Monday, December 20, 2010

Deck the Halls with Lead and PVC?

Doesn't sound like a happy song or great idea, does it? Buts that's what you may be doing if you're stringing most types of Christmas lights around your home. Lead is specifically chosen as the main stabilizer in the PVC casing used on the electrical wiring because of it’s flame retardant nature. The PVC coating helps keep the wires flexible, so they don't become brittle and crack leading to a fire hazard.

The Soft Landing reported that "The Ecology Center ( tested 68 Christmas light sets and found that a shocking 54% of the products contained more than 300 parts per million of lead in PVC encased cords and light-bulb sockets – a level higher than the CPSC’s standard for lead in children’s products. Products with the highest lead levels included light strands from GE and Home Depot (over 300 ppm) and two sets sold at Home Depot under the Home Accents Holiday and Martha Stewart Living labels (over 450 ppm)."

You may be asking yourself "so what's the big deal? I'm not going to chew on them!". What you may not know is that lead doesn’t stay bound in the PVC cord casing, so it sloughs off and ends up on hands and in little mouths. If you live in California, you will see that product manuals for your computer, TV, lamp etc. have following warning: “Handling the power cord on this product will expose you to lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. WASH HANDS AFTER HANDLING”.
 For some reason, California is the only state that has this warning for it's consumers.

Finding lights in the US that do not contain lead is almost impossible. According to The Soft Landing, the best ones to look for are RoHS compliant. "RoHS compliance is important because it also certifies that products have safe levels of mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE). The maximum permitted concentrations are 0.1% or 1000 ppm (except for cadmium, which is limited to 0.01% or 100 ppm) by weight of homogeneous material."

Environmental Lights carries some RoHS compliant varieties. Another option is IKEA. IKEAs products follow the stricter European Union's safety standards. When asked about their lights being compliant, we got the following response:

“IKEAs chemical requirements on electrical and electronic articles are based on EU RoHS and other countries chemical requirements, meaning our articles comply with even stricter requirements then EU RoHS compliance.”

What should you do if you cannot get RoHS compliant lights?

Here some guidelines from SafBaby on how to properly handle Christmas lights and cords:

-Wear gloves, and only let adults handle.
-Keep all lights at a high enough level that curious toddlers can not reach.
-Wash hands after touching any Christmas lighting.
-Be extra careful when you are out at relatives/friends houses. They may have lots of interesting lights in reach for your curious baby.
-If you can’t hide power cords from children, you can wrap cords in cotton cloth.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What's in your shirt?

When you go to the store, do you think about if the items you are purchasing contain toxic chemicals? Probably not! Most people believe that our government wouldn't allow anything that's unsafe to be on the market. This belief couldn't be further from the truth.

For example, I was reading an article today on wrinkle-free shirts containing formaldehyde. This was not an article from some environmental group with an agenda. It was written by the Dean of Duke University's Environmental School. The author points out that

"no-iron shirt companies agree that formaldehyde is a dangerous chemical, but they claim the amount of formaldehyde we no-iron-shirt wearers are exposed to each day is too small to matter... but if we use the strictest standard of less than 75 parts per million (ppm) for products that have direct contact with skin — a standard that comes courtesy of the 13 countries that regulate formaldehyde amounts in fabrics (the United States not among them) — we find a different story. Almost every study that has looked at formaldehyde levels in clothing or bedding has found some items with levels above this cutoff... with the highest levels found in dress shirts for men."

Would you have ever thought that your shirt could have the potential to give you cancer?

Why is it that thirteen other countries have regulations in place to protect their citizens against the dangers of formaldehyde (a known carcinogen) but not the US? This isn't the only case... regulations for toy safety are much higher in the EU, Japan does not allow BPA in the lining of their canned foods, and so on. In my humble opinion, the chemical companies are able to sway the government with their mighty dollars.

So where does that leave us? In my opinion, the burden of researching what's in the products we purchase falls to us consumers. That's why I write this blog -to share my research in hopes that it can enlighten you and help keep your family healthier. Hopefully by making "safer choices" we're also able to influence the marketplace with our dollars and send the message that we care about our health and want to support companies that do as well.

As for me... I've got ironing to do!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sassy, Safe, and on Sale!


I was so excited to find more BPA, PVC, and Phthalate-free bath toys made by Sassy! Not only are they safe but they make bath time so much fun! The five characters feature bright colors and different textures and function as play, squirt, and float toys.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lysol Twitter Party?

I saw that a Twitter mom's group is hosting a Lysol Twitter Party complete with gift certificates for Lysol. Excited moms are RSVPing with messages like "Wooohooo!" and "I wouldn't miss it" but what they are missing is that disinfectants like Lysol are associated with health problems, some more chronic and serious than the colds and viruses they are trying to eliminate by using Lysol in the first place.

Toxicologist Shawn Ellis found Lysol products have up to 1000 times more chemical particles than their competitors, recorded at around 1,200 parts per million (average household is about 50 parts per million). These chemicals have been found to cause permanent eye damage, kidney and liver issues, and asthma.

One report found that Lysol contains alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride, a pesticide that can irritate respiratory function and toxic ingredient benzalkonium chloride which has been linked to asthma.: Denatured ethanol is another respiratory irritant found in Lysol. According to Dr. Virginia Salares, an indoor air quality expert, overexposure to ethanol can cause irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes and may cause central nervous system depression. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services lists diethylene glycol monobutyl ether as an ingredient in Lysol. This chemical can cause liver, kidney and blood-related health issues in animals when ingested or exposed to in high amounts. Labels on Lysol clearly state to avoid inducing vomiting and seek medical attention or call Poison Control in the case of ingestion. Furthermore, studies show that the overuse of disinfectants may contribute to the rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which some scientists say could leave the public with fewer tools in the fight against infectious diseases.

So what's a safer alternative? Use vinegar! Numerous studies have show that plain white vinegar, the kind you can buy in any grocery store, kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of viruses. To make a disinfectant spray to kill germs simply pour some white distilled vinegar into a clean spray bottle. Spray it on undiluted, and don’t rinse. If you don’t like the smell of vinegar, add a few drops of an antibacterial essential oil such as tea tree, lavender or thyme.

Monday, December 6, 2010


According to Wikipedia, Polyvinyl chloride, commonly abbreviated PVC, is the third most widely produced plastic, after polyethylene and polypropylene.

PVC can be made softer and more flexible by the addition of plasticizers, the most widely used being phthalates. In this form, it is used in clothing and upholstery, and to make flexible hoses and tubing, flooring, to roofing membranes, and electrical cable insulation. It is also commonly used in figurines and in inflatable products such as waterbeds, pool toys, and inflatable structures.

PVC is the most toxic plastic for our health and environment. No other plastic contains or releases as many dangerous chemicals. These include dioxins, phthalates, vinyl chloride, ethylene dichloride, lead, cadmium, and organotins. There’s no safe way to manufacture, use or dispose of PVC products."

So let's look at a few of these chemicals. First, Phthalates. "Phthalates are chemicals used to soften or plasticize PVC products such as flooring, which can be released from PVC into the air. The phthalates cling to dust and can then be breathed in. Over 90% of all phthalates are used in PVC products. Some phthalates, such as DEHP, have been linked to reproductive problems including shorter pregnancy duration and premature breast development in girl, and sperm damage and impaired reproductive development in boys. Some studies have also found a correlation between phthalates and obesity, a growing problem for children across the country. Furthermore, a number of studies have linked phthalates and PVC in building materials with asthma in children and adults."

"PVC’s lifecycle is uniquely responsible for the release of Dioxins, some of the most toxic chemicals ever studied by the EPA. Dioxins are a class of chemicals unintentionally created from the manufacture and disposal of PVC products, such as vinyl flooring. Dioxin is a potent cancer-causing agent and is considered to be a “known human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program. According to the US EPA, the levels of dioxin-like compounds found in the general population may cause a lifetime cancer risk as high as one in 1,000. This is 1,000 times higher than the generally “acceptable” risk level of one
in a million. Dioxin also causes a wide range of non-cancer effects including reproductive, developmental, immunological, and endocrine effects in both animals and humans."

Furthermore, the State of California is currently considering a bill that would ban the use of PVC in consumer packaging due to the threats it poses to human and environmental health and its effect on the recycling stream. Specifically, the language of the bill analysis stipulates that EPA has listed vinyl chloride, a "constituent element" of PVC, as a carcinogen. It also further cites that there are concerns about the leaching of phthalates and lead from the PVC packaging.

I could go on and address the other chemicals, but I think the fact that it has been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive, developmental, and immunological issues is enough of a reason to search for alternatives.


Safer Choices is PR friendly and loves to review products for our readers and spread the word about companies that make "safer" products. I review products from foods and HBA items to toys and home decor as long as it fits in with my mission of providing alternatives that avoid toxic chemicals like PVC, BPA, Phthalates, and MDF (to name a few). I strive to find the best and most interesting products for my readers and do my best to research products before they are reviewed. I currently do not charge for product reviews.

I am happy to work with your company's needs to best promote your products. Giveaways are the most effective way to get wide spread publicity and networking; however, reviews of your products are also recommended. This way readers know how a product really works and future readers may also access this information in the future. Coupon codes and free products with purchase are also popular to encourage readers to make purchases.

Lastly, if you are interested in advertising or sponsoring our blog I are willing to work with you on getting your products "out there". This may be in the form of a button or banner on our website.

If you are interested in working with us on a reviews, giveaways, coupons, advertisements or would like to sponsor our blog, contact me at

Toaster oven with no non-stick finish?

My favorite kitchen appliance, my toaster oven, died 2 months ago. Since then I've been on the search for a toaster oven with no "non-stick" surfaces. Why? While the non-stick surface makes clean-up a snap, the heat causes toxic gasses to be emitted. Polytetraflouethylene, (PTFE), is found in the fumes of non-stick coatings. PTFE fumes are odorless and colorless and it is not clear how long it lingers in the air. It was once thought that PTFE only became dangerous when over-heated but new research shows that temperatures as low as 285 degrees F can release PTFE fumes. Non-stick coatings are made by many maufacturers, under many different names so basically if it says non-stick, stay away. This is especially important for bird owners as PTFE is dangerous and often fatal to feathered-friends.

So what have I found? I only came up with one option. Waring Pro was the only brand I found that did not contain any non-stick surfaces. The inside and outside are stainless steel. I was on the fence about getting a toaster/convection oven since I didn't really "need" the convection part, but when Lowes had it on special for $49.99 as a cyber-Monday special, I ordered it. I've been using it a few days now and love it! It's quiet and easy to use. It has a much larger footprint than my old toaster oven but I can make a 12" pizza in it - which will ultimately save me some cash on electric bills by using my regular oven less. But the best part is that I can use it and know I am not causing any dangerous fumes to be emitted into my home.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Could your toothpaste harm your unborn child?

Alarming new findings suggest triclosan, a powerful anti-bacterial, that is now commonly used in everything from toothpastes, deodorants and soaps, to anti-bacterial chopping boards and even some toys, may disrupt the flow of blood to the uterus, starving a baby’s brain of the oxygen it needs to develop properly.

So what can you do?

*GlaxoSmithKline has phased out the use of triclosan in its Aquafresh and Sensodyne toothpaste and Corsodyl mouthwash. It is still used in brands such as Colgate Total.

*Use regular (non-antibacterial) soap and make sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.

*If you "need" to use an antibacterial hand cleanser, try a natural one like CleanWell.

Bottom line is make sure to check for triclosan in the ingredients of your HBA products and eliminate those which contain it. Check for other options.

BPA exposure at a young age can inhibit pregnancy later in life

We come in contact with BPA, also known as bisphenol A, many times each day, often without even knowing it. BPA is in cash register receipts, the lining of canned foods and beverages, hard plastic bottles, kitchenware, DVDs and many other sources. Just about all of us have BPA in our bodies, where it can interfere with the action of estrogen and other hormones.

The latest study shows that exposure to BPA early in life may make it harder to get pregnant as an adult. So it's important to help your children avoid being exposed to BPA in bottles, toys, and other household items. Read my posts for great BPA-free alternatives!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

PVC - Exposure during pregnancy could have effects on subsequent generations

Yesterday I reported why PVC is dangerous and today a new study came out about the dangers of the dioxin that's released...

A recent study found that "females exposed to dioxin while developing in the womb could have difficulty getting pregnant – and so could their daughters and their granddaughters. A study with mice finds the reproductive health effects of dioxin last for generations, reducing fertility and increasing the chances of premature delivery. The results support findings from prior animal and human studies that show dioxin can affect fertility, especially if exposures occur at key times of life. This study further shows subsequent generations are at risk, especially from preterm birth, a growing problem for women around the world. Because humans are regularly exposed to low levels of dioxins, these results suggest the chemical could affect women's fertility – and the fertility of their children and grandchildren."