Men and their fragrances.
What if I said that your son's use of colognes or body sprays could affect his sperm quality and fertility later in life? Based on research done in animals so far, Boyle's Naturals (BN) and many in the scientific community argue this theory is truth. As such, BN wants to increase consumer awareness about the facts and dangers of chemicals in these popular body sprays. Here, we provide evidence for the recommendation to steer clear of conventional fragrance brands and seek out natural alternatives.
Humans are a species with regular environmental exposure to chemicals incompatible with healthy body function and fetal development. Here are some facts.
Hormones control spermatogenesis (sperm production). Conventional fragrance products contain phthalates (thal-ates) also known as "hormone-disrupting" or "endocrine-disrupting" chemicals (EDCs). Research in male animals has shown a clear link between exposure to high doses of phthalates and decline in semen quality, count and motility. In developing male fetuses, the mother’s exposure was associated with abnormalities in fetal skeletal and reproductive systems.(1-5)
While we humans never get the equivalent exposure administered to these animals, we do know that human exposure to phthalates is ubiquitous. And we do know that phthalates are around us in a long list of things we live with and use daily, such as personal care products, clothing, cosmetics, furniture, children’s toys, building materials, medical devices, food packaging, supplements, cleaning products, pesticides and more.(6) And we do know is that three million metric tonnes of phthalates are produced annually (Bizzari, S., et al. 2000 as reported in 6).
The precautionary principle in public health states that the absence of definitive data linking a suspected risk to a particular outcome should never delay taking action to mitigate the risk. This necessary action can be legislative, community-wide or in our own homes.
Using the precautionary principal wouldn’t it make sense to stop using these products? And use no or natural fragrances instead? We are lacking in definitive proof because we haven’t and can’t directly expose humans to chemicals and tally up our daily exposures. Our levels of exposure to damaging phthalates are greater than we think, and increasing rates of infertility are very likely the result.
Our levels of exposure to damaging phthalates are greater than we think, and increasing rates of infertility are very likely the result.
So, staying on the males, human males exposed during all his life stages - the developing fetus, infancy, childhood, adolescence and adulthood - may be seeing varying types and degrees of reproductive effects, all of which directly negatively affect his fertility.
BN's recommendation is to cease buying non-natural fragrance products, body sprays and perfumes. Doing that will reduce your exposures to phthalates, and take your name off the list of reasons why companies produce three million metric tonnes of phthalates annually.
If the list of things containing phthalates seems overwhelming (it is), don’t fret. We have nothing to lose by taking stock of the products we use in our home, starting with one product. Do some research and switch it out for a more natural version. Search “natural organic perfume” and you'll find a lot of options out there. Or email BN for a suggestion. Remove one toxic product at a time from your home and you’ll be reducing your family’s exposures to harmful chemicals over time. And that's a definitive fact.
If you are concerned about the info here, search “endocrine disruptors' effect on male reproductive system,” to read about it more and/or discuss with your doctor. You may also request a full, customized report on the status of the research done to date by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: Boyle's Naturals' educational content is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you have about a medical condition. This article presents BN staff's educated opinion based on published research we have reviewed. This is not a full literature review of absolutely everything published on this topic.
Development of this content is funded by sales of Boyle’s Naturals’ products. So when you make a purchase, you are helping to bring educational posts like these into existence. Support our work at BoylesNaturals.com/shop.
Research cited and more information:
1. CDC Factsheet on phthalates:
2. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry factsheet on Di-n-butyl Phthalate: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=857&tid=167
3. Rehman S., et al. (2018). Endocrine disrupting chemicals and impact on male reproductive health. Transl Androl Urol. 7(3), pp.490–503, doi:# 10.21037/tau.2018.05.17.
4. Rahman E., et al. (2015). A review on endocrine disruptors and their possible impacts on human health. Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology. 40(1), pp.241-258. doi:# 10.1016/j.etap.2015.06.009
5. Slama R., et al. (2017). Characterizing the effect of endocrine disruptors on human health: The role of epidemiological cohorts. C. R. Biologies. 340, pp. 421–431. doi:#10.1016/j.crvi.2017.07.008.
6. Schettler T. (2005) Human exposure to phthalates via consumer products. International journal of andrology ISSN 0105-6263. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2605.2005.00567.x and Bizzari, S., Oppenberg, B. & Iskikawa, Y. (2000) Plasticizers. Chemical Economics Handbook. SRI International, Palo Alto, CA, USA.
Does Your Natural Deodorant Work? No? Here's Why
And that's a good thing. The anti-perspirants we mention, and all others, have ingredients that intentionally and artificially clog our underarm pores to stop us from sweating. No sweat = less bacteria = less or no odor. That's how they work. On top of that, they contain synthetic fragrances to cover up any remaining stink our bodies may produce. It’s a brilliant mechanism and very lucrative industry. Deodorant/anti-perspirant is now a must-have staple item for everyone past puberty, which makes sense given that stinking to high Heaven is really not socially acceptable anywhere: at work, at the gym, on the train, wherever.
But for those of us who’ve heard about the potential links between use of anti-perspirants and breast cancer, who don’t want to put synthetic chemicals on our bodies and/or feel that the body should be allowed to sweat and eliminate its toxins, we try nat-deo.
Our journey through the "Nat-deo Elimination Rounds" goes like this: we forge ahead through the deodorant aisle and, one-by-one, buy each.and.every.single.damn.brand of nat-deo that exists. We start with Tom’s purchased at the pharmacy. Ok. Then we order from Amazon. We scour for the best deal. Then we shop at Whole Foods. We may have some success but alas, $12.00 for two weeks-worth of deodorant isn’t sustainable. “Dangit! Why is toxin-free living more expensive?” we say. And we suffer consequences of using nat-deo:
By 10am, we stink.
With no hard feelings toward nat-deo - in fact just the opposite - with appreciation for the companies who recognize that consumers need body odor protection without the toxins), Boyle’s Naturals created a solution. Gently scrubbing with PIT GRIT® Underarm Scrub in the shower or on-the-go before using your nat-deo makes it work better. Using only natural ingredients, PIT GRIT® fully cleanses the underarm and lets your nat-deo be its best self!
We now have the freedom to choose any nat-deo brand we want, you say? The cheapest? The nicest smelling? Yes, yes yes! And we can use that nat-deo with more confidence!
Combined with the fact that Boyle’s Naturals is a small, woman-owned manufacturer, we think you should try PIT GRIT® and see why people are calling it a “life-saver” and a “game-changer.”
Order PIT GRIT® with free shipping by clicking below or here.
PIT GRIT(R) Underarm Scrub
Do you have stinky underarms and body odor, but can’t find a natural or organic deodorant that works well enough?
Don’t sweat it – PIT GRIT, our patent-pending, all-natural odor fighting body scrub boosts natural deodorants’ ability to ward off stinky pits and offensive body odor.
PIT GRIT can be used in the shower after a long hard day, or on-the-go in with natural and organic deodorant to better cleanse, remove build-up from the underarm and inhibit body odor-causing bacteria with just a dime-sized dab.
In addition to fighting natural body odor, PIT GRIT is also a great solution for people suffering from excessive body-odor.
Use it before applying your favorite brand of organic or natural deodorant, or use without deodorant.
Try using it before working out and be amazed at how much less "smelly" those armpits can be!
Instructions: Dispense a dime-sized amount onto wet hand, rub for 5-10 seconds in each underarmand then rinse or wipe away. Apply deodorant (or not) as normal.
Not recommended for use on any other area of the body.
$2.99 per gift. Our team will thoughtfully wrap your gift with recycled paper and our signature turquoise ribbon. Add one gift wrap per item to your cart and indicate which items in your order need to bewrapped when you check out.
High end and celeb fragrance lines: glamorous, alluring and toxic.
If your tween and adolescent kids wear perfumes or body sprays, they will not want you to read this post. I’ll start out by saying that I don't wear store-bought perfume. I want to; I am tempted by the appeal of the advertisements, the fame of the celebrities who back them and the fragrances themselves. Many of them smell so delicious as they float upwards from the page of the magazine. But I just can’t do it. Here’s why:
Unless noted otherwise, conventional perfumes contain synthetic chemicals under the name "fragrance" or "parfum.” That one word which may or may not be listed on the label actually represents a combination of a chemicals plus other things not listed, like stabilizers, mixing agents, dispersants and preservatives, all bundled into one ingredient: fragrance.(EWG) And we intentionally breathe this in and put this on our skin? Components of this mystery cocktail of chemicals act as hormones in our bodies, so we call them “endocrine disrupting" chemicals.
What are endocrine disruptors (EDCs)?
EDCs are chemicals that imitate natural hormones in the body; meaning the body treats them like hormones already in our endocrine system, allowing them to alter and damage cells. They can be present in the six-dollar or ninety-six-dollar bottles of perfume and are also in plastics, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, baby care products, building materials, cleaning materials, air fresheners and insecticides. More details on EDCs and how they act in the body (e.g. the REAL sciency stuff) can be found at the National Science Foundation's page here.
Why should this matter to you?
EDCs are associated with increased breast cancer rates, abnormalities in reproductive function and anatomy (reduced sperm count, quality and motility) and neurodevelopmental delays in children (WHO). In a laboratory study, EDCs also assisted in the proliferation of breast cancer cells and inhibited the tumor-killing action of Tamoxifen used in treating the tumor (Kim, 2004). So not only did the EDCs help the cancer cells grow, they blocked the beneficial effect of the treatment used to combat the cancer = so f-ing scary!
Humans - babies, children, adolescents to adults - are exposed to EDCs via ingestion, inhalation of gases and particles in the air and absorption through the skin. The developing fetus is exposed via transfer through the placenta. Chemicals in perfume are (obviously) inhaled and absorbed through the skin, or go from mother to baby in placenta or breast milk.
A woman’s exposure during pregnancy is the most concerning, as hormones play a central role in the development of the fetus and negative health effects may not appear until much later in life. Young girls are getting their periods earlier, and exposure to these chemicals is a likely cause. Read more about the benefits a group of teens in a study at UC Berkeley experienced when they switched from conventional to natural cosmetics.
The Solution – Google It
Unfortunately, we are accustomed to smelling synthetic fragrances in everything from cleaning products to candles to cosmetics, but the chemicals in these products can and do hurt us! In reality, the only “safe” type of fragrance to use on our skin is the oil derived from fruits, plants and trees, such as lavender, cedarwood, ylang ylang, lemon, clove, geranium, vanilla and so many more. (But beware that any dermatologist will tell you about the risk for contact dermatitis or other skin reactions when using essential oils!)
After reading this, go ahead and Google “natural perfumes” and you’ll find a bunch of “Top 10” and “Best of” lists to comb through. Some of the natural brands out there have the same sexiness, allure and price tag of the celebrity-backed perfumes, but by supporting them, you’re making a statement that you support the use of natural, healthy, sustainable ingredients, and moreover, you back the companies who have those values built in. If purchases of conventional perfumes go down, those manufacturers (and celebrities) will hopefully take heed and nix the toxins in their formulas!
I say, if the alternatives I have to choose from come straight from the Earth with names like clove, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, vanilla, ylang ylang, geranium, rose, vetiver, wild orange.... why would I ever consider buying conventional perfume!? Natural fragrances are a million times better and can in some cases can have therapeutic benefits, like inducing relaxation, soothing tired muscles, boosting immunity, assisting with focus, reducing inflammation or stimulating the senses. Given the great benefits of going natural, I am a voice asking you and all consumers to stop buying conventional fragrances for yourselves and your daughters/sons. Natural fragrances are no more expensive than perfume, and with the added therapeutic benefits and comparable investment in sleek and sexy packaging like the others, they are a cool gift to receive and a total WIN-WIN!
Disclaimer: I am a Doterra member mainly to earn rewards for all the essential oils I buy and use in the products I make. If you are interested in reading more or purchasing essential oils, click here.
Kim, 2004: Kim IY, Han SY, Moon A (2004a). Phthalates inhibit tamoxifen-induced apoptosis in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. J Toxicol Environ Health, 67:2025-2035.
SixClasses: http://www.sixclasses.org/bisphenols-phthalates/ and
How safe is my tap water?
My first career out of college in the early 2000’s was as an Environmental Scientist for an environmental consulting and engineering firm, GeoInsight, Inc., in Connecticut. There, I learned from the best* about how water is sourced, treated and delivered to our homes, along with the state and federal water quality standards that public water is required to meet. I learned how to properly collect a water sample from the tap, submit it to a lab for testing to look for contaminants and interpret and report the results. I also learned that I can be in charge of my home’s water quality by learning more about the testing that’s regularly done on it, along with the filtration systems I can use to supplement the treatment the water has already received.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has made being in charge of your home’s water quality much easier by publishing a national Tap Water Database and Water Filter Buying Guide.
What does this tap water database do? It compiles results from drinking water testing done by our public water supply companies across the nation. And it answers these questions for us:
EWG also provides an in-depth guide to the water filtration options out there. It contains descriptions - in one easily-accessible place - of every type of water filtration system one can buy, from the tiny ones inside a water bottle to the big expensive whole house filtration systems that are professionally installed. Based on the water quality results you find for your water system, you can choose a filter that's right for you. Each filter description is linked to options for purchasing: how handy!
I was pleasantly surprised at the under-sink options available in the $100-$200 area, a price point I feel like my family can manage.
To see whether your water supply company is in compliance, along with any contaminants found in your water in the last quarter, enter your zip code by clicking the link for EWG's Tap Water Database. Then click through to research water filters that make sense for your needs.
3 Things I Learned Just by Showing Up
On March 31st this year, the Coalition for a Safe and Healthy CT, an advocacy group that aims to protect our children from toxic chemicals, held a press event to voice concerns over the use of recycled tire rubber as a ground cover in playgrounds and urge passing of the bill to ban its use. I saw firsthand the world in which the Coalition works and learned a few things about the legislative process, the science, and the impact of simply showing up to relay my concern. Here are three things I realized:
1. Showing up is actually not that hard to do. Driving into the CT state capitol to the the Legislative Office Building is easy. And I managed to stand for a half hour with my two year old, and keep her occupied in front of the cameras, in order to express my support for this legislation. You can do it too; if you have interest in learning more and lending your support on these issues, follow the Coalition on Facebook, and you'll see all their calls for action.
2. Standing up for what you believe in is worth a little inconvenience. When the Coalition asked me to come with my kids to the press event on March 31st to show how much we care, I wasn't sure I could do it. My oldest daughter had a fever, had to stay home from school, and we had no child care plan other than me! My husband stepped in, knowing how important this issue is to the health of our children, and stayed home from work for the morning so I could attend.
3. My presence was impactful. Adding to the voice of the Coalition to support the passing of a piece of legislation is humbling and empowering. Representatives and the Coalition work SO hard to bring awareness, digest the science for the general public, relay our concerns and rally the masses, but the impact of a mom holding her child and talking about her concerns can be massive. The legislators listen.
The reason we care so much is because tire rubber is not a natural material, being made of toxic chemicals such as benzene, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, styrene-butadiene, arsenic, heavy metals and other carcinogens. Children young and old playing at the playground on this surface are exposed via ALL routes of exposure: inhalation, absorption and ingestion. And when the material gets hot, the chemicals "off-gas," into the air. While the use of old tires as ground cover on our playgrounds seems like a solution for what to do with all our discarded tires, it's absolutely NOT. Weighing the risks, it is not an acceptable solution.
We absolutely need to do better for the health of our kids. A HUGE thank you to the Coalition for protecting our children from toxic chemical exposures. I am proud to be a part of your mission.
"What a Cute Gift!" Except it's not cute at all.
A word of advice: if you have the choice to buy your little girl a "spa set" like this or a bat and ball, get her the bat and ball. Why? Come on; a million reasons. A bat and ball gets her outside. It gets her moving and playing with her siblings and peers.
And it doesn't come with an increased risk for early puberty or cancer. Spinning this gift set around to read the back label, there is a clear, large warning that reads:
"This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer."
Did that make you pause? This warning is now required due to the progressive legislation in the State of California aimed to protect human health.
(Track the legislation efforts and progress in your state at the Safer States website here.)
Let's look a little deeper into two of the ingredients in these adorable little pink tubes and bottles.
All the items in this set have fragrance on their list of ingredients. As I have reported before, fragrance is one word to describe a mix of synthetic chemicals and odor masking agents. In the name of not disclosing "proprietary" blends of ingredients, companies generally do not report the chemicals used in their fragrances.
So, let's take diethyl phthalate, a common chemical included in fragrance formulations. We know that diethyl phthalate interferes with thyroid hormone regulation (animal studies) and is an immune system toxicant and allergen (human studies)...not to mention its toxicity to wildlife and the environment (1).
Click here for more information on Fragrance.
Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) in the lip gloss
BHT is a toluene-based ingredient used as an antioxidant (preservative) and scent masking agent in products. Toluene is a highly volatile petrochemical solvent and paint thinner (2). Very high levels of exposure (much higher than in the use of these products) can damage the nervous system, skin, eyes, respiratory system and kidneys. A woman's exposure during pregnancy can result in birth defects and abnormalities in child's development and growth…[in addition to] spontaneous abortion (3). And toluene has been linked to malignant lymphoma (2). BHT, which comes from toluene, is in the lip gloss your daughter is putting on her lips.
So why do we give our kids these products?!
Our little girls' bodies, at every stage until adulthood, are still growing and developing, so why in the Lord's name do we buy these products and give them to our children...to apply to their lips and skin? Science is documenting that environmental factors play a role in early puberty and hormone-related cancers. Let's just quit spending our hard earned money on products like these. And if you're not sure the origin of a product, such as the adorbs little blue lip gloss given out at the fast food place, just toss it in the trash. 'Cause we both know our preschoolers are not only going to apply the lip gloss but ingest it too.
The Bottom Line
The minute we refrain from buying toxic personal care products and instead go for brands with fewer chemicals (...or decide NOT to buy body wash for an 8 year old at all), companies will take notice.
Large corporations like Walmart and Target are already making huge changes to the chemicals policies on a voluntary basis. Even though it's baby steps, I applaud this wholeheartedly! These are promising steps toward offering safer products, but they need to see an unwavering shift in demand from consumers.
So save the money on toxic personal care items for your little girl, and instead promote her physical fitness, confidence and team-player attitude with a good old fashioned sports gear!
The bottom line is: if we stop buying it, stores will stop selling it and instead focus those dollars on something else (perhaps signing up for the Chemical Footprint Project or taking steps to contract with product suppliers who have responsible chemicals policies).
And we get to see our kids grow up living the healthiest life they can!
3. OSHA: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/toluene/health_hazards.html
The enormous problem with 'microbeads'.
Almost two years ago Congress passed a bill known as the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015amending the FDA “to ban rinse-off cosmetics that contain intentionally-added plastic microbeads beginning on January 1, 2018, and to ban manufacturing of these cosmetics beginning on July 1, 2017.”
Most of us are familiar with these microbeads. They exist in many of our favorite scrubs, facial cleansers and toothpastes. They aid in exfoliation, add sparkle to toothpaste and can help fill wrinkles in some “age defying” makeup.
A 2015 study estimated that nationwide 8 billion microbeads are emitted into aquatic ecosystems everyday. While they may be small, as defined as being less than 5 millimeters at their greatest dimension, the quantities released into the environment are devastatingly large. They are so small that they slip through our filtration processes where they enter our rivers, lakes and oceans. These microbeads absorb pollutants, such as pesticides and motor oil. Mistaken for food, they are eaten by marine life and can physically cause damages such ascellular necrosis or lacerations to the digestion track, according to a statement released by Society for Conservation Biology in 2015.
However, what is potentially more concerning is the chemical harm that can be done to animals. With microbeads being composed of complex chemical mixtures, the consumption of these 'cocktails' can lead to an accumulation of chemicals overtime, which can bring on liver toxicity and disrupt the endocrine system.
Although phasing microbeads out of these products is a huge step, the bill only pertains to “rinse-off” products, leaving plastic abrasives in deodorants, lotions and some makeup. Additionally, companies selling over the counter products containing microbeads have a one-year extension to phase out these products or change the ingredients.
Until July 1, 2018 it is in the hands of consumers to choose whether they opt for or away from the products containing microbeads. With these chemicals sometimes being difficult to spot with just a glance, the FDA mandated ingredient labels help expose products that contain plastic. If you spot polyethylene, polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, or polymethyl methacrylate it’s safe to say that product contains plastic.
Likewise there are so many better alternatives to choose from that provide exfoliation without the use of plastic. Top rated exfoliants have been rated by the Environmental Working Groupin their cosmetic database, an amazing tool to explore healthier cosmetics. There are also several natural, DIY exfoliant recipes available online which are easy to make with typical household and kitchen ingredients.
Infographic Image via 5 Gyres.
Use this, Not that. Why toxin-free hand soap is an absolute must-have.
A LOOK AT THE INGREDIENTS IN A COMMON CONVENTIONAL HAND SOAP
COLGATE-PALMOLIVE SOFTSOAP LAVENDER & CHAMOMILE
Ingredients: Water, sodium laureth sulfate, c14-16 olefin sulfonate, lauramide dea, sodium chloride, cocamidopropyl betaine, fragrance, dmdm hydantoin, citric acid, tetrasodium edta, polyquaternium-7, glycerin, peg-7 glyceryl cocoate, benzophenone-4, hydrolyzed silk, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, ext D&C violet no. 2.
INGREDIENT COUNT: at least 17, but likely more, because there is no law requiring Colgate-Palmolive to report all ingredients in the product. So why am I even counting? And secondly, where is the lavender and where is the chamomile?
Not all the ingredients in Softsoap are compatible with human health.
"Fragrance" is a one-word ingredient describing a mix of "proprietary" (secret) compounds that include phthalates. Phthalates are known endocrine system disruptors, meaning they interfere with hormones and reproductive systems of animals (note: humans are animals). And these nasties are also linked to a host of other horrible things like diabetes, obesity and harmful effects on the thyroid.
A little side bar about endocrine disruptors...Results of an experimental study in genetically male frogs exposed to the pesticide and endocrine disruptor atrazine throughout their development showed that 10% of the males developed into into fully functional females capable of mating with male frogs and laying eggs. Let me rephrase: male frogs were exposed to an endocrine disrupting chemical and actually developed into female frogs (instead of male frogs), and then wanted to mate with regular ole healthy male frogs. What is occurring in these poor little frogs is premature testicular cell death and depression/interference in the male gene development. Now, atrazine is a pesticide very widely used in the US, despite having been banned in Europe since 2004. Why isn't it banned in the US?
It gets worse: the ingredient in Softsoap, DMDM HYDANTOIN is a formaldehyde releaser, a preservative that slowly breaks down in the product, releasing formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known allergen. Additionally, IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer who reviews existing research and classifies potentially cancer causing agents into five levels:
Consumer pressure lead to the removal of formaldehyde from some nail polishes (those marked as "three-free" or "five-free"), so why is it still in hand soap, a ubiquitous product used multiple times per day and found on so many sinks in homes, schools, libraries, restaurants, E V E R Y W H E R E?! Outside a trip to Wholefoods or my local yoga studio where natural soaps are graciously provided because of recognition and concern for this issue, the public has no other choice but to use the conventional (=cheapest in bulk) soap and be exposed to these toxins. And, as with the asinine sunscreen debate recently posed, I am NOT asking you to leave the bathroom without washing your hands. Yuck. Germ-free hands are the surest way to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria that make us all sick. As with the sunscreen debate, my reasoning is: if you're in the store or online spending the money anyway, why not look for a product that removes germs without exposing us to harmful chemicals?
For the final blow, the last ingredient I am choosing to explore is "ext D&C violet no. 2," the final ingredient in the list. Ext D&C violet no. 2 is a synthetic colorant derived from bituminous coal. Due to the "carcinogenic properties" of bituminous coal, this ingredient and others like it are continuously tested on animals. And in case you hear the argument that the quantity of this ingredient we're exposed to is so minuscule (it being the last ingredient in the list), just remember that (1) we wash our hands many many times a day, (2) we use many other products with this or many other harmful ingredients in them, and (3) this ingredient and all the others like it has to be produced somewhere and somehow, and it's definitely not produced in tiny, tiny quantities, which brings into play the environmental concerns of these chemicals even existing at all on our planet.
In all seriousness, in the deepest parts of my heart, I wish for more natural products everywhere so that part of our adult children's "normal" when shopping online or in a store includes (or is solely) completely safe products. Several recent steps forward this past year have me feeling that changes to our current "normal" are possible. The FDA recently banned triclosan and 18 other agents from soaps labelled 'antibacterial' because there is no solid evidence that washing with these agents results in any cleaner hands than a good long scrub with warm water and soap. On top of that, some of these agents provide fuel to the pathogens out there that are resistant to antibiotics, a serious, serious concern in modern day public health. The revisions earlier this year to Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) that make it much easier for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to evaluate and regulate chemicals is also a step in the right direction. And finally, the Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) asks companies to voluntarily inventory the chemicals they use, publicly report them and then ultimately transition to safer alternatives. Seeing corporations like Johnson & Johnson, Levi Strauss & Co., GOJO Industries and Walmart, YES, Walmart participating in the CFP is actually astounding and makes me very hopeful for the future.
So as a consumer, you have the power to *think* about these issues (as evidenced by reading this far into this article, so thank you), and you can turn those thoughts into different purchasing patterns. And the corporations will notice even very minute changes in consumers' buying behavior. After reading all this, if you now want to search for safe hand soap or any other personal care product, go to the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database. There, you can type in product names and check out their ratings and make more informed decisions. Or if you want to start by stocking your home, office or store with Boyle's Naturals products, by all means, please do.
A Perfect Alternative: Boyle's Naturals Foaming Hand Soap
Ingredients: distilled water, fragrance free castile soap (water, organic olive oil, organic coconut oil, organic cocoa butter, kukui nut oil, citric acid, Vitamin E), olive oil, pure doTerra brand lavender essential oil.
INGREDIENT COUNT: 8 ingredients (water and olive oil appear twice)
Note: All the ingredients in Boyle's all-natural soap are compatible with human health!
5 easy, high-impact changes you could make right now for a healthier home.
Sometimes we get advice that’s just not practical. Or we see advertisements to which we just can’t relate. I’m reminded of an old ad for vacuums, as the mom in full makeup sits adorably curled up in a chair in the corner of her living room drinking tea while both of her children play nicely on the floor in front of her. We all know that never happens. Based on my life experience, I don’t believe that two toddlers can even physically do that, even as hired actors, so I was convinced all three were mannequins.
In contrast to the above, here’s some advice that I deem somewhat easier to digest. These are easy. These have relatively high impact on the home air quality and/or chip away at our regular, daily intake of pesticide residues and byproducts of the breakdown of plastic. Now I know many people out there resist being told what to do. Lest I sound dictatorial, I do assume we can all agree that not taking in chemical residues and byproducts is better than taking them in.
Here are a few relatively simple steps you can take today if you haven't started them already to remove toxins from your home environment.
1. Start buying organic produce.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes an annual “Dirty Dozen” list with the produce that consistently test positive for pesticide residues that year. In 2016, it’s strawberries, apples and nectarines that top the list, with peaches, celery and grapes rounding out the top six. They also name the cleanest conventional produce. This year the safest conventional varieties include avocado, corn, pineapples, cabbage, sweet peas and onions, among others. And a great place to buy produce? Farmer’s markets! UConn’s snap4ct site has an interactive map with info on all of Connecticut’s farmer’s markets. Connecticut is ripe with farmer’s markets.
Here is a tip that is not only free, but will save you some money.
2. Just. Stop. With. The. Air fresheners.
Cease. Halt. No mas. Checkmate. Save the money. Take them off the shopping list and Amazon subscriptions. The spray ones, the plug in ones, the automatic ones, the fabric ones, the nighttime ones... They are made of chemicals that are added to your air.
Air fresheners add formaldehyde, p-dichlorobenzene, petroleum distillates and aerosol propellants among other pollutants into the air. Some of these chemicals are asthma triggers, and can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, damage the nervous system, and cause headaches. Some even cause cancer. What’s worse, plugging those little jobbers into outlets at ground level sends high concentrations of toxic mist into the air our toddlers are breathing as they crawl or walk past! Children’s lungs are still developing, so the effects listed above can be exacerbated and more easily triggered in them.
(Digressing again to examples of ads I can’t relate to: the one where they spray the air freshener right in front of their nose and then take a deep inhale through the nose to smell it? Astounded every time, I yell at the TV, “LADY, ARE YOU SERIOUS WITH THE TAKING A DEEP BREATH THING?!!”) The only things that will clean the air are 1) ventilation, which allows indoor and outside air to flow in and out, diluting pollutants to lower concentrations, or 2) an air cleaner that removes particles from the air via a HEPA filter, or another air cleaner design that targets the pollutant gasses listed above, such as a UVGI or PCO air cleaner. More info can be found in EPA’s Guide to Air Cleaners in the Home here. I try to open the windows once a week to clear out the air, and use my whole house fan every once in a while.
3. Place plants next to sunny windows.
So long as you keep them alive, plants are actually a great choice for filtering and cleaning the air. In NASA’s fantastically old-looking 1989 report, “Interior Landscape Plants for Indoor Air Pollution Abatement,” plants were tested for indoor air purification qualities, and these common indoor plants were the top of the list: peace lily, philodendron, spider plant, golden pothos, gerbera daisies, chrysanthemums and Dracaena Massangeana. Some of these are poisonous, however, so be mindful of the risks and benefits, or just keep them up very high if you have young children or pets.
4. Don’t eat or drink from any plastic that has been heated.
This means microwaving or dishwashing anything plastic is not advisable. The heating of plastic water bottles, plastic containers or plastic wrap can break down the integrity of the plastic, allowing the individual components of the plastic to leach into your food or water. Allowing water to sit excessively long in a water bottle, especially in the sunlight, can do the same thing. Buying BPA free plastic can help but not completely solve the problem. Hand wash plastic bottles (or rinse anything plastic after it has dried in the dishwasher). To microwave food, transfer it first to a ceramic or glass plate, heat it, wait for it to cool, and then give it to the kids in their plastic bowls (I know; it's so many steps!). Skip the plastic wrap covering and instead use a napkin or go without.
5. Use natural alternatives to harsh cleaners.
Hydrogen peroxide (which, diluted with water, can even be used as mouthwash) has been shown in repeated experiments by a mom with a PhD in biochemistry (who I don’t know personally, but love her work) to work better than conventional sanitizing and disinfecting products. I recommend everyone take a look at Annie Pryor’s blog. Her work is fascinating.
One last point about the cleaners: if you’re simply doing the end-of-day counter and table wipe down, what about using a water, vinegar and lemon mixture? If you’re not aiming to kill bacteria and viruses, but simply scrape off the caked-on remnants of the three meals your children had at the table that day, a harsh cleaner isn’t really necessary. In that case, it’s more about the elbow grease. You can find a recipe online for a vinegar-based spray or, better yet, attend a Clean Cleaners workshop! Or watch my Clean Cleaners video here.
The Mommy Wars' newest battle ground: toxins in products.
Over the public radio waves earlier this year, I heard John Dankosky heatedly interviewing Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy about the state budget. They seemed to disagree. However, despite disagreeing, they discussed. They respected each other, the role each serves for the public, and had an honest conversation about the budget. I remarked to myself that I learned a whole lot about two sides of this issue and heard a great example of putting emotions aside to discuss a polarizing topic.
Now, imagine yourself coming upon a social media post in your newsfeed, from any source, about any topic. You click. You read. You read the comments. You agree, disagree, or care less. Or, according to Facebook at time of publishing, you can like it, love it, laugh at it, make a surprise face at it, an angry face at it, or cry at it. When you wholeheartedly disagree with the opinion espoused in said post, and that post comes from a friend, what do you do next? Coming from a family not afraid to interject, my first inclination when disagreeing is to say, “Are ya serious with that?” or, “Ummm….yea. None of that is true.” Or I would least offer a friendly, well thought out and well researched rebuttal.
The post in question was from a dermatologist's blog. The writer explained how the media and other outlets such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) are using scare tactics and ‘bad science’ to scare us into not using sunscreen. Wait. What? (More on that later.)
Of course, here is the public health tie in if you were wondering.
Other write-ups, such as the one picked up by Huffington Post, NBC/TODAY and ABC, rail against the barrage of warnings about chemicals in various products and general parenting advice/instruction spouted at moms at every turn. And it’s getting personal, as the author, Sarah Kallies, writes, “We are all just out there slogging it out. Doing our best to raise our kids. To keep them safe. To protect them from the big bad world. But what happens when the world tells you that you are the problem? That you’re not being careful enough. Aware enough. Diligent enough.”
To add the absolute worst insult to injury, apparently the world’s reaction to Kallies’ post included some massively negative reactions, such as death threats and assertions that she should have aborted her twins. What!? Just: on behalf of humanity and having a soul, I apologize for that happening. I still start to tear up when I think of what people can do when keyboard muscles are running the show.
The War of the Mommies
Sadly, I was reticent to admit, it seems the newest Mommy Wars’ front, after vaccinations and staying-at-home vs. working, is toxic ingredients in our children’s personal care products. EWG churns out what I estimate to be great direction on this topic. And then there are the lone mommies out there like me who have decided to offer up their ideas to any takers. Given the GRAND quantities of information out there, I guess this idea has popped up that the existence and sharing of this information infers that those who don't follow it are careless. Oh man, in all seriousness, that was the last thing I wanted to see happen.
I am an ardent supporter of education for myself and the public about the risks associated with chemical exposures, and I definitely steer clear of companies that have no regard for the safety profile of chemicals in their products…..that is, unless I’m in the grocery store with my two and four year-olds in complete berserk mode. Seriously, my youngest can damage ear drums in a 20-foot radius without even trying (I do hear ringing when it’s quiet), at which point I’m tossing Hail-Mary passes of the $1.00 shampoos and conditioners into my cart. But, as with any topic I learn about, there’s information out there from good and not-so-good sources that I can choose to read, research, incorporate, respond to, or simply let lie.
So yes, the post from my friend that I encountered in the middle of my work day, was, I felt, uninformed and inflammatory. No one, I repeat, no one is saying we shouldn’t use sunscreen. Somehow linking EWG to an argument against using sunscreen, is for me, a complete distortion. With regard to EWG’s methodology, described on the site, it is completely true that their product scores are limited by the research done to date on each ingredient. However, not having safety data about a chemical is not ‘bad science;’ it’s ‘not having safety data about a chemical.’ Remember, there is no requirement for chemical producers to test chemicals before putting them on the market. No law = no testing = no safety data available to the public. Progress on this issue has historically been meager or nil, but, more companies are being proactive, and initiatives such as the fabulous Chemical Footprint Project, which has so many companies, including Walmart, voluntarily opting to inventory the chemicals their suppliers use and pledge to do better. There is even progress gasp legislatively. Congress actually passed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which gives the EPA more authority and requires safety testing of new and existing chemicals, with enforceable deadlines.
Taking it Personally
After reading that post I disagreed with, a trusted colleague and I walked across the campus of the university where we work. I asked her, “How do you typically handle a fundamental disagreement with one of your friends? Like, an issue that is fundamental to you, that you believe in and are passionate about?” She asked me whether I had read the book, The Four Agreements. I responded affirmatively, and instantly knew she recommended taking the proverbial ‘high road.’ She said, “I think, trying not to take it personally has always helped me in disagreements,” and I totally agreed. It was good, good advice.
There are four fundamental principles in life, says Don Miguel Ruiz in his 1997 book, The Four Agreements. Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best.1
Brilliant. With all this as a backdrop, away I go, concluding:
Am I defending this effort to educate? Yes. Am I defensive about it? Really, really trying not to be. I’m human, after all. By trying to educate on this topic, I’m not inferring that moms who use conventional products (me included) aren’t careful, aware or diligent…. If someone is saying that, they are up on a high horse. My take is: We have choices. We are spending the money on sunscreen, right? So armed with more information, why not choose one with no chemicals? That’s all it is, really. And it’s completely and totally every person’s choice; no judgments about it.
The feeling that moms are overwhelmed and don’t need another ‘rule’ making their lives harder is not new and is completely and totally justified! I am in that boat too. So I pick and choose where my energy goes and let the rest just BE.
Might it be that humans have a natural tendency to take things personally, that clouds their ability to argue fair, allowing defensiveness to creep in? Maybe so.
Let’s Make a Pact: The Mommy Agreement
Despite disagreeing with the content of my friend’s post and despite how invested I am in this, I decided not to comment. I am doing my thing, trying to educate, and that’s all. I had no interest in starting an online war in the middle of my workday. It was easy for me to make that choice because this person is my friend. When the post is from not a friend but a stranger, and when it's not an academic subject matter but an emotional one (such as recent horrific accidents where children were killed), the anger, hate and blame toward the parents cruelly and callously flows in the comments section.
So let’s make a pact to hold back on our commentary, and, as Sarah Kallies put it, “…stop shaming each other. Whatever our beliefs are. However we choose to raise our children. Let’s be about supporting each other.” If you disagree, agree to disagree. Leave the emotion for real life, not online life. It can be damaging, and in the case of teens bullying each other, catastrophic.
One thing I have learned is that defending your side doesn’t have to mean defending your self. Let's fight fair.
We all love our children with every thread of our being (by the way, also don't tell me I can't use "thread of our being" because it's lame; I'm fully aware this phrase belongs in a romance novel and I proceed with its use). We can try our best to follow The Four Agreements, but we all have a specific amount of energy to use up on the efforts of our days, after which, if we are lucky, each.and.every.mom.out.there (don’t you try to hide) crashes with a glass of wine and binge-watches Blue Bloods.
So, moms out there (and everyone else for that matter), let’s make a pact to refrain from judging each other. Let's choose not to waste our fleeting bursts of energy on that.
The Mommy Agreement: “When I disagree with something online, from this day forward, I pledge to either (1) continue on with my day without typing my opinion, making a judgement or spreading any hate, or (2) recognize how the post makes me feel, and then type a message of support. I'll subscribe to that! If you wish to sign The Mommy Agreement, sign your name in the comments below.
1. Ruiz, Miguel. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing, 1997. Print.