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.