Friday, January 31, 2014

"Fast Track," the TPP and Why we Must Stop them Both

Today's blog will be a collection of links and quotes from other source because this is a complicated issue and an important one. The TransPacific Partnership is a free-trade agreement (a la NAFTA) supported by President Obama and the GOP, so it has bipartisan support. It also has HEAVY support from industries like Monsanto and some have called the bill "NAFTA on steroids."

Safer Chemicals Healthy Families: Stop “Fast Track”  

"Fast Track is a piece of legislation that was first introduced by Nixon in 1974, but was recently  re-introduced by U.S. Representative Dave Camp and Senator Max Baucus as a bill that  would grant President Barack Obama “Fast Track” trade promotion authority.
This is a fancy way of saying it would take away power from Congress to amend and discuss important details of secret international trade deals. Trade deals that may roll back state, national and international laws on toxic chemicals, environmental and worker protections. "
Hmmm. Let's take a look at the trade deal itself.

Stop TPP
"The nations involved are the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Chile, and Peru. Japan, Mexico and Canada have indicated a desire to join.
  • TPP will offshore millions of good-paying jobs to low-wage nations, undercutting working conditions globally and increasing unemployment.
  • TPP will expand pharmaceutical monopoly protections and institute longer patents that will  decrease access to affordable medications
  • TPP will limit food GMO labeling and allow the import of goods that do not meet US safe standards.
  • TPP will institute SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA-like regulations and Internet measures which restrict our right to free speech.
  • TPP will roll back Wall Street regulations, and prohibit bans on risky financial services.
  • TPP will give multinational corporations and private investors the right to sue nations in private tribunals. These tribunals have the power to overturn environmental, labor, or any other laws that limit profit, awarding taxpayer funded damages.
  • TPP will encourage the privatization of lands and natural resources in areas where indigenous people live."
From The Huffington Post:
"One of the most controversial provisions in the talks includes new corporate empowerment language insisted upon by the U.S. government, which would allow foreign companies to challenge laws or regulations in a privately run international court. Under World Trade Organization treaties, this political power to contest government law is reserved for sovereign nations. The U.S. has endorsed some corporate political powers in prior trade agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the scope of what laws can be challenged appears to be much broader in TPP negotiations."
One of the many reasons people have been pushing back against this law is that negations have been taking place in secret. Wikileaks is responsible for finding and releasing some documents to the public. I'll compile some links below that will provide more information on the trade agreement and actions you can take.

Expose the TPP
Citizen Trade Campaign
Flush the TPP

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Toxic Chemicals and Mental Illness

Mental illness is often kept quiet, in this country. We may all know someone who suffers from a mental illness but none of us may want to talk of about it. Having lost people in my life to suicide, I try to make a point to support mental health causes when and wherever I can. That's why I became interested in the link between toxic chemicals and mood disorders.

It turns out that heavy, pesticides, solvents, PCBs, vinyl chloride, and other chemicals and cause or trigger mood disorder symptoms*. How does this happen?

According to Dr. Janelle Sinclair, 4 different mechanisms cause depression.
  1. Toxins, particularly solvents, heavy metals, and pesticides disrupt neurons' (brain cells') normal abilities to communicate with each other through electrical signals.
  2. Both mercury and lead are so toxic to the brain that they damage the actual structure of the brain.
  3. Toxins affect the levels of neurotransmitters available. The electrical signals lead to the creation of neurotransmitters, like serotonin, that travel from neuron to neuron. Too much or too little of these neurotransmitters can affect our mood. An example, provided by Dr. Sinclair is manganese. Manganese reduces serotonin levels. If your serotonin levels are too low, you feel depressed.
  4. Mercury, lead, cadmium, and arsenic create free radical damage in the body. In the brain, this can lead to inflammation, and neuronal death.
Now what about other disorders? Well, from the citation below, you will find a treasure trove a information, including pesticides. I will post some charts from the paper below.

*Collaborative on Health and the Environment. (2008, November). Mental Health and Environmental Exposures from Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative. Retrieved January 30, 2014, from

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Companies continue to hide toxic chemicals from consumers.

According to a recent report from Women's Voice for the Earth, twenty-two companies have requested "trade secret" status in order to bypass California's new public database of toxic cosmetic chemicals, the California Safe Cosmetics Program Database.

This database is fairly new, only released this month, and it requires companies to report reproductive and carcinogenic toxins under California's Proposition 65. Proposition 65 was approved by voters in 1986 and was also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act. According to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which administers the program and database:

"Proposition 65 requires businesses to notify Californians about significant amounts of chemicals in the products they purchase, in their homes or workplaces, or that are released into the environment. By providing this information, Proposition 65 enables Californians to make informed decisions about protecting themselves from exposure to these chemicals. Proposition 65 also prohibits California businesses from knowingly discharging significant amounts of listed chemicals into sources of drinking water. "
Products in California that meet the requirement for reproductive and carcinogenic toxicity can also carry Prop 65 labels.

These companies, listed below, are trying to abuse the trade secret system in order to avoid these labels and public pressure to change their ingredients. It's a shame the once again, profit trumps public health. Shame of these companies! If you would like to voice your opinion on this issue, you can call the 1-800 number listed on the products, ask the manufacturers about the ingredients and demand action.

Alberto Culver
  • Motions
  • Nexxus
  • Soft & Beautiful
  • Tresemme
Alberto Culver USA, Inc.
  • FDS (removed trade secret ingredient)
  • St. Ives (removed trade secret ingredient)
  • VO5 (removed trade secret ingredient)
Chattem, Inc.
  • Balmex
  • BullFrog
  • Cortizone 10
  • Gold Bond
  • Herpecin-L
  • Mudd
  • Selsun Blue
  • Selsun Naturals
  • Selsun Salon
Colgate-Palmolive Company
  • SOFTSOAP (removed trade secret ingredient or discontinued product)
Conopco, Inc.
  • Suave (removed trade secret ingredient or discontinued product)
Demeter Fragrance Library, Inc.
Farouk Systems, Inc.
  • Bioglitz
  • Bioglitz Color
  • BioSilk
  • CHI
  • CHI Organics
  • Chromatic (discontinued product)
  • Sungliltz
  • Sunglitz
Great Clips, Inc.
  • Detour – Great Clips
  • Solutions by Great Clips
Jan Marini Skin Research, Inc.
  • Jan Marini Skin Research
Kenra Professional, LLC
  • Elucence
  • Kenra (r) Classic
  • Kenra (r) Platinum
Lumene Oy
  • Lumene
Melaleuca, Inc.
  • Nicole Miller – Confidential  (removed trade secret ingredient)
Nars Cosmetics
  • NARS
Regis Corporation
  • Costcutters
  • Mastercuts
  • Regis Design Line
Robell Research
  • Supersmile
rolland srl
  • Insight
  • Organic Way
  • Una
Rowpar Pharmaceuticals, Inc
  • CloSYS
Schwartzkopf & Henkel
  • Got2B
  • Smooth N Shine
Shiseido America, Inc.
  • Basala  (discontinued product)
  • NARS
  • Shiseido
  • Shiseido Benefiance BENEFIANCE
  • Shiseido Future Solution
  • Shiseido Pureness
  • Shiseido The Makeup
  • Shiseido The Skincare
  • Shiseido White Lucen
Shiseido Co., Ltd.
  • Cle de peau beaute
  • Qiora
  • Shiseido
  • Shiseido Benefiance
  • Shiseido Bio-Performance
  • Shiseido Elixir
  • Shiseido Hair Care
  • Shiseido Men
  • Shiseido Pureness
  • Shiseido The Makeup
  • Shiseido The Skincare
  • Shiseido White Lucent
Tammy Taylor Nails, Inc.
  • Tammy Taylor
  • Tammy Taylor Nails
The Dial Corporation
  • Coast
  • Dial
  • Right Guard
Thanks to Women's Voices for the Earth.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Toxic Burnout

As if worrying about what we eat and what we put on our bodies isn't enough. Now we have to worry about where we sit and where we sleep! Toxic flame retardants are found in mattresses, carpets, chairs, couches, strollers, nursing pillows, and electronics, just to name a few.

In theory, flame retardants are supposed to slow the growth of fires and allow for extended escape time, in the event of a fire. In reality, these chemicals may provide only extra seconds of escape time, which is fine, but is it worth the long-term health risks? (Notice that the American Chemistry Council has sites promoting now refuted research on flame retardants and escape times - Also, these chemicals are only necessary because so many of the products we use today, including furniture foam, are made from petroleum products.

If you look around your home you will probably see some tags that look like this:

In 1975, California adopted Technical Bulletin 117, which required all furniture sold in the state to meet open-flame tests, so that the cushions would not ignite in the presence of a flame. Because CA is a large market, so furniture producers began to make all of their furniture with flame retardants and thus, the chemicals spread nationwide. Unfortunately, flame retardants are volatile and enter the air and our bodies.

A 2013 study by the MIND Institute at UC Davis found one component of the flame retardants accumulates in human blood, fat and breast milk.

The institute summarized the study by saying the “chemical, quite literally, reduces brain power.” The findings “bolster the argument that genetics and environment can combine to increase the risk of autism and other neurological disorders.”
These chemicals are also persistent, meaning they are long-lasting in the environment (our homes and our bodies). 
Yet many of these compounds have also turned out to be environmentally mobile and persistent — turning up in food and household dust — and are now so ubiquitous that levels of the chemicals in the blood of North Americans appear to have been doubling every two to five years for the past several decades.
Young children may be the most vulnerable to flame retardant exposure because they are often found in children's products and children often spend time on the floor around dust. Exposure to these chemicals can lead to developmental problems, reduced IQ, cancer, and impaired fertility.

A recent film, Toxic Hot Seat, examined the issue of flame retardants and how they were making firefighters sick, as well as others.

Recently, Gov. Brown of CA called for TB 117 to be reviewed, but the review will not eliminate or ban all flame retardants. More work will still be needed.

Read more here:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Toxics and Healthcare Costs

Today, I'm in a really bad mood; a REALLY bad mood. So I thought I'd channel my emotions into a post about how toxic chemicals drive up health care costs and how the chemical industry continues to lie to the public.  As I stated in a previous post, our health care system, here in the U.S., is based on treatment, not prevention.

We already know that chemicals can lead to cancers, allergic reactions, act as irritants, and neurotoxins, and endocrine disruptors (chemicals that mimic or antagonize our body's hormone system).  According to a recent report from Safer Chemicals Healthy Families (SCHF):

  • Leukemia, brain cancer, and other childhood cancers have increased by more than 20% since 1975.
  • Breast cancer went up by 40% between 1973 and 1998. While breast cancer rates have declined since 2003, a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is now 1 in 8, up from 1 in 10 in 1973.
  • Asthma prevalence approximately doubled between 1980 and 1995 and has stayed at the elevated rate.
  • Difficulty in conceiving and maintaining a pregnancy affected 40% more women in 2002 than in 1982. The incidence of reported difficulty has almost doubled in younger women ages 18–25.
  • Since the early 1990s, reported cases of autism spectrum disorder have increased tenfold.
 Those are some pretty expensive conditions, aren't they? Also in the SCHF report:

  • 133 million people in the U.S.— almost half of all Americans — are now living with chronic diseases and conditions, which now account for 70% of deaths and 75% of U.S. health care costs.
  • Even if chemical policy reform leads to reductions in toxic chemical exposures that translate into just a 0.1% reduction in of health care costs, it would save the U.S. health care system an estimated $5 billion every year.
Unfortunately,  the companies that make these chemicals have the ear of many in Congress, through their lobbying dollars. They have been able to set up front groups, like the American Chemistry Council to widely promote their message and they have been able to convince the public that they need these chemicals to maintain their current level of comfort and lifestyle.

Let's look at bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen, designed to be a pharmaceutical, it was replaced by diethylstibestrol (DES). BPA went on to become an ingredient in many plastics, including baby bottles until consumers demanded the estrogenic endocrine disruptor be taken out of several products. Well, BPA has been removed, but it has been replaced with bisphenol S (BPS). BPS degrades more slowly than BPS, so it remains in the "BPA-free" product longer and it's also estrogenic and toxic.

However, according to industry, BPA is safe and necessary for modern life. Take a look their website,
Facts About BPA and see what they have to say about products that are "BPA-free."

Myth: If I buy a BPA free product, is it safer?
Reality: Materials used in contact with food or beverages in the U.S. are evaluated for safety by the federal Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has recently stated that BPA, used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, is safe for currently approved uses in food containers and packaging.
“Free of” claims on food packaging have nothing to do with FDA’s safety determination.  “Free of” claims are frequently used for advertising purposes to signal the absence of a chemical or material. Note that the Federal Trade Commission has specifically cautioned that “free-of claims may deceive consumers by falsely suggesting that … the marketer has ‘‘improved’’ the product by removing the substance.” 
- See more at:

Reality: Materials used in contact with food or beverages in the U.S. are evaluated for safety by the federal Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has recently stated that BPA, used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, is safe for currently approved uses in food containers and packaging.

“Free of” claims on food packaging have nothing to do with FDA’s safety determination. “Free of” claims are frequently used for advertising purposes to signal the absence of a chemical or material. Note that the Federal Trade Commission has specifically cautioned that “free-of claims may deceive consumers by falsely suggesting that … the marketer has ‘‘improved’’ the product by removing the substance.”
Interesting, since in this case, "BPA-free" means "replaced with BPS." Even more interesting is the "Contact Us" page that shows that the American Chemistry Council is behind the site. 
I for one and sick of industry having more influence than scientists and consumers. How about you?
Reality: Materials used in contact with food or beverages in the U.S. are evaluated for safety by the federal Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has recently stated that BPA, used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, is safe for currently approved uses in food containers and packaging.
“Free of” claims on food packaging have nothing to do with FDA’s safety determination.  “Free of” claims are frequently used for advertising purposes to signal the absence of a chemical or material. Note that the Federal Trade Commission has specifically cautioned that “free-of claims may deceive consumers by falsely suggesting that … the marketer has ‘‘improved’’ the product by removing the substance.” 
- See more at:

Myth: If I buy a BPA free product, is it safer?

Myth: If I buy a BPA free product, is it safer?

Reality: Materials used in contact with food or beverages in the U.S. are evaluated for safety by the federal Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has recently stated that BPA, used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, is safe for currently approved uses in food containers and packaging.
“Free of” claims on food packaging have nothing to do with FDA’s safety determination.  “Free of” claims are frequently used for advertising purposes to signal the absence of a chemical or material. Note that the Federal Trade Commission has specifically cautioned that “free-of claims may deceive consumers by falsely suggesting that … the marketer has ‘‘improved’’ the product by removing the substance.” 
- See more at:

Myth: If I buy a BPA free product, is it safer?

Friday, January 24, 2014

More Toxic Chemicals to Avoid and the Need to Real Reform

Here is an image from the website It's a Harleyyy Life that shows succinctly shows 30 toxic chemicals to avoid and their health effects. Many we have already gone over, but I like the presentation of this graph and it may be a good printout for your home or shopping list.

Here is another image from Women's Voices for the Earth.

As you can see, by removing toxic chemicals, we could avoid many costly health issues. However, our health system is based on treatment, not prevention and current laws are not strong enough to regulate these chemicals off of the market. While Ava Anderson offers non toxic products and I am proud to be a consultant, I am also a believer in the need for real legislative reform.

Currently, there is a bill called the Chemical Safety Improvement Act (CSIA) in the Senate and in Committee in the House that has the backing of the Chemicals Industry (The American Chemistry Council). CSIA does not allow states to ban or take action on chemicals they determine to be dangerous. It does not protect hotspot/fenceline communities. It does not protect pregnant women, children, or other vulnerable populations, and it places more bureaucracy in place at the EPA, delaying any action they could take on toxic chemicals by 5-8 years. 

That's why I support the group Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. They work in DC and they work in collaboration with groups around the United States to lobby Congress, and push for real legislation reform to protect our families and ALL populations.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Are obesogens harming your weight loss plans?

Obesogens are endocrine disruptors; chemicals that disruptor our body's hormone systems. Obesogens disrupt the way our body regulates our weight. Resulting in decreased calories burned, increased fat cells and even changes in the way your body manages hunger. 

According to Dr. Oz, obesogens work by the following methods:

  • "Encourage the body to store fat and re-program cells to become fat cells.
  • Prompt the liver to become insulin resistant, which makes the pancreas pump out more insulin that turns energy into fat all over the body.
  • Prevent leptin (a hormone that reduces appetite) from being released from your fat cells to tell your body you are full."
You'll find obesogens in the following places:
  • flame retardants = found in furniture and electronics
  • Bisphenol A(BPA) = plastics with recycling number 7 on the bottom, receipts, lining of cans
  • phthalates= new car smell, fragrance in personal care products
  • triclosan = antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers
  • polyvinylchloride (pvc) = shower curtains. Look for non pvc curtains.
  • Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) = teflon cookware. Try cast iron pans.
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • atrazine  = pesticide ( Get a water filter to avoid this.
  • microwave popcorn
  • vinyl flooring, industrial strength plastic wrap, grocery store plastic wrap over meat. Ask for meet wrapped in brown paper.
  • air fresheners. Try dried herbs and flowers.
  • Polybrominated biphenyls (PCBs) = industrial chemicals that enter the food chain and enter our diet through fish and meat. Try Meatless Mondays.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

On the Hunt for Toxic Chemicals

Back on January 13th,  I gave you an abbreviated list of toxic chemicals to avoid. Now, I'll help you figure out where to find those chemicals, especially if they aren't on the label.

I like the site can enter almost any product and look up the ingredients.

Here's an example. Let's look at Cetaphil Daily Skin Cleanser, Normal to Oily Skin. Its ingredients are:

Water (Purified), Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Acrylates/Steareth 20 Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Glycerin, PEG 200 Hydrogenated Glyceryl Palmate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Butylene Glycol, PEG 7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Phenoxyethanol, Masking Fragrance (Parfum), Panthenol, PEG 60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben

I've highlighted the toxic ingredients from this previous list in red. This does NOT include all of the toxins in the product. That said, I might as well give you a list of more toxic chemicals to avoid.

More Toxic Chemicals to Avoid

  • Talc: Talc belongs in the same family as asbestos and is dangerous to breathe. It has also been linked to ovarian cancer.
  • PVP/VA Copolymer:  These chemicals are derived from petroleum and are used in hairsprays, and cosmetics. They are considered toxic and contribute to foreign bodies in the lungs of sensitive people. 
  •  Isopropyl Alcohol: This is another petroleum-derived substance that is used in anti-freeze and shellac. Inhalation of the vapor or ingestion can lead to headaches, dizziness, mental depression, nausea, vomiting and even coma. 
  • Mineral Oil: Mineral oil is another petroleum derivative. It coats the skin like plastic wrap, preventing it from breathing, absorbing nutrients and excreting toxins. This slows the skin's natural cell development, causing premature aging. Baby oil is 100% mineral oil and bad for your baby's skin. 
  •  Toluene: Toluene can be found in many nail products, such as nail color. Exposure can lead to headache, dizziness, fatigue, eyes, nose & throat irritation, and reproductive and developmental harm.
  •  Benzyl Acetate: This is a solvent, often hidden within the ingredient "fragrance." It is linked to pancreatic cancer and is a possible neurotoxin. 
  •  Bronopol: This is a preservative, which is already restricted in Canada. It is toxic to the immune system, skin, and lungs. 
  • Quaternium-15: This is another preservative that breaks down in formaldehyde. Exposure leads to allergic reactions and dermatitis. It can be found in skin and haircare products. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Health based on where you live: Fenceline Communities.

Although we are all exposed to the over 80,000 chemicals that have been created since the modern chemistry era, some are more exposed than others. Across the country and around the world, communities exist in close proximity to chemical factories, toxic waste dumps, landfills and other toxic sites. These are called fenceline communities, because often, a fence is all that separates their communities from the polluted land. Those who live in these communities are exposed to more toxic chemicals and suffer more adverse health effects than the rest of us. These communities also tend to be disproportionately minority and of lower economic classes.

One example of a fenceline community is Mossville, LA, also known as Cancer Alley. Mossville is predominantly African American community surrounded by 14 petrochemical plants.

The town has been ravaged by illness and it has been difficult for people to move since no one wants to move a town surrounded by factories.
"I got cancer. My dad had cancer. In fact, he died of cancer. It's a lot of people in this area who died of cancer," says Herman Singleton Jr., 51, who also lost two uncles and an aunt to cancer.
Another example is the small town of Savoonga on St. Lawrence, AK, in the Bering Strait, near Russia. The town is near an abandoned U.S. military base.
"When the military vacated Northeast Cape in the early 1970s, they left at least thirty-four contaminated sites in a nine-square-mile area. Contamination includes at least 220,000 gallons of spilt fuel, as well as heavy metals, asbestos, solvents, and PCBs which are known to cause cancer."
The town is still suffering the effects. In a village of 800, two babies were born without brains.
"As a result of these daily exposures to toxic chemicals, those of us who live in remote places like Alaska and the Arctic have some of the highest levels of toxic chemicals in our own bodies. On St. Lawrence Island we have very high levels of PCBs in our traditional foods and in our bodies, up to 10 times higher than average U.S. levels. Yupik women within the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta area of Alaska have the highest levels of PBDEs -- toxic, flame-retardant chemicals -- in their blood. These chemicals have been linked to serious diseases such as cancer, diabetes, learning disabilities, birth defects and reproductive harm. People in my community are being harmed by all these diseases. Last year, we lost 19 people from cancer in a community of about 1,200."

"“We are tired of our communities being ‘sacrifice zones’ or ‘kill zones,’ ” Ms. Roberts added.

Ms. Roberts was referring to what the environmental injustice movement refers to as “the disproportionate” pollution burden borne by communities of color and poorer White communities, often located near freeways, power plants, toxic waste sites, oil refineries, rail yards, chemical plants and other major sources of pollution."
No one should have to live like this. In the battle against toxic chemicals, we can't forget our brothers and sisters in fenceline communities around the globe. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Importance of Being Your Own Health Advocate

I haven't been feeling well these past few days and I've been thinking a lot about the connection between the chemicals I'm exposed to and my health. The sad thing is, most health professionals don't or won't ask about the chemical-health connection when you go in for a visit.

I try to be as non toxic as I can when it comes to the personal care products I use. I try to eat a healthy diet and live a healthy lifestyle, but unfortunately chemical exposure is unavoidable.  There are over 80,000 chemicals in our homes and the environment, some of them persisting for over a million of year. Some medications taken by our grandmothers may even have an affect on us, like the supposed anti-miscarriage drug diethylstilbestrol or DES.

Even the products that claim to be safe may be misleading. For example, some manufacturers have replaced the estrogenic bisphenol A (BPA) with the still toxic BPS. There are also "non toxic" companies that still use fragrances and perfumes in their products.

This is why label reading is a must. Just like you read for nutritional data, we must begin to read for toxicity data. When you go to the doctor, talk to them about any chemicals that you may have been exposed to. If you work in a chemical factory, tell them and express your concerns. Take a proactive and preventative role in your own healthcare, particularly if you are pregnant or have young children.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Toxic baggage: a journey to healthier living: Ava Anderson at TEDxMosesB...

Above is a speech given by Ava Anderson at a Tedx Talk at the Moses Brown School in 2013. At the age of 14, young Ava Anderson first learned about the dangers of toxic chemicals in personal care products. She went on to start a blog to inform people about the dangers, but she wondered if she could do more. At age 15, she started her own line of personal care products that don't contain any
toxins. Today her company, Ava Anderson Non Toxic, boasts consultants all over the US, myself included. The company stresses education about toxins and what they can do to your health and the health of your family. My previous post Toxic Chemicals to Avoid was taken largely from an Ava Text.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Link Between GMOs and Pesticides

One of the reasons I am in favor of GMO labeling is that GMO technology is often used to increase a food product's hardiness to increased pesticide application. In other words, a GM crop can doused in greater amounts of pesticide. Below are some GMO crops that can take increased applications of the pesticide Roundup. Roundup is a particularly worrisome pesticide.

Roundup is the world's most popular herbicide and is sprayed over millions of acres of crops each year.  The active ingredient in Roundup is glysophate. Glysophate residues have been found in food. Recent research has linked the chemical to infertility, cancers, and Parkinson's Disease.

Those residues enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease, according to the report, authored by Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Anthony Samsel, a retired science consultant from Arthur D. Little, Inc. Samsel is a former private environmental government contractor as well as a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
"Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body," the study says.

In 2015, the EPA will determine if the use of glysophate should be limited, after a standard registration review. All pesticides are registered with the EPA.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Eat Locally

I've been trying to do a better job of eating more locally grown food. I was saddened the other day when I saw a bag of apples at the grocery store labeled "local" but also saying that they were from Michigan.  I live in Kentucky.  That said, I am fortunate to live in a state with plenty of proud local farms and farmers' markets. There is even a state-wide movement to promote local farms and their products. It's called Kentucky Proud. All over the state, you can find local products with the seal and know that you are supporting local farmers. There are even specialty stores that sell nothing but KY products.

According to, there are twelve reasons for all of us to eat locally.

Top Twelve Reasons to Eat Locally

  1. Freshness. Locally-grown organic fruits and vegetables are usually harvested within 24 hours of being purchased by the consumer. Produce from California can't be that fresh.
  2. Taste. Produce picked and eaten at the height of freshness tastes better.
  3. Nutrition. Nutritional value declines, often dramatically, as time passes after harvest. Because locally-grown produce is freshest, it is more nutritionally complete.
  4. Purity. Eighty percent of American adults say they are concerned about the safety of the food they eat. They worry about residues of pesticides and fungicides. These materials are not permitted in an organic production system either before or after harvest.
  5. Regional Economic Health. Buying locally grown food keeps money within the community. This contributes to the health of all sectors of the local economy, increasing the local quality of life.
  6. Variety. Organic farmers selling locally are not limited to the few varieties that are bred for long distance shipping, high yields, and shelf life. Often they raise and sell wonderful unusual varieties you will never find on supermarket shelves.
  7. Soil Stewardship. Soil health is essential for the survival of our species. Conventional farming practices are rapidly depleting topsoil fertility. Creating and sustaining soil fertility is the major objective for organic growers.
  8. Energy Conservation. Buying locally grown organic foods decreases dependence on petroleum, a non- renewable energy source. One fifth of all petroleum now used in the United States is used in Agriculture. Organic production systems do not rely upon the input of petroleum derived fertilizers and pesticides and thus save energy at the farm. Buying from local producers conserves additional energy at the distribution level.
  9. Environmental Protection. Soil erosion; pesticide contamination of soil, air, and water; nitrate loading of waterways and wells; and elimination of planetary biodiversity are some of the problems associated with today's predominate farming methods. Organic growers use practices that protect soil, air, and water resources; and that promote biodiversity.
  10. Cost. Conventional food processes don't reflect the hidden costs of the environmental, health and social consequences of predominate production practices- of, for instance, correcting a water supply polluted by agricultural runoff, or obtaining medical treatment for pesticide induced illness suffered by farmers or consumers. When these and other hidden costs are taken into account, as they should be, locally grown organic foods are seen clearly for the value they are, even if they cost a few pennies more.
  11. A Step Toward Regional Food Self Reliance. Dependency on far away food sources leaves a region vulnerable to supply disruptions, and removes any real accountability of producer to consumer. It also tends to promote larger, less diversified farms that hurt both the environment and local economies/communities. Regional food production systems, on the other hand, keep the food supply in the hands of many, providing interesting job and self-employment opportunities, and enabling people to influence how their food is grown.
  12. Passing on the Stewardship Ethic. When you buy locally produced organic food you cannot help but raise the consciousness of your friends and family about how food buying decisions can make a difference in your life and the life of your community; and about how this basic act is connected to planetary issues.
While I do buy Kentucky Proud  and other local products when I can, and I try to choose restaurants that base their menus on local farms; I can do better.  As you can see from above. There are so many reasons to eat locally. It's better for your health and for the planet. I know New Year's is over, but I'm going to make this one of my post-New Year's Resolutions. I'm going to look for more products that support the local economy, the planet and my health. Will you join me? The next time you see your favorite recipe, try substituting some local food products. Just take one step at a time.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Toxic Chemicals to Avoid

I thought I would devote a post to listing some chemicals that we need avoid that are in the products we happen to use everyday. I should add the disclaimer that as a consultant for Ava Anderson Non Toxic, I go over some of this list at parties and I do offer products that do not contain these chemicals as  they pertain to personal care products. That said, this list is still valuable information for all consumers. The truth is, these chemicals shouldn't be in any products and consumers shouldn't need a degree in order to understand the information on the back on the products they purchase. There are over 80,000 chemicals on the market, the vast majority having never been tested for safety.  For more information on this issue, please see sources below.

Many of the chemicals on the list are endocrine disruptors, meaning they disrupt the body's endocrine (hormone) system by mimicking or blocking our normal hormonal signalling pathways. Our endocrine system regulates ALL of the body's biological processes, including brain and nervous system development, blood sugar levels, metabolism, growth and function of the reproductive system, the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands. According to the UN and World Health Organization, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and are a global threat and can be a threat to the developing fetus.

Safer Chemicals Healthy Families
The Campaign for Safer Cosmetics
Women's Voices for the Earth
The Breast Cancer Fund
The Story of Cosmetics

Chemicals to Avoid
  • Fragrance/Parfum/Perfume: This is a term used by industry to hide thousands of other toxic  chemicals. More than 3/4 of the time, this term is used to hide the presence of phthalates (THAL ates), which are known endocrine disruptors.  Phthalates are linked to birth defects, infertility, breast cancer, liver cancer, obesity, and diabetes.
  • Triclosan: This is the active ingredient in "anti-bacterial" products. It's registered with the EPA as a pesticide and is also a known endocrine disruptor, disrupting thyroid function.
  • Parabens: Parabens are preservatives linked to breast cancer, endocrine disruption, developmental defects, and reproductive toxicity.
  • Oxybenzone and Octinoxate: These are chemical UV filters found in many spf products and suncreens. They are also known endocrine disruptors. 
  •  DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), TEA (Triethanolamine): These are endocrine disrupting chemicals that have strong links to liver and kidney cancer.
  • Petrolatum: This is a derivative of petroleum. It is a carcinogen and an endocrine disruptor.
  •  PEGs (polyethylene glycol): These are byproducts of petrolatum. During the manufacturing process, the carcinogenic contaminant 1-4 dioxane is created.
  •  Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) & Sodium Lauryth Sulfate (SLES): These chemicals are considered carcinogens. SLES can be contaminated with 1-4 dioxane, although you will never see 1-4 dioxane on the label. Manufacturers aren't required to list carcinogenic contaminants. 
  • Ingredients that end in -eth:  Examples are triceteareth and ceteareth. These can also be contaminated with 1-4 dioxane
  • Retinyl Palmitate:  This can be found in many sunscreens and moisturizers, however in the presence of sunight, it enhances skin cancer lesions by 21% (FDA, 2011).
  •  Synthetic Colors: These are made from coal tar and are labeled as FD&C or D&C followed by a color and a number, for example, FD&C Red No. 6. These are carcinogenic and have been linked to behavioral problems in children.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

There's trouble in the water

The recent chemical spill in the Elk River in West Virgina has left 9 counties and hundreds of thousands of people without water for drinking, washing or other daily water usage. It has affected homes, and businesses. On January 9, an unknown amount, believed to be in the thousands of gallons,  of the chemical foaming agent 4-methylcyclohexane methanol leaked into the river.

4-methylcyclohexane methanol is a colorless liquid used to clean coal. Exposure can lead to dizziness and nausea, along with skin and eye irritation. This chemical is dangerous if inhaled or ingested. The chemical leaked from tanks owned and maintained by Freedom Industries, which will be held responsible for the cleanup.

This spill has again highlighted the need for greater chemical security measures and regulations for chemical start-up, shutdown and malfunction procedures. Companies should have written procedures to prevent accidents on start-up, shutdown and during malfunctions. There also needs to be more protections for citizens who live near these areas who will be affected by these chemical disasters. Unfortunately, right now, the burden is put on the citizens and not the industries. This needs to be reversed. In August, Obama signed an Executive Order to improve chemical security in the US, since it is also a national security issue, but the industry is fighting it by busing its own people into hearings and threatening job security for its employees. This is unfair and continues the falsehood that a clean, healthy environment must come at the cost of jobs.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Do si Don'ts?

There has been a petition circulating around social media for sometime asking the Girls Scout of America to make cookie without genetically modified ingredients (GMOs). The petition was started by 7-year old Alicia Serratos, a Girl Scout herself. 

On their website, the Girl Scouts admit to using GMOs stating: 

At the current time, there are genetically modified agricultural crops (GMOs) in Girl Scout Cookies. Our bakers determine whether to use GMOs in Girl Scout Cookies based on a range of market-related factors and depending on the specific cookie recipe.
Girl Scouts recognizes that many people have concerns regarding GMO ingredients, and we monitor member and consumer opinion on this matter. It is important to note that there is worldwide scientific support for the safety of currently commercialized ingredients derived from genetically modified agricultural crops. The World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association all share this assessment. In addition, in the future, GMOs may offer a way to help feed an ever-increasing world population.

The problem with the Girls Scouts' assessment is that most of the positive information that we have received about GMOs has come from the GMO industry, which has a vested interest in making a profit off it its products. Unfortunately, even medical and regulatory agencies can fall prey to industry dollars.

I for one, support this position and the call to label GMOs. Consumers have the right to know and to choose what they want in their diets.

Again, the petition can be found here.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

So here it goes. My first blog post. First of all, welcome to my blog and thank you for reading! Here's a little background about me. I'm a former biologist turned business woman. I'm passionate about environmental justice and proactive health care through the reduction of chemical exposures and healthier living. Although I admit my diet could use some improvement. :)

I'm also a consultant for Ava Anderson Non Toxic. I love their commitment to education first and selling products second. And I love their products. I also love that they continuously work to improve their products. If you would like to learn more about Ava, you can click here.

One national effort that I care deeply about is the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families campaign. I've been honored to attend both of their Stroller Brigades to lobby for tougher, REAL chemical reform in the United States.

Here's a picture of me at the last Stroller Brigade, in Oct. 2013, with actress and anti-chemical crusader Jennifer Beals!

Well, that's all for now. Thanks for reading!