Friday, March 30, 2012

NTM News Brief: FDA Denies Ban on BPA

In a disappointing judgement today, the FDA denied the National Resources Defense Council's petition  to prohibit the use of bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, in products manufactured in the United States.

The NRDC had included numerous studies revealing BPA-associated health risks with its petition, but the FDA said that in many cases the sample sizes used in those studies were too small to be conclusive, and in others, the results were strictly from animal studies, the results of which it said could not be applied to humans.
The National Resource Defense Council claimed, " The FDA is out of step with scientific and medical research. This illustrates the need for a major overhaul of how the government protects us against dangerous chemicals."

The Natural Resources Defense Council says the FDA's approval of BPA for use in packaging food "results in human exposure" to the chemical and is "dangerous to those who use the products."

The truth is that there are numerous studies that have linked low level but constant exposure to BPA to a number of dangerous side effects, including defects in newborns, harm to the central nervous system, increased rates of prostate and breast cancer, and metabolic changes in the body that lead to obesity and insulin resistance, which are the main causes of diabetes (to read more about the potential dangers of BPA read our post on "The ABC's of BPA"

The FDA noted that their agency recognizes that there is evidence from some studies, " however the Food and Drug Administration’s assessment is that the scientific evidence at this time does not suggest that the very low levels of human exposure to BPA through the diet are unsafe."

The agency also stressed that it "has been studying and continues to study the effects of BPA and will make any necessary changes to BPA's status based on the science."

Most curious?   The FDA official  position is that there  is "some concern" about the effects of BPA  impact on the brain and reproductive system of infants, babies and young children, and is working to remove the chemical from baby bottles and sippy cups nationwide. The government is also spending  $30 million to continue to study the chemical’s effect on humans.

The reality is that our government agency's act in a reactive matter.  When numerous solid studies prove undisputed that BPA is harmful (especially for children and pregnant mothers), that is when they will take action... even if this takes years of studies (and exposure to our children and family) to prove.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Recipes For Green Laundry : Non-Toxic Munchkin 123's

Here is the thing with green cleaning and green laundry products..... If you really want to make sure your laundry is safe and non toxic the best thing is to do it yourself.  No hidden chemicals, no chemicals that in 5 years will be found to be toxic to worry about.

Even if you  prefer to buy your laundry detergent (full disclosure:  I do!), you can still reduce your exposure to chemicals by using home made alternatives for stain removers, pretreatments and /or fabric softeners.

Most people would never ever consider making their own detergent or cleaning products....  But what if its really easy? What if you only need a handful of products ... Most of which you already have in your kitchen?

For those of you who want to try it out here are a couple of (easy!) recipes:

 White Vinegar
  • Collars and cuffs: you can clean collars and cuffs by rubbing a think paste of baking soda and vinegar onto stains before washing in the usual way.

  • Colors: colors getting dull? Brighten dulling colors by soaking them in 1 gallon warm water and 1 cup vinegar. Follow with a clear water rinse

  • Fabric softener and static cling reducer: use vinegar like you would liquid fabric softener.... Pour the same amount into your wash!

  • Underarm marks: soak those nasty perspiration marks with vinegar before washing the usual way. To remove the solid residue left by deodorants soak the area in white vinegar until saturated, then wash as usual.  Do this often , as it will not work on old set stains!

  • New clothes : its no secret that some new clothes have been treated in chemicals for diverse purposes.   It is always good to wash new clothes before wearing, but if you or your child has extra sensitive skin soak new clothes in 1 gallon of water with 1cup of vinegar. Rinse then wash as usual.

  • Stain remover : grass, coffee, tea, fruit , berry and even ink  stains can be eliminated  by soaking in full strength vinegar and then laundering as usual.

Baking Soda

Laundry stains are not always limited to grass and dirt with kids...  It can get much uglier than that!  For blood and vomit, baking soda is your secret weapon

  • Removing vomit: soak clothes in a bucket of cold water wit h 2 cups baking sofa. Let stand overnight before washing as usual.
  • Removing bloodstains
  • Soak clothes in a bucket of cold water with one cup vinegar and one cup baking soda.
  •  Fabric Softener: If your washer allows for this, add a 1/2 cup of baking soda to the water in your washing machine before adding your clothes.   Let it dissolve prior to adding your clothes, the baking soda with naturally make your clothes soft.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Non-Toxic Munchkin 123’s : How To Detox Your Laundry Room

It is hard to trust laundry products, even those who claim to be ‘green’ and ‘pure’, when the companies don’t disclose their ingredients and studies are repeatedly showing the presence of toxic chemicals in them.   What is a health conscious parent to do?  First, read our post:  Non-Toxic Munchkin ABC's AIRING THE DIRTY LAUNDRY.... on laundry products! to find out what is in your laundry detergent and why you should care.  Then, take matter into your own hands, and follow these easy tips for a healthier and cleaner laundry experience

  Buy fragrance free products
  1. Make your detergents at home (read our post :  Non-Toxic Munchkin 123’s:  recipe for green cleaning    )
  2. Avoid fabric softeners at all costs!!   According to the Canadian Environmental Health Association, fabric softeners are the “most toxic product produced for daily household use”.  These sheets are made up of a bunch of chemicals and fragrances and are especially dangerous because of how constantly they are used (weekly laundry)  and the technology these products have that allow the chemicals to ‘re-release’ over an extended period of time. Even ‘green’ softeners that contain fragrance probably contain -at a minimun- phthalates

    Alternatives to fabric softeners: 
     choose a well known trusted eco brand, like Seventh Generation (their dryer sheets are non-toxic in that they are unbleached, chlorine-free, use plant-based softening agents, and are not artificially fragrance.  Unlike most companies they actually disclose all of the ingredients in their products). 
     dryer balls, quite effective in reducing static.
    If your washer allows for this, add a 1/2 cup of baking soda to the water in your washing machine before adding your clothes.   Let it dissolve prior to adding your clothes, the baking soda with naturally make your clothes soft.
  3.  Infants and children are mostly susceptible to the dangers of chemicals because their immune, neurological, and hormone systems are still developing. and quite often, are very allergic to harsh detergents.  Go out of your way to fund the purest detergent you can for use for babies.....   Seventh Generation Baby is a good option as is Dr. Bronner's Unscented Baby Castile Liquid Soap
  4.  REMEMBER some cleaners may advertise that they are "environmentally sound" but will fail to provide a full list of ingredients. In looking for products, make sure you can read the list of ingredients.
Some products are marketed as non-toxic and natural, but do not list the natural ingredients. Remember, the manufacturer that gives you the most information about its product is usually the manufacturer you can trust.

At the end of the day if you really want to make sure your laundry is safe and non-toxic the best thing is to do it yourself.  No hidden chemicals, no chemicals that will be found to be hazardous in 5 years to worry about.   Making your own products seems like a huge hassle ( I cant even say I always do it) but there are some REALLY easy and effective ‘recipes’  that can help you clean your clothes... with products you already have in your kitchen! 

Feeling adventurous?  ( I swear its REALLY EASY!!) Read our post :  Non-Toxic Munchkin 123’s:  Recipe for Green Laundry

AIRING THE DIRTY LAUNDRY.... on laundry products!

Just like every other mom of active munchkins, we do a lot of laundry at home.   My son gets to the playground clean and comes home looking like he spent the afternoon rolling all over the floor  and diving into the dirt and sand... oh wait that is exactly what he does,  most days, at the playground!

Anyway, as you might suspect, I pride myself on being really good about choosing nontoxic alternatives in every aspect of life, and  for the most part, I have found great products that have work just as good if not better than their toxic counterparts ( skin care products, baby care, cleaning, toys etc) and products I know are non toxic.   There is, however, one area where I have REALLY struggled:    the laundry room.

 Cleaning product companies (including those that produce laundry detergent) aren’t required to disclose the ingredients they use in their products, and what they’re keeping from you could be hazardous to your health.   Even ‘green alternatives’ have been found to have toxic chemicals in them. 

Two independent studies, one from  Women’s Voice for the Earth,   and another from CBC News in Canada,  found that some of the most popular brands of laundry detergents, including those offering ‘green’ claims, had potentially toxic chemicals.

These detergents are specifically marketed to people (like me and you!) who care about keeping chemicals away, who are trying to make a smart healthy choice for their families.... and all had chemicals of concern, none of which are posted in the ingredients list... grrrrrrr

Few things come in such close contact with our bodies as do those things that we wash in the laundry. 

The laundry detergent you use for your family  has access to us and to our munchkin’s bodies twenty four hours a day, every single day.  The detergent (or the chemicals that give our just clean clothes that ‘fresh’ smell) will remain on our clothes all day,  allowing our skin to absorb the chemicals.  Our just washed bed sheets will give off the same chemicals and we will breathe these chemicals in all night long.  Even our munchkin’s teddy bear or precious blankie that he/she carries around all day will be washed using the same detergent. 

A 2010 study by the University of Washington tested 25 popular fragranced consumer products including laundry products (detergents, fabric softeners and dryer) as well was air fresheners, cleaners and personal care products.   It found that:
  • every single one of the products tested (including laundry products) contained an average of 17 volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) .  
  • Every single product had at least ONE VOCs considered toxic or hazardous under federal laws, some even considered  probable carcinogens. 
  • None of the VOC’s emitted from the products were listed on the ingredients label.
  • Even the ‘green ‘ products that made claims of being ‘organic’, ‘natural’ having ‘essential oils’ or being ‘non-toxic’  were found to have these toxic ingredients.

Among the chemicals found in the study and commonly found in laundry products:
  • limonene, a compound with a citrus scent;  Suspected Gastrointestinal or Liver Toxicant, Immunotoxicant, Kidney Toxicant, Neurotoxicant, Respiratory Toxicant, and Skin or Sense Organ Toxicant.
  • ethanol; and acetone, a solvent found in nail polish remover and fabric softener. On the EPA's Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders.
  • acetaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde and methylene chloride (all probable carcinogen according to the EPA)


For easy steps to follow that can help you eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, the use of nasty chemicals in your laundry... just read our blog post  : Non-Toxic Munchkin 123’s : HOW TO DETOX your laundry room

Thursday, March 15, 2012

NYT: Is It Safe to Play Yet? Going to Extreme Lengths to Purge Household Toxins

Today the New York Time’s published an article that resonated immensely  in my house and, I am sure,  in many of this blog’s readers houses; Is It Safe to Play Yet? Going to Extremes to Purge Household Toxins

It talks about how so many more of us are educating ourselves about the toxins we are bringing home inadvertently:  exposing and potentially causing harm to the health of our munchkins and selves, and the uphill battle it becomes.  

The article reminds us of just why we have to be vigilant for ourselves and our families, reminding us that “One thousand to three thousand new chemicals were introduced into our environment every year over the past 30 years,”  citing a European Union chemical registry that suggests the number of substances in global commerce is close to  143,000. and only a handful  (under 200) have been tested.

According to the article, and as we have mentioned in our blog repeatedly, it is especially worrisome that “hundreds of toxic chemicals, including pesticides, fire retardants and PCBs, can be found in the umbilical cord blood of newborns,... It’s particularly unsettling to imagine how these chemicals might affect fetal development, as a single cell turns into trillions, ...And from birth, chemical exposure only grows. Young children eat and drink more, as a share of their body weight, than adults do. They breathe more air. Playing on the floor, they absorb chemicals through the skin.”

Finally (as we have mentioned in Non-Toxic Munchkin many times but is important to remind ourselves) the Time’s article mentions specific studies that have linked increasing rates of childhood diseases to chemicals, including childhood asthma, ADHD and cancer.

As the article points out, unfortunately, educating ourselves is a full time job.   Most of us  do not have chemical degrees nor do we have unlimited time to spend on researching everything that we have in our home.   

Through Non-Toxic Munchkin I try to help my friends and readers and make this process a little easier, but it is VERY time consuming (and often expensive).  At the  end of the day the important thing is to do what you can.  Just like exposure to small quantities of chemicals can add up in our bodies and cause big (bad) effects over time, small changes to help make our homes a little less toxic also add up... but in a positive way.  

It also  mentions a couple of good outlets( besides Non Toxic Munchkin of course!) where you can further educate yourself:

"Parents can consult Web sites like Healthy Child Healthy World, whose mission is to “ignite the movement that empowers parents to protect children from harmful chemicals.” Or they can pore over safety ratings for children’s clothes, furniture and toys at GoodGuide  and Healthy Stuff. An online retailer like Oompa  offers “organic and eco-friendly” toys by country of origin.


The best thing about the article in the New York Times?  The more coverage this topic gets in mainstream and respected outlets, like the New York Times, the more parents will become aware of the importance of protecting their children and (hopefully) the more likely changes will take place at a legislative level to protect us consumers and, especially, to protect our munchkins!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

NTM NEWS BRIEF: Nestle gets rid of all artificial ingredients... but only in the UK

More proof of the power of consumers demanding healthier and less toxic alternatives and ingredients, Nestlé  recently announced that they have successfully eliminated ALL artificial (man made) ingredients from ALL of their the United Kingdom.    Due to consumer demand, in the UK,  Nestlé has become the first major confectionery company to take out artificial colorings, flavors and preservatives from its entire portfolio of products... but only in the UK.

The company, which  manufacturers well known brands such as Kit Kat, Crunch, Smarties, has changed the recipe for all of its 79 products sold in the UK and replaced 80 man-made ingredients with natural alternatives.  Concentrates of fruit and vegetables such as carrot, radish and lemon are now coloring the brightly colored candies.  The company also removed all artificial products from all its beverages including Nesquik. 

According to the company’s website Nestlé made the changes in response to consumer demand in the UK for fewer artificial ingredients in food.  According to consumer research, three quarters of British people look for products without artificial additives when buying confectionery.  The company has similar initiatives underway in Canada and a number of other European markets.... but no mention of the US.

According to a Huffington Post article, “ representative from Nestlé U.S. said that there are currently no plans to make a similar change in the States. "That call is being made for that market at this time," she said.”"

HOW ANNOYING IS THIS?  Come on Nestlé: if you are eliminating artificial ingredients in your products across Europe and Canada, why not do this at a world wide level?  If your products are selling just as well and tasting just as good (if not better) why continue to serve up crappy artificial ingredients to your clients in the US (and other parts of the world)?  Hurray for making the change in some markets but BOOOOOO  for not doing it across the board:  kids all over deserve natural ingredients.

Artificial dyes have been linked to increased behavioral problems including hyperactivity in children (ADHD)  as well as  tumors in rats.  To read more about artificial colors in food and how to avoid them, read Non-Toxic Munchkin’s The ABC’s of Food Dyes

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

NTM NEWS BRIEF: Cambell goes BPA free!

After two major studies brought the dangers of BPA in canned food to the eye of the mainstream media late last year, Cambell’s Soup brand has decided to phase out BPA from their canned foods!

 The first study, conducted by the Breast Cancer Fund, found that Cambell’s soup cans had some of the highest levels of BPA when compared to other canned food. Even worse, it found that the brand’s canned food marketed towards young children (specifically soups and Spaghetti O’s with fun shapes) ranked highest - had the highest levels of BPA- in the study.

In October, a month after the Breast Cancer Fund study, the Harvard School of Public Health published a study linking BPA exposure during pregnancy to hyperactive, depressive and anxious behavior in young girl toddlers; the higher the BPA levels in the mother during pregnancy, the more likely the girls were to exhibit these traits as toddlers.

 The US Food and Drug administration announced earlier this year that they plan on reevaluating the safety of BPA in food packaging and have said they will have a decision my the end of March. In Europe, French lawmakers have passed a law banning BPA from ALL PACKAGED FOODS, and EU-wide legislations is suspected to follow... all of this also following another study that gained a lot of media attention where Consumer Reports (in the US) found that “Consumers eating just one serving of canned vegetable soup (they tested) would get about double what the FDA now considers typical (and safe) average dietary daily exposure.

Cambell still stands by the safety of their levels of BPA in their can linings announcing, however,  at a Febuary shareholders meeting “We believe that current can packaging is one of the safest options in the world; however, we recognize that there is some debate over the use of BPA...Because of this, we have already started using alternatives to BPA in some of our soup packaging and we are working to phase out the use of BPA in the lining of all of our canned products. “

The sad reality is that in seeking “alternatives to BPA” they might be using new chemicals that in a couple of years prove to be just as bad as BPA (the company has not specifies what alternative chemical they will be using) however, this is a major win for non-toxic proponents.

Favoring fresh foods or foods that come packaged in glass for our munchkins and ourselves should remain everyone’s priority, but having BPA free canned foods available for use on mainstream supermarkets across the nation is a great step forward.

 BPA is an endocrine disrupting drug that is found in  the linings of metal food cans (also in plastics and store receipts).  It has been linked in lab studies to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, type-2 diabetes, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Childhood exposure is of concern because this endocrine-disrupting chemical can affect children’s hormonal systems during development and set the stage for later-life diseases.  Every single person in the planet has traces of BPA in their bodies.

 To read more about what BPAis, why we should avoid it and how easy it is to avoid read Non-Toxic Munchkin’s The ABC’s of BPA