Tag Archives | environmental working group

EWG Sunscreen Guide & Surprising Truths Parents Need To Read

I’m very appreciative of the folks at EWG (Environmental Working Group) for their hard work to help parents decipher through the toxic world of cosmetics, bath products, sunscreens and more. A few days ago, EWG issued a news release stating they only recommend 8 percent of all sunscreens. The reasons are exaggerated SPF claims and new developments in understanding possible hazards of some sunscreen ingredients – in particular Vitamin A.  Equally helpful is finding a business owner that has done their research on products they sell.  I often turn to Gwen, the owner of the web-based Nayla Natural Care to help me because she knows her stuff and I trust her. She has been great with providing information on the confusing topic of nanoparticles and sunscreen. This is one of the 9 ‘surprise truths‘ released by EWG so I’d like to start by summarizing some of the new – must read data listed on the EWG site. Some of the other ‘surprising truths’ in this article were kinda shocking for me and I encourage all parents to read the article in full.

All of the numbered bullets is direct research and quotes from the EWG site.

EWG Surprising Truths About Sunscreen

1) The International Agency for Research on Cancer and the FDA concur that “FDA is not aware of data demonstrating that sunscreen use alone helps prevent skin cancer”. The IARC recommends clothing, hats and shade as primary barrier to UV radiation and sunscreen should not be the first choice for cancer prevention. Read more here.

2) Some evidence that sunscreens might increase the risk of melanoma among sunscreen users. Scientists speculate that sunscreen users stay out in the sun longer or poor UVA protection over the last 30 years may have led to this surprising outcome. More info here.

3) In 2007 the FDA published draft regulations that would prohibit companies from labeling sunscreens higher than SPF 50+ because these values were misleading. ** Note from Suzanne – check out the article called Hall of Shame from EWG and lists Banana Boat Baby Max Protect, SPF = 100+ as a product with sky-high SPF protecting against sunburn but leaves skin exposed to damaging UVA rays. Think of how many parents read the title of the sunscreen and see the SPF 100+ and think they are giving their child the best sunscreen protection…it makes my stomach turn. **  More info here.

4) Adding to the confusion is the fact that sunshine serves a critical function in the body that sunscreen appears to inhibit – production of vitamin D. Read more info here.

5) The common sunscreen ingredient Vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) may speed up the development of skin tumors and lesions. Troubling because the sunscreen industry adds vitamin A to 41 percent of all sunscreens. Read more info here.

6) Pick your sunscreen: nanomaterials or potential hormone disruptors. The major choice is between chemical sunscreens which have inferior stability, penetrate the skin and may disrupt the body’s hormone systems and “mineral” sunscreens (zinc and titanium) which often contain micronized or nanoscale particles of those minerals. More info here.

7) Europe’s better sunscreens.   Sunscreen makers in Europe can select from among 27 chemicals for their formulations, compared to 17 in the US companies. Companies selling in Europe can add any of seven UVA filters to their products, but have a choice of only three when they market in the US. Read more here.

Some new information for some people I’m sure.  I’m even surprised by the strong emphasis from EWG on the focus of shade, clothing, and hats over sunscreen this year. Plus, more than ever the EWG’s new calculations for recommending safer sunscreens really eliminates more traditional sunscreen products and organic sunscreens on shelves today. Follow the quick tips for sourcing good sunscreen from EWG to best understand ingredients and products to avoid or look for:

Sunscreen ingredients to avoid: Oxybenzone, Vitamin A, added insect repellent
Sunscreen products to avoid: Spray, powders, SPF above 50+

Look for these sunscreen ingredients: Zinc, Titanium dioxide, Avobenzone or Mexoryl SX
Look for these sunscreen products: Cream, broad spectrum protection, water resistant for beach, pool and exerice, SPF 30 + for beach & pool.

For a full list of all of these tips in one great guide – download the EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Safer Sunscreens and post it where parents, co-workers, or family will see it. There are some wonderful tips that should be reviewed before the hot weather arrives for all of us.

Please check out next article on the topic of Nanoparticles from Gwen in our next post ~ Sunscreen Surprising Truths Part II. Gwen, the business owner of Nayla Natural Care continues to get more of my business because her sunscreen picks for the last few years have also been top picks from EWG. Join us while she breaks down the mystery behind nanoparticles in sunscreen.



Toxic Lipsticks & EWG Kid-Safe Video

Back in February, the Environmental Working Group wrote about lead showing up in popular lipstick brands.  The article ‘The Kiss Of Lead’ stated that 61% of the lipsticks tested, contained lead.   And don’t try looking on the lipstick packaging for lead listed as an ingredient because it wasn’t there.  To put the amount of lead found in perspective, the FDA allows 0.1 ppm (parts per million) limit for lead in candy.  The lipstick with the highest level of lead “L’Oreal Colour Riche – True Red” tested 0.65 ppm of lead.  

Then Canada helped put another toxic spin on lipstick last month by banning 2 chemicals used in lipstick and other personal care products: D4 and D5 siloxanes.  They are found in household items such as lotions, hair care, soaps, baby bottle nipples, cookware and cleaning products.  Their effects on animals include the usual damage to the female reproduction system and uterine tumors.  Solution for lipstick lovers?  Checking the Skin Deep database on the EWG site to research earth-friendly, non-toxic lipstick alternatives.  I did note with interest that many of the MAC products rated 3 for hazard score – that’s not a bad score considering I wouldn’t know where to find most of the products rating a 0 or 1.

Canada’s actions with this current ban of D4 & D5 and taking a stand on banning BPA in baby products last year, shows the Government has real concerns about chemicals and where they are being used. As quoted by the EWGThis action paves the way for possible mandates requiring that companies phase these chemicals out of use, is the first environmental or health-based determination concerning the chemicals issued by any nation”.  I feel reassured by Canada emerging as one of the world’s leaders for protecting it’s consumers from synthetic chemicals.  One of the most chilling messages that has stuck in my head after watching the documentary The Disappearing Male is that we’ve spent the last 100 years creating man-made (untested for effects on human health) synthetic chemicals and we’ll spend the next 100 years finding ways to combat the damage they’ve done to human health and the environment.   We have built our material world using synthetic chemicals with 80,000 of them in use.  85% of these chemicals have not been tested for their effect on human beings ~ very scary statistic.  We need to continue to encourage our governments to lobby for change with targeting and testing synthetic chemicals and their side-effects with human health. 

For my many US readers, I understand you’re not able to view the Disappearing Male documentary (restrictions from the Canadian site).  But, here is another eye-opeing video from the EWG site called Kid-Safe Chemicals Act: 10 Americans Video.  The speaker in the video is Ken Cook (co-founder and president of EWG) in July 2008 speaking about a research project the Environmental Working Group funded that involved checking the blood of 10 random Americans.  They checked each blood sample for 413 toxic chemicals.  Each subject tested positive for an average of 200 chemicals and some pesticides found in their blood were banned more than 30+ years ago.  It is fascinating when Ken reveals who the 10 Americans actually are and how they were selected.  This video is very entertaining and packed with awesome information!

Related articles:

Phthalates & BPA Chemicals ~ The Disappearing Male Documentary

Part II ~ The Disappearing Male Documentary

Quick Reference Guide When Shopping For Personal Care Products

Are Cosmetics Killing Us?



Quick Reference Guide When Shopping For Personal Care Products

When you’re out shopping and trying to remember what products are safely recommended or what ingredients are best to avoid, all while the kids are acting up in the cart…it starts feeling impossible to start reading through confusing ingredient lists.  Well the kind folks at EWG (Environmental Working Group) have produced a printable wallet card listing ingredients to avoid while shopping for cosmetics and personal care products so you have something to quickly refresh your memory.  I printed off something similar in the summer when searching for non-toxic sunscreens for my kids and found it very handy!

I also found this list of products to avoid very interesting from the EWG site..hmmmm off to check if my liquid hand soap contains triclosan…

Cosmetic products to avoid:
• Anti-aging creams with lactic, glycolic, AHA and BHA acids
• Hair dyes with ammonia, peroxide, p-phenylenediamine, diaminobenzene, and all dark permanent hair dyes
• Liquid hand soaps with Triclosan, aka Antibacterial hand soaps
• Nail polish & removers with fermaldehyde
• Skin lighteners with hydraquinone

I just checked my liquid Softsoap (common brand of liquid hand soap) and although it doesn’t contain Triclosan, it does contain an ingredient on the ‘naughty’ list: DMDM Hydantoin.  This ingredient is listed on EWG as a toxic contaminant.  To think I started the de-tox of toxic household products 8 months ago to discover stuff like this is very frustrating.  Makes me realize I haven’t even scratched the surface.  You can’t trust the big names in the beauty industry since my Softsoap is manufactured by Colgate-Palmolive.  The only name bigger than these two companies is Johnson & Johnson and many of their personal care products for babies contain phthalates and chemicals.  Yuck!

One large store that is North American, UK wide that I’m really impressed with is Whole Foods.  I’ve heard they conduct secondary testing of products they carry.  This means they do not just trust what companies tell them blindly so they run testing in-house.  They also have a list published on their site of unacceptable body care ingredients.  It’s great to know that every ingredient the Environmental Working Group listed on their printable wallet card is included in this ‘unacceptable’ list from Whole Foods.  They can’t guarantee that none of their products will contain these ingredients, but at least they’ve publicly announced that they are taking ever effort to source products not containing them.  To view the ingredients on this list, click here.  Hmmm I see a large forum on the Whole Foods site too.  Hard to find forums talking about natural topics…might be worth checking out.  For a list of Whole Foods locations, click here.

We all know I’m a big fan of EWG, but it’s nice to see there are other companies looking out for our health by carrying natural products, minus the chemicals. One Mommy Footprint reader recently told me that Whole Foods carries their own line (365 Everyday Value brand) and the prices are very reasonable. (Thanks Sabrina!) Shopping for natural products no longer needs to break the bank!  

January will be the month of talking about ways to rid your home of toxic products and link to places to find healthy alternatives here at Mommy Footprint.  Next up is natural nail polish….I’ve been looking to paint my twin’s nails since the summer and I’ve finally found a safe, biodegradable brand!  Stay tuned.



Are Cosmetics Killing Us?

It’s such a harsh title for an article, but the Environmental Working Group posted a similar title ‘Beauty Secret: Your Make-Up Can Kill You’ and not only did I sit up and read it, I agree.  I’ve long wondered why so many young people seem afflicted with disease and problems that used to happen later in life, and weren’t so common.  Why are 30 year old woman getting breast cancer, why are so many couples struggling with fertility problems, and why the high rate of immune problems?  The list goes on and even to a lesser degree…why have most children you know at one point been diagnosed with either eczema or asthma and why do girls in Grade 6 look so overdeveloped?  Most will agree it’s environmental.  Well what if it’s the chemicals that leech from our plastics, the body care and household products we use to ‘clean’ with, the air freshener we spray around children and pets, or the make-up we apply to make ourselves beautiful?  Even people’s pets these days seem to have higher rates of cancer. 

I’m not a scientist or at all educated on environmental issues, but I do believe much of what watchdog groups like EWG have to say.  After all, they’ve been bang on about bpa and phthalates.  We spend so much time checking labels and ingredients for our children, take a few minutes and review what scores your own body care products receive using the skin deep cosmetic safety database.  If the rating isn’t low, make it a New Year’s resolution to take a trip to Whole Foods, Planet Organic and surround yourself with some natural products.  My Noxzema scored a 4 on the cosmetic database and it’s really the only beauty product I use.  That score doesn’t impress me, so I’ll need to replace with one of the many solutions out there that scored 0-2 which is low level of concern for hidden chemicals, etc.

What are a few easy things you can do today that will remove many chemicals from your home/self immediately?

Use only natural personal care products on yourself and family.  Either that or use nothing at all (when I run out of natural soap and shampoo for my kids, I just use water).  Products purchased with the rest of your groceries (Johnson & Johnson, etc.) contain phthalates and this is not good news if you have boys.  Phthalates attack their reproductive systems and you can’t search for this in an ingredient list…it’s a chemical that manufacturers sneak into products masked with the word ‘fragrance’ on the bottle.  So steer clear of anything with fragrance for your entire family….yes even Johnson & Johnson’s baby shampoo contains phthalates! Read more here: Protect Your Family From Phthalates In Your Home

Get rid of fabric softener or dryer sheets.  One of the most toxic things in your home…they release chemicals two ways:  through the skin and in the air.  Just stop using them and find out natural ways to help with static cling. Read more: Dryer Sheets & Fabric Softener – A Household Toxin

Don’t spray febreeze, air freshener, or plug-in room deodorizers… they are only masking odor with chemicals released through fragrance for your family to ingest.

Replace your cleaning supplies.  Ever wondered why your head is pounding after cleaning the bathroom or glass windows?  If you are spraying traditional cleaning agents, your headache is from inhaling toxins. Your children, family, and pets are also inhaling and touching those products. Eco-friendly cleaning products are sold everywhere these days and not only are they much better for the environment, but it’s much easier to clean thanks to companies like Norwex! Read more: Norwex – Cleaning Without Chemicals

I still find my children bathing or mouthing soft plastic toys.  PVC plastic is dangerous to human health…it’s proven that it releases the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm immune and reproductive systems.  Remove any soft plastic toys that might contain PVC from your home.  Something that still makes me sick is the Vancouver Aquarium gift shop sells isles of soft plastic toys, dolphins, whales, snakes, etc.  Every time I would take my boys there as toddlers, I would buy one of these figures so they could play in the tub with them.  I even bought an octopus for my girl’s to teeth on because the tentacles on the toy felt good against their gums when they were cutting a new tooth.  Last time I was at the aquarium, I noticed a sign under each bucket of these toys that read “PVC”.  It upset me for two reasons.  I had purchased these toxic toys for my kids to mouth, bath, and play with.  I also wondered how many parents know exactly what PVC means and why would they continue to sell them?  If you want to warn people about a product, write the word TOXIC underneath, not an acronym that most people don’t understand.  Sorry to start a rant, but I really suffer from guilt about the world of plastics and how much exposure my family had before the chemicals came to light for parents.

I look forward to highlighting companies in 2009 that are offering natural alternatives to traditional products that we grew up with.  I think we can look around and see that the cleaning agents, cosmetics, fragrances, and world of cooking with plastic, just isn’t working for us anymore.  If you don’t know where to start, check out the wonderfully natural site Nayla Natural Care.  A great place to start to find replacement products for your home.



Parabens – Moms Should Check Their Cosmetics

We have been learning about health concerns with personal products, toys, and plastics and protecting our children, but have you stopped to think about your own cosmetics?  I watched a video clip on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) web site that prompted me to check my own skin care line. If you are like me and attempt to read the ingredient lists of my personal products, I just wind up confused (and convinced that I need to take an English course because I can’t sound our most of the ingredients). Plus, as one of the scientific analysts for EWG stated, that reading the ingredients list if pointless unless you know what to look for. And they go on to say that half of our cosmetics contain an ingredient that is linked to reproductive problems or cancer.

Especially interesting from the video, was the scientist mentioning the chemical paraben.  I’ve seen it mentioned in various places, but didn’t know what the problem was.  Even at the Farmers Market last Sunday, I noticed a vendor selling non-toxic products and she was marketing them as ‘paraben free’. The simplest way I can explain the problems these two chemicals (phthalates and parabens) cause is that phthalates attack a boy/man’s reproductive system and cause an assortment of cancers and parabans attack a girl/woman’s reproductive system and cause female cancers. I thought that I only needed to worry about my boys with the problems that phthalates cause, but after watching this news video, I started checking my own personal product line and noticed many of them contain ingredients ending in ‘paraben’…isopropyl-paraben, isobutyl-paraben, butylparaben to name a few in my Paul Mitchell smoothing hair conditioner. Yikes!  I am also glad that I’ve replaced all personal care products for my girls with the non-toxic Trukid brand.  Especially after reading that parabens are reported to be carcinogens found in breast cancer tissue as well as the problems they cause with reproductive hormones.

More breast cancers in women?  More testicular cancer in men?  Are the chemicals the cause? This is the million dollar question. I’ll put in my two-bits to this debate. From the second I wrapped my mind around the issue with BPA, I knew there was something to the debate about this chemical. Why are so many young people we know battling infertility, MS, cancers, etc.? I think everyone agrees it’s environmental and I would add that the chemicals like BPA, Phthalates, and Parabens contribute to the many health issues that effect the child-bearing public. So, as mother’s especially, we are so diligent about protecting our children from harmful chemicals…maybe it’s time to look at our own personal products. You can check your products on the EWG’s cosmetic database by clicking this link. We need to make sure that we are keeping ourselves healthy as well as our children.  If you are like me, the more you learn, the more aware you are about these issues and it perpetuates around you.  I’m sure my family and friends are tired of hearing about these environmental concerns – but it’s getting us talking about it!  Spread the message of better health through your group of friends.



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