This is for all the talented artists out there. As I was researching hazardous products I came across this guide put together for the EPA by the Pratt Institue entitled Environmental Health and Safety in the Arts:A Guide for K-12 Schools, Colleges and Artisans Proper Management of Waste and Residuals from Art Studios and Shop Practices. While it's geared toward disposal it also does a thorough job of including safety precautions you can take in your art room or studio.
Of all the toxins we are exposed to in our homes and communities, phthalates (pronounced "THAL-ates") may be the most insidious. Despite the increasing evidence on the dangers the general population continues to be oblivious to the toxins lurking in the plastics and fragrances in their homes. Like BPA and Parabens, there are currently no regulations in the US to protect us from manufacturers ignoring the dangers.
Consumers in the US have to start insisting on safer products for our families. It's been estimated about a billion pounds of phthalates are produced worldwide annually. Wow. It's hard to comprehend how they can be avoided. It's currently up to us to do the hard work to find alternative products. Hard, because phthalates are in so many things.
Phthalates are in our bodies, our homes and our water. They are used as plasticizers to soften plastics, especially PVC plastic (#3) and to make nail polish flexible and chip-resistant. They're in shower curtains and hair spray, soft vinyl toys for pour children and pets. They are also used in body products to make the product penetrate the skin more easily, and in fragrances, hand creams, deodorants, laundry detergents perfumes and colognes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) measured human phthalate exposures in 2000 and found high levels of phthalates in every single one of the 289 people tested (Blount 2000).
What do they do? One effect is the disruption of the production of testosterone. They block male hormones responsible for making a male into a male. A common pthalate, dibutyl pthalate has been proven in animal studies to contribute to low sperm count, and birth defects of the testicles and penis. Another, diethyl phthalate (DEP), has been correlated by Harvard researchers with DNA damage in male sperm which can lead to infertility or birth defects. DEP is common in cosmetics, colognes and perfumes.
Studies have not been conclusive, but as a hormone disrupter phthalates (along with parabens and other toxic chemicals) are suspect in estrogen positive breast tumors. Part of the problem in conducting definitive studies is the lack of full disclosure of ingredients in the US. Products have to independently tested first to determine what's in them.
What You Can Do:
~ Stop using products with fragrances other than certified natural organic oils (although you should be aware some folks are sensitive to these as well). Get rid of the dryer sheets, perfumes, scented hand lotions and diffusers. Here's a good series of updated articles on the health hazards of fragrances in our cleaning and body products.
~ When you have to purchase plastic, look for plastic products such as toys and Shower Curtain Liners that are PVC and phthalate free. If they have that "plastic smell", don't buy them.
~ Purchase natural and organic body products and cosmetics. Check the ingredients at the Cosmetics Database. Note that starting in June 2011, Whole Foods will not keep any cosmetic or body product on their shelves that claims to be organic if it isn't actually certified as organic.
~ Read labels. Many won't tell you all the ingredients, but some will. Find safer products on one of the many sites now available, a few are listed here for you:
EWG's Skin Deep and the Cosmetics Database.com
Dangerous Household Chemicals
~ Support legislation to get our products regulated. There are currently two in the US, HR 5820, The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2013 (TCSA) and the Kid Safe Chemical Act. Find the name and addresses of your representatives, and write to them.
~Keep up with the issues, some good sites are:
The Alliance for a HealthyTomorrow
Teens Turning Green
Not a Guinea Pig
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
National Resources Defense Council
Washington Toxics Coalition
Health and Environmental Alliance
Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families
~ Let companies know why you aren't purchasing their products. Comment on their products on their websites. This is a great way to flex your consumer muscle.
~ Good books on the subject include:
Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry
Our Stolen Future: Are We Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence, and Survival?--A Scientific Detective Story
The Body Toxic: How the Hazardous Chemistry of Everyday Things Threatens Our Health and Well-Being
I'll keep you "posted".
It's hard to keep up with what we're "supposed" to be eating to be healthy. Wheat products are a great example. One day fortified bread is supposed to be healthy then we're told we should be eating whole wheat bread, then we hear whole wheat isn't adequate, it has to be whole grain. Now we're finding out we're consuming too much wheat period! We've all experienced the confusion of the unending variations on healthy diet advice. Here are 6 definitive steps you can take to improve your health for good.
1. Replace your unhealthy sweeteners. No sugar, no corn syrup. Use alternatives such as Stevia, Succanut and Xylitol. It’s hard, but worth it. If you drink soda look into alternatives such as making your own with a Soda Stream, or mix seltzer with flavored liquid stevia. Xylitol has the added benefit of supporting dental health, especially in children. (Kiss Your Dentist Goodbye: A Do-It-Yourself Mouth Care System for Healthy, Clean Gums and Teeth) So get rid of your sugar. Sugar is really, really bad for you.
~ Spikes your blood sugar levels causing tiredness and food cravings
~ Appears to be addictive in many people, the more you have the harder it is to resist
~ Feeds cancer
~ Ages your skin and causes puffiness (Dr. Perricone's book Forever Young: The Science of Nutrigenomics for Glowing, Wrinkle-Free Skin and Radiant Health at Every Age
(explains the science behind this and what we can do about it)
~ Causes cavities
~ The more our blood sugar is spiked, the more likely we will develop insulin resistance, which means the body can’t stabilize its blood sugar adequately anymore
~ Insulin resistance leads to diabetes and heart disease
2. Cut out Trans Fats. Think of trans for artificially transformed, these fats are also known as partially hydrogenated fats. Food companies love them because they have a longer shelf life than healthier natural fats. Thankfully food companies are now required to list trans-fats on their food labels. Watch for other names though - like partially hydrogenated fats. California and some cities like New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle, have banned the fats. Trans-fats are really, really bad for you.
~ Compromise bodily tissue repair (Dr. Mary Eng Eat Fat, Lose Fat: the Healthy Alternative To Trans Fats)
~ Compromise insulin metabolism and adrenal function causing fatique
~ Cause weight gain
~ Contribute to high cholesterol
~ Displace healthy fats disrupting our hormones and immune processes (Udo Erasmus Fats That Heal, \Fats That Kill)
~ Aggravate asthma and contribute to low birth weight babies
~ Promotes ADD/ADHD in children due to the disruption to normal glucose absorption
3. Increase your good fats. Healthy fats feed our brains and our skin. They help our bodies’ hormones, immunity and anti-inflammatory responses. Unfortunately when eating a diet of fast and pre- packaged food we aren’t feeding our bodies as we need to; we're just eating sugar, trans fats and chemicals. Then there's our meat, which is from factory farms where livestock get little exercise, so there’s more fat, but it’s not healthy Omega 3 rich fat as they fatten up on grains and fillers instead of vitamin and mineral rich grass.
~ Grass fed beef (delicious US Wellness Meat products are also organic) and wild Pacific fish (available at Vital Choice ) contain higher amounts of Omega 3 than their nutritionally deprived counterparts
~ Cod Liver oil supplements, egg yolks, Evening Primrose oil, olive oil and flaxseed oil
~ Traditional healthy fats such as organic butter and whole milk. Any dairy you consume should be organic to avoid the added growth hormones, and antibiotics
~ Use grape seed oil and butter for low temperature cooking. Use olive oil or coconut oil for high temperatures.
~ Can support weight loss (Kat James The Truth About Beauty: Transform Your Looks And Your Life From The Inside Out )
4. Eat organic. Organic is still expensive, so prioritizing what organic foods to eat is necessary for most of us. While some studies show there’s no difference in the health of organic vs non-organic food, those studies have primarily looked at the vitamin and mineral content and have not included variables such as pesticides or the effect of genetically modified organisms (GMO). Other studies, such as this California study, say organic food is healthier. Consider some of the issues below and see if it doesn’t make sense to get organic food into your diet.
~ Unless organic, corn products are virtually always GMO.
~ Unless organic, wheat products are virtually always GMO
~ Unless organic, soy products are virtually always GMO.
and by the way, GM foods are not currently required to be labelled, so you don't know you're eating them
~ Salmon is being considered for genetic modification. You can avoid this possibility by buying organic.
~ The pesticides on the surface of fruits and vegetables can be washed, although I wonder what growing in soil full of fungicides and herbicides does to them. ( See this California study mentioned above).
~ You can prioritize which fruits and vegetables to buy organic based on this list of which are treated with more pesticides :The Dirty Dozen from the Environmental Working Group.
~ Livestock products (beef, pork, even chicken) that aren’t organic may contain growth hormones and antibiotics and may have been fed various unsavory fillers, including GMO corn, as part of their feed. The practice of feeding cattle ground parts of other dead cattle contributed to the spread of Mad Cow Disease several years ago.
~ Dairy products that aren’t organic may contain growth hormones and antibiotics and come from livestock that have been fed various unsavory fillers, including GMO corn, as part of their feed.
~Our fruits and vegetables have far less vitamins and minerals than they used to (2004, Donald Davis, University of Texas in Austin), however organic produce has been found to contain higher amounts of beneficial antioxidants called phytochemicals (Alyson Mitchell, PhD, study in Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry).
5. Reduce consumption of wheat and high carbohydrate products. Wheat is high glycemic because it converts to sugar in your blood steam. If you eat a lot of bread and high carbohydrate products your body is in constant fat storage mode. Unless organic it’s also treated with a host of pesticides and grown in soil treated with herbicides. It’s believed the increasing incidence of gluten intolerance may be related to the increased consumption of wheat products over the years. Your diet should be primarily (healthy) fats, fruits and vegetables, with some protein on the side, not primarily carbohydrates.
6. Consume foods that support digestion. Yogurt with active cultures, probiotic and enzyme supplements, sauerkraut, kefir and kim chi all support your ability to get the most nutrition from your food through good digestion. Consume one of these digestion supporting foods or supplements every day. Note that the most effective probiotic supplements are refrigerated, as they are indeed live cultures that will die off if kept in a warm environment.
These steps all support weight loss as well. Work to decrease the highs and lows in your blood sugar, which will in turn decrease binging on unhealthy foods. (Again I would refer you to Kat Jame's wonderful book for more information on stopping cravings and binging). This means eating on the lower end of the glycemic index, a measure of the amount a food will convert to sugar in your system.If the list is too overwhelming, prioritize ridding your diet of sugar and trans fats.
Summer! Summer means heat, water and fun in the sun. It can also mean sunburn. In my quest to find the best sunblocks (many are not as safe as they appear) I came across references to the Cabbage Palm Fern. I did some research and it seemed there might actually be something to the claims of sun protection in a pill.
The Cabbage Palm Fern, Polypodium leucotomos, is a plant native to Central America. Several studies have been done that have shown it to have a slight protective effect against UV damage. The studies to date have not been double-blind studies (the participants knew they were receiving the treatment which could create a placebo effect), nor have they been extensive, but they seem to indicate the root of this fern may indeed help to protect our skin from sun damage.
There are two brands currently available, Heliocare and Life Extension's FernBlock . Neither should be relied on to provide full sun protection and should be used as a supplement to a good sunscreen. Personally, I wouldn't be without it.
Last year I spent a week in the Tucson sun;113 degree Tucson sun! I was naturally worried about my sun exposure so I took 2 of Life Extensions Fernblock every morning in addition to using the Nutri-Lift sunscreen mentioned below in my original post. I did tan, but I was truly amazed that despite the hot sun I never burned. Of course this is no guarantee the combination will work the same for everyone, but since I'm on the fair side I'm sold on the combination for my sun protection.
When I know I'm going to be in the sun I use sunscreen on everything but my face. My sunscreen of choice is Nutri-Lift's photo stable Maximum Sun Protection. What about the face you ask? I can't stand sunscreen on my face, and with skin that tends toward oily, my face doesn't like it either, so I use a foundation with sunscreen and top it off with a powdered sunscreen. Two great organic foundations that include sunscreen are Nutra-lift Flawless Foundation, which has an SPF of 18, and Jane Iredale's Moisture Tint, with an SPF of 15. I've tried them both and found them to be lightweight and blend well.
I've saved the best for last, my very favorite sunscreen product is Jane Iredale's Powder Me SPF (link below). It's a mineral powder that comes in three shades, including translucent. The company claims you can even sprinkle it on your scalp for coverage on your head. Wouldn't that be wonderful to protect the part where we tend to get burnt!
One last note about your summer skin protection arsenal, lycopene-rich fruits and veggies such as watermelon, guava, pink grapefruit, and tomatoes also seem to reduce skin damage from UVA and UVB rays. A 2010 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology looked at women whose diets included 16 milligrams of lycopene every day (the amount in about two cups of diced watermelon) for 12 weeks . The results were a reduction in the damaging effects of UVA and UVB rays, including sunburns and cellular damage.
Here's my article on Sun Protection for Children, in case you missed it.
5 Important Considerations for Sun Safety
1. Sunglasses -- Children who spend a lot of time in the sun, especially children who are blue-eyed, should wear sunglasses, or shade their eyes with a hat. Sun exposure in the early years can lead to cataracts and age related glaucoma in later years.
2. Sunscreen -- Get a good low toxin sunscreen that blocks both UVB and UVA rays. This is critical, as it’s the UVA rays, the ones that don’t actually burn, that cause the most dangerous skin damage according to the latest Environmental Working Group report. Avoid oxybenzone and retinylpalmitate. Re-apply every 20 minutes or as recommended by your pediatrician. Consider purchasing a UV monitoring wristband UV Monitoring Wristband, which will prompt you when to re-apply.
3. Vitamin D -- It's been discovered some adults and children are developing low Vitamin D stores in their bodies as a result of conscientious sunscreen use. Others report the problem is not that great because we don't tend to use sunscreen properly in the first place. Vitamin D supplements are helpful, but unless you have a medical reason to stay out of the sun altogether, 20-30 minutes of indirect sunlight a few times a week is recommended. This is reportedly enough to enable your body to absorb the rays necessary to synthesize Vitamin. This applies in the winter too. And no, you can’t get adequate Vitamin D from sunlight through a window.
4. After Sun -- If your child gets a little too much sun, suggested soothers are aloe, tea (make a brew to release the tannins and soak a washcloth in it, then apply), or apple cider vinegar. I’ve seen vinegar reduce redness in a mild pink burn; the smell does go away. Of course, if a burn is significant, consult your doctor right away.
5. Sun Blocking Clothing -- For those who are extremely fair or want to ensure they limit their
future exposure, there are clothes made with high sun resistance such as SunGrubbies.com and the Coolibar line that you may want to consider.
New information is becoming available regularly about sun safety. An updated sunscreen report will be published soon by the Environmental Working Group. Pay attention to the news and have even more fun in the sun knowing you’re taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself and the children in your life.
This isn't good, yet another contaminant lurks in our water. (See Have a Prescription for Those Meds. You're Drinking? ) Studies continue to show artificial sweeteners are not being eradicated by water treatment facilities. This is significant because of the health dangers of these artificial sweeteners.
Of the five substances legally available for use in the US, acesulfame and saccharin have caused concerns over being linked to cancer with the former also cited as a cause of excessive insulin secretion. Aspartame and neotame have been linked with neurological illness, while sucralose has been studied in relation to migraine symptoms. Of the banned substances, there are concerns that cyclamate may decrease fertility in men.
Toothpaste, mouthwash, soap and "hand cleansers" are among those products we use every day containing the dangerous antibacterial triclosan. I've written about the concerns with these antibacterial products before in my post entitled Triclosan -- Avoid It!. Here's yet another reason to stop using these products. A study at the University of California at Davis indicates high levels of triclosan may impair the ability of the heart and skeletal muscles to contract. The authors expect that this would only be a possibility for those who have an existing heart condition, but why take chances. A chemical that has already been found to be creating super bugs and is suspect in cancer isn't worth having in our homes.
Speaking of the super bugs, antibiotic type medications for TB are just one of the treatments that arebecoming less and less effective because of the new strains of organisms that have developed because of our use of the antibacterial products. As the NIH puts it, "TB bacteria evolve to outwit the TB antibiotics". Many of our old time antibiotics are no longer effective. Some health experts are calling this a serious health crisis.
There are plenty of products out there without these dangerous antibacterials in their ingredients. Shop around and, as they say, be apart of the solution.
Did I get your attention? My regular readers know I feel strongly about the lack of integrity on the part of corporations that sell products full of dangerous additives. A gift I regularly give out over the holidays is the informative book, Not Just a Pretty Face; the Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry by Stacy Malkan. Malkan shares her conversion from a cosmetics obsessed teenager to a chemical free activist, and what she discovered along the way.
This book's a nice read, 153 paperback pages of mind blowing information on the arrogance of the cosmetics industry. For example, many of the large companies such as L'Oreal , Proctor and Gamble, Revlon and Estee Lauder have reduced the number of cancer causing additives from their products in the European Union but refuse to do the same in the US. The book manages to share the history of the US movement toward safe cosmetics and body products without being too dry to read.
Did you ever wonder why so much money goes to cancer research and we don't seem to see any real progress in reducing the incidence? I have. It became clear reading this book. People are living longer with cancer, but we have not reduced the numbers of people getting it. There is a huge investment on the part of many large corporations in keeping cancer alive.
Cancer treatment is big business. In 1985 the chemical company Zeneca created National Breast Cancer Awareness month. They also bought many cancer clinics. They later became AstraZenega. They run cancer clinics and cancer studies and manufacture the primary cancer drug tamoxifin. Can you say conflict of interest?
Think about breast cancer awareness. Companies create Pink Ribbon products, it doesn't matter if it may be a product that contains cancer causing ingredients. Pink power is big business. No wonder the call is for early detection and a cure once one has it, instead of prevention by identifying and eliminating cancer causing additives. No one's going to make money on treatment and a cure if people aren't getting it in the first place. Check out Think Before You Pink to determine the credibility of breast cancer related marketing.
Over 200 chemicals have been identified that cause breast cancer in animals. They include chemicals commonly found in soaps, cosmetics, detergents, and shampoos.
Only 11% of our cosmetics are screened for safety. Most cosmetics and other body products contain carcinogenic or estrogenic (hormone disrupting) additives. These products don't only have the potential to cause illness but could affect reproduction and the health of our children many years later. In 2004 when the Environmental Working Group's Cosmetics database was activated scary things were discovered. Among them, a diaper rash cream contained an ingredient that was "not to be used on an infants skin" and a blemish cream that was using an ingredient that's supposed to have a warning to avoid skin contact! Clearly many of these companies are unconscionable.
Read the book and support the companies that care enough not to try to poison us, the ones that carry safe natural products. Check your products at the Environmental Working Group's Cosmetics Data Base.
Here are some related links:
http://www.notjustaprettyface.org/ -- A quote from a recent cover story on their site:
...ranking a 7-10 (with 10 being the worst). The most toxic hair relaxer in Skin Deep is called Africa’s Best “Organic” relaxer for kids! — which goes to show, you can’t trust labels on these unregulated products.
http://www.safecosmetics.org/ -- Currently on their site -- Study: Chemicals, pollutants found in newborns
http://www.lesstoxicguide.ca/ A quote from their site:
“Chemicals have replaced bacteria and viruses as the main threat to health. The diseases we are beginning to see as the major causes of death in the latter part of (the 1900's) and into the 21st century are diseases of chemical origin.”
-Dr. Dick Irwin, Toxicologist, Texas A&M University
http://www.thenakedtruthproject.org/-- The Naked Truth Project is committed to telling you the truth about the products you put in your body, on your body, and in your home everyday. There are over 80,000 chemicals currently used in consumer products, with little to
Advertisers that want us to relate positively to their product rely heavily on outdoor images such as lying in a hammock under a tree, standing on a shoreline or gazing at the scenery from a mountain. They use these images because we perceive them as happy, relaxing and nostalgic times. These are the same types of images used in hypnosis and other methods for relaxation and even pain management. These images are very effective because spending time in the out of doors makes us happy. It turns out it can also make us significantly healthier.
Some of us seek out natural spaces and wild living things to soothe our soul while some of us have no interest in what’s going on outside of our windows. In all cases however, we would do well to make sure we spend more time in the green out of doors. Study after study reinforces the notion that being in nature is a natural stress reliever. It clears the head leading to clearer more productive thinking, and walking outside may even prevent cancers.
Consequently, a lack of exposure to nature can be detrimental to our psyche. Research documented last fall in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health says living near a green space reduces the percentage of people experiencing negative mental health symptoms, as well as other medical and physical complaints . A study last fall in the Lancet indicated people living near green spaces, or a “green oasis” as some refer to green open spaces such as parks, are less likely to develop certain negative health conditions.
A more recent analysis of 10 different studies found improvements in mood and self esteem when one spent just five minutes exercising outdoors. The improvements were most significant for younger people and people struggling with mental illness and, not surprisingly, were compounded if there was also water in the area.
Based on these studies as well as anecdotal experiences, spending time regularly in a green space each week can reduce your tendency toward everything from depression to cancer. So here’s something enjoyable to add to your health arsenal -- spending time outdoors.
We’re all under increased stress right now. The economic uncertainty, the increased negativity in politics, and the challenge to keep up with it all can be wearing. Our communal stresses are boiling over into increased physical and emotional ailments, burnout and exhaustion. Companies routinely have staff doing the work of several people, and those that have these impossible jobs have to worry if they’re going to be the next victim of downsizing. While some are scrambling to find a job, workers are overly accessible making them constantly on-call via cell phone, text or video conferencing, and corporate businesses increasingly value volume over quality to keep up with the economic times. Add to this the stress of little down time (the Center for Economic and Policy Research refers to the U.S. as the No Vacation Nation), and memory overload trying to remember passwords and all of the things to keep track of in a given day, and we really need to be extra vigilant with ways to reduce our stress levels.
You know the basics -- exercise, find time to relax, eat right and get plenty of sleep. It’s time to take a closer look at how we can maximize the effectiveness of these healthy tenets. For example, the effectiveness of exercise and relaxation can be compounded when it’s done outdoors, eating right no longer means the old school model food pyramid, and sleep needs to be redefined as quality sleep.
Let’s zoom in on exercise and relaxation. One thing studies are showing again and again is that we need to put nature back in our lives. Physically and emotionally humans evolved in the out of doors. Now it’s estimated the average American spends 93% of his time indoors. Totally removing ourselves from our natural environment creates a strange sense of disorientation and alienation.
It’s now believed by many scientists, sociologists and psychologists that natural environments are necessary for good emotional health. Richard Louv has even coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder, which he sees as a contributor to increased behavioral difficulties, particularly in children.
A decrease in children’s positive relationships with the natural world is leading to adults that avoid being outside. These kids become adults who haven’t grown up with the opportunities to relate to our natural world so they don’t see the value in either preserving open spaces, or spending time in them. This is unfortunate since studies are supporting the need for time outdoors for increased physical and mental health. So let's get everyone back outside for health. Learn more about what these studies are saying in my upcoming post -- The Need for Nature.
NaturalJersey.com was created in order to have a place on the web where we can all share the great green & natural health resources in NJ. I hope you find it a never ending resource when you're looking for health-minded local businesses.