Friday, December 21, 2012

What do cookies and shampoo have in common?

It's been awhile since I posted.  Partly because I am busy being a working mama and partly because even with 915 page views, I feel as if no one is reading.  Having said that,  a lot of things have been going on lately that have prompted me to get back to it.

1. The people at work think I'm crazy

I cannot stand the smell of industrial strength windex every time I walk into my place of work, nor the flowery Febreze in the bathroom and certainly not lemony clorox they want to wipe my desk down with. My boss says "don't listen to Pam, she's crazy, everything according to her gives you cancer." Well yes, I did change out my "green" lightbulb for a normal one - those other ones give you skin cancer.  And yes, what is wrong with cleaning your house with baking soda and vinegar and other natural cleaners (my wood polish smells of cinnamon and lavender.)?  I stand by my decisions and bring my own travel sized Dr. Bronner's to wash my hands with.

2. The title of my post (also work related)

The other day at work, we got a great big holiday gift basket, loaded with fruit, jams, cookies, brownies, coffee, etc.  The first thing to go, of course, the cookies.  My co-worker came into my office and showed me a little packaged snowman cookie covered in icing and said "It's all-natural." Well sure, that is what it said on the package... on the FRONT.  The back was a convoluted mess of both "natural" and highly "unnatural" ingredients... carageenan, "natural" and artificial flavorings, coloring and my personal favorite, the most shocking of all... PROPYLENE GLYCOL.   Yes the same stuff I avoid in shampoo. Here is what wikipedia says about it... 

"45 % of propylene glycol produced is used as chemical feedstock for the production of unsaturated polyester resins. In this regard, propylene glycol reacts with a mixture of unsaturated maleic anhydride and isophthalic acid to give a copolymer. This partially unsaturated polymer undergoes further crosslinking to yield thermoset plastics. Related to this application, propylene glycol reacts with propylene oxide to give oligomers and polymers that are used to produce polyurethanes.[4]
Propylene glycol is considered Generally Recognized As Safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and it is used as an humectant (E1520), solvent, and preservative in food and for tobacco products. It is also used in pharmaceutical and personal care products. Propylene glycol is a solvent in many pharmaceuticals, including oral, injectable and topical formulations, such as for diazepam and lorazepam that are insoluble in water, use propylene glycol as a solvent in their clinical, injectable forms"

Umm, thanks but no thanks.  I'd rather not eat it.  I worry about what medications I've ingested that have it (please don't get me onto the vaccination conversation).  And it might have been a placebo effect, but about 20 mins after said co-worker finished the cookie, he came back in and said he wasn't feeling so well.  Or it could have been, it was really just a crappy cookie!

3. My latest greatest obsession in continuation with the above, FOOD!

A lot of my facebook post these days have to do with the big companies donating tons of money to defeat Prop 37.  I won't get into it now but if you are interested, check it out here

Having said THAT, food is the one thing I generally don't like to discuss.  There is nothing more I hate than when other people butt into my food eating business. So I promise you I won't tell you what to eat (unless truly asked).  Maybe I'll let you in on those nasty chemicals that can often be found in food products, but that's the extent to which I will go.  

Till next time...  P 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hello Winter, Bye Fleece Pajamas

I used to love getting my baby all ready for bed in his cuddly, warm, so soft fleece footies at night.  But then I discovered the regulations that baby sleepwear over the age of 9 mos must either be flame resistant OR snug fitting cotton.  Where we have primarily switched over to snug fitting cotton, they don't bode well for winters in NY.  Especially with a toddler who refused a blanket!

So I've found yet another project to research on.  It seems that every blog I've hit up on the subject, has a comment involving a story about a 6 year old girl who sat too close to a fireplace (in another version of this story it was a birthday candle) in her nightgown and up in flames it went.  Why it is a nightgown next to the fireplace and not an ordinary dress causes me to question, what if it was a normal dress?  But anyhow, I don't want anyone getting any ideas that all childrens' clothes should be doused in chemicals, it's just that the story sounds a little off to me.  In each story, the method of fire is different.  But I guess the point here is invoking fear, not really the method.

But the story does make you paranoid... polyester is highly flammable. Fires are incredibly terrifying. In our home, regardless of polyester, we don't use open flames-end of story.  So back to the pajamas.  Most childrens' clothing manufacturers now state that they do not chemically treat their fire resistant pajamas, they don't have to because it is how the fibers are stitched together that make it flame resistant or fire retardant or whatever.  HOORAY right?  Well, no, that is not good enough for me.  So I did more digging and what I found was this... while the truth may be that they don't "treat" their garments, the other truth is that they don't have to, as flame retardants are already adhered to the fibers of the fabric in the manufacturing of the fabric itself.  It's really enough to drive you insane.

So, this winter, we decided to jump aboard the incredibly expensive wool wagon.  We purchased a lovely pair of wool footies made in Germany from a store called Nuno Organics.  It hasn't been cold enough to try them out yet, but I am in love with them already!  They may not have the smooth minky feel of his old fleecy jammies, but they are soft and cuddly and we can't wait to try them out! Wool is naturally fire resistant, so they are legal to sell and can get your mind off of that what-if nagging feeling.  We could only afford one pair though (we also purchased a long sleeved wool onesie as a back up) and they need to be hand washed-therein lines the downfall.  The owner of the store recommended not letting your little one play around to much in them in order to extend the life of them as well, in order to be passed down.   And of course, I will have a full update on the performance of our woolies once it gets cold enough to really give them a go.  We are spending Christmas upstate... what a perfect testing ground!

And as always, for more information or to see just where I come up with this stuff, please visit

Monday, August 27, 2012

Recent Updates, Shower Curtains and School Supplies

I've fallen a bit behind in my postings lately but thought I'd take a moment to update you on my stroller mission, recent questions I've received and other info that has recently been brought to public attention.

Okay so first off, the infamous stroller switch.  This didn't quite work out as I had hoped. It seems that my 17 month old has opinions of his own.  I can't explain to him the dangers of brominated fire retardants.  He wants what he wants.  After a 20 minute trek complete with screaming in his new wheels, we had to return it and go back to his old stroller.  He went from screams to smiles in a matter of minutes.  If you've been reading then you know the subject of fire retardants comes up quite frequently.  There are federal laws regarding home furnishings and baby products.  Maclaren states that they do not use any.  And some other stroller companies who are complying with CA TB 116 and 117 are now using retardants that are non-brominated.  In the end, it is best to contact the company and find out what exactly they are using and what exactly you may or may not be exposing your child to.  To get involved in Safer Chemicals, Healthy families, click here.

The Bumbleride Flite PVC-free rain cover fits pretty well on our old stroller, it covers the canopy, which is a bonus and best of all, there is NO smell!

Recently a friend of mine asked me about shower curtain liners and here was my response.  For a shower curtain liner, you want to look for something made of PEVA or EVA.  According to their websites, Crate and Barrel, CB2 and Target all carry them.  The dangers of PVC are finally being recognized.  Which brings me to my next topic.

I believe you all heard about Johnson & Johnson announcing the removal of harmful chemicals from their products.  And in the same vein, it was recently brought to the public's attention that tested school supplies ranked high in toxic chemicals.  I've been fielding a lot of questions from friends lately and though I don't consider myself a true expert, I am extremely happy to help where I can and guide people to helping create a non-toxic world for their little ones.  Check out the Center for Health, Environment and Justice's guide (follow above link) on purchasing safe school supplies (and more). This guide is really extensive and it is exciting to see that H&M does not use PVC at all (who knew?) and also that there are footwear companies with equally strict guidelines.  I'm also happy to know that both my iphone and kindle are PVC-free and I can equally recommend many items on this list, such as the Crocodile Creek playground balls, which are safe and adorable! 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Toxic Stroller Part III... Non-Toxic Stroller

I'm happy to say that of all the companies that I have contacted, I have confirmation that Maclaren does not use flame retardants on its strollers.  So we have purchased one and are expecting it tomorrow.  I've been kicking myself wishing I had bought one in the first place.  There are many factors to consider when buying a stroller.  Weight, height, usefulness of storage basket, canopy size, maneuverability, fold-ability, affordability, recline, comfort etc. The reasons why I didn't purchase a Maclaren at first are as follows:

1. Massive recalls in the past few years (problem now resolved)
2. Everybody has one, I mean everyone!  They are all over this city.  And sue me, I wanted to be different.
3. No stand upright position when folded - seriously - I am so over that.
4. I had NO idea about toxins in baby products when I purchased our first stroller.
5. I wanted something NOT made in China and went for a European brand that I had very high expectations for and had many outstanding reviews.  The one we chose fit our needs at the time and still does to an extent - it is just not holding up well and well, I'm tired of these damn flame retardants. 
6. I had heard that they didn't have great customer service, but I disagree, considering that they got back to me via email in less than 24 hours... that is really good customer service IMHO.

Many stroller reviews I have read, and believe me, I have read a lot of them state "Just go with the Maclaren."  And I have to say, that I am finally on board with that.  Now let's hope it lives up to its expectations.  

The Maclaren comes with a rain cover, which could be another plus, but they do use PVC.  So in addition to our new wheels, I also purchased a PVC free rain cover from Bumbleride.  It's a little on the expensive side but so was the first one we bought for our old stroller that was not only PVC, it also ripped. Hopefully this one will fit! 

For more info on Maclaren and their CSR, please click here!

Disclaimer:  I don't work for Maclaren, nor have any affiliation with them whatsoever.  I'm just pleased with the information I have received about the company and about their products so far.  Especially considering what I have learned about other baby products that are available in the United States. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Toxic Stroller: Part II

I have been doing a lot of research online regarding this subject and though I've found quite a bit of information, I will not be linking to any of it here.  The reason is, much the way skincare products change their formulations, so do the companies that make gear.  So far I have reached out to three companies that I had researched through other parties to NOT contain any chemicals, and I have one more that I am looking into as well, and possibly more.  So far, two have gotten back to me and I have to say that I was really disappointed.  Companies can greenwash all they want, discussing their use of recycled this and eco-friendly that and yet, when it comes down to it, they always seem to have some nasty chemical in them, specifically in regards to the industry standard, CA TB 117!  AHHHH!  Last year, an attempt was made to pass Senate Bill 147 -  The Consumer Choice Fire Safety Act (which would offer consumers a safe and healthy alternative to the fire retardants now commonly used) was NOT voted into law.

So what is there to do... for one thing, I have to recommend doing your own research.  Things are always changing.  If you 'd like me to let you in the research I have done, let me know and I will message you.  Where one year ago these companies claimed that they were not using these chemicals, now they are stating that they are.  I still have a lot more research to do on the subject and I'm wondering if there is such a thing as a chemical free stroller in 2012.  (Or at least one that you can get in the US and that doesn't cost $1,000). 

Extreme Enough?

We've all heard about Extreme Parenting these days, right?  Well here is a non-toxic mama going to extreme lengths to keep the toxins out of her home.  I came across the article when researching those little metal cars my 16 month old seems to flock to and covet on the playground, music class, etc.  No matter which one of the cars I bring for him to play with, they don't seem to have the demand that those little metal ones do and it is not easy getting him to give them back.  He will say "a car" over and over again while hugging six or seven of these little stolen gems.  But I am still afraid to buy them for him.  I'm scared of lead or other heavy metal concerns.  And then I began to second guess myself.  Would one little metal car or bus hurt him? He's playing with them anyway right?

The attached article chronicles a mom from Alexandria, VA on her quest to detox her home and make it a safe place for her children (or the safest it can be).  I feel just like her and yes, I did the same thing with the vinyl wall decals above my little one's crib - who knew?  The article list several websites, books and even a documentary on the subject.

Here it states "In lieu of a hazmat Onesie, the household chemical purge may be developing into a ritual of new parenthood, a counterpoint to the traditional baby shower. Talk to pediatricians, medical historians and environmental scientists, and they will tell you the social phenomenon hasn’t been studied much. Depending on whom you ask, it’s a media-induced mass hysteria, an eco-marketing trend, a public health campaign or a stealth environmental movement — possibly all of the above."

Either way, in my mind, rather safe than sorry.  We can't escape all the chemicals out there completely.  But if I can keep them out of my home as much as I can, then I am going to continue doing so.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Summertime Favs

Well I promised a write up on all the new fun stuff we've been trying out and though these are not all specifically summer related, we just happened to be giving them a try this season.

For the Baby...
My favorite eco-friendly diaper (with the exception of the 2 cloth swim diapers we own) would have to be the Honest Company's.  I had a sample and loved them.  But we won't subscribe because they are really pricy, even with the wipes.

The runner up is Nature Babycare.  They are so soft and cloth-like and provide more coverage than the 7th Gen dipes, however there were 2 flaws in the package we purchased. 1-The cloth-like material tore easily and 2-Several of the diapers were missing the enclosure tab across the front.  We did receive a new package from Nature Babycare, so good Customer Service there but I'm wary of subscribing to them because of this may be a problem in the future.  They are chlorine free, use NO plastics or perfumes and they also have a cute leaf pattern on them.

And finally, 7th Gen.  Not my favorite as far as material feel but they work well.  They give our little guy "saggy butt" though.  But they work and are the most cost effective.  I'm not fond of the fake tan color or the Lorax but am living with it.

Our recent favorite diaper cream is Eco-Store USA's Baby Nappy Balm.  This stuff is amazing - we buy 2 at a time, one for home, one for the diaper bag.  It's a combination of natural oils and zinc with no preservatives.  We buy direct from the store, where it is much cheaper.  Heals diaper rash in day without the addition of nasty chemicals.

In the world of sunscreens, we are still loving Elemental Herbs for Kids.  It's not greasy or powdery and works great.   I have yet to try fan favorite Badger, but that is only because I shy away from anything that needs to be really rubbed in, it's hard enough getting anything on our squirmy 16 month old.

For the Mama...
I am in love with Zoya's nail polish in Wednesday.  It is almost a greenest turquoise - my hubby calls it "institutional green."  But I really like it.  Plus it goes on nice and looks professional.  It is free of the Toxic Trio and other contaminants.  And it has yet to chip 2 weeks in!  I'm excited to try more of their colors but for now, I really like rocking the green!

For the Daddy...
I think my husband's quest for a natural deodorant that works for him was settled when he found the Rock Spray for men.   It's the Crystal Rock's normal spray deodorant with a mix of "natural" blends to give them a more manly fragrance.  And it really works.  He likes it, I like it.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Toxic Stroller

Yes, you read that right.  For awhile now, I have been looking to replace our stroller.  There are a multitude of reasons why, most of which I won't get into right now except for one and that is the fact that it contains toxic flame retardants in the fabric.  Now, if you've read my previous posts on the subject, you know I am really infuriated by the fact that flame retardants are found in so many baby items.

I didn't know about this stuff when I purchased the stroller and hadn't even thought about it after.  That is until I flipped up the tag to find the washing instructions and came across the fabric meeting not just one, but all three California Technical Bulletins regarding fire safety.  Clearly, this company does not want this thing going up in flames.

In my current search, I had narrowed down my options to two strollers.  But the fact that one had a stain resistant fabric peaked my curiosity.  What was in this exactly?  Are there any strollers out there that are chemical free?  And so I came across a slew of blogs from other non-toxic mamas out there and to them I am truly grateful. 

Non-Toxic Kids give a few options in the world of chemical free baby rides.
Non-Toxic Mama gives a big thumbs up to both Graco (phew) and Maclaren.  Though this was in 2009, I'm hoping that it still reigns true since the Maclaren Triumph is on my list.  After reading their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), I am definitely on board with giving them a try!

In regards to rain covers, I believe it was Orbit Baby who came up with the 1st PVC-free option. And now Baby Planet and Baby Jogger both offer the PVC-free option as well.  I'm happy to see the initiative from these companies in offering safer options for our little ones.  Let's hope the stroller companies follow suit... a baby buggy is not a good place for toxic chemicals.  The end!

*Correction:  The stroller we have actual meets the requirements of TWO Technical Bulletins, not three.   When I was researching the two, I mistakenly convinced myself it met TB 133 for furniture, but it actually does not. 

For more information on California Technical Bulletins, please visit

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The curse of knowledge, new trials and pesky zinc oxide

Now that I know what I know, it is almost impossible to get through a single day without noticing every little thing.  I can spot polycarbonate containers vs. the BPA free ones.  I am wary of anything that looks like PVC.  I am happy to take my own shampoos and lotions with us anywhere we go.  Although on our latest trip, the flies seem to be digging my lemongrass scents.  I am more aware of what fruits and veggies contain more or less pesticides.  I am even more wary about anything touching my baby's skin that I have not researched first.  I call this the blessing (or curse) of knowledge. 

So after a week away, we are now home and road testing some new products.  The first of which are Nature Babycare Diapers.  Diapers are a sore spot with me.  I thought I had wanted to cloth diaper but with apartment living this doesn't bode well.  We don't own a washing machine, a service is almost double what we pay for diapers through Amazon Mom and we don't get to the laundromat as often as we (mainly I) would like.  Plus with the laundromat, there is always the worry over residue from 1, 4 dioxane and phthalate-containing soaps contaminating our dipes.  So for 15 months we've been using, with success, Seventh Generation dipes, knowing that these like all other disposables can take up to 500 years to degrade in a landfill (ugh, what a hard pill to swallow).  But these days, in the heat, my little one can't take the feel of them on his lower back and scratches like crazy.  And his lower back is sore and irritated.  I'm not sure what happened, but will be contacting the company to see if something has changed.  So, in the meantime, we are road testing Nature Babycare, which seem to be softer up the back, and will have a review by the end of the week.

We are also road testing another natural sunscreen - this week is Elemental Herbs for kids.  After some research (not too greasy, not too powdery) this one seemed to fit the bill.  It was awaiting me in our mailbox when we got home and we've had one application so far - seemed to go on pretty well.  Again, more later.

And finally, here is an awesome trick for those who use ZINC OXIDE based sunscreens or diaper creams.  Zinc stains.  And even if you slather up your little one in just a diaper, there is still the chance of getting it on some nice clothes, you'd rather not have white spots on.  Especially if your little one is as squirmy as ours is!  Here is a DIY stain remover that we found online that really works.

Wet stains with hot water and apply liquid dish soap (they say that ones for fighting grease are best.  We don't buy Dawn but my mother in law had some so we used that.  Next time I will try Dishmate).  Use an old toothbrush, scrub brush or rub the fabric together over the stain briskly.  Without access to the first two, we did the rubbing technique.  Once thoroughly rubbed in, soak the stained garmet in distilled white vinegar for 30 mins then launder as usual.  We went an extra step and used a natural stain remover with built in scrub brush.  It worked on a new pair of pants and also a sun hat that has already been washed over a dozen times.  You may also go another extra step and wipe the stain with a dry paper towel first, careful not to rub the stain too hard or it will press it further into the fabric.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Nail Polish: The Toxic Trio

Here I am raining on your parade again.  Really?  I hope not.  I have to say that I never loved getting my nails done until I discovered pedicures and then I was hooked.  And now, I need to say goodbye to them.  It's not just the smell of the salon that gets to me, it's the fear of carcinogens both breathed in and slathered on my skin (even if it is on nails) - yikes!   It's called "The Toxic Trio" and most major brands of nail polish contain them - toluene, formaldehyde and dbp (dibutyl phthalate).  Really - formaldehyde.  Some even use aluminum powder!

Today I had a baby shower to go to so last night I washed away the last of my chipped toxic polish and tried my first ever water based polish by Honeybee Gardens in "Vintage Merlot."  Now I'm not great at painting nails and I forgot to go ahead and purchase a base coat, so about 17 tries later, I found an acceptable DIY pedicure.  The best part about this stuff is that you can remove it with rubbing alcohol or even strong Vodka!  Though I'm not sure I'd be wasting vodka on my feet! So I did a little more research and thanks to info I found on The Daily Green, I have some samples of Zoya T3 free nail colors, along with a base and top coat soon coming to my door.  I even found an neat little spa that uses Zoya called Sweet Lily and immediately sent the link to my hubby for a future gift to me. I chose Zoya because of the price point - we are trying to be on a budget here.

The Daily Green lists several other brands and gives you the info on getting those nails polished when you are preggo or nursing.  Please see my link to Zoya's Share The Love (under sites and stores to your right) if you are interested in making the change with me and getting some free shipping to boot).

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Cornucopia of Dairy Products and The Dirty Dozen

I'm sure this all what you wanted to read on this fine evening (ha ha).  So far this blog has been documenting my quest to live a toxic free (for the most part) existence and has mostly focused on chemicals in products.  I've mentioned before how there are lax regulations on organics and that goes for food and well as products, so I thought I'd share a couple of my recent finds. My husband actually prompted me to write this post when he texted me this afternoon asking what the "good" milk was. 

So... where you can use the EWG's skindeep website to rate your products, now you can use The Cornucopia Institute's Scorecards to find out how your food rates.  This one in particular is for dairy products... we usually go with a 4 cow rating in our house. We have a 15 month old so this has become a primary focus for us.  Before he came along, I couldn't imagine having milk in the house.  But only because I think it's gross. 

The other find that I highly recommend is another EWG creation.  They now have an app for The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen, a handy guide to produce with the highest and lowest amounts of pesticides.  It definitely comes in handy if you need to save a few bucks or your local food source doesn't have what you are looking for in the organic variety.  And of course they have the list online.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Going SLS Free... Bring on the Suds!

One of my BIG detox missions right now is removing all sulfates, and not just the ones in my shampoo!  It seems that the shampoo companies are jumping on the natural bandwagaon these days by touting that they are sulfate (and sometimes even paraben) free.  I won't even get into the other harmful chemicals that a lot of these products contain and instead I'll keep my focus on the other products that contain sulfates - toothpaste, laundry soap (see my first ever post), hand soap, dish soap, etc.

So what are sulfates and why are they used? And most importantly, are they harmful?

What? Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are the chemicals used to make your soap, shampoo, toothpaste foam up.  It's how you get the uber sudsy effect.  Something my husband pointed out in the laundromat one day when it seemed that are fellow laundromat patron used way too much detergent.  It wasn't too much, it was just the foaming factor was a lot heavier than ours was. 

Why?  They are cheap and effective.

Harmful? Although they are considered "safe" in many products, they are known irritants. Some products with these chemicals have also been contaminated with low levels of 1, 4 Dioxane, which has been classified as a carcinogen. Shampoos have been removing it due to irritation on the scalp. 

If you've been following my story here then you know that 1-I don't want to take any chances with the health of my family and 2-I am very much sensitive to the effects of SLS.  Much to my dismay, a lot of natural products use SLS stating that it is deemed safe and that it is natural because it is derived from coconut or palm kernel oil.  Also noting that it can be irritating if left on the skin - hence the shampoo again.

So here we are with the decision again - go with it or get rid of it?  I recently switched my toothpaste from Tom's Whole Care to the new SLS-free Clean and Gentle.  I know a lot of people are down on Tom's because they are corporate and use fluoride, etc.  But I have to say that I do like them.  It was the ONLY toothpaste I could tolerate through morning sickness and they have really stepped up creating both SLS and fluoride free toothpastes based on customer demand.

Most SLS-free products are not fan favorites due to their low foaming action.  So in their defense, here are a couple of pics of SLS-free soap products.  They are looking pretty sudsy to me!

Dolphin Organics Baby Shampoo & Body Wash
(Not even the bubble bath)!

Dapple Dish Soap

Monday, June 18, 2012

Everybody's Talking About Sunscreens

I think this has been one of my favorite topics of late. 

Generally, I direct anyone and everyone right to Safe Mama's Sunscreen Cheat Sheet and now with the updated list for 2012, I'm directing even more traffic there (I think).  I have to say that I'm really grateful for the people who have been researching and putting out this information.  This website will define for you the dangers of chemicals found in sunscreen but also explains particle size and why you should choose a micronized zinc over nano-particle zinc. I know it sounds complicated, but it's really not.  The explanations are simple and there is even a list of the best products to use. 

At the Queens Mama's Expo, I spent an hour with the ladies from the hip new Queens store Raising Astoria.  I had a cheat sheet of my own and was willing to talk to mamas and other caregivers about choosing the proper sunscreen for your little one.  I found it disheartening how many people were just not interested.

In my mission to detox my own life (and that of my family), I have found that traditional sunscreens can and do usually contain harmful ingredients.  However, one bad, blistering sunburn as a child is not only incredibly painful, according to the Skin Cancer foundation it also increases your child's risk of skin cancer by 50%!  There is a lot to be said about keeping your child in the shade, but as the mother of a very active 15 month old I know this is also very difficult. 

This summer we have been using both Eco Skin Care and Dolphin Organics sunscreens on ourselves and our boy.  There are more brands I'd like to try, but I'm not made out of money.  Our boy is on the fair side and skin cancer does run in my husband's family so not only are we on board with sunblock but we use an adorable sun hat and well as a summer shirt (my husband swears by these).  The hat we purchased last summer when he was an infant and the newborn (0-6 month size) was gigantic. I had to tie a string around the side to make it fit.  This summer it fits perfectly, so really it was a great investment.  I don't know of many baby items you can use for 2 summers!  He hates it but once he forgets it is on (the tie around his chin helps matters), it usually stays on for an entire playground outing.  My husband and I are also fond of the Badger sunscreen lip balm (for us) that I mentioned a few posts ago, but warning, it does make your lips white!

The following is the information supplied by the handout I was giving out at the Queens Mamas Expo.  As usual, I always list my references.  The general idea of this blog is not to tell people what to do, but to share my own experiences in detoxing my life and also to guide you on where to find information so that you can make your own informed decisions. 


How do you pick a natural sunscreen that is safe for your children?
1. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.  Choose a mineral based sunscreen that contains non-nano Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide.
2. Avoid Oxybenzone, Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) and added insect repellents.  
3. Avoid sprays and powders due to inhalation concerns
4. Choose fragrance free when possible
5. Always read your ingredients. 
6. Look up your sunscreen on to see what your brand’s ingredients rate and why.
Important note: High-SPF sunscreens (50+) do not protect you longer and contain more of the sunblocking materials. The lower the SPF, the lower the amount of ingredients.  Choose a sunscreen between 15 and 50+ SPF and reapply as needed, especially if exposed to water or sweating.
For Infants and Children:
For Infants, sunscreen is not recommended until 6 months of age. Infants should not be in direct sunlight.  You should keep your baby in protective clothing and hats, under an umbrella or stroller canopy and try to avoid the midday sun. 
For toddlers and older children, always do a patch test on the child’s wrist before use to make sure no allergy occurs.  Stay in the shade as much as possible and again, reapply often (especially if exposed to water or sweating).
For more information on sun safety and for more recommended products, visit:  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Great Makeup Bag Detox - Part II

Normally this would be in the road test but since I promised that I would post my natural makeup findings if I found anything worthwhile so here goes.  I am still looking for a great lipstick so I'm taking suggestions.  Cheaper would be better. 

Creme and Pressed Powder Concealers and Foundations:

Lauren Brooke Cosmetiques Creme and Pressed Powder Foundations (Skindeep: 0-2): The creme foundation is my favorite thus far.  A little goes a long way and although it's pricy, you get a lot. The pressed powder is a nice touch since it is a mineral makeup (see makeup bag detox part I) and you won't be stirring up a makeup cloud.  Plus they smell like raspberries due to certified organic raspberry extract. You can order some sample packs before you make the commitment, which is always nice. 

Honeybee Gardens Pressed Mineral Powder Foundation (Skindeep: 2): For powders, I do like this one best.  And of all those I've tried, it has the nicest pricetag.  I even got a discount when purchased through Lucky Vitamin. 
Korres Quercetin & Oak Antiageing / Antiwrinkle Concealer (Skindeep: N/A): Korres products rank from 0-8 on Skindeep.  I did a build my own report on this one and it came up as a 1, however, there are more than 5 unidentified ingredients, such as pentaerytrityl tetra-di-t-butyl, which just sounds scary, so it is NOT an accurate rating.  If it didn't have the questionable ingredients, it's a pretty good one. You have to blot though as smudging or using a brush messes with the consistency and has a tendency to goop up in your eye wrinkles (if you have them).

Mineral Fusion Dual Concealer (Skindeep: 2): I found this one at Whole Foods.  The top shade of "Neutral" worked perfectly for me, but not the bottom shade.  So it didn't last long.  And with the hefty price tag for half a container, I find it's not worth it.  Otherwise it worked nicely with a brush and was a pretty good find.


Korres Eyeliner Pencil (Skindeep: 2): So far this one is my favorite.  Nice rich color and no smudging but a bit pricy, so I'm using this one and the one below.

Honeybee Gardens Eye Liner (Skindeep: 1): The Belgian Chocolate has a nice rich color but is a bit soft and can get smudgy, especially in the summer.  It does, as all Honeybee Gardens products, have a great price tag, so a few q-tips in my bag to clean up smudges, makes it worth it.


Everyday Minerals Eye Shadow (Skindeep lists 2 colors at a 2.): I'm not sure why, but I received these mineral eye shadows in a roll-on form instead of a powder that you have to mix. I am not sure if it is always this way because they came in a free gift pack.  No dust cloud, which I think is pretty awesome.  You can roll on a little then fix up with a brush.  Great price and nice colors.


I'm still looking for a great mascara that is not too expensive.  I've heard wonderful things about all Miessence Products (deodorant, toothpaste) but at $24, I'm hesitant to try it.  Especially since I feel as though I've already broken the bank on samples and everything you see here now. 

Honeybee Gardens Truly Natural Mascara is the one I'm using now.  It has a low rating of 2, but does contain phenoxyethanol, which is not my favorite chemical right now. (See "Detoxing my makeup bag...")

That's it.  I do have some Honeybee Gardens nail polish and I'd like to take it with me to the nail salon to see if they wouldn't mind using it.  If not, I'll try it out at some point and write up a review in road test!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kitchen Detox and The MIghty Nest

Unless I win the lottery or go back to work, whichever happens first, our great kitchen detox is going to move along slowly.  I just discovered these Mighty Packs from the Mighty Nest and had to stop myself from purchasing a monthly subscription - even with the 50% discount that was offered if you ordered by June 5th!!  If it is something you can afford, it seems like a great and fun way to introduce new non-toxic products into your home.

Our kitchen detox is happening like this.  Throw away anything suspect then replace it when we need it.  Of course this means me sending my husband out into the world at 4pm looking for a loaf pan so I can make a meatloaf (organic of course) last night.  Thankfully regular supermarkets sell Pyrex! And we were able to get dinner on the table by 6.

I did allow myself to purchase a few needed items.  Twist naked sponges (no dyes, no perfumes, no toxic glues), Dishmate dish soap (we have recently been using Dapple.  I know what you are thinking - a dish soap just for babies? Isn't that a gimmick?  Well Dapple is pretty awesome in that there are no parabens, SLS, SLES and 1,4 Dioxane - imagine that they have to specify that.  Dishmate does as well.  And in the end, Dishmate is cheaper) and lastly some Badger SPF 15 lip balm, because I really need it!

The biggest fear I have beyond aluminum cookware is plastic!  We used glass baby bottles and have been moving slowly towards using only glass, stainless steel and bamboo for food.  The problem we are having is with sippy cups.  Our guy prefers the straw version.  Oh and we are going through a throwing phase, so that leave glass out.  Luckily, very awesome people who care created this handy guide to dealing with plastics.

If anyone is looking for a gift for me, I gift certificate to this wonderful store would be much appreciated (wink, wink)!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Going Product Free? Fun stuff to do with baking soda and vinegar

I have been on a mission to detoxify the products in my home and although I do love my products (stay tuned for more makeup and fun gift box posts), I thought I'd pay homage to my grandmother and post some things you can do with ordinary household items - baking soda and vinegar.

1. You can wash your hair.  I haven't done this but this article has been floating around facebook.  Check it out.  At one time, I did use apple cider vinegar to rinse my hair and my husband couldn't stand to be within two feet of me due to the sour smell.  Comments here suggest no lingering smell, so it might be worth a try.

2. The one my grandmother taught me... unclog a drain.  Dump some baking soda in the drain and follow it up with white vinegar.  It will clear your drain and make for a fun science experiment.

3. Clean your floors (straight vinegar in a spray bottle and wipe it clean); clean your tub (boil vinegar in the microwave and use a scrubby sponge); clean glass and also soap scum off of shower doors; clean the inside of your fridge.

I also found this recipe online to fight soap scum and mildew:

1 2/3 cups baking soda
1/2 cup liquid soap
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 clean 16-ounce squirt bottle with closing cap

Squirt on solution, scrub clean, then save the leftovers by closing the cap!

4. Clean your oven without harsh chemicals.  Pour baking soda in your oven about 1/4 inch thick.  Spray it with a water bottle to get it damp.  Let it sit over night and wipe it clean the next morning.

5. My new favorite - use baking soda to make your own mouthwash.
    1 cup filtered or distilled water
    2 Tbl baking soda
    2-3 drops tea tree oil
    4-5 drops peppermint oil

6. Use vinegar to get stains out of carpeting.  Dissolve 2 tablespoons salt in 1/2 cup white vinegar, rub into stain, let dry, then vacuum.

I'm sure there are many more.  If anyone is reading this and know of any, please feel free to comment!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Detoxing my Makeup Bag... trading one chemical for another

I have started to become a little dismayed in my great makeup bag detox.

My first stop was mineral makeup.  The kind that comes in a loose powder that works magnificently but kicks up a great big cloud of dust when you stir it up with your brush.  Clearly there must be something of significance to this.  In my research on sunscreens, it is pretty clear that sprays and powders (although I've never seen a sunscreen powder) are bad due to inhalation concerns.  Zinc Oxide in the makeup + stirring = dust cloud = breathing it in = bad.  See?  (Forgive my equation, I'm obviously not a mathematician). 

So I kept looking.  I've ordered sample after sample. And what I noticed at the very end of the ingredients of a lot of natural makeups and my baby's lotion and butt cream, was a questionable sounding ingredient - phenoxyethanol.  So I did some research and discovered that I'm not the only one wondering about this chemical and in fact, pretty recently there has been some research done on it.

Now I'm not a scientist or a chemist or anything like that, but here is what I understand.  Phenoxyethanol replaced parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben...) as a preservative in certain natural products.  Preservatives are needed in water based material so they do not grown mold and or bacteria.  Parabens have been linked to cancer and they rate moderately toxic on Skindeep.  Phenoxyethanol also rates moderate in the 3-4 range depending on the usage.  It's often the last ingredient on the label and my understanding is that it is because it is the lowest percentage (usualy .5%).

The chemical was once used in a nipple cream and information supplied by the FDA stated the following: "The two potentially harmful ingredients in Mommy's Bliss Nipple Cream are chlorphenesin and phenoxyethanol, which may interact with one another to further increase the risk of slow or shallow breathing (respiratory depression) in nursing infants.

is a preservative that is primarily used in cosmetics and medications
can depress the central nervous system
may cause vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration in infants"

It was suggested that nursing mother's stop using the cream... ya think?

So what to do?  Is it safer to use phenoxyethanol for external use at the limited concentration?  I'm not so sure, but I do know that I have been replacing everything baby related with products that do not use it... rather safe than sorry.

Bubble and Bee's Chemical of the Day suggest not using it at all, based on a load of research which you will find in her report.  I find the comments rather interesting, especially the one asking what we should do if we do choose to use things like makeup and sunscreen.  She does offer suggestions and I do promise to keep looking but in the meantime, I have just been using my old drugstore powder (not my first choice) and my new natural phenoxyethanol-containing mascara. If I do find anything worthwhile, I'll write up some reviews in the road test section.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

California Technical Bulletin 117

Recently I started buying only the super "snug" pjs for my little one.  There is something kind of creepy about having your babies pjs soaked in flame retardant chemicals, no?  The reason why the "loose" pjs are coated in the stuff is because "loose fitting garments are more likely to catch fire."  Well, if that is the case, I'm fine with the snugly ones and they are super cute to boot. 

So what of mattresses?  I also recently became aware of California TB 117 in this article.  Now, I sort of understand why mattresses have this chemical in them - for the one in whatever chance that there is a fire - not that I'm okay with it.  But I was a little astonished to flip over my little one's "organic" changing pad, only to see this tag staring right back at me. 

This changing pad had already been the bane of my existence for some time and this was just the trigger I needed to replace it.  For one, it was squished down in the corners, so the pad covers didn't fit it and they were always coming off; for another, the pad was splitting and much to my dismay, this toxic foam was exposed to air. 

It went away.  And I purchased the very expensive Naturepedic one instead (see road test). 

This article, along with Dr. Oz who also discussed the subject of toxins in foam, make note of the importance of something as simple as dusting.  Dr. Oz has three solutions - toss it, cover it, keep your home clean.  The chemicals released into the air collect as dust, which collects about your home.  Sweeping, vacuuming and dusting with a damp cloth (collects the dust rather than tossing it into the air and into your nose and mouth) frequently are recommended. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I Wonder What Number Plasticman Was...

TLC Home posted a great and handy guide here to knowing your plastic by number.  Today we threw out an old plastic Iced Tea maker with the dreaded #7 on it.  Instead we used a giant applesauce jar (thanks Mom) to make our Lime tea in. 

I've been learning a lot about plastics these days and I will continue to post my findings as I go along.

I'll discuss #7s, polycarbonate and BPA later, but today I want to talk about our #3 recycling no. plastic, PVC (polyvinyl chloride).  PVC has been really getting me mad these days.  It is a bad plastic, that is as bad for you as it is for the environment.  As quoted from TLC's home "Soft PVC often contains and can leach toxic phthalates, and can also off-gas chemicals into the air. It's used in some cling wraps (yikes!), many children's toys, fashion accessories, shower curtains, and detergent and spray bottles. To top it off, PVC isn't recyclable, either."

Now there is a lot of emphasis on "phthalate-free pvc" in children's toys.  But from what I've discovered and learned from my trustworthy sources is that although it may be better, it's still not the best choice.  And therefore, I don't want it in my home, no matter what.  What I also would like to point out here is that I am still making mistakes.  Today we are expecting a dining room set.  The chairs are "leatherette."  What was I thinking?  As I'm trying to de-tox my home, I'm purchasing more toxins.  I'm not quite sure what to do when the chairs get here.  But I can honestly say that yes, I made a mistake when I ordered them, I'm too tired and busy these days to remember to cancel things when I have the chance and now I may just need to refuse delivery - as much as I really want the gorgeous solid wood table!

The toxins that can be leached from vinyl include mercury, lead and cancer-causing dioxin.  Chlorine derived wastes and generated throughout its life and released into the environment.  PVC is truly a bad, bad plastic!

So why is PVC used?  Well, for one it is cheap and for another, it is easily manipulated. The phthalates added are the plasticizers that soften it.  Amazing how soft those toys are without the phthalates though, aren't they?

These days we found some nice PVC-free options for our little one in the bathtub.  Green Sprouts makes a great tug boat toy.  Our son now fills it with water and dumps it on me to rinse me off.  Boon makes some super cute rubber duckies; Skip Hop's Moby the Whale fits nicely and looks super cute on our tub's faucet; and Sassy has removed PVC from some of their tub and squirter toys - although squirters do grow mildew inside, so that's another thing you might want to consider.

We currently have glass doors on our tub and use a rubber mat, but I have heard about new shower curtains made of PEVA, which is supposed to be a non-toxic alternative.   I don't know too much about it and although the glass door are a pain to clean, I'm kind of glad we have them right now.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Consumers Fight Back Against Hidden Toxins

Consumers are mad.  They want to keep using your products... but they want them to be just as safe as they are effective!

My mother sent me this link the other day to Women's Voices For The Earth.  Here is a quick guide to toxins found in your everyday commercial products - ingredients NOT found on product labels.  Along with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, they want our help to take action! 

And most of all, we don't want to be lied to.  There is a reason why these chemicals are hidden.  Because a quick internet search is going to tell us what these companies do not want us to know.   That these products are harming us.  

Recently I held a talk at a local mom and baby store about keeping your baby free of toxins.  A lot of what was discussed will eventually show up here, but my #1 topic was KNOW YOUR INGREDIENTS.  Something that is becoming harder when companies know how to hide them.  But this should not discourage from always reading your ingredients and getting to know them.

I for one have fallen trap to the words "natural" and "organic" on labels and as it turns out, my "natural" deodorant wasn't so natural at all.  Yes, it may have been paraben and aluminum free, it may have contained "natural" ingredients but that did not mean it didn't also contain a bunch of nasty stuff as well.  Unfortunately,  the words "organic"  and "natural" are not regulated. So what can you do?  For one, always look for the USDA organic approved seal. 

And watch out for labels containing "made with" or "contains."  Familiarize yourself with safe products and if in doubt, check up on them yourself by calling the company.  I for one have great respect for companies that answer your questions directly rather than giving you a bunch of talk about how their products meet all safety requirements, blah, blah, blah.

For further information on the topic...

A Guide to Organic Terminology

Organic Labeling Lies

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Rate Your Makeup (and your deodorant, toothpaste, lotion, baby products etc...)

The reason I am starting this blog is to help point others towards the invaluble resources I have found in this journey of mine.

I want to take a moment to introduce the EWG's Skindeep website to those of you who do not know about it.  Skindeep has been my go-to these days to check up on products.  I often do this before purchasing.

Basically, you can look up any personal care product that you use or are thinking about using and you will get a score from 0-10 on it's toxicity.  0 being low hazard and 10 being, well, HIGHLY hazardous.   I've found this to be a great asset in my research and hope it will come in handy for you as well.

Some of my other favorite go-to sites include Safe Mama - ample amounts of research and cheat sheets to help you wade through the sea of safe and natural products; The Soft Landing and Bubble and Bee (more info to fascinate you plus they also make the deodorant that my husband is currently using).   And last but not least, Amazon, because I consider Amazon the master of user reviews.


A Word About Scents

In the previous entry on laundry detergent, I had mentioned my dislike of the heavy, cloyingly sweet and oh so toxic-smelling odors of most commercial brands.  What I did not mention is that these scents are actually chemicals and some "unscented" varieties of common products actually use scent-masking ingredients to make them scent-free.  It is mind boggling!

A recent slideshow from Rodale points out 11 common diabetes triggers right in your own home.  One of the culprits... stinky, scenty synthetic fragrances, which may contain phthalates!  They are used in order to "fix" scent, in other words, they make the fragrance last longer.

Like BPA, phthalates are known endocrine disruptors, often used to soften PVC (more about this toxic plastic later).  Endocrine disruptors cause hormonal changes and are thought to be one of the culprits in the earlier onset of puberty and obesity with insulin resistance.

Much Ado About Laundry Detergent

Growing up, we were a household that did not use scents.  Amongst our many scent free products, was our "Pure" and "Natural" laundry detergents.  But what I have learned is that most things labeled "pure" and "natural" are not pure or natural at all.  Why?  Because companies lie and they also omit.

1, 4 Dioxane for one, is a chemical found is many commercial laundry detergents, as shown by these studies. 1, 4 Dioxane is NOT found on ingredient labels.

I began my research on detergent when I was looking for a safe detergent that could successfully remove the urine scent from my little one's pjs.  (When he began sleeping 12 hours a night, he also began waking up with a very wet diaper).

What I found didn't exactly shock or astonish me, because chemicals are just that... chemicals.  So where I did believe what I found, I was also a little bit sickened.

I started researching detergents people use on cloth diapers - this must work, right? And I began to think about detoxing.  Eventually I detoxed my shampoo, soap, deodorant, makeup and toothpaste.  But more on this later.

It began with laundry soap.  I chose Charlie's Soaps for washing and Ecover for stain removal.  What I found that not only were our clothes softer, I found that my skin has gotten better.  Several months ago, my doctor had diagnosed me with a chronic case of pityriasis rosea.  I had a referral to go to a dermatologist but never filled it.  What I did was make an important change.  I was sensitive to chemicals and after a few months, my skin was and still remains clear.

So does the natural stuff work?  In a word, yes! Our clothes are clean and softer than they have ever been before, with the added bonus of the liquid being biodegradable - it's good for the Earth as well. 

Now what to do if you are an apartment dweller and stuck going to the laundromat?  Well, the one thing Charlie's recommends when switching to a natural detergent is running a few loads of rags first to clean out all of those nasty toxins left behind in your machine.  Well, you can't exactly do this at a laundromat, so we do what our local laundromat propriotor told us while I was pregnant.  Always wash a load of your clothes first (preferably towels) in the washer you will use for you baby's clothes.  Why? Because your stuff will absorb someof the residue left in there (and let's face it - better rub it off on us first instead of our little one!), especially if someone used that washer to wash a dog blanket or a pair of nasty sneakers.  Or in my case, some stinky toxic detergent.

Now, I don't know how much of the bad detergent is getting into our clothes, but this is how we do our laundry. Our clothes or towels first, then our little guy's.  What I can attest to is the improvements we saw.  Now if only we had our OWN washer!

For more on the toxins mentioned here and children's safety, please visit The Mount Sinai's Children's Environmental Health Center.