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Environmental Working Group
Just in time for spring cleaning, the Environmental Working Group updated their healthy cleaning options.
The cleaning products in your home may be harboring hazardous ingredients. Many brands make it difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to learn what ingredients are in them. These products commonly contain chemicals that can cause reproductive problems, exacerbate asthma, burn or irritate your skin and harm the environment. Some have even been linked to cancer.
EWG’s assessment found:
Almost half of the products in this update were rated “poor” on ingredient disclosure.
Only about one in seven products earned a grade of A or B, for low human and environmental toxicity and robust disclosure of ingredients. A little more than one-sixth earned a passing grade of C. The remainder – more than two-thirds – fell short, receiving a D or F.
Almost three-fourths contain ingredients which may have worrisome respiratory health effects. Of particular concern, such chemicals were routinely found in all-purpose spray cleaners.
More than one-fourth of products scored moderate to high concern because they contain ingredients linked to cancer or may contain impurities linked to cancer.
One-fifth of products scored moderate to high concern because they contain ingredients associated with developmental, endocrine or reproductive harm.
More than 10 percent of the products are corrosive, capable of permanently damaging eyes or skin.
Ten percent of products were rated moderate to high concern for skin irritation and damage and skin allergies because they contain ingredients of concern.
Almost 60 percent of products scored moderate to high concern because one or more ingredients pose a risk to the environment. These chemicals are only partly removed by wastewater treatment plants, don’t readily break down, are persistent in the environment and toxic to aquatic life.
Almost half of the products EWG assessed for this update rated “poor” on ingredient disclosure. Other disclosure details:
Fewer than 40 percent rated “good,” providing relatively complete and specific ingredient information, rather than hiding behind vague descriptions like “preservatives” or “surfactants.” Five percent of cleaners, including some from Colgate-Palmolive Company and Sun Products Corporation, provided no information at all on the label.
Almost seven in 10 of the products use the terms “perfume” or “fragrance,” catch-all terms that can hide the presence of chemicals such as bioaccumulative synthetic musks, linked to endocrine disruption and reproductive and developmental harm. Seven percent listed the equally vague term “essential oil.”
Little more than a quarter of products fully disclose ingredients in any single location, whether on the label or online. Only 14 percent got full credit for disclosing ingredients on the label, and another 14 percent for disclosure on product websites.
For half of products with available worker safety data sheets, the documents revealed at least one additional chemical not disclosed on the label or website. Most disturbing, were the listing of benzene on the currently available (as of March 2016) safety data sheet of Palmolive’s eco+ dishwasher gel and of formaldehyde on the currently available safety data sheets of eight other dish and laundry products.† Long-term exposure to benzene is linked to leukemia, anemia and bone marrow damage, and formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, respiratory irritant and allergen.
Twelve percent of products use the terms “dyes,” “colorants”, or “colors” instead of listing the specific chemical dyes. Two dyes that were sometimes listed are known as FD&C Yellow 5 and FD&C Red 40, which may cause allergic reactions or be contaminated with impurities known to cause cancer.
Other frequently appearing but vague terms include “fabric brighteners” or “optical brighteners,” chemicals that make clothes appear whiter. Some of the specified brightening agents that are listed are known to build up in the environment.
Other Chemicals of Concern
Almost 40 percent of products reviewed contained isothiazolinone preservatives, which can either trigger or exacerbate allergies. Researchers and physicians from over a dozen clinics have reported cases of serious skin allergy, and an increase approaching epidemic proportions in allergies to a specific type of isothiazolinone known as methylisothiazolinone, or MI. The European Union recently lowered its safety standard for these chemicals in rinse-off cosmetic products, but the U.S. has no restrictions, even though hands and forearms are repeatedly exposed to these substances for long periods while washing dishes. A small number of products contain one of three preservative compounds that when mixed with water release formaldehyde.
Fourteen percent of products contain sodium borate, also known as borax, or its boric acid relatives. Sodium borate is an acute respiratory irritant that has been linked to nose bleeds, coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest tightness. It is also associated with reduced sperm count and libido in exposed male workers and decreased ovulation and fertility in lab animals. Sodium borate and boric acid can also cross the placenta and harm the developing fetus.
Harmful germ-killing ingredients known as quats, or quaternary ammonium compounds, were found in more than 40 percent of antibacterial products under review. Evidence is building that quats may impair human reproduction. Another active ingredient used in disinfectants is bleach, found in just over 10 percent of the disinfectant products and in over half of the dishwasher detergent liquids we reviewed. Bleach, or sodium hypochlorite, can cause severe burns and eye damage. Both sodium hypochlorite and quats can cause asthma to develop in otherwise healthy people after frequent exposure to low concentrations. Lactic acid, a safer bet for killing germs, was found in just over one-fourth of disinfectant products we reviewed.
To search all 406 products included in the EWG’s update and to find expanded details on these and other key findings, stay tuned to EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
† Products with formaldehyde listed on available safety data sheets:
Ajax Dish Liquid, Lemon
Ajax Triple Action Dish Liquid Hand Soap, Orange
Fab Ultra Liquid Laundry Detergent, Spring Magic
Finish All in 1 3X Concentrated Gelpacs, Orange Grease Cutting
Finish All in 1 8X Power Gelpacs, Orange Grease Cutting
Palmolive Ultra Dish Liquid, Original
Palmolive Ultra Concentrated Dish Liquid, Lotus Blossom & Lavender
Woolite Everyday Laundry Detergent, Sparkling Falls.
The recent article I did on the Environmental Working Group’s list of The Dirty Dozen, Plus, has kept my mind focused on organics and what to buy at the store. I came across some supplemental info that I thought could be helpful for those of us that want to make sure we are eating safe and organic. I received a handy pocket reference guide from the Environmental Working Group, and I thought I would share it. Its good to have a reminder of how to keep our food safe. It has come in handy as a conversation starter with the kids while shopping and even strangers who see us referring to it while shopping. Makes me feel proud, when I see my kids reach for organic foods. I’m simply teaching them about how to care more for themselves…it feels good. The things they learn now, can only make their futures, and lives better.
Have you ever asked what pesticides are on your produce? Do you ever wonder if certain produce could be safer than others? I discussed yesterday that getting produce from different countries can reduce the exposure to pesticides. Each year the Environmental Working Group releases its list of produce you should definitely eat organic, as they contain the most pesticides if not purchased organic. They call it their Dirty Dozen.
According to the EWG, “In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued an important report that said that children have “unique susceptibilities to [pesticide residues’] potential toxicity.” The pediatricians’ organization cited research that linked pesticide exposures in early life and “pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems.” It advised its members to urge parents to consult “reliable resources that provide information on the relative pesticide content of various fruits and vegetables.” Health problems such as cancer, developmental problems and lower IQ in children, have been linked to pesticides on fruits and vegetables.
The Environmental Working Group shared its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, in late 2015 which ranks pesticide contamination on 48 popular fruits and vegetables. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Federal Food and Drug Administration, analyze thousands of samples from these popular fruits and vegetables. Pesticides persisted on fruits and vegetables even if they were washed or peeled! That’s bothersome!
“We are saying, eat your fruits and vegetables,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG’s senior analyst. “But know which ones have the highest amounts of pesticides so you can opt for the organic versions, if available and affordable.”
Here are highlights from the EWG’s Dirty Dozen. These fruits and vegetables are ranked from the worst to best:
Apples: More than 45 different pesticides have been detected on apples. That same residue can be found in juices, apple sauce, so it is smart to buy these organic as well.
Peaches: More than 60 different pesticides are found on them. Again find organic or avoid the fruit to reduce exposure to pesticides.
Nectarines: Imported nectarines are among the most highly contaminated tree fruits. Domestic are not quite as bad, but over 33 pesticides have been detected on those.
Strawberries: More than 40 pesticides have been found on strawberries, however fewer are found on frozen strawberries.
Grapes: Imported grapes have more than 50 pesticides, which correlates into raisins have high pesticide residue as well.
Celery: More than 60 pesticides are found on celery. Find organic for a safe alternative.
Spinach: More than 50 pesticides are found on spinach, while frozen spinach has nearly as many, frozen spinach has fewer detected pesticides.
Sweet Bell Peppers: Nearly 50 different pesticides have been detected on sweet bell peppers, all colors.
Cucumbers: As many as 83 different pesticides can remain on the skin of the vegetable even after washing! Peeling the skin can reduce that number, but you still will ingest some pesticides.
Cherry Tomatoes: If you cannot grow your own tomatoes, you need to find organic.
Potatoes: More than 30 pesticides are fund on potatoes. Sweet potatoes test with fewer pesticides, giving a safer alternative.
Hot Peppers: Unfortunately the hot pepper joins the sweet pepper on the list of foods with the most pesticide residue.
This list is eye opening to me. Just typing out this article, has etched these fruits and vegetables in my brain. The health risks associated with pesticides are too great. I will buy them all organic. It is so scary that our food system is so contaminated! Finding a good source of safe food is crucial. Organic farmer’s markets, local stores that feature organic produce are key. I look forward to spring and the start of a garden of my own, that I know will be pesticide free. Taking the issue into my own hands! Happy gardening to those who enjoy as I do!
For some, school has already started. For others, this next week will mark the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. If you’re like many parents, that means back to packing daily lunches to keep your kids healthy. So why not chat about some delicious nutrition for back to school! I cannot imagine sending kids to school where all the nasty processed food is served. Has to make a parent proud to know they are sending a meal that is good for their health and environmentally responsible. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has these suggestions on how to pack a safe back to school lunch.
Stockpile healthy recipes that work. Before you can think about what to put in the lunchbox, why not consult the experts? Collect a bunch of healthy, kid-popular ideas that you can rely on for those busy weekday mornings. When healthy ideas and ingredients are on hand, they’re far more likely to land in the lunchbox! We often turn to these resources:
Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children, by Ann Cooper (aka The Renegade Lunch Lady) and Lisa M. Holmes. This gem includes great recipes as well as solid information on kids’ nutritional needs and suggestions (from personal experience) for improving school lunch programs.
The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet: Full of recipes to suit every age and stage, Laura Fuentes shows you how simple and easy it is to prepare food that’ll be the envy of the lunch table. The 200+ adorable and inspiring recipes in this book are just as much a joy to make as they are to eat! There are even entire lunchbox meals that are gluten-, soy-, and/or nut-free.
Reduce lunchtime waste. School lunches can generate lots of garbage, like any out-of-the-home meal. Go easier on the local landfill by sending lunch and snacks in reusable packaging and skip single-serve items. Some simple steps to limit your waste:
- Find non-toxic, reusable containers, like stainless steel lunch boxes. If you choose plastic containers, pick them carefully (plastics marked with a #1, 2, 4 or 5 don’t contain BPA and may be better options. Check out the EWG’s plastics tips) and wash them by hand — the dishwasher’s extreme heat can cause chemicals to leach. Try to avoid soft-sided plastic lunchboxes.
- Send tableware from home.
- Skip the straws — or go reusable if you must.
- Just say no to juice boxes.
- Get inspired and learn more at Waste Free Lunches.org.
Here are a couple waste reducing suggestions to get you back to school or work:
“EWGs Guide To Sunscreens rates the safety and efficacy of sunscreens, daily moisturizers, lip products and SPF-rated makeup. We launched the guide in 2007 because the federal Food and Drug Administration had failed to set modern safety standards for sunscreens. Without EWG’s guide, consumers would have to sift through misleading market claims and complex ingredient lists to determine if their favorite sunscreens would help protect them from sun-related skin damage.
EWG’s research has discovered that some sunscreens have several serious problems. We are pressing the federal Food and Drug Administration to issue rules that address these deficiencies. In the meantime, EWG’s guide aims to help consumers make good choices and avoid sun damage and cancer.
EWGs Guide To Sunscreen rates the safety and efficacy of more than 1,000 sunscreens, more than 600 daily moisturizers and 100 lip products with SPF values. Our safety assessments are based on ingredients disclosed on product labels.” (http://www.ewg.org/2015sunscreen/about/)
Make sure you check this link out and educate yourself about which sunscreens are safe for you and your family. Your health is affected by so many factors, make sure you are confident in your choices.