Do you know what the “non-toxic” label means?

toxc nonI’ve been on a “label kick” lately, trying to discover some of the lesser known facts about what it all means.

I’ve talked about fragrance-free vs. unscented, PLU produce labels and certified-organic vs. organic ingredients.

Well now, how about “non-toxic”?  Do you know what the label means? Let me tell you…

… it means NOTHING. The reality is that the non-toxic labeling is NOT regulated by the FDA, so it literally means nothing.

From commercial cleaners to cosmetics, when it says it’s non-toxic it doesn’t say anything beneficial about the product.  Any manufacturer can place this on their label to give you peace of mind about what you’re purchasing.  And sadly they can do it, just because the term isn’t regulated.toxc

I, myself, have been misled when I thought that I was buying something safe.  In fact, I even bought a tube of non-toxic face paint for my son’s Halloween costume (so I could draw on a scraggly pirate beard!) but when it came down to it, I sacrificed my expensive eyeliner instead, simply because I knew it was safe.

Sure, there are quality products that will have this term on the label, but the next time you see “non-toxic”, don’t make assumptions about what’s NOT in the product because you could be getting more than you bargained for (and more than these words are telling you).

Know (and admit!) when cookware needs to be replaced

ckware collFor me, that time is NOW! I’m embarrassed to say that I have yet to replace all of my cookware that is in DESPERATE need of replacing.  There are many pots and pans that have taken up permanent residence in my cabinet but I never use them.  I see them, and I know I wouldn’t dream of cooking with them but, there they sit.

The reason I don’t cook with them?… they’re non-stick and some of them are looking a bit unhealthy.  They have scrapes on the surface and I worry that their coating will end up in our food.  In actuality, the flakes are inert, but those non-stick pans can actually omit toxic fumes when they get too hot.

These aluminum pans, coated in polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE – also known as Teflon), emit fumes when subjected to high heat. Inhaling these fumes can actually cause flu-like symptoms. And although the long-term effects haven’t been studied, we do know that exposure to PTFE can create problems like low birth-weight babies, thyroid and liver issues, as well as weakened immune systems.

The better options for cookwares are actually stainless steel for stove-top cooking and glass bakeware for the oven.  Cast iron is another choice. I know there are more and more “green cookwares” becoming available and those will definitely be on my list of things to research too.

In the meanwhile, if you feel “stuck with your non-stick cookware”, there are a few tips to lessen your exposure to the fcast irn pnumes:

  • Cook at lower temperatures and don’t pre-heat your pans at high temps.  It may take a little extra time, but it’s worth it.
  • Never bake at over 500 degrees.
  • Use your exhaust fan.
  • (A little side note too:  these fumes are highly toxic to birds, so keep your feathered friends far from the kitchen.)

Over the holidays, my family gifted me with more “cash than prizes”… and I think it’s due time Mom Goes Green uses that cash, makes good on her self-promise and kicks that nasty cookware to the curb!

(BTW… if you have recommendations, I would looove to hear them!)

Do you know what’s on your new mattress?

mttrssWhenever my husband is away on business my kids also “relocate”… into our bed, that is.  Each night I find myself planted in the middle of our king-sized bed snuggled between my “hot water bottle” kids.

During his recent trip, I could feel myself sleeping on what has become a hump in the middle of the bed and literally worried about rolling onto one of the kids.  It became quite obvious that our mattress has seen better days since we’ve both apparently made our “impression”.

The choice of a new mattress is a simple one for me, especially after researching the purchase of our son’s mattress not so long ago, but I realized it’s also an opportunity to again share some pretty serious information.

Here is the concern:  Beginning July 1, 2007, Federal Fire Retardant Regulations mandated mattress manufacturers to INCREASE the levels of toxic fire retardants, but DO NOT require them to list the ingredients in the contents!toxc

And what do these fire retardants contain?… boric acid, melamine, antimony and formaldehyde… all chemicals linked to cancer.  Antimony alone causes heart muscle damage and a single dermal application has killed rabbits in laboratory tests.  Additional tests on Memory Foam mattresses even detected 61 chemical emissions and off-gassing from a single mattress.  Think about how many hours you spend sleeping on your mattress… every … single … night.  All the while, you are inhaling these toxic off-gassing chemicals. I find it frightening, AND infuriating, especially where our children are concerned.

If you’d like to take a look at my original post and view a supporting news report, you can find it here.  Or maybe you’d just like to know to answer…

mattress fillFor us, the ONLY answer is an organic mattress.  They’re made of pure organic wool, 100% organic cotton covers and 100% natural latex cores, providing even better fire retardancy than the chemicals… naturally! For our son, we selected a Savvy Rest mattress from Healthy Home Sleep Gallery (and we DIDN’T need a prescription!… more on that here).  Was it more than the common mattress store brands?  Sure, it was… (the cheapest method to comply with the fire retardant regulations is to simply spray on the chemicals!), but was it worth it when we made a new mattress purchase for our son?… without a doubt.

Now that it’s nearing time to replace our own mattress, I can’t imagine choosing anything other than organic for our own health…  but also because it’s only a matter of time before my two precious “hot water bottles” plan another sleepover too, and I want ALL of us to rest and breath easy (and healthy)!

Simple tip: Choose low- or no-VOC paint… always!

The easiespain't cnst way to visually freshen-up the inside of a house is paint.  Add a new color and, instantly, the place looks lively again.  In fact, every year approximately 630 MILLION gallons of paint are sold in the U.S. alone.

After recently having new windows installed in our home, I found myself in this exact situation and needed to purchase paint to cover all of the new trim.  While some of us might get caught up in the color palette, I found myself laboring over the SAFEST paint.

The concern?  VOCs – volatile organic compounds.  These off-gassing, toxic chemical emissions contribute to ozone and smog formation and are linked to respiratory illnesses and memory impairment, so they put both our health and our environment at risk. In fact, the concentration of indoor VOCs is often higher than outdoors (by about four-to-six times as much) as a result of paints, stains, and varnishes used in our home, and these emissions can continue for multiple years after the finish is applied.pain't roll

You can avoid this health and environmental hazard by choosing low- or no-VOC finishes… always.  Simple as that.

If you think a little bit of paint can’t possibly matter, consider this:

The amount of VOC toxic emissions saved by purchasing just a few gallons of low-VOC paint each year is equivalent to the VOC that would be saved if you didn’t drive your car for an entire year.

So, pick your palette, go crazy with the colors but just remember to say “hold the VOCs, please!”

How does YOUR sunscreen rate for safety (and chemicals!)?

sunshnNow that the countdown to the final days of school has reached “10 days and counting” all my kids can talk about is all the fun we’ll have this summer and our annual beach vacation!

But any parent knows that fun in the sun also means extra caution to make sure our precious little ones (ourselves included!) don’t get fried during “sun fun”, so if you haven’t bought it already, sunscreen is sure to be a purchase in the very near future.

The concern with sunscreen is the presence of some nasty chemicals that we really don’t want to apply to our bodies daily, or even “frequently” for that matter, since they absorb into our skin and accumulate. Many are believed to cause hormone disruption, cell damage and allergies, amongst other things. They include vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), Oxybenzone, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Mexoryl, Avobenzone… augh!… just a bunch of things that we could really do without!sunscrn

So instead of laboring over labels and trying (sometimes in vane) to decipher the ingredients… (drumroll, please….)  Environmental Working Group has released its 2010 list and ratings of over 500 sunscreen products.  Believe me, it is much easier to find one on the “best” list and just know you have a good product to keep you safe from the sun AND the nasty chemicals.

You can also look-up the products you have been using to see how they rate.  Sadly, all of ours were in the “caution” category so Mom Goes Green will be doing her research too.  Fortunately, EWG has done most of the work for us, so the answers are just a few clicks away.

Now check it out, slather on the good stuff and GO PLAY… summer is almost here!