Posts Tagged ‘chemicals’

We could argue over Phthalates.  Disagree about estrogen receptors.  Parabens, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, 1,4 dioxane, synthetic fragrances?  I’m sure someone out there will fight on their behalf.

You could make yourself crazy reading all the literature.  There are plenty of studies supporting booths sides of the argument.  So, why go there?

I’ll tell you one thing you can’t argue with: that natural, organic skin care products are bad for you.

So, if you KNOW that natural skin care products that avoid these chemicals are safe.

And you KNOW that you can find them easily at the store or online.

And if they DON’T even cost anymore than department store products…

Then why not use them?

It is like this:  there are two bags of dog poop.  One bag is totally safe and 100% guaranteed to not break.  The other bag is promoted to be safe, but studies say there is a chance it will break.

Which bag are you going to choose?

That’s what I thought…

So, if you don’t want that cr&p touching your hands, why would you want it to touch your face?

($14 in the swear jar and counting)

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After half a dozen tubes of “safe” sunscreen and a hundred dollars later, I finally have found our family’s sunscreen.

I’ve been experimenting with different brands, trying to find the best of the low-chemical sunscreens. It hasn’t always gone well.

First there was Burt’s Bees, which was a disaster. My children were pale yellow and stuck to furniture.

After a couple unnotables, we settled on Earth’s Best for a while. My kids looked like mimes, but we dealt with it.

Then Alba Botanica fragrance-free worked its way to the top of our list. They didn’t seem quite as white, but they still got a 20 minute full-body massage every time we went to the pool. The time it took to rub in and evenly distribute these zinc-based products was killing me. I needed a quicker option in my bag of tricks.

Then came Supergoop. Dr. T’s Supergoop.

It is one of only 13 non-mineral sunscreens that Environmental Working Group recommends. It has a safety rating of 3 out of 10, which I’m great with. I may be giving up a point or two, but it is worth it. The consistency is much thinner, making it easy to quickly and liberally apply. The kids don’t complain about it (as much) and when they do complain, it only has to last 1 minute because then I’m DONE!

I LOVE the pump on the 15 and 24 ounce bottles. It sits on my counter and I can quickly lube the family up before we run out the door. I am still using my zinc products for my little people’s faces, but for the all over coverage, you can’t beat this stuff!

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It is that time of year again: time to load up on sunscreens! I am planning a trip to the store today because I’m almost out, and checked out the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) website to get some good options. This website is awesome. You can search for good options as well as see how your sunscreen rates. We are slathering it all over our kid’s skin and owe it to them to make sure we are picking good products!

I have written about this before. Check out last year’s post here to get a quick overview of the chemicals and other issues in typical sunscreens.

In the mean time, have fun with this: EWG’s “Hall of Shame” – a quick list of the worst offenders. Hope yours isn’t on there!

Hawaiian Tropic Baby Stick Sunscreen SPF 50

Hawaiian Tropic’s website claims “Less Chemical Sunscreens” for this baby sunscreen stick. Truth is, it contains two chemicals to that don’t belong on a baby’s skin – the hormone disruptor oxybenzone and a form vitamin A called retinyl palmitate. A recent federal government study shows retinyl palmitate may speed up the growth of skin tumors.

The final straw? The UVA protection factor for this sunscreen is less than 10 – a far cry from the 50 SPF plastered on the package. It’s not good enough to be sold in Europe.


Baby Blanket SunBlankie Towelette SPF 45+

This baby sunscreen advertises “maximum allowable protection for babies” but doesn’t deliver.

If the FDA’s proposed rating system were in force today, it would earn only one of four stars for UVA protection, according to EWG’s analysis. It doesn’t have enough UVA protection to meet European standards.

Your baby’s skin may not get burned, but UVA rays could penetrate it and cause skin damage that would accumulate, possibly triggering cancer later in life.


Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion SPF 70+

Coppertone advises users of this baby product to apply “liberally.”

But scientists who have researched its key sunscreen chemical, oxybenzone, warn against using it over large surfaces of skin and over many hours. These warnings are particularly strong for young children who don’t eliminate toxic chemicals from their bodies as readily as adults and who have more skin relative to their body weight than adults.

Oxybenzone readily seeps through the skin and into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body.

This Coppertone sunscreen is one of more than 20 sunscreens with the word “baby” in their name and the chemical oxybenzone on their ingredient lists. Don’t buy them. Plenty of safer products are available.


Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection SPF 55

The label of this product says “mild as water” but it also warns, “Stop use and ask a doctor if rash or irritation develops and lasts.”  The label adds, “keep out of reach of children” and “get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.”


Aveeno’s failing rating comes from its main ingredient: oxybenzone.  Like Coppertone’s Water Babies, little people shouldn’t be lathered in nasty chemicals.  It is just too easy to pick a better product.


Banana Boat Sport Performance Active Max Protect, SPF 110

The letters SPF mean “sun protection factor” and refers only to protection against UVB radiation, which burns the skin. It has nothing to do UVA radiation that penetrates deep into the skin, accelerates skin aging and may cause skin cancer.

The actual UVA protection factor for this Banana Boat sunscreen is as low as 12. Don’t depend on it to shield your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

Sunscreen makers are waiting for the FDA to approve more chemicals that could help boost UVA protection. In the meantime, high-SPF products may tempt people to stay in the sun too long, suppressing sunburns but upping the risks of UVA damage.

Also, hold your breath if you use this aerosol spray, or you’re likely to breathe in sunscreen chemicals that are meant for your skin.


Rite Aid Kids Sunscreen Spray Lotion SPF 45

On the front of the bottle, this products claims to be “NON-IRRITATING.” Check the reverse panel, though and you’ll see a different message: “Stop use and ask a doctor if rash or irritation develops and lasts.”

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends this spray as “an effective UV sunscreen,” but its UVA protection is too weak to earn a spot on store shelves in the European Union. If the FDA’s proposed UVA rating system takes effect as it is now written, Rite Aid Kids Sunscreen Spray Lotion SPF 45 would earn only one of four stars.  Remember, just because it can stop a burn (UVB rays) doesn’t mean it is stopping skin damage (UVA rays).


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Finally, the study I have been waiting for: you CAN be too clean for your own good.

(This one is for you, Lotte, my darling college roommate who wouldn’t use my brush or sit on our toilet.  I can only imagine your quad strength after all of these years.)

Good grief, then my children should be safe all winter long. I didn’t have any stock photos of my kids dirty hands, but I didn’t need to…here are Dalai Daniel’s hands from this morning….

A recent study out of University of Michigan looked at levels of triclosan and Bisphenol A (BPA) in the urine of patients. Triclosan is found in most antibacterial soaps and have been highly criticized for many reasons (one being its fast increasing levels in our water supply).  BPA is foundin most plastics.  Both BPA and triclosan are endocrine disruptors, which I have talked about here and here.

The study suggests that people who are overexposed to antibacterial soaps containing triclosan may suffer more allergies.  Higher levels of Bisphenol A among adults may negatively influence the immune system.

It is no surprise to me that chemicals exposure and health problems are correlated. You are going to be exposed to chemicals when you wash our hands in public places, so give your body a break and use natural soap at home.  Studies have shown that the antibacterial soaps are no more effective.

As for the BPA, look for BPA-free markings on any plastic that will contain food, don’t heat your food in plastic containers, and be wary of plastic lined cans – most have BPA unless advertised otherwise!

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Here is an interesting debate:  how far should government go to keep us healthy?

A recent study done by Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, found that fast food chains have increased their television advertising to toddlers by 21% since 2003 and older children by 34%.  This doesn’t count the massive increase in social medial advertising, like online children websites, which get hundreds of thousands of new visitors a year.

The fast food industry has felt pressure to self regulate and in 2007 pledged to adopt stricter controls on it advertising to children until 12.

Apparently it isn’t working.  Now the government is being asked to step in and declare children a protected class and stop child-directed advertising.

This is already being done in the local realm.  Santa Clara County (California) and San Francisco, California, just passed local ordinances that bans toys being given as part of an unhealthy meal.

Evidently the government thinks parents are too stupid to make good food choices by themselves (and maybe they are since childhood obesity is over 30%).  Or, perhaps government studies have show that the parents actually play with the toys?

Does this mean San Francisco moms will get back to the kitchen?  “Darn, there are no toys anymore guys.  Lets go home and make spaghetti!” Possibly, the lack of toys will make parents more apt to buy the kids a salad and apple slices for lunch?  I venture to guess this will have no impact on the number of hamburgers and French fries sold.

So, if the government is going to go down the path of more regulation, how about regulating the chemicals, preservatives, and additives that go into products instead of marketing?  Did you know that a McDonald’s chicken nuggets are only 50% chicken?  The rest is filled with junk that can kill us.  Like ertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ).  Just five grams can kill you, but I guess a little dash in a nugget won’t hurt anyone…

Lets leave the purchasing decisions to the parents (even if we are stupid) and focus on food safety.  But I venture to guess our government representatives are being funded by the very things we are trying to get rid of.  Darn it.

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This is one of the best videos I have seen that looks into the effects of chemicals that are in our everyday lives.  Thank you, Natural Papa, for turning me onto it.

A couple of things to take note of when watching it: first, that some of the chemicals found in the test subject’s blood HAVE BEEN BANNED for 30 years, and second, chemical concentration levels that are supposedly too low to matter are comparable to levels in some pharmaceutical drugs that can have profound effects on us. It makes me wonder what I have in my own blood!

Seeing as how I have a technical learning disability, I cannot figure out how to link these damn videos, so you’ll have to watch them in succession.  Seriously, I have spent an hour googling and reading and I don’t even know what java script is….

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As you all know, I have been trying to reduce my family’s exposure to chemicals. One way I have done this is changing the cleaning supplies I use.  While I am sensitive to the fumes when I clean, I also worry about Celina, my house cleaner and family member for 12 years, because of her constant chemical contact.  She has already battled breast cancer and I want to keep her healthy!

A nifty thing I came across a year ago are  E-cloths.  These high quality micro-fiber cloths are a dream to clean with.  The great thing is you only need to use water – the cloth does the rest.  I used to have to order them on-line, but now I can find them in my local grocery store, Brookside Market

E-cloths come in many different forms:  general purpose cloth, stainless steel cloth, dusting cloth, and glass & polishing cloth.  While I like and use them all, I am especially in love with the glass & polishing cloth.

The reason I even thought to write this is that I just used my cloths today.  I have these glass, lighted cabinets that are constantly getting a film on them:

Before I found this cloth, I would use Windex and a regular cloth or paper towel and it would leave marks.  Now, I just very slightly dampen the cloth and wipe the glass panes.  I don’t have the messy spray dripping and I never have to add water.  In a few strokes, it was sparkling clean! (I kind of feel like a daytime infomercial – but, trust me, I’m not getting kick backs for this).

I got so into cleaning my glass cabinets, I couldn’t stop.  I cleaned my kitchen windows and then moved to the bathroom…only my kids cries of hunger and pathetic pleas for food snapped me out of my cleaning craze.  Didn’t they know that cleaning is a way women restore their oxytocin and this was really for their own good?

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If you are looking to replace your more toxic sunscreens with safer ones, it is not very difficult. That is what is so wonderful about America – there are so many products to choose from. We just need to keep out eyes open and make better choices.

The Environmental Working Group’s top 7 safest and most effective sunscreens are a place to start:

Remember, while these are rated #1, there are many other sunscreen options out there that are excellent, like these.

You can also go to Environmental Working Groups website and search for your favorite brands and see how they stack up.

What makes these sunscreens different from, say, Coppertone Spot Spray? First, they are not sprays, which must contain chemicals that help them disseminate. Second, they avoid the more toxic sunscreen chemicals like Oxybenzone and use safer materials such as Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. Last, they avoid additives like fragrances, colors, parabens, etc.

Don’t be surprised if you start hearing about Titanium Dioxide either! While no studies have shown anything except its innocuous safty (except a study in rats that when inhaling it in dust form, but that doesn’t really apply) it hasn’t stayed clear of some criticism. In its typical form, Titanium Dioxide is a reflector and sits on the skin. New technology has enabled it to be broken down into “nano-particles” so that you don’t have that white color that doesn’t absorb. Currently, these particles are still too big to enter the cell wall, but the concern is that as technology progresses, we will have to watch out the particles don’t get too small.

Weather you order your sunscreen on-line, make a trip to Whole Foods, or just want to pick the best sunscreen at your local Pharmacy, there are better choices everywhere. On a trip to my local Osco, I found a few “natural” choices that, while rated a 3, are better than my previous choices, which were rated a 7! Remember, don’t make it hard for yourself, or you will tend not to do it at all.

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I have been resurrecting last year’s sunscreen sticks and sprays. Last year I switched to all sprays that I could purchase at Costco, since they are so expensive seemed to evaporate after 2 days of use.

Oh, but my ever evolving chemical infatuation has now made it to sunscreens. Bare with me, I’m not going to tell you to throw out your stock. Like I said, I still have a few stray cans I plan on using until they are gone. But, I also plan on replacing them with safer products. Why? Because there has been a disturbing trend. Melanoma is higher in sunscreen users AND even though we use more sun protection, incidents of melanoma has increased 20 fold in the US since 1935.

No one really knows why. They suspect a few things. Maybe it is the chemicals in the sunscreens. Possibly we are not getting enough UVA protection (it is actually the UVB rays that cause sunburn, but UVA rays are suspected to cause cancer). And then there is the Vitamin D deficiency debate. It is probably a combination of all theories, so lets control what we can, and today we are trying to control CHEMICALS.

What is in some of these common sunscreens? Here is a look into the ingredients of a few I have invested hundreds of dollars in over the years:

1. Banana Boat [Environmental Working Group (EWG) Score: 7 (1 safest- 10 most hazardous)]

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Vitamin A
  • Parabens
  • Isobutane

2. Coppertone [EWG Score 7]

  • Oxybenzone
  • Parabens
  • Benzyl Alcohol
  • Fragrance

3. Neutrogena [EWG Score 7]

  • Oxybenzone
  • Isobutane
  • Vitamin A
  • Fragrance

The big headliners of today are oxybenzone, Vitamin A, parabens and fragrances. I’m sure I’ll be able to write this article again in 5 years and will be talking about a totally different set of chemicals and concerns, but the squeaky wheel gets the grease, right?

Works by absorbing UVA and UVB rays (other products work by deflecting it). The concern with this product is that it is absorbed into the system (one random blood sample study detected it in 95% of the samples), it can bioaccumulate, and it has the potential to cause DNA damage. Since it works by absorbing the sun’s rays the energy must be converted to another form. This process can cause free radicals, and that has the potential to cause damage. The other side of the argument is that UVA/UVB rays cause free radicals, and we don’t yet know which is worse.

Vitamin A
An FDA study found that it has the potential to actually increase cancerous tumors when used on the skin and exposed to sunlight. In lab animals, the ones given the Vitamin A cream had 21% increase in tumors.

Are used at a preservative in cosmetics and have come into hot water after a breast cancer study revealed parabens were actually found in the tumors. Parabens are endocrine disruptors –they can mimic estrogen in our system, which has shown to cause problems in boys too.

The fragrance industry uses up to 3000 ingredients, predominantly synthetic, and of which about 900 are identified as toxic. However, the industry is not required to disclose ingredients of fragrances and perfumes on their labels due to trade secrecy. Fragrances are also often coupled with DEP, a know endocrine disruptor, to help the scent “linger.”

Hence, the most common, go-to sunscreens and sprays are helping protect us from the sun, but are also full of a bunch of junk. Knowing that our skin is our largest organ, we cannot take lightly what we put on it. There are plenty of good products out there. Unfortunately, not in a misty spray form (sad, I know) but the extra elbow grease may be worth it!

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Somehow I have written for almost three months without mentioning anything about chemicals.

Chemicals, chemicals everywhere.

If you start reading and researching about them, it gets quite overwhelming.  For the layperson with no chemical engineering degree it is hard to know what to do with the information.  Especially since most of the information out there is alarmist and chalked full of dooms-ville.  Everything causes cancer and is going to kill us.

Besides needing a dictionary to pronounce these chemical names, there are SO MANY to try to avoid, most of us just throw up our hand and give up.  Its too daunting of a task to try to tackle, so we just bury our heads in the sand and hope the safety claims are correct.

Now, I don’t pretend to be a chemical guru, but the fact is our bodies are being exposed to chemicals constantly.  Our bodies have never had to deal with this level of exposure before.  Whether or not one specific chemical is safe, not safe, or safe only in small doses, is really beside the point.  The point is our bodies have to identify what is going into it, figure out what to do with it, and ultimately deal with it.

This is work, guys!  Its just plain extra labor for these hard working machines that have one mission: to keep us healthy.  The least we can do is give them a little break!

Look at it from a different perspective.  Let’s say you are an exceptional accountant.  You’re at work and all you want to do is be the best, most productive accountant there it.  But a light bulb goes out and you have to replace it.  Then the phone keeps ringing and you have to deal with the calls.  You are ready to settle back into your job and the next thing you know someone is playing their music too loud and you have to figure that out how to stop it.  And then there is the new cover sheet on the TPS reports…


It isn’t as if we can’t handle the distractions, it is how these distractions effect our efficiency, productivity, and quality work.  Overtime, if the distractions are too great, and you are not as good as Dilbert dealing with them…THEN you may have bigger problems.

Are bodies are no different.  If you want them to work at their optimal level, then you need to give them as few distractions as you can.  That means:

  • Eating cleaner
  • Clearing the mental chatter
  • Reducing our chemical exposure

And, voila!  Your body can focus on the good stuff 🙂  I know it’s not that easy.  But there are some simple things we can do that can help.  And we don’t even have to understand chemistry.  I’ll tell you how I started, because if I can do it, anyone can!

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