Buying Naughty or Nice?A Toxic-Free Guide to the Holidays
ELECTRONICS Flame Retardant Chemical-Free The U.S produces 3.19 million tons of toxic e-waste every year, creating massive amounts of toxic waste that ends up in landfills – here and overseas, where it pollutes air and water and poses severe dangers to children and families. Flame retardants are widely used in almost all computers, printers, and TVs, yet studies have linked these chemicals with lower IQs, reduced fertility, impacts on brain development in infants and children, and other serious health problems. Resist the urge to buy the ―latest and greatest‖ new device (it’ll become obsolete before you know it!), and instead, learn ways to extend the life span of your electronics from CEH. Parents with kids itching for smart phones can hand their old iPhone down with these tips. For cheaper electronics, nab great, refurbished equipment from suppliers like Techsoup.org.
PURSES Lead-Free Giving purses, wallets or other accessories can be tricky, with all the styles, colors and fashion trends one needs to take into account. Now there’s another crucial factor: the toxic poison lead. CEH is working to eliminate the threat from lead-tainted purses, but our recent testing shows that the some stores (especially certain retailers, like Forever 21) are still selling too many lead-tainted products. Lead exposure has been linked to higher rates of infertility in women, and an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure, among other health problems. Scientists are increasingly concerned that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for pregnant women and young children. To be safer, avoid faux leather (plastic) purses and bright colors, especially yellows and reds.
TOYS Phthalates-FreeText or graphic Lead-tainted toys are rare now thanks to CEH’s work to expose lead threats from toys and children’s products--which helped create the first-ever national law banning lead in all kids’ products. However, plastic remains a key material in many toys, and vinyl (PVC) is an especially nasty "poison plastic‖ known for posing health risks from production through use and disposal. Phthalates are a class of chemicals commonly found in vinyl (and some other plastics) that have been linked to hormone disrupting health problems like infertility, abnormal reproductive development, and others. Several major retailers have committed to ending or reducing the use of PVC in products, especially products for children, but there are still some toys, backpacks, dolls and other kids’ products made with the toxic material.
CLOTHES Pesticides-Free Maybe you’re looking for a robe for Dad orText or graphic pj’s for Mom. Whatever the item, many consider cotton to be a safe, natural material, but more than 10% of all pesticides (and 25% of all insecticides) applied worldwide are used to grow cotton. These pesticides threaten the health of farm workers, rural communities, and wildlife. Studies have linked pesticides commonly used on cotton to impacts on brain development, lower birth weight, and possible links to cancer, birth defects, and asthma -- not to mention acute exposures that lead to injuries and even deaths among farm workers. Look for organic cotton or other natural materials whenever possible.
FACE & BODY PRODUCTS Triclosan-Free Bath and body care products make aText or graphic popular holiday gift basket, but many such products contain a hormone-disrupting antimicrobial called triclosan. Animal studies have linked triclosan to decreased sperm production and other health problems, and the American Medical Association has stated that the chemical could contribute to the rise of disease-resistant bacteria and advises the public to ―avoid the use of antimicrobial agents in consumer products.‖ Organic is a trusted food label, but some personal care companies are falsely using the term "organic." Last year, CEH exposed a rash of phony ―organic‖ labels on dozens of hair and personal care products. For example, the Organix brand of shampoos and other products contains few or no organic ingredients at all, yet uses ingredients that health studies suggest may be harmful. Be sure to check the ingredient labels on organic products you buy: the majority of ingredients should be organic, and should exclude harmful chemicals like triclosan (also sometimes listed as triclocarbon, Irgasan DP 300, and Ster- Zac).
JEWELRY Lead & Cadmium-Free Thanks to our work over the past ten years,Text or graphic CEH has seen a dramatic decline in problems from lead and cadmium-tainted jewelry. But some tainted items remain, especially inexpensive, imported jewelry. When shopping, avoid cheap metals and jewelry with vinyl cords.
COOKWARE Polytetrafluoethylene (PTFE) & Perfluouric Acid(PFOA) -free Giving the latest kitchen gadget is alwaysText or graphic fun, but some cookware, like Teflon or other non-stick pans may contain polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and/or perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which have been linked to hazardous fumes and in animal studies have caused cancer and birth defects. Our guide to safer cookware can help make your kitchen the safest room in the house!
FOOD & CANDY GMO & Lead-Free Holiday giving often includes specialtyText or graphic foods, like Christmas cookies or the dreaded fruitcake. This year, think about making or buying foods produced without pesticides or risky genetic engineering (GMOs). Local Harvest and other groups have resources on avoiding GMOs and choosing local, organic foods. As discussed in our recent post about Thanksgiving, added sugars in the U.S. diet are a major factor in many health care problems, like diabetes and heart disease. You can also avoid genetically modified (GMO) foods, which pose risks of new allergies and unexpected food toxins, by avoiding processed foods with corn, soy, sugar beets or canola. Consider alternatives for this years stocking stuffers or Hanukkah gelt--substitute homemade low-sugar treats or gift certificates for family activities, like cooking together or going on hikes. If you do buy chocolates, choose organic, fair- trade brands like Tcho Organic, Endangered Species, or Antidote.
Hormone Disruptors-Free Some people may opt to buy a nice, reusable water bottle for the yogi or athletic friend or family member in their life. Reusable bottles are a great way to be less wasteful, and most companies have eliminated the toxic, hormone disrupting chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) from their plastic bottles. Sadly, because of a regulatory "toxic shell game," we cant know if chemicals in plastic used in place of BPA might also disrupt our hormones and cause health problems, like birth defects and even cancer. Stick with glass or stainless steel bottles for the safer bet.
VOCs-Free Crafting kits and art supplies are greatText or graphic presents for the creative kids and friends in your life. Make sure to avoid strong glues and markers—some can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can cause eye & throat irritation, nausea, and damage to the liver and nervous system. If a product contains a specific health warning, like ―harmful if swallowed‖, then steer clear. Choose water-based products rather than solvent-based products (solvent- based products often have a strong chemical smell).
Half of all paper consumed in the U.S. is forpaper to wrap and decorate gifts orconsumer products. Worse yet, wrappingpaper is often not recyclable, due to thedyes and coatings often applied. Reuse oldgift bags, or try some creative, funalternatives (like a present scavenger hunt)this year!
CEH has a sixteen-year track record of protecting communities from the health impacts of toxic pollutionand has previously uncovered lead and other toxic health threats to children from wood playgroundstructures, toys, vinyl baby bibs and lunchboxes, imported candies, childrens jewelry, childrensmedicines, and many other products. CEH also works with major industries and leaders in green businessto promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices. In 2010, the San Francisco BusinessTimes bestowed its annual "Green Champion" award to CEH for its work to improve health and theenvironment in the Bay Area and beyond. CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH 2201 Broadway, Suite 302 Oakland, CA 94612 Tel: 510-655-3900 www.ceh.org