Monday, December 14, 2015

Safe, Non-Toxic Holiday Pj's


Few things are cuter than lil'munchkins in their holiday pjs.


 Make sure this year's pjs are non-toxic and flame retardant free by either choosing organic pajamas or snug fitting pjs that come with this yellow tag which specify they are not flame resistant. 


Why do we want to avoid pijamas with flame retardants? 


100% of babies tested in the US  had flame retardant chemicals in their little bodies.  

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

New All Clad Sale - save $700

Since so many readers responded, I have been looking for new All Clad stainless steel cooking set deals for you..... switching to safer cookware is one of the easiest and most important things you can do to reduce you and yor family's exposure to cancer causing chemicals like those in non stick Teflon plans.

Today, Amazon (via All Clad) has a new sale- saving you $700 (that is 54% off).  The link below will take you directly to Amazon's sale price (free shipping included).


All-Clad  Professional Master Chef 2 Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Bonded Cookware Set, 
Set of 10
List Price:$1,299.99
Price:$599.99 FREE ShippingDetails
You Save:$700.00 (54%)

William Sonoma (25% off) and Bloomingdales both have also had a very similar set on sale - so check them out too!

Monday, November 30, 2015

2015 Non-Toxic Munchkin Gift Guide


At this point in the holiday season you have been defined as one of two kinds of people
Type A: super organized, got that holiday shopping done before Halloween
Type B: not quite as organized still wondering what to get for the loved ones in your life.

If you fall into Type B (like, ahem, moi) this is your lucky day:  Non-Toxic Munchking teamed up with our fav Santa Monica kiddo store, Caro Bambino, to bring you a truly non-toxic holiday gift guide for the lil' munchkins in your life.

Why is our gift guide so much better than any other gift guide you have come across?

Caro Bambino is a Safe Ducky store.  This means every single item they sell is free of toxic chemicals (which is not the case in many mainstream toy stores, since some toys can expose your kids to endocrine disrupting, cancer causing, neurological disrupting chemicals like lead, cadmium and phthalates.   Read more HERE).   Basically this means you can buy any toy in this store and not worry about exposing your kids to nasty chemicals ... after all, as my son put it,
 " Santa wouldn't put lead in my toys"...

 Most of the items in the list are available online at the Caro Bambino website-  all of them are available in their store in Santa Monica.  They also have free shipping on orders over $100 for the entire month! (for those items not on their website I have provided an Amazon link).

FOR THE ITTY BITTY MUNCHKIN IN YOUR LIFE
  • Grimms wooden rattles grasping toys (heart and stars) 
All of this German toy company’s toys are made out of a single piece of wood- so cool right? Even more important - if your infant will be placing in their mouth you want to make sure it is non-toxic like these.
Price: $21
  • Haba Sun Rattle
A more colorful option, while still safe and non-toxic for the little ones
Finn & Emma Play Gym Toys
Price: $16.99
Some call them stroller dolls, others call play gym toys, others consider them rattles.  In any case, they are different, organic and adorable  (and a bit expensive but- look how cute they are!) 
Price: $29 set of 2 or $70 set of 4.
Easy to grip, natural non-toxic and wood

FOR THE MUNCHKIN ON THE GO!

This local California company is producing some great heirloom quality and fun toys.  This particular wooden train comes in two color combos:  pink, purple and turquoise and blue, yellow, red and gray.
Price:  $55




Produced locally in California, the bus is easy to grip, ideal for babies as young as 1 yet fun for older kids.
Price: $40- $50







Easy to assemble, thanks to the magnets, beautiful bright colors, made out of wood- get ready for  underwater exploration fun.    
Price:  $20


Looking for a small trinket?  These small Moulin Roty retro wooden planes will inspire your munchkin to aim high.


Tegu blocks are pretty cool... the fact that they are magnetic makes them not only fun to play with but easy to clean up and store - oh yeah and they are flat and wooden, not plastic, so if you happen to step on one in the middle of the night it doesn't hurt as much (yes Legos I am talking to you). This particular set makes a cool helicopter and can morph into just about anything.
Price (17 pc set):  $50- $55
(larger 42 block set) : $115


The Flip ride-on grows with your child.  You can use it before they walk as a rocker and then transform it into a movable cart.
Price: $149





  • Wishbone 3 in 1 Original Bike 
  • The ultimate set of wheels that will grow as your kids grow. This 3 in 1 bike transforms from a tricycle type ride-on to a balance bike..... a stylish one.  It is available in wood color and green

    Price: $229



    FOR THE DRESS UP AND DOLL KIND OF MUNCHKIN 
    Produced locally in California, of sustainable solid maple, this stylish pushcart is any little girls dream.  Any stuffed animal or doll will feel like a prince or princess riding around this pushcart!   
    Price: $150
    Add caption
    While a bit expensive, this is an adorable set: the box opens into a closet with a bunny and mouse and their respective french styled wardrobe.   I would have loved this as a little girl.
    Price:  $100


    FOR THE MUNCHKIN THAT LIKES TO CUDDLE 
    • Loulou the wolf
        This French brands toys and dolls are so..... french!  My favorite is this stylin’ wolf ( I even love the name!).
    Price:  $65
    Each letter has a friendly soft animal that corresponds to the letter sound.... super cute way to learn your abc’s.
    Price:   $40
    Books, in general have become my favorite child gift to give.  This soft book is ideal to snuggle up and read before bedtime, little ones have fun interacting with the book
    Large $35
    Set of 4 small books:  $35
    Caro Bambino’s best sellers, these organic dolls are an adorable crew to hang out with.
    Small:  $44
    Medium:  $54
    Large:  $200

    FOR THE DRAMA KING OR QUEEN  
    This shadow puppet theater allows your children to put on their own puppet shows- can we say imaginative play galore?!  Wait until your kiddos start charging you for their shows (ahem- yes that has happens at home)- we call it arts and finance education!
    Price:  $32 - $44
    Shadow puppets for that production - they are fun with or without the theater.
    Price $18.50- $24

    • Wooden Instruments
      Front row, L to R- egg percussion set, whistle, cencertina, guitars
    Do they prefer rock, jazz, classical or flamenco? These instruments are sure to be a hit at home and help the kids form their own band (ear plugs not included, sorry.  Embrace the noise ) 

    Janod Guitar: $50
    Hape large:  $70

    folk music anyone? One of Caro Bambino's best sellers
    Price:$16- $26

    Even little kiddos can get in on the musical action
    Price:  $15- $20

    Whistle:  Made from environmentally friendly Rubberwood with a non-toxic clear coat finish and water based VOC free paint.
    Price:  $8

    Sunday, November 29, 2015

    All-Clad Stainless Steel Set 69% off TODAY! IT's HUGE- No Excuses; It's Time To Get Rid Of Your Teflon Pans!



    For anyone looking to make a HUGE impact in their family's health, one of the easiest changes to make is switching from using Teflon non-stick cookware to stainless steel or cast iron.   The catch?  Both tend to be quite expensive.  Today, however is your lucky day!

    Amazon is offering a ONE DAY 69% disount on a full All Clad stainless steel  10 piece set las part of their Cyber Week Holiday deals.  Instead of $1299 you pay $399.99!  HUGE.

    ***  AS OF 12pm PST/3pm EST this one day deal is sold out on Amazon :-( 
    We always keep our eyes open for amazing deals like these that hel you live a healthier less toxic life so feel free to LIKE us on Facebook or sign up to get our weekly posts!

    All-Clad 700362 MC2 Professional Master Chef 2 Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Bonded Cookware Set, 10-Piece, Silver





    REMEMBER 
    When talking about the dangers of Teflon, we are referring to the chemical that gives it its slippery non-stick property;  Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).   PFOA is present in trace amounts in up to 98% of Americans.  It is not only used in Teflon coated non-stick pans but also in products that claim to be stain and grease proof like furniture, carpet, clothing and food packaging (like Stainmaster fabric protection). 
    
    
    DANGERS OF PFOA
    • In humans it is a classified likely carcinogen.
    • It has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, heart attacks and stroke. 
    • Recent studies have also suggested that prenatal exposure to perfluorinated chemicals may affect the immune system in early childhood.
    • The most extensive study of PFOA's impact on people, the 69,000 - person  C8 Health Project carried out by an independent panel of academic scientists and paid for by DuPont, has found that the chemical decreases levels of reproductive hormones; weakened immune response among other findings.  

    (for more details read our post

    A NON-STICK MESS: FINDING AN ALTERNATIVE TO TEFLON PANS )

    Tuesday, November 24, 2015

    "Santa Wouldn't Put THAT In My Toys"


    "What are you putting in my toys Santa?!"

    "Santa wouldn't put lead in my toys mommy, so don't worry" That was my 5 year old interrupting a conversation with my husband, where we were talking about a company which tested a toy tiger bought at a NYC museum that contained over 4 times the legal limit of lead.

    My son had a great point.   Of course Santa Clause would never put lead or any other potentially harmful chemical in a toy he was making in the North Pole. In fact, why would anyone do that? Why would anyone put potentially toxic chemicals like lead in any toy meant for young children?  It would be screwed up.

    But, we live in a screwed up kind of world, my friends.   Many toys we buy at reliable retailers do, in fact, contain harmful chemicals.   And let's be honest, many of these toys end up in our children's mouths- thus directly exposing our munchkins to these toxins.

    THE MOST COMMON CHEMICALS IN TOYS ARE....
    What else would Santa never put in a toy, but somehow make there?

    • Lead:  According to the EPA (even low levels of) “Lead can cause decreases in IQ, nervous system damage and behavioral changes...”  Academic achievement and the ability to pay attention are all affected -   and the effects of lead exposure cannot be reversed or corrected.
    • Phthalates:  endocrine disrupting chemicals scientific studies have linked to reproductive abnormalities in baby boys, reduced testosterone and sperm quality in men and early puberty in girls.
    • PVCa known human carcinogen which can also exposure you to lead. 
    • Cadmium: a carcinogen., exposure can also damage the lungs and kidneys and weaken bones
    • Arsenic: Another carcinogenic chemical.

    As I meditated on what a mission it can be to find toys that are non-toxic for little and not so little kids everywhere, I was actually thankful I new what to look out for, what to avoid  (more on that a bit later) and where to go.


    I INTRODUCE YOU TO SAFE DUCKY STORES 

    Imagine if you could go to a store and not have to worry about potentially buying an item that could expose your little munchkin to toxic chemicals.  No research necessary on your part.  You could literally pick up any toy from the entire store and take it home, confidant you had chosen a super cute toy that was safe.   Then, days later, when that toy ends up inside your child's mouth?   No worries.  You know that toy has been tested and will not leach any nasty chemicals.

    It is possible. At least if you live in Southern California.  It is called the Safe Ducky Program.  I actually got to tag along as the head honcho of Safe Ducky,  Josh Kasteler, certified a much loved Santa Monica store, Caro Bambino... it was so interesting - this company tests all the toys the store sells
    Safe Ducky testing in action
    with their advanced technology (for tech nerds they use:  X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzers, which check for the presence of heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic and lead, and FT-IR spectrometers to check for toxins in plastics) and let the store owners know if any item exceeds safety standards.  Any unsafe products are removed from stores shelves and the store becomes a Safe Ducky Certified Member.  What do parents do?  Nothing.  Just shop with confidence.  Brilliant.

    WHAT IF I DON'T LIVE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA?
    Not everyone can live in sunny Southern California, and since Safe Ducky recently launched they have not yet conquered the entire US - so what is a concerned parent to do if you do not have a Safe Ducky Store near you?

    Josh shared his tips for non-toxic toy shopping :
    1. Consider these risk factors:
    •      Country of origin – "If a product comes from Asia its likely been made by contract manufacturing with limited oversight." According to Josh, it is not unusual for a US company to not know what is going on in their overseas factories, which is why and how toxic chemicals can get into these items without the parent company even being aware.
    Non-Toxic Munchkin Tip:  Look for toys made in the US or Europe.
    • Metal and flexible plastic materials – "Metal is more likely to contain heavy metals and plastics can also have phthalates."
    Non-Toxic Munchkin Tip: When possible choose wood toys
    • Brand "Brands that specialize in children products typically have suppliers who understand child safety, while those brands that also make teen or adult items might not."
    Non-Toxic Munchkin Tip: Reputation is everything.   We like companies like Hape, Plan Toys, Sevi, Green Toys, and Books! 
    • Cost – "Lower cost items have more chance of having toxic chemicals because they often reduce the costs of materials & processing."
    Non-Toxic Munchkin Tip: Avoid toys bought at Dollar Stores and other inexpensive outlets
    • Clothing – "Compared with toys, we’re finding more toxic chemicals in clothing."
    Non-Toxic Munchkin Tip: Interesting info - remember zippers and buttons often times have lead.  Organic clothing is usually a trusted outlet for this.
    • Age – Older products are more likely to contain toxic chemicals, so hand-me-downs and 2nd hand shops have a higher risk.
    Non-Toxic Munchkin Tip: Throw out toys that are showing signs of usage (cloudy plastic, chipped paint) and don't buy toys at garage sales and other second hand retailers. 
    • Last tip? "Check the websites of the companies that make the products you buy. Look for a “Safety” or “Compliance” section where they list how they test their products and what standards they use. If there is no section on the website, it’s more likely they don’t have a robust product safety program."
    For a list of Safe Ducky Stores visit the Safe Ducky website.

    Thursday, November 19, 2015

    Your Guide to Stress Free Flame Retardant Free Furniture Shopping


    After our conversation with Duke University's Superfund research director last week, we received a couple of emails asking for details on where to buy furniture without flame retardants...

    If you are currently in the market for a new sofa, the good news is that today it is much easier to find a flame retardant free sofa than it has been in recent history! 

    The reason? In the last 2 years 2 new laws  have come into effect in California that no longer require chemical flame retardants in furniture with polyurethane foam (ie: almost all upholstered furniture like sofas, upholstered chairs, children’s seating futons, carpet padding etc contain polyurthane foam).   Up until recently, California law required furniture manufacturers to douse these toxic chemicals on all foam containing furniture.  Because California is such a large market, most companies selling in the US made all their furniture compliant with California’s old law (TB117).  Now that the chemicals are no longer required in California, companies can finally legally sell furniture without hazardous flame retardants.  Hurray!

    To read more on why flame retardants are bad for you please read our post :Duke's Boss Lady of Flame Retardants: What To Do About Flame Retardants in Car Seats and Beyond


    So the timing is right; in theory, from now on, buying flame retardant free sofas and upholstered furniture should get easier and easier.  Having said that, there are still A LOT of sofas/upholstered furniture out there with flame retardants - the California law does not ban flame retardant chemicals it just states that other means can be used to reach their fire safety requirements...  so read our guide carefully! Here is what you need to know;
    • Types of Furniture
    To be clear, we are talking about upholstered furniture.  All furniture that has polyurethane foam inside and is covered by fabric.  This type of foam is the most common cushioning material used in all furniture. This includes, among others, sofas, loveseats, children’s soft seating, office seating, armchairs etc.

    Some mattresses, comforters, mattress pads, bed pillows and decorative pillows contain polyurethane foam, however laws governing mattresses and these items are different and so we will not be discussing them here today.  
    • Labeling
    Before buying new upholstered furniture you want to look at the tags.  There are 3 tags you might find:

    - AVOID: TB 117” label: This will, by definition, contain flame retardant chemicals.  Avoid.

    - BE CAUTIOUS
     TB 117-2013 label:  Items labelled with this tag might contain flame retardant chemicals, but they might not.  If you see this label call the manufacturer and ask if that specific item is flame retardant free. Most store employees you will find are not knowledgeable on this subject so I recommend calling customer service.

    - BUY WITH CONFIDENCE 
    SP 1019 tag
    The best label to find are compliments of California Senate Bill 1019the most recent flame retardant California law passed. This tag specifically tells you if the item contains flame retardant chemicals or not.  It requires upholstered or foam-filled furniture offered for sale to carry a label with two boxes, one of which must be accurately checked stating: 


    This product meets California’s furniture fire safety standard and:
    _____ contains added flame retardant chemicals
    _____ contains NO added flame retardant chemicals



    • Companies Selling Flame Retardant Free Furniture
    There is a growing group of major retailers that offer some or all furniture without flame retardant chemicals.  In most cases you will have to make sure the manufacturing date is after January 1, 2015.  Many pre 2015 furniture pieces might still be for sale and contain flame retardants, so it is important to confirm your piece’s manufacturing date.

    According to their own websites or company statements, the following companies sell furniture without flame retardants;
    •  Room & Board:  According to the Center for Environmental Health, "all special orders can be made flame-retardant-free except for one line. Products on floor are likely to still contain flame retardant chemicals. Company expects to have all products free of flame retardant chemicals before end of year (2015)."
    • Ikea:  Proving that flame retardant free furniture doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg!  All couches sold by Ikea and manufactured after January 1, 2015, are reportedly made without chemical flame retardants. 
    • Crate & Barrel: As of January 1, 2015, all newly manufactured Crate & Barrel couches contain no chemical flame retardants
    • West Elm and Pottery Barn : All couches made after January 1, 2015, do not contain added chemical flame retardants.  
    • Design Within Reach: Design Within Reach sells select sofa collections made without flame retardants. According to its customer service, these include the Bantam, Camber, Flight, Goodland, Parallel, Portola, Raleigh, Reid and Soto Collections. 
    • Ashley Furniture:  The nation’s largest furniture manufacturer is selling upholstered furniture without flame retardants as of January 1, 2015
    • Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams :  all of their cushions are free of fire retardant chemicals  
    • Ethan Allen :  All of their upholstery products are free of flame retardant chemicals.  
    • Ekla Home:  They use wool to be able to offer flame retardant free furniture

    Macys recently also pledged to eliminate flame retardants  in the near future

    Please note:  in an ideal world you would have your sofa custom made using real hardwood (or metal), no fire retardants and organic textiles (we were able to do this locally).  However, this is not always available or possible.  To that end,  the company’s mentioned at least produce sofa’s without flame retardants- a huge positive step in decreasing your family’s exposure to toxic chemicals.  

    However, just FYI, furniture which uses “engineered hardwood” or fiberboard, gives off formaldehyde (from the glue it uses) and should, at the very least, be allowed to off gas in a well ventilated area away from young children and pregnant women.

    Finally, avoid stain resistant finishes since these contain Perfluorinated chemicals (chemicals in Teflon)



    Tuesday, November 17, 2015

    Finding a Facial Moisturizer That Doesnt Expose Me To Harmful Chemicals Shouldn't Take 30 Minutes...



    After almost 6 years of researching the perils of chemicals that we are exposed to everyday I have my go-to list of products I use on a daily basis, which I know do not expose me to toxic chemicals. However, on occasion I like to experiment and try out new products. I also like to have a 'real life' shoppers experience and try buying non-toxic products at stores where most American women buy their beauty supplies. With that in mind I headed to my local Walgreen's today to find a night moisturizing creme.

    What words best describe my shopping experience? Annoying. Frustrating. I could go on. I spent about half an hour of my morning cross checking just about every nighttime moisturizer I found at Walgreens. All major brands we are all familiar with. Many claiming to be 'natural' and yet only ONE in today's entire store rated less than a 4 on the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database.

    ( As a side note for those of you not familiar with this database. The Environmental Working Group is a great resource for anyone who wants to choose safer, less toxic products. Their Skin Deep Database rates almost every skincare product that is out on the market.... the lower the rating the better -less toxic- its ingredients. Before buying your next makeup, hair product, skin product or nail care product I suggest you check out their database to see how your favorite products rate and perhaps to try a safer alternative if need be!)

    Clearly our laws have to change to make shopping safer for everyone - not everyone has a Whole Foods nearby, not everyone knows to check EWG's Skin Deep Database and not everyone knows what safer alternatives to buy, or where to find them.

    If you feel like taking action consider this: Our nation’s current chemical law was written about 39 years ago. And now the Senate is considering a "reform" bill written by chemical industry lobbyists! Healthy Child Healthy World has a pre-written form you can fill in with your information and that you can send to your local representative to encourage a better more effective chemical reform bill

    In the meantime here are some of my trusty -go to night moisturizing cremes for the winter months ahead




    Monday, November 9, 2015

    Duke's Boss Lady of Flame Retardants: What To Do About Flame Retardants in Car Seats and Beyond

    If I had known then (5 years ago) what I do now...

    100% of babies tested in the US  had flame retardant chemicals in their little bodies.  

    Every sample of both umbilical chord blood and breast milk tested has been found to contain some form of flame retardant chemical  

    Flame retardant chemicals are so prevalent today that even polar bears in the Artic have been found to have flame retardants in their bodies.  

    Why should we worry about flame retardants?
    For decades scientists have known that the most common flame retardants (specifically brominated flame  retardants) are quite toxic to human health.  

    They have been linked to 
    •  Preterm birth
    • altered thyroid function
    •  neurodevelopment problems, leading to altered behavior and learning ability
    • obesity 

    Is my family exposed to toxic flame retardants? 
    For sure.  We all are; 97 % of all Americans tested had flame retardant chemicals.   Flame retardants today are used on tv sets and other electronics, upholstered furniture (sofas, chairs etc), mattresses, car seats, interior of cars, insulation, wiring etc. 

    Children, particularly, tend to have higher levels of certain brominated flame retardants than adults do because of their how often they are crawling, playing or laying on the floor where they are in close contact with dust, which is where these chemicals migrate too after leaching out of the products they are sprayed on.

    Additionally, daily use infant products including car seats are of special concern to parents since many expose infants and young children to these chemicals at a particularly vulnerable time in life. 

    The Boss Lady of Flame Retardants
    Dr Heather Stapleton at her lab at Duke University

    After receiving so many comments and feedback on Non-Toxic Munchkin's  three past posts on flame retardants in car seats I realized it was time to get some answers to recurring questions from our readers.   

    For this, I reached out to one of our nation’s top experts, Dr. Heather Stapleton, Associate Professor of Environmental Chemistry and Exposure at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.  Dr. Stapleton has focused her career on studying the accumulation and transformation of brominated flame retardants in the body and was one of the first scientists to realize  that certain flame retardants enter our body through household dust.  She is one of the 'bosses' on flame retardants in the US and she is also a mom having to buy the same products we all need for our kiddos.

    I read about her a couple of years ago in the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things, kept on hearing about her research through the years  and then came across her name yet again this year when researching Duke University’s Superfund Research Center, where she is leading a study on flame retardants in common household foam items from around the country, including car seats.

    Stapleton and her team are testing a diverse group of products, all of which contain polyurethane foam, and which include:
    • infant and child car seats 
    • mattress pads
    • chairs, recliners and rockers
    • strollers
    • pillows
    • mattresses and child/infant mattresses
    • strollers
    • sofa, love seats and futons


    Here is our interview!

    Non-Toxic Munchkin (NTM): What has surprised you the most about brominated flame retardants  through your time studying them?
    Dr. Heather Stapleton (HS):  What surprised me the most is how often we see them in products where we don't' expect to see them, or where they are not really needed.   For example, we've seen flame retardants in polyurethane foam collected from baby bath mats, and in a pair of ski goggles.  It's likely that these products do not need to be treated with flame retardants.  Either they are added because there is a presumption that it would make a "better" product, or someone purchased some flame retardant foam at a reduced price and used it in these products. 

     I also have concerns about the use of flame retardant chemicals in some infant mattresses that are made exclusively of polyurethane foam. It's my understanding that these mattresses are so small in size that they can pass the federal mattress flammability standard without the addition of chemical flame retardants.  Again it appears that they are added because they are perceived as a benefit, even if they are not technically required. 

    NTM:  What are the most common routes of exposure to brominated flame retardants? What products expose us the most?

    HS: For brominated flame retardants the main route of human exposure is believed to be exposure to contaminated dust particles in the home. While we don't typically think of ourselves as consuming or inhaling dust particles, everyone does on a daily basis, and this appears to be how brominated flame retardants enter our bodies.  

    However, today there are increasing uses of organophosphate flame retardants (which are replacing brominated flame retardants), and while there is some exposure through dust particles, early research indicates that inhalation may be a more important route of exposure for the organophosphate flame retardants.   Currently we do not know which products lead to the greatest exposure to these chemicals.  

    NTM:  As you just mentioned,  we know (thanks to your research!) that flame retardants migrate from furniture foam to dust - what happens as time goes by?  After, say, 10 years do you see less flame retardants migrating out ?  Is it safer to buy a second hand furniture or is the opposite true?

    HS:  We don't know.  There are a number of factors that influence how much of the flame retardant migrates out of the furniture over time….density of the foam, the type of upholstery, the concentration in the foam, how well used the furniture is, etc.  So it's impossible to answer….all we do know is that they are likely to migrate out over the lifetime of the product. 

    NTM: Is there such a thing as a ‘safe’ and ‘non-toxic’ flame retardant chemical?

    HS:  There are likely flame retardant chemicals that may be considered safe and non-toxic.  For example, there are likely several hundred different types of flame retardant chemicals, but we are only conducting research on maybe 20-30 different types.  Currently there are some promising alternatives for use in polyurethane foam, but I don't know if they are on the market quite yet. Hopefully soon. 


    NTM: Do products (ie: car seats and upholstered furniture) made in Europe contain less flame retardant chemicals?

    HS:  We do know that residential furniture manufactured and sold in Europe (with the exception of the UK) are not required to meet any flammability standards, so I would expect them to contain less flame retardants, yes.  However, I have not analyzed any of those products and cannot confirm if this is true or not. 

    NTM:  Would purchasing an organic, snug fitting fabric cover for a car seat help protect an infant from being exposed to the flame retardants in the car seat?  In essence, can a fabric cover encapsulate the flame retardant, avoiding it from migrating out of the foam it is sprayed on?

    HS: It is likely that an extra cover over a car seat will help reduce the migration of the flame retardant from the seat, but it may not reduce it completely. To my knowledge, no one has measured the emissions of flame retardants from car seats, particularly with and without covers. 


    NTM: Is there any child product/brand (car seats maybe? ) that the Duke Superfund has tested that has consistently shown not to contain toxic flame retardants?

    HS:  For legal reasons, we are not allowed to release information pertaining to specific brands tested.  This is primarily because we cannot confirm that the samples submitted to our Superfund program are actually from a specific brand.  We rely on the information provided to us by participants submitting samples, but we cannot verify it's authenticity.  I know this is a source of frustration, but my hands are tied unfortunately. 

    NTM: We totally understand that- so what would you recommend to a parent with a baby on the way, and a limited budget, who wants to avoid exposing their baby to toxic flame retardants?  Where is their money best spent? 

    HS:  To avoid exposure to flame retardants, it is best to ensure that the products the baby are touching most frequently are free of flame retardants.  For example, make sure the mattress the baby sleeps on is flame retardant free.  The same could be said for portable mattresses/cribs.  Most new nursing pillows, strollers and baby carriers should be flame retardant free since they were exempted from the residential flammability standard a few years ago. 


    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 


    In addition to all the information Dr. Stapleton gave, it is important to understand that there are some things you can do to decrease you and your children’s exposure to flame retardants, including:


    • Clean often.  Keep the inside of your house, the floors, the inside of your car, your rugs/carpets dust free.  Use a damp cloth or a  vacuum with a HEPA filter.
    • Wash your hands frequently. Studies by Duke University have found that people are more likely to have higher exposure and body burdens if they wash their hands less frequently.  Washing hands is always a good idea
    • In general (and especially for baby products) seek out products that do not contain polyurethane foam.  Certified organic products cannot contain flame retardant chemicals.
    • Read the tags on furniture.  If the tag mentions CA TB 117 it definitely contains flame retardants. Two new tags representing laws out of California can help you identify furniture that does not contain flame retardant chemicals .  Later this week we will be posting an update to our guide to buying flame retardant free furniture.
    • Take action.  Contact state legislators, support legislative change to take out flame retardants from household products, especially baby products.  Flame retardants doused on an infant car seat, unfortunately, cannot save the lives of a baby inside a burning car.  

    Monday, November 2, 2015

    I Unknowingly Exposed My Children To Lead - Could You Be Doing The Same Thing?



    Considering most parents today were young (or not even born) when lead based paints were banned in household paint in the United States in 1978, it comes to the surprise of many that childhood lead poisoning is still a big problem.

    The culprit?  It is still the paint (although cheap toys and other items made overseas could expose you to lead).   There are millions of homes and buildings built before 1978 that still contain lead paint. 

    The main misconception?  Most people don’t worry about lead paint because they believe that their child needs to chew directly on lead based paint (or paint chips) to be affected by it.

    The truth?   Unbeknown to most parents and educators, the most common cause of lead poisoning today actually comes from dust children breathe in, or touch and then ingest, while in their own house or school.  So when paint starts peeling or chipping, if that paint has lead or if the old paint under it has lead, the lead seeps out and contaminates dust around it. 

    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

    The Most Toxic Chemical Lurking in Your Kid's Toys

    
    
    There is a reason these vinyl dinosaurs have been living outside our house for a couple of days now. Both my sons won them at the pumpkin patch we visited over the weekend. Much to my chagrin they were both handed these fun, super smelly, vinyl and super toxic dinosaurs. I was going to tell them to leave it at the pumpkin patch but they looked to happy and proud to have won something and something so 'cool' and big ( both are obsessed with dinos) that we put them in the car and drove them home ( with windows open because of the nasty smell). 
    
    
    Once home, I put my foot down:  our new pet dinos had to stay outside.  Am I exaggerating? Should I have looked the other way and just let the kids bring the dinosaurs indoors to play with, vinyl smell and all? Well, it's hard to look the other way when you know the facts about vinyl....
    
    
    
    
    What is so bad about vinyl? Vinyl,  is a type of plastic made up mostly of polyvinyl chloride, ( PVC)- and that results in a resistant inexpensive plastic and  that is used in everything from toys to shower curtain to flooring and building materials; PVC is all around us and impossible to completely avoid and yet, unfortunately, PVC is considered by many to be the most toxic plastic.
    
    Why? 
    
    
    Oh let me count the ways:
    1. It is a known human carcinogen.  The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) labels it a known human carcinogen. 
    2. It is shi**y for your body and for the planet: When you make PVC a bunch of other toxic chemicals are released into nature, polluting the Earth and ending up inside the fatty tissue of many animals that we humans later eat. Many of these cause cancer, birth defects, diabetes, learning and developmental delays, endometriosis, and immune system abnormalities. One of them, dioxin ( used in Agent Orange) is among those released in the making of pvc and is considered the "most potent carcinogen ever tested" and the "Darth Vader of chemicals "  (I kid you not..... !) 
    3. It also exposes you to lead, a known neurotoxin : According to Healthy Child Healthy World " imported PVC products can have disturbingly high lead levels. (One study found levels 30 to 100 times higher than the federal limit for lead in all children’s items.) "
    4. It also exposes your child to dangerous amounts of endocrine disrupting phthalates - especially if your child likes to chew on his or her toys - and which small child doesn't?!   Even phthalates banned in toys by Congress, are often found in PVC. Phthalates released by PVC products are found in indoor air and dust, breast milk, and are most concentrated in children ages 6 to 11 and in women.
    5. The smell gives me a headache. If everything else doesn't convince you, if it makes you feel bad after having it around for a bit that is your body probably rejecting it.
    There are so many affordable fun toys made of vinyl - is it especially bad for kids? 
    Toys, in particular, are dangerous because of who plays and puts them in their mouth: namely your young kids.
    
    The thing with chemicals and children is that children are not just little adults. Not only are they smaller in size but their brains and bodies are still developing, their metabolism and behaviors (ie: putting things in mouth) make them especially vulnerable to toxic chemicals released by PVC. 
    
    
    How do we avoid PVC?
    Like I always say, we can't live in a chemical free bubble but we can and should take steps to reduce our and our munchkin's exposure to these toxic chemicals.  Here is how:
    •  Avoid soft plastic toys (especially for infants and young children who place them in their mouth)  as they are most likely made from PVC, unless otherwise stated on the packaging. PVC plastics are number 3 recyclables.
    • Look for products made with solid wood (not pressed wood), wool, organic cotton, or stainless steel and that are colored with water-based dyes or non-toxic paints.
    Some manufacturers and toys that are PVC free include:
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Green Toys –  
    Green Toys Dump Truck
     My boy's favorite dump truck these toys are not only non-toxic and great for the planet but they are incredibly long lasting.  Both boys have played - roughly- with this truck and its still in perfect condition.  
    
    
    Green Toys Dump Truck, Pink
    Because little girls like trucks too.  This one is pink for that girly girl who loves pink but also loves trucks! 
    Green Toys Tea Set, Blue/Red/Yellow  
    Have tea parties inside or outside- this tea set won't have you worried that your child is being exposed to toxic chemicals every time he/she takes a sip of her 'tea' 
    Green Toys Ferry Boat with Mini Cars Bathtub Toy, Blue/White 
    There is a plethora of vinyl and soft plastic bath toys available.  Finally a nice option that won't expose the kids to harsh chemicals during bath time.
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Hape
    Hape - Beleduc - T-Rex Glove Puppet:  For the dinosaur lover, this is a safe option that also encourages imaginative play.
    Hape - Walk-A-Long Puppy:  If its a 'pet' the kids want, wooden pull or push along animal toys like this one are a great alternative
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Plan Toys – 
    Plan Toys Dinosaur Racer Mini Vehicle
    For the little dino and car lover, this is a cute dinosaur on wheels!
    Plan Toys Push Along Duck
    Push toys have proven to be remarkably popular with my 2 year old.   
    
    
    
    
    Holztiger Wooden Pachycephalosaurus
    Made in Europe of 100% maple wood.   This dino will probably last longer than your child's love of dinosaurs (sniff sniff....)