Category Archives: Toxics

Sunscreen Guide

Photo by Evil Erin

Environmental Work Group has released its 2011 sunscreen guide. This is EWG’s fifth annual guide, and includes ratings for 1700 sunscreen products.

I’m old enough to remember a time when slathering oneself with baby oil was the “proper” response to a sunny day. Suntan lotions lined the shelves of drug stores, boasting their abilities to attract the sun, not shield from it. But deep-frying dermis to a toasted golden brown eventually fell out of favor like so many other things from my childhood (riding bikes without helmets, driving cars without seat belts) and protecting our skin from overactive cell growth became the thing to do. The era of sunscreen was upon us.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, the chemical cocktail inside those plastic bottles may be doing more harm than good. Check out EWG’s Sunscreen Exposed: 9 Surprising Truths article, which includes this gem: “The common sunscreen ingredient, Vitamin A, may speed the development of cancer.” You can also check EWG’s lists of best beach and sport sunscreens, best lip balms with SPF, best moisturizers with SPF, and best makeups with SPF, or use the search feature to find out how your favorite sunscreen rates (the lower the rating, the better).

And then put on a hat and find a spot in the shade, mkay?

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Take Action to Ban Triclosan!

I didn’t even know what triclosan was up until recently, when Natural Home Magazine tweeted a link to an article listing the chemical as a reason to dislike anti-bacterial soaps. Never a fan of anti-bacterial anything (soap and water works just fine, people), I eagerly clicked on the link.

And then I was horrified.

Triclosan is officially a pesticide, and is found in a wide range of consumer products, including clothing, toothpaste, toys and, yes, liquid soap. According to the Environmental Working Group, triclosan is linked to cancer, developmental defects, and liver and inhalation toxicity, and may affect thyroid and other hormone systems (Source). Ninety-five percent of nursing mothers have traces of the chemical in their breast milk, and 75% of Americans over the age of 6 have traces in their urine (source).

Adding insult to injury, the “beneficial” use in anti-bacterial soap is marginal at best. Studies show that soap and water works just as well as antibacterials in removing bacteria from hands. (Antibacterials kill the bacteria while soap and water merely removes them, but the results are the same.) (Source.) Further, many people use anti-bacterial soaps to help stave off colds and flus… which are viruses and are not affected by antibacterials.

Further, it is believed to aid in the development of antibiotic-immune “super bugs,” and contaminates water, plants, and fish.

In short, there is nothing even remotely redeeming about the chemical.

We now have the opportunity to tell the EPA to ban triclosan. Beyond Pesticides is asking for public comment on the Ban Triclosan petition, filed by 82 public health and environmental groups. The public comment period is expiring on Monday, February 7. Visit the Beyond Pesticides blog for instructions on submitting your comment and letting the EPA know that this chemical must be banned for public safety.

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Filed under Environment, Home, Toxics

Surprising products containing petroleum

Nothing is certain but death and taxes. And oil.

We are surrounded by oil. It’s contained in one form or another in seemingly every product around us. While it’s unlikely, or even necessary, to completely eradicate our appetite for oil, it’s important to be aware of its prolific use in our every day lives and look for ways to cut our consumption.

Twenty (possibly) surprising products containing petroleum:

  1. Disposable diapers
  2. Make up (lipstick, mascara, foundation, concealer, eyeshadow and liners, and so on and so on)
  3. Make up remover
  4. Perfumes
  5. Lotions
  6. Synthetic fabrics
  7. Paint
  8. Tampons and feminine napkins
  9. Shampoos and conditioners
  10. Dishwashing soap
  11. Laundry detergent and dryer sheets
  12. Ibuprofen
  13. Sunscreen
  14. Toothpaste
  15. Chewing gum
  16. Anything and everything plastic
  17. Pillows
  18. Crayons
  19. Deodorant
  20. Food additives

One not so surprising place you find oil:

1. All over the Gulf

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Filed under Environment, Fashion, food, Home, Toxics

The dirty dozen

At the grocery store last weekend, a woman near me in the produce section pulled on the sleeve of her boy friend’s jacket and led him to the strawberry display. “Want to see something stupid?” she asked, pointing at the stacks upon stacks of strawberries in plastic containers. “Why would anyone pay for these strawberries, when they can buy twice as many of these strawberries for half the cost?!”

Since I’d recently put strawberries into my basket, I was intrigued. Based on the direction of her points, I’d selected the more expensive option with fewer strawberries. Had I missed a sale? I immediately headed over to investigate.

Ah. Yes. There was a sale I’d missed. A really, really good sale. But those inexpensive strawberries? Sure, there were twice as many of them for nearly half the price… but they weren’t organic. I had a moment to wonder if I was being overly zealous in my commitment to organic produce. Why not save the money? I could get so many more strawberries for my berry-loving son.

So many more strawberries, with so many more pesticides.

As you probably already know, strawberries are on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list – a list of the 12 most pesticide-ridden foods.

I once heard a nutritionist claim she wouldn’t stand in the same room with a strawberry if it wasn’t organic. I’m sure she was exaggerating, but who knows? After all, thirteen different pesticides can be detected on a single strawberry sample. Thirteen! And if you think thoroughly washing your food will help, think again. Pesticides are absorbed by the whole fruit or vegetable, not just the skin. In fact, data is collected from produce as it is typically eaten (meaning washed and peeled, if applicable), so those thirteen strawberry pesticides are detected after washing.

Ew. Always good to keep in mind when you go shopping.

The Dirty Dozen:

  • strawberries
  • domestic blueberries
  • peaches
  • apples
  • imported grapes (including wine – ack!)
  • nectarines
  • cherries
  • celery
  • sweet bell peppers
  • spinach
  • kale
  • collard greens
  • potatoes

Of course, my budget doesn’t always allow for passing up sales on “regular” (not organic) food. And, while I live in an area practically overflowing with organic markets, farmers markets, and CSAs, not all of us are so lucky. Thankfully, EWG also has a list called the “Clean 15” – a list of produce least likely to be contaminated with pesticides. If you need to save a little green, or simply don’t have access to organic options, these foods are your safest bet:

  • onions
  • sweet corn
  • sweet peas
  • asparagus
  • cabbage
  • eggplant
  • sweet potatoes
  • avocados
  • pineapples
  • mangoes
  • kiwi
  • domestic cantaloupe
  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • honeydew

Check out the full list, ranked from best to worst, of the 50 most commonly eaten fruits and vegetables here.

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Filed under food, Toxics