Archive for September, 2009

All “Priti” Women – toxic free nail polish!

John Wargo on his new book “Green Intelligence” NPR interview

I heard John Wargo being interviewed on NPR last night. He has a new book out, entitled Green Intelligence.

Link to the interview:

Healthy Stuff!

The release of last week has the news media buzzing. The website is a new resource that rates a variety of products based on the presence of toxic chemicals. Researchers analyzed the ingredients of pet products, cars, women’s handbags, children’s car seats and more, creating the largest database yet of independent tests of toxic chemicals in consumer goods.

The New York Times wrote about the site’s release in its article Environmental Group Reveals Toxic Chemicals in a Range of Consumer Items. tested for chemicals based on their toxicity, persistence and tendency to build up in people and the environment.  Such chemicals have been linked to reproductive problems, developmental and learning disabilities, liver toxicity and certain cancers. The testing was conducted with a screening technology – the portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer – that identifies the elemental composition of materials on or near the surface of products.

“As a nurse whose father and dog have both been touched by leukemia, I am outraged to learn that so many pet toys and other consumer products contain unnecessary toxic chemicals,”  said Beka Apostolidis, RN, of Cromwell. “It’s time for our government to hold industry responsible for the safety of their chemicals and products.”

“Connecticut officials have shown real leadership in recent years to phase out toxic chemicals in common everyday products like children’s toys, food and beverage containers,” said Mark Mitchell, MD, President for the CT Coalition for Environmental Justice. “To effectively protect public health, however, comprehensive reform is needed and Connecticut can help lead the way.”

New Key Findings From

  • Pet Products – tested over 400 pet products, including beds, chew toys, collars and leashes.  One quarter of all pet products had detectable levels of lead, including seven percent with levels higher than 300 ppm – the current Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standard for lead in children’s products.

  • Automobiles – tested nearly 700 new and used vehicles, from 1980 to 2010 model year vehicles.  Levels of some chemicals found in vehicles are 5-10 times higher than in homes or offices.  Since the average American spends more than 1.5 hours in their car every day, this can be a major source of toxic chemical exposure.

  • Children’s Car Seats – Infant and child car seats contain chemical additives that can have adverse health effects on babies and young children.  Over half (58%) of car seats contain one or more hazardous chemicals, including PVC, BFRs and heavy metals. Despite the toxic chemicals, it is vital to use a car seat for your child because they do save lives.

  • Back-to-School Products – screened over 60 common back-to-school supplies, including backpacks, pencil cases, binders and lunchboxes.  Far too many of these supplies are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and 22% contained detectable levels of lead.  Overall nearly 90% of back-to-school supplies contained one or more chemicals of concern.

  • Women’s Handbags – tested over 100 women’s handbags and detected lead in over 75% of the bags analyzed.  Sixty-four percent (64%) of the bags contained lead over 300 ppm – the CPSC limit for lead in children’s products.  Over half of the handbags contain more than 1,000 ppm lead.

Connecticut officials at all levels of government are poised to move forward with comprehensive reforms to our current laws. State legislation that builds on advances of the past few years will be filed in January next year. At the federal level, Congressional leaders are expected to introduce a new bill this fall to reform the outdated Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – the current federal law for regulating chemicals.   These reforms would phase out the most dangerous chemicals from the manufacturing process; require industry to take responsibility for the safety of their products; and use the best science to protect vulnerable groups.  To date the EPA has required testing on only about 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals that have been on the market since the law was passed 33 years ago.

“Connecticut has taken a strong stand in making sure the chemicals we use every day are safe and healthy, and it’s time for the federal government to step up and match that commitment,” said Representative Chris Murphy (CT-5). “ is a testament to the need for a comprehensive, modernized federal chemical safety system that protects our children and families and moves our economy toward safer alternatives.”

“While the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, passed into law last year, was a good first step in the ongoing process of improving our product safety laws, this report shows that work still needs to be done,” said Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3).  “I remain committed to working with the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut as well as my colleagues to remove harmful products from our store shelves and eliminate them from use in manufacturing.  The health and safety of our children and families demands that we act now.  We should not compromise when it comes to protecting the public health.”

“A Made in the USA label should be a guarantee, not a warning,” said Charlotte Brody, National Field Director for Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, a coalition working toward toxic chemical policy reform.  “This database of products is further proof that our system of testing and regulating toxic chemicals is broken. We have an opportunity to reform federal law this year and start putting common sense limits on harmful chemicals to protect the health of Americans.”

“The more we test, the more we find that the presence of toxic chemicals is widespread in everyday consumer products,” said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center, who created the site.  “It should not be the responsibility of public health advocates to test these products. Product manufacturers and legislators must take the lead and replace dangerous substances with safe alternatives.”

The results can be found on the user-friendly website:  Visitors can look up products by manufacturer, brand, or product type and easily generate lists of highly rated and poorly rated products.

Contributed by,

Sarah Uhl
Environmental Health Coordinator
Clean Water Action

Buying Organic Food

Learn About the Issues
Buying Organic Food

Learn About Buying Organic Food

Organic foods are the fastest growing food segment in the United states, having grown from $11 billion in sales in the United States in 2001 to more than $20 billion today. By definition, organic foods are grown without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers and may not be irradiated or come from genetically modified seeds. Organic foods are often recognized by the Organic seal or labeled “Organic” on the package. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the National Organic Program and accredits private certification agencies to inspect and certify food producers.

USDA Organic Levels

There are officially four levels of Organic in the US, defined by USDA Guidelines:

  1. “100% Organic”, displays the USDA Organic seal. Used when 100 percent of the ingredients and methods are organic.
  2. “Organic”, displays the USDA Organic seal. Used when 95 percent or more of the ingredients are organic.
  3. “Made with Organic,” does not display the USDA Organic Seal. Used when at least 70 percent of the ingredients are organic.
  4. Products with less than 70 percent organic ingredients do not display the USDA Organic Seal.  Organic wording or references are used on the side of the package label only.
USDA Organic certification logo
USDA Organic Seal

Health Impacts

Eating organic foods may protect your health. Although there are a number studies that show higher levels of certain nutrients in organically grown foods, in general there is not enough evidence to definitively say that organic food is more nutritious than conventionally grown foods. What the research does suggest is that people who consume organic foods have lower levels of pesticides in their bodies than individuals who do not eat organic foods. Common pesticides have been linked to reproductive problems, fetal defects, neurological damage, and cancer. Developing children are particularly vulnerable to pesticide exposures.

Environmental Impacts

Organic may also be good for the environment. Studies on the environmental benefits of organic agriculture indicate that organically managed food production can enhance soil structures, help conserve water, and protect biodiversity. The application of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers in conventional food production can contaminate ground and surface water and release harmful pollutants into the air.

Social Impacts

Studies link exposure to synthetic pesticides and fertilizers among farm workers and neighboring communities to severe health problems, including respiratory conditions, nausea and weakness, headaches, skin irritation, cancer, depression, neurologic deficits, and birth defects.

Organic livestock management provides animals with fresh air and outdoor access, while restricting the use of antibiotics and growth hormones. Organic farms can also sustain diverse populations of plants and animals, and produce less waste than conventional farming practices.

Great new resource for information!

Check out: for information on:

Compare Best Rated Personal Care Products

Seeking Chemical Culprits for Those Deformities

by Joan Melcher, Missoula MT  © 2009 Miller–McCune Inc.

This article was first published by, an excellent resource for online

Science casting wide net in search of chemicals seen as likely suspects in feminization and reproductive anomalies being spotted worldwide.

By: Joan Melcher |  September 22, 2009  |  11:13 AM (PDT)  |  comment 1 Comments

feature photoScience is weighing in on the issue of chemicals believed to be the culprits in feminization and reproductive anomalies being spotted worldwide.Hongqi Zhang

The term “endocrine disruptor” had not been coined when Rachel Carson was alive, but she was onto them.

Carson’s groundbreaking 1962 book on the dangers of synthetic pesticides, Silent Spring, was prescient in many ways. She wrote about what she termed “insecticide storage:” “There are indications that these chemicals lodge in tissues concerned with the manufacture of germ cells as well as in the cells themselves. Accumulations of insecticides have been discovered in the sex organs of a variety of birds and mammals. … Probably as an effect of such storage in the sex organs, atrophy of the testes has been observed in experimental mammals. Young rats exposed to methoxychlor had extraordinarily small testes.”

Al Gore, who wrote in the forward to zoologist Theo Colborn’s book on endocrine-disrupting compounds, Our Stolen Future, noted that Carson warned in one of her last speeches: “We are subjecting whole populations to exposure to chemicals, which animal experiments have proved to be extremely poisonous and, in many cases, cumulative in their effects. These exposures now begin at or before birth and — unless we change our methods — will continue through the lifetime of those now living. No one knows what the results will be because we have no previous experience to guide us.”

Endocrine Disruptors
Earlier this month Miller-McCune discussed the observations and practical science of a woman, Judy Hoy, sounding an alarm in western Montana. A wildlife rehabilitator, Hoy has documented malformations of genitalia of local white-tailed deer over a 13-year period in the Bitterroot Valley. She suspects the changes are caused by endocrine-disrupting compounds (or EDCs), possibly from pesticides applied to potato fields just over the border in Idaho.

Montana officials so far have discounted her hypothesis, but scientific research around the world has made similar findings – undescended and abnormally small penises and testicles, low sperm counts, genitals placed forward on the body, confused gender – in test animals and in wild populations of birds, reptiles and wildlife.

What causes these changes remains contentious. Many scientists and public health advocates point to pesticides and other environmental pollutants while others, including industry, some government agencies and more scientists, say more study is needed.

While debating mutations in deer populations is one thing, finding those changes in boy babies takes the discussion to a new level.

Results of a study released in May 2009 by the British nongovernmental organization CHEMTrust show:

• as many as 1 in 17 boys in the United Kingdom have undescended testicles, a congenital birth defect;

• malformation of the penis (where the opening is not at the end) has increased in recent decades in several European countries, the United States, Australia and China;

• U.K. and French data show a decline in sperm count in young men as compared to their fathers; in some European countries, 1 in 5 young men has sperm counts so low that it is likely to affect their ability to father a child; and

• Testicular cancer is the most common cancer of young men, doubling in incidence in many Western countries every 25 years over the past 60 years.

The author of the report, Richard Sharpe, of the U.K.’s Medical Research Council wrote that many scientists are tying a lack of testosterone at critical times of fetal development to “testicular dysgenesis syndrome,” encompassing defects of boys’ genitals, low sperm counts and testicular cancer. He sees a link between hormone-disrupting chemicals and TDS, saying animal studies “have established beyond a doubt that certain hormone-disrupting chemicals, in particular testosterone-disrupting chemicals, can cause TDS-like disorders.”

His meta-study might be one that Rick Becker, senior toxicologist with the American Chemical Council, would caution against. Becker asks that people not leap to conclusions after reading individual reports, but look to the World Health Organization for its synthesis of studies. However, the most recent WHO report on EDCs, “Global Assessment of the State of the Science of Endocrine Disruptors,” was published in 2002.

After a lengthy review of scientific findings on the effects of the chemicals on human reproduction, the WHO report makes no firm conclusions. The authors note in a conclusions and recommendations section that “exposure data are very limited, if available at all, and in many studies exposure has only been inferred and not actually measured.” Another problem cited is that sample sizes are often small, resulting in a finding that “the currently available human data are inadequate to support a conclusion that human reproductive health has been adversely affected by exposure to EDCs.”

Still, the section concludes, “Despite these drawbacks, the biological plausibility of possible damage to human reproduction from exposure to EDCs seems strong when viewed against 1) the background of known influences of endogenous and exogenous hormones on many of the processes involved, and 2) the evidence of adverse reproductive outcomes in wildlife and laboratory animals exposed to EDCs.”

Many studies on EDCs have been published since 2002. Sharpe’s paper references 159 papers and information sources, 101 written after the WHO report was prepared.

In June, the Endocrine Society, a nearly century-old international association of endocrinologists, issued a statement in which its position was clear. In a 50-page paper, the first scientific statement issued by the society, authors wrote: “We present evidence that endocrine disruptors have effects on male and female reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostrate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity and cardiovascular endocrinology. Results from animal models, human clinical observations and epidemiology studies converge to implicate EDCs as a significant concern to public health.” (Breast Cancer UK recently produced a video linking EDCs to breast cancer that can be seen on YouTube.)

There has been controversy regarding various studies of sperm count decreases in men; data has varied with study and locale of men tested. One U.S. scientist known for her work in reproductive epidemiology, Shanna Swan, authored a report that appeared in Environmental Health Perspectives in 1997 that analyzed sperm-count studies and concluded that “further analysis of these studies supports a significant decline in sperm density in the United States and Europe but not in non-Western countries.” She found the studies showed that there are “large inter-area differences in sperm density.”

Swan has been studying the effects of environmental pollutants for nearly 30 years, including the effects of contaminants on various aspects of human reproduction (including fetal loss, fertility, low birth weight, birth defects, semen quality and sex hormones). She began in 1981 by studying the possible contamination of a public water supply by a toxic release from a semiconductor plant for the California Department of Health Services in 1981. Today, she is associate chair for research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and director of the Center for Reproductive Epidemiology.

In 2005, she and other colleagues published a paper in Environmental Health Perspectives that was the first research to link human male birth defects to a known EDC, phthalates. It showed that boys born to mothers exposed to phthalates during pregnancy were likely to have smaller genitals and incomplete testicular descent. Previous studies had shown similar outcomes in rodents.

The federally financed study used levels of phthalates that are found in one-quarter of the female population in the country. Researchers also found that in the 25 percent of mothers with the highest levels of phthalate exposure, the odds were 10 times higher that their sons would have a shorter-than-expected distance between the anus and the base of the penis (the anogenital distance), which is an indicator of impacts on the reproductive system.

Those involved in the discussion of EDCs agree more studies are needed – to conclude the chemical compounds are as dangerous as some believe or to put the controversy to rest by discounting the role they play in the endocrine system.

Research of potential EDC effects is not particularly easy for many different reasons. Wildlife, obviously, are difficult to study and research, and studies of EDCs are particularly difficult to conduct on human populations (e.g., pregnant women). Sharpe noted in his report that it is not easy to find mothers who haven’t been exposed to chemicals, making it difficult to find “controls” for experiments.

Here’s a great article on cleaning products from Vegetarian Times

Clean Up Your Act

Natural spick-and-span options are better than ever, so say goodbye to toxic chemicals in cleaning products.

A clean home is a healthy home, right? Not necessarily. It turns out the very efforts to rid your living pace  of dirt, dust, mildew and grime might make it a more dangerous environment for you and your family. And you’re not the only ones who could suffer: Many of the ingredients in household cleaners contaminate the air and water as well as thousands of organisms, from algae to wildlife, when they are washed down drains and make their way into the ecosystem.

“Conventional commercial cleaners are some of the most toxic substances you can bring into our home,” says Linda Mason Hunter, home ecology specialist and co-author of Green Clean: The Environmentally Sound Guide to Cleaning Your Home. “Many of the chemicals found in cleaners have only been around since World War II, and they’ve never been tested for long-term health effects.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found that the immediate health risks associated with the use of conventional household cleaning products include asthma attacks, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders and memory impairment. Additionally, a 1987 study by the EPA determined that the air inside a typical home is up to ten times more polluted than the air outside the home because of the toxic chemicals many of us use to scrub and sanitize. They include the following:

  • Formaldehyde a volatile organic compound, found in liquid cleaners and floor polishes, that is suspected of causing cancer.
  • Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) a toxic compound that irritates the respiratory system and emits poisonous vapors when combined with ammonia or vinegar.
  • Petroleum distillates (naphthas) nonrenewable, oil-based resources found in furniture and floor polishes that can affect the central nervous system and lead to cognitive and behavioral problems.
  • Pesticides and fungicides such as chlorine and alkyl ammonium chlorides, found in most conventional antibacterial cleaners and mildew removers. They can cause skin irritation and nervous system damage.

There are two ways to go about switching over to eco-friendly products: gradually replace your scrubs and sprays as you use them up, or toss toxin-filled items out once and for all. Experts are split on the issue, but Annie Berthold-Bond, author of Clean & Green: The Complete Guide to Non-Toxic and Environmentally Safe Housekeeping, cautions that there are a few situations in which she suggests making an immediate change. “If the home contains young children or anyone who is pregnant, sick or sensitive to chemicals, contact your local recycling center about disposing of your toxic cleaning products,” she recommends.

If you choose to deplete your supply of conventional household cleaners before replacing them with safer alternatives, carefully follow the instructions to avoid toxic reactions, always wear gloves when you clean, and make sure your home has lots of ventilation while you’re scrubbing—even an open window or two can help get the fumes out.

Once you start using natural cleaning agents, you’ll find it hard to believe you ever allowed something labeled “Hazardous” into your house. Here are a few of the products we’ve taken a shine to, plus some tried-and-true homemade options you can make with everyday pantry items such as baking soda and vinegar. Store-bought or homemade, they’re all reasonably priced, readily available and really work at keeping things spotlessly clean—without compromising your health or the environment.

Earth Friendly Products’ Creamy Cleanser
Who wouldn’t choose lovely scented lemon oil over petroleum-based products for cleaning porcelain and stainless steel surfaces that directly touch dishes (in the kitchen sink) and your delicate skin (in the bathroom)? This grease-cutting cream gives them all sparkle and shine, without scratching.
$3/16 oz. 800.335.3267;

The air inside a typical home is up to ten times more polluted than the air outside.
Bi-O-Kleen’s Spray & Wipe Cleaner
Grease-cutting, disinfecting grapefruit seed extract and orange oil make this a versatile liquid for everything from countertops and toilets to laundry and upholstery stains. It’s even safe enough to use on dolls, teddies and that muddy toy dump truck.
$5/32 oz. 800.477.0188;

Homemade Option: baking soda and vinegar
Mix 1 cup each water and vinegar plus 2 Tbs. baking soda in spray bottle. Use as you would any cleaning liquid.

Seventh Generation’s Natural Citrus Carpet Cleaner
The hydrogen peroxide (a powerful bleaching agent) safely replaces the neurotoxin butyl cellosolve and the possible carcinogen perchloroethylene in conventional carpet foams and sprays. The nonaerosol spritz loosens ground-in dirt, dissolves stains and eliminates odors. Plus, your just-cleaned carpet will be safe enough for little ones to crawl around on.
$5/32 oz. 800.456.1191;

Homemade Option: Shaving Cream
Spray foam shaving cream on carpet stains, let stand 30 minutes, then rub with a sponge and vacuum.
Earth Friendly Products’ Floor Kleener
This natural alternative to petroleumbased cleaners is made of coconut and lemon oils that condition and cleanse hardwood and laminate floors without stripping them or leaving chalky streaks. Vinegar in the formula dissolves grease and wax buildup.
$3.79/22 oz. 800.335.3267;

Homemade Option: vinegar and warm water
Mop floor with a solution of 1/2 cup distilled vinegar and 1 gallon warm water.

Bon Ami Polishing Cleanser
Talk about standing the test of time! For over 120 years, Bon Ami has been chlorine-, dye- and fragrance-free. The all-purpose cleansing powder has naturally abrasive minerals that cut grease and add shine without scratching surfaces.
$1.39/14 oz. 800.846.1230;

Homemade option: baking soda and lemon
Sprinkle baking soda on a used lemon half and use as a scratch-free scrubber on counters, tiles and stainless steel.

Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Window Spray (Lemon Verbena Scent)
Renewable, biodegradable plant-based surfactants in this spray provide the same streak-free shine as ammonia-laced blue liquids. What’s more, the fragrance acts as an aromatherapy pick-me-up to get you through doing all the windows.
$5/20 oz. 877.865.1508;

Homemade option: vinegar and newspaper
Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in spray bottle, spritz on glass surfaces and wipe with newsprint for a streak-free shine that won’t leave tiny fibers behind.

Forever New Fabric Care Wash
This biodegradable, cruelty-free powder is the preferred cleanser of high-end lingerie dealers. The patented formula contains no phosphates or bleach to keep delicates from bleeding or fading.
$5/8 oz. 800.456.0107;

Homemade option: hydrogen peroxide and water
To whiten delicate garments without bleach, soak them for 30 minutes in a solution of 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide and 4 cups water.

Chicago-based writer Meg Donohue has gone all-natural after researching this story. She now spritzes her windows and shower stall doors with vinegar and water to keep them crystal clear.