Monday, September 28, 2015

Why an Air Purifier Might Be Your Next Home Purchase and How To Choose One (especially if you have allergies or live with bad air quality)


Take a deep breathe.  It is not very often that we stop to think about what we are breathing in, yet we do it over 20,000 times every day.  The reality is that the air we breathe is not always as pure as we would like to think it is.  Usually, the air is full of pollution, fragrances, cleaning products, paints, allergens, dust, pollen, mold spores,  and a long list of other stuff that can actually affect our health and our young children's health in both the short term or long term.


There are various reasons someone might consider buying a portable air purifier at home.
  1. If you live in an area where air quality/pollution is an issue.  
  2. If you or someone in your home frequently works  with certain art materials (paints, glazes etc) which give off dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOC's)
  3. if you live near an agricultural area where pesticides are often sprayed
  4. if you are remodeling or are moving into a recently built home
  5. mold problems
  6. Allergy sufferers (seasonal, pets, cigarette smoke etc)
*  I also have to say that we all sleep so much better when the air filter is on over night.   


Let's talk about just how serious each reason can be....



1.  AIR POLLUTION


A new study published just last week (September 2015) had a scary new statistic: globally, air pollution is responsible for about 3.3 million premature deaths every year, more than HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.

HOW SERIOUS A PROBLEM IS AIR POLLUTION? 
Although in general the areas and populations most affected are in India and China, the United States made it on the list of the 'Top Ranked Countries of premature mortality linked to outdoor air pollution (2010)' , ranking #7 worldwide.

According to the National Resource Council, approximately 64,000 people in the United States die prematurely from heart and lung disease every year due to particulate air pollution - more people than die each year in car accidents.  

As is the case with all toxic chemicals, children are often more affected due to their small size and developing organs.  Children see a higher incidents of  acute respiratory illness, increased incidence of respiratory symptoms and infections, episodes of longer duration, and lowered lung function resulting from prolonged exposure to air pollutants.

SHOULD I BE CONCERNED ABOUT THE AIR QUALITY WHERE I LIVE?

The World Air Quality Index, offers a new interactive map that broadcasts air-quality measurements from around the globe in real time.  This is a great tool that helping us see where in the world air quality is an issue. 

The map color-codes the data according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index scale (green = good; maroon = hazardous) and refreshes every 15 minutes to relay the latest breathing conditions. 


WHAT CAN I DO IT I LIVE IN A CITY WITH NOT THE BEST AIR QUALITY

If the air quality in your city reaches level orange or higher (or even yellow if you have young  children with respiratory issues) it might be a good idea to purchase an in home air filter (air filters might also be a good idea for allergy sufferers!) .  More on that at the end of this post below!


2.  CONSTANT EXPOSURE TO VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS (VOC's) 

1. If you use cleaning, painting or hobby supplies you are probably exposing yourself to some toxic fumes and VOC's which would be affecting the air quality you breathes.

2.  If you are remodeling or are moving into a recently built home - even when  using Greenguard certified building materials, chances are some of the construction materials will be giving off VOC's like formaldehyde.   Kitchen cabinets, new closets, paint, caulking, hard flooring, carpets, composite wood products all give off VOCs

3. mold problems - 

4.  New furniture:  composite wood furniture and even solid wood furniture that uses conventional lacquer or paint can give off VOCs.

WHAT ARE VOC's?
Many VOCs are human-made chemicals that are used and produced in the manufacture of paints, adhesives, petroleum products, pharmaceuticals, and refrigerants. They often are compounds of fuels, solvents, hydraulic fluids, paint thinners, and dry-cleaning agents commonly used in urban settings.


Products that containing VOCs release the chemicals into the air when they are used and when they are stored. Most often, you would notice an odor when using these products. Most of these products recommend that they should be used in well ventilated areas

WHAT PRODUCTS CONTAIN VOC's?
Many products contain VOC's- even nail polish and conventional cleaners!

Among products that can release higher levels of VOC's into the air you are breathing are: Fuel containers or devices using gasoline, kerosene, fuel oil and products with petroleum distillates: paint thinner, oil-based stains and paint, aerosol or liquid insect pest products, mineral spirits, furniture polishes, PVC cement and primer, various adhesives, contact cement, model cement, Paint stripper, adhesive (glue) removers, Aerosol spray products for some paints, cosmetics, automotive products, leather treatments, pesticides, Upholstered furniture, carpets, plywood, pressed wood products

The National Institute of Health has a longer list of items that contain VOC's

HOW CAN VOC's AFFECT ME?
Short-term exposure to high levels of some VOCs can cause headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, drowsiness, nausea, and eye and respiratory irritation. These effects usually go away after the exposure stops. In laboratory animals, long term exposure to high levels of some VOCs has caused cancer and affected the liver, kidney and nervous system.

As always, keep children away from any of these chemicals if they must be used.

HOW CAN I AVOID VOC's?

  • open windows and allow ventilation of the room you are in.  Do this DAILY
  • switch from conventional cleaners to natural or home made ones
  • consider buying an air filter if you must work constantly with these products (read more below)

3. ALLERGY SUFFERERS
My husband is a seasonal allergy sufferer, so I understand how desperate one can be to find help - any relief- when you suffer from allergies. Some people and company's claim that air purifiers help them with allergies (they do, after all, clean the air of allergens) however I did not find any real studies that showed scientific proof.

However many allergists do recommend air purifiers to their patients, as part of a multi step solution to combating allergens.

People who are allergic to pets, but can't bear to get rid of them, or who have neighbors or roommates that smoke might also be interested in air purifiers



AIR PURIFIER BUYING GUIDE

If you have decided that an air purifier can help your family, it is important to understand that not all air purifier are created equally. Even some well known brands don't live up to their claims. Air purifiers are not considered medical devices and thus they are not regulated.

 We have two top of the line air filters and I am amazed at how often I have used them since I purchased my first one 8 years ago! During our 3 years living in Mexico City with a newborn we decided to purchase one, which we still own, use and recommend.


This year we purchased our second one after moving into our remodeled house.  Even though we chose many green construction options some things  escaped my picky eyes and the off gassing from our window frames, moldings and custom bathroom cabinetry led us to purchase a second air filter specifically to filter out VOCs.

 For this guide (and for my own purposes when I decided to purchase a second filter a couple of weeks ago) I did some new research- here are the the top air filters in 2018 (which include the 3 I have used/have).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR

There are two types of filters that are important in a quality air filter: 
  • HEPA filter: HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate absorption, and to meet the government standard for this label, the filter must remove 99.97 percent of particles in the air that are 0.3 micrometers or larger.  HEPA filters are best for removing  most bacteria and allergens (such as dust, pollen, and mold).  It cannot  clean the air of odors, smoke, fumes, or chemicals.


  • Charcoal/CARBON filters:  designed to filter out odors, smoke, fumes and other chemicals.  The heavier the carbon filter the better the filter will be at removing chemicals.  Most well known air filters today contain HEPA filters, not all contain carbon filters.  If you are chemically sensitive or need to remove odors, smoke, fumes or VOCs you should make sure your filter of choice contains a substantial carbon filter.



1. Blueair 403 HepaSilent Air-Purification System 

 (the first filter we purchased 8 years ago)

  • The Blueair 403 comes with or without the SmokeStop filter.  The granulated activated carbon in the 403 SmokeStop provides a broader filtration range for little additional expense, so you might want to consider the slight addition in cost.  
  • This it the one we have at home
  • Cleans rooms up to 370 square feet
Pros:
  • HEPA filtration system: HEPASilent® technology captures 99.97% of particles down to 0.1 microns
  • super quiet operation at low setting
  • extreme energy efficiency, ENERGY STAR qualified
  • one of the highest Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) on the market, which means it will move air more quickly as it cleans.
  • considered 'stylish': Winner of Excellent Swedish Design award and a permanent spot in Stockholm's National Design Museum
Cons: 
  •  have to switch filters every 3-6 months
  • heavy: 43 lbs
  • $$$ 
2.  IQ air

I don't own the IQ air but did use it recently during a water filtration problem we had in our new house that resulted in mold.  It was lent to me and we used it before, during and after the mold was dealt with and during the work on the wall.  I loved it- but it is huge.  I would recommend for people who have serious allergy problems.

PROS:

  • -  IQAir's revolutionary HyperHEPA filtration system is proven to capture particles 100 times smaller, down to 0.003 microns; the smallest particle that exists. 
  • - V-5 Cell™ chemical & odor filter contains 5 lbs of coal-based activated carbon and potassium permanganate impregnated alumina
  • - HyperHEPA® filter exceeds HEPA standard - passes the world’s most stringent HEPA filter test EN1822, 99.95% efficient at 0.22 microns, 99.5% efficient at 0.16 microns
  • - 6 fan speeds
  • High powered yet quiet fan motor can cover large or small areas effectively. Swiss quality - built to exacting specifications in Switzerland.
  • -  only replace the filter that needs replacing, saving you money in replacement costs over the life of the product.
  • - Integrated filter life monitor takes all the guesswork out of filter replacement.
  • - Very low energy consumption.


CONS

  • Size (it's large)
  • Initial cost (the long-term ownership costs are relatively low though, due to the modular filter design, long lasting filters, and top quality components use
  • - quite loud in the highest setting



Austin Air

The Austin Air HealthMate  this year (2018) tested number one for VOC elimination in various independent tests.   It contains both a HEPA and carbon filter.

I would recommend for chemically sensitive and people who have a need to remove smoke, fumes, VOCs.  This is the filter we purchased after moving into our new, remodeled, home.

PROs

  • - massive 15-pound activated-carbon filter bested all other air purifiers by a wide margi
  •  FEMA and the Red Cross chose Austin Air units for deployment at Ground Zero and the surrounding areas in the aftermath of 9/11
  • - cleans areas up to 700 sq feet (the 'normal' not junior model cleans larger areas)  
  • -This can help to remove sub-micron particles and other forms of chemicals and noxious gases:  including pollen, dust, cigarette smoke, chemical gases and other harmful substances from the air

CONS 

  • - a bit loud on the highest setting but not too loud in medium or low setting.
  • - $$$




4.  Airocide - NASA Air Purifier for allergies, asthma and chemical sensitive individuals with Odor control 

This relatively new technology for the home was developed by NASA and is FDA approved. It has been available and used by NASA and various large corporations (including, reportedly,  Whole Foods) for about 12 years.  Today,  I would say this is my favorite option due to design, although price is steep.   

Pros:

  • No filters needed. The filtration system, its maker says, was first designed for NASA, to remove ethylene from the space shuttle so astronauts could grow food on long missions.
  • Airocide rids the air of virtually 100% of harmful pathogens by eliminating them completely, including the main allergy triggers: mold, fungi, pollen, dust mites, viruses, bacteria, and VOCs
  • compact size only weighs 9 lbs 
Cons: 
  • Reaction Chamber must be replaced (although not that frequently:  about once a year and costs $99 Airocide Reaction Chamber Replacement Kit, for APS-200
  • Steep price point
  • Have not seen a lot of independent reviews on the technology.... so hard to say if its claims are true.....  but it looks so so pretty!  I would trust it more for elimination of allergens and not so much for dangerous chemicals


Coway AP-1512HH Mighty 

This air filter received top marks from various reviewers and testers online.   IT seems to be the best value for your dollar - an ideal choice for those looking for an air filter to help with allergies (pollen, dust ect).

PROS
  • - compact size, light and easy to move around
  • - modern design
  • -quiet
  • - energy efficient
  • - Services rooms up to 361 square feet
CONS
  • does not filter chemical pollutants like pollen, dust, cigarette smoke, chemical gases and other harmful substances from the air

Friday, September 25, 2015

Teaching Kids (and parents!) How to Recycle


Part of living a non-toxic life and of raising healthy eco conscious munchkins is teaching them how to recycle.    From a very early age, munchkins can learn what kind of garbage goes into what trash bin.  When they reach age 3 or 4 they start to really be interested in the concept of recycling and reusing - a perfect time to introduce fun art activities that include repurposing or recycling things around the house, or even buying toys made out of recycled plastic  (like Green Toys Dump Truck and ImagiBricks 24 Giant Rainbow Blocks
 )

Goop recently published a super useful list of what can and cannot be recycled which I thought I would share here .... I was actually surprised to read that used disposable cups and plates cannot be recycled and not all places consider egg cartons to be recyclable!  

Also, it is important to rinse any food container you plan to recycle since many time they will be sorted out if they contain a lot of food waste. 

Finally, make sure you are not recycling thermal store receipts. These  shiny,smooth,  thermal receipts contain BPA which can contaminate the recycling system and the recycled paper that is made from the process. Throw away and wash your hands after handeling these common receipts.  Even better?  Tell the sales clerk you do not need a receipt (or have one emailed to you)  

Did you learn anything from this list?

ALWAYS RECYCLE

GLASS

With the notable exception of Pyrex (heat resistant glass) all glass containers can be recycled.

PLASTIC

  • Water Bottles
  • Laundry Detergent Bottles
  • Household Cleaner Bottles
  • Bleach Bottles
  • Dish Soap Bottles
  • Soda & Juice Bottles
  • Mouthwash Bottles
  • Peanut Butter Containers
  • Salad Dressing Bottles
  • Vegetable Oil Bottles
  • Milk Jugs
  • Butter & Yogurt Tubs
  • Cereal Box Bags
  • Deodorant Containers
  • VHS & Cassette Tapes (take the film out)
  • Dry Cleaning Bags (many facilities are now accepting hangers as well)

PAPER

  • Mail
  • Computer Paper
  • Lined Paper
  • Construction Paper
  • Greeting Cards
  • Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Catalogs
  • Phone Books
  • Sticky Notes
  • Paper Cups & Unused Paper Plates
  • Receipts  (this does not include shiny,smooth,  thermal receipts since these contain BPA which can contaminate the recycling system! Throw away and wash your hands after handeling)  

CARDBOARD

  • Boxes
  • Cereal Boxes
  • Shoe & Gift Boxes
  • Toothpaste Boxes
  • Cardboard Tubes
  • File Folders
  • Pizza Boxes (cannot be greasy)

METAL

(Check your local facility’s rules about crushing cans–some prefer that you do, others prefer you don’t.)
  • Aluminum Cans
  • Tin Cans
  • Bottle Caps
  • Tin Foil (clean)

Not Recyclable

  • Styrofoam To-Go Containers (there are some advanced recycling centers that can take styrofoam, but few and far between)
  • Used Disposable Plates & Cups
  • Meat Trays
  • Take-Out Containers
  • CD Cases
  • Sunglasses
  • Nylon
  • Blueprint Paper
  • Cigarette Boxes
  • Waxed Paper
  • Laminated Paper
  • Pet Food Bags
  • Ceramics
  • Heat-Resistant Glass (like Pyrex)
  • Metal Caps & Lids
  • Spray Tops From Cleaning Bottles
  • Padded Mailing Envelopes


Compostable

  • Egg Cartons*
  • Brown Paper Bags*
  • Shredded Paper*
  • Newspaper*
  • Paper Towels (as long as not coated in cleaning chemicals)
  • Wooden Chop Sticks
  • Grass Clippings
  • Dry Leaves
  • Green Leaves
  • Tea Leaves & Bags
  • Cofee Grounds & Filters
  • Fruit & Vegetable Scraps
  • Plant Prunings
  • Crushed Eggshells

*Also recyclable in some places

Special Items
  • TETRAPAKS, TUPPERWARE, BABY FOOD SQUEEZE PACKS, ETC.
The New Jersey based Terracycle organizes programs for hard-to-recycle items, like baby food squeeze packs, Tetra Paks, toothbrushes, wisp flossers, Tupperware, Nespresso Capsules, Scotch Tape, shoes, wine boxes, pet food bags, pens, and more. While a few of these items can be recycled curbside, their mail-in system is a great option if your municipality doesn’t allow it.


  • LIGHTBULBS

Compact fluorescent bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, so it’s important to recycle them–if they break in the garbage can, that mercury gets released into the landfill. Many hardware stores, like Home Depot or Lowe’s, offer recycling for these and other hard-to-recycle items.


  • BATTERIES

It’s actually  illegal in many areas to throw batteries in a landfill because of the chemicals that leach into the soil. Car batteries can be returned to any store that sells them. For small, household batteries, check your kids’ school or your local library, where municipalities set up recycling boxes. And if all else fails, you can always mail them in.


  • ELECTRONICS

Best Buy has drop-off centers for electronics (you can even bring them household appliances, like blenders or microwaves) in all of their stores. While they don’t have recycling facilities in every store, Apple offers gift cards for some old equipment–check their website to see if your local store qualifies.


For 6 basic tips for reducing and recycling including asking for no plastic cutlery when ordering food for deliver, taking your own bag to the supermarket instead of relying on their plastic or paper bags visit Goop


Monday, September 21, 2015

Indoor Use of Bug Sprays Linked to 'Significant Increase' In Most Common Childhood Cancers



It might be tempting when you are in the middle of mosquito season or when your house starts seeing an increase in ants visiting daily, to run to the store and buy an insecticide to spray around the house - an easy fix.

However, a new meta analysis out of Harvard University,  looked at over 16 studies from the past 20 years and found  that children exposed to indoor insecticides had an elevated risk of developing blood cancers- which include  leukemia and lymphoma.  How elevated a risk? They found children exposed to any indoor insecticides were 43 - 47 percent more likely to have leukemia or lymphoma.  Interestingly, outdoor insecticides were not linked to the cancers.

Considering leukemia and lymphoma are among the most common childhood cancers in the United States this newest publication really begs to be brought to the attention of parents everywhere. 

Non-Toxic Munchkin spoke to senior researcher Chensheng (Alex) Lu, an associate professor of environmental exposure biology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and lead author of the publication.

WHY ARE CHILDREN MORE AT RISK?
According to Dr Chensheng (Alex) Lu, "...a general rule of thumb is that children with younger ages are more susceptible to toxic chemicals than older children because of their developing of metabolism of those chemicals."

In fact, this is the case with all chemical exposures- not just insecticides.  Because children are smaller in size than adults, because they are still in development (especially young children and fetuses) and because children still cannot break down chemicals as efficiently as grownups, any chemical exposure will have a bigger impact on them than on any adult- the main reason it makes sense to limit all chemical exposure to young children and developing fetuses.


WHY DID INDOOR EXPOSURE RESULT IN A 45% INCREASE IN CANCER WHILE OUTDOOR USE DID NOT?

Simply put, children spend more time indoors.   If you use insecticides indoors, you can expose your children when they are playing, eating and sleeping.  Even if children are not playing on treated areas, these chemicals can migrate to the house dust, and be inhaled when breathing or touched by kids throughout the day.   Without the help of the elements (wind, rain etc) insecticides used indoors stick around for longer.   

Exposure can not only occur indoors at home, but most schools commonly use insecticides in and around the school buildings; a large source of frequent exposure to young children.  


ALTERNATIVES
Insecticides are meant to kill living beings (namely the insect you are trying to get rid of) - it makes sense that chronic use could affect children.  In fact, according to Beyond Pesticides,  16 out of the 30 most commonly used pesticides are already linked to cancer.  This Not for profit even has a database of published studies that link pesticides to numerous serious ailments, beyond cancer.  

Dr. Lu's recommendations for anyone considering using insecticides indoors?  " I would say not using pesticides in the environment where children spend a great deal of time playing, sleeping or studying is the best way". 

Luckily there are more natural alternatives you can try to minimize any bug problem you encounter at home

ANTS

  1. Remove sources of attraction. Keep your kitchen clean. Wash countertops, floors, and cabinets with equal parts vinegar and water.  Wash dishes after use and keep garbage cans closed tightly
  2. Use natural ant repellents. Figure out the entry point of the ants and spray white vinegar or pour a line of cream of tartar:  ants will  will not cross over these barriers. A cinnamon stick, coffee grinds, chili pepper, paprika, cloves, or dried peppermint leaves near the openings are also said to repel ants (I have not used these)
  3. Planting mint around the foundation of the house will also keep ants away (we have mint planted all over the front of our house!) 
  4. Use essential oils like peppermint oil or tea tree oils.  Simply wipe some essential oil on the trail or entry point.  Make sure you buy pure essential oils not synthetic variety
  5. For that extra 'oomph" you can make your own non-toxic ant repellent spray- so so easy!   Mix 50% water with 50% white vinegar and add 20-30 drops of peppermint or tea tree oil and spray!


COCKROACHES

  1. Remove sources of attraction. Keep your kitchen clean. Wash countertops, floors, and cabinets with equal parts vinegar and water.  Move stoves and refrigerators and scrub on , around and bellow them.  Wash dishes after use and keep garbage cans closed tightly.
  2. Avoid moisture hot spots  Look for leaky or sweating pipes that may be adding to the roach problem. Check the bathtub and/or shower and look for leaking ceramic tile or fiberglass panels that result in water seeping behind the wall. Check sink overflow cavities and drains; roaches will also live in these areas.
  3. If you have pets:  Store all food, including pet food, in tightly sealed, roach-proof containers. Don't leave bowls of pet food on the floor overnight.
  4. Seal small openings that are pathways into your home. Repair cracks and crevices in basement walls and floors, cover drains, seal wholes around plumbing.
  5. Extreme temperatures will kill cockroaches. You can kill roaches in small areas or appliances, furniture by letting them sit outside (below 20-degrees F) during extreme winter conditions for several days or by placing the item in the freezer compartment for several hours.
  6. Traps: sticky traps are a good start


Beyond Pesticides also has a great database that allows you to choose a pest and learn about the best management practices to avoid the use of toxic pesticides

Monday, September 14, 2015

Camilla Kim: Bringing You Non-Toxic Mattresses and Her Non-Toxic Living Hacks for Parents


In part 2 of our series where we talk to amazing parents that are making non-toxic living easier for themselves as well as the rest of us, Non-Toxic Munchkin had the opportunity to speak to Camilla Kim, Owner and CEO of Three Happy Coconutsa certified organic collection of mattresses, pillow toppers and pillows.

Growing up in South Korea, Camilla was inspired when her father founded the country’s first all-natural mattress company; Palmpring.  Nineteen years later, married, with two little girls, and living in Los Angeles, Camilla was looking for non-toxic mattresses for her daughters and saw a need for more variety and accessibility in the non-toxic sleeping market, so this mom decided to launch Three Happy Coconuts.

What makes Three Happy Coconut’s mattresses a non-toxic alternative to a standard mattress and a great place to buy your little munchkins crib mattress? They do not use any synthetic materials: all of their products use certified organic materials inside and out - so there are no worries regarding toxicity or the possibility of metal springs emitting electromagnetic fields.  Additionally, the materials used are all hypo-allergenic so mold, bacteria, germs and dust mites don’t settle in.

The main reason to worry about conventional crib mattresses are the flame retardants that are commonly sprayed on all polyurethane foam products to meet national flame standards (and many crib mattresses are made of polyurethane foam). These flame retardants have been associated with a host of health concerns including  lower birth weight, reduced IQ (similar to lead poisoning), hyperactivity, lost coordination, reduced fertility, birth defects, hormonal changes, and cancer.

The mattresses that Camilla makes at Three Happy Coconuts are made of 100% organic coconut fiber and pure organic latex, and are covered in organic cotton with a layer of wool that acts as a non-toxic fire retardant.  No chemicals needed so so your kiddos and you can sleep worry and toxic chemical free at night. 

Non-Toxic Munchkin (NTM):  What does non-toxic living mean to you?
Camilla Kim (CK): It means being as chemical free as possible, while not compromising my lifestyle.
    
NTM: Has this definition changed for you from before becoming a mother to after?  If so, how?
CK: Yes. After having my daughters, I started looking harder for great quality products and becoming more conscious about the products I buy.
I wanted them to grow up in the best possible environment.

NTM: What are your top 3 non-toxic living hacks for parents ?
CK: 
  1.  Invest in chemical free products.
  2. Make things yourself as much as possible, especially quality organic food.
  3. Every free chance you get, surround yourself in nature.
NTM: Why did you decide to launch an organic mattress line?
CK: I started Three Happy Coconuts because I wanted my daughters to be safe while sleeping and not being exposed to toxic and harsh chemicals.


Thanks to Camilla for taking the time to answer our questions, and creating a non-toxic mattress alternative that parents can choose and know, with certainty, they are not exposing their little munchkins to toxic chemicals.  If you are interested in learning more about  the non-toxic crib mattress which retails for $599 (or any other mattress in their line) visit their website or, if you are in the Los Angeles area,  visit the Three Happy Coconuts/Palmpring showroom located at 3006 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, 90010.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

One Small Switch = Big Impact On Your Exposure to Endocrine Mimicking Chemicals


It can seem difficult to reduce plastic usage when there is so much plastic around us:  water bottles, toys, plates, cutlery, food containers, deli packaging, food wrap, baby bottles, dental sealants, etc etc.  However, small changes in your daily routine can indeed make a big impact by reducing your exposure to endocrine disrupting chemical found in plastics.   

Why should you reduce your family's usage of plastic? 
Well, many plastics are made up of hormone disrupting chemicals (it is not only BPA!) that can affect how estrogen and other hormones act in the body and have been linked to increase breast cancer risks, obesity, infertility and even brain development

One easy change?
Remember how your grandmother received milk delivered by the milkman?  I do..... and it was actually much healthier milk than the plastic gallons we usually buy in the supermarket!  Glass will not leach chemicals into your milk.   Plastic, could.  (although most plastic milk containers are made from #2 plastic which - among plastics- is the safer kind, there are studies that have found that most plastics release estrogenic chemicals... so reducing is always a good idea )

So....
Switch your plastic milk gallons for glass milk jugs!  We buy ours at our local Whole Foods;  they cost the same as the plastic gallons BUT when you return the empty glass bottles for recycling, Whole Foods gives you a store credit back- so you end up paying a good amount less than when you buy the plastic option. Less plastic and less cost!  Little changes can have a great impact - both for your health and for the environment.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Beautycounter: My Search For Non-Toxic Makeup


Let's talk makeup.  Women wear it everyday.  Pregnant moms wear it everyday.  Teens (and even preteens) start wearing it at a younger age.   It is part of almost every woman's daily routine.   In fact, it is estimated that the average woman uses an average of 13 beauty products, including makeup, every single day.  

But did you know that cosmetic companies do not have to disclose the ingredients they are using in their products?  Furthermore, they don't even have to test the ingredients they use in their products for safety.  

Even worse?  The European Union has banned over 1,300 chemicals from beauty products, while the US has only banned 11.

So when we use makeup, or when we allow our daughters to use makeup we are, essentially, guinea pigs because  no one has ever tested most of these ingredients we are putting on our largest organ, our skin.  Think about it: 
  • You might be using hundreds of untested chemicals on your face and body every single day for decades.  
  • Your skin is absorbing hundreds of untested chemicals every single day for decades.  
  • If you are pregnant?  Your unborn baby is absorbing hundreds of untested chemicals every single day for its first 40 weeks of development.
Some more bad news?  Some of the most common chemicals used in cosmetics have been tested and can be really bad for you.  According to EWG  some common ones you should avoid: 
  • Formaldehyde releasers: Some cosmetics chemicals are designed to react with water in the bottle to generate formaldehyde, to keep the product from growing mold and bacteria.  But formaldehyde is a potent allergen and carcinogenic. This can be found in: shampoos, conditioners, bubble bath and other personal care products—even those intended for children. 
  • Parabens: Parabens are used as preservatives in some cosmetic products and can act as estrogens and disrupt hormone signaling.  They have been linked to impaired fertility, cancer. 
  • Retinyl palmitate and retinoic acid: Retinoic acid is used in anti-aging skin creams. Retinyl palmitate, a related chemical, is added to roughly one-quarter of the sunscreens.   These chemicals speed the development of cancerous lesions on sun-exposed skin.
  • Phthalates: Commonly found in anything that contains synthetic fragrance, scientific studies link phthalate exposure to reproductive abnormalities in baby boys, reduced testosterone and sperm quality in men and early puberty in girls.
  • Heavy Metals: Including cadmium, lead and mercury can build up in our bodies and lead to lower IQ, heart, kidney and lung damage and cancer.  They can contaminate ingredients that are used to color cosmetics (common in lipstick, blush, eyeshadow etc

In spite of this, women are really faithful to their makeup brands and resist making changes to safer, less toxic makeup.  I was one of these woman, until recently.  The main reason I resisted switching my cosmetics?  Mainly because the more 'natural' cosmetic brands just weren’t good.  The colors were funky, the makeup didn’t last, the foundation made me shiny or just felt very heavy.  

Until now.   In the last two years some really good non-toxic makeup brands (Ava Anderson and Beautycounter among many others) have emerged.   Even more exciting news?  In the next year two large companies- The Honest Company and Gwenyth Paltrow's Goop are planning on launching their own non-toxic makeup lines.

Finally,  good options really do exist for switching out our dubious and sometimes toxic chemical makeup for safer options.

Today, I am going to review some of my favorite Beautycounter Products.  These are products I have purchased on my own and products I use in my daily or weekly routine.

Why I like these products:
  1. The ones I have tried work well
  2. Beauty Counter does not use any of the 1,300 banned chemicals in EU  nor does it use an additional 200 chemicals it deems unsafe.  In total they have over 1,500 chemicals on their Never List 
  3. Beautycounter discloses the ingredients in all of their products.  Most mainstream cosmetic companies do not do this (most cite “trade secrets”  as the reason why they keep their formulations secret)..... but I like to know exactly what I am putting on my body and am suspect of any company that won’t tell me:  what are they hiding?
The catch?  You can’t buy these products at a store.   It is part of the company’s core to empower women (“consultants”) to create a business selling their products.... this is great, but if we are being honest about it,   I do like to go to the store and buy my cosmetics.   This might be your (it was mine!)  main hurdle in buying these products.  The good news is that once you find the products you like it’s really easy to go online and not have to go to the store.   Beautycounter has consultants all over the country, constantly hosting events - you can always find a local consultant  and attend an event where you can try all their products first.  In  Los Angeles I have purchased from Mimi MacLean, in Texas  you can contact Janice Ezell  

If you are looking to make a switch to safer non-toxic makeup - these products are a great start!


What I love about it:  it gives me very light coverage for daily use with SPF protection.   It also moisturizes  (I have dry skin) and leaves your skin somewhat, well, dew-y - but in a good way.  I use this every morning because of the SPF and light coverage.

Safe Because: We use non-nano zinc oxide as our mineral sunblocker. We avoid chemical sunscreens, which may be linked to hormone disruption, and nanoparticles, which are extremely small, understudied particles.”

What it is not: It is not a full coverage foundation. I wouldn’t use this at night to go out.

What I love about it:  It is no wonder this is one of their best sellers. I love the fact that it gives you a perfect, almost sun kissed, color,  I use this daily: for both casual and formal events. 

Safe Because:   No detectable levels of heavy metals like lead, cadmium or mercury, commonly found in cosmetics that use color.

What it is not:  It probably isn’t the right color for all skin tones.   Never fear: Beautycounter has you covered with 3 other blush duos and 2 bronzer tones

What I love about it:  The colors in all of their eyeshadow’s are pretty neutral and  perfect for daily use (and younger clients).  

Safe Because:  No detectable levels of heavy metals like lead, cadmium or mercury, commonly found in cosmetics that use color.

What it is not:  I don’t feel the color stays on all day.  Personally, for nighttime, I prefer bolder colors.

What I love about it:  more than anything else, I love knowing I am not putting toxic chemicals, like lead, on my mouth.   Many mainstream lipsticks still contain lead as an ingredient - can you imagine putting lead on your mouth every single day?  I also love the color of this gloss.... very natural.  If you are going to switch to one non-toxic product I would switch my lipstick or lipgloss (especially if it is something you use everyday!) because of how easy it is to ingest. 

Safe Because: Some lip glosses are made with butylated hydroxytoluene, or BHT, a toluene-based preservative and fragrance ingredient that is linked to cancer and organ toxicity.”  This one is not

What it is not:  IT is not bold in color, but I don’t wear bold lip colors.   They do have darker colors like Raisin, Plum and Scarlet and Sienna lip gloss which I have not tried.  

What I love about it:  I use this night cream on and off (I like to use coconut oil on my face and body too).  I like it.  It is not too heavy, and thus does not leave your skin feeling oily or dirty like some heavy creams do.

According to Beautycounter, “100% OF WOMEN SHOWED A SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN SKIN HYDRATION AND 81% OF WOMEN SHOWED A SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT IN SKIN ELASTICITY AFTER 8 HOURS.*”

Safe Because: “Restorative Night Cream is formulated without butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), a toxic ingredient commonly found in anti-aging products, that is linked to cancer. BHT is a toluene-based ingredient that is used in everything from nail polish to paint thinner”

What it is not:  It is not a heavy face cream.  



What I love about it:   Another of their best sellers, I recently became obsessed with this oil.  My mother actually purchased it and I tried it over the summer.... I can’t tell you how silky smooth it glides on (yet it doesn’t leave you feeling oily) and the smell is a-mazing.   I normally just use coconut oil, but this made me feel I was leaving a spa after using it.  If you like products that smell nice and want to feel like you are leaving a luxury spa, try this body oil

Safe Because: Usually I warn against beauty products that contain fragrance,  This product is a great example of how pure essential oils (instead of synthetic fragrance) can offer amazing smelling and safe fragrance.   

What it is not:   At $68 it is not cheap - but it is cheaper than visiting a spa! 



What I love about it:  Great body wash for kiddos that does not over dry sensitive skin.  I am very careful about what I slather on my children’s developing bodies and this is a safe, efficient, non-toxic wash

Safe Because:  uses mild cleansing agents and essential oils instead of harsh surfactants such as SLS or SLES and synthetic fragrance (all on Beautycounter's Never List). Unlike many kids' bath products, (this one) does not contain any ingredients that have been linked to health harm. 

What it is not:  It is not particularly inexpensive ($16) however, because it is not a body wash and shampoo it could last you longer than other less expensive options.  ( for my boys I usually prefer a 2 in 1 shampoo/wash but I know many people - especially older girls with longer hair- prefer separate wash and shampoo!) 

*Disclaimer: I did not receive any products from Beautycounter to write this review.  The products I listed were purchased by me in the past and are used in my daily or weekly routine. The links I have included for the products in this review link back to Beautycounter consultant, Janice Ezell who is an acquaintance of mine.