Thursday, November 1, 2012

Congratulations Your Pregnant! Now what? A Non-Toxic Munchkin's Guide to a Green and Pure Pregnancy.

I think most mothers, if not all, understand  that pregnancy is a time to be healthy.  Many of us become preoccupied with researching all things organic in what can seem like a sometimes overwhelming push to become healthier as moms to -ultimately- offer a healthier beginning for our babies.

Is this non-toxic living thing a hormone induced exaggeration?   Is it a passing trend?  Not really.   The science is clear:  pregnancy is considered a 'window of susceptibility' - a period of time when we are especially vulnerable to toxic chemicals (the other windows include, fetal development, infancy, childhood and adolescence) More and more studies are showing links between exposure to certain common chemicals during pregnancy to everything from preterm births and higher  risk later in life to birth defects,  childhood behavioral problems, diabetes, cancers and the list goes on.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Decreasing Your Daughter's Risk of Breast Cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.   For an increasing number of people, this disease hits close to home.  For me, both my mother and aunt are breast cancer survivors. Today, it seems, almost everyone knows someone who has been affected by this disease and thus it is one of the things that most scares women today... all women.

And with good reason.  One in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.  It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women.

What causes breast cancer? For the most part this is still unknown.  Genetics account for  5 -10% of all breast cancers, but then there are the other 90% .  Leading the pack among the other culprits are environmental factors, including some of the most common chemical we are exposed to on a daily basis through food, air, beauty products, fragrance, plastics etc.

Scary stuff.. But it is refreshing and empowering to know that there are things you can do to lower your risk for breast cancer.  Even better news? That we, as mothers, can help decrease our daughter's risk of developing breast cancer, while in turn automatically helping ourselves out too.

First understand.....

The way by which certain chemicals influence a persons risk of developing breast cancer is tied to their lifetime estrogen levels.  The longer you have estrogen in your body, the higher your risk of developing breast cancer.

Today, girls are hitting puberty at a younger age, exposing them to surges in estrogen  from 3 to 7 years earlier than was previously the case.  This shift in age has been linked to, in part, higher breast cancer risk later in life.

A key way to protect your daughters comes down to decreasing their exposure to estrogen mimicking chemicals from the moment of conception and throughout childhood. 

If excess estrogen is linked to breast cancer, then it makes sense to avoid chemicals that trick our bodies into thinking they are estrogen, ie: estrogen mimicking chemicals.

Which are the most common and potentially harmful estrogen mimicking chemicals and where are they found?

WHO:  Used to make plastics more flexible and resilient.  Also used to bind fragrance to products

WHAT:  A 2012 study  found that certain breast cancer cells exposed to phthalates increased proliferation, migration, invasion and tumor formation.

WHERE: Found in everything from processed food packaging and shower curtains to detergents, toys and beauty products like nail polish, hair spray, shampoo, deodorants, and fragrances.

  • Look for products that are labeled as “fragrance free” (especially beauty products and cleaners) or “phthalate free”
  • Avoid artificial air fresheners
  • Avoid fabric softeners
  • If it smells like plastic throw it out. If you can’t, let it air out.
  • If it smells floral or fruity read the label.  if you cant pronounce the ingredients don’t use it.
WHO:  Bisphenol A, or BPA, is  commonly used in hard plastics, food and formula can linings  and thermal store receipts.

WHAT:   A recent study found that breast tissue development in monkeys exposed prenatally to BPA was more advanced compared to breast tissue development in those not exposed to BPA, a finding that could be linked to increased breast cancer risk later in life.

WHERE : Over 90 percent of people in the US are estimated to have BPA in their bodies. Traces have also been found in breast milk and the blood of pregnant women.  BPA has been found in the umbilical cord blood of 90 percent of newborn infants tested


  • Avoid plastics with a 7 on the bottom recycling triangle
  • Avoid eating canned foods
  • When possible switch from plastics to glass or stainless steel (drinking bottles, food containers etc)
  • Never heat plastics in the microwave
  • Avoid liquid formula that comes in BPA lined cans.  Choose powder versions instead
  • Try glass baby bottles to feed you infants, if not look for “BPA free” labels.

WHO: Parabens are used as preservatives that stop the growth of bacteria, yeast, and molds.

WHAT:  A March 2012 study detected the presence of paraben esters in 99 percent of breast cancer tissues sampled

WHERE: Deodorants and antiperspirants are some of the primary sources of parabens, as are cosmetics,  face creams and shampoos.

  • Understand that whatever you spread on your skin can be absorbed into your body and affect your unborn child and yourself over time.
  • During pregnancy (and when your baby is an infant) less is more.  Try to use only the minimal cosmetic and beauty products necessary.
  • Many adult and baby products are now available and labelled as “paraben free”.    If they are present look for and try to avoid products that list ingredients that end in paraben (ie:  methylparaben, propulparaben etc)...

WHO: The star of antibacterial products:  it is found in just about every antimicrobial product you have every used (and probably use on a daily basis). 

WHAT:  A 2012 study found that “Treatments of MCF-7 breast cancer cells with OP and triclosan resulted in the stimulation of their cell growth”

Everything from soaps, to handwash, to toothpaste, deodorant, mouthwash and even school supplies and clothes can have triclosan.

  • Antibacterial products with triclosan will be labeled as such, so read your labels and choose natural antibacterial ingredients.  
  • We know that pregnant women have to be careful with germs and that children seem to be a magnet for them, so opt for washing hands frequently with plain soap and water and foregoing the antibacterial gels. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New Eco-Friendly Online Retailer: One Stop "Green Shopping"

I am a mom.  I have very little free time.   I live in New York City and have to carry all the groceries I buy at the store home, walking.  Needless to say, I have become a fan of online shopping. 

It took me a bit to get used to it; but now I love it - especially for household products. 

I still prefer to buy my fresh produce in person, but everything else from toilet paper, to any cleaning supply I might buy, to diapers I prefer to buy online.  Why waste my valuable time going to the store to buy.... paper towels? My only complaint has been that I don't always find the natural, organic and non-toxic products that I like to buy in one same place. Until now.

From the folks who brought us for all things baby (and then for all things household and then for all things toy related etc) and from (who are the owners) comes a brand new website called VINE.COMOne stop shopping for organic and environmentally friendly products.... great for busy moms like me and even better for moms that don't have the luxury of living near a Whole Foods or other trustworthy organic store.

What I feel makes this particular online shop stand out is:
  • They have a huge selection of brands and products
  • You can shop according to the causes that are most important to you: boutiques devoted to Local, Fair Trade, Cruelty-Free, gluten free, paraben free, B Corporation, Forest Stewardship Council certified products...among others.
  • They review the claims of the products to make sure they are either organic, natural, energy- or water-efficient; run on their own renewable energy; are made from sustainable materials; or contribute to a healthier home
  • The best thing, and what I like the most about and They have free (and fast!   In New York I get it over night!) shipping too.
  • They also have a Familyhood Rewards Programs, which gives you 1 point per dollar spent and which I have been able to get $5 and $10 credits towards shopping on any of their sites.
  • Finally, for folks living in New York City, L.A., Chicago, Seattle, Boston, and Denver there is a “shop local” feature that allows shoppers to browse green products made within 100 miles of their selected city.

 It is not perfect.  Just because they sell it does not mean it is 100% non-toxic which is why I would still reference EWG's  Skin Deep Database for beauty products (including baby products) and their new Guide to Healthy Cleaning database... BUT having many many non-toxic brands under one roof and so easily accessible to everyone - EVEN if you don't have a Whole Foods near you- is great! 

 Oh yeah and they are offering 20% off your first order with your code:  VINE20

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Arsenic in rice... its still in there

It was last December when we wrote a blog post about a Consumer Reports investigation that found a link between rice consumption and elevated arsenic levels in pregnant women (New Study Focuses On Arsenic in Rice) .

Last week a follow-up Consumer Report investigation came out in which they tested a variety of rice products  including : rice, ( white, jasmine, brown, organic and non organic, among others) , rice cakes, rice milk, infant rice cereal, rice pasta etc, for both organic and inorganic arsenic (inorganic arsenic is consider more toxic than organic).

  • Arsenic was found in virtually all of the more than 60 different rice products tested.
  • On average, white rice was found to have lower levels of inorganic (the more toxic type) arsenic than brown rice
  • White rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas, which accounts for 76 percent of rice sold in the US, was found to -on average- have higher levels of total arsenic than rice samples from elsewhere (the reason for this is explained in our New Study Focuses On Arsenic in Rice blog post).
  • Some infant rice cereals had levels of inorganic arsenic at least five times higher than has been found in alternatives such as oatmeal
  • People who ate rice-rich diets had arsenic levels that were 44 percent greater than those who did not.   Hispanics and Asians had the highest levels  ( both groups tend to consume rice often with meals).

Why you should care
  • Arsenic  is produced naturally in the Earth ( this type is called organic arsenic). However “natural” does not equal safe.   The two organic forms of arsenic that were studied have been labeled  as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”  by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. 
  • Inorganic arsenic is of even more concern. "Inorganic arsenic, the predominant form of arsenic in most of the 65 rice products analyzed, is ranked by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as one of more than 100 substances that are Group 1 carcinogens. It is known to cause bladder, lung, and skin cancer in humans, with the liver, kidney, and prostate now considered potential targets of arsenic-induced cancers "
  • Both animal and human studies have shown that what seem like tiny amounts of arsenic--exposures in the parts per billion range--can result in cancer years later
  • Arsenic’s additional effects on the developing brain are slowly beginning to be studied and understood... With worrisome outputs. Studies have shown that arsenic can cross the placenta to the fetus, thus if you are pregnant it is especially important to reduce your levels of rice and rice product consumptions

  1. Limit you rice ( and other rice products) to once or twice a week. 
  2. Because rice grown in the south-central United States had  substantially higher average total arsenic concentrations,  when you do eat rice look for rice grown in California or outside of the US.
  3. Cook rice the Asian way--rinse first and then cook with six cups of water to one cup of rice--and pour the excess water off at the end. Research suggests that this can remove some 30 percent of inorganic arsenic. 
  4. Dont give you infant rice cereal and limit rice milk and other rice products in children, especially in children under 5 and pregnant women,  to less than 2 times per week. In addition, kids under 6 shouldn't drink more than 4 to 6 ounces of apple or grape juice a day, which were also found to have arsenic levels back in December
  5.  Arsenic-containing drugs can be given to healthy chickens, turkeys, and pigs to promote growth and prevent diseases... Although not mentioned in this study, it is another reason to choose organic ( or at least antibiotic free) poultry at the supermarket
NTM News Brief: This past Friday Democratic Representatives from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut  announced plans to introduce legislation that would impose federal limits on arsenic in rice and other food products.... a step in the right direction!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

CLEANING 101: The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Family , Just Got Easier!


So you want to live a healthier, less toxic life... but where to start?

If you can only make ONE change, I always recommend getting rid of your household cleaning products.  Just throw them out (OK, if you want to be more eco conscious maybe finish using them and never buy them again!). and switch to natural do-it-yourself ones (here are some Recipes For Green Laundry) or start buying nontoxic cleaners.  

Hands down. The best thing you can do for your family and your own health. 

Why? Because the air inside our house is more toxic than the air we are breathing outside... and the main culprits are the mainstream “pine fresh”  or “lemon fresh” cleaners  most people are using to clean their homes.   Ironic how what you think is cleaning your home could be making it toxic.

HOW? It seems easy enough.   You can find 'green' and 'natural' and 'non-toxic' cleaners just about everywhere now a days.  But, the sad reality is that, even the most well know ‘safe’ brands aren’t always as non- toxic as they claim. 

Personally, I clean almost all of my house with a 50% white vinegar 50% water mixture.    Vinegar is cheap, the classic  (and safe - we use it on our salads!) disinfectant.  However, I do admit, there are certain areas of the house (ie:  bathroom) where I feel I need something stronger, and so I turn to “official”  cleaning products.

I do my research before, OF COURSE.  I read labels and sometimes I rely  on trusted companies ....  but I don't have access to a lab and the truth is that the companies that make these cleaning products don’t have to list all of their ingredients on their labels.  Even if you want to choose a safe non-toxic cleaner, sometimes you have no way of knowing what you are really bringing home.

That is... UNTIL NOW!

FINALLY there is help.   The Environmental Working Group recently launched their 2012 Guide to Healthy Cleaning.  In it,  over 2,000 cleaning products have been tested and given a grade from A - F. 

The database is super easy to use.  You can search under category (floor cleaners, hand soaps, window cleaners etc) or input a specific brand or product you might have at home or have seen in a store.

EWG did find good, effective and non-toxic products in almost all categories, except 4 which is why they recommend avoiding:
  •  Air fresheners (Open windows or use fans!)
  • Antibacterial products (including gels and hand soap. Avoid products that contain triclosan)
  • Fabric softener and dryer sheet (Try a little vinegar in the rinse cycle)
  • Caustic drain cleaners and oven cleaners (try making a paste of baking soda and water)
Among the most interesting findings
  1.  Disinfectant products: none received higher than a ‘D’(including products from Lysol, Pine- sol and Clorox). 
  2. Dusting products:  none received higher than a ‘C’ (includes Pledge multi surface dusters, dry scented cloths, Pledge dust and allergen dry cloths,  and Swifter Dusters).
  3. Martha Stewart Clean products tested all got A scores.  I have not tried them but will be looking for them next!
  4. The Honest Company (recently launched by Jessica Alba) got mixed reviews... their products scored everything from A's to F’s.
  5.  Seventh Generation also received mixed reviews.   The products I use mostly scored A's ( including their Emerald Cypress and Fir toilet bowl cleaner ad natural tub cleaner,  automatic dishwasher powder in free and clear ) but their lemon automatic dishwashing gel scored an F as did their Natural 2X concentrated laundry detergent!

  • Green Shield Organic Bathroom Cleaner, Fresh
  • Green Shield Organic Toilet Bowl Cleaner
  • Seventh Generation Natural Tub and Tile Cleaner 
  • The Honest Co Honest auto dishwasher gel, free & clear
  • Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasher Detergent Concentrated Pacs, Free and Clear
  • Whole Foods Market liquid dish soap, unscented

  • Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value 2x concentrated Laundry Detergent, Lavender
  • Dr Bronner’s 18 in 1 Hemp Pure Castile Soap
  • Green Shield Organic Laundry Detergent, HE Elite Care, Free and Clear

  •  Bon Ami Powder Cleanser
  • Whole Foods Market Green Mission Surface cleaning wipes, minty fresh
  • Whole Foods Market Green Mission Organic All Purpose Spray Cleaner and Degreaser, lemon zest
  • Green Shield Organic All-Purpose Cleaner Degreaser, Fresh 
  • Green Shield Organic Glass Cleaner, Fresh 
  • Whole Foods Market glass cleaner, unscented 
  • Whole Foods Market all purpose concentrated cleaner, pine
  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda Detergent Booster & Household Cleaner 
  • Heinz Vinegar Distilled White Vinegar ( my choice mix 50% water and 50% vinegar!)

  • Seventh Generation Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Emerald Cypress & Fir
  • Green Shield Organic Bathroom Cleaner, Fresh 
  • Green Shield Organic Toilet Bowl Cleaner 
  • CLR Calcium, Lime, Rust Cleaner 
  • Seventh Generation Natural Tub & Tile Cleaner, Emerald Cypress & Fir

  •  Simple Green Naturals Carpet Care
  • Simple Green Naturals Floor Care 
  • Martha Stewart Clean Carpet Stain Remover 
  • Martha Stewart Clean Wood Floor Cleaner 
  • Aussan Natural floor cleaner concentrate

Sunday, September 9, 2012

NTM Approved: Stylish, fun and non-toxic... happy back-to-school shopping!

Our munchkins are back in school , or starting for the first time (like my own munchkin who starts Pre-K 3 this week!).   The reality is that they will spend a large part of their day at school touching, using and even eating from this year's new school supplies.

With studies showing that over 80% of school supplies are exposing our munchkins to toxic chemicals,  suddenly back to school shopping takes on a whole new level of importance.

Lucky for you, here's a guide with a whole bunch of Non-Toxic Munchkin Approved school supplies.  Stylish, fun and non-toxic... all the makings of happy back-to-school shopping!
Unfortunately, if your child is bent on having a backpack with a superhero or well-known cartoon character, chances are you will find it on a plastic shiny backpack that -while it may not cost you much- is most probably filled with a couple of worrisome chemicals.

If your backpack does not clearly state it is PVC-free and  if it smells with that yucky plastic scent… the backpack contains lead, PVC and/or Phthalates...  which are all  terrible chemical to surround a child with on a daily basis.

Some Non-Toxic Munchkin Approved Backpacks:

  • ECOGEAR ECOZOO series: From $14.95
Available in fun animal shapes like pandas and pigs, they are made from natural cotton canvas & rope materials with non-toxic dyes.   From $27.  They also have some models (plain one color but still stylish) for older kids starting at $14.95

  • SKIP HOP ZOO PACK (in small and larger sizes)
Might just be the most adorable colorful animals to be seen at the school yard and perfectly sized for younger and older munchkins.

  • MIMI THE SARDINE, From $38
Their new line of super colorful backpacks are bright, colorful and everything a child’s backpack should be!   Made from machine-washable organic acrylic-coated cotton, designed in Sweden and made in the USA.

Because they hold food, it's especially important that lunch boxes and food containers be made from non-toxic materials with NO lead paint, PVC, BPA and antimicrobial chemicals. Some options are: cotton lunch bags, BPA-free plastic or unpainted stainless steel 

  • Kid Konserve  Canvas Sacks, from $9.50
Made from 100% recycled canvas these are a stylish option for a safe toxic free lunch box!
These might take the prize for design and NTM approval!  Made from a material that is degradable, recyclable and 100% free of toxic chemicals, with only water based adhesives  used during  lamination,  (which means it is completely solvent free, with no VOC's)... and did I mention they have super cutesy designs as well as hip designs too? Oh yeah, AND they are machine washable! Love love love

  • Dwell Studio Totes, from $38
BPA, Phthalate Free and PVC Free... Dwell Studio is known for their bold modern patterns and  these are some of the coolest kiddo prints out there. 
  • Skip Hop Lunchies Insulated Lunch Bag, from $14
 Just like their super cute backpacks, Skip Hop’s lunchies are adorable lunchboxes for munchkins.   Choose from the cutest monkey, doggie, fox, hippo... rest assured you will find an adorable animal lunchie to match your munchkin’s personality!  BPA-Free, Phthalate-free, PVC Free of course!
Perfect for the old school lunchbox lover.  Covered in eco-friendly, lead-free tin ( with a chalkboard surface on the inside of the lid – perfect for a sweet little note from mom!).  Designs are limited but  fun and can be personalized and customized... for free!
  • Crocodile Creek Kids Lunchbox, from $14
 They come in cool patterns for kids and are PVC Free. Phthalate Free. Vinyl Free.  
In their own words “all of the things you want in your kid's lunch, and none of the things you don't. Made with 100% certified organic cotton and a tested food-safe lining, they are free of BPA, phthalates and lead. Printed with water-based pigments, the fun and whimsical illustrations are coveted as much by grown ups as by kids.  (which I can vouch for they are just cool!) “

Food Containers
By now most of us should know that plastic food containers can leach toxic chemicals into our food.   The best alternative is using stainless steel containers for your munchkin’s lunchbox.   Another option?  Cloth reusable snack packs.

Stainless Steel
  • Lunchots:  from $14.99
  • Kidconserve :  from $13 for a set of 2
  • Think Baby :   from $9.49 
  • Pottary Barn:  from $8.50
Cloth Reusable Snack Packs
The ideal substitute for plastic sandwich or snack bags that usually have BPA , many companies are now producing cloth snack bags.  Reusable, machine washable; ideal for all kinds of snacks and sandwiches.  Make sure you buy the ones with BPA free lining for stickier snacks like fruit etc.  .

  • Itzy Ritzy Snack Happened Mini Reusable Snack Bag: Adorable prints for kiddos and made with an FDA approved, BPA-free machine washable lining.  Also lead free, phthalate free and CPSIA certified.
  • Lunchskins Reusable Bags:  also come in various sizes for sandwhiches or smaller snacks and in really cool designs and colors (that older kids and parents would appreciate too!).  Machine washable and BPA-free, lead-free and phthalate-free.
  • Fluf Organic Snacl Packs:  From $16.50 for a 2 pack.  Fully machine washable (with a wipeable, water-resistant lining), these bags are easy to keep clean, functional, durable and - above all - safe and healthy... and, yes, cute. Tested food-safe lining. Free of BPA, phthalates and lead. Velcro closure.
Water Bottles
Plastic, even if it is BPA free, is really best to avoid if you can, especially with so many safe, cute and functional stainless steel or glass options.  When choosing stainless steel make sure it does not have a BPA lining in the inside (it should specify it is BPA free).

  • Crocodile Creek:  Makes simple kid friendly stainless steel  drinking bottles. From $11.95
  • Kleen Kanteen :  simple, stainless steel - my personal choice for my munchkin.   From $14
  • Life Factory:  glass water bottles enveloped in a protective silicon with flip top in the brightest colors you have ever seen.   Better for older kids and adults.  From $22

Crayons, Markers and Paint
While most crayons and kids paint are supposed to be non-toxic, the reality is that industry standards allow companies to say that their crayons and such are non-toxic, but most of them are made from petroleum byproducts, which you certainly would not want going into your child’s mouth any time soon.
In general, avoid crayons or markers that have smells, since that means they probably have phthalates. Also avoid antibacterial products... I mean really do your crayons have to be antibacterial?  Antibacterial products have Triclosan, a bad chemical linked to hormone disruptions, allergies, asthma, skin irritation, eczema, and thyroid problems.  Finally, for paint look for water based.

Art Supplies
  • Clementine Art: Paint, play dough, crayons and glue.  All from natural ingredients with no chemical dyes or other additives.  This is the company I usually turn to for my little budding artist!
  • Crayon Rocks, Soy Wax Crayons from $6.95
  • Crayola Classic Washable Markers: are non-toxic and odorless
  • AusPen : markers say they are non-toxic, refillable and cost 70% less than regular disposable markers

Naked Binder project binders, from $7.50
A great alternative to those plastic hard covered binders that are mostly made out of PVC.  These Project Binders are  made from 97% FSC certified post consumer waste, like recycled magazines, newspapers and office papers. Strong and sturdy, the colorful spines are made from 100% cotton book cloth and a water-based glue... and they come in super fun colors too!

OK, so not traditional school supplies, but I just came across these and  love the product and what they do....

Made out of natural latex instead of PVC.  Natural rubber boots (like these) often have a jersey cotton lining, while plastic boots can often be quite cold on the feet:  great for autumn days. PLUS, for every pair of Roma rain boots you buy, the company’s nonprofit subsidiary, Roma for All, gives a pair to a child living in poverty.  Need another reason to encourage jumping into puddles this school year?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Disney: Get Toxic Chemicals out of your Lunch Boxes!

Following the recently published study from the Center for Health, Environment & Justice that  found, among other things, that all of the children’s lunch boxes tested contained up to 30 times the amount of toxic dust deemed safe by the federal government, a mother decided to start a petition on asking Disney to be a leader for children's health and stop using dangerous phthalates in their products now (to read more on the study read our blog post :  Back To School Guide For Non-Toxic Munchkins)

Disney’s lunch boxes were some of the worst offenders. Their lunchboxes tested, which specifically featured Spiderman and Disney Princesses, some of their most beloved characters coveted by so many of our munchkins  -  could be shedding toxic chemicals and putting our  kids at risk of hormonal, behavioral and developmental health issues.

What is worse is that an alternatives exist. As the petition points out, Disney could choose tomorrow to make their products safer. While Congress works on long-term solutions like the Safe Chemicals Act, corporations like Disney have a responsibility to keep our kids safe now.

 If you want to sign this petition, just click and include your name and contact information (you can choose to keep it private )... it will only take 30 seconds and could potentially make a huge difference!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back To School Guide for Non-Toxic Munchkins

Back to School Season is here and one of the funnest things about going back to school  is choosing this years back packs, lunch boxes and other school supplies.   Some kids choose super heroes, others choose their favorite Disney or other Cartoon character... there are options in just about every store we visit.  

Now, it turns out, it will be a bit harder to choose those supplies, because  a new study by the Center for Health Environment and Justice found toxic chemicals in over 80% of school supplies; supplies that our  children are touching and interacting with every single day.

The chemical in question, phthalates, are hazardous even at low levels of exposure since they are not chemically bound to the vinyl (or plastics or fragrance that contain them) thus can migrate from the product to your child’s body by touch or placing in mouth. 

Phthalates disrupt hormones in our bodies, and have been linked to birth defects, infertility, early puberty, asthma, ADHD, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.   Fetal development has been shown to be the most vulnerable to this chemical (to read more about what phthalates are and how to avoid them read our blog post Phthalates ABC’s )  While banned in toys, they remain widespread in vinyl back to school supplies (think of those plastic shiny backpacks, binders, markers etc).  In fact, 75% of the supplies examined contained levels of phthalates that would be in violation of the federal ban for toys, if these products were considered toys.

The study, Hidden Hazards:  Toxic Chemicals inside Children’s Vinyl Back to School Supplies, examined various vinyl  backpacks, lunch boxes, 3 ring binders and raincoats and rainboots, all purchased (in New York) at national retailers including Kmart, Duane Reade,  Payless and Dollar Stores.    Among the findings;
  • The Spiderman Backpack was found to have 52 times the amount of phthalates limit set by the federal ban.
  • If the Dora Backpack were considered a children’s toy, it would be over 69 times the limit set by the federal ban. It was found to contain 7 different phthalates.
  • If the The Disney Princess Lunchbox were a children’s toy, this would be over 29 times the limit set by the federal ban.


  • Avoid  plastics when possible.   Especially soft, flexible plastics
  • Avoid products labeled as “vinyl” or “PVC”
  • Look for “phthalate free” , “PVC free” labels
  • If product is not labeled, look for  and avoid the universal recycling symbol number 3
  • In general, avoid products with a warning that says something such as, “WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, and birth defects or other reproductive harm.” This means the product likely contains lead.
  • Look for clays made without PVC and phthalates, or make your own.  This takes under 10 minutes, 3 or 4 ingredients like salt, oil, water and creme of tartar and is really fun! (our favorite recipe is here).
  • Notebooks and binders: Avoid those with metal spirals encased in colored plastic. The colored plastic coating on the metal spirals usually contains PVC. Select notebooks with uncovered metal spirals to avoid PVC.
  • Paints should be water based.
  • Backpacks and lunchboxes:  Opt for natural fibers or polyester.
  • Crayons and Markers:  Most crayons contain paraffin wax, which is made from crude oil.  Better alternatives are  soy and beeswax.  Avoid scented markers or crayons since  the chemicals used in the fragrances are not listed on the label and usually contain phthalates.
  • Choose a backpack made out of stainless steel or natural fiber.  Avoid metal lunchboxes that could have lead paint or shiny  vinyl.
  • Use stainless steel utensils or bio-based (made with PLA or PHA plastics) cutlery and plates.
  •  Use glass or stainless steel drinking containers. 
  • Never microwave with plastics as that will increase the chances of toxic additives migrating into your food.
For a detail  list of brands that do not use PVC  (for:  binder pockets, binders, expanding files, notebooks, paper clips, pencil cases, pens/pencils/markers, planners, report covers, sheet protectors, clothing, glasses, sneakers, rain boots and rain coats, aprons and smocks, modeling clay, backpacks, cel phones, laptop and desktop computers, flash drives, tablets, yoga mats, exercise balls, tennis bags, playground balls, lunch boxes and bags, lunch wrap and bags, reusable water bottles)  click on the 2012 Back‐to‐School Guide to PVC‐free School Supplies 


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Summer News: YAY: Johnson & Johnson, Graco and the US Government, NAY to Cambells

In Case You Missed It...

While many of us were on vacation, some big news was announced over the summer, involving some very well known brands....

Johnson & Johnson announces phase out of “chemicals of concern”
Probably the most publicized news of the summer was Johnson & Johnson's announcement that All ( yes all! ) of their products will be reformulated to either completely phase- out or reduce 6 " chemicals of concern."

Here are the specifics:

Products/Brands involved
All of Johnson & Johnson products at a WORLD WIDE level, which include (among others)
- Johnson's baby lotion and bath products and No More Tears shampoo
- Desitin for diaper rash,
- Neutrogena, RoC, Clean & Clear and Lubriderm of Aveeno, Purpose

Chemicals of Concern Being Phased-Out
  • Parabens (used as a preservative): 
Baby products: will phase out the use of all parabens from their baby care products.
Adult products: the use of parabens in new products will be restricted to methyl, ethyl and propyl parabens. All other types of parabens will be phased out in all their adult products.
  • Formaldehyde (used as a preservative ) formaldehyde is a probable human carcinogens; as well as a skin, eye and respiratory irritant 
Baby : will phase out formaldehyde releasers from all baby products.
Adult: will phase out formaldehyde releasers in adult products, making rare exceptions for adult products only when alternatives are not feasible or safe in formulation with other ingredients
  • 1,4 Dioxane
Probable human carcinogen. While not being completely phased out will be reducing levels of 1,4 dioxane to below 10 parts per million in products
  • Pthalates : 
In cosmetics, phthalates give hairsprays a flexible film, help fragrances last longer, and make nail products resistant to chipping. Endocrine  disruptors.

Baby : all baby products worldwide are now phthalate-free, and will remain so. 

Adults: in 2006 they stopped using DEP (diethylphthalAte ) in new adult products, and are committed to phasing it out of all other adult products that still contain it

  • Triclosan
The most commonly used antibacterial ingredient in consumer products worldwide.
Baby: none of their infant or baby products worldwide contain triclosan
Adult: the company claims to be committed to phasing out triclosan altogether and thus are researching new alternatives to be able to do so.

2013: Johnson & Johnson baby products will be free of these chemicals by the end of 2013 at a worldwide level.. so for now still opt to buy your trusted 'green and nontoxic' brands.
2015: Adult products will be reformulated by the end of 2015

Are you concerned about other products you might have at home?
EWG's Skin Deep Database is a great place to search for your products and see if the ingredients they contain are considered to be of low toxicity or high toxicity


Safe Chemicals Act passed! 

26 years have passed since the US government made any major updates to our nation’s main law regulating toxic chemicals. During these last 2.5 decades, under the current law, more than 80,000 chemicals have been permitted for use in the country having never been tested for toxicity to humans, not to mention children and fetuses. Finally, this summer, a major stride.

On July 25, the Safe Chemicals Act passed the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works it's headed to the Senate floor.

Its future facing Senate is grim, since every Republican Senator on the Committee opposed the measure.  If you would like to encourage your Senator to support the bill click here, input your zip code and send a (pre-written) message to your local Senators.  Two clicks is all it takes! 

Why is this such huge news?
The Safe Chemicals Act is hoping  to replace the very outdated Toxic Substance Control Act of 1979 which is responsible for allowing chemicals to be used in consumer products without having first showing proof of being safe for human use. The Safe Chemicals Act  is the reason it is SO hard to get a chemical banned, even when there is mounting evidence of toxicity.  Not even the EPA can ban a chemical it considers a potential carcinogen under this outdated law. All of this would change under the new law.

Graco Commits to Banning Toxic Flame Retardants

After a 2011 study published on showed that Graco manufactured one of the most toxic car seats, and mounting consumer pressure, Graco confirmed this July that they will be banning and monitoring four hazardous flame retardants.  Specifically Tris chemicals, TDCPP and TCEP, TCPP as well as Firemaster 550.

* Orbit Baby makes car seats and all of their products without hazardous flame retardants. Britax has also committed to eliminating all of these chemicals by the end of 2012


After Cambell's Soup received high praise for vowing to eliminate BPA from their can lining in March, Healthy Child Healthy World called them out for failing to disclose what new chemical would be replacing BPA in the can linings. As they put it "Let’s be clear. None of us signed petitions, called manufacturers, sent letters to legislators, spread the word to friends about the dangers of BPA only to have manufacturers “solve” the problem by saying they were going “BPA-free” while switching to a chemical that was just as bad – or worse - for our health. " 

No word from Cambell's yet, but a good alternative to avoid BPA? Choose glass or ceramic or stainless steel when you can and eat fresh (ideally organic) produce.

Friday, August 10, 2012

How To Reduce BPA Levels By 60% In 3 Days

Oh what a summer!  Even though I  have been away from Non-Toxic Munchkin this summer, I have continued  to collect info throughout the summer that I hope to share with everyone in the coming weeks.  

Today, however, a new study came out that inspired me to come back to Non-Toxic Munchkin  a bit earlier than I had planned!

The study, conducted by the Breast Cancer Fund and the Silent  Spring Institute, answers two important questions:
  1. What is the leading source of the BPA that contaminates our bodies? Food packaging (cans, plastic containers etc)
  2.  If we removed that source, how much would our BPA levels drop? A lot! (read on!)
The study looked at 5 families and measured their BPA levels at each of these three staged:
  • First, the families ate their normal diet.
  • Then, the families ate 3 days of freshly prepared organic meals that avoided contact with BPA-containing food packaging, such as canned food and polycarbonate plastic. 
  • Finally, the families returned to their normal diets.
The results?   By simply removing BPA from food packaging (cans, plastic containers etc) the family's BPA levels dropped, on average, by 60% (in some families it dropped by as much as 76%!).

The findings are HUGE.

 It means that, as parents, we can have a HUGE impact on our family's BPA levels.   By taking a couple of easy steps at home, we can dramatically limit our family's BPA  exposure.   What can we do?
  • Switch to stainless steel and glass for food storage ( for leftovers at home as well as when preparing our children's lunchboxes).
  • Never microwave plastic containers;  Instead move foods to ceramic or glass.
  • Eat out less, especially at restaurants that do not use fresh ingredients.
  • Limit canned food consumption.  Download the Breast Cancer Funds 10 Canned Foods to Avoid wallet card for your next shopping trip.
  • Choose fresh fruits and vegetables when possible.  Take them out of any plastic containers they might come in when you get home.
  • Soak dried beans for cooking (you can make extra and freeze them) instead of using canned beans.
  • Limit your usage of plastic water bottles.   Opt to carry around a glass or stainless steel water bottle and buy a filter for your home.

... as a refresher, here is more information on what BPA is and why you want to avoid it.   For more details read our blog post "The ABC's of BPA" 

  • BPA is in every single person on earth.
  • Small amounts of BPA exposure over a long period of time  add up! 
  • BPA has been linked with breast cancer, prostate cancer, early puberty, infertility, obesity, among other ailments.

  •  Clear, shatter-proof,  hard plastics (water bottles, toys, plastic cups, food containers etc)
  • Canned foods and beverages
  • Store receipts

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Chemicals That Contribute to Weight Gain

We all know that obesity is a problem, an epidemic really, especially in the US.  While, obviously bad eating habits and lack of exercise play a huge roll in obesity, various studies have found a parallel in our increasing national weight and the increase of industrial chemicals in the environment.

A recent article from Rodale,com ‘The Unbelievable Reasons you are Gaining Weight”  highlighted the strong evidence that exists showing that five types of chemicals - not just lifestyle choices-  are contributing to the obesity epidemic, making wight loss more difficult for some.

As is the case with most chemical exposure, special attention MUST be paid during fetal development.   If a pregnant woman is exposed to these chemicals (and thus exposes her unborn child) the normal development of  her child’s hormonal system  can be disrupted, promoting the development of more fat cells and predisposing the unborn child to metabolic diseases like diabetes as well as a lifetime of weight problems.


The links between environmental chemicals and obesity are real.   While exercise and a healthy diet are of utmost importance to live a healthy life, the following steps should also be taken to avoid or at least reduce you and your munchkin’s  exposure to these chemicals that have been linked with obesity... ESPECIALLY if you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant!

Pesticides in conventional food, specifically organophosphates used to kill insects on fruits and vegetables, interfere with the way your pancreas produces insulin, which in turn can mess with your body's blood sugar levels leading to faster weight gain and a much more difficult time loosing weight.
Yet another reason not to smoke (and are there really still people smoking while pregnant?!)! Nicotine in cigarettes acts as a "developmental obesogen,"... meaning it is a chemical that interferes with fetal development in a way that predisposes the child to obesity. In fact, studies have found that the link between mothers who smoked and childhood obesity have the strongest association between weight and environmental factors.  Second hand smoke counts too.

Besides the fact that it (as all other canned juices) has way too much sugar, it is the arsenic that is the chemical of concern here.  Arsenic interferes with the way your pancreas functions and messes with your blood sugar levels, in addition to influencing how your body creates and stores fat.   Arsenic has been recently found in apple juice as well as chicken  and eggs (so buy organic!)  and rice.

According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, PFOA, the chemical that is used in Teflon and other nonstick pans as well as water- and stain-repelling fabric is in 98 percent of Americans' blood, A  Danish study measured levels of this chemical in pregnant mothers and then compared those with their children's body weights 20 years later. Mothers who'd had the highest body levels of PFOA were three times as likely to have overweight or obese daughters than mothers with the lowest levels.
Switch to cast iron or stainless steel.

Many of us (especially if you have been reading my blog!) know about the dangers of BPA - a endocrine disrupting chemical that is found in plastics and the resin lining of canned food.   Now a new chemical has been identified in food can lining called Bisphenol A diglycidyl ether (BADGE for short).  A recent study  in Environmental Health Perspectives explains, even extremely low levels of BADGE promote weight gain by turning other non-fat cels into fat.    Obese people have more fat cells than non-obese people.

The study’s author, Bruce Blumberg, PhD, from the University of California–Irvine explains  “early in life—particularly when a baby is developing in a mother's womb—is when most of the damage from exposure is done, reprogramming the child's normal bodily functions and setting him or her up for weight problems later in life.”   Once this baby is born they will not necessarily be doomed to be fat  BUT they will definitely have a harder time  staying fit.

Even though BADGE is especially damaging in unborn babies, it can also affect adults.  So it is never too late to cut out canned food.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Peanut butter & fire retardant sandwich?

What is your go-to quick lunch option for you or your kids?  For most parents, it would be fair to say, that it is either a peanut butter sandwich or maybe a turkey or cold cut sandwich. 

Earlier today, before I sat down to read this new study on flame retardant exposure, my son had refused to eat his barley risotto and I had to give him my quick “go - to” lunch:  an (organic) peanut butter sandwich!

Bad news:    a new study  by the University of Texas sampled common foods found in grocery stores in Dallas,  and found that nearly half of the sampled peanut butter and cold cuts, (as well as turkey, fish, beef and other fatty foods), contained traces of a flame retardant commonly used in the foam thermal insulation of building walls.   WHY ARE THERE FLAME RETARDANTS IN OUR CHILDREN’S (and our!) FOOD?????

  • The specific flame retardant that was uncovered, hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD),  is a type of brominated flame retardant used in thermal insulation in buildings and in electric equipment.
  • According to the  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,  “HBCD is highly toxic to aquatic organisms. It also presents human health concerns based on animal test results indicating potential reproductive, developmental and neurological effects.
  • By late 2012 the EPA is considering adding HBCD to their “Concern List of Chemicals”
  • It has been found in umbilical cord blood and breast milk, which is especially worrisome since, as is the case with all chemicals of concern, unborn children and very young children are especially vulnerable to toxic chemicals.


HBCD  is primarily used in thermal  insulation in buildings, so how did it get into our peanut butter?

 Like most flame retardants, they probably made their way into the food chain (and into our bodies) via the air, water and soil.  They migrate out of the products that have the flame retardants (ie:  the thermal insulation) and into dust.  We either breath in  the dust or it  lands on -for example- peanut crops or on the food that livestock is grazing on. ..

Unfortunately, the study did not specify which particular brands were tested, but all were "conventional" brands and not brands that market themselves as organic.  However, considering that the contamination could be coming from dust or water, the bad news is that organic options could potentially also be contaminated :-(  Not all the foods tested had traces of the chemicals, though.


A spokesperson for the North American Flame Retardant Alliance of the American Chemistry Council told WebMD that it should be noted that not all of the tested items had HBCD, and if it was found in the product, it contained levels much lower than levels reported to show negative health effects.

The study’s author recognizes that  HBCD  was, indeed, found in very small quantities.  However, they did add that “small quantities of HBCDs can add up to a much more significant chemical presence over time. Once in the human body, the same fat-loving disposition that attracted the chemical to fatty foods like meat and nuts can help it bind to human fat, where it can stick around for years.”   Also of concern?  Babies usually have higher fat levels than adults which makes them extra attractive for these chemicals.

Health concerns of HBCD exposure include alterations in immune and reproductive systems, neurotoxic effects, and endocrine disruption

While this study should not mean we have to cut peanut butter, among other foods, out of our diets, it does mean we should take any action possible to reduce our exposure to flame retardants. 


Unfortunately flame retardants like HBCD binds itself to dust and makes it way not only into our food but also into our homes.  In fact, tests have shown that the levels found in our homes are often higher than what is recorded in food sources. 

The good news is that there a couple of easy, (many free!) things you can do at home to to help reduce the amount of flame retardant contamination in your household dust:

  1. Dust and clean regularly.  Pay close attention to your children’s toys (especially if they like to place them in their mouth!)
  2. Invest in a vacuum with an HEPA filter and vacuum frequently (ok maybe not all are free!)
  3. Take your shoes off when coming indoors so as to avoid bring in contaminated soil or dust from outdoors.
  4. Wash you and your munchkin’s hands frequently (especially if you have babies that are crawling around the house.  Since contaminated dust settles on the floor, crawling babies are touching this dust all day and most definitely placing their hands in their mouth!)
  5. Open your windows daily, even if only for a short period, to allow the air indoors to circulate. 
  6. Look for products that do not contain flame retardants.  For more on this read our blog post "
  7. Urge your local Congressman or woman  to retire the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act and replace it with the Safe Chemical Act which is currently awaiting approval at the Senate.  The Environmental Working Group has a great page which showcases easy things you can do to support this super important piece of legislature  

Saturday, May 26, 2012

NTM News Brief: Playing with Fire (Chicago Tribune)

The average American baby is born with 10 fingers, 10 toes and the highest recorded levels of flame retardants among infants in the world

BAM.  This is how the Chicago Tribune’s recently published 5 part investigative series begins.

This  4 part investigative report is beyond eye opening.  The Tribune uncovered how 2 powerful industries - Tobacco and chemical manufacturers -  successfully waged  deceptive campaigns  presenting distorted science, phony front groups and straight up lies to mislead both regulators and the public and convince them of the benefits and need of flame retardants.

The results of decades of deception?  The presence of these chemicals in every single household in the country... chemicals that do not even work  as promised and who’s long term effects on our and our children’s health are quickly proving toxic.

Among the most frustrating and bothersome details the series unveils?
Just how easy it is for industry to fabricate (their investigation revealed that REPEATEDLY scientists and doctors speaking for the use of flame retardants have lied -making up stories about specific burn deaths among other things)  stories and have it not only accepted as the truth but be the basis for laws that have brought toxic chemicals into our homes.

It is eye opening and worth reading (click here to read TRIBUNE WATCHDOG PLAYING WITH FIRE)  but if you don't have the time here is a summary (and if you are not sure why you should care. jump to the end of the article!)

The first section starts off describing the testimony by the doctor who has been the star witness for the flame retardant industry in most if not all official hearings concerning these chemicals over the past few years.   The Seattle based burn doctor has repeatedly testified in these hearings and was found to have created false scenarios of child burn victims in order to put forth the agenda of the fire retardant industry.  Confronted by the journalist from the Tribune the doctor acknowledged that his stories were untrue but explained, “I wasn’t under oath.”

His repeated false testimonies, in many official hearings and specifically in California, have been the main force  behind the decision to require flame retardants in furniture and children’s products... and thus the main reason why we all have fire retardant chemicals in our houses. 

Another  player that has influenced and  helped convince regulators that flame retardants save lives and thus  must be  used throughout the house?  Citizens for Fire Safety, "a coalition of fire professionals, educators, community activists, burn centers, doctors, fire departments and industry leaders, united to ensure that our country is protected by the highest standards of fire safety."  The catch?  The only 3 members are Albemarle, ICL Industrial Products and Chemtura, the largest manufacturers of flame retardants that, together, control 40 percent of the world market for these chemicals,

Through different players, the chemical industry has convinced many  that flame retardants save lives; this is why our children’s pajamas must be doused in them, as are crib  (and adult) mattresses, changers, sofas, rugs and electronics.  Yet according to many recent studies, the huge amount of fire retardants in our furniture (up to 2 pounds in one couch!!) , mattresses and electronics actually ”don't protect consumers from fire in any meaningful way.” and might even make smoke from fires even more toxic.

It is extremely frustrating to read this investigative report that describes how, for the last decades, the Tobacco and Chemical industries have flat out lied and deceived the public and regulators.  Based on these lies, laws have been passed that have brought toxic chemicals linked to cancer, neurological and developmental problems into your house and mine.


The Tribune discovered details about Big Tobacco's role, their “secretive campaign” ,  to win over the National Association of State Fire Marshals and ‘help’ make them the number one proponents of fire retardants in furniture. So much, that companies like Philip Morris collaborated with the marshals on flame retardant furniture standards.

The journalists disclose internal memos, speeches and strategic plans that revealed the surprising and influential role of Big Tobacco in the buildup of toxic chemicals in American furniture.

Part three describes how the chemical industry has manipulated scientific findings to promote the widespread use of flame retardants and downplay their health risks.  They have done this with such success, the article claims, that the industry’s  ‘story’ has essentially  been adopted as fact, cited by consultants, think tanks, regulators and Wikipedia, and have shaped the worldwide debate about the safety of flame retardants.

Among the examples of how science has been distorted, is one of the largest studies ever conducted to determine the effectiveness of fire retardants in a fire.   The lead author of the study explains that they used SO much fire retardants that, yes, the chemicals did delay the fire.  The industry used these results as a scientific  basis for their argument of the effectiveness of the chemicals. However, the study’s author explains,   “industry officials have "grossly distorted" the findings of his research, which was not based on real-world conditions. The small amounts of flame retardants in typical home furnishings, he said, offer little to no fire protection... The bottom line: Household furniture often contains enough chemicals to pose health threats but not enough to stem fires — "the worst of both possible worlds," he said.”

The Tribune describes the current fire retardant that has been approved by the EPA :  Firemaster 550.   The manufacturer's own health studies, obtained by the Tribune, found that exposing rats to high doses of Firemaster 550  lowered birth weight, altered female genitalia and caused skeletal malformations such as fused ribs and vertebrae. .. and yet it was approved by the EPA for use in baby products and common household items.

The history of Firemaster 550, highlights  "how EPA officials have allowed generation after generation of flame retardants onto the market without thoroughly assessing health risks.”

At the base of the problem is the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, that basically allows companies to sell products that contain chemicals that have not been proven safe.  When health effects are document, the law make it almost impossible for the EPA to ban the chemical.

"By the time the scientific community catches up to one chemical, industry moves on to another and they go back to their playbook of delay and denial,"


  • Long term exposure to fire retardants have been linked to lower IQs, reduced fertility, hormonal changes, reproductive harm, impacts on the thyroid and metabolic function, and hindering neurological development in infants and children, among other health threats
  • The average American baby is born with the highest recorded levels of flame retardants among infants in the world
  • Most human exposure to flame retardants comes from ingesting “surprisingly large amounts” of contaminated household dust, rather than from people's diet or what they absorb through their skin.
  • According to the EPA, young children are exposed to significantly higher levels than adults, because they spend so much time playing on the floor.
  •  About a fifth of the nursing pillows, car seats, highchairs, diaper-changing pads and other products made with polyurethane foam contained Firemaster 550.  But the most common flame retardant detected is another chemical: chlorinated tris, also known as TDCCP. which manufacturers voluntarily took out of children's pajamas more than three decades ago after it was linked to cancer.  Since it was never officially banned it is still being used - regardless of its strong links to cancer.

The investigative piece makes me feel outraged.  Frustrated. Scared.    And really pissed off.   But it also validates why I care about the research I do and why I go out of my way to try to protect my family from these chemicals.  If you are reading this you do to!  Unfortunately,  if we don't do it, no one else will.

For more information on easy steps to take to reduce fire retardants at home read our post, ' How to reduce Tris Flame Retardant Exposure At Home'

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Summer Sunblock Guide

School's out soon and summer vacation is just a couple of weeks away!

With summer, come long days outdoors in the (very strong) summer sun.  Whether or not the beach or pool are in your plans this summer you still need to bathe yourself and your children in sunblock to avoid getting burned.  So, how do you choose the right sunblock for your family? If your answer is to grab the same brand you have been using for years from your local pharmacy, then you might want to rethink sunblock shopping this summer.

  • Retinyl palmitate:  A form of vitamin A that the FDA and national toxicology program suggests might heighten skin cancer risk when used on sun exposed skin.  Until more research is available try to avoid sunscreens with vitamin A. 
  • Oxybenzone: A hormone disrupting chemical that can trigger skin sensitivities and is largely absorbed by the skin.  Most non-mineral based sunblocks contain oxybenzone.  This ingredient is ESPECIALLY NOT RECOMMENDED for children and pregnant women because of its ability to penetrate the skin.
         Look for mineral sunblocks.  If you do not like mineral sunblocks look for a non mineral one  
         that contains avobenzone (not more than 3% for optimal UVA protection) instead of

  • Fragrance:  This ingredient usually means that there are phthalates present, which are hormone disrupting chemicals. Look for sunblocks that specify “Fragrance and Phthalate free”.

  • Mineral based
Mineral based sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the  best option, especially for children and people with sensitive skin. They tend to not penetrate the skin as much as non-mineral sunscreens and offer better UVB and UVA protection.  HOWEVER avoid these ingredients in sprays or powders since they can potentially be toxic if inhaled in large quantities.

Common mainstream brands like Neutrogena, CVS, and Aveeno all offer mineral only sunscreens.

  • SPF
 Remember that high SPF should not give you a false sense of security... you still need to reapply.  Studies in the US and Europe have found that people using high SPF, thinking they are more protected, do not reapply sunscreen and actually get the same number of sunburns and more exposure to damaging UVA rays than those using lower SPF.

High-SPF products contain greater amounts of sun-blocking chemicals, many of which have been linked to hormone disruption and skin sensitivities.

When choosing a SPF, SPF 30-45 is more recommended since anything above that number does not provide significant more protection.

In Europe, sunscreens that do not protect significantly from both UVA and UVB sun rays are not sold.  Not so in the US.  What to look out form? Make sure your sunscreen  says it has 'broad spectrum SPF' coverage ( this means it protects you from both UVA and UVB rays which both contribute to skin cancer and early skin aging)

The truth is that not all non-toxic sunscreens are great.  Some feel really heavy and leave a white residue.  Others are just not water resistant and can leave you unprotected and vulnerable to sunburn after a dip in the pool.  So beware and be willing to try a few out before you find one you like. 

Also important?  Regardless of what SPF you are using always reapply sunscreens, especially after playing in the water!

The Environmental Working Group has a great sunscreen database (they review over 1800 products!) where you can look up your favorite brand and see how it measures up and if it considered 'safe' or not (a rating of 1-2 is ideal, 3 acceptable).  If you are starting from scratch it is a great source for you to discover new brands; just choose from those with the lowest ratings or go to their ‘Best Beach & Sport Sunscreens” list .

I have tried a couple throughout the years and here are my favorites for the whole family (they all scored a 2 on EWG's database), in no particular order!

  • Dr Robin for Kids:   A little thick but I still like it and use it on my son.

  • Aveeno Baby Natural Protection MineralBlock Face Stick, SPF 50+:   Event though this stick does leave a white residue I love to use it on my son’s face since he thinks the stick is cool and actually lets me use it on his face without squirming everywhere.

  • Alba botanical Natural Very Emollient Sunblock, Kids Mineral Protection, SPF 30 :  goes on a bit smother....  ideal for everyone in the family.

  • California Baby:  California Baby has about 4 different formulations that have all scored a 2, however I like their Super Sensitive No Fragrance Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+

  • La Roche- Posay: Anthelios 40 Sunscreen Cream, SPF 40 : I use it most of the year on my face.  

Do you have a favorite non-toxic  sunscreen you would recommend??  Feel free to comment I am always looking to try new ones!