Article from Natural Awakenings by Randy Kambic August, 2013
Looking around us, we see plastic everywhere. Besides the customary food and product packaging, plus store bags, consider all the nooks and crannies of our lives that plastic now permeates: eating utensils; baby and pet toys; computer keyboards and accessories; pens; eyeglasses; athletic footwear; backpacks; lighters; ice cube trays; shaving razors; tool handles; hairbrushes and toothbrushes–even some facial scrubs, shampoos and chewing gum.
Beth Terry, author of Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Habit and How You Can Too, points our compelling reasons to take personal action. In 2007, this Oakland, California, resident saw a photo of the decomposed carcass of a Laysan albatross riddled with plastic bits in an article on water pollution.
“For several seconds, I could not breathe,”she writes. This seminal moment led her to further research, by which she realized, “Thisplague of plastic chemicals is harming everyone, and especially the most vunerable members or our planet–children and amimals–and that is both unacceptable and unfair.” She’s been working on going plastic-free ever since.
I made a game of it; a fun, creative, step-by-step challenge,” she advises. “You can’t go through the house and think you can get rid of all plastic immediately. As items get used up, you’ll find alternatives.” Once we are in the habit of staying alert to the plastic scourge, we’ll naturally spot opportunities for healthy change-ups.
Science Sounds the Alarm
In 2011, Harvard School of Public Health researchers made news by discovering that consuming one serving of canned food daily for five days led to significantly elevated urinary levels of bisphenol-A (BPA). This plastic and epoxy resin ingredient is found in the liners of many food and drink cans and sometimes in plastic bottles. It’s know to be a serious endocrine disrupter.
Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, altered functions of reproductive organs and other ailments have been linked to high BPA levels in several studies, including one cited in Endocrine Reviews journal. The Manchester Guardian also recently reported that the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety has stated that an unborn baby’s exposure to BPA through the mother could be linked to many health problems, including breast cancer later in life.
When plastics are subjected to stress–like heat, light or age–undisclosed additives used in their production for strength, flexibility and color can leach out and even contaminate lab results, as the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry found. Such chemicals can migrate into our digestive systems and through our skin; they can also off-gas into the air, according to a recent study by Weber State University’s Energy & Sustainability Office, in Ogden, Utah. Plus, unrecycled plastic materials can enter waterways and kill maring life through ingestion or entanglement (ocean garbage patches are major examples). Reducing our own plastic footprint can both sageguard family health and prove that we are serious about pressuring industry to produce less of it. The key, according to Terry, is not to be intimidated or overwhelmed by plastic overload, but persist in taking baby steps (see MyPlasticFreeLife.com).
How To Begin
As a starting point, Terry notes that plastic enables the long-distance food distribution system. Reducing food miles associated with our meals helps cut down on the use of plastic. In the kitchen, use airtight stainless steel containers or recycled glass jars or simply refrigerate a bowl of fool with a saucer on top to hold leftovers for the next day. Compost food waste. Reuse empty plastic food bags and line garbage cans with old newspapers instead of plastic garbage bags.
Terry cautions, “People assume everything that carries the triangular sysbol is accepted at all recycling facilities. This is not the case. What isn’t accepted is landfill or even incinerated.” Also, according to the city of Oakland’s Waste Management Department, she learned that “Much of what we put out for recycling goes to China, and their processing standards are not as strong as ours.”
In Plastic Free, the author provides scores of tips for borrowing, renting and sharing products; buying used plastic equipment if it’s a necessity; and avoiding disposable packaging and paper products. Areas for improvement range from personal care and household cleaning products to bags, bottles, grocer shopping, takeout food, portable leftovers and lundhes, plus durable goods. Activists will move on to also particpate in area cleanups, donate to green organizations and write their legislators.
To learn what is acceptable recycled materials in your area, go to your city or county govenment websites.
Gail Griswold-Elwyn, founding president of Rethink Renovations of St. Louis, MO wrote an article for Healthy Living, Healthy Planet’s Natural Awakenings publication in April, 2013. The article explains why we should avoid five chemicals contained in cleaning products. The ariticle is entitled: Household Cleanse; Banish these Five Chemicals for a Domestic Detox.
“Americans are collectively more aware and educated than just a few years ago about the range of environmental chemicals we inhale and ingest, yet most still live with dangerous substances in their homes,” according to Jen Loui. Loui is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-accredited professional in St. Louis and an industry expert who writes green curricula for high schools across the country.
Guarding against pollution of indoor air is a good place to start; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ranted poor air quality among the leading environmental dangers, reporting links to many common health problems. Here’s how to rid the family home of the top five common household toxins.
Formaldehyde. Traces of this toxin, the same chemical used to embalm the deceased, pervade almost every room. “My clients are often shocked to learn that they likely ingest this toxic, cancer-causing chemical every day of their lives.” says P. Richelle White, a sustainable lifestyle coach and c0-owner of Herb’n Maid, a green cleaning and concierge service in St. Louis. “Because formaldehyde is often an ingredient in every day things like cosmetics, faux wood furniture and conventional cleaning products, they get a daily dose of it.”
Even at low levels, formaldehyde can cause eye, nose, throat and skin irritation and at its most malignant levels, it can cause severe allergic asthma, infertility and lymphoma, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Healthier choices: Switch to all-natural beauty products and cosmetics. At minimum, check that compressed wood fibers don’t use a formaldeyhde-based chemical as a binding agent; better yet, choose natural, reclaimed wood for interior surfaces and furnishings.
Polyvinyl chloride. PVC is omnipresent and dangerous. Water bottles, nylon backpacks, pipes, insulation and vinyl tiles generally contain PVC, as well as almost anything waterproof, such as baby changing mats, mattresses covers and shower curtains. PVC usually contains plasticisers called phthalates, which are released over time; it also can chemically combine with other organic materials to produce toxic dioxin byproducts. According to Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), PVC byproducts and vapors are endocrine disruptors that can mimic or block hormones in the body. In addition, the EPA has linked PVC to serious respiratory problems, immune suppression and cancer.
Heathier choices: Look for PVC-free plastics. When shopping for waterproofed items, choose those with coatings made from polyurethane or polyester. Choose 100 percent cotton shower curtains, which, by the way you can wash in the washing machine over and over instead of throwing it away in the garbage to sit in a landfill, forever.
Phthalates. A 2007 report by the NRDC notes that 12 out of 14 common brands of household air fresheners and room sprays contain phthalates, which people and pets regularly inhale primarily because these chemicals prolong the time that products maintain their fragrance. In studies conducted by the World Health Organization, researchers concluded that consistent exposure to phthalates could increase the risks for endocrine, reproductive and developmental problems. The majority of synthetic air fresheners were found to also emit significant amounts of terpene, a volatile organic compound (VOC) that can react with naturally occurring ozone to create formaldehyde.
Allergies, asthma, lung cancer and heart problems have all been linked to poor indoor air quality says the U.S. EPA.
Healthier choices: Put boxes of baking soda in cabinets to absorb odors and scent interiors with all-natural oils and potpourri.
Chlorine: According to the American Lung Association, most conventional cleaning products include some chlorine, with large concentrations in bleach. Inhalation of chlorine can irritate the respiratory system; prolonged exposure can lead to lung disease and asthma.
Healthier choices: Purchase chlorine-free cleaning products, especially chlorine-free bleach. Or make inexpensive solutions of white, distilled vinegar mixed with a little lemon for a multi-purpose, multi-surface cleaner and try baking soda as a scrubbing powder. Lemon is a natural antibacterial substance.
Volatile organic compounds. VOCs are emitted as harmful gases by a wide array of products including paints. lacquers and paint strippers; cleaning supplies; pesticides; carpet and furnishings; office copiers and printers; correction fluids and carbonless copy paper; plus graphics and craft materials that include glues and adhesives, permanent markers and photographic solutions. The EPA calculates that, “Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher (up to 10 times) indoors that outdoors.”
Healthier choices: Look for VOC-free products and consider using organic clay paint, which has the added benefit of acting as an absorbent of toxic gases.
Most people spend up to 90 percent of their time indoors, where the air quality can be two to five times, and even up to 100 times more polluted that the air we breathe outside, according to the EPA. “A simple solution is to open windows for a portion of the day or night to let in fresh air,” advises Loui. Making these choices enables us to protect ourselves better at home.
Gail Griswold-Elwyn is founding president of Rethink Renovations, which offers green design/build and construction services, including cabinetry and furniture that minimize environmental impact. Connect at RethinkRenovations.com.
Recipies for natural cleaning products can be found on this website on the tab, Money Saving Alternative to a Clean and Safe Home.
Perfect Touch Cleaning Seattle joined Angie’s List this week. All of our information can now be found there.
Support Women’s Voices for the Earth @ www.womensvoices.org
Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national organization that works to eliminate toxic chemicals that impact women’s health by changing consumer behaviors, corporate practices and government policies.
Our vision is a world in which all women have the right to live in a healthy environment, free from toxic chemicals that adversely impact their health and well-being. Women will be leaders in this world, where corporate practices and government policies ensure that the water they drink, the food they eat, the air they breathe, and the products they use in their homes and workplaces are not contaminated with toxic chemicals that may impact their health.
WVE works at the intersection of health, environmental and reproductive justice, and women’s leadership, guided by the following core principles:
- Commitment to creating a world where all women are protected from toxic exposure in their home, workplaces, and communities.
- Commitment to ensuring that women have equal political, economic and social rights.
- Particular focus on the needs of women who are most affected by environmental hazards, including women of color, low-income women, women with occupational exposures, and women of reproductive age, who are especially vulnerable to toxic exposures. In addition, we engage women who self-identify as “green,” and who may be early adopters and multipliers of green actions.
- Creation of opportunities to make women more aware of environmental health hazards, become engaged and mobilized to advocate for environmental health, and become change-agents as members of households, consumers, concerned citizens, and workers.
- Commitment to advancing social justice and equality. We believe all people have the right to a healthy environment and to protection from environmental hazards.
Article from Women’s Voices for the Earth
Other Cosmetics Giants Challenged to Follow Suit
For Immediate Release: August 15, 2012
Contact: Shannon Coughlin 415/336-2246, firstname.lastname@example.org Alex Formuzis 202/667-6982, email@example.com
San Francisco — Prompted by growing concerns raised by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), makers of Aveeno, Neutrogena, and Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, announced today that it will be removing carcinogens and other toxic chemicals from its baby and adult products globally.
“This is a major victory for public health,” said Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund, a co-founder of the campaign. “We applaud Johnson & Johnson for its leadership in committing to remove cancer-causing chemicals from its products. We will be vigilant in making sure it meets its commitments and will continue to encourage it to remove other ingredients of concern. And we call on other cosmetics giants—Avon, Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, Procter & Gamble and Unilever—to meet or beat J&J’s commitments and signal they take consumer safety as seriously as their competitor. As always, we encourage consumers to seek out the safest products for their families and support companies that are avoiding chemicals of concern.”
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition of more than 175 nonprofit organizations working to protect the health of consumers and workers by eliminating dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and led by the Breast Cancer Fund, Clean Water Action, Commonweal, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth and Women’s Voices for the Earth, will launch a national campaign this week challenging L’Oreal (Maybelline, Garnier, Kiehl’s, The Body Shop, Softsheen-Carson), Procter & Gamble (CoverGirl, Pantene, Secret, Old Spice), Estee Lauder (Clinique, MAC, Prescriptives), Avon, and Unilever (Dove, Ponds, St. Ives, Axe) to follow J&J’s lead and commit to removing carcinogens and other harmful chemicals from cosmetics and specify a timeline for removal.
Johnson & Johnson, one of the largest companies in the world, told the Campaign it will reformulate its hundreds of cosmetics and personal care products in all the markets it serves in 57 countries around the world. J&J has confirmed to the Campaign that it has set an internal target date of reformulating adult products by the end of 2015, and it will use safe alternatives when reformulating. It will:
• Reduce 1,4 dioxane to a maximum of 10 parts per million in adult products; • Phase out formaldehyde-releasers in adult products; • Limit parabens in adult products to methyl-, ethyl- and propyl-; • Complete phase-out of triclosan from all products; • Phase out Diethyl Phthalate (DEP) from all products (no other phthalates are currently used); • Phase out polycyclic musks, animal derived ingredients, tagates, rose crystal and diacetyl from fragrances.
Johnson & Johnson’s announcement follows the company’s November 2011 commitment to globally reformulate its baby products to remove carcinogens 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde by the end of 2013, which was triggered by years of campaigning and dialogue by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and allies including the American Nurses Association, including the release of two reports Toxic Tub and Baby’s Tub is Still Toxic, which showed Johnson & Johnson baby products contain these carcinogens.
Both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane cause cancer in animals, and formaldehyde was recently classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. National Toxicology Program. Phthalates, parabens, triclosan and polycyclic musks are all considered to be likely hormone disruptors and have been linked to a variety of health problems ranging from birth defects to diabetes, obesity and breast cancer.
“While J&J still has work to do, we support its efforts and will keep working with the company to make improvements,” said Erin Switalski, executive director at Women’s Voices for the Earth, a co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “In addition to being a real win for public health, we believe that these commitments will bode well for J&J’s bottom line, too. Consumers are simply looking for the safest products out there.”
“While voluntary action on the part of manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson indicates that some in the cosmetics industry are getting the message that consumers want safer products,” said Cindy Luppi, director at Clean Water Action, a co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, “only stricter regulation of this $50 billion industry will ensure that all consumers are protected.”
The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, currently circulating in Congress, will phase out chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm; implement a strong safety standard designed to protect children, pregnant women and workers; require full disclosure of ingredients; and give FDA the authority to recall dangerous products.
“Today’s action by Johnson and Johnson is another example of a company responding to their customers and the public interest community,” said Nneka Leiba, senior analyst with Environmental Working Group, a co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Unfortunately, not every company will take similar steps to protect consumers from potentially toxic ingredients. That is why we need Congress and the cosmetics industry to support the Safe Cosmetics Act that will require substances be safe for human health before being used in the products we all use every day.”
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a national coalition of more than 175 nonprofit organizations working to protect the health of consumers and workers by eliminating dangerous chemicals from cosmetics. www.safecosmetics.org
USDA Organic is more than a seal. It’s an earned privilege and a badge of honor. It’s a committment to pure ingredients, not toxins. It makes sense to choose products that are pure and healthy, not filled with toxins. Unless products are wearing the USDA Certified Organic seal ensuring at least 95% organic content then you’re probably getting toxins like pesticides, GMOs and more. USDA Organic is the assurance you can count on due to the numerous standards and checkpoints in place every step of the way.
What are your foods and products wearing? If they’re not displaying the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Certified Organic Seal, then they could be wearing more than you want. If they’re wearing the USDA Organic seal, however, then you’re getting high quality, pure, nutritious goods, not toxins like pesticides and are not genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and more.
By definition, the USDA Organic seal means: No irradiation. No sewage sludge. No synthetic fertilizers. No pesticides. No genetically modified organisms. It also denotes adherence to animal health and welfare standards, zero antibiotics or growth hormones, 100% organic feed and giving animals access to the outdoors. Additionally, it means specific soil and water conservation methods and pollution reduction.
It Starts With the Land and Ends with You
It’s a three-year process to convert land to organic status, and only in the third year, not before, can produce be called organic. There’s also a residue-testing program to verify that pesticides are not applied to organic crops, since over 3,000 high-risk toxins, including pesticides, are by law excluded from organic products.
This is huge because if a product starts by being grown with pesticides or other toxins, then it ultimately gets to you. For example, the most common plants used for the majority of protein powders or greens products on the market, including soybeans, cereal grasses, spinach, kale, broccoli and others, all rank high in pesticide use while growing. If the plant gets the toxins, then so do you, unless the product is USDA Organic.
Over one billion tons of pesticides are used in the US each year and four crops, including soybeans, receive 73% of the pesticides in the US. Likewise, genetically modified (GM) soy and corn make up more than 80% of all GMOs available and are in nearly every processed food in the US. Additionally, GM food manufacturers don’t have to say on the label that a food contains GMOs.
Unfortunately, those toxins show up in us. For instance, a 2004 CDC data analysis revealed that 100% of blood and urine tests from all subjects monitored showed pesticide residues; some over four times what is deemed “acceptable.” This is disheartening news. Pesticides can cause poisoning, infertility, birth defects, nervous system damage and cancer. GMOs can lead to infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, faulty insulin regulation, cell signaling, protein formation and changes in the liver, kidney. spleen and gastrointestinal system.
Avoid these toxins by choosing USDA Certified Organic. Scientists say that pesticide levels drop to undetectable levels when test subjects eat an organic diet, but return almost immediately with a non-organic diet.
What This Means for Plant Proteins, Greens and You
The most common plants used for the majority of protein powders or greens on the market rank high in pesticide use and other toxins while growing. This is a problem. If the plant get the toxins then so do we unless the product is USDA Organic. Protein powders contain essential amino acids that we must have for life. Since our bodies require them, we need to make sure they come from clean sources, not toxin-laden ones. Likewise, when you juice greens, you concentrate nutrients. If the source of your juice is not organic then the toxins are concentrated.
USDA Certified Organic is Serious Business
Before a product is labeled organic, a government approved certifier inspects organic farmers, ranchers, distributors, processors and traders, including supermarkets and restaurants, to make sure they comply with all USDA organic regulations. The USDA conducts audits and ensures that certifying agents properly certify organic products. Working with the USDA, the National Organic Program (NOP) develops the laws that regulate the creation, production, handling, labeling, trade and enforcement of all USDA Organic products.
The process is strictly enforced. Any individual or company who sells or labels a product as organic when it doesn’t meet USDA standards can be fined up to $10,000 for each violation or be suspended from or lose their organic certificate.
Small farmers with less than $5,000 in organic sales are exempt from the certification process, but they must still comply with government standards and can’t display the USDA Organic seal.
Check what your products are wearing. If you see the USDA Organic seal, you can be assured that the product is indeed, organic.
The Elite: Only These Can Display the USDA Organic Seal
The USDA has established an organic certification program that requires all organic goods to meet strict government standards. These standards regulate how such foods are grown, handled and processed and only products certified 95% or more organic can display this USDA sticker.
Here’s what it all means: If food boasts the USDA Organic label, then it has been produced and processed according to the USDA standards and at least 95% of the food’s ingredients are organically produced. Food or products that are completely organic are labeled as such–100% organic–and carry a small USDA seal. Foods that contain more than one ingredient can use the USDA organic seal or the following wording on the labels, contingent on the number of organic ingredients:
Organic: Products that are at least 95% organic, not counting added water or salt and must not contain added sulfites.
Made with Organic ingredients: These are products that contain at least 70% organic ingredients. The organic seal can’t be used on these packages. For foods that contain less than 70% organic ingredients, the organic seal can’t be used on their packaging.
Natural is not organic: Don’t mistake the term natural for organic. Natural foods are not organic. They don’t contain additives or preservatives but they can be grown with pesticides or GMOs and they are barely regulated. The only real requirement is that the label must explain the use of the term natural, such as no added colorings or artificial ingredients or minimally processed.
This article is published in Extradordinary Health Magazine by Garden of Life, LLC.