Nontoxic Cleaning Products

You can certainly look to the EWG databases for pre-made nontoxic cleaning products, but several months ago, I decided to make many of my own.  I began with google searching and came across the blog From Faye, which I found super helpful.  (Thank you, Faye!)  I also got some recipes from a coworker and a pamphlet I received from EWG after donating (some small amount).  So, from these combined sources, I bring you the following tidbits and recipes for all natural, nontoxic cleaning!

You can adjust the amounts of these ingredients, too; sometimes I add more of one thing, less of another, but the following are some pretty good guidelines.

Basic Supplies

Distilled white vinegar: You know how people say you can use Windex for everything?Well, vinegar is the new Windex, people!  (Seriously, EWG rates Windex as a D, so I had to get rid of it, and lo and behold, I found vinegar to work just as well.  Amazing.  Load up on this!)

Baking soda: absorbs odor

Hydrogen peroxide: bleaching agent and powerful anti-microbial

Lemons: cut grease, adds lovely scent

Castile soap: (such as Dr. Bronner’s, but any will do) vegetable oil-based soap

  • Dr. Bronner’s has a cheat sheet of all the things their soaps can be used for, and how to dilute the soap for each use.  Awesome!

Sodium Percarbonate: I have not yet used.  EWG says it’s a great whitening agent because it oxidizes.  They also recommend using gloves when using because it can be a skin irritant.

Microfiber cloths: a must for dusting (I didn’t learn this until I was 32; I cannot believe how much time over the past 27 years I wasted using a regular cloth, or how much waste I created using paper towels!)

Spray bottle: for all the items in your new recipes

Basic Recipes

All-Purpose Cleaner

Two recipes below.  Seriously, I use this everywhere I’d use Windex — glass surfaces, windows, mirrors, sinks (though I also just use vinegar to clean sinks), the oven, the microwave, my counter tops…. really, almost everywhere except wood and leather surfaces.

  • (1) What I use: 1 cup water; 1/4 cup vinegar; 2-3 drops of dish soap (I use Planet or castile soap).  Shake well before using.
  • (2) From EWG: 1/2 t. washing soda; dab of liquid soap; 2 C very hot tap water.

I’m sure EWG’s recipe is great, but I love mine, and I don’t have to make sure the water is hot, and I don’t have washing soda, so for me, it’s a bit easier.  I have loved it, too, so I don’t feel the need to switch just yet.

Dish Soap

  • 1/2 cup castile soap; 2 cups water.  Voila!

Wood and Leather Surfaces

Before using vinegar on any leather or wood, I’d spot check it to make sure it doesn’t ruin the finish.  All the pieces in our home work well with the below recipe, but you never know which pieces might discolor.

  • 1/2 cup Vinegar; 1/2 cup olive oil; juice from one small lemon.  Shake well.

You can use as much or as little lemon as you want.  I tend to use more for the added fragrance.

Mildew & Lime Scale Remover

  • Vinegar

EWG recommends only vinegar – awesome!  They also rate CLR as nontoxic (A rating), and since we have some in the house, I’ve stuck with that.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

  • 1 cup water; 1 cup baking soda; 1 cup castile soap; 1/4 cup vinegar.  Mix well (after bubbles subside).

Oven

  • 3 tablespoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon salt; 1 tablespoon water.

EWG says to make a paste and put this on the sides of the oven, let sit for 8 hours, and then wipe clean.  For the bottom of the oven, sprinkle baking soda all over, then spray with water bottle, let sit for 8 hours, and wipe clean.

Kitchen Sinks

  • All-purpose cleaner; baking soda.

As noted above, I typically clean my kitchen sink (and bathroom one) with the All-Purpose Cleaner.  Once and a while, though, I use baking soda, too.  I just sprinkle baking soda all over the sink, then spray the All-Purpose Cleaner over it.

Drain Cleaner

  • 1 cup baking soda; 1 cup vinegar.

Pour baking soda down the drain, follow with vinegar.  Let sit, and then pour a large amount (1/2 gallon or more) of piping hot water down the drain.

Cutting Boards

  • 1 cup vinegar; 1 cup water; lemon (optional)

I typically spray my cutting boards with vinegar (or vinegar & lemon), let sit for a few, and then wipe up with water.  You can mix everything together, too, though.

Removing Baby Poo Stains

  • Castile soap (thanks, Rhiannon!).  I put some castile soap over the stain, rinse it out with water as best as I can (not particularly thorough most of the time), and let sit until I get it in the wash.

Laundry Detergent

  • I know there are make-your-own solutions here, but I’ve been using Planet, and I like it.  That said, some of the baby clothes still have stains on them after I wash them (things I didn’t treat with castile soap beforehand).  My mom swears her Tide would have gotten these out, but I can’t do it – EWG’s database gives Tide an F, citing reproductive and developmental toxicity and cancer concerns, among other harmful factors.
  • I just purchased Oxiclean Baby Stain Fighter to supplement the laundry.  I’ll update once I try it!  (It received an A from EWG.)

Vacuum

  • Get one with a HEPA filter!  HEPA filters pick up all kinds of small particles that other vacuum filters don’t — exactly the kind of harmful particles we don’t want on our floors, on our baby’s toys, in our food, etc.  (Totally realize this is kinda out of place here, but hey, we’re talking about cleaning!)

Random Items that Work Wonders

Peanut Butter

  • Removes sticky residues (like those left over from price tags on glassware)

Ketchup

  • Apparently removes tarnish from copper and brass.  I cannot wait to try this!

 

 

 

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Toys, Toys, Toys

So, of course I started with NaturalBabyMama’s list, and then did a bit of research on my own.  Here’s what I’ve put together so far.

BOOKS

Victoria Van der Laan (through her Etsy Shop Ex libris handmade) makes little books from 100% organic cotton.  All the fabric of the books is GOTS certified and the batting is USDA certified.  They are gorgeous and awesome.  Cannot wait to get one.

NATURAL WOOD TOYS

I love the look of natural wood toys – especially with the different colors of natural wood – cherry, maple.  After a good finish is applied, these look stunning.

Manzanita Kids:  LOVE this family run business (seriously, it’s just the parents making the toys, with “help” from their kids).  They have an awesome puzzle section — many of the other companies don’t seem to have puzzles like this.  They also have an Etsy shop:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/manzanitakids?page=2

Elves and Angels:  Also love this family run business, which includes a much bigger family!  Their toys are made from white pine, ash, and birch wood, and they use a nontoxic linseed oil for polish.  The only thing I don’t love is about the website – they feature other companies’ toys.  When I asked how to differentiate between their products and others, I was told: (1) E&A only makes natural toys, no dyes or colors and (2) all the E&A toys will have names attached to them (e.g., Julianna’s Kitchen, Nathan’s Kitchen, Jessie’s Kitchen) or say “downeast.”  The exceptions to this are the wooden castles (all of them), the Maine Dollhouse and the Fairytale Castle, which E&A makes themselves.  The toys are so gorgeous, I think it’s worth trying to sort through this!

Camden Rose:  Makes gorgeous wooden toys, made with maple, cherry, walnut, and beechwood.  Some of their products are finished with jojoba oil and beeswax, others with a mineral food-grade oil.  Their bowls, utensils, and kitchen items (including cutting boards and platters) are made with their pesticide-free All Natural Beeswax Polish.  The Cherry Rattle also is also finished with the All Natural Beeswax Polish, and the maple teether comes unfinished (and is awesome).  Also, I am absolutely in love with these blocks, but I would probably call the company and ask to have them finished with the All Natural Beeswax Polish, rather than the Original Beeswax that they come with – the Original Beeswax is made with a food grade oil, which is probably fine, but since my babe will definitely be chewing on these, I’d prefer the organic polish.  You can always order them unfinished and buy their polish separately to polish them yourself, too.  (My love remains virtual right now; we don’t own them… yet!)

Their wholesale catalog makes looking through many products at one time quite easy.  Also, Palumba is the retail division of Camden Rose and sells CR toys as well as toys from other companies.  Of course, you can get them from Amazon and other retailers as well.

Smiling Tree Toys is another family owned business with an Etsy shop:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/SmilingTreeToys#   The toys are gorgeous and they seem to do quite a bit of personalizing.

COLORFUL WOOD TOYS

Plan Toys:  These toys are awesome.  We have the mobile for the crib, the activity gym, and the stacking rings.  One thing to know about them is that they began making toys from composite wood (from the sawdust leftover).  On their website, they describe these as made with Planwood.  I emailed asking how to differentiate between these and the solid wood toys when buying from other retailers, and I was told only by the look of the toys in the picture.  It’s true, the solid wood toys have a more beautiful, smooth look, whereas the composite ones look grainier.

Grimms:  Gorgeous colorful toys.  You can’t buy through their website, but you can buy many through amazon or just google “grimm toys” and you’ll find plenty of retailers.  I’ve emailed the company asking a few questions about these, but in general, they comply with tough European standards, so I am quite happy with these, even the ones with paint.

SOFT TOYS

Under The Nile (one of my favorite clothing companies!) also has a lot of beautiful soft toys, made of GOTS certified organic cotton.  The bunny “blanket friend” (aka lovey, in our home) is incredible.  We have two, just in case one gets dirty or lost!

Camden Rose also has some soft toys, but a quick read on these didn’t mention that they were made with organic materials, so I’m sticking with UTN for now.

——-

I hope to find more companies with colored and soft toys, so I’ll update this once I have them.  For now, I absolutely love having wood toys – natural and colored!

 

 

 

 

 

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Plants: Natural Indoor Air Purifiers

Ok, haven’t researched this a ton, but thought it might be a useful thing to have on this blog since I went out and bought a few of these plants for my home.

A NASA study in 1989 (says this website) found that these are the top 15 plants for getting rid of air pollution in your home:

English ivy
Spider plant
Spathiphyllum (Peace lily)
Aglaonema (Chinese evergreen)
Bamboo, Lady or Reed palms
Sansevieria (Snake plant)
Heartleaf philodendron
Selloum or tree philodendron 
Elephant ear philodendron
Golden pothos
Dracaena marginata (red-edged)
Cornstalk dracaena (also called Magic bamboo)
‘Janet Craig’ dracaena
Dracaena ‘Warneckii’
Ficus Benjamin (weeping fig)

Another article lists the top 10 plants for removing formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, and benzene from the air (also citing a more recent NASA study):

1. Areca Palm (Chrysalidocarpus lutescens)

Also called the “Butterfly Palm”. An upright houseplant that is somewhat vase shaped. Specimen plants can reach 10 to 12 foot in height. Prefers a humid area to avoid tip damage. Requires pruning. When selecting an Areca palm look for plants with larger caliber trunks at the base of the plant. Plants that have pencil thin stems tend to topple over and are quite difficult to maintain.

2. Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa)

Also called the “Lady Palm”, this durable palm species adapts well to most interiors. The Rhapis are some of the easiest palms to grow, but each species has its own particular environment and culture requirements. The “Lady Palm” grows slowly, but can grow to more than 14′ in height with broad clumps often having a diameter as wide as their height.

3. Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)

Also called the “reed palm”, this palm prefers bright indirect light. New plants will lose of some interior foliage as they acclimate to indoor settings. This plant likes to stay uniformly moist, but does not like to be over-watered or to sit in standing water. Indoor palms may attract spider mites which can be controlled by spraying with a soapy solution.

4. Rubber Plant (Ficus robusta)

Grows very well indoors, preferring semi-sun lighting. Avoid direct sunlight, especially in summer. Young plants may need to be supported by a stake. The Ficus grows to 8’ with a spread of 5’. Wear gloves when pruning, as the milky sap may irritate the skin. Water thoroughly when in active growth, then allow the soil to become fairly dry before watering again. In winter keep slightly moist.

5. Dracaena “Janet Craig” (Dracaena deremensis)

The Dracaena grows to 10’ with a spread of 3’. Easy to grow, these plants do best in bright indirect sunlight coming from the east/west. They can adapt to lower light levels if the watering is reduced. Keep the soil evenly moist and mist frequently with warm water. Remove any dead leaves. Leaf tips will go brown if the plant is under watered but this browning may be trimmed.

6. Philodendron (Philodendron sp.)

One of the most durable of all house plants. Philodendrons prefer medium intensity light but will tolerate low light. Direct sun will burn the leaves and stunt plant growth. This plant is available in climbing and non-climbing varieties. When grown indoors, they need to be misted regularly and the leaves kept free of dust. Soil should be evenly moist, but allowed to dry between watering.

7. Dwarf Date Palm (Phoenix roebelenii)

A hardy, drought-tolerant and long-lived plant, the Dwarf Date Palm needs a bright spot which is free of drafts. It grows slowly, reaching heights of 8-10’. The Dwarf Date Palm should not be placed near children’s play areas because it has sharp needle-like spines arranged near the base of the leaf stem. These can easily penetrate skin and even protective clothing.

8. Ficus Alii (Ficus macleilandii “Alii”)

The Ficus Alii grows easily indoors, and resists insects. It prefers a humid environment and low to medium light when grown indoors. The Ficus Aliii should not be placed near heating or air conditioning vents, or near drafts because this could cause leaf loss. Soil should be kept moist but allowed to dry between watering.

9. Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata “Bostoniensis”)

The Boston fern grows to 4’ in height with a spread up to 5’. It has feathery ferns which are best displayed as a hanging plant. It prefers bright indirect sunlight. Keep the soil barely moist and mist frequently with warm water. This plant is prone to spider mites and whitefly which can be controlled using a soapy water spray. Inspect new plants for bugs before bringing them home.

10. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”)

The Peace Lily is a compact plant which grows to a height of 3’ with a 2’ spread. This hardy plant tolerates neglect. It prefers indirect sunlight and high humidity, but needs to be placed out of drafts. For best results, the Peace Lily should be thoroughly watered, then allowed to go moderately dry between waterings. The leaves should be misted frequently with warm water.

Happy planting!

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GOTS Organic Baby Clothes? (Yes, having fun with the pun.)

[Updated 8/15 with Burt’s Bees Baby info and a few other minor changes.]

I have been dying to write this post.  Of all the crazy non-toxic things I tell my friends about, the one thing they seem most interested in is the list of organic clothing companies I have compiled.  While the babe does wear lots of clothing gifted to us by our friends and family that is not made of GOTS certified cotton, I have finally committed to buying only clothes with that label from here on out.  (Not sure about that label?  See my post explaining GOTS.)  I’m sure other pieces will still trickle in, and I try to be reasonable about it, but my own purchases will be from the companies listed below.  My list is not comprehensive; no doubt there are many more companies that make GOTS certified clothes, so if you know of them, please share.

(If you’re not sure about the benefits of organic baby clothes, check out Natural Baby Mama’s post “Is organic clothing worth it?.”  She has a ton of information on conventional and organic fibers and why she feels organic is worth it (and I agree).  Thanks, NBM!)

One more thing before the list – if you don’t know already, you’ll soon learn that GOTS certified clothing is NOT cheap (like all other healthy products, right? don’t get me started on this!).  The good news is these companies often have sale items and you can sometimes find them on Zulily.  I have my Zulily account set up to notify me when my favorite brands are featured.

THE List!

My Absolute Favorite:

Burt’s Bees Baby:  I LOVE Burt’s Bees!  I learned of them so late in my research – my babe was about 9 months when I found them, but since then, I usually go to BBB’s before anywhere else.  They are 100% organic cotton and their line became GOTS certified in the summer of 2014.  The reason they are my favorite is because of their selection of adorable, super comfy clothes.  They have the largest selection of any company I’ve seen, covering quite the age range (not just infants, like many GOTS companies).  And while it is lower on my priority list, who doesn’t love super CUTE CUTE CUTE clothes for their babe?!  BBB has some of the cutest GOTS clothes out there!

Other Favorites:

Under the Nile: When my babe was still an infant (and I hadn’t yet heard of Burt’s Bees being organic cotton) this was my favorite company.  It took me a little while to love their designs; admittedly, it was the quality of the clothes and the assurance of how they were made that kept me coming back.  Then, I had a wonderful customer service experience, and I was given a pair of their swaddle blankets, and I’ve been hooked.  (Those blankets are the softest I have ever found!)  Another reason I love UtN is the amount of information on their website.  They discuss their founders, manufacturers, policies, how they treat their employers, where their cotton comes from, etc.  They even provide their employees with two organic meals a day.  How could I not be smitten?!

Sage Creek Organics: Before you buy from them, sign up for an account.  They immediately send you a 25% coupon code to use on your entire purchase, and they have sales all the time.  I recently ordered a few things from here and have been impressed with the quality.  The footsies (and onesies) are very thick and super soft.  They are my go-to footsy place for this reason.

My O Baby:  I cannot find the GOTS certification on their website, but I emailed the founder of the company (Jyoti) and she assured me they have the certification.  These clothes are ADORABLE.  Her website is not easy to use, and it’s not an e-commerce site, so you can’t buy clothing directly online.  (When I emailed her about this, she said that if I placed an order for at least $100, I could buy from her directly, so this is an option.)  I purchased several items from Zulily and they are awesome; feel well-made and look super cute.  I’m excited to have them.

The Green Creation: So these guys actually have some inexpensive ($14) onesies (or bodysuits).  I ordered one from a Zulily sale once, and it’s adorable.  The little ribbons on the shoulders became frayed after the first wash, but I just cut them off.  Will definitely order more from this company to keep trying them out.

Kate Quinn Organics:  Wow, are these clothes gorgeous.  AND pricey.  I took them up on a Zulily sale and bought a $60 dress for $30, and it is more gorgeous (and soft) than it looks online.  They recently had a sale where all dresses were $20 (rather than $70!), so I’ll have to keep my eye out for more events like that.

Colored Organics: Onesies on Zulily for $10 – you bet I ordered many!  The sizes are a bit odd – I ordered a bunch 6-12 months, and they were definitely big on my 6 month old, but the good news is they really did last until she was 12 (maybe 13ish) months.  The solid color onesies were super soft and my favorites.  The striped ones were also great, but not quite as soft.  I would order both again.

Companies I look forward to purchasing from:

Nohi Kids:  Also GOTS certified per an email from the company.  (Their website talks about the manufacturer ensuring workplace safety, fair wages, etc, so I thought they probably were, but emailed to ask.)

Finn & Emma:  F&E wins the award for best website.  Wow.  Their clothes look amazing, too.  Although I couldn’t find the GOTS certification on their site, I emailed them, and they assured me they are.  They also have also partnered with Lullaby paint so you can have nontoxic paint that matches their products.  (Yeah, totally for the rich, right?!  Seriously, they’re gorgeous colors, so I couldn’t blame you for doing it.)  I’m going to look more into this paint thing and have a post on that as well.

Sweet Peanut: GOTS certified, per email from company.  Designed in Vancouver; made in India.

Sckoon Organics: GOTS certified, per email from company.

Kids Organic:  This brand seems to be hot with the celebs, but I find most of their clothing not attractive.  Go figure!

I’ve heard about several other companies that are GOTS, but haven’t verified them just yet.  When I do, I’ll update.  Again, if you know of companies that are, please share!

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Pesticides in Baby Food

I am going to try and make my own baby food.  Since my little munchkin is only 4 months right now, I don’t have too much to write about this.  That said, when I was researching EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” (see the post on Organic Foods), I learned a bit about pesticides in baby food….

Pesticides in Baby Food
(This is a straight cut & paste job from EWG’s Executive Summary.)

The USDA’s most recent pesticide monitoring data included hundreds of samples of applesauce, carrots, peaches and peas packaged as baby food (USDA 2014). Because cooking reduces levels of pesticides and baby food is cooked before packaging, it tends to contain lower pesticide residues than comparable raw produce.

The European Commission has set an across-the-board limit of no more than 0.01 parts per million of any pesticide in baby food, based on the fact that infants’ greater vulnerability to harmful chemicals, compared to older children and adults (European Commission 2006). Some samples of American baby food, particularly applesauce and peaches in baby food tested in 2012 and green beans tested in previous years, exceed the 0.01 legal limit. In contrast to the EU’s position, the U.S. has no special rules for pesticide residues in baby food.

The USDA detected 10 different pesticides on at least 5 percent of 777 samples of peach baby food sold in the U.S (USDA 2014). Nearly a third of the peach baby food samples would violate the European guideline for pesticides in baby food because they contain one or several pesticides at concentrations of 0.01 part per million or higher.

The USDA tested 396 baby food applesauce samples for five pesticides (USDA 2014). Some 18 percent of the samples contained acetamiprid, a neonicotinoid pesticide that EC regulators singled out for additional toxicity testing because it might disrupt the developing nervous system (EFSA 2013). Another 17 percent of the samples contained carbendiazim, a fungicide.

The USDA found six pesticides in apple juice, a staple of many children’s diets (USDA 2014). About 14 percent of the apple juice samples contained DPA, the pesticide banned in Europe in 2012.

USDA tests did not detect significant pesticide residues on carrots and peas packaged as baby food.

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Flame Retardant Wack-A-Mole

After I wrote the post “Car Seats and Flame Retardants,” I realized I hadn’t talked about which flame retardants are in car seats and why these are harmful.  The buzz about flame retardants isn’t that they are there (they could be life-saving, after all), it’s about which ones are currently used.  I’m not a scientist, so much of what I know about this comes from Healthystuff.org, the EPA, and googling to learn about the studies that have been done.

Some of the flame retardants used in car seats today are bromine-, chlorine-, or organo-phosphate-based flame retardants.  These flame retardants aren’t just found in car seats; they are in many products in our homes, notably, polyurethane foam found in our couches, nursing pillows, strollers, cars, baby changing pads, crib mattresses… the list is long.  And it seems like every time one of these flame retardants is found to be toooo dangerous, another one (just as dangerous, if not more so) takes its place.  Hence the Wack-A-Mole problem.

One way to reduce our exposure to these chemicals is to buy a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which is a special filter that removes and traps a large amount of small particles that other filters can’t.  Another way is to dust often.  The chemical particles accumulate in dust, and as we know, the dust settles on our floors, children’s toys, and food.  Because babies and children crawl on our floors and then put their fingers in their mouths, not to mention chew on their toys, they are especially at risk for ingesting these particles.

Okay, on to the depressing stuff…

Brominated Flame Retardants

There are a few different kinds of flame retardants made of bromine.  The most common brominated flame retardants are polybrominated biphenyl ethers, or PBDEs.  PBDEs are commonly used in our household furniture: couches, plastics, upholstery, strollers, mattresses, pillows, electronics (so try not to let your baby suck on your cell phone).  Studies have also found PBDEs in fish, meat, fruits, veggies, even infant formula.

PBDEs are toxic chemicals that build up in our bodies (our tissues, fat, and blood) and in the bodies of many animals we eat.  They can contaminate breastmilk and umbilical cord blood.  (In 2008, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) did a study and found “high levels” of PBDEs in 10 of 10 newborns.)  PBDEs can cause reproductive problems, birth defects, and disrupt the thyroid hormone, which is essential for brain development in fetuses.   Studies have also found that PBDEs are endocrine disruptors.  (The endocrine system regulates our hormones – estrogen, testosterone, etc.)  Two major concerns with PBDEs are (1) they can degrade into more toxic chemicals, contaminating our environment and wildlife and (2) they are additive flame retardants, meaning they are not bound to the plastics, foams, fabrics, etc. that they’re in, so they leach out – onto our skin, into the air, and settle in our dust.

Two PBDEs that have been phased out due to their toxicity are Penta and Octa.  (Long names: pentabromodiphenyl ether and octabromodiphenyl ether).  Phased out, but a study in 2011 still found PentaDBE in baby products.  Both of these had been so extensively used in products that millions of pounds still remain in our homes, offices, and the environment.  Another PBDE, known as Deca, is currently used in our furniture and mattresses, among other items.  The EPA has stated Deca potentially causes cancer and may impact brain function.

More info on can be found in the PBDE section of the EPA’s website and in this summary by the EPA.  Bottom line, though: they’re dangerous and they’re everywhere.

Chlorinated Tris (Tris, TDCPP, or TDCP) and TCEP

There are so many horrible things to say about these chemicals I don’t know where to start.  Tris and TCEP are chlorine and phosphorous based flame retardants.  A 2011 study found Tris was the most common flame retardant found in baby products with foam (again: car seats, baby changing pads, baby carriers, nursing pillows, and rocking chairs, to name just a few).  Tris’ popularity rose once PentaBDE was phased out.  It really is Flame Retardant Wack-A-Mole.  You should click on that link.  It’s a great article.  🙂

Prior to 1977, children’s pajamas were treated with Tris, but in 1977, it was banned.  Why? you ask.  Because it was found to have “mutagenic properties,” or as California’s EPA has stated, it is “genotoxic.”  (2011 Study by the Reproductive and Cancer Hazard Branch of the CA EPA)  Yes, that’s right.  It induced “chromosomal aberrations” of cells in mice and hamsters and induced “malignant cell transformation” of certain embryo hamster cells.  Basically, exposure to Tris caused DNA mutations and benign and malignant tumors in rats.

TCEP, which is structurally similar to Tris, is also categorized by the state of California as a known carcinogen and has been linked to reproductive effects and neurotoxicity.  Animal studies have found that exposure to TCEP causes tumors and damage to the learning center of the brain.  (See the Public Health Statement by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.)

Very often polyurethane foam has been treated with Tris and/or TCEP.  Polyurethane foam is everywhere.  Every time I bought a baby product, and I felt it and thought “oh, so cushiony” (like my Dutalier glider), I looked under the fabric and saw a tag that told me the foam was polyurethane foam and that it complied with CA Technical Bulletin 117.  That is a huge indicator that the foam has been treated with one or many of the flame retardants discussed in this post.

Firemaster 550

Oh, yet another flame retardant used in polyurethane foam and TONS of children’s products and found all over our homes in… you guessed it, dust.

Firemaster 550 was developed to replace other flame retardants that we had learned were toxic.  (Whoever coined that Wack-A-Mole thing was brilliant.)  A 2012 study of rats, including pregnant rats, found Firemaster 550 to affect neurodevelopment, the endocrine system, the thyroid hormone (which, as noted, is really important for brain development and metabolism in fetuses), weight of the offspring rats (rats ingesting more Firemaster 550 were heavier than those that had ingested lower levels), and their cardiovascular systems.

So, that’s my summary on some of the most common flame retardants – yes, used in car seats, but found in so many other household products/furniture pieces as well.  If you’re up for cutting a small piece of the foam out of your couch, baby mattress, changing pad, you can send it to Duke University for testing: http://foam.pratt.duke.edu.  I’ve done this with two products so far and will post when I get the results.

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Organic Foods & EWG’s Dirty Dz/Clean 15

If I could buy organic everything, I would.  But with a little one and daycare costs and housing costs out of control in this city, we find ourselves choosing organic sometimes, not all the time.  Thankfully, the Environmental Working Group has studied which foods typically contain the most pesticides (the infamous Dirty Dozen) and which the least (the Clean Fifteen).  This allows us to make informed decisions about which foods we should buy organic.   Thanks, EWG!

The “Dirty Dozen”

(Foods containing a number of different pesticide residues and showed high concentrations of pesticides relative to other produce items.)

  • Apples (99% of apple samples tested positive for at least one pesticide residue)
  • Strawberries*
  • Grapes (a single grape sample contained 15 pesticides)
  • Celery*
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Imported nectarines (every sample of imported nectarines tested positive for at least one pesticide residue)
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes*
  • Imported snap peas*
  • Potatoes (average potato had more pesticides by weight than any other food)

* Single samples of these items showed 13 different pesticides apiece.

Additionally, although leafy greens – kale and collard greens – and hot peppers do not meet traditional Dirty Dozen ranking criteria, EWG found that they were frequently contaminated with insecticides that are toxic to the human nervous system.  EWG recommends that people who eat a lot of these foods buy organic instead.

For the full list of 48 produce items and their rankings, click here.

The “Clean Fifteen”
(Produce least likely to hold pesticide residue)

  • Avocados
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Frozen sweet peas
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwis
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes

So there we have it.  Eat organic (as much as you can)!

Check out their Executive Summary of Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce for lots more info on pesticides, US law, EU law, etc.

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