Tag Archives: toxic

“Green This!” Book Reviews

The two books in Deirdre Imus’ series, Green This, are both very informative.

Vol. 1: Greening Your Cleaning
I’m going to have to buy this one to keep on hand as a reference. She categorizes by room in the house and within each room gives specific tips, products, homemade recipes, etc for cleaning various surfaces. She also gives great background info on why it’s important to detoxify our cleaning routines.

Vol. 2: Growing up Green: Baby and Child Care
I didn’t read this one all the way through (library books are due back today and can’t be renewed this time around!) but I will definitely check it out again when I have another one on the way. What I did read was helpful in understanding how the environment affects our children (diseases & other medical conditions, like asthma & ADHD for example). One reference I found particularly cool was her list of websites for companies that sell natural (non PVC, pthalate, etc) toys.

I will be adding these to the Gidget Goes Home aStore if you’d like to get a copy!

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High Fructose Corn Syrup

Here’s the basic process for making HFCS:
corn –> (milled into) corn starch –>
(processed into) corn syrup + enzymes (change glucose to fructose)
= high fructose corn syrup

Google high fructose corn syrup and you’ll find a plethora of articles about it being bad for us. There are possible health concerns with diabetes and high cholesterol, and it may or may not be the cause of rising obesity in the U.S. But hey, eat foods filled with HFCS or sugar (can or beet) and you’re going to be putting your body at risk.

There’s another issue with HFCS though, and here are 2 of the reasons Wikipedia gives as to why it is so controversial:

  • The preference for high-fructose corn syrup over cane sugar among the vast majority of American food and beverage manufacturers is largely due to U.S. import quotas and tariffs on sugar. These tariffs significantly increase the domestic U.S. price for sugar, forcing Americans to pay more than twice the world price for sugar, thus making high-fructose corn syrup an attractive substitute in U.S. markets. For instance, soft drink makers like Coca-Cola use sugar in other nations, but use high-fructose corn syrup in their U.S. products.
  • Some critics of HFCS do not claim that it is any worse than similar quantities of sucrose would be, but rather focus on its prominent role in the overconsumption of sugar; for example, encouraging overconsumption through its low cost.

An article in the Washington Post says, “What makes corn a target is that federal subsidies — and tariffs on imported sugar — keep prices low, paving the way for widespread use of high-fructose corn syrup and, in the process, keeping the American palate accustomed to the sweetness it provides.” Add to that the problem of how much energy it takes to process the corn into HFCS, and the fact that corn is grown without rotating the crops, which is damaging to the soil, and requires even more pesticides.

I’m not yet very educated on the subject, but let’s just say the evidence suggests that HFCS is a real bad guy when it comes to our health and the planet. Maybe down the road, government corn subsidies will be properly addressed by a future farm bill, because for now, the subsidies are forcing us into eating more sweets than healthy alternatives, simply because they are cheaper.

One of these years, the eaters of America are going to demand a place at the table, and we will have the political debate over food policy we need and deserve. –Michael Pollan

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Pick Your Organics

If like me, you can’t always justify buying organic fruits & veggies (yikes– $7 for a half pint of organic blueberries last time I was Safeway!!), here’s a great reference. Click the link and you can download a handy little wallet-sized guide to the 12 highest & 12 lowest f’s & v’s in pesticides. I like this a lot because this way I can justify buying organic peaches, for example, but stick to the cheaper, non-organic frozen sweet peas.
Thanks to EWG for the guide.

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Sunscreen

The Issue
To exemplify the problem with cosmetics in the U.S. that I brought up in my last post, I wanted to talk a bit about sunscreen. All of you moms, sun-lovers, & sensitive-skin types will agree that this is especially important.
Now, you’d think that the supposedly “#1 Pediatrician Recommended Brand” would be a safe bet. Well, that’s because we are all being mislead by labels on packaging with catch phrases that may or may not be completely true.

I bought and have been using Coppertone WaterBabies QuickCover Lotion Spray SPF 50 for Gianna, along with a couple of others, but we’ll just look the CWB one for now. Click the sunscreen name to see it’s safety rating, keeping in mind that the label promotes it as #1 Pediatrician Recommended Brand– you’ll see that it has a very high hazard score!
You can click HERE to see check out the study that the EWG (Environmental Working Group) did on sunscreens, and find links to their recommended brands, and the ones they say we should avoid (like Exhibit A, above).

A Few Product Suggestions
In case you’re wondering, I’ve bought a couple of the Alba Botanica Sun products to try out for now (Aloe Vanilla Mineral Sunscreen SPF 18, which scores a 3 (moderate), and the Kids Sunscreen SPF 32 Water Resistant (I entered this one in the database so its score is not verified yet, but similar ones were rated moderate).
These are okay products according the safety ratings, although they do supposedly have the most important factors which are both UVA/UVB protection, paraben free, and the Aloe one does not contain ultra-fine nanoparticles (which is something to look out for).
**UPDATE (6/10/08)**
We tried out the new sunscreen today. They both worked great for a long walk and a dip in the pool. The Mineral SPF 18 goes on pretty thick & white but that is the price you pay for no nanoparticles sinking into your skin. The Kids’ SPF 32 one rubbed in nicely and protected Gigi great. My only caveat with the 18 is be careful with your clothes- it got all over the edges of my black swimsuit & blank tank top. I’m going to either have to be more careful, or put it on before my clothes. 🙂 The 32 didn’t seem to have that problem, probably because it’s not a mineral sunscreen.

Dr. Greene, author of Raising Baby Green, uses Baby Avalon Natural sunscreen (I chose to try the Alba Sun ones first because they were on sale!), but what I really want to try is any of the California Baby sunscreens, which are a little more widely available (Target, Babies ‘r’ us ( so I heard), diapers.com, etc.) and score very low on the hazard rating. However, apparently everyone else wants to try them too, because they are currently unavailable everywhere, even directly from California Baby. But I will definitely try them out when they come back to the shelf.

It’s hard to just throw away products that you spent money on, and I haven’t completely done this yet with stuff I use on myself, but with sunscreen I felt that it was worthwhile– they are supposed to protect us from skin cancer, but are they inadvertently exposing us to other forms of cancer, or other medical conditions? A friend of mine told me that she just did the same thing and her husband pointed out, okay, so we’re throwing away like $35 in sunscreen. Is that $35 really going to matter down the road if we’re exposing our daughter to dangerous stuff? And to quote my “#1 research assistant” & friend Sarah, you either “pay now or pay later.”

Side note: EWG also did a study on children’s personal care products which has a handy printable guide with recommendations & buying guidelines. See it HERE. If you are a little skeptical of this, read this article from Fox News.

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Cosmetics Awareness

I was directed to the website of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics from my reading of Raising Baby Green, and was disgusted by what I found.

Not only does the FDA have little to no regulations set for cosmetics & personal care products, while in Europe they do, several large cosmetics companies who have been informed of the toxicity of some of their products are refusing to discontinue the use of these ingredients.

As the website reads, “The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition working to protect your health by calling for the elimination of chemicals used in the cosmetics industry linked to cancer, birth defects, and other health problems.”

The campaign encourages companies to sign the pact which says that they will phase out these toxic ingredients in the next 3 years. Since over 800 companies have signed so far, I infer that there are alternatively non-toxic ingredients that can be used. However, many of the large companies, such as Avon, Arbonne (whose slogan is “pure, safe, beneficial”), Revlon, Mary Kay & more have refused to sign!!

Since my mom has sold Avon (click for safety ratings) as long as I can remember, I’ve always liked their products, and even have sold it myself over the last few years- although I mostly buy and don’t actually sell much. 🙂 But now I’m having to reconsider my connection with Avon, and most likely will discontinue my use and promotion of their products in the near future.

A really helpful site is the Skin Deep Cosmetics Safety Database where you can search for brands & individual products to see how they score in terms of safety. And good news is that Whole Foods has instituted their own safety regulations so that seems like a safe place to buy (see article HERE), and that is where I will start my search for safer products, in addition to searching for products whose companies have signed the pact.

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BPA- yikes!

I’ve been trying to research BPA- that dangerous chemical found in plastics, and canned food. Here’s an interesting timeline of it (I mostly skimmed until the last section on the most recent events)— click HERE. I also posted a link in the sidebar with general BPA info.

I’ve never been a big fan of Wal-Mart but I appreciate their being proactive on this , and I’m stoked about Nalgene’s new products (although bummed about needing to throw away the million nalgenes we have). Here’s some good news (taken from linked article above):
“April 18-21, 2008: Major manufacturers and retailers abandon BPA in plastics.
Within days of the NTP and Canadian judgements major BPA manufacturers including Playtex (which makes bottles and cups) and Nalgene announce a shift to BPA-free products. Major retailers including Wal-Mart and Toys R Us announce they will quickly phase-out BPA-containing baby bottles.” Links: [Wal-Mart to phase out BPA] [Toys-R-Us – BPA phase-out] [Nalgene goes BPA free]

I’m a little worried about canned food though. I’d like to eat more fresh food rather than canned anyways, but sometimes they make for an easy meal or ingredient in a dish. Do we (especially pregnant moms & babies) need to stop eating canned soups/beans/etc until the BPA is removed? Why isn’t the FDA halting the use of it in food products anyways when the research has proved it to be toxic? Any thoughts on this?

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