Friday, February 28, 2014

Label Check: Sodium Laureth Sulfate.

This is the latest in my Label Check series in which I examine a chemical or ingredient in depth. Today I am looking at Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES).  It is a surfactant used as a foaming agent, as people often incorrectly believe that more foam equal more cleaning power. 

You can find SLES in toothpastes, shower gels, bubble bath, soaps, facial cleansers, and detergents. It's an inexpensive ingredient, so manufacturers like to use it to keep costs down.  SLES can cause eye irritation and can be contaminated with the carcinogen 1-4 dioxane and ethylene oxide, which is a carcinogen, along with being a reproductive/development toxicant, and immunotoxicant.
While SLES is thought to be milder than Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), there are still concerns. 


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Green Chemistry: What is it and why do we need it?

While we may be used to traditional chemistry creating both many of the products we use everyday and the toxins we face everyday, we may not be familiar with green chemistry. According to the EPA, green chemistry "is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation of hazardous substances."

Photo taken from EPA

Green chemistry is presenting opportunities not only for a cleaner environment, but also for increased business opportunities and savings.  A 2011, Pike Research report stated that by the year 2020, green chemistry will save industry $65.5 billion in liability for social and environmental costs. The same report stated that in terms of market opportunity, green chemistry will represent $98.5 billion in market opportunity by 2020. 

One green chemist is already seizing the opportunity. Chemical engineering professor Richard Wool of the University of Delaware uses environmentally-friendly products like flaxseed, chicken feathers and vegetable oil to make a variety a products, including car parts, tape, shoes and roofing materials. 
Colleges and universities around the world are also now focuses efforts on green chemistry. The American Chemical Society, not to be confused with the toxic lobbying group the American Chemistry Council, even provides research grants for green chemistry. Green chemistry allows for continued progress without continued detriment to public and environmental health.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Toxins in Children's Clothing

It seems like everywhere you look these days there is news that something else is toxic! Recently, Greenpeace came out with a report of toxic chemicals found in children's clothing. Greenpeace Taiwan tested 27 brands of children's clothing ranging from Dior to Disney to Hermes and Versace. They found 16 brands contained at least one toxic chemical. The toxic chemicals discovered were phthalates, nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE), antimony and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs).

Photo of a Burberry shirt taken from: Daily Mail UK & Greenpeace.

 What's is the danger in these chemicals?
  • Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors. Phthalates are linked to birth defects, infertility, breast cancer, liver cancer, obesity, and diabetes.
  • NPE are endocrine disrupting chemicals.
  • Antimony is a carcinogen and is toxic to the skin, liver, heart and lungs. It can be found in polyester textiles. 
  • PFCs are endocrine disruptors, are thought to raise the risk for cancer, and are believed to be linked to the following: thyroid disruption, infertility, developmental delays, liver dysfunction, immunotoxicity, preeclampsia and risk of high cholesterol. PFCs can be found in stain-resistant and water-repellant clothing.
These chemicals can also be found in adult clothing. However, since the release of this report, 19 of the 27 brands and one of the fashion suppliers have promised to try to clean up their act and remove the toxic chemicals from their products.

Taipei Times

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dietary Toxins and Eating Well

While I normally focus on toxins in personal care products and the environment, I've decided to take a look at toxins and harmful chemicals in the food we eat. This is a collaborative post with a wonderful blogger, Jessica David of Conveying Awareness with Jessica David.

photo credit: <a href="">Bradley Wind</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

To begin with, let's short list of some chemicals that we need to avoid in the food we eat.
  • Mercury in fish: The dangers of mercury exposure include fatigue, memory problems, mercury poisoning, and dangers to the developing fetus.
  • Artificial dyes: These are a color followed by a number, for example, Red 3. These dyes have been linked to behavioral problems in children and cancer.
  • Sodium nitrate: Found in processed foods like hot dogs, bacon and sausage, sodium nitrate gives these foods their red tint. Sodium nitrates leads to an increase of nitrosamines in your body, which can lead to cancer. 
  • Bisphenol A ( BPA): Often found in the lining of canned foods and beverages. It is estrogenic and can also leach from plastic. BPA has been linked to diabetes and heart disease. 
  • Polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs): These are industrial coolants that can be found in farm-raised fish and are known endocrine disruptors and carcinogens. 
  • Dioxins: Dioxins are contaminants formed during combustion and industrial processes. For example, trash burning, forest fires, incineration, herbicide manufacturing, and paper pulp bleaching. Dioxins can also be found in farm-raised fish and in the fatty tissues of animals that have been exposed to dioxins. The risks of dioxin exposure include, reproductive & developmental problems, an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, and cancer. 
  • Hydrogenated oils: Oils are long, often branched chains of carbon and hydrogen that are liquid are room temperature. The branches are caused when there are carbon to carbon double bonds. Scientists can go into the lab and add hydrogen atoms to these double bonds to break them and make the molecule more stable. This is a hydrogenated oil. They are used to increase the shelf life of food products, but have been linked to diabetes and heart disease.
  • Artificial sweeteners: Aspartame is probably the most famous artificial sweetener. It has been linked to headaches, dizziness and neuronal damage. Recently, another artificial sweetener, Splenda (sucralose) was linked to the release of cancer-causing chemicals when cooked & baked.
  • GMOs: GMOs are genetically modified organisms. They are created when scientists take the genes from organism/species A and put them into unrelated organism/species B. We were told that GMOs would help alleviate the problem of world hunger, but instead, GMOs have largely been used to increase the consumption of pesticides (The Link Between GMOs and Pesticides). Studies on the safety of GMOs have largely come from the companies that produce GMOs, who have a vested interest in the outcome of those studies. While more independent scientific studies are needed on the safety of GMOs on humans, experiments from farmers show that animals prefer non-GMO food. One scientific study on rats, showed lifetime exposure to Roundup Ready GM corn lead to tumors, multiple organ damage and death. 
  • Pesticides: Conventional farming relies heavily on pesticides. Pesticides have been linked to endocrine disruption, infertility, neurological damage and cancer. The most widely used pesticide, atrazine, has been extensively studied by Dr. Tyrone Hayes of UC Berkeley. He used to work for the company that made the pesticide, Syngenta, but when he tried to publish a paper on the negative effects of the product, they stopped him. Syngenta has been trying to stop him ever since. His website can be found here. Unfortunately, even organic foods are exposed to some pesticides through rain, runoff and the water table, though to a lesser extent than conventional produce.

Now let's transition into how you can improve your diet to become your best you.
One of my passions is to share the benefits of eating the [real] rainbow daily and it's found in fruits and vegetables. I wasn't always like this though. It only occurred to me about 5 years ago the importance of eating more of nature's best so that I could heal some conditions that had plagued me for years. Though I have always been thin, I wasn't always healthy and I didn't know any better and guess what? I didn't care much about longevity in my 20s. It wasn't until I became a mom at age 31 that I decided to make some changes! It took another new mom to pull me aside and share with me how I could eat more fruits and vegetables and that it could be the first step in the right direction for reversing some damage done through nutrient poor food choices that I had made for many years. 

Fast forward a few years, I became a certified health coach. The seed to link arms with others in their wellness journeys was planted months after that talk with my friend. Learn more about my story here. So here I am encouraging you to strive for 5. Eat five different fruits and 5 different vegetables daily. Here are some tools to help you meet that goal. 
1) Download my free eGuide.  
2) Learn more about Traffic Light Eating from a L.E.A.N. perspective. 
3) Follow me on Pinterest. These boards are helpful: + Eating the Real Rainbow + Recipes Using Veggies + My recipes  
4) Join a CSA (farm-share co-op). For a listing in your area, visit Local Harvest. 
5) If it's right for you, take one of my L.E.A.N. Start online classes. 
In session three, we talk about ways to eat more of nature's best - fruits and vegetables! Info. 

In tip 2, it mentions the L.E.A.N. perspective. This is the 4 pillars of health: Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitude, and Nutrition and no matter the way you slice it (different words to describe the same concepts), we need all 4 components for our journey to wellness. World-renown pediatrician and author of nearly 40 books, Dr. Bill Sears (of the Sears Wellness Institute) teaches us that the most basic foundation of understanding nutrition is through the colors of a stoplight. Today's lesson is on the green light. The other two colors are summarized in tip two.

Green light foods are fruits and vegetables found closest to nature. If you're concerned about pesticides, other contaminants, and GMOs, purchase them organic or know your supplier. I teach that eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is key to wellness and the benefits outweigh the risks. Over time, as your pockets adjust, you will find that eating produce without *most contamination may serve you better and it will support small local farmers and their families. Knowing your supplier is key because you can support local farmers and their families that cannot afford the organic label. This also applies to getting whole food nutrients in a capsule. If the product doesn't carry the USDA Organic seal, you may also look for NSF International's seal - this means that what the product claims to have or not have in their product is the truth via NSFs third-party non-affiliated testing and certification. * Even USDA Organic foods have some contaminants. See this link for more info. 

I live in a food desert. The options for fresh, sustainable produce free of contaminants are low. There are no farmers' markets in my area so it is difficult for me to find a good variety of produce locally. I shop about twice a week to two or three stores to find the best quality of produce. It's important for me to eat a variety of produce and for specific crops, I almost always buy organic when I can (see EWG Dirty Dozen for more info, link is below). I'm thankful that there is a farm-share co-op drop off in my city. I am a subscriber to Abundant Harvest Organics and eventually, I hope to grow my own soon with a Tower Garden

If you want more information on which fruits and vegetables have the highest levels of contaminants, visit EWGs: The Dirty Dozen. If you'd like to know how many and what kinds of contaminants are on your produce, check out What's On My Food Choose, eat, and live well! =)
Jessica David is a Certified L.E.A.N. Health Coach and the owner and founder of Conveying Awareness providing nutrition tips via a plethora of resources. Jessica feels that through encouragement we can impart education with lasting results. She advocates for families to eat more fruits and vegetables. She lives in Ridgecrest, California with her husband and their son. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and her blog.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Label Check: Petrolatum

This is the 5th installment in my Label Check series, in which I examine a chemical in depth.

Like its name suggests, petrolatum is created from petroleum or crude oil. It's a semisolid mixture of hydrocarbons used as a skin or hair conditioner,  skin protectant, and machinery lubricant. It also absorbs UV rays. One of the most famous petrolatum products is probably petroleum jelly, in petrolatum is the main ingredient. For years, doctors have suggested parents use petrolatum to cure diaper rash for their babies.


Petrolatum was originally found at the bottom of oil rigs in the 1800s. However, during refining, all of the carcinogenic products may not be removed. While the brand Vaseline is generally regarded as non-toxic, other brands may not be as trustworthy. 
Petrolatum also blocks the pores of your skin. It keeps your skin "moisturized," because it blocks water from being able to escape from your skin. It creates an illusion of moisturization, while really blocking air and water from reaching your skin. The thick barrier of petrolatum also blocks in any dirt on your skin, making it more difficult to clean. 
According to the Huffington Post:  
"People suffering from skin conditions like acne and rosacea should stay away from petroleum jelly altogether, since such thick emollients can aggravate those conditions. Those who rub Vaseline on dry, cracked noses to get through a cold might want to think twice, too: If petroleum jelly gets into the lungs, it can cause lipid pneumonia. It won't happen if you apply it once in a while, but Dr. Dattner recommends not making a daily habit of it."
Instead of using Petrolatum, use more natural moisturizers.  I sell Ava Anderson Products and use them myself.

Monday, February 17, 2014

One more reason to fight for tougher regulation of toxic chemicals.

Breastfeeding is best. We all know that. However, breastfeeding can also expose your child to toxic chemicals.
Photo Credit: <a href="">c r z</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Man-made chemicals called persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are of most concern. They spread through the environment and are stored in the fatty tissues of fish and animals until they reach the top of the food chain, humans. Once in humans, they are are stored in our fat, and our fat is necessary for the production of breast milk. When a nursing mother feeds her child, these POPs are released into the breast milk. Examples of POPs include certain pesticides, dioxin, toxic metals (lead, mercury, cadmium), flame retardants and PCBs.  
What can mothers do?  
Here is a list provided by the National Resources Defense Council
  • "Quit smoking or never start, and keep others from smoking in your house or car
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages
  • Avoid use of pesticides in the home and garden or on pets
  • Avoid exposure to solvents, such as paints, non-water-based glues, furniture strippers, gasoline fumes, perfume and nail polish
  • Avoid dry cleaners and recently dry-cleaned clothes
  • Eat a balanced diet low in animal fats and high-fat dairy products
  • Avoid fish that may have high mercury or PCB levels, such as swordfish, shark, tuna and locally caught fish (see NRDC's guide to Mercury Contamination in Fish for more information)
  • Eat organically grown food, if available"
Do these toxins harm you baby? A 2009, CDC study found that levels of certain toxins were higher in formula than they were in breast milk. Also, breastmilk may contain bacteria that can metabolize perchlorate, another environmental toxin found in breastmilk. Scientists and doctors still promote breastfeeding as the best option for mothers and children, if possible. 
What else can mothers do? 
Again, I support, Safer Chemicals Health Families and their actions on tougher regulation for toxic chemicals. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Label Check: PEGs

This is the 4th installment in my Label Check series, in which I examine a toxic ingredient in depth.
PEGs (polyethylene glycol) is a petroleum-based product that has many uses and applications, from laxatives, to medicinal solvents and lubricants, and eye drops. PEGs can also be found in skin creams, toothpastes, and personal lubricants.  PEGs dissolve grease and oil. So by dissolving our skin's natural oils, they make our skin more vulnerable to other toxins. The structure of polyethylene glycol is below. The "n" denotes the number of repeating units.

Image from

According to Truth in Aging:

"In cosmetics, PEGs function in three ways: as emollients (which help soften and lubricate the skin), as emulsifiers (which help water-based and oil-based ingredients mix properly), and as vehicles that help deliver other ingredients deeper into the skin."

There are multiple forms of PEGs. In labels, you will see the letters PEG often followed by a number.  The number tells the molecular weight. PEGs with a lower molecular weight can penetrate the skin more easily.  For example, PEG-8 has a lower molecular weight than PEG-100.

You also often see PEGs on the label as PEG-2 stearate. The stearate shows that the compound polyethylene (plastic) + glycol (alcohol) attached to a stearic acid molecule. Stearic acid, is a naturally occurring fatty acid, often from vegetable oil.

According to the Skin Deep Database, polyethylene glycol, may be contaminated with the carcinogens 1-4 dioxane and ethylene oxide. Consider this with PEGs skin penetrating properties.

Skin irritation due to PEGs will depend on the condition of your skin. Again from Truth in Aging

"To note, independent of molecular size, PEGs of all sizes may penetrate through injured skin with compromised barrier function. So it is very important to avoid products with PEGs if your skin is not in tip top condition.

This penetration enhancing effect is important for three reasons: 1) If your skin care product contains a bunch of other undesirable ingredients, PEGs will make it easier for them to get down deep into your skin. 2) By altering the surface tension of the skin, PEGs may upset the natural moisture balance. 3) PEGs are not always pure, but often come contaminated with a host of toxic impurities."
Check labels carefully to avoid products with PEGs, especially if you skin has any cuts, abrasions or openings. 

Treating Yourself Naturally - Bath Time Done Right!

This Valentine's Day treat yourself to a nice, relaxing Detox bath! This is a collaborative post with Conveying Awareness with Jessica David. 

Treating Yourself Naturally - Bath Time Done Right!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Toxic Chemicals at your fingertips.

Who doesn't love to paint their fingernails, or toenails for that matter; especially as the weather warms and the sandals come out? For many of us, it is a special indulgence, a bright spot in a stressful week. It's like changing your hair color, but less expensive and less time consuming.

Image from
In 2006, health advocates began raising alarms and awareness about three chemicals in nail polish (including top and base coats) referred to as "the toxic trio," According to the New York Times;  
"The trio consisted of a known carcinogen, formaldehyde, used as a hardening agent, and two materials linked to developmental defects: toluene, to evenly suspend color, and the plasticizer dibutyl phthalate, or DBP, to add flexibility and sheen."
Nail polish manufacturers said that they removed these chemicals from their products and began to label their polishes "non-toxic." However, a 2012 study by the California Environmental Protection Agency: California Department of Substances Control found that the "numerous" companies continued to use one, two, or all three chemicals in their polishes. A highlight video of the study is below.
These chemicals are toxic to both nail technicians and consumers, including pregnant women & children. (Phthalates pose a developmental risk to children, and children tend to chew on their nails). Adverse health effects of exposure include, asthma, birth defects and cancer. To find a safe brand, use the Skin Deep Database at

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Big Day for Environmental Justice; a 20th Anniverssary

Today, February 11th, is the 20th Anniversary of Executive Order 12898: Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low Income Populations. 

Image from

However, this was not the beginning of the EJ movement, it was just the first and largest federal recognition of the movement. Here is a brief timeline from the folks are the National Resources Defense Council documenting some milestones in the EJ movement.

"Early 1960s - Farm workers organized by Cesar Chavez fight for workplace rights, including protection from toxic pesticides in California farm fields.

1962 - Rachel Carson's Silent Spring details the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment.

1964 - Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. The law's "Title VI" -- prohibiting use of federal funds to discriminate based on race, color and national origin -- will become an important tool in environmental justice litigation.

1967 - African-American students take to the streets of Houston to oppose a city dump that had claimed the lives of two children.

1969 - Lawsuit filed on behalf of six migrant farm workers by California Rural Legal Assistance plays a role in the ban on the pesticide DDT in the United States.

1970 - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established to enforce laws that protect human health and safeguard the natural environment.

1971 - President's Council on Environmental Quality acknowledges that racial discrimination negatively affects the quality of the environment for the urban poor.

1972 - The United States bans the use of the toxic pesticide DDT.

1973 - The EPA issues rules that phase out lead in gasoline over several years; lead levels in the air will fall by 90 percent.

1978 - Hundreds of families evacuated from Love Canal area of Niagara Falls, New York, due to rates of cancer and birth defects; toxic chemicals were buried decades before under neighborhood.

1979 - African-American community in Houston opposing a landfill brings first Title VI lawsuit challenging the siting of a waste facility."
The EJ movement is not finished yet. There is still work to be done. There are still areas like Mossville, LA, Rubbertown in Louisville, KY, Houston, TX, and Richmond, CA where minority and low income populations are subject to disproportionate levels of pollution. For example, you might have heard of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Many people are opposed to this project for climate change reasons, but for Native Canadians who live near the Tar Sands, this is an EJ issue. They are being exposed to oil spills and chemical pollution from tar sand extraction. I say this just to point out that pollution issues and EJ issues often go hand and hand. The pollution has to go into someone's back yard. Unfortunately, these communities are often left to fend for themselves, but if we all lend a hand, maybe things will start to change. Remember the wind and rivers unite us all.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Label Check: Mineral Oil

This is the 3rd in my Label Check series, in which I examine a label ingredient in depth. Here I will examine mineral oil.  Mineral oil is the name given to any various colorless, odorless mixtures of petroleum products. Baby oil is simply mineral oil that has been given a fragrance.
Image from

Mineral oil, in it's various forms, has many uses, including as a laxative, a moisturizer, a medication for diaper rash, furniture polish, air freshener and toilet bowl cleaner. It can be found in makeup, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and as lubricants for car engines and heavy machinery, just to name a few.

According to the Skin Deep Database, the adverse health effects of exposure to mineral oil include, possible immune system toxicity or possible allergen status. Some carcinogenic concern for aerosolized mineral oil products, and toxicity for non-reproductive organs.  According to the website Livestrong adverse health effects include, vitamin deficiencies, lung damage, birth defects, brain embolism, and gastrointestinal problems.

If you are looking for an alternative to mineral oil, you might want to try plant-based essential oils.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Endocrine Disruptors in Depth

We've all probably heard the term endocrine or hormone disruptors multiple times and we are all probably aware that they are bad for us, but what are they exactly? How do they function?
According to the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences:
"Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife."
  photo from

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can be natural or man-made. However, since WWII and our increasing dependence on synthetic chemistry, our concern has turned toward the over 80,000 new chemicals created. Many of these chemicals are EDCs.

Hormones in our body interact with specific target organs (made of cells). For example, estrogen targets the ovaries.  disrupt these pathways by interacting with the target organ, binding to hormone transport proteins, disrupting gene expression, inducing or inhibiting enzymes and interfering with cellular uptake and export. Source: TEDX

EDCs can be found pretty much everywhere, from food to toys and pesticides. Unfortunately, we can't shop our way around this problem. We need strong legislation to rid ourselves of these chemicals once and for all. That is why I support Safer Chemicals for Healthy Families. Please Check out their website.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What is Environmental Justice (EJ)?

Yesterday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy posted this video on the EPA Environmental Justice Blog.

February 2014 is Environmental Justice month! But wait a minute. What is environmental justice (ej)? Well, according to the EPA:
"Environmental Justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across this Nation. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work."
In a previous post, I detailed two communities, Mossville, LA and Savoonga, AK. Unfortunately, communities exist all over the nation, in fact all over the world, that suffer from disproportionate exposure to toxic chemicals. These chemicals can come from factories and/or from cheaper products on local store shelves that contain more toxic chemicals.

In 1991, the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit met in Washington DC. They drafted and adopted The 17 Principles of the Environmental Justice.
"1) Environmental Justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.
2) Environmental Justice demands that public policy be based on mutual respect and justice for all peoples, free from any form of discrimination or bias.
3) Environmental Justice mandates the right to ethical, balanced and responsible uses of land and renewable resources in the interest of a sustainable planet for humans and other living things.
4) Environmental Justice calls for universal protection from nuclear testing, extraction, production and disposal of toxic/hazardous wastes and poisons and nuclear testing that threaten the fundamental right to clean air, land, water, and food.
5) Environmental Justice affirms the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and environmental self-determination of all peoples.
6) Environmental Justice demands the cessation of the production of all toxins, hazardous wastes, and radioactive materials, and that all past and current producers be held strictly accountable to the people for detoxification and the containment at the point of production.
7) Environmental Justice demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making, including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.
8) Environmental Justice affirms the right of all workers to a safe and healthy work environment without being forced to choose between an unsafe livelihood and unemployment. It also affirms the right of those who work at home to be free from environmental hazards.
9) Environmental Justice protects the right of victims of environmental injustice to receive full compensation and reparations for damages as well as quality health care.
10) Environmental Justice considers governmental acts of environmental injustice a violation of international law, the Universal Declaration On Human Rights, and the United Nations Convention on Genocide.
11) Environmental Justice must recognize a special legal and natural relationship of Native Peoples to the U.S. government through treaties, agreements, compacts, and covenants affirming sovereignty and self-determination.
12) Environmental Justice affirms the need for urban and rural ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our cities and rural areas in balance with nature, honoring the cultural integrity of all our communities, and provided fair access for all to the full range of resources.
13) Environmental Justice calls for the strict enforcement of principles of informed consent, and a halt to the testing of experimental reproductive and medical procedures and vaccinations on people of color.
14) Environmental Justice opposes the destructive operations of multinational corporations.
15) Environmental Justice opposes military occupation, repression and exploitation of lands, peoples, and cultures, and other life forms.
16) Environmental Justice calls for the education of present and future generations which emphasizes social and environmental issues, based on our experience and an appreciation of our diverse cultural perspectives.
17) Environmental Justice requires that we, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother Earth’s resources and to produce as little waste as possible; and make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to insure the health of the natural world for present and future generations."
While you may be thinking that these ej issues don't affect you because you don't live in these neighborhoods, you would be wrong. You see, the wind blows and connects us all. The river runs and links us all together. The pollution doesn't stay in one place. If we fight for these communities, we fight for ourselves.
Image taken from

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Label Check: Phthalates

Phthalates (pronounced thalates) are a class of chemicals used to soften vinyl and plastics. They also act as dyes, adhesives and solvents. They can be found in fragrances, cosmetics, lotions, food packaging, plastic wrap, vinyl toys, wallpaper, pharmaceuticals, shower curtains, medical tubing, insecticides, and nail polish, just to name a few. Phthalates are capable of off-gasing, becoming gaseous and entering the air we breathe and have been found in indoor air and dust.

The health effects of exposure to phthalates may include lower sperm counts, endocrine disruption,  cancer, and negative impacts on the developing male reproductive system. Phthalate metabolites have also been detected in the urine of women with breast cancer (Breast Cancer Fund).
"A 2012 study examined whether or not there is a relationship between urinary levels of nine different phthalates and the incidence of breast cancer. In this study, urinary phthalate metabolites were detected in 82 percent of the women, whether or not they had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Monoethyl phthalate (MEP), a urinary metabolite of the parent compound diethyl phthalate (DEP; often used in fragrance), was elevated in women with breast cancer. This association was most profound in pre-menopausal women. Metabolites of two other common phthalates (butyl benzyl phthalate, BBP; and di-n-octyl phthalate, DOP) were negatively associated with breast cancer risk in this study (Lopez-Carrillo, 2010)."
How can you avoid phthalates? The folks are Safer Chemicals Healthy Families have provided some excellent tips! 
"1. There’s no sure-fire way to completely avoid phthalates until Congress passes legislation that will require chemical manufacturers to demonstrate that their products are safe before they end up in our lotions, dashboards, and bodies.
Until then...
2. Skip the fragrance when choosing cosmetics, personal care products, cleaning products, detergents, and air fresheners. Manufacturers aren’t required to list phthalates on the label, but any item listed as “fragrance” is often a chemical mixture that can contain phthalates.
3. When buying cosmetics, purchase from companies that have pledged not to use phthalates.
4. Check the Healthy Toys database for toys bought before 2009 - they may contain phthalates.
5. Avoid buying plastics that may be treated with phthalates, including vinyl toys, shower curtains, and gloves. Look out for "PVC," "V" or the "3" recycling code on the item or its packaging.
6. If you have vinyl flooring in your home, damp mop regularly since phthalates bind to dust on the floor. Direct sunlight on vinyl tiles causes them to release phthalates more quickly, so put lower blinds on windows that shine directly on flooring."

Source: Tox Town

Happy label reading!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Toxic Babies

Did you know that the typical North American newborn has hundreds of toxic chemicals present in their cord blood at birth? These toxins include both industrial chemicals and chemicals from everyday personal care products. This is particularly disturbing because newborns don't have established detoxification systems yet, nor is there a blood-brain barrier established to protect their developing brains.

How do the babies get these chemicals into their systems? Well, it turns out that the placenta doesn't block or filter out toxins. Some of the chemicals detected include pesticides, the industrial coolant PCBs, non-stick pan coatings, BPA, and flame retardants. A recent study, written about in Scientific American showed that minority groups have higher levels of chemicals in their cord blood and that this may lead to disproportionately higher rates of chronic disease in minority communities; see Health based on where you live.

Another study by the Environmental Working Group, examined 10 babies and found, on average 200 chemicals in the cord blood. The study also found the following  health effects. 
  • "134 have shown to cause cancer in lab animals or people.
  • 151 are associated with causing birth defects.
  • 154 are endocrine disruptors, they interfere with the body’s hormonal system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects.
  • 186 are linked to infertility.
  • 130 are immune system toxins.
  • 158 are neurotoxins."
Those are pretty scare numbers! So how can you minimize exposure while pregnant? Well, the Environmental Working Group has a few suggestions.
  • "Buy organic.
  • Eat fish that is low in mercury.
  • Filter tap water. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s National Drinking Water database.
  • Use cast-iron and stainless steel cookware instead of nonstick products.
  • Shop smart for personal care products, such as shampoos, cosmetics and toothpastes. Stay away from nail polish and dark hair dye and check out other products on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database."

 Be sure to check out my previous posts on Toxic Chemicals to Avoid to help with your shopping. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Label Check: Parabens

This is the first in my Label Check series, in which I focus on one chemical or class of chemicals. Today I'll focus on parabens, antimicrobial preservatives found in cosmetics (including baby products), deodorants, foods, and pharmaceuticals. 

Parabens are absorbed through the digestive system, skin and blood. Parabens are estrogenic endocrine disruptors that bind to estrogen receptors.

"They also increase the expression of many genes that are usually regulated by the natural estrogen estradiol and cause human breast tumor cells (MCF-7 cells) to grow and proliferate in vitro (Byford, 2002; Pugazhendhi, 2007)"
Meaning, that outside of the body, in tissue samples, parabens increased human breast cancer cell growth.  A small 2004 study of 20 women in the UK found intact (un-metabolized) parabens in breast tumors, although this study did not establish a cause-effect relationship between parabens and breast cancer. Some people disregard this 20-person study because it did not take into account normal paraben tissue amounts.

Parabens can also act as toxins to the reproductive system. Studies in animals have shown that dietary exposure to parabens lead to  decreased daily sperm production and decreased serum testosterone production in male mice.
Parabens have also been linked to neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity and  skin irritation.

You can avoid labels by looking for "paraben-free" products. Happy label reading!