Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PVC? What's the big deal?

People often look at me like I'm crazy when they ask if my children would like "X" toy for Christmas and I say, no because it contains PVC. I cannot stop my children from playing with PVC-laden toys at friends' homes or school, but I don't allow it in my house. So what's the reason?

According to CHEJ, "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.

And there are alternatives... trust me, my children have plenty of toys without having PVC!

*Dolls are a major offender (How Barbie is so thin despite all the obesity-causing phthalates in her body is beyond me!- lol). Choose dolls that are made of fabric. Haba has some great ones to choose from.

*My daughter loves to pretend to be a doctor so finding a "doctor kit" that didn't contain PVC was a mission of mine for her third birthday. Haba makes 2 different kits. This one is best for small children (or those with younger siblings)as it does not contain any small parts that can be choking hazards, but here is another one made of wood.

Toys that have flexible plastic likely contain PVC so opt for hard plastics and if you aren't sure check healthytoys.org. If it contains Chlorine, you know it has PVC (the "C" in PVC is the chloride).

Monday, November 29, 2010

Help get the word out!

I need to get the word out about my blog. If you like what you see and appreciate not having to do all the research for yourself, tell your friends! I have some big giveaways planned but want to give them away to celebrate 500 fans!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Good News: Making Progress with eliminating PVC Packaging

According to the Center for Health, Environment and Justice
"Corporate America is waking up and driving more and more nails in the coffin of toxic PVC plastic. In recent months, Johnson & Johnson, Procter &Gamble, and Clorox have all announced progress in phasing out the poison plastic in their packaging. CHEJ has been organizing to get PVC out of packaging for over 5 years now, and working with allies we have secured agreements from huge corporations to ditch PVC in favor of safer and healthier alternatives.

Johnson & Johnson reported in their most recent report that they have "eliminated 84 percent of our secondary and tertiary PVC packaging across the company." Procter and Gamble announced they're committed to "entirely eliminat[ing] PVC packaging within two years." Clorox announced they're identifying "alternatives to PVC for all packaging."

Want an easy way to figure out if PVC is in your packaging? "Remember - bad news comes in 3's! You can avoid PVC packaging by looking for the 3 inside the recycling symbol and/or the letters "v" or "PVC" underneath the symbol. If you see this, that means it contains PVC."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Have you checked what's in your soap?

We think we're getting clean and doing something beneficial when we bathe, but have you ever looked at what's in your soap? Many of the chemicals in commercial products are carcinogens, cause neurotoxicity, allergies, immunotoxicity, and even reproductive issues. Our skin is our biggest organ and toxins are easily absorbed so picking a "safer" option for soap is important. If you wonder how your soap stacks up, check out cosmeticdatabase.com. It lists many health and beauty products by level of toxicity (low, medium, high). If you want more natural soaps, check out companies like Dragonfly Soaps (review coming soon!).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why isn't "wood" really wood?

I had purchased a Melissa and Doug Deluxe Kitchen. My children daughter love it but it has this smell that has not gone away the entire time we've had it. If I sit next to it and the doors are open, my eyes actually burn. So I called Amazon and was told that since it was beyond their return policy they could do nothing about it. Next, I called Melissa and Doug only to discover that our "solid wood" kitchen set actually had MDF. I explained that I was very disappointed since "solid wood" to me means wood, like from a tree, not basically sawdust mixed with chemicals. They could do nothing to help me either but they did take my suggestion and changed the description on Amazon to "wooden". The moral of this story is that MDF can be marketed as "wood" so buyer beware!

I have been calling some of the companies that meet my other "safety standards" and confirming that they use real hardwoods. Below is a list of those I've found (I will continually update as I get more information):

Plan Toys
has some great toys for all ages. They use wood from rubber trees which are no longer producing rubber. The wood is non-chemically treated and they use water-based colors that are safe for children of all ages. Plus they have developed non-formaldehyde glue, which is non-toxic and totally free from unhealthy formaldehyde emissions. Furthermore, they practice the "FOUR R's" of green living: Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. "Our manufacturing processes are designed to reduce waste and save energy. We reuse materials, and have introduced innovative methods to recycle paper and other products. We are always looking for new ways to improve and preserve our environment." Great for our kids and our planet!

Holgate Toys makes some great classic toys from maple and cherry trees grown right here in Pennsylvania. Made in the USA by a company committed to sustainable wood practices

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Toxic Toys

"A new report by CHEJ and the Teamsters found that Toys “R” Us has broken its promises to rid their shelves of toxic PVC toys. The report, Toxic Toys R Us – PVC Toxic Chemicals in Toys and Packaging, was released just as the 2010 holiday shopping season begins. Over 70% of toys tested contained PVC, the most toxic plastic for our health and environment." For more information check out Toxic Toys R Us

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Deck the Halls with PVC and Lead?

Last year there was a lot of information out about artificial Christmas trees being made of PVC, and I knew that the light strings that you decorate with are full of PVC, too, but lead? It's true. According to my trusted source, Safe Mama, there aren't any brands that don't have PVC in the wiring, but you can choose brands that do not use lead. Why worry about lead in the wires? "Lead doesn’t like to stay bound in the PVC cord casing, so it sloughs off and ends up on hands and in little mouths. So if you’re unable to invest in RoHS lights this year, just be careful to keep Christmas lights out of reach of your little ones and use gloves while decorating your tree – especially if you’re pregnant. Also keeping dust around the tree cleaned up and off of presents will go a long way in protecting your family."

According to Safe Mama "Lead-safe lights can be found on rare occasions here in the U.S. We learned that you need to look for RoHS compliant products and that’s REALLY difficult. Most RoHS compliant lights are also LED which is great, but more expensive. 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. We turned up only one source here in the U.S. and that was Environmental Lights. They were very helpful in confirming which lights are RoHS compliant and explained that it’s a long and difficult process, so they’re still working through many of the products on their site:
Commercial Strings that begin with the letter “C” (84 products at the moment)
Retail Strings, Icicle lights and Nets (about 177 products at the moment)"

What's the safest thing to do? Go back to the simpler days... take the family out and pick a real tree, decorate with handmade ornaments, and spend a night stringing the popcorn! Besides being less "toxic" it will provide special memories for you and your family!

Organic Foods Delivered to Your Door!

If you live in the Lehigh Valley and use organic foods, check out Pure Sprouts! They delivery organic produce, meat, dairy, and pantry items right to your door (delivery is free!). We've been getting their Starting Sprouts basket ($27) and it is more than enough food for our family for the week. Compared to another area service, it's a great value and everything is organic (the other service provided local but non-organic foods in their baskets). Most item from Pure Sprouts are local except for items not grown in this climate (avacados, pineapples, etc.) so you are helping support the local economy, too! If you'd like to try it, enter code 111222333 in the comments field along with my name (Jen Harper), and you'll get 10% off your order!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A BPA-free Thanksgiving!

With all the publicity (finally!) about the dangers of BPA in canned food, I’ve been looking for non-canned alternatives to the foods required for the traditional holiday. So here are a few solutions I’ve come up with:

I've found a great non-canned pumpkin pie filling for those who don’t want to use a real pumpkin. Arrowhead Mills Pumkin Pie filling is packaged in a BPA-free aseptic box. The only downside is it’s not certified organic.

And for those who “can’t” make home-made gravy (I’m there with ya!), there’s Imagine Organic Gravy packaged in the BPA-free aseptic box.

I also found RW Knudsen Sparking Organic Apple Cider (and Pear) – so my little ones can feel like the grown-ups getting their drinks from elegant champagne-style bottles.

My trusted-source, Safemama.com, has also found a great non-canned version of Cream of Mushroom soup for green bean casserole. Pacific Natural Foods has an aseptic box - and it's even organic!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Top Toys for 2010

I've done tons of research on toys this past year and below are my favorites!

Qualifications for making it into my list are
1) No BPA, PVC, or Phthalates
2) No history of lead recalls
3) All wood (no MDF) for wooden toys
4) Educational value
5) Longevity (won't be a toy they play with for only a month or two).

These are my humble opinions based on my research (for safety) and using my children as product testers! I have not been compensated by any company or provided with toys to review. Some toys are suggested for different ages than the category I've placed them in. Please use common sense and remove any small objects that could be choking hazards before giving any toy that's labeled "3+" to a younger child.

Birth-12 Months+

Discovery Toys Try-Angle
Twist, turn, whirl and twirl! This portable, foldable hands-on activity center intrigues tiny eyes, ears and fingers. Try-Angle features 5 sides each with different colorful parts to observe, listen to and manipulate. Lay flat for early tummy time; then, as baby grows, fold for side, sit-up or tabletop play. This product stimulates the senses and provides hours of play-time learning!

Discovery Toys Go Go Caterpillar
This is one of Evan's favorites! One gentle press sends this little guy zooming across the floor! Whirling rainbow beads in the wheels cause baby to gleefully chase after his frisky friend. The cause-and-effect action builds baby's early thinking skills, while the rolling motion prompts baby to strengthen his little "scoot around" muscles.

Haba Sticky Bricks
Made of solid beech wood and non-toxic solvent-free dye, these blocks have a "male and female" end so that stacking is easy. A great first stacking toys since it will help build confidence along with fine motor skills.

12Months - 2 Years

Educo / Hape My First Kitchen
We purchased this kitchen for Autumn when she was a year old. We removed the small pieces of food that were choking hazards as this is rated "3+". It is only 16" high so there is no way a 3 year old would play with it but great for a 1-2 year old! The pieces all fit together like a jig-saw puzzle - no hardware at all - and assembles in 2 minutes. it's made of solid wood that's sanded as smooth as a baby's bottom and all corners are rounded. The paints are food-safe so completely non-toxic if the child should somehow chip some paint off (has not happened in 2 years of play but good to know!).


Discovery Toys Giant Pegboard

My sister got this for Autumn when she turned 1. It's a great educational toy that can be used in so many ways... Evan started shaking some of the "shaker pegs" when he was first able to grasp objects. At about 8 months he started honing his fine motor skills and placing the pieces in the board and stacking them. Autumn has done shape sorting, color sorting, sequencing, lacing and some day we'll work on symmetry, angles, and parallelograms. I love toys that last for YEARS. Lifetime guarantee and you can buy replacement parts should your child loose them or dog eat them! I loved this toy so much that I started exploring Discovery Toys as a way to make some extra money (and get my children all their toys which are safe and layered with educational value!).

Discovery Toys Story Stacker - Dr. Toy 10 BEST TOYS WINNER
This 9-piece wooden stacking set offers so many Layers of Learning! As your child develops hand-eye coordination, she also learns about colors, numbers, geometric shapes and size relativity. Toddlers enjoy many "ta-da" moments with 3 animal heads, and the ability to stack and restack the pieces in a variety of combinations

3 years and Up

Plan Toys Play Kitchen Set
I have not found any other ALL-WOOD play kitchen sets (Keep in mind that MDF can be marketed as wood!). Plan Toys is committed to toy safety. All PlanToys are made using chemical free, kiln-dried recycled rubberwood and designed with water based non-toxic paints. They also have cute play washing machines, toasters, and microwave ovens.

Holgate Clock
Made in the USA of solid hardwoods and non-toxic finishes, this clock has earned numerous awards. If you live in the Lehigh Valley, Wegmans carries a few Holgate Toys in their organic section. My little guy enjoys their wooden "Wegmans" truck and at $6.99 for a solid wood truck that's made locally...

Wiz Kidz
This is one of my favorite games and a best seller! You get a stack of letter cards and a stack of category cards. You take one from each stack (or side of the box if you are playing in the car)... so you may get "M" and "a color"... older children can play with both stacks but a 3-4 year old can use just the letter or the category and still work on critical thinking skills. A great family and travel game! And it's only $12.50.

Toys for Any Age


Crocodile Creek Ball

What child doesn't need a ball? Colorful and fun, this uniquely textured ball is great for indoor and outdoor play. Available in both 5" (great size for a first ball) and 7"

Boon "Rubber" Ducks
You can't have a fun bath without some fun toys. For a while it was hard to find a "rubber ducky" that was safe. Most contain PVC but Boon has come out with four different adorable "odd ducks" that are BPA, PVC, and Phthalate-free. They have no holes in them, so don't have to worry about mildew either! Check out all the adorable ducky designs!

Monday, November 1, 2010

It's been a while!

I've been so busy with "life" that I haven't posted in a while - though I've gathered much information in the meantime! Stay tuned for new updates!