Saturday, February 22, 2014

Chemical Conscious Parents UPDATE on Non-Toxic Car Seats

UPDATE: (in December 2016 a new study tested 15 car seats for flame retardant chemicals.   To read the results, and how this Uppababy model did, read our blog post ' FLAME RETARDANTS CHEMICALS STILL USED IN ALL BUT ONE CAR SEAT BRAND TESTED (NEW STUDY)

It sounded promising :  2 major car seat manufacturers ( Graco and Britax) promising to get rid of some of the most harmful flame retardants from their products. Parents everywhere sighed in relief:  finally at least one indispensable childhood item would be a little easier to buy.... but what has happened in the last 2 years?

(to read more about the chemicals we are talking about and why you want to avoid them read our post : Who's The Most Non-Toxic Car Seat of Them All? )

According to the Washington Toxic Coalition, in March of 2012 Graco disclosed to Washington State that it had indeed removed cancer causing flame retardant chlorinated Tris... however in its place Graco is now using TBBPA... another quite harmful chemical that has been shown to affect thyroid hormone activity.

Britax states on their website “As of January 1, 2013, BRITAX required all of its suppliers to eliminate certain chemical flame retardants containing bromine, chlorine or other halogens, from all components used in its car seats and all other products — while still ensuring their ability to pass federal government standards for flammability. BRITAX is pleased to report that all of its suppliers have confirmed they are compliant .... Strollers do not have flammability standards. Therefore, BRITAX and BOB strollers are not treated with any chemical flame retardants."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Homemade non-toxic art supplies


Lately we have been making our own play dough at home.   Its easy, cheap, fun for the kids and -most importantly- 100% non-toxic.  There are many recipes you can google but the one that works the best for me is the salt based playdough

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup flour plus additional flour
  • Saucepan
  1. Mix salt, water, and flour  in pan and cook over medium heat.
  2. Remove from heat when mixture is thick and rubbery.
  3. As the mixture cools, knead in enough flour to make the dough workable.  
The playdough will be white.  If you want color you have various options:  you could use herbs (see below) or a drop or two of food coloring (which is not the most natural ingredient but in the name of balancing and perhaps making your life a bit easier I say its fine if you only use 1-2 drops.  )


Recently after reading about cadmium in some children's paint I found a recipe for homemade paint.   I still haven't made it at home (mostly because I need to buy the ingredients) but it looks like a fun activity for the many snow days we have had recently.   The recipe has been taken directly from DIY Natural , a website I recently discovered and like.


  • Powdered herbs in varying colors (find our recommended source below)
  • Clay (kaolin/white cosmetic clay used to thicken the paint)
  • Liquid: water, egg whites, glycerin
The powdered herbs recommended are:

Regarding the liquids:

  • WATER: if you use water you will create something similar to  water color paint.  The downside is that you can only store this paint for about a week in the refrigerator before bacteria starts growing
  • EGG WHITES: make slightly thicker paint (wont run down your paper if you are painting vertically.  The downside is that the paint will only last one day
  • “food-grade” glycerin:  can last up to  a month is an airtight container and makes very spreadable (although a bit runny) paint.

Happy art making!

Want to read more about some of the chemicals some mainstream art supplies have?  Read our post Cancer Causing Chemical in Paint For Kids?

Cancer Causing Chemical in Paint For Kids?

Ask my older son what his favorite activities are and undoubtedly one will be "arting"  (his word for anything related to art). My son and I do art projects just about every week and sometimes more than once a week.... Tempera, water colors, markers, pastels, glue, glitter, you name it we have it at home. I love the freedom that art give kids to express themselves but I do worry about the chemicals these art supplies could potentially expose kids to... especially with the littlest kids who love to explore everything, including art supplies, by tasting them.  It might be one of the products I try to research the most because we use them so much.

Last week I went to buy tempera paint at one of my favorite NYC art supply stores. As I was 
looking around the children's area I picked up a pack of paint from a very well known art brand : Faber-Castell. They are known in the art world as makers of top quality art supplies.... So I was disappointed to see a sticker that read " WARNING: this product contains cadmium
a chemical known to the state of California to cause cancer." Just lovely - something that is known to cause cancer in paints being sold in the children's art section.
So what is Cadmium and how common is it? 

What is CADMIUM?

Cadmium is a heavy metal used as a stabilizer in PVC and in coatings and pigments in plastic and paint (ATSDR 2012). 

How bad is CADMIUM? 

Pretty bad.  According the Healthy, Depending on the level of exposure, cadmium has been linked to:

- developmental effects, including possible decreases in birth weight, delayed sensory-motor development, hormonal effects, and altered behavior (In animal studies)

- adverse effects on the kidney, lung and intestines 

- Cadmium is classified as a known human carcinogen, associated with lung and prostate cancer. 

- Exposure to cadmium can result in bone loss and increased blood pressure 

- if ingested, high levels of cadmium can result in abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and death 

- Acute toxicity from inhalation of high levels of cadmium can result in symptoms similar to metal fume fever and severe gastroenteritis 

- a 2013 study from Arizona State University found that children with autism had higher levels of several toxic metals in their blood and urine compared to typical children.  Cadmium and mercury were the metals most strongly associated with autism

- Another study led by Harvard University found that children with higher cadmium levels are three times more likely to have learning disabilities and participate in special education. 

Where is CADMIUM  found? 

Not only in paint. Turns out cadmium is quite common in another product marketed to children: inexpensive children's jewelry.

How do I avoid exposing my children to cadmium?

Lucky for us parents, this is pretty easy.  Regarding art supplies; read the ingredients. Always look for non-toxic paint and supplies.   

The question of what defines 'non-toxic' paint tends to come up at this point.  Is paint really non-toxic if you have to call poison control if ingested?  The Crayola  Material Safety Data Sheets clearly states that it all ingredients are considered safe and are non-toxic however it does suggest that  in the case of ingestion you should " Contact local poison control center or physician immediately".  Basically,  I do think non-toxic paint is fine, especially for older kids,  but if you have a very little munchkin who is prone to tasting everything you might want to take things a step further and make your own art supplies for a while.... this way you know exactly what ingredients your munchkin is eating.   It might be time consuming activity, but it might help you enjoy art time more.  

Want recipes for home made play dough and paint?   Read our post Homemade Art Supplies

Another option is buying natural art supplies.  While they cost a bit more if your toddler is chewing on his/her crayons it might be worth the cost!  Some we like are:

 Busy Bee crayons are made from pure beeswax and natural pigments, and are wider and easier to hold

Clementine Art:  Play dough, crayons, paint, markers and glue - all of their  ingredients are listed on each package. There are no chemicals or synthetic additives, just plant-based materials and good-enough-to-eat ingredients like flour, salt and vinegar. 

Eco-Kids: another all- natural line of great quality art supplies

A Pocket-Sized Healthy Shopping Guide!

With so many brands and companies claiming to have non-toxic products it is hard to know which brands to trust.   The wonderful folks at Healthy Child HealthyWorld  (a website you should definitely check out if you haven't already done so.  They have wonderful information and databases and guides to help you find nontoxic products)  are always looking to make the process easier and they have now come out with a nice pocket sized shopping guide.

The 'Shop Healthy Pocket Guide' features trusty brands that use little to no chemicals and covers everything from baby gear to household cleaning. It is not to say that ALL the products these companies sell are 100% chemical free, but overall you can feel safe that these companies use less chemicals than mainstream brands.

Among the Babycare brands recommended are:
BabyGanics (I like their shampoo, body cream and soaps)
Baby Mantra
Burt’s Bees
Charlie Banana
Happy Family
Mothers Organic
Nature’s One
Plum Organics
Seventh Generation (all of their productst are good and well priced.  I often use their baby line of toilettries)
The Honest Company (the cutest most ecofriendly disposable diapers available! their bathroom products for kids are good too) (from the family.  A great source for all of the brands listed above. They deliver nation wide )

Household Cleaning Recommended Brands
Earth Friendly Products
Mothers Organic
Seventh Generation
The Honest Company

Baby Gear
Belly Armor
Green Toys
Mothers Organic
Sage Spoonfuls
The Honest Company

Just click on the link above to viewed and print the guides

Friday, February 7, 2014

Bread without foamy plastic please

In another example of how lax chemical regulation is in the United States is versus the rest of the world, Subway announced that it is removing the chemical azodicarbonamide from its breads sold in the US.  Among their breads that have, up to now, contained this chemical: the 9 grain wheat, 9 grain honey oat, italian white, italian herbs & parmesan/ oregano, toasted garlic sourdough and Monterrey cheddar.  The franchise does not use this chemical in their breads outside of the US.  Why is that?  Well, azodicarbonamide, is banned in numerous countries, so the same breads sold in the US are made successfully outside of the US without the toxic chemical... but since there is no ban in the United States we got to eat bread with added chemicals here.

Unfortunately the chemical is not only used by Subway;  it is found in other commonly consumed breads  (Wonder Bread among others) and well known fast food chains like Kentucky Fried Chicken also use it. 

What is azodicarbonamide? 
Azodicarbonamide is a chemical used to produce " foamed plastics" and is commonly found in yoga mats ( note to self : might want to look into getting a non toxic yoga mat) and rubber shoes. Azodicarbonamide is also a food additive and flour bleaching agent ( makes bread whiter) commonly added to bread in the US. 

Is it toxic? 
According to a 1999 World Health Organization study, azodicarbonamide induces asthma in humans. It has also been linked to obesity. As a food additive, it is banned in Australia and Europe.  The FDA in the US allows small quantities of azodicarbonamide to be added to food. They have not studied the chemical's effects or cumulative effects on humans. 

What to do?
Do you want your family ingesting a chemical that is used in plastics? Probably not, so it is a good thing that Subway is taking this chemical out of their breads (especially since it is obviously not necessary since they sell breads without the chemical outside of the US). 

 However, since the chemical is commonly found in other breads it is important to read food labels carefully.  Stay away from breads ( and all food) with ingredients you cant pronounce... especially azodicarbonamide.  It is that easy!