!) than ours.

We hope you have found these simple spring cleaning tips informative and useful. Join us. Make a pledge to detoxify your house, for your safety and for our plant. Please share your non-toxic spring cleaning tips with us on Twitter by tweeting @NaturepedicYou —Happy detoxifying!

Making Decisions Monday: Action Items for a Safer Toy Holiday or Birthday

Monday, November 17th, 2014

When beginning your research for safer toys, start here to learn more about wood toys, and don’t forget my key questions to ask yourself before purchasing a plastic toy.

While we can’t replace everything in our house immediately (it’s too expensive for me, even if I could get my kids to give up many of the toys they love at once!), we can strive to make better choices going forward, and holidays and birthdays make a great opportunity to do so.

christmas-gifts

1) Tell your friends and family that you are looking to make more conscious decisions about the toys you’re bringing into your home. Recommend some brands you’re interested in (here and here are some suggestions), and offer key terms they should look for on packaging and websites.

Key terms: Organic, BPA-free, Phthalate-free or nonphthalate, type of plastic (food grade preferred)

Terms to avoid if they are unsubstantiated: Eco-friendly, Green, Natural, Non-Toxic. Ask yourself why they are Eco-friendly, Green, Natural or Non-Toxic. If the company explains that their toys are made with food-grade plastic, or use a certified non-toxic paint, etc, then Yes! Feel comfortable in making your judgment call based on that factual information rather than an unsubstantiated and unregulated claim.

2) If you have a particular brand or toy you’re interested in lacking details about how the toys are made, don’t hesitate to reach out to the manufacturer and ask their Quality Assurance team or Customer Service, but make them aware that you understand that though they may comply with federal standards, you are looking for toys which go above and beyond in chemical safety for children.

3) This is a great opportunity to ask for replacement toys that regularly go in the mouth with safer alternatives. This year, on my kids’ Christmas wish list (which I luckily still get to make for them), I am asking for replacement play food items and bath toys. You may also be interested in replacing things like tea sets, whistles, horns and recorders, and teethers.

Happy shopping!

Making Decisions Monday: Questions to Ask Before Purchasing Plastic Toys

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Thanks for joining me on our hunt for safer toys! Last week, we talked about wood toys for toddlers and preschoolers, like my own 19 month old daughter and nearly 4 year old son.

I was on a mission to find safer action figures and dinosaur toys my son might still be interested in playing with. The wood toys I found didn’t meet that criteria, though there are some available. We all need to find our own level of comfort with what we provide to our children, so I began to look for some safer plastic toy options.

plastic-baby-dolls

PLASTIC TOYS

Here are the questions I ask myself when looking at plastic toys, in order of what I personally consider to be the most important factors regarding safety.

1) Is it BPA free or non-detectable?

Generally, I only thought of Bisphenol A as it relates to baby cups and bottles, food storage containers, etc. However, BPA is a phthalate, and a report done by HealthyStuff.org revealed that BPA was reported in certain toys just a few years ago. This year, the EU has further regulated BPA in toys effective by the end of 2015.

Bottom line: If the manufacturer doesn’t state that they are BPA-free on their website or on the product packaging, then consider reaching out to their Customer Service or Quality Assurance team directly for confirmation, or visit HealthyStuff.org to see if they have a report on the product you’re interested in.
However, remember that BPA testing isn’t required currently for toys, and a manufacturer may state that they are compliant.

2) Is it phthalate-free or non-detectable?

bath-toys

There are plenty of concerns you may have about PVC and other types of plastic, but my bigger concern is the effects of the plasticizers which soften plastic, specifically phthalates. Only six types of phthalates are regulated in the US for toys. It’s not enough, for my personal peace of mind, to have the manufacturer state that they are complying with the CPSC/CPSIA phthalates requirement.

Bottom line: Look for a manufacturer or packaging to say phthalate-free or nonphthalate, though remember phthalates may also be in inks, so look carefully at the language used.

A manufacturer is also dependent on working in cooperation with their suppliers, and while no phthalates may intentionally be added, the term phthalate-free may be misleading. You can ask for test results of a toy to see what phthalates it has been tested for specifically. Or, you can also look for toys made of a hard plastic. It’s less likely (though not guaranteed) that a hard plastic toy would contain phthalates anyway.

3) Is it PVC-free?

There are a lot of types of plastics, but this one gets some of the worst press. If you’re interested in learning more about plastic from its chemical footprint during manufacturing to health hazards, I’d invite you to read the Plastics Score Card v. 1.0.

Bottom line: Brands using food-grade plastic like polyethylene are a better bet. However, I am more comfortable giving my son a phthalate-free plastic made of PVC than my daughter, who is still putting toys in her mouth.

Bonus Question: Is it recycled?

We can all feel better for the environment and our health buying a toy made of recycled plastic! Plastic doesn’t break down easily in the environment. Here are some brands I found using recycled plastic.

Bruder Trucks
Green Toys
Sprig Toys

The following brands as of this publication date have plastic toys which are BPA- and/or phthalate-free. Be sure to research and double check yourself for your own peace of mind. Remember that formulas and manufacturing processes may change over the years.

Disclaimer: By listing these brands, neither I nor Naturepedic are endorsing them over another brand with similar qualifications. Nor have we tested all of these products or contacted each brand individually. I used publicly available information, reached out as a consumer to a few customer service agents, and made decisions about what to include here based upon: the types of toys I am seeking for my kids, their ages, and the level of comfort I have personally with the safety and quality information provided by each company.

B. Toys/Terra (Owned by Battat)
Boon
Crocodile Creek
Infantino
Lego
Spielstabil
WOW Toys

Next week I’ll be discussing action items you can do to help your loved ones select safer toys for gift-giving, including key terms to look for on packaging.

Wellness Within Your Walls

Friday, November 7th, 2014

I attended a wonderful webinar sponsored by the Sustainable Furnishings Council in which interior designer Jillian Pritchard Cooke spoke on the importance of better indoor air quality. She also discussed how the furnishings in a home play a part.

DES-SYN interior designs consider environmental and health impacts

DES-SYN interior designs consider environmental and health impacts

The webinar was entitled Reducing Harmful Toxins in the Home: Combating the tight box syndrome. Tight box syndrome, also called sick building syndrome, refers to a health condition created by modern houses and offices where indoor contaminants remain circulating in in the air, trapped by the tight seals of today’s buildings like air in in a spaceship.

Pritchard Cooke is a principal at design firm DES-SYN and the founder of Wellness Within Your Walls, an organization dedicated to not only reducing toxins during the interior design process but also in promoting more sustainable and responsible materials. She said she became focused on designing more eco-friendly living spaces after she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, which she suspects was caused by years of working with off-gassing furnishings and flooring, paints and finishes.

According to Pritchard Cooke, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consistently ranks indoor air pollution in the top five environmental risks to public health. She also points out that science is far from understanding how the combination of multiple indoor pollutants, ranging from flame retardants in our furniture to VOCs in our paint, combine together to impact our health.

Part of the problem, according to Pritchard Cooke, is that during many interior design projects an entire room or series of rooms get huge doses of NEW: new paint, new carpeting, new sofas, new windows … new, new, new. The problem is these new additions often off gas VOCs, and the home is suddenly swamped with odors and chemicals at one time. Furthermore, tightly sealed windows and doors keep the chemicals inside, ready for our lungs.

Some solutions, she said, are common sense, even though they are often overlooked. For example, open windows, when realistic, factoring in of course weather and outdoor allergens. Also, If possible, allow new furnishings to breathe in a garage or open space out of their protective plastic wrappers instead of bringing sealed products into the home.

kitchen_4

A beautiful kitchen design from Jillian Pritchard Cooke and company

Pritchard Cooke points out fabrics can also contain a variety of additives, from waterproofing agents to flame retardants, which affect air quality. So many additives can be found in fabrics she points out that some people with chemical sensitivities can have adverse effects from even going into clothing stores full of brand new clothing items.

Of course finding healthier options that aren’t releasing high levels of harmful chemicals is ideal. Pritchard Cooke points out that integrating antiques and legacy items that have long since cured can not only help to protect indoor air quality but also reduce waste and use of energy and natural resources.

California’s Green Chemistry Initiative Debuts Draft of Three Year Work Plan

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Logo for California Green Chemistry InitiativeLooking to encourage the creation of safer consumer products, the state of California under its Green Chemistry Initiative launched a draft of its Three Year Work Plan. The draft plan, published in September of 2014, will ultimately focus on specific Priority Products and their associated chemistries for which safer chemical alternatives must be evaluated. By focusing on select products, the plan hopes to encourage overall “market shifts toward a green economy.”

Over the next three years the plan will limit its evaluations to seven broad product categories:

  •  Beauty and Personal Care
  • Building Products and Household, Office Furniture and Furnishings
  • Cleaning Products
  • Clothing
  •  Fishing and Angling Equipment
  •  Office Machinery and
  • Clothing

Specific types of products within the categories have also been identified for further examination. At this stage specific products have yet to be chosen, with the plan instead looking to lay the roadmap for future regulatory actions by California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the agency responsible for the plan.

The seven categories and their product types were selected after rigorous study and debate, each selected based on multiple aspects such as potential exposures or end-of-life effects.

For example, beauty and personal care was selected not only because products are directly applied to the body, but also because chemical ingredients are often not disclosed. Additionally, this category was selected as common ingredients are known as hazardous for humans and wildlife and may pass through wastewater treatment plants.

Potential chemicals used in health and beauty products being considered for safer chemistries include phthalates, toluene, Triclosan, aldehydes and more, but other chemicals could be later added. beakers

The plan intends on selecting a limited number of Priority Products over the next three years, and expects that likely no more than ten products will be added each year.

Taking a long-view approach, the plan looks to be part of an overall design and approach shift in manufacturing toward safer chemistries. While this ambitious plan only is for California, it will likely be watched by other states and if successful even impact national chemical policies.

Making Decisions Monday: Safer Toys for Toddlers & Preschoolers

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

About 6 months ago, I came to work for Naturepedic just a few months after purchasing my own new mattress (sadly, non-Naturepedic). Imagine my surprise and disappointment as I began to learn the complexities of this industry and the chemicals that surround us on a daily basis. I quickly learned that organic is not just about food.

Working here, I’ve had the benefit of being exposed to a lot of knowledge about toxic chemicals, regulations, and above all, the impact chemicals can and do have on my children. I won’t pretend to be an expert: I’m a mom learning to reevaluate the world I live in day-to-day.

One of the most important lessons I learned early on was to pick one thing important to me to begin to change. Re-stocking and replacing an entire household is too overwhelming (and expensive). Since that time, I’ve changed a few things from cleaning products to my kids’ pajamas.

I’ve recently begun tackling my biggest challenge yet: my children’s toys.

weekend-playtime

I have a 19 month old daughter and my son is almost 4. I have his birthday and Christmas approaching. This year, I wanted to make more conscious decisions about what toys we bring into our home at holiday time.

Listen, I’m realistic. Kids love plastic toys. I’m not buying only toys made out of wood, or completely organic (though there are some great ones I’m considering!). I certainly can’t control everything that other family members purchase for our kids. They are, after all, the only grandchildren, niece or nephew, on either side of the family!

And so began my venture in finding safer toys to recommend for gift-giving to toddlers and preschoolers.

WOOD TOYS

blocksI assumed that wooden toys were inherently safe, but that’s not strictly true. Does a painted piece chip off? In my opinion, that’s unacceptable, even if we are confident that that paint is lead-free. While there are a lot of non-toxic paints (some are actually even certified), I also looked for wooden toys which have a natural stain or sealant.

Here are some brands I discovered in my search whose toys I would feel comfortable giving to my kids.

Disclaimer: This is not an all-inclusive list. There are a lot of great brands making safe wooden toys, brands using better plastics, as well as manufacturers of organic cotton plush toys and blankets. By listing these brands, neither I nor Naturepedic are endorsing them over another brand with similar qualifications. Nor have we tested all of these products or contacted each brand individually. I used publicly available information, reached out as a consumer to a few customer service agents, and made decisions about what to include here based upon: the types of toys I am seeking for my kids, their ages, and the level of comfort I have personally with the safety and quality information provided by each company. If you have a recommended addition, we’d be happy to hear about it!

anaMalz
Haba
Hape
Kid Kraft
NovaNatural
Plan Toys
Smart Gear/Wonderworld

Next week, I’ll be talking about safer plastic toys. There’s definitely some debate about whether any plastic can considered safer, but I feel like I can do my part to make more responsible choices as I’m able. Stay tuned for key questions you should ask yourself before buying a plastic toy.

Avoiding GMOs – what are your current options?

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

We believe consumers should have a right to know what they are eating and drinking (AND sleeping on!) In a previous post we mentioned our partnership with Just Label It, an organization advocating (more…)

Study Connects Phthalate Exposure in Moms, Asthma in Children

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

A study released by Columbia University has found a connection between mothers exposed during pregnancy to high levels of two commonly used phthalates, BBP and DBP (also referenced as BBzP and (more…)

The Irony of Flame Retardants in Water: How These Chemicals Are Moving From Our Couches to Our Rivers

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Naturepedic mattresses don’t contain chemical flame retardants, compounds with suspected connections to human health and developmental problems. Jillian Pritchard Cooke, an interior designer specializing (more…)

New Government Report on Phthalates Sends Mixed Messages

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Phthalates are chemical plasticizers used to make plastics like vinyl pliable or soft, and they are in almost everyone’s blood.  These chemicals are used in all types of products including children’s items (more…)