Toxic? When non-stick pans mean non-“healthy” too…

An essential part of maintaining good health is doing plenty of cooking at home, so we can control and select our own ingredients and food choices.  But what cook doesn’t love their collection of non-stick cookware?  Well, what if I told you those conveniences can be hazardous to our health?

non stck cookwr(This is the part where we all sigh and our shoulders droop a little, I know!)

I just learned that non-stick pans can actually omit toxic fumes when they get too hot.  Yes, throw another log on the “disappointment fire”!  It seems these aluminum pans, coated in Polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE (also known as Teflon), can 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 extensively studied, we do know that exposure to PTFE can create problems like low birth-weight babies, thyroid and liver issues, elevated cholesterol levels, as well as weakened immune systems.

(A few years ago I remember one of my non-stick pans starting to flake away.  I tossed it out but, surprisingly, the flakes are actually inert.)

The better options for cookwares are actually stainless steel for stove-top cooking and glass bakeware for the oven. Cast iron is another safe choice. Unless you’re willing to replace all of your non-stick cookware, you can feel a little “stuck”, but there are guidelines (compliments of EWG) to lessen your exposure:cast irn pn

  • 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 (some research even says not over 450 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.)

If you’re like me, you’re probably not inclined or prepared to replace all of your non-stick cookware, but just use these tips to play it safe and the next time you’re in a position to buy replacements, make the wiser choices … and then invest in some good scrubbers!

The dangers that hid in our children’s bath products.

Yes, will the worries ever cease… it seems not, because after researching new bath products for our kids I not only discovered some potential candidates, but also reasons to worry.

tub bubbIt seems there are some serious, and harmful, chemical “monsters” lurking in far too many children’s bath products.  This includes the most common products we all used on our babies (and often continue to use) – Johnson & Johnson, Gerber, Baby Magic and L’Oreal – all are major offenders.

And the two scariest ingredients, you ask? They are 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde (doesn’t THAT one conjure up some horrible images?).  Both are known carcinogens and unbelievably harsh on the skin, especially for young children.

1,4-dioxane is common in personal care products as a foaming agent.  Of course the ingredients won’t actually list it under this name, so avoid ingredients called sodium laureth sulfate, PEG-100 stearate, polyethylene, myreth, oleth and ceteareth-20.

Formaldehyde comes into play when common preservatives (like parabens) used in the bath products release formaldehyde but, of course, this won’t be on the ingredients list either!  Instead, look for and avoid names like quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea and diazolidinyl urea.

It’s absolutely mind boggling.  Sometimes I truly don’t know what to look for and what to avoid, because it seems we need a chemistry degree to have the ability to read between the lines (and I think manufacturers count on that)!
I have heard good things about both Gaia and Weleda, as well as the line of Burt’s Bees Baby (often much easier to find at a local retailer) but we’re currently giving Organix South TheraNeem a try!  The kid’s Shampoo & Bodywash and Conditioner are in use and (as far as my “non-chemistry-degreed-self” can decipher!) they don’t contain any of these scary ingredients!  I also find it fairly interesting that they seems to work wonderfully (and make our kids smell fabulously citrus-y) but they don’t foam-up as much as the common brands and aren’t nearly as thick… hmmm?  A likely side effect of what happens when you remove some of the bad stuff!

I know it will take extra effort, but there are plenty of products out there that are safer options.  If you have something you recommend, please share!

But whatever you do, don’t settle for the old stand-bys just because they’re easy to find and an ad campaign and some slick marketer appealed to your emotional side to sell a product.  Believe me, I used to be one of “them” and things aren’t always as they seem.

Is there a danger lurking in our recycled toilet paper?

No one likes to retract a recommendation or end up eating their words, but I knew this would be part of my “green journey”… and it seems another retraction has to be made.  (Ugh!)

Last time it was Sigg bottles when it was discovered that their epoxy liner actually contained BPA prior to August 2008.  This time the culprit is recycled toilet paper.  (I know my husband is going to LOVE this one, because he revolted over my switch to a not-so-cushy recycled brand!)

tp recycledI happened to stumble upon Jennifer’s post at Eco Child’s Play (who happened to stumble upon an original post at Z Recommends!) about the ugly fact that recycled toilet paper appears to contain BPA.  While BPA is not added to the toilet paper it is often present due to the recycling of thermal printing paper (a common component OF the recycled toilet paper).

It seems this is the reason BPA is often turning up in wastewater and tap water.  While I’m always an advocate of keeping our water sources safe, I can’t help but wonder what happens when we continually “use” this recycled toilet paper on our… well, “nether regions”.  There has to be a degree of absorption into our bodies that, quite frankly, makes me a little uncomfortable.

So now, I’m back to the drawing board.  What options are there?  Aside from installing a bidet (… by the way, I have a fabulous bidet story if you ever meet me!) or other ideas I’ve read (that include using fabric swatches that you place in a sealed container and then wash {note:  not likely to ever happen in THIS household!}) I simply don’t know.

As much as I love to save trees, I think we’re going back to traditional toilet paper until I can find another viable option.  In this house BPA is a major no-no.

(By the way, that visible shaking you just saw through your monitor was my husband jumping for joy!)

More toxic mattress “lies” that boil my blood!

I had a completely different post planned for today, but in light of a recent conversation, I just had to write this instead.

You might recall a post last spring when we were in the market for a mattress for our son.  We wantedbed savvy rest an organic, chemical-free mattress so we could have peace of mind while he was getting a peaceful night’s rest.  The issue is the excessive chemicals sprayed on traditional mattresses to make them meet government standards for fire retardants.  They are so, so dangerous for everyone, since we inhale these toxic chemicals each and every night, but especially for children with developing bodies and systems.

Well, a friend of ours recently contacted us and wanted to know about the mattress we ended up buying.  When I sent him the information he told me that the mattress store he just visited told him that he was “unable to buy that type of mattress without a prescription” (presumably because they are also hypo-allergenic) and “they have to use chemical fire retardants to meet standards”.

This is where my blood started to boil.

The reality is that they were lying to our friend simply because they didn’t HAVE what he was looking for and, obviously, would go to any length to make a sale.

mattress fillThe truth of the matter is this:   Mattresses do NOT need to be sprayed with chemicals to make them fire retardant! They do, however, need to meet standards for BEING fire retardant.  There are other ways to meet this standard but unfortunately, for consumers, the cheapest way to do this is simply to spray on a load of dangerous chemicals.

The mattress we chose was from Savvy Rest (via Natural Bed Co.).  Since organic wool is quilted to the inside of the organic cotton fabric cover, THIS is the non-flammable layer that inhibits burning and makes it pass these tests.

I absolutely hate the fact that a mattress retailer would tell such lies just for the sake of a sale.  But on top of that, they are completely misleading consumers about the truth.

Of course, there are honest retailers out there, but if you are in the market for a new mattress, don’t be misled.  You CAN buy a safe, non-toxic mattress… no prescription needed.

A green mom blogger’s choice: laptop vs. desktop?

laptp compWell, last month my laptop died.  (RIP dear XPS, my beloved refurbished computer!) Not a pleasant experience if I want to keep this blog going, so I’ve resorted to borrowing my husband’s laptop in the meanwhile (and it’s not easy when he needs to keep borrowing it back!).

So he has finally said it’s time for Mom Goes Green to get a new computer of my very own.  Enter dilemma:  laptop vs. desktop.

I did my research, because I also want to make the greenest choice, and here is what I found:

  • Laptops use considerably less energy than desktop computers.  In some cases, the savings are somewhere between 50-80% less, depending on the model.  Energy savings = environmental choice. (winner: laptop)
  • Laptops have batteries, so they can actually utilize their own stored energy for use. (winner:  laptop)
  • Laptops are considerable smaller than desktops therefore, when it comes time for disposal, there is less electronic desktp comp“waste” and fewer parts to be recycled. (winner:  laptop)
  • The parts contained within laptops are harder to recycle and refurbish than desktop computer parts.  (winner: desktop)
  • Desktops typically last longer than laptops since laptops are more fragile and the mobility-factor often means a greater likelihood of damage and a shorter life.  Laptops are also more expensive to repair (e.g. $500 bucks to fix mine… augh!) and are therefore more likely to get discarded more frequently. (winner: desktop)
  • The toxic materials in desktops are much less than those in laptops (due to the batteries and other materials contained within the computer) so laptop disposal means more polluting toxins. (winner: desktop)

So there you have it.  As I see it, it’s a wash.  Choose what suits your needs.  There is no real environmental choice (unless you “go computer-less!”… something that’s unlikely for any of us!).