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Archive for Green Advocacy

November 11th, 2014

Salon Workers are Exposed to Nasty Toxic Chemicals

Groovy Green Livin Salon Workers

Salons can be a pretty hazardous place to work given that many harmful chemicals can be found in salon products. I’m always reminded of this every time I walk into a salon for a haircut. The overwhelming smell from the products literally stops me in my tracks. Imagine the predominantly female workforce in hair and nail salons who are exposed to these chemicals for many hours at a time on a daily basis.

Women’s Voices of the Earth has once again done some amazing work. They’ve just released a new report showing how these nasty chemicals in salon products harm the health of women working in salons.

This new report, Beauty and its Beast: Unmasking the impact of toxic chemicals on salon workers,  is the the first ever to document how toxic chemicals lurking in hair sprays, permanent waves, acrylic nail application and other salon products are harming the health of women who work in salons.

Groovy Green Livin Salon Workers

The report finds that salon workers are at an increased risk of cancer, miscarriages, neurological disorders, immune disorders, asthma, dermatitis and more.

The creation of safer products, better laws, and the use of best practices in salons can significantly reduce the health problems experienced by women working in salons.

Congress can pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act to ensure salon products are fully labeled and safe for salon worker health.

What the Report Shows

  • Harmful and irritating chemicals such as acetone, toluene, ammonia, and methyl methacrylate are commonly found in salon air.
  • Cancer-causing formaldehyde can be released from hair straighteners and flat iron sprays when used with high heat.
  • Hairdressers and cosmetologists may be more likely to give birth to low birth weight babies, especially when their work involves using hairspray and permanent waves.
  • Studies have found increased risks of several types of cancer in hairdressers.
  • Nail salon workers have greater risk of immune disorders such as lupus and primary biliary cirrhosis.

Salon Workers Head to D.C. with Report in Hand

With the report as ammunition, Women’s Voices for the Earth is bringing salon workers to Washington DC this week to lobby Congress to pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act. They’ll be telling their stories to lawmakers, federal agencies like the FDA, and the media about how their health has been harmed by toxic chemicals.

Everyone has the right to a safe workplace. But as long as companies continue to use harmful chemicals like cancer-causing formaldehyde (found in hair straighteners), styrene (found in hair extension and wig glue), and p-phenylenediamine (found in hair dyes) salon worker’s health will continue to be threatened.

What’s the Solution for Salon Workers?

Women working in salons shouldn’t have choose between their health and their livelihoods. We can support these courageous women by asking our own Congressional representatives to pass the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act HERE.

While we’re waiting for our government to act, salon workers and owners can take the following immediate actions:

  • Wear gloves
  • Use less toxic products
  • Improve salon ventilation systems
  • Don’t offer toxic salon services such as a Brazilian Blowout

Take a look at my picks for safe shampoos, nail polish and body lotion.

Salon workers deserve better. Don’t you agree?

 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 
photo credit: spo0nman via photopin cc

November 3rd, 2014

Mom Detective on the Soccer Field: Is Artificial Turf Toxic?

Groovy Green Livin Artificial Turf

This post was originally published at Moms Clean Air Force

It’s another gray, rainy day in New England and in a few short hours I’ll be driving a car filled with energetic young children to one of their four weekly soccer practices on a synthetic turf field. Unless thunder and lightening kick in their practice will go on, rain or even snow notwithstanding. The reason being an artificial turf field is almost always ready for play regardless of the weather.

For this reason and more the demand for artificial turf fields has grown to the point where more than “8,000 multi-use synthetic turf sports fields can be found throughout North American schools, colleges, parks and professional sports stadiums. About half of all NFL teams currently play their games on synthetic turf and, since 2003, over 70 FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cup matches have been played on synthetic turf soccer fields.

Artificial turf was originally invented by Monsanto in the early 1960’s and has taken several forms since then, with the most recent being “crumb rubber”. This type of artificial turf, which contains tiny black crumbs of rubber made from old car tires, can contain zinc, benzene, carbon black and lead, among other toxic substances.  As many parents well know, these “black crumbs” travel home in our children’s shoes, uniforms and hair and ultimately end up on the floor of our cars and homes.

Now we’re learning those black crumbs may be doing more harm than good. Soccer coach Amy Griffin began doing her own investigation  when two of her goalkeepers from the University of Washington were diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She compiled a list of 38 American soccer players — 34 of them goalies who have been diagnosed with cancer. Ethan Zohn, a former professional soccer player, winner of the reality-television series “Survivor”, co-founder of Grassroot Soccer and a Hodgkins lymphoma survivor has had similar findings. He’s compiled a list of 50 or so goalkeepers who’ve battled cancer.

“Since I’ve been public about my cancer journey, lots of soccer players that have or had cancer have reached out to me via social media etc. I noticed a weird similarity…many were keepers. Then Amy Griffin, the coach at University of Washington reached out because she noticed the same trend. Not all were the same age, but most were young adults, between 15-39.”

Both lists are not scientifically based, but the sheer number of players (especially goalkeepers) diagnosed with cancer is something that can’t be ignored and they raise concerns about the potential risks of playing on artificial turf.

Zohn started playing soccer when he was 6 years old and really began playing on turf when he was out of college. He freely admits that “the likelihood that playing on crumb rubber turf caused my cancer is very slim”, but goes on to add “kids growing up on artificial turf today with long term repetitive exposure is different.”

When asked why he thinks goalkeepers were taking the brunt of the diagnoses, Zohn responded with this:

“A dedicated goalkeeper trains differently than the others. We are in constant contact with the ground in many different ways. Some training sessions are 90 minutes of just diving to save low balls. We sit, stretch, dive, roll in it. We are down low and breathing the air, injesting rubber, it gets in our cuts, eyes, mouth, nose. On hot days the temp is 10 degrees hotter on turf. Add some water and you boil the stuff. “

As parents we should not have to sleuth around the playground making sure equipment and fields are free from toxic chemicals, nor should we have to tell our children that they can’t play a sport outside because it could make them sick.

If there are potential health hazards they need to be regulated before our children are playing and rolling around on them. It’s time to take the burden away from parents and place it where it belongs – with industry. Our government need to regulate toxic chemicals by requiring a more thorough health testing of products BEFORE known carcinogens end up in our children’s playgrounds, fields and ultimately in their bodies.

What can we do about artificial turf?

Last weekend I was sitting on the sidelines at my son’s soccer game when a group of concerned parents began discussing the dangers of artificial turf fields . While I was angry that there needed to be a discussion, it was refreshing to hear that parents were taking this seriously. The discussion led to the 20 million dollar question: “What can we do?”

Here are a few suggestions for concerned parents and children:

  • Wash your hands immediately after playing on a turf field. Showering is probably the best idea.
  • Encourage your children to take off their cleats and socks outside your home, so as not to track in the “black crumbs”.
  • Advocate for team benches on the sidelines so the players don’t have to sit directly on the artificial turf.
  • Request that goalkeeper training take place on the natural grass, not on the turf.
  • Encourage discussion in your city or town about the safety of these fields. Be present and vocal if your community is contemplating installing an artificial turf field or playground.

Our current chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, is badly broken. It allows chemicals onto the market without adequate safety testing. It’s time to change that.

TELL YOUR SENATORS: PROTECT OUR FAMILIES FROM TOXIC CHEMICALS

 Do your kids play sports on an artificial turf field?

 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 

photo credit: Bronski Beat via photopin cc

October 23rd, 2014

Dangerous Chemicals Found in Popular Halloween Costumes

Groovy Green Livin Halloween Costumes with Toxic Chemicals

This is a press release by Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff.org project, the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and Clean Water Action. I’m quoted in here as a concerned parent, wondering why we keep finding toxic chemicals in products marketed to our children. 

A study released today by the Ecology Center’s HealthyStuff.org project, the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow and Clean Water Action has found elevated levels of toxic chemicals in popular Halloween costumes, accessories and party supplies. The nonprofit Ecology Center tested 106 types of Halloween gear—purchased at national retailers such as CVS, Kroger, Party City, Target, Wal-Mart, and Walgreens—for substances linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer.  Advocates and parents in Massachusetts expressed outrage and dismay about the findings and called for legislators and retailers to act to ensure that consumer products are made safely.

“We found that seasonal products, like thousands of other products we have tested, are full of dangerous chemicals,” said Jeff Gearhart, HealthyStuff.org research director.  “Poorly regulated toxic chemicals consistently show up in seasonal products. Hazardous chemicals in consumer products pose unnecessary and avoidable health hazards to children, consumers, communities, workers and our environment.”

“It is beyond scary that chemicals that have been known or suspected to be hazardous for many years are still turning up in products that are designed for and marketed to children,” said Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director for Clean Water Action. “And it’s outrageous that the government has done almost nothing to protect the health of everyday people from these hazards.”

Clean Water Action and the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow coalition are working to pass state and federal legislation to require consumer products to be made with the safest available alternatives. The groups are also collaborators in the Mind-the-Store campaign which is calling on the nation’s largest 10 retailers to end the use of 100+ hazardous chemicals.

HealthyStuff.org tested Halloween products for chemicals based on their toxicity or tendency to build up in people and the environment. These chemicals include lead, bromine (brominated flame retardants), chlorine (vinyl/PVC plastic), phthalates, arsenic, and tin (organotins).

Groovy Green Livin Halloween Toxic ChemicalsSome products contained multiple chemical hazards, including a Toddler Batman Costume whose belt contained 29% regulated phthalates, 340ppm tin, and lead in the lining of the mask at 120 ppm. Overall, 39% of the products contained tin at levels suggesting organotin stabilizers, which are endocrine disruptors and can damage the developing brain and immune system.

Saunders noted that Toddler Batman Costume is currently sold out at all Wal-mart stores in a 50 mile radius of Boston and on Wal-Mart’s website, suggesting that this highly toxic product is extremely popular among unsuspecting parents and children.

Parents in the Boston reacted to the news with outrage and dismay.

“It’s shocking to me that these toxic costumes and toys are sold completely legally, and that the government is doing nothing about it,” said Quanda Burrell, a South End mother of two. “My children love Halloween, my 9 year old will even wear her costume to bed, but I never knew that I could be harming my kids.”

“I put lots of time and effort into finding safe products for my children and giving advice to other parents, and in many cases even I can’t tell which costumes are safe and which aren’t,” said Lori Alper, mother of 3 from Bedford, and author of the blog Groovy Green Livin’. “We can’t keep leaving parents alone with this struggle, it’s time for state and federal legislators and retailers to step in.”

Upon hearing about the report, Michelle Gottlieb of Marblehead immediately worried about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Mikey costume that she just bought for her youngest son, Asher, “If it turns out to be toxic, then I’m going to be extremely upset, because there is no way that I could have known from looking at the packaging and he will be heartbroken if I have to tell him he can’t wear it.” Fortunately for Asher’s Mikey dreams but unfortunately for Michelle’s peace of mind, the costume was not included in the study.

The results of this study are available on the easy-to-use consumer website – www.HealthyStuff.org and build on recent HealthyStuff studies on back-to-school products, summer seasonal & beach products and university-themed products.  The majority of these seasonal or specialty products routinely contain one or more toxic chemicals. Due to the fact that many consumer products are largely unregulated, the items tested sometimes have levels of toxic chemicals that exceed the regulated levels set for children’s products and toys.

In addition to finding many products with chemical hazards, HealthyStuff.org test data shows that many Halloween products do not contain dangerous substances, proving that safer products can be made.  For example, the results show shifts in some products away from hazardous phthalate plasticizers to less hazardous non-phthalate plasticizers.  The represents a market shift in the face of growing consumer and regulatory pressure.

SEE THE RESULTS HERE

It’s time to regulate consumer products so we don’t have to worry about this. Don’t you agree?!

photo credit: CaseyLessard via photopin cc

October 14th, 2014

Known Cancer Causing Chemical Found in Always Pads

 

Groovy Green Livin cancer causing chemicals in Always Pads

It’s enough. I don’t know about you, but  I’m getting tired of hearing that there are cancer causing chemicals in products that go in and/or on our bodies.

This time we’re talking menstrual pads. Not a comfortable subject for some, but this is something we need to talk about. It’s time to put an end to toxic chemicals showing up in these products that come in direct contact with our bodies.

Groovy Green Livin Always Cancer causing chemical

Cancer causing chemicals found in Always pads

Our friends at Women’s Voices for the Earth just discovered that Always pads release styrene, a known cancer causing chemical, along with chloroform, acetone, chloromethane, and other toxic chemicals listed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the State of California Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogens, and reproductive and developmental toxins. 

Both scented and unscented Always Ultra Thin pads were tested, as well as scented and unscented Always Infinity.

None of these chemicals—and no ingredients whatsoever—are listed on the Always label.

The worst part? These secret toxic chemicals are coming into contact with some of the most sensitive and absorptive skin on our bodies!

Toxic chemicals don’t belong in feminine care products. Period.

What you can do

Always shareholders are meeting in Cincinnati TODAY to talk about what’s important to the company, and they need to hear from you!

Please take a moment to call Always and tell them to list ingredients so that we have the information we need to protect our health.

Always Customer Service number: 1 (800) 888-3115

Sample script:

Hello. I just saw test results from Women’s Voices for the Earth that show chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive harm, and allergies in Always pads – and no ingredients are listed on the label. We have a right to know what we’re using on our bodies. Please list all ingredients and remove harmful chemicals.

Take action

Send an email HERE telling Always and Tampax to list all ingredients and remove harmful chemicals!

Today Women’s Voices for the Earth and Naturally Savvy will be delivering over  21,000 signatures to the makers of Always from women demanding to know what’s in pads!

Did this info surprise you? How are you planning to take action? 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 

photo credit: Timothy Valentine via photopin cc

 

September 21st, 2014

Why This Mom Cares About the Climate Crisis

Groovy Green Livin People's Climate March

This post was originally published in The Huffington Post

Although I live only a few short hours from New York City, a trip to New York this weekend just isn’t in the cards. I’ll be sticking close to Boston as thousands of people join forces for The People’s Climate March this Sunday, September 21st. It’s being dubbed the “largest climate march in history” by organizers, and has the potential to draw hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of New York City.

Unfortunately I won’t be one of them. Like many, I want to be there, but for one reason or another can’t make it happen. Thankfully, we are so fortunate to live in a world where we no longer have to be physically present to have a big impact. The internet and technology make all of this possible. So on Sunday, while so many amazing people find themselves physically marching in support of a climate crisis I so desperately want to stop, I’ll be following along, sharing and adding to the experience virtually.

Why I Care About the Climate Crisis

My family is unique and yet like so many other families. Every day I celebrate my three boys, since without them I couldn’t wear my treasured “mother” hat.  Creating our family didn’t come easily.  We were forced, as many are, to place a tremendous amount of thought into whether or not we wanted to bring children into this world. Infertility will do that to you. We made a conscious decision to start a family and found our way through both adoption and natural childbirth.

Now here we are-14, 12 and 10 years after making that difficult decision to bring life into this world. A world in which my boys will soon inherit along with a climate that’s spiraling out of control right before our very eyes.

It is implausible to imagine saddling the children of today with the world as it presently exists. Something must be done to repair our planet, and it must be done quickly.

As people flood the streets of New York City this Sunday, September 21st,  for the People’s Climate March I’ll be marching along in spirit, doing my part from afar to show I care deeply about this issue (these are things you can do too).

  • I’ll use my voice on social media to share information and spread the words of the march participants, using the hashtag #PeoplesClimate.
  • I’ll continue writing about the climate crisis we’re all facing.
  • I’ll share photos and create banners with the words: ‘Action, Not Words: …..!’ (add your local, national, or regional demand in dotted area at the end). Photos can be submitted by social media share using #peoplesclimate hashtag or check this link.
  • I’ll continue to talk, create discussion and share perspective with friends, neighbors and colleagues on the issues surrounding climate change.

My boys are starting to understand the complexities of our world, but they are too young to have a voice-or a voice that will be heard and make an impact. As parents it is our job to advocate for our children and protect them from injustice. The People’s Climate March is a perfect opportunity to be a voice among many, stepping up to the plate to make the world a better place for us all.

Will you join me?

photo credit: f_lynx via photopin cc

 

September 9th, 2014

The Truth About Candy Sold in America

Groovy Green Livin Candy

 

Wondering why the candy in America might seem just a bit brighter in color than it’s sweet cousin in Europe? The answer might surprise you.  Many candy companies in the US use artificial food coloring for the candy they sell and distribute in the United States, but that same candy sold in Europe gets its coloring from natural sources.

I have to admit, peanut M&M’s are my weakness. Especially frozen. But after looking at the long list of artificial food dyes in those delicious candies I’m ready to take my indulgence elsewhere: COLORING (INCLUDES BLUE 1 LAKE, RED 40, YELLOW 6, YELLOW 5, BLUE 1, RED 40 LAKE, BLUE 2 LAKE, YELLOW 6 LAKE, YELLOW 5 LAKE, BLUE 2).

You won’t find those color additives in European M&M’s.

Why are companies selling safer candy in Europe than they are in the US?

According to Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of The Center for Science in the Public Interest:

“There’s been evidence for almost 40 years that food dyes trigger hyperactivity or inattention in children. About six years ago, the British government sponsored studies that found exactly that, so they urged food companies in Britain to replace synthetic dyes with natural colorings or no added colorings, and many British companies switched over. And then the European Union passed a law requiring that any food that contained the dyes used in those two British studies would have to put a warning notice on, warning consumers that the dyes might trigger hyperactivity. And so with the threat of a warning label, it’s really hard to find these synthetic dyes.”

Here’s what a warning label in Europe would say:  “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” We have no such warning label in the US.

What’s shocking to me is that these companies are clearly able to remove dangerous artificial food dyes from their products and have done so in other countries, yet they’re not willing to remove them from products sold in America. What does this say about how they value the lives of American children?

The FDA isn’t helping either. They continue to take the position that more research is needed before they make any decisions about artificial food dyes.

What you can do

  • READ LABELS: In America all food labels must spell out which artificial food dyes are used in a product. If you see ingredients such as Red 40, Yellow 6 and Blue 1 (or any other color with a number after it) steer clear. Read your labels very carefully so you can make an educated decision about the food you buy. 
  • SUPPORT COMPANIES that don’t use artificial food dye. Let your dollars do the talking!
  • SIGN THIS PETITION on Change.org asking Mars, the maker of M&M’s candies, to stop coloring its products with petroleum-based artificial food dyes.

How do you feel about companies selling products in America with harmful ingredients that they’ve voluntarily removed in other countries? 

 


P.S. If you liked this post you might enjoy our Groovy Green Livin NewsletterReceive new posts and special opportunities delivered right to your inbox! Sign up HERE.


 

photo credit: SlipStreamJC via photopin cc

May 14th, 2014

The Problem with Pesticides in Our Yards

Groovy Green Livin Pesticides in Our Yards

The smell of pesticides is in the air.

Can you smell them?

When spring hits in New England it hits hard. We always laugh because spring usually sticks around for a week or two and then we dive head first into the heat of summer. But for now it’s spring and we’re all enjoying sports and other outdoor activities after a long winter.

With the arrival of spring comes an overwhelming number of  landscaping trucks lining the roads. Each one competing for the neighbor’s lawn business. Each one promising to make your lawn the greenest of them all.

On my morning run I noticed many lawns with this sign poking out of the green grass.

Groovy Green Livin Pesticides

Along with the sign comes the overpowering smell of pesticides.

There’s something ironic about those small signs poking out of the super green grass. The sign is small. So small that you need to get up close to read it. There’s an outline of an adult, a child and a dog. According to the yellow card we should all keep off the grass.

I run through neighborhoods. I live in suburbia. The neighborhoods are filled with people. Children and pets are everywhere. How can we possibly keep off the grass?

What will happen if we don’t?

What’s the Problem with Synthetic Pesticides?

The synthetic pesticides we’re using on our lawn are filled with toxic chemicals. A chemical cocktail that’s meant to kill weeds and other non-desirable additions to a perfectly manicured lawn. These harmful pesticides end up flowing into lakes, streams and oceans and ultimately end up in our drinking water.

Our kids play outside and hopefully roll around on the lawn. If your kids are like my kids they get dirty and their skin comes in direct contact with the dirt, plants and grass.

The pesticides we’re using on our lawns are known in some cases to cause cancer, Parkinson’s Disease, hormonal disruption and other health issues.

For the life of me I can’t figure out why anyone would want something so toxic on their lawn.

Lack of Regulation 

This is another important reminder that just because something is on the shelves in the store doesn’t mean it’s safe. Unfortunately that’s the way our broken system is currently set up. There are virtually no regulations in place to keep us safe. The synthetic products we’re being encouraged to put on our lawns are filled with harmful and frightening ingredients.

Not something I want my kids rolling around on.

Pesticides and Our Chemical Free Lawn

A few days ago a lawn care company took the time to knock on our front door. Our lawn looks that bad.

The company employee suggested we use their services to whip our lawn into shape. Their services included multiple sprays and pesticide applications.

When we let him know that we already use an organic lawn care service he suggested we get an immediate refund.

Hmmm. Does a lawn covered with dandelions warrant a refund?

My neighbors might disagree (although many of them have their own sea of yellow), but my dandelions mean more than just a pretty yellow covering. They’re symbolic of a safe lawn for my kids and all kids to play on.

What You Can Do

Take your shoes off. In our house we are attempting to contain the toxin filled outdoors by declaring our home a “shoe free” zone.

Don’t use pesticides on your lawn and garden. Use nothing or find a brand or company that uses only organic ingredients that are safe for pets and people. Be prepared that your lawn might not look perfect, but you’ll be making the world a bit safer for all of us.

Where do you fall in the pesticide v. pesticide-free lawn care? Do you use pesticides and fertilizers? Or do you have a chemical-free lawn? 

photo credit: messycupcakes via photopin cc, Nathan Rein via photopin cc

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About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. I hope you'll join me as I embark on a journey to live a healthy life. Along the way I might make a few pit stops to fight for issues that affect the health and safety of our families. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us. Together we'll discover that simple, small changes can lead to a healthier lifestyle and a greener planet.

Click HERE to contact Lori

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Lori on ABC World News

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