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Archive for Green Advocacy

March 30th, 2016

Is BPA In Your Food Cans? New Report Says Yes!

Is BPA In Your Food Cans? New Report Says Yes!

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.
  • Join the national online campaign calling on Kroger and Campbell’s to eliminate and safely substitute BPA.

Campbell Soup Company‘s decision to switch to all BPA-Free packaging by 2017 is a step in the right direction. Hopefully other canned food retailers will follow their lead.

The question now becomes what will they switch to and will it be safer than BPA? 


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March 8th, 2016

It Can Be Done! Bringing Safe Deodorant to Students

It Can Be Done! Bringing Safe Deodorant to Students

This is a story about deodorant.

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know that one of my favorite sayings is “Together we can change the world“.

I’ve seen it happen over and over.

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.

I wrote about my concerns. Twice. Which prompted discussions with the principal, community members and the PTA.

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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photo credit: Here they come!!!! via photopin (license)

February 22nd, 2016

Is There Asbestos In Your Child’s School?

Is There Asbestos In Your Child's School

This post about was originally published at Moms Clean Air Force

Do you know if your child’s school building has asbestos?

When we send our children off to school each morning there’s an underlying assumption that they are headed to a safe and healthy environment for learning. Unfortunately that’s not always the case.

Asbestos, an issue that many of us thought to be resolved, continues to plague schools and pose a health threat in classrooms throughout the country.

If a school was built before the 1980s, it’s likely that it contains some form of asbestos. During that time it was used throughout schools for everything ranging from insulation, pipe wrap, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, coatings, roof shingles and drywall. It was also used as table tops, theater fire curtains, and backing on chalk boards. It still exists in many of our schools and continues to pose a significant public health threat.

Asbestos isn’t harmful unless it’s disturbed (through routine repairs or renovations) or starts to deteriorate. Once this happens the dust enters the air and can be inhaled by students, teachers and other school employees. Those exposed to the asbestos dust are at an increased risk for mesothelioma, lung cancer and other lung ailments.

The Environmental Protection Agency “… has determined that exposure to asbestos in school buildings poses a significant hazard to public health. Exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to serious and irreversible diseases.” It is a known human carcinogen and its negative health effects can continue even after the exposure has stopped.

Asbestos is responsible for 12,000-15,000 deaths in the United States each year. Although it is banned in 54 countries, it has not been banned in the US.

There is no safe level of exposure.

Is there a connection between asbestos and asthma?

Asbestos is considered an indoor air pollutant and also a human carcinogen. Indoor air pollutants are known to be environmental factors that trigger asthma symptoms.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. An average of one out of every 10 school-aged children has asthma, the most common chronic disease of childhood. Asthma is generally caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors.

An asthma attack can occur when someone with asthma is exposed to and asthma trigger such as such as cigarette smoke, dust mites, car exhaust or smog. While there is no definitive correlation between asthma and asbestos exposure, it’s impossible to rule out that it could trigger asthma-like symptoms.

What’s being done about asbestos is schools?

In 1986 legislators enacted the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) to require public school districts and non-profit schools including charter schools and schools affiliated with religious institutions to:

  • Inspect their schools for asbestos-containing building material
  • Prepare management plans and to take action to prevent or reduce hazards

A recent report  published by United States Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) determined that the passage of AHERA in 1986 has done little to protect our children from the asbestos issue still prevalent in our schools.

In March of 2015 Senators Markey and Boxer sent letters to the governors of all 50 states to ask whether they’ve been implementing and enforcing AHERA.  They received responses from only 20 of the 50 states. Their findings indicated that states are not in compliance with the inspections required by AHERA and asbestos issues continue to trouble many of our country’s aging schools.

The failure of 30 states to respond and the ambiguity in the responses from the states that did respond prompted the Senators to propose a set of recommendations to strengthen AHERA and to raise awareness about the large problem in the United States.

“The public deserves access to information about where asbestos can be found in products, school buildings, and elsewhere to empower the public to avoid preventable asbestos exposures.”

Their recommendation is to amend The Asbestos Information Act of 1988 (which required a one-time publication of asbestos-containing products) to provide consumers with access to current information about asbestos-containing products. They also propose strengthening the original AHERA and make funds available for AHERA enforcement.

This is progress, but we have a long way to go before our schools are safe for our children and school employees. We can do better. We have to do better.

Do you know if there’s asbestos in your child’s school? 


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: SAKURAKO – Entrance ceremony. [Explored] via photopin (license)

February 9th, 2016

Mars to Remove Artificial Food Colors from M&Ms and More

Mars to Remove Artificial Food Dye from M&Ms and More Groovy Green Livin

Big news! Mars, Inc. recently announced that it will remove synthetic food dyes from its entire human food portfolio. Not only is this a step in the right direction, but Mars, Inc. has taken the lead on something that many of us have been fighting for over the past few years. Along with this monumental decision comes the hope that others in the food industry will recognize the need for change and follow along.

Mars, Inc. is the maker of M & M’s, Skittles, and many other food products.

According to Mars:

“Mars, Incorporated….will remove all artificial colors from its human food products as part of a commitment to meet evolving consumer preferences….Products across the range of the company’s chocolate, gum, confection, food and drink businesses will be affected by the change, which will take place incrementally over the next five years.

A big shout out to Mars, Inc. for listening to the concerns of consumers (spearheaded by the Center for Science in the Public Interest). For years we’ve been worried that artificial food dyes are many times made from petroleum and possess a “rainbow of risks to children.” Those risks include hyperactivity in children, cancer (in animal studies), and allergic reactions. We’ve been saying for years that adding artificial food coloring serves no nutritional purpose. It’s sole purpose is cosmetic, making the food more appealing and marketable to kids. Not cool.

There’s no question that this is a huge advance for parents and children. I’m all for companies taking steps in the right direction. Every small (or large) step helps to make the world a bit safer for everyone.

Here’s the crazy part that I’m really having a hard time understanding.

Many candy companies in the U.S. (including Mars, Inc.!) have used 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. Food and other products containing artificial food coloring and sold is Europe would have a warning label in that would say:  “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” We have no warning label in the US.

This is not a new issue. Mars, Inc. UK removed artificial food dyes in 2006. But Mars, Inc. has continued to use artificial food coloring in the US for 10 years!

Kudos to Mars, Inc. for FINALLY removing artificial food coloring from their US products.

But now the real question is why will it take 5 years to phase out the use of synthetic food dyes? There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Mars, Inc. is clearly able to remove dangerous artificial food dyes from their products and has done so in other countries, yet for some reason the process will take 5 years to implement in America.

That’s 5 more years of our children being exposed to the dangers of synthetic food dyes.

Also, it’s important to point out that this decision is only regarding colors, not artificial flavors. We still have some work to do!

What do you think about the Mars, Inc. decision to remove artificial food coloring from its entire human food portfolio?  


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: Forever M&Ms via photopin (license)

February 5th, 2016

We Want Safer Flooring and Furniture

Hey Warren Buffet, We Want Safer Flooring and Furniture Groovy Green Livin

Over a year ago I joined thousands of others and wrote a letter to Macy’s letting them know that I was concerned about toxic chemicals that may be in products they were selling.  I was especially concerned about toxic flame retardants, which are common in upholstered furniture.

Flame retardants are bad news. They’ve been linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption and other serious health problems, yet much of the furniture in our stores continues to be filled with these toxic chemicals. They are known to migrate out of couches and other furniture, get into the dust inside our homes and make their way into our bodies.

When I sent my letter to Macy’s my letter was one of thousands of emails that they received from customers encouraging them to address the harmful chemicals.

Macy’s listened!

After much consumer pressure, Macy’s agreed to ensure the furniture they sell is free of toxic flame retardants.

Other big retailers, including Lowe’s, have also agreed to adopt policies to eliminate toxic chemicals in their furniture and flooring.

We want safer flooring and furniture from Berkshire Hathaway

Hey Warren Buffet, We Want Safer Flooring and Furniture

Now the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Mind the Store campaign is asking one of the world’s richest people and one of America’s biggest investors in furniture and flooring retailers, Warren Buffett, to help stop the spread of these unnecessary and harmful chemicals that are getting into our homes.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns companies that are among the biggest retailers of furniture and flooring nationwide.  These include the newest Nebraska Furniture Mart store in Texas that is expected to be the highest-volume furniture store in the U.S., with a projected billion dollars in sales in one year alone.

In 2012, Warren Buffet said, “taking shortcuts is not the pathway to achieving sustainable competitive advantage, nor is it an avenue toward satisfying customers.  A company must invest in the key ingredients of profitability: its people, communities and the environment.”  Warren Buffett has noted sustainability is integral to a company’s profitability – yet his retailers are lagging behind competitors when it comes to addressing toxic chemicals in furniture & flooring– clearly not the Buffett way.

IKEA, Macy’s, Home Depot, Walmart, Lowe’s and Lumber Liquidators are phasing out these same chemicals from furniture and/or flooring, so when will Warren Buffett catch up and do the same?

While not all furniture and flooring contains toxic chemicals, we are asking Berkshire Hathaway’s retailers to work with their suppliers to completely phase out these unnecessary and dangerous chemicals.

We know safer and cost effective alternatives to the toxic chemicals found in furniture and flooring are widely available. Warren Buffett has a responsibility to give consumers safe products, and getting rid of toxic chemicals is good for the environment, consumers’ health, and business.

Stand with the Mind the Store campaign and tell Warren Buffet to be a sustainability leader and invest in safe furniture and flooring.

Send a message to Berkshire Hathaway’s CEO Warren Buffett and its retailers today! Sign this petition to ask Warren Buffett and his company Berkshire Hathaway to join other top retailers and invest in safe furniture and flooring.


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photo credit: Dreamer via photopin (license)

December 14th, 2015

How to Find Non-Toxic Flooring

How to Find Non-Toxic Flooring Groovy Green Livin

This was originally published at Moms Clean Air Force

Choosing non-toxic flooring for your home might sound like a simple task, but unfortunately, many of the flooring options available contain harmful chemicals. Toxic chemicals in flooring can be a significant source of indoor air pollution. Air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk according toestimates. In 2012, around 7 million people died, one in eight of total global deaths, as a result of air pollution. 4.3 million of those deaths were attributable to indoor air pollution.

If you are in the process of choosing new or replacement flooring, it’s important to understand how each option could impact the indoor air quality of your home.

Carpeting

While carpeting has been a popular choice, we now know new carpet installation is a large contributor to indoor air pollution. Carpeting can fill household air with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including probable carcinogens like formaldehyde, benzene and stain repellents. There are a few safer carpet options available, but there are also alternatives to carpet including tile, hardwood, linoleum and vinyl.

Ceramic Tile 

Ceramic tile is generally a safe, non-toxic option that is easy to maintain. It’s important to ask the distributor and installer specific questions about the safety of the grout, the ventilation process used during installation and any other materials used that could cause toxic fumes.

Hardwood 

For anyone with allergies, hardwood is typically a good option. The wood surface allows for dust and other allergens to be removed easily. True hardwood is made from solid wood harvested from trees. It’s important to choose a non-toxic finish when installing new flooring. Hardwood is not to be confused with laminate, which was called out in a 60 Minutes story back in March 2015. Laminate flooring is a synthetic product made to look like real wood. The flooring giant, Lumber Liquidators, was accused of selling illegally sourced laminate wood with high levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

Vinyl and Linoleum 

Many consumers are opting for vinyl or linoleum because they are durable, versatile and economical options. Vinyl and linoleum are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are very different types of flooring.

Linoleum flooring is made from all-natural and biodegradable materials including linseed oil, cork dust, pine resin and wood flour. It is very resilient and can last up to 30-40 years. Vinyl on the other hand is a petroleum-based synthetic product, made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resin along with additives, such as plasticizers, stabilizers, pigments, and fillers. Vinyl flooring can last anywhere from 10 to 20 years.

Why is vinyl flooring hazardous?

A recent study found that most vinyl flooring, made from reprocessed plastic, contained toxic phthalates, lead, cadmium, brominated flame retardants, and other toxic chemicals. These chemicals can contribute to indoor air pollution by drifting out of the vinyl and into the air and dust inside homes. There’s some good news for consumers: major retailers including Lumber Liquidators, Home Depot, Menards and Lowe’s are all taking steps to remove toxic phthalates from their vinyl flooring.

What to look for when purchasing flooring

    • Instead of carpet, chose hard-surfaced flooring and rugs that can be removed and cleaned outside.
    • Look for non-toxic and eco-friendly options. Ask questions of manufacturers and installers regarding materials used, safety and environmental claims.
    • Decline any stain-resistance treatments.
    • Look for products made without vinyl such as hardwood, linoleum and ceramic tile.

For the health of our families, please continue to support meaningful legislation that prevents these chemicals from ending up in our homes.

What type of flooring do you have in your apartment or home?

FOR MORE INFO: PLEASE CHECK OUT CLIMATE CHANGE AT HOME.

TELL YOUR SENATORS: GET THE JOB DONE ON TOXIC CHEMICAL REFORM


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photo credit: aa2 res via photopin (license)

November 2nd, 2015

Mom Detective: Are Wrinkle-Free Sheets Making Me Sick?

Mom Detective: Are Wrinkle-Free Sheets Making Me Sick? Groovy Green Livin

This article was originally published on Moms Clean Air Force

We are a culture obsessed with being wrinkle-free. Take a minute to Google ‘wrinkle-free’ and a long list of products will pop up, ranging from clothing to sheets. Buying wrinkle-free takes the time, elbow grease and the heat out of ironing. Our busy lifestyles make anything that will save us a few extra minutes seem more desirable. Thus, the demand for wrinkle-free products. No ironing required.

As one store shares on its website:

“If you love the pristine look of freshly pressed sheets but don’t want to spend time ironing, our wrinkle-free sheets are a dream come true.”

What makes something wrinkle-free?

I contacted the store promoting these wrinkle-free sheets to ask what makes their sheets wrinkle-free. Initially they claimed their sheets are made from a wrinkle-resistant cotton which is not treated with any chemicals. After digging a little deeper they disclosed that the “wrinkle-resistant cotton” used to make the sheets is chemically treated.

Most wrinkle-free or wrinkle resistant sheets are “finished” with a chemical process to keep them from wrinkling. That chemical process generally includes the use of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is predominantly used as an embalming fluid — as a way to preserve something. I have a distinct memory of a formaldehyde smell from high school biology when we used it to preserve frogs. Formaldehyde is also used to make clothing wrinkle-free and stain resistant by either soaking the fabric in formaldehyde or exposing the fabric to formaldehyde gases — then baking the fabric at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This process prevents the fibers in the fabric from wrinkling after being washed.

Unfortunately, the use of formaldehyde and other chemicals doesn’t have to be disclosed anywhere on the product label. The scary truth is that the government doesn’t regulate formaldehyde levels in bedding. There’s no requirement to disclose to the consumer when formaldehyde is used.

The problem with formaldehyde.

The use of, and exposure to formaldehyde produces a laundry list of possible health hazards including watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat — coughing, wheezing, nausea, and skin irritation.

In 1987, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

“…classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure. Since that time, some studies of humans have suggested that formaldehyde exposure is associated with certain types of cancer. “

In 2011, the National Toxicology Program, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, classified formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s annual Time Use Survey, Americans aged 15 and over sleep about  8 hours and 45 minutes each night. While a good night’s sleep is crucial, being exposed to “wrinkle-free” bedding treated with formaldehyde for almost 9 hours a night is worrisome. There’s no denying that any exposure to aknown carcinogen can increase your risk of cancer.

Precautions and options to avoid exposure to formaldehyde treated bedding:

  • Don’t buy wrinkle-free bedding.
  • Purchase organic bedding.
  • ALWAYS wash new bedding before use.
  • Ask questions of manufacturers prior to making a purchase. We have the right to know what’s in our products.
  • Support companies that don’t use toxic chemicals on their bedding.
  • Work towards the disclosure of the use of formaldehyde in our bedding.
  • Keep fighting for strong toxic chemical reform and please sign this:

TELL YOUR SENATORS: GET THE JOB DONE ON TOXIC CHEMICAL REFORM


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: Light & Shadow On The Sheets via photopin (license)

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Alper-46

About Lori

I’m Lori Popkewitz Alper, a recovering attorney, mom of three and the Founder of Groovy Green Livin. Come along with me as I work hard to make the world a little safer for each of us.

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