Healthy Legacy: Healthy people, a clean environment, a thriving economy.

05/21/2012

My mom: my motivation to work for safer chemicals and a healthier future for my family

By Tanwi Prigge, Maple Grove, Minnesota

Mom Me and RainaI am an Indian woman who came to US to study on a scholarship when I was 19 years old. I’m an IT professional and a US citizen, married to an American and a mother of a 3 year-old daughter. Being a mother has opened my eyes to so many dangers our kids face very early on and I cannot help but think of all the traditions and safe housekeeping my mother practiced to keep her family safe.  

When my daughter was born, my mother came to visit from India and in her luggage she carried cotton quilts, wooden and cloth toys, stainless steel utensils (some new and some as old as me!) cotton pillows, a gold necklace and lots of homemade baby items all made from natural materials. She told me that my first and foremost responsibility was to protect my child from all harm and that sentiment stuck with me.

Childhood memories

When I think back on my childhood, I remember my mother always cooking in stainless steel cookware, some of which has lasted for many years and now has been passed down to me. Even though her friends had their “new,” “revolutionary,” “modern,” and expensive non-stick cookware, she trusted her steel cookware more. Now, with what we know about the chemicals in those pans, I am glad she kept using time-tested and safe options.

And it wasn’t just in the kitchen that she avoided products filled with synthetic chemicals. We played with rag dolls and their matching outfits my grandma made of cotton and wool. We had cloth diapers and the changing pads were small quilts that were constantly washed and rotated…no wonder we were all potty trained before our first birthday!

How do we get out of this toxic mess?

Although I live in one of the most powerful and richest countries in the world with all the modern amenities one can imagine, I keep going back to the things that were safe and made with few synthetic chemicals for the sake of my family.

I strongly believe that parents can do a lot to protect their children from chemical hazards by making some simple changes to their lifestyle. I have eliminated unnecessary cleaning products, personal products, garden pesticides, pet care and household insect control. I have become a conscientious purchaser when buying household goods, children’s toys, pet food, clothing and cookware.

But changing our own behavior isn’t enough!

526681_10150796217716744_101152936743_10014513_1707973136_nOur government also plays a role in protecting public health from toxins. Other countries are taking this issue very seriously and are continuously working to regulate these harmful chemicals, especially in children’s products. Just as a mother’s foremost responsibility is to protect her children, our government’s responsibility should be to protect its citizens. I hope you’ll join me in standing by the Federal Safe Chemicals Act S. 847—we need our elected officials to do the right thing!

Tanwi Prigge migrated to the United States from India on a student scholarship at the age of 19. She is an IT professional with lots of energy and a passion to work for the common good through volunteer work and active involvement in the community. 

 

05/11/2012

Lessons from my mom: Honoring toxic-free traditions this mother's day

By Caitlin Seath 

Mother silhouetteI grew up in the Canadian countryside and there my mom always made everything from scratch. She would often use recipes from her mom, my grandma. Even though she was raising the three of us on her own, she always made everything. How she found the energy, I will never know.

She passed that knowledge onto me before I started my own family. My first child came 4 weeks early, and within the first three months of life we knew that something was going on with his skin. We discovered that he had severe eczema; it was something that his dad had also suffered with.  We took that knowledge from my mom and grandmother and changed the way we cleaned, the products we used on our skin, and the food we ate.

Lessons learned

We used a vinegar recipe passed down from my grandma to clean almost everything. We had to special order clothes for our son made from 100% organic cotton. The typical baby products that are in stores may have smelled great, but they wreaked havoc on our baby's skin. The chemicals in these products provoked a burning, rash symptom. I was disgusted that our government even allowed such ingredients to be deemed safe to add to everyday products. We really had to become aware of what ingredients were safe and what to steer clear of.

When our son turned one, he had a birthday cake that he couldn't eat. We discovered the hard way that he was allergic to eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts. He started going into shock. Luckily my husband and I had an antihistamine to give him and a quick ride to the hospital. Now we had to be vigilant about food. I don't know what I would've done without my mom, she helped us through all of our ups and downs, and gave us the knowledge to raise a healthy little boy.

I feel very lucky that I always had a fountain of information before we had our son. It could have been a lot harder. Fortunately we were already knowledgeable about foods and ingredients so we didn't have to change our lifestyle too much.

Finding safe products

The hurdle that we always and still do run into is being able to find safe products and food to purchase here in Minnesota. Luckily I could once again count on my mom. She still lives in Canada, so we would have her bring us a lot of the clothing and other products from there. We would also send away for various things from Europe. Their laws are stricter when it comes to having safe ingredients in their products. I see other countries protecting the health of children and I wonder why our government thinks it is acceptable to expose our children to harmful ingredients.

I know that our state is starting to take protective action in the vacuum of federal restrictions. I can only hope that it will get better.

Today, my son's eczema is under control, and my mom and I are creating new recipes for future birthday cakes!

Take Action

We can't shop our way out of this problem--in order to have safe, toxic-free products, we need the government to take action to protect our health. Join with the thousands of people who support chemical policy reform by signing the petition for the Safe Chemicals Act today!

 

05/08/2012

Looking to manage pesky weeds the toxic-free way?

WeedMain copyIt seems that, after an April full of wacky weather in Minnesota, we may be on the track to the warm and sunny (and humid!) days of summer. And with summer, of course, comes yard and garden care. So get your gloves ready—Healthy Legacy has some great tips to start your summer right!

Let’s tackle a common source of frustration first: weeds. For many of us trying to manage green spaces without the use of harmful chemicals, weeds that return and multiply each and every year can be a sore subject (quite literally, too, when you spend the day pulling them by hand!) This tip will help you prevent future weeds in grassy spaces, for those of you that have them:

Tip: Apply corn gluten in the spring and fall to manage weeds. It won’t kill existing weeds, but prevents new ones from sprouting. It will become more effective with each application.

Remember: Corn gluten will prevent ANY seed from sprouting, including grass seeds—so you shouldn’t apply it in an area where you are trying to seed grass effectively.

Our colleagues at HealthyStuff.org also just released testing results that found toxic chemicals in many common garden products (like garden hoses, kneeling pads and more), so before you head to the store, take a look at the findings for tips on how to find the safest products. You can also read the highlights of the findings on the Healthy Legacy website.

Dreading the need to clean the toxic products out of your shed? Sign the petition to congress demanding that they protect our families from toxic chemicals.

You can also download our Natural Lawn and Garden Care factsheet that has more tips for keeping your lawn healthy and non-toxic.

 

05/07/2012

Liar, liar, pants on fire?

A new watchdog series at the Chicago Tribune looks in depth at the use of toxic flame retardants in furniture and other foam products. What did they find? A history of deception, questionable testimony and industry front groups that have invested millions in deceiving the general public about the need for these harmful chemicals. It turns out that these chemicals don't effectively prevent fires, but likely do make smoke from fires more toxic.

This video from the Chicago Tribune gives a great overview of their work.

Flame retardant video
The Chicago Tribune will continue to publish more information on this topic throughout the week, which you can find here.

In Minnesota, there are two flame retardants on the Priority Chemics list. You can use this factsheet to find tips on how to avoid them in children's products

But ultimately these harmful chemicals are ending up in consumer products because the current law on the books, the Toxic Substances Control Act, is broken and outdated--instead of protecting our health, it  allows thousands of chemicals to be used in products without being tested for safety. We deserve better. Will you take action today by signing the petition to support the Safe Chemicals Act


05/03/2012

New Study Finds Toxic Chemicals in Gardening Products

By Kim LaBo, Healthy Legacy Organizer at Clean Water Action Minnesota.

Chemicals in Hoses Leach into Water, Study Finds

image from salsa.democracyinaction.orgHigh amounts of lead, phthalates and bisphenol-A (BPA ) were found in the water of a new hose after sitting outside in the sun for just a few days, according to a report co-released today by the Minnesota based Healthy Legacy Coalition and Healthy Stuff. Results are available online today at www.HealthyStuff.org.

Nearly 200 hoses, gloves, kneeling pads and tools were tested for lead, cadmium, bromine (associated with brominated flame retardants); chlorine (indicating the presence of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC); phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA).  Such chemicals have been linked to birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, premature births and early puberty in laboratory animals, among other serious health problems. 

“During the summer, many children drink from garden hoses, run through sprinklers and wade in kiddie pools that contain water contaminated with toxic chemicals,” stated Deanna White, Clean Water Action state director and Healthy Legacy Coalition co-director. “Children’s health is being put at risk yet again because current laws do not ensure products are safe.” 

Testing Highlights

  1. HealthyStuff.org screened 179 common garden products, including garden hoses (90); garden gloves (53); kneeling pads (13) and garden tools (23). Two-thirds (70.4%) of these products had chemical levels of “high concern.”
  2. 30% of all products contained over 100 ppm lead in one or more component.  100 ppm is the Consumer Product Safety Commission Standard (CPSC) for lead in children’ products.
  3. 100% of the garden hoses sampled for phthalates contained four phthalate plasticizers which are currently banned in children’s products.
  4. Two water hoses contained the hazardous flame retardant 2,3,4,5-tetrabromo-bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (TBPH).

Harmful Chemicals End Up in Water

  1. Water sampled from one hose contained 0.280 mg/l (ppm) lead.  This is 18-times higher than the federal drinking water standard of 0.015 mg/l. 
  2. BPA levels of 2.3 ppm were found in the hose water.  This level is 20-times higher than the 0.100 ppm safe drinking water level used by NSF to verify that consumers are not being exposed to levels of a chemical that exceed regulated levels. 
  3. The phthalate DEHP was found at 0.025 ppm in the hose water. This level is 4-times higher than federal drinking water standards.  EPA and FDA regulate DEHP in water at 0.006 mg/l (ppm).

What You Can Do

  1. Read the labels: Avoid hoses with a California Prop 65 warning that says “this product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects and other reproductive harm.”  Buy hoses that are “drinking water safe” and “lead-free”.
  2. Let it run: Always let your hose run for a few seconds before using, since the water that’s been sitting in the hose will have the highest levels of chemicals.
  3. Avoid the sun: Store your hose in the shade. The heat from the sun can increase the leaching of chemicals from the PVC into the water.
  4. Don't drink water from a hose: Unless you know for sure that your hose is drinking water safe, don’t drink from it.  Even low levels of lead may cause health problems.
  5. Buy a PVC-free hose: Polyurethane or natural rubber hoses are better choices.  Visit www.HealthyStuff.org for sample products.
  6. Support passage of the Safe Chemicals Act: Harmful chemicals are ending up in consumer products because the Toxic Substances Control Act, passed into law over 35 years ago, is outdated and ineffective.

“Even if you are an organic gardener, doing everything you can to avoid pesticides and fertilizers, you still may be introducing hazardous substances into your soil by using these products,” said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center.

04/18/2012

Formaldehyde in children's products bill moves forward in MN State House

By Dan Endreson, Clean Water Action Minnesota

image from www.flickr.comThe Minnesota House of Representatives recently voted to accept language to prohibit formaldehyde in children's products onto a larger Environment Omnibus bill.

During the 2012 Legislative Session, the Health Legacy coalition has been working on a policy to protect our kids from toxic chemicals and prohibit the use of formaldehyde in children’s products. Studies have found formaldehyde in children’s products such as crib sheets, clothing and personal care products. Short-term exposure to formaldehyde causes eye and respiratory irritation, and long-term exposure can cause cancer.

The State House of Representatives made the right decision in voting to accept the language to prohibit formaldehyde in children’s products onto the House Environment Omnibus bill on April 4. The vote was bipartisan, as 74 Democrats and Republicans joined together to ensure children’s products that are sold in Minnesota are free of formaldehyde. Will the Minnesota Senate join their colleagues in supporting this important policy as the Omnibus bill moves forward this week?

Photo by: TBoard on flickr.

04/10/2012

In bed with Formaldehyde? A known carcinogen in some textiles

IStock_000012222942SmallLast week, the Minnesota House of Representatives voted in favor of a ban on formaldehyde in children’s products by adding it to the Environment Omnibus bill. And we say: it’s about time! Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that is used in everyday products from composite wood furniture to baby shampoo to clothing.

And (big surprise) it’s usually not on the label, especially in the case of textiles. (In personal care products, you can look for “quaternium-15” which is the preservative that can release formaldehyde over time). So how can we avoid exposure to this harmful chemical? Unfortunately, there’s no way to shop ourselves out of this problem, because the use of toxics in everyday products is widespread. What we really need is comprehensive reform that will ensure the products we buy are safe before they hit store shelves.

In the meantime, though, here’s a tip on how to reduce exposure to formaldehyde in textiles.

Tip: Make sure to wash new clothes and linens before wearing or using to reduce formaldehyde levels.

Formaldehyde is sometimes added to textiles like crib sheets. Wrinkle-free clothing is also often treated with formaldehyde. Washing them before you use them (and washing them frequently thereafter) can help to reduce levels of the chemical.

Does the prospect of formaldehyde in crib sheets make you as frustrated as it makes us? Sign the petition to congress demanding that they protect our families from toxic chemicals.

You can also download our Quick Tips to Avoid Toxins factsheet that has more tips for avoiding the nine Minnesota Priority Chemicals.

03/30/2012

FDA misses the mark on BPA


Messy soup_Tom & Katrien_flickrToday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a decision about the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) and its use in food packaging. Their decision affects everyone’s health and our right to be protected from exposure to harmful chemicals in our food, our homes and our environment. The agency ruled that it will not limit the use of BPA in food packaging products.

Photo credit: Tom & Katrien on Flickr

The BPA backstory

I won’t go into a full history of the problems with BPA, because our colleagues at Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families have put together a great introduction to the chemical. But I do want to talk about why we are concerned that it is being used in an essentially unregulated manner and in a broad range of products—from the linings of food cans to thermal receipt paper to amalgam dental fillings. An ever-growing body of science continues to find links between the chemical and several harmful health effects, including: diabetes, obesity, breast and prostate cancer.

Several studies were released in 2011 related to the presence of BPA in our food. One study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that eliminating canned and pre-packaged foods from the diet of study participants over a three-day period reduced levels of the chemical in their urine by an average of 60 percent. Another study from The Journal of the American Medical Association found that eating a canned food item once a day can increase levels of BPA up to 1,200 percent. And finally, testing conducted by the Breast Cancer Fund (here and here) revealed that BPA is found in canned foods. Levels of the chemical in each food varied, but in some a single serving contained levels that have been linked with adverse health effects in lab studies.

Current state of affairs: a badly broken system

Several states have taken action in recent years on BPA in everyday products, including Minnesota—the first state in the nation to ban use of the chemical in baby bottles and sippy cups. But why are states compelled to take action on this matter to begin with?

The need for state level action to protect public health stems from the badly broken systems that are meant to keep harmful chemicals off the market, but in fact fail miserably at doing so.

In the case of bisphenol A in food packaging, regulatory authority falls to the U.S. FDA. Today’s decision is the result of a multi-year battle between the agency and NRDC. More than three years ago, NRDC petition the FDA to ban the use of bisphenol A as a food additive. Because the agency did not respond within a reasonable time frame, NRDC mounted a legal action which resulted in a settlement requiring the FDA to render a decision by March 31, 2012. You can read a full account of the process on the NRDC Switchboard Blog.

This delay in and of itself is emblematic of our broken system: even in the face of mounting evidence on the problems associated with BPA, it took the FDA more than three years and a court case to make a ruling on BPA. We need a change: we need policy that protects our health before corporate profits.

The problem of harmful chemicals contaminating our food is only one piece of the puzzle. Problem chemicals are also ending up in our environment and our bodies through exposures to everyday consumer products and chemicals in our environment. Contrary to popular belief, chemicals are not proven safe before they are used in the production of our everyday products. The result? There is no comprehensive oversight of chemicals in the U.S. and we don’t have an adequate system for identifying which chemicals are safe and which ones are harmful.

Get involved!

Given the sad state of policy at the federal level, states will continue to play a key role in protecting the health of our people. But we also need to demand action where our agencies have failed us. Healthy Legacy is a Minnesota-based coalition, co-founded by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, working to phase the use of toxic chemicals out of everyday products. Sign-up now to receive action alerts and to keep up to date with our work.

03/27/2012

Quick dinner, hold the BPA!

IIStock_000003484852XSmallt’s already challenging for families to prepare meals at home—with busy schedules, after school activities, long work hours and more, carving out time to not only eat together but also to cook from scratch is a tough task for many of us. So we sometimes turn to ready-made food, right? I know I do.

Unfortunately, sometimes subbing in pre-made meals can affect your exposure to the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone disrupter linked with certain cancers, diabetes and obesity. As if we haven’t already got enough to worry about! So this week’s tip is all about helping you through those times when you need a quick meal, but don’t want to end up with a hefty dose of BPA on the side.

Tip: If you’re short on time and need to fix dinner quick, we recommend opting for frozen pre-made meals instead of those in the can. Canned all-in-one meals have some of the highest levels of BPA of any canned foods. But before you microwave, make sure you pop the food out of the plastic tray and onto a plate. Here’s a video showing how to heat and eat without the plastic.

Of course, these tips are meant to help you make safer choices, but the truth is that we shouldn’t have to constantly studying up on the latest problem chemical to make its way into our products. You can act now and ask the FDA to rule bisphenol A unsafe for use in food packaging.

 

03/16/2012

Cute Baby Friday: March 16, 2012

 

CBF_3.16.12


This week's Cute Baby Friday pic comes to us from Dawn--two cute kiddos to brighten your day!

"Even us big kids have to fight to keep chemicals off of us!"

Act now for safer Chemicals in MN: http://bit.ly/PriorityChemicalReporting, and nationally: http://bit.ly/SafeChemsAct

 

Healthy Legacy