Who doesn’t love the smell of clean laundry? When we take our clothing out of a hot dryer there’s an expectation that they’ll smell fresh and clean. That signature scent is usually from the detergent, dryer sheets and other laundry products we’re using.
For many of us, it’s almost second nature to throw a dryer sheet into the dryer with a load of wet laundry. We use them to prevent static cling, provide a fresh scent, and soften clothing. Dryer sheets have been around for a long time. They were originally created by a chemist way back in 1960 and were called “Tumble Puffs”. A few years later the patented formula was sold to Procter & Gamble who marketed the product as Bounce dryer sheets.
The use of conventional dryer sheets may come with a few perks but there’s a dark side: common ingredients in dryer sheets contain harmful chemicals.
What’s in your dryer sheets?
The Environmental Working Group gave Bounce dryer sheets a “D”, which suggests a high concern and a likely hazard to health or the environment.
Did you know that there’s no requirement in the United States for companies to disclose all ingredients in dryer sheets? One of the biggest loopholes is the use of “fragrance” which is generally a cocktail of hundreds of synthetic chemicals that legally don’t need to be disclosed and are protected as a company trade secret. Some of these hidden ingredients are known to trigger allergic reactions and other health issues.
There could be other harmful chemicals hiding in our dryer sheets that can cause a wide array of health issues ranging from skin irritations to cancer. The toxic chemicals leave a residue on our clothing which gives them a prime opportunity to enter our body through our skin.
A University of Washington study of top-selling laundry products, including dryer sheets, found the products emitted dozens of different chemicals. Each product tested gave off at least one chemical regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws, but none of those chemicals was listed on the product labels.
Alternatives to conventional dryer sheets
Ready to give up your addiction to dryer sheets? Don’t worry, you won’t have to give up all the perks. There are a few safer alternatives that do the job.
Use dryer balls. I recently started using Molly’s Suds Wool Dryer Balls ($19 for 3). I received a sample at ShiftCon and finally gave them a try. They’re fantastic! No perfumes, no dyes, and each one can last up to 3 years. If you want to infuse your laundry with a safe scent add 2-5 drops of your favorite essential oil directly to the dryer balls.
Another option is Eco Nuts wool dryer balls. I’ve tried them and thought they worked well. They cost a few dollars more than Molly’s ($28 for 4).
Vinegar. You can also try adding 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar to each load of laundry during the rinse cycle. If you don’t like the smell of vinegar this option isn’t for you.
Hypoallergenic option. If you’re trying to stay away from wool there’s a hypoallergenic option: Life Miracle Dryer Balls ($11).
When I joined Costco a few years ago their organic selection was limited so I opted for other markets for the bulk of my shopping. Fast forward to the present and Costco is now taking the lead as the largest organic retailer in the United States. In 2015 they sold $4 billion of organic produce and packaged foods.
Costco it’s time to get toxic chemicals off your shelves
While Costco has become a leader in carrying organic produce and adhering to fair wages, they have a problem that needs to be addressed. Some of the products on the shelves in their stores contain harmful chemicals. I’m talking about chemicals like cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting flame retardants, some of which show up in toddlers at five times the rate of their mothers.
Safer Chemicals Healthy Families released a report called “Who’s Minding the Store? — A Report Card on Retailer Actions to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals“. This report gave large retailers a letter grade for actions they’ve taken to eliminate toxic chemicals. Costco received the second lowest grade of any retailer evaluated, receiving only 9.5 points and a letter grade of F. The company has no public written safer chemicals policy in place, unlike many of their competitors. Costco was surprisingly the only major retailer that did not publicly report any progress in getting rid of chemicals of high concern over the past three years.
Costco has made some progress since the report was published by recently updating its website. The site describes the development and implementation of a Costco Restricted Chemical List (RSL) and Smart Screening Program for toxic chemicals.
While this is a step in the right direction, they still have some work to do.
Joining Costco again
I let my Costco membership lapse a few years ago and have been contemplating joining again. The store is a 15-minute drive from my house so it’s not convenient, but I’m drawn to their commitment to organic products. My decision would be much easier if they also committed to reducing toxic chemicals in products they sell. Not only would they be a leader in selling organic products, but they would pave the way for other retailers to eliminate harmful chemicals from their products. The time has come for Costco to take the next step and announce a robust safer chemicals policy with clear benchmarks and timeframes to reduce and eliminate toxic chemicals in products on the shelves in their stores.
Here’s how you can help:
Go to the store and fill out a comment card.
Next time you are at Costco, fill out a comment card voicing your concerns. Costco comment cards may be available in stores near the customer service desk. Or you can print a card HERE, fill it out at home, and drop it off at a nearby Costco.
Make an electronic comment.
Take action online and submit a digital comment to Costco.
Call the customer line.
Dial the customer support line and express your concerns with a Costco customer service agent: 1-800-774-2678
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I have to admit that it was a big deal for me to share my first political post on Facebook. I agonized over what to share. Who would “like” it? Who would give me dirty looks at the gym?
Talk with me one-on-one and I’m happy to share my political views loud and clear. But there’s something different about sharing publically. Putting my political views out there for the general public doesn’t come easily to me. I’ve never been one to cover my front lawn with signs and talk politics at a party. One would think that being a blogger is somewhat synonymous with putting it all out there, but surprisingly I’m a relatively private person. My kids are completely off limits when it comes to social sharing unless they consent and my blog has always been (and will remain bipartisan). My goal is to educate and share information that’s applicable to everyone concerned about their health and the environment regardless of race, religion and political affiliation. And political perspectives have been off the table. Until now.
I really don’t care about likes and dirty looks. It’s my responsibility to speak out.
I can no longer sit on the sidelines. The time to resist is now.
When politics turn to basic human rights I no longer can sit on the sidelines cheering on my friends who have the courage to speak out. Yes, I can (and will) continue to cheer them on, but I need to do more.
I’ve been sitting idle for weeks. Months. Not really sure what to do. Paralyzed and overwhelmed by the looming possibilities.
There’s so much happening that I either don’t understand or can’t wrap my head around. I’m a trained lawyer and I’m still having trouble understanding the process behind all of the impetuous appointments and orders being shoved down our throats. I’m not sure where to turn first and where to best use my energy to resist.
One thing I’m absolutely sure about is that the time to act is now.
As we continue to witness horrific changes impacting the diverse people of our country the fight has only just begun.
If we all commit to acting against extremism and devote a few minutes each day to resist, together we can make a difference.
Here’s how you can help:
Get involved. Decide what moves you and act on it. Don’t wait.
Check before you share. Make sure you’re sharing real news on social media. Check your sources before sharing information.
Follow or connect with people you trust and listen for their leads on a call to action. Contact me if you want a list of my go-to organizations and people to follow.
Talk to your children. Of course please be age appropriate, but don’t be afraid to talk with them about what’s going on in the world. Use books to help your child understand the issues. Here are a few great books on what it’s like to be a refugee.
At this point in the election cycle, it’s pretty easy to lose sight of what’s at stake when we head to the polls to vote. Things have gotten ugly and out of hand and there’s so much hatred and animosity. These days it’s hard to imagine a “United States of America” since division and divisiveness are working against us. With November 8th being the official day to vote, we all have a responsibility to ensure that this horrible cycle stops now.
For many of us, Election Day is already here. We have an incredible opportunity in many states to show up at the polls early to vote. Although yesterday was a crazy day, I found some time in the early evening to cast my ballot because so much is at stake.
We haven’t heard much by way of agreement in the months leading up to the election, but there are a few things I think we can ALL agree on: harmful pollution, climate change, and toxic chemicals are putting our families at risk. And these issues are impacting all children, regardless of their family’s political affiliation.
As parents, we care about our children and grandchildren and will do anything to protect them. We know that harmful pollution is making our children sick and increasing the threat of climate change. We also know that toxic chemicals don’t belong in any products sold to our families. There’s so much more work needed to ensure that our children are safe.
By electing candidates who care about these issues we can give all children a voice and a fighting chance. Here’s why it’s important to vote:
CLEAN AIR. Air pollution from fossil fuels leads to bad air quality in too many communities. Increases in smog can trigger asthma attacks and exacerbate other chronic health problems. Do not let your child’s health be voted away to protect polluters’ profits. Instead, VOTE to protect little lungs from toxic air pollution.
CLIMATE CHANGE. The same harmful pollution that is making our children sick is causing rising temperatures and extreme weather events. Our changing climate is making smog worse. It increases respiratory health threats, particularly for people with allergies and asthma. Also, intense heat waves exacerbate heart and lung conditions. VOTE for candidates who support proposals to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. And vote to put our country on a clean energy path while protecting American jobs!
TOXIC CHEMICALS. Dangerous chemicals are found in our daily lives. They often enter our homes and bodies without our realizing it. In fact, these chemicals may not even have been disclosed, identified or studied. Thousands of toxic chemicals found in everyday products are linked to potential reproductive and developmental toxicity, endocrine disruption, birth defects, cancer, asthma, headaches and skin irritants. Children are among the most vulnerable to such chemicals.
For years I struggled with my curly hair. I could never embrace the curl, and instead, I fought it. I would blow dry my hair for at least an hour to tame the curls. The end result was a shoulder length, stick straight bob. Years later I finally embraced the curl and it was so liberating. My hair was big, bold and curly and I had much more time on my hands.
Years ago I remember everyone getting a Brazilian Blowout or some form of a keratin straightening treatment. I have to admit that I loved the look. So silky smooth and straight. I never tried it myself, but I was tempted.
Then came the bombshell-Brazilian Blowouts and other keratin hair straightening treatments were found to contain high levels of formaldehyde.
According to Women’s Voices for the Earth: “Formaldehyde gas is a dangerous pollutant that can be severely irritating to the eyes, nose and throat, and long-term exposure to formaldehyde in the workplace has been associated with an increased risk of cancer.”
After this news, many made the switch to formaldehyde-free hair straightening products. Unfortunately, there’s more bad news. Many of these “formaldehyde-free” products aren’t much safer.
Here’s the scoop: many of the “formaldehyde-free” straighteners don’t technically contain formaldehyde as an ingredient, but they do contain other chemicals that release formaldehyde when in contact with high heat. For those of us who have struggled with straightening, we know that high heat is an important ingredient in the process. Using a hair dryer and/or a flat iron (both use high heat) is critical for these straightening treatments to work.
Even if you straighten your hair at home and use a straightening spray chances are you’re exposing yourself and those around you to formaldehyde. Cyclopentasiloxane, a chemical that emits formaldehyde at high heat, is a common ingredient found in flat iron sprays (also called thermal protection sprays).
In case you’re wondering, there’s less formaldehyde released from the “formaldehyde-free” products, but remember there’s no safe level of formaldehyde.
Here’s what you can do (thanks to Women’s Voices for the Earth for these great tips!):
Read labels! If you’re straightening your hair either at a salon or at home avoid heating products containing these chemicals:
Tell the FDA to put an end to Toxic Brazilian Blowouts & Ban Formaldehyde in Cosmetics HERE
Do you straighten your hair? What products do you use?
There’s some bad news for those of us who thought BPA was a thing of the past.
A new report released today tested nearly 200 food can linings for the toxic chemical, Bisphenol A (BPA) and found that two out of three cans tested have the chemical in the lining. The report took a look at cans of vegetables, fruits, soups, broth, gravy, milks and beans from Campbell’s, Del Monte, General Mills, Kroger, Albertsons and more.
BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that negatively impacts our hormonal systems. It can also contribute to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, type-2 diabetes, obesity, asthma and attention deficit disorder. Other studies have shown that BPA can migrate into food and then into people, raising concerns about low dose exposure.
For the first time ever, this report also took a look at the replacement materials for BPA in can linings, and to what extent their safety has been studied.
Here are some of the report findings:
100 percent of Campbell’s products sampled (15 of 15) contained BPA-based epoxy, while the company says they are making significant progress in its transition away from BPA.
71 percent of sample Del Monte cans (10 of 14) tested positive for BPA-based epoxy resins.
50 percent of sampled General Mills cans (six of 12, including Progresso) tested positive for BPA.
BPA was found in private-label cans sold at both Target and Walmart, the largest grocery retailer in the United States. In their private label products, 100 percent of Target cans sampled (five out of five) and 88 percent of Walmart cans sampled (seven out of eight) tested positive for BPA-based epoxy resins.
Some good news:
On the positive side, Amy’s Kitchen, Annie’s Homegrown (recently acquired by General Mills), Hain Celestial Group, and ConAgra have fully transitioned away from BPA and have disclosed the BPA alternatives they’re using. Eden Foods reported eliminating the use of BPA-based epoxy liners in 95 percent of its canned foods and stated that it is actively looking for alternatives. Whole Foods has clearly adopted the strongest policy of the retailers surveyed in the report. Whole Foods reports that store brand buyers are not currently accepting any new canned items with BPA in the lining material.
Upon learning about this report, Campbell Soup Company agreed to switch to all BPA-Free packaging by 2017. While this is a step in the right direction we still don’t know what they’ll be using as a replacement liner. BPA-free isn’t enough.
What about the BPA alternatives?
The report found that retailers and brands that are phasing out BPA could be replacing it with substitutes that are just as toxic, if not worse. Unfortunately not much is known about the safety of these substitutes. Some of the retailers were lining the cans with a PVC-based copolymer that is made from a known human carcinogen. I think we can all agree that known and possible cancer causing materials don’t belong in a can liner that comes in contact with our food.
What can you do?
Consumers should choose fresh or frozen foods, or only purchase canned food from manufacturers and retailers that fully disclose the identity and safety of their can linings. Look for food packaged in other materials such as glass and Tetra Pak containers.
Demand that national brands, grocery stores, big box retailers and dollar stores eliminate and safely substitute BPA from all food packaging and label all chemicals used in can liners.
Here’s yet another example of how a small change can have a big impact-and the starring community in this story is none other than my very own.
Bringing Safe Deodorant Into the Schools
Here’s the back story.
In 5th grade all students in our community have the opportunity to watch a “puberty movie”. It’s a right of passage throughout our country for many kids about to reach puberty. The film talks about what to expect as they approach puberty. I’ve never had a problem with the content shared with the kids. It’s age appropriate and reinforces the information that they’re (hopefully) receiving at home.
Throughout the video there is mention that kids this age should start wearing deodorant. There was also mention of using an antiperspirant, which is not safe for any age.
Each of my sons walked away from that 18 minute video with one piece of information. They needed to start wearing deodorant immediately. They even came home with a sample to test out.
The sample was a conventional deodorant filled with all sorts of ingredients that I really didn’t want under their arms.
For many years the state was supplying samples of deodorant for the kids. And then there were budget cuts. After a tremendous effort was made by the PTA it turned out that the cost of supplying a safe, non-toxic, deodorant sample to the entire student population was cost prohibitive. As most of us know, the safer deodorants tend to be more pricey than the conventional deodorants and antiperspirants and many don’t come in sample size.
But the PTA didn’t give up. One of the board members graciously reached out to a contact at one of my favorites-Tom’s of Maine– and they agreed to help out and share their new Tom’s of Maine Wicked Cool! Boys and Girls Deodorants with our 5th graders!
This deodorant doesn’t contain aluminum, parabens, artificial fragrances, colors or preservatives. I couldn’t think of a better product to introduce young children to their first dose of deodorant.
As many of you know, I’ve been working with Tom’s of Maine as a brand ambassador and part of their Goodness Circle for the past two years. I love this company for so many reasons and the list just got longer.
Big shout-out to all the parent volunteers who made this happen and for Tom’s of Maine who was willing to invest in a group of kids. Many times that first sample is what they’ll end up using for many years to come. It’s nice to know that their first exposure to deodorant will be safe.
If you’re looking to find this deodorant, specifically made for teens, you can find it online or at your local Target.
Check out my list of safe deodorants for teens and tweens HERE.
Does your 5th graders watch the “puberty movie”? Do they come home with samples? I would love to hear about it.
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