Are you breastfeeding toxins to your child ?

Breast feeding

Toxic Chemicals in Breast Milk: A Threat to Fetal Development

A recent study published in Environmental Science & Technology has shed light on the alarming presence of toxic chemicals in breast milk, which can have devastating effects on fetal development. Researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) discovered that nanoplastics and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) can alter the structure and function of proteins critical to human development, potentially impacting child development.

The study, titled “Toxic chemicals in breast milk: Nanoplastics and PFAS alter protein structure and function“, found that exposure to these toxic chemicals can disrupt the normal functioning of proteins such as beta-lactoglobulin (BLG), alpha-lactalbumin, and myoglobin. These proteins play a crucial role in fetal development, and any alterations to their structure and function can have far-reaching consequences.

The presence of nanoplastics and PFAS in breast milk is a growing concern, as these chemicals are commonly found in consumer products, food packaging, and even in the environment. The UTEP study highlights the need for immediate action to reduce exposure to these toxic chemicals, particularly for pregnant women and new mothers.

The impact of these chemicals on fetal development cannot be overstated. Exposure to nanoplastics and PFAS during pregnancy has been linked to a range of health problems, including:

  • Neurodevelopmental delays
  • Reproductive issues
  • Cancer
  • Immune system dysfunction

Given the potential risks, it is essential for pregnant women and new mothers to take steps to reduce their exposure to nanoplastics and PFAS. Remember that you can reduce your overall body burden of these chemical by avoidance and detoxification approaches. To be clear there is no way to completely eliminate these from our body or from being exposed inadvertently.

 

Action Steps:

  1. Avoid heating food in plastic containers: When heating food, use glass or ceramic containers instead of plastic to reduce the risk of nanoplastic leaching.
  2. Choose PFAS-free products: Opt for personal care products, such as shampoo and lotion, that are labeled as PFAS-free. This is rare currently however a number of manufactures have opted in removing these toxins.
  3. Use a water filter: Install a water filter at home to reduce exposure to PFAS-contaminated water. See our article on this subject at: Less-Toxins in your Water
  4. Avoid non-stick cookware: Replace non-stick cookware with stainless steel or cast iron alternatives to reduce exposure to PFAS.
  5. Wash your hands frequently: Regular handwashing can help reduce the transfer of nanoplastics and PFAS from contaminated surfaces to your body.
  6. Avoid microwaving in plastic: Avoid microwaving food in plastic containers, as this can cause nanoplastic leaching.
  7. Choose organic produce: Opt for organic produce to reduce exposure to PFAS-contaminated soil and water.
  8.  Ditch the liners that prevent your burgers and/or pizza from staining the box or your hands.

By taking these simple steps, pregnant women and new mothers can significantly reduce their exposure to nanoplastics and PFAS, protecting their health and the health of their children.

The UTEP study serves as a wake-up call for the need to address the presence of toxic chemicals in breast milk. It is essential that we take immediate action to reduce exposure to these chemicals and prioritize the health and well-being of our children as the impact is magnified for future generation in addition to the decline of function for our children. Consider also writing your elected representatives and making a point of purchasing wisely. 

References:




Are your natural or synthetic household items more fireproof

house fire

Home contents and house fires

Many of us think that natural fibers will combust more readily than synthetics. Well the truth is very different.

Back in 2009 the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) conducted some experiments with typical home rooms, lite a fire and took time delay films. Very interesting to see the difference in both the timing of the flame propagation and the amount of smoke that’s produced.

House fires that involve synthetic materials, such as plastics, rubber, or foam, will create a toxic smoke that’s a combination of gases and particles. The smoke can contain multiple dangerous chemicals, including, 
  • Hydrogen cyanide: A poisonous gas that can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. It’s produced when synthetic polymers like nylon and polyurethane, or natural fibers like wool and silk, aren’t fully consumed during a fire.
  • Dioxins: A byproduct of burning chlorine-containing products, like plastics.
  • Carbon monoxide: An asphyxiant gas.
  • Acids: Such as hydrochloric and sulfuric acid.
  • Oxides of nitrogen: An irritant gas.
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons: A complex molecule of toxins.

Although the original experiments in this study were done in 2009 it’s worth noting the significance.

In a study , “Analysis of Changing Residential Fire Dynamics” 2011 they found that our homes are changing including more open concept layouts, higher ceilings (more air), and more furnishings that can lead to faster fires. And the really bad news, newer materials used in our homes literally get the thumbs down on their response to fire.

Their conclusion: “It was very clear that the natural materials in the legacy room released energy slower than the fast burning synthetic furnished modern room. The times to flashover show that the a flaming fire in a room with modern furnishings leaves significantly less time for occupants to escape the fire.”

In 2020 FSRI captured a new side-by-side burn comparison of natural and synthetic home furnishing. Since the original comparison video was released in 2009, FSRI has repeated the same experiment several times with similar results in terms of flashover times between the natural and synthetic furnished rooms. The flashover data from those experiments are very telling when you consider your ability to escape the fast moving fire. 

Take Aways:

Limit the amount of synthetic furniture and furnishings

Always keep fire extinguishers available and currently inspected

Remember smoke rises so get down lower to the floor in a fire

Exit the building if its out of control and get to fresh air ASAP

Watch the film as its really amazing the difference between the rooms




Some Pesticides with your Pomegranate juice and pistachios ?

pomegranate

 Not Wonderful, The Wonderful Company is Spraying Toxic Paraquat on pomegranates and pistachios

Introduction: When a company promotes the health benefits of its products, we expect it to prioritize the well-being of its workers and the communities it serves. Unfortunately, Wonderful, the company behind popular brands like POM pomegranate juice and Wonderful pistachios, falls short in this regard.

The Issue: A recent analysis by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reveals that Wonderful is the second-largest user of toxic paraquat in California. In 2021 alone, the company sprayed over 56,000 pounds of paraquat on its pomegranate, pistachio, and almond trees. Paraquat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has been linked to serious health risks, including Parkinson’s disease, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and childhood leukemia.

The Urgent Call: We all vote with our dollars daily. Perhaps it’s time to change the brand you purchase, let this company know your thoughts and go organic ?

Why Paraquat Is a Concern:

  1. Health Risks: Paraquat is so toxic that it has been banned in more than 60 countries. The EPA has even prohibited its use on golf courses. Workers who handle paraquat are more than twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease compared to those using other pesticides1.
  2. Environmental Impact: Paraquat can drift away from farmland, affecting nearby communities. This poses a risk to public health and the environment.

Regulations:

The EPA continues to defend its use in the U.S., despite mounting evidence of its negative impact on human health.

Fifty-eight countries, including China and members of the European Union, have banned paraquat due to its extreme toxicity, including its connection to Parkinson’s disease1Some of these countries include Austria, Denmark, Finland, Kuwait, Slovenia, Sweden, Chile, Germany, Hungary, South Korea, Indonesia, and Togo2.

Health Benefits:

Pomegranates are significant in terms of their health benefits. They include being an antioxidant, anti-inflammatant,  have anti-cancer and  heart benefits, and might be helpful for your urinary tract.

                  Rich in Antioxidants:

Take Aways:

  • Consuming pomegranates has enough potential benefits to warrant being part of your diet. 
  • Source organic juice with out added sugars
  • Eat them regularly in your salads to making a sorbet
  • Need 25 new recipe ideas on what to do with pomegranates ?see the food and wine article

 


References:

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Paraquat-Related Illnesses and Injuries.” 1
  2. National Institute of Health (NIH). “Paraquat Exposure and Parkinson’s Disease Risk.” 2
  3. Antioxidants and Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Heber, D. (2008). Pomegranate Ellagitannins. In Nutrition Reviews, 66(6), 361-371. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2008.00054.x
  4. Anticancer EffectsLansky, E. P., & Newman, R. A. (2007). Punica granatum (pomegranate) and its potential for prevention and treatment of inflammation and cancer. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 109(2), 177-206. DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2006.09.006
  5. Heart Health BenefitsAviram, M., & Dornfeld, L. (2001). Pomegranate juice consumption inhibits serum angiotensin converting enzyme activity and reduces systolic blood pressure. Atherosclerosis, 158(1), 195-198. DOI: 10.1016/S0021-9150(01)00412-900412-9)



Do you drink decaffeinated coffee ?

Coffee Beans

Decaf Coffee and Methylene Chloride: A Fight for Consumer Safety

The future of decaf coffee is continuing to brew a controversy. The National Coffee Association’s (NCA) National Coffee Data Trends statistic,  inferred that approximately 0.74 cups (24% of 3.1 cups) per day per capita in the United States are decaffeinated coffee. 

Consumer health advocates are urging the FDA to ban methylene chloride, a chemical used in decaffeination. While trace amounts remain after processing, they argue a 1958 law mandates a ban because studies show it causes cancer in animals.

The Chemical in Question: Methylene Chloride and it’s health effects

Methylene chloride, is used by major coffee companies for its solvent properties. It binds to caffeine in beans, allowing its removal. However, the fight hinges on its potential health risks.

  • Scientific Evidence: Rodent studies have linked methylene chloride to cancer. The Delaney Clause of the FDA’s food additive laws prohibits any additive proven to cause cancer in humans or animals.
  • Level of Exposure: Advocates argue the Delaney Clause applies regardless of the trace amounts remaining after processing. They believe any detectable level is unsafe.

Methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane (DCM), was banned in the United States for certain uses due to health concerns. However, there were no reported deaths directly linked to the use of methylene chloride in decaffeinated coffee.

Methylene chloride was widely used as a paint stripper and degreaser. In 1987, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a ban on methylene chloride for use in consumer and most commercial paint stripping products due to its potential health risks. The EPA’s risk assessment at the time concluded that methylene chloride posed an unreasonable risk to human health, particularly for workers and consumers exposed during paint stripping.

The primary health concerns associated with methylene chloride exposure include:

  1. Carcinogenicity: Rodent studies have linked methylene chloride to cancer.
  2. Neurotoxicity: Methylene chloride can cause dizziness, headaches, and even loss of consciousness due to its ability to deplete oxygen in the blood.
  3. Reproductive and developmental effects: Methylene chloride may affect the reproductive system and cause developmental issues in fetuses.

The ban on methylene chloride for paint stripping was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1991. However, the chemical is still used in various industrial applications, including the decaffeination of coffee and tea.

In 2018, the EPA proposed a ban on methylene chloride for use in consumer and most commercial paint and coating removal to address ongoing health concerns. The ban was finalized in 2019, but the use of methylene chloride in decaffeinated coffee and tea remains unchanged.

Industry Frustration and the Limits of the Delaney Clause:

  • Overly Precautionary? The food industry and some FDA officials find the Delaney Clause overly cautious. Animal studies may not perfectly reflect human exposure levels in decaf coffee.
  • Legal Wrangling: This “Delaney Clause strategy” has been successful before, forcing bans on certain food additives.

Some commercial sources still using methylene chloride for decaffeination include:

  1. ABC Decaffeinated Coffee
  2. Eight O’Clock Decaffeinated Coffee (some blends)
  3. Folgers Decaffeinated Coffee (some blends)
  4. Maxwell House Decaffeinated Coffee (some blends)
  5. Nescafé Decaffeinated Coffee (some blends)

Consumer Choice:  C02 & Water-Based Decaffeination

While the debate continues, consumers can make informed choices:

  • There are two main non-chemical methods of decaffeination for coffee: the Swiss Water Process and the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Process.

    1. Swiss Water Process: The Swiss Water Process is a chemical-free method of decaffeinating coffee. This method uses water, temperature, and time to create a coffee bean solution, called Green Coffee Extract (GCE). GCE is then passed through a carbon filter to remove caffeine. The decaffeinated green coffee beans are then reintroduced to the GCE, allowing them to absorb the soluble flavors from the solution while leaving caffeine behind.

    Advantages:

    • Chemical-free
    • Maintains coffee’s original flavor
    • Environmentally friendly

    Disadvantages:

    • More expensive than chemical methods
    • Longer processing time
    1. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Process: The CO2 Process uses pressurized CO2 as a solvent to extract caffeine from green coffee beans. At high pressure, CO2 behaves like a liquid, allowing it to penetrate the coffee cells and dissolve caffeine. The CO2-caffeine mixture is then depressurized, causing the CO2 to evaporate and leave the caffeine behind.

    Advantages:

    • Chemical-free
    • Highly selective for caffeine
    • Environmentally friendly

    Disadvantages:

    • More expensive than chemical methods
    • Limited commercial availability
    • Specialized equipment required

This fight highlights the ongoing debate about food safety regulations. While the science on methylene chloride’s effects in decaf coffee is complex, consumers have the right to be informed and have access to safer alternatives.

The Takeaway:

  • Check the labels on the decaffeinated coffee brands and go for water or C02 based processing
  • Is your coffee organic certified ?
  • Don’t settle for  any unlabeled product or companies that fail to be transparent about the processing.



Still have your coffee lid on your cup ?

coffee lid and cup

Super dose of BPA while sipping your coffee with a  plastic lid !

Have you heard about the recent controversy surrounding bisphenol A (BPA) and how much of it is considered safe ? It’s a big deal, especially for those concerned about the effects of this chemical on our health.

BPA is a widely used chemical in the production of plastics, and it’s found in many everyday items, including plastic water bottles, food containers, and even the lining of metal cans used for beverages like soda.

Researchers have found that exposure to BPA, even at low levels, can potentially affect brain function, contribute to conditions like ADHD and autism, increase the risk of diabetes, obesity, and heart diseases, and even impact fertility and reproductive health.

In December 2021, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a report suggesting that the safe daily intake level for BPA should be much lower – a staggering 20,000 times lower than the currently recommended exposure levels in the European Union (EU). That’s a significant difference!

In a  TEDx talk highlighting the presence of BPA in disposable coffee cup lids. Zandra Palma, MD, has documented the overwhelming levels we ingest.

While the future of BPA regulation or elimination remains uncertain, it’s crucial that we educate ourselves, our families, healthcare providers, and policymakers about the potential risks associated with BPA exposure. After all, our health and the health of future generations are at stake.

Family of Chemicals:

Remember this is a family of chemicals, including BPF, BPB, BPS, BPAF, BHPF, BADGE, and BPZ. So much more work needs to be done to remove these health concerning chemicals from our daily exposure

The constant push and pull between risk and industry considerations should be carefully weighed in favor of our health.

Take Aways:

Still drinking with the plastic lid on your cup, don’t !

Consuming Coke in cans….. did you know they use BPA ?

Check labels as the FDA has mandated BPA reporting.

Use safer products including glass, stainless and silicon, etc.

Read more: Guide-natural-breast-pumps/  

Ready to do something about the plastic issue ? See these organizations.

Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC): This is a global alliance of organizations, businesses, and activists working toward a world free of plastic pollution. PPC focuses on promoting solutions through education, policy, and cleanups.

5 Gyres Institute: A non-profit organization dedicated to researching and raising awareness about plastic pollution in the world’s oceans and implementing solutions to address the issue.

Surfrider Foundation: A grassroots organization that works to protect and preserve the world’s oceans, waves, and beaches, with a strong focus on reducing plastic pollution.

Upstream: A nonprofit organization that works to create a waste-free world by addressing the root causes of plastic pollution and promoting reuse and refill systems.

Greenpeace USA: The U.S. branch of the global environmental organization Greenpeace has campaigns and initiatives to address plastic pollution, including advocating for corporate responsibility and policy changes.

Sierra Club: One of the oldest and largest environmental organizations in the U.S., the Sierra Club has programs and campaigns aimed at reducing plastic waste and promoting sustainable alternatives.

Story of Stuff Project: An organization that creates educational resources and campaigns to expose the environmental and social impacts of overconsumption, including the proliferation of plastic waste.

Break Free From Plastic: A global movement of organizations and individuals working to create a world free of plastic pollution through policy changes, corporate accountability, and grassroots action.

BPA: A True Hot Mess

So, if you missed the recent debacle between the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the rest of the world around how much BPA is safe, you’re not alone. Only those with skin in the  game were paying attention.

That would include endocrine disruption researchers, healthcare providers who are concerned about exposure in their patients and of course, the plastics industry who depend on BPA for all the plastic we use and love. It is after all, a “high-volume production chemical”- global production is predicted at 7.96 million tons in 2024. And climbing.

Levels of BPA in urine or blood have been found to be closely related  to cognition and memory changes in animals, ADHD and autism in humans as well as predicting risk for diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease (acute MI and death). Levels are also closely related to declining sperm count and quality in adult men, and decreased libido and changes to the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis in both sexes.

Oh, and let’s not forget that the new safe levels EFSA identified are based on the immunotoxic effects of BPA at very, very low levels of exposure. Do we have your attention now?

And if you really want a mind-blowing factoid check out one of our doctors, Zandra Palma MD’s TEDX talk on how much BPA is in disposable coffee cup lids. People used to laugh at our colleague, the famous immunologist Dr. Aristo Vojdani when he walked around at coffee breaks during medical conferences taking the disposable plastic lids off the paper coffee cups doctors had in their hands. Nobody is laughing now.

So, in December 2021, EFSA published their report finding that the level of BPA that is actually safe for humans- known as a Tolerable Daily Intake or TDI- is much lower than the EU current recommended exposure level. In fact 20,000 times lower. And definitely lower than any global regulatory level including in the U.S. This new safe level is 5,000 times lower than the average daily intake here in the land of regulatory capture. The European Commission (EC) in August 2023 stated that it was planning to propose adopting this revision of the TDI for BPA, including a ban on its use in food packaging materials. Whether that happens will be determined in the near future, hopefully the EU will take the comments we submitted this month seriously.

The comments were detailed in a paper we coauthored that has been accepted for publication in the prestigious Environmental Health Perspectives journal and will hopefully push the envelope on BPA and it’s alphabet-soup family (BPF, BPB, BPS, BPAF, BHPF, BADGE, and of course- BPZ). This paper is coauthored by some very big names in the field: Frederick VomSaal- the pre-eminent BPA researcher and environmental health author, Linda Birnbaum- former Director of the NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences), and a long list of others whose research on BPA’s effects has appeared in peer-reviewed publications for the last 20 years.

You can read the Commentary here as it was submitted to the European Commission this month. It’s title: “The conflict between regulatory agencies over the 20,000-fold lowering of the tolerable daily intake (TDI) for bisphenol A (BPA) by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)”.  The title speaks for itself and lays out the reasons we’ve all been exposed to this powerful estrogen-mimetic for the past 90 years.

Will humans survive the Plasticene Epoch? That depends on us- what we teach our colleagues, patients, families, legislators, and friends about BPA. And yes, there is BPA in the linings of Coca-Cola cans, as there is in all other aluminum beverage cans. Coke has the usual webpage on the safety of BPA, better to admit and downplay any concerns, apparently.

Want to learn more? We have a monthly podcast on this and everything environmental toxicant-related at the EMEI Review. We also have a Wed. night class for healthcare providers we call Consult Detox Docs, where we answer any and all questions about cases, lab interpretation or general issues related to toxicants and health. And for those who are ready to learn it all- a 12 month intensive training in environmental medicine.

Besides, don’t you want to become a doc like Zandra Palma?




Carcinogens with acne treatment, now what !

women with acne

What if your acne treatment converts to benzene, a carcinogen ?

Turns out that the benzoyl peroxide formulations can break down into benzene !

Typically when we find benzene in a product it’s because of contamination however, in the case of products that contain benzoyl peroxide it’s due to the breakdown conversion of the chemistry. If you’ve been reading our blogs you know that this is not the first time consumers have been exposed to benzene. Remember the hand sanitizer recalls ?

A list of the products tested is at the bottom of this blog.

Who blew the whistle on this commonly used over-the-counter product, a Connecticut-based laboratory Valisure LLC. They filed a citizen petition with the FDA asking for a recall of all the products containing the compound. It’s specifically more of an issue when the products are exposed to heat even as low as 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. You might recall this is the same laboratory that in 2019  alerted the FDA that the prescription medication ranitidine (Zantac tm) is fundamentally unstable and degrades to form high levels of the carcinogen NDMA. It was subsequently pulled from the market in  April of 2020.

You may be asking how will my product ever reach even this heat ? Think in terms of the 3 years and the expiration times on these products and then consider transportation, handling, stocking, and of course what happens when it’s in the sun or you have a hot environment in your bathroom when it’s in the medicine cabinet. All or even one of these exposures increases in temperature will result in the production of benzene.

Toxicity:

The World Health Organization (“WHO”) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (“IARC”) have classified benzene as a Group 1 compound which means they define it as “carcinogenic to humans.”

One consideration is that the FDA already has a law restricting benzene from any use in the manufacture of drug substances, excipients, and drug products because of their unacceptable toxicity. The chemical is classified as a class 1 solvent by the FDA. This is the highest level of risk-based classes.” Class 1 solvents are known to cause unacceptable toxicities”.

Let’s get clear about how long this has been known. In 1936 the first literature was presented discussing the degregation of benzoyl peroxide products to benzene. If you’re wondering how did this happen you might find the Reuter’s article interesting. It’s about the collusion between industry and the agencies that should be regulating these products.

The list of those in the suit include:

      • Alchemee, LLC and Taro Pharmaceutical USA, Inc. (Proactiv BPO products)
      • CVS Pharmacy Inc. and CVS Health Corp. (CVS Health Acne Treatment Cream and CVS Health Acne Control Cleanser)
      • RB Health, LLC (Clearasil Rapid Rescue Spot Treatment Cream and Clearasil Stubborn Acne Control 5 in 1 Spot Treatment Cream)
      • Target Corp. (Up & Up BPO products)
      • Genomma Lab USA, Inc. (Asepxia Acne Spot Treatment Cream)
      • Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. (Daily Creamy Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Face Wash and Maximum Strength Acne Foaming Wash)

 

 

 




And you thought your cereal was safe ?

Pesticide spraying

Warning: Another pesticide is found in our bodies!

Are Organic Foods the Only Safe Option?

Bad news: A recent study, of oat products and an allowed p

A pilot study of chlormequat in food and urine from adults in the United States from 2017 to 2023 published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology Feb 15, 2024 found a concerning pesticide called chlormequat in 80% of 96 samples of urine tested. When newer sampes during the 2023 period of time, up to 90% had this chemical detectable in their urine. The group’s urine was tested from people in Florida and Missouri. This chemical is linked to reproductive problems in animals, and we don’t know yet if it harms humans too.

What’s the problem?

  • This pesticide is not allowed on US-grown food crops, but it can show up on imported oats and grains. Think of popular brands like Quaker Oats and Cheerios !
  • The researchers checked oat products (25 conventional and 8 organic) and wheat-based (9 conventional) food samples purchased at U.S. grocery stores in the Washington, DC metro area. The results: Worryingly, 92% of non-organic oat products tested had chlormequat residues.
  • The amount of chlormequat found in people increased between 2017 and 2023, suggesting exposure might be rising.

The scary part:

  • Animal studies link chlormequat to reduced fertility, harmed reproductive systems, and altered fetal growth. These are serious concerns for human health and need to be evaluated before more exposures are allowed for US crops ! In 2020 the EPA raised the amount of Chlormequat allowable in inported crops.
  • Increased amounts allowed on Oats: Prior to 2020, in 2018, the Trump EPA granted the first-ever approval for some amount of CCC on imported oats. In May 2020, the EPA increased the tolerance for CCC residues in imported oat grain from 10 ppm to 40 ppm. There are no authorized use of CCC on domestically grown oats or other food crops.

So, what can we do?

  • Organic options: This study suggests opting for certified organic oats and grains might significantly reduce your exposure to chlormequat. While organic doesn’t guarantee complete absence, it offers a stronger layer of protection.
  • Stay informed: Follow trusted sources for updates on pesticide regulations and health risks.
  • Demand change: Support organizations advocating for stricter pesticide regulations and safer food alternatives.

Remember: This is just one study, and more research is needed to fully understand the risks of chlormequat. However, it’s a good reminder to be mindful of what we eat and choose options that prioritize our health and well-being.

Important note: It’s important to be aware that relying solely on organic foods to completely avoid pesticide exposure is unrealistic and unnecessary. Many conventional foods have very low levels of pesticides that are deemed safe by regulatory agencies. While choosing organic can be a good option for some people, it’s best to maintain a balanced and varied diet based on your individual needs and preferences.




Less toxins (PFAS) in our water…. more needs to be done !

Water from faucet

Finally, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced drinking water standards for six PFAS (forever) chemicals.

The list includes PFOA, PFOS, PFNA, PFHxS, HFPO-DA (GenX), and PFBS.

Why is this a big deal, this is the first time that drinking water standards have been proposed for a new chemical under the Safe Drinking Water Act since 1996. The proposed new drinking water standards follow last year’s announcement of lifetime health advisories for four PFAS. Chemical companies sell PFAS for application to products such as paper and textiles as stain-resistant, water-repellent, and grease-proofing treatments.

Health Issues:

The family of PFAS’s have been linked to serious health problems such as cancer, immune system suppression, increased cholesterol levels, pregnancy-induced hypertension, liver damage, reduced fertility, and increased risk of thyroid disease. To keep perspective, we now know that these chemicals can be toxic at extremely low levels of exposure. Much of the movement to reduce or even eliminate this class of chemicals has come from the outcry of consumers. Retailers have taken consumer sentiment as a strong signal to phase out all PFAS to prevent further contamination of our communities’ drinking water and poisoning their clients.

Where can I find PFAS’s:

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are manufactured and sold by chemical companies to be used as stain-resistant, water-repellent, and grease-proofing treatments for products such as paper and textiles in our take-out containers.  They are also used in industrial processes and are released into waterways, leading to their widespread presence and because of their longevity a real issue to clean up both the soil and water. Due to their persistence and resistance to breaking down in the environment, they are commonly referred to as “forever” chemicals.

A 2022 study by an organization known as the Toxic-Free Future, have found PFAS in a majority of products labeled as stain- and water-resistant, with 72% of tested products, including those from REI and Amazon.  Another study conducted in 2021, led by scientists from Toxic-Free Future, the University of Washington, and Indiana University, discovered PFAS in all breast milk samples tested and found that the newer PFAS members can also accumulate in people. For those who are concerned with their breast milk see the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s website for additional information.

Remember your take-home containers from the restaurants ? The compostable fast-food containers were designed to be more environmentally friendly than single-use plastic ones. However, a new study has demonstrated that they can release toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) into the air. This study was with retailers in Toronto and published in Environmental Science. Technology Letter. 2023.  The results indicate that the PFA’s used to make paper-based food packaging grease resistant, break down over time into volatile fluorotelomer alcohols and fluorotelomer methacrylates contaminating us and our environment.

This same organization’s investigative report identified a PFAS manufacturing facility as a significant source of both PFAS pollution and ozone-depleting chemicals that contribute to health issues and climate change. leading to continued health risks and a burden on us as taxpayers and ratepayers to clean up the contaminated drinking water and soil.

Some state governments are taking steps to regulate PFAS’s.  New enforceable standards also known as Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) have been published for some of the PFAS’s found in drinking water. Ten states are on board with standards including ME, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, and WI with Delaware and Virginia in the process of establishing their own water standards.

The real key is to phase out PFAS in products and promote the use of safer alternatives.  Maine and Washington have granted state agencies the authority to ban PFAS in various products, while other states have enacted restrictions on PFAS in textiles, carpets, rugs, food packaging, oil and gas products, personal care products, and firefighting foam. More states will be looking to resterict PFAS’s shortly.

Good News

Some retailers have heard enough from their clients are adopting safer chemical policies to remove PFAS and along with other dangerous chemicals. Keep in mind this includes both the actual product and the packaging.  Among those who use PFAS’s in their products, outdoor and textile brands have been announcing policies to reduce and eliminate these toxins. Recently, REI joined the ranks of major retailers that have banned PFAS in all textiles and cookware they sell. This action mind you followed a nationwide campaign to make them a more responsible corporate citizen.

Some manufacturers such as Patagonia have also pledged to eliminate all PFAS from their entire product line, however from now until 2024. Speaking of outdoor brands, Columbia has committed to phasing out PFAS by the end of 2024. In 2021, Polartec announced that it would eliminate PFAS in its DWR treatments across its line of performance fabrics. Lowe’s and The Home Depot are no longer selling indoor residential carpets or rugs containing PFAS, and Lowe’s has also committed to discontinuing the sale of fabric protection sprays containing PFAS. Major grocery and fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, Starbucks, and Whole Foods Market have implemented policies that limit the use of PFAS in food packaging. As of now, more than 30 distinct retail chains, with over 150,000 stores and a combined sales revenue of over $650 billion, have pledged to eliminate or reduce PFAS in food packaging, textiles, and other products.

Take Aways:

If it says waterproof, stain resistant or water repellent be suspect and ask for details, before purchasing

Check your carpeting and outdoor gear (think Scotchguard by 3M)

Want to know what’s in your water ?  TEST NOW

Have you purchased your clothing from some of the manufacturers mentioned in our article, perhaps it’s time for new gear ?

Don’t apply waterproofing agents to your outdoor camping gear or any indoor products unless they explicitly indicate alternative safe agents. (Nikwax, as an example)

Still getting fast food with the old style of grease-free wrappers, think burgers, pizza and fries

Think about taking a glass or silicon container for your left overs from the resturnat, vs using their products.

Use the Retailer Report Card, to check on your retailer’s index of their toxins and policies




Big News…. the FDA expands to beauty and personal care products

Cosmetics

Personal Care Product oversight, finally !

As those in the personal care industry know the oversight for contents and recalls has been very limited as the regulatory laws have been the same since 1938.

 For the last 84 years not much has changed, until the upcoming new regulations set to start taking effect in December of 2023. When you think of personal care products include your makeup, skincare, haircare and other items that you apply to your body.

As part of the spending package Congress passed last year, there will be a new set of regulations that take effect in December of 2023. It’s called the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act of 2022 (MoCRA).  It significantly expands the US Food and Drug Administration’s authority regarding beauty and personal care products.

The real muscle of MoCRA is the ability of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue mandatory recalls of products they deem unsafe. Prior to this change, it was only able to request that companies issue voluntary recalls.  You might be aware that there have been some major lawsuits in the “beauty” industry. One of the highest profile cases recently is of course the 40,000 patients involved in lawsuits regarding Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder and their experiencing high uterine cancer rates.  Or perhaps you’re aware of the correlation between hair straighteners and uterine cancer?  These are but two of the ongoing issues with cosmetics that need additional oversight to make the industry safer for us all.

Changes:

Some other significant changes will be the requirement to engage in what’s known as Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP). In many industries, these are and have been the law of the land for decades. Consider pharmaceuticals, foods, supplements, and medical product manufacturers as prime examples.

Mandatory allergen labeling which means that fragrance allergens will be printed on cosmetic labels along with facility registration with updates every two years will become the new standard. Along with these requirements, the products listing will now be required to include contact information for reporting adverse events, where the product was manufactured.

Along with these regulations manufacturers will be required to maintain records supporting what is termed “adequate substantiation ” that the product is safe. The way this will be interpreted is defined as “tests or studies, research, analyses or other evidence or information that is considered, among experts qualified by scientific training and experience, to evaluate the safety of the cosmetic product and their ingredients sufficient to support a reasonable certainty that a cosmetic product is safe”. The fly in the ointment is what constitutes “safe”.

The key to the provision is the FDA’s enforcement options should the product not meet this standard, as it will be classified as adulterated. This regulation will demand a much higher level of compliance

New provisions regarding adulteration are part of the new law. The new responsibilities of cosmetic manufacturers to substantiate safety will inevitably lead to more lawsuits however, it will also drive the movement toward verifiably safer products. 

One other consequence of this regulatory change will be the higher cost of compliance that will be passed on to the consumer. There will be a lessened level of requirements for firms that meet the “small” business definitions. So once again the onus will be on the consumer to understand which firms will meet all of the regulations and who is partially exempted.

Three State Regulations examples:

One of the problems with cosmetic regulations and laws in the US is the lack of commonality between state and federal laws with personal care products. This will continue as the  MoCRA does allow for state based regulation. In 2005 and starting with the enforcement in 2007 the California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005 the state changed their requirement for cosmetics manufacturers requiring labeling of any ingredient that is on state or federal lists of chemicals that cause cancer or birth defects. In 2020, California passed the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act which will take effect in 2025 and bans 24 ingredients known to be toxic, including mercury and formaldehyde, from beauty and personal care products sold in the state. Then also there is the Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act of 2020 which has labeling requirements for fragrance allergens.  The state has now also passed a ban on PFAS in cosmetics, the PFAS-Free Beauty Act  which will ban the manufacture, sale, delivery, holding or offering for sale of any cosmetic product that contains intentionally added PFAS as of Jan. 1, 2025. Again, the concerns are in the fine detail as shouldn’t all PFAS’s be eliminated especially with our current level of knowledge and their health impact ?

In Washington state, the recent 2022 Chemical in Cosmetics Used by Washington Residents report made waves. Lead was found in foundations and lipstick. Formaldehyde was found in seven out of ten skin lotions, nine out of ten leave-in conditioners, and all ten hair styling gels. The result is a new  House Bill 1047  that would ban the sale, manufacture, and distribution of cosmetic products with a number of toxic chemicals in Washington, beginning in 2025. It should be noted that this is not the first-time similar bills have been unsuccessfully put forward. On the successful side, Washington state has banned phthalates in fragrance products.

In New York state the   Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) established a maximum allowable concentration of 2 ppm of 1,4 dioxane on December 31, 2022, and 1 ppm on December 31, 2023, for household cleansing and personal care products. However, the maximum allowable concentration of 10 ppm of 1,4 dioxane is allowed after December 31, 2022, for cosmetics. Recently a new bill SB 8291A has banned the use of mercury in cosmetics.

Safer Ingredients:

Cleaner functional ingredients have been in the pipeline of most cosmetic manufacturers for decades. The ongoing awareness of consumers searching for safe products has propelled the market to develop many new products.  For those interested in an inside view of the industry see these two publications;  Global Cosmetic Industry  and Cosmetics and  Toiletries  , it’s amazing how many changes are coming to this industry.

One of the challenges in this and other industries is the need to really understand the complete supply chain and employ scientifically valid testing methods to insure safe verified ingredients. This is then followed by manufacturing, distribution, and packaging processes that ensure the end product is, not unlike the ingredients, safe for use. When you consider the global nature of ingredients used in many cosmetics and personal care items this is a huge undertaking requiring significant infrastructure and capital.

The current labeling, substituting and use of questionable ingredients in our personal care products regardless of the current laws has failed to have us avoid any and all products of concern.  Reading labels is a start but clearly, the findings of the new Washington state report should reinforce your skepticism and make us all weary consumers.

At Pure Living, we think that beauty should never come at the expense of short-term or long-term health. Ultimately the goal is to make wise choices and minimize toxic exposures.  With the new forthcoming regulations, we will see a new level of opportunities to exercise our consumer awareness and vote with our dollars for safer personal care products

Take Aways:

Use the least number of cosmetics, as possible, to minimize your exposure

Talk to your legislators and insist on safer standards

Consider testing your body for toxins

Check the ingredients on all of your personal care products

Only purchase from reputable companies

Avoid the following short list of chemicals, there are more….

    • Phthalates
    • Toxic metals: lead, arsenic, cadmium there more….
    • Quaternium-15 and Other Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives
    • Butylated Compounds (BHT, BHA)
    • Parabens
    • Petroleum derivatives: mineral oil petrolatum
    • Foaming Agents: Sulfates (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
    • PFOA’s

 




Are Christmas trees and wreaths safe ?

Christmas Trees

Did you know that when you bring home a Christmas tree you get more than just needles ?

It’s that time of year again and many of us will be purchasing trees and wreaths for the holidays. There are of course real and artificial options for our trees and wreaths. Let’s discuss what to expect and how to keep your home safe. Want to be as non-toxic as possible and have a great holiday…keep reading as you can make great choices.

Bugs, Mold, Pesticides, Herbicides, Terpenes, Sap, Flame retardants and Pollens:

When you shop for a tree remember that you’re also bringing home potential bugs, mold, new odors and pollens. And you thought it was just a cute natural tree, read on.

When you purchase a tree did you harvest it live or was it shipped from elsewhere ? If it was shipped from somewhere it was wrapped and during shipment would have been exposed to both moisture and heat. As a Pure Living reader, you know that this will encourage both bacterial and fungal growth coupled with a place for more bugs to breed. There should be less of this concern if the tree was local and did not travel or was stored for a period of time.

Generally, the molds, pollens or tree scent (terpenes) will not cause allergy or health issues for most of us, with exceptions. It’s important to be aware of those who may be more sensitive, including your pets. While we consider these issues do you or others in the household have asthma or other reactions including allergic reactions to pollens ?

Have you ever noted a change in your household members with the holiday season ? Some reactions to have you take note, are a runny nose, sneezing, sinus infections, overall fatigue, behavior changes, itching or even hives.

Factoid: Did you know that in medicine there is a disorder called Christmas tree syndrome ?

When purchasing a live tree:

One of the easiest ways to eliminate pests and debris is a good shaking of the tree, prior to placing it in your home. The best is a high-speed shaker on site where you purchased the tree. This approach removes a lot of debris and with a stiff breeze will decrease the pollen count. Not an option, how about outside at the purchase site a vigorous leaf blower exposure or as a last resort spraying the tree with a hose and then shaking as much as possible ?

You did check if it’s from a pesticide/herbicide-free farm ? Remember your going to be living with this item in your home for weeks, so no it’s not a small issue. Yes, organic trees may contain a higher amount of beetles, mites and spiders which are very commonly found on spruce, pine and fir trees however, the trade-off is well worth it.

Artificial trees:

Not surprisingly most artificial trees are manufactured in China and made from PVC, a petroleum-based plastic that’s associated with a number of cancers and to top it off,  lead is used to stabilize the PVC and phthalates make the plastic more flexible. This means endocrine and neurological disruptions. 

Did you know that Christmas trees are exempt from being lead-free, unlike many other consumer products ?

The lead and phthalates problem is that as the tree degrades it results in dust in your air and on surfaces all over the home, exposing everyone. The real issues are your children and pets as both are going to be playing closer to the dust. There are dozens of studies that show the amount of these chemicals are highest in these populations because of their higher respiration rate and location.

Now that I have your attention if you do have an artificial tree wash your hands after touching it and don’t vacuum,  without a HEPA filter unit, under or around the tree, as it will distribute the dust and toxins.

Now for some good news, not all artificial trees are as much of a  toxic load. Some are made from polyethylene or polypropylene however manufacturers can and do mix these plastics with PVC. How to know…. ask and hope your given real information.  There are limited manufacturers who have PVC, fire-retardant-free trees. Ikea has been at the forefront with removal of some of the toxins in their tree products including the PFOAs of forever chemicals.

Tree options:

Have you ever thought of using a wooden tree or a DIY option ? There are cardboard Christmas trees or perhaps a totally different species of potted tree would be a consideration? How about plan B,  thoughts on having your tree live outdoors, in sight and even live outside ?

Take Aways:

 

Live tree options:

Find an organic tree farm/source

Shake the tree aggressively at the site

and see above to clean….

Remember to check if anyone is reacting to the tree

Recycle your tree

Artificial trees:

Purchase American or European-made products

Avoid  the PVC based items and check and avoid those that are chemically fireproofed

Wash your hands after touching the tree/wreath

Only use a real HEPA filter vacuum or wet dusting

Have a HEPA based air purifier running full time