Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Safer Summer Fun - Kiddie Pools

The weather this year has gone from Winter to Summer in the blink of an eye. I'm not sure where Spring went but we've gone from wearing warm jackets two weeks ago to ninety degrees! Time to get a little wading pool for the backyard but with so many made of vinyl, what are some safer choices? Here are a few PVC-free and phthalate-free pools to consider:

The hard-plastic, molded "baby pools", like the one pictured above, can be purchased at Walmart, Target, Kmart, and Toys R Us. They are typically made from either LDPE (low density polyethylene - #4) or polyethylene (#2). These are PVC and phthalate-free options that are also easy on the pocket book ($7-$20 depending on size). Most areas have #2 and #4 plastic recycling so when you are finished, recycle it!

Little Tikes Butterfly Beach Sandbox and Wading Pool is a cute molded plastic option made from polypropylene (#5). This pool is a bit small so only good for small toddlers, or skip the sandbox, fill both sides with water and give 2 children their own pool area. This one also comes with an umbrella to provide some shade and folds up for easy storage. Little Tikes products generally hold up well and can often be re-sold or passed on helping to be more eco-friendly. Another bonus: #5 plastics can be easily recycled.

Another fun molded plastic pool is the Step2 Play and Shade Pool. Step 2 is a favorite of mine when it comes to plastic play toys. They are PVC, Phthalate, and BPA-free and most products are made in the USA. This fun pool has 3 funnel cups and a spinning water wheel that attaches to a multi-color umbrella. It also has 2 molded-in seats and a textured bottom to provide traction for little feet.

Phthalate-free Vinyl Pools like Little Tikes' Whale Slide Pool, Whale Shade Pool, Crab Shade Pool, 2-Ring Sea Friends Pool, or 2-Ring Monkey Pool, aren't the best choice since they are still made from PVC but they do not contain the phthalates*. These range from $10-$25 and are available at most toy stores. The downside is that PVC often cannot be recycled.

So pick the pool that works for you!

Now you're ready to fill the pool. Did you know that most garden hoses contain lead? If you read the packing most say not to use for drinking water. When the hose has been sitting in the sun it leaches lead that comes out the next time you run the water. A safer choice? Get a hose that says "for drinking water" or "Marine/RV-use". These are lead-free and phthalate-free options.

According to the Environmental Working Group, "phthalates, called “plasticizers,” are a group of industrial chemicals used to make plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible or resilient and also as solvents. Phthalates are nearly ubiquitous in modern society, found in, among other things, toys, food packaging, hoses, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, wall coverings, lubricants, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hair spray and shampoo.

Phthalates have been found to disrupt the endocrine system. Several phthalate compounds have caused reduced sperm counts, testicular atrophy and structural abnormalities in the reproductive systems of male test animals, and some studies also link phthalates to liver cancer, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s 2005 National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals."

Phthalates can be absorbed through the skin, inhaled as fumes or dust, or ingested when they are present in food or when children mouth toys. They are bio-accumulative and have been found in human urine and breast milk.

PVC-Free, Phthalate-Free, Pool

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Super Saturday Sale

Our friends over at The Soft Landing are offering a great sale - TODAY ONLY! Either 20% off your total order or FREE Shipping! They offer great products tested to be free of harmful chemicals! Click here to go to their store and enter FBFREESHIP0511 for FREE Shipping or for 20% off your entire order enter code 20OFF511

Offers cannot be combined, expires tonight at midnight CST. Non US Mainland orders will get a $5.00 discount.

Friday, May 27, 2011

EWG's Sunscreen Recommendations - - A Bit Misleading!

Normally I use EWG's database to look up toxicity of HBA products but I became a bit disappointed when I joined EWG's live chat the other day. I found out that the list of EWG's sunscreen recommendations are derived differently than their other products. In the past the safety data has been calculated from the list of ingredients but it's not the case with sunscreen. SafeMama asked some great questions and what we all learned was that “Sunscreen ratings differ from other Skin Deep ratings in that sun protection accounts for 2/3rds of the score, and ingredient hazards for 1/3. This is because of the known harmful effects of UV. We show the health score on every product page so people can incorporate this information into their decisions.” In some ways this is misleading. Yes, sun protection is important so I understand how that accounts for some portion of the score, but leaving only 1/3 of the score to the ingredients misrepresents what most people come to EWG for - the level of toxicity associated with a the ingredients in the product. For example, one brand on the "Top Recommended" list contains PEGs, propylene glycol, fragrance (fragrances often contain phthalates) and 3 different parabens. It is a mineral sunscreen which provides good protection, so it gets a good rating but because of the way the toxicity is derived, it misses that it contains many harmful chemicals. If this product's score were calculated like all other products, it would not fall within the "low toxicity" range!

So what do you do? I have thoroughly tested and recommend both California Baby SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion and Badger SPF 30 Sunscreen For Face & Body 2.9 oz (87 ml). Both are mineral sunscreens that provide good protection. You can read my review here. I am still in the process of testing a few others including Think Baby, Purple Prairie, Goddess Garden. These are mineral based sunscreens that ARE LOW IN TOXICITY so they get the thumbs up there but I do actually test the products to see if they provide protection for the amount of time indicated on the package. We've had about 2 weeks straight of rain lately so those results are still pending! If you'd like other recommendations, SafeMama.com has a great sunscreen cheat sheet she's researched to be safe in terms of ingredients. For those I have tested, I concur with her results!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Recycled Carpet Padding - Eco-friendly and safe?

The Green movement has made recycling trendy. In most cases recycled products are great; they reuse resources and are safe, but when it comes to carpet padding, think again. A recent study tested recycled foam padding from six countries where it is used, and concluded that 88% of the samples from the United States, Canada and Hungary contained one or more toxic flame retardants. Only a few years ago, the global scientific community decided that, pentaBDE and octaBDE, two brominated flame retardants, were so harmful that they needed to be eliminated globally and added these substances to the Stockholm Convention. 173 countries that have ratified the treaty but the United States is not one of them. As SaferChoices reported last week, flame retardants cause harm to the reproductive system and the development of the brain, probably through effects on thyroid hormones. Flame retardants are released into the dust. The highest levels of dust will be on the floor so children are heavily exposed due to their amount of floor-time play.

With over 12.3 billion pounds of recycled foam padding is in homes and offices in the United States, what are you to do? Try to keep your home or office as dust-free as possible. If you plan to remodel, consider non-carpet options. "Another might be to put some sort of additional rug on top of the carpet to act a physical barrier. But even if the carpeting in every home and office in America were removed, these chemicals would still be around. What’s really needed is an alternative that does not contain these substances.

As consumers we believe that surely some government agency is making sure that the products we purchase are safe, right? But the truth is that nobody is checking because the chemical laws in this country are very out-dated and the default position of our government is that until a chemical can be proven harmful, it's safe. The EPA has safety data on 200 of the more than 84,000 chemicals that are in use. That blows my mind! Look at BPA - it was being used for many years and thought of as safe until many studies showed otherwise. For whatever reason, the United States is behind many other developed nations when it comes to safety measures for it's people.

If you want to take a stand, ask your senator to support the Safer Chemicals Act of 2011. Click here and take a moment to fill out a form that will be sent to your senator.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Support the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011

Take action today and ask your Senators to support the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011! The Safe Chemicals Act would increase the safety of chemicals used in your consumer products, increase public access to health and safety information, and protect vulnerable populations like pregnant women and children. Click here to send a letter to your senator and send a clear message to Congress: toxic chemicals don't belong in our homes, bodies, or environment. Together we CAN make a difference - and it only takes one minute for you to help!

Glass Straw Therapy!

If you read my review of GlassDharma glass straws, you know that my family loves them - less waste, no toxins leaching into your drink, and super convenient. I found another reason to love them! If you have a child who has any speech issues or enjoys getting oral sensory input, they work great as a therapeutic tool! My little guy likes to bite and stuff his mouth full because it provides a lot of sensory input that he craves. If I have him drink yogurt through the straw it provides a challenge for him - he has to work at getting it through the straw providing sensory input in a much less destructive and dangerous way! Drinking his lunch satisfies his need for oral input - how simple is that! And the GlassDharma straws have a nice rounded opening so I don't have to worry when he sticks it too far into his mouth - no plastic "cuts"(if you haven't read the review, these are made of borosilicate glass and are very difficult to break! Don't worry, I don't let my toddlers play with glass!). A friend, who is a speech therapist, also recommends parents use straws rather than spouted sippy cups as straws help strengthen certain "mouth muscles" and help with speech skills. So now we can add "therapeutic" to safe, trendy,and eco-friendly!

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Will Ivanka Buy Her Baby?

I'm a big fan of Celebrity Apprentice! On last night's finale, Mr. Trump announced that Ivanka is pregnant. She looks great and she has that wonderful pregnancy glow. I started to wonder what she was going to buy for her baby? Is she aware of all the toxins lurking in baby products? She is fortunate enough to be able to buy the safest products for her little girl: an organic baby mattress- free of PVC, Phthalates, and toxic Fire Retardants (like Naturepedic - I'd love to replace my family's mattresses with those!), organic clothing - free of toxic chemicals, more-safety conscious European-made baby toys, all organic foods, etc... that's a dream!

And way to go John Rich! St. Judes needs that money, especially with the rising rate of childhood cancers, no doubt from all the toxins that our children are being exposed to on a regular basis due to our out-dated chemical laws. St. Judes is such a wonderful, cutting-edge place that helps so many children. I'm so happy that they ended up with a nice fat check!

But back to reality... I don't think my family will ever be in the position to buy everything I'd love to so for now we choose the "safer choices" that fit within our budget. And I'll keep bringing that information to my readers!

Ivanka, if you want to get your baby the safest, toxin-free products on the market, let me know and I'll help you out! I'm only a 2 hour drive away!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Flame Retardents - What's the scoop?

It's been all over the news the last few months and weeks so you may be wondering, what's the scoop?

A recent study published in "Environmental Science and Technology" looked at the flame-retardant chemicals used in dozens of baby products. "The objective of this study was to survey a large number of baby products that contain polyurethane foam to investigate whether flame retardant chemicals were present and to determine the concentrations in the foam." The samples consisted of polyurethane foam from baby products including car seats, strollers, changing table pads, nursing pillows, portable crib mattresses,infant sleep positioners,high chairs, nursery rocking chairs/gliders, baby walkers, baby carriers, and miscellaneous bathroom items.

The Results:
The results (page 21 and 22 of the study) show that

-80% of the baby products tested in this study contained a known and identifiable flame retardant, and all but one of these flame retardants were either brominated or chlorinated - the two most toxic types of flame retardants!

-5% contained the chemical Penta, which was banned by almost a dozen states as a neurotoxin.

-9% had small amounts of the chemical TCEP, which California has stated is a human carcinogen.

-36% had chlorinated tris labeled as a "probably carcinogen" by to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

So what's the concern?
Flame retardant chemicals are known to migrate from the product into the air, by turning to dust, so children [and adults] can be exposed twice - through skin contact and also through breathing. Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens. Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences,"is concerned about, not only cancer, but reproductive or neurological effects as well, with the developing brain." The study also points out that "infants are in a very sensitive development stage and may be more susceptible to adverse effects than an older child or adult". Another study revealed that "children with higher concentrations of PBDEs, another type of flame retardant, in their initial cord blood scored lower on tests of mental and physical development at 12–48 and 72 months". Furthermore, a study published in the Envirnomental Health News showed that "high levels of brominated flame retardants can alter pregnant women’s thyroid hormones, which are critical to a baby’s growth and brain development".

In February, Walmart announced that it would bypasses federal regulators to ban controversial PBDE flame retardants. In my humble opinion, when a large corporation like Walmart BANS a chemical and possibly forgoes revenue, we should take notice.

So now what?
It's impossible to know if every product you purchase contains flame retardants but there are a few things you can do to limit exposure. Here are a few practical solutions:

-Avoid products labeled as meeting California TB 117. This is an out-dated law that requires fire retardants. Even if you don't live in California, it still affects you since manufacturers don't make two different products.

-Since you cannot tell by looking, call the manufacturer and ask if any flame retardants were used.

-Wash hands regularly. Flame retardants end up in our household dust, which ends up on our hands.

-Capture dust. Wipe surfaces and hard wood flooring with a damp cloth or mop. For carpets, vacuum with a HEPA filter regularly.

-Wipe your screens. Electronics contain flame retardants. Some of the most contaminated dust is that found on TV and computer screens. Wipe them regularly and wash hands after touching them.

-Purchase snug-fitting pajamas for little ones. Carters, Old Navy, Children's Place and others make snug-fitting pajamas that clearly state that there are no flame retardants (usually on a big yellow tag).

-Purchase products made from organic materials. These will not contain flame retardants.

-Purchase mattresses that do not contain flame retardants. Naturepedic carries infant through adult bedding. They also make infant changing pads.

-Purchase chemical-free wool rugs - wool is naturally fire retardant.

Friday, May 13, 2011

FUEL Lunch Gear

My kids aren't in school yet so we don't have to worry about packing a lunch, but like most parents, I know that having snacks and drinks along on outings can save the day (and my wallet, too!).

Back in my day we used the "brown bag" and "baggies" to carry our food but I prefer a re-usable product that helps reduce waste. I began to investigate some possible options. Many I found contained PVC, phthalates, BPA, and even the possibility of lead! I don't like to think about my children having a side of toxins with their sandwich. Then I stumbled upon FUEL products.

Fuel products have a bunch of positives:
*Of greatest importance to me is the fact that the products are BPA, PVC, Phthalate, and Lead-free! In addition, they have an eco-friendly commitment.

*These products are "cool" and will be a hit with the kids. All the products feature fun and functional designs and are available in several bright colors. They can be mixed and matched or you can use one color per child to avoid arguments.

*The designs foster independence. All of the products are easy to open, even for preschoolers. The Lunch Bag has a durable velcro closure and most other products have screw on lids. Having your child be able to get their food on their own is always a plus.

*The lead-free thermal lining on the Lunch Bag and double wall vacuum insulated stainless steel walls on the Duo Thermal Containers keep the foods hot or cold for extended periods of time.

*The products are easy to clean. A damp cloth does the trick on the lunch bag and most of the items are top-rack dishwasher safe.

-They are durable. The Lunch Bag features sturdy nylon construction and has, along with my Uno Snack Containers, Sandwich Box, Duo Thermal Containers, and Stainless Steel Bottle, been tested for several months now - being thrown, swung and stashed, and all remain in good condition!

*If you do run into a problem, most FUEL items carry a 5 Year Warranty against defects caused by normal household use!

*On top of all that, they are affordable!

The not so positive:
While the products that we were given to review are all made of polypropylene, stainless steel, and nylon, I did see two products on their site made of melamine, which I'm not comfortable using (click here to find out why).

The final verdict?
Fuel has a great line-up of affordable, kid-friendly products that provide safer alternatives to counterparts containing BPA, PVC, Phthalates, and lead. The reusable quality helps teach children about reducing waste while providing easy clean-up for moms.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Safer Gift

This post is a little off topic but I wanted to share an idea. Everybody is always stumped when it comes to what gifts to buy my family for birthdays, Christmas, etc. They know I am very particular about what comes into our home since I'm trying to keep it as toxin-free as possible and that limits the standard gift ideas like Barbies and Mr. Potato Head. My husband and I have a hard time coming up with ideas since we have enough toys and we have a small home so we don't need more clutter. But we came up with a great idea that I wanted to share: Memberships to museums, zoos, science centers and the like offer great opportunities for learning and making memories! We have a membership to the zoo, which also gives us free or discounted passes to other venues. We can enjoy a nice family outing and we are even able to take in our own lunches to keep things BPA-free and organic during our visit!

What are some of your favorite "out of the box" safer-gift ideas?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

We're a nut-free household - in some ways!

Some people may think we're a little nutty, but when it comes to actual nuts, we have to be careful. My youngest is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. I'm still not sure how that happened. Science seems to swing from one end of the spectrum to the other on consuming nuts during pregnancy but the mode of thinking when I was pregnant with my children was to avoid peanuts/nuts during pregnancy to limit the chance of allergies. Well, I didn't eat any with either pregnancy and I have one with nut allergies and one without - and no family history of nut allergies - so I'm not sure if science really knows the answer on that one. In any case, I CRAVED peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while I was pregnant and needed to find a substitution that tasted like peanuts. I tried soy nut butter and even with so much jelly on it that the bread turned soggy and purple, it was not for me. Desperate, I went to a larger grocery store in search of an alternative. I found pea butter. Yes, it is actually from golden brown peas. While it's probably not the healthiest food out there since it's mixed with icing sugar, it does taste like a mild peanut butter and has the same consistency. It is produced in a nut and peanut-free facility. It is also gluten free, soy-free, and sodium-free. But best of all it allows us to have PB&J, or other treats like candy cakes, in a way that isn't going to be life-threatening to my child. So if you are looking for a safe alternative to peanut or tree nut butter try No Nuts Peabutter!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Don't forget the Sunscreen! But which one?

Everybody needs a little vitamin D from the sun but for extended periods break out the sunscreen! If you are worried about slathering your body, or your child's, in chemicals, I share your concern! That's why I did a little research to find a few that I felt comfortable with! I checked for some options on SkinDeep which scores products from zero through ten on level of toxicity, with ten being the highest. I found a bunch of options but most were brands I had never heard of and weren't available locally (I like to see and read the products I'm testing before I buy!). I decided to tested two brands that were easy to find in "regular" stores and had a low toxicity score.

The least toxic sunscreens are chemical-free and natural sunscreens. They use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to provide physical barrier against UVA and UVB rays. These types of sunscreens rest on your skin and leave a bit of a white glow, however most are non-staining.

The first sunscreen I chose to test was California Baby SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion. My my children have sensitive skin and this non-invasive formula is allergy tested to be hypoallergenic. The active ingredient is highly micronized titanium dioxide. Because it is "highly micronized" it didn't leave as much of a white tint to the skin. It went on smoothly and easily which is a plus considering my impatient and squirmy children! The product says that it retains effectiveness after 80 minutes of activity in water or perspiring and I concur. We did reapply after close to 2 hours of fun in the water as a precaution. At a price of between $15-$20 per tube, it's a bit on the pricey side but I was able to score some with a BOGO offer at BabiesRUs.

The second sunscreen I chose was Badger SPF 30 Sunscreen For Face & Body 2.9 oz (87 ml). This sunscreen uses uncoated, Non-Nano Zinc Oxide to protect from both UVA and UVB rays. it has a slight fragrance to it, probably from the lavender oil but it is pleasant. It went on smoothly with only a tint of a whitish glow. I have to admit that I did not read the container very thoroughly. I figure we had at least an hour until we had to reapply but around 45 minutes I started to see a little pink coming on and ran to reapply. "For maintained protection, sunscreen reapplication is recommended every 40 minutes or after swimming, sweating, and/or towel drying as needed". Oops! Thankfully I caught it before anybody got sunburn but with 2 active young children, reapplying less than an hour after application is tough. Pricing is a little less than California Baby but if you are reapplying it every 40 minutes rather than every 80 minutes, you are using it up twice as quickly.

Conclusion: For our family California Baby SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion works best - great protection for a reasonable amount of time, no fragrance, and perfect for my little ones' sensitive skin!

The Future of Food

With more and more pesticides, additives, preservatives, and dyes being used in our foods, I wonder what the future holds for our food supply. Watch "The Future of Food Conference" to find out what leading experts on food, including Prince Charles, Eric Schlosser, and Wendell Berry, have to say about how food production is changing to respond to growing demand from consumers for healthier and more natural foods.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pacific Natural Foods Giveaway!

If you love soup, Pacific Natural Foods' soups are a safer choice to the traditional canned varieties because the company uses aseptic containers. Unlike most canned foods which contain BPA in their lining, aseptic packaging is BPA-free. Safer is better but the taste is extraordinary! And now you have the opportunity to try some for Free! I will be selecting 3 winners to receive a coupon for a FREE Pacific Natural Foods product of their choice! Here's what you need to do:

Mandatory for entry: Read my review here and leave a comment below with your favorite thing about Pacific Natural Foods!

You will get one additional entry for each of the following (leave a separate comment for each):

1. "Like" Safer Choices on Facebook (link on top right) and leave a comment with your Facebook name.

2. Follow Safer Choices and leave your name.

3. Follow Safer_Choices on Twitter and tweet the following: "Enter to win a free Pacific Natural Foods product at http://saferchoices.blogspot.com/search/label/Giveaways ". *Be sure to leave your twitter name in your comment.

4. Blog about this giveaway and link to http://saferchoices.blogspot.com/search/label/Giveaways and leave the link to your post in the comment.

Good luck!

The details: This giveaway will end on May 14th. I will use Random.org to select the winning comment numbers. The winners will be announced May 16th. A coupon for a free Pacific Foods Product of your choice will be mailled to each winner upon receiving required contact information. If no contact information is provided within 14 days, a new winner will be selected.

THE WINNERS ARE: Stephen, Terry, and Kiersten. Congratulations! Please send your address to saferchoices.blogspot.com so I can mail your prize!