The book Slow Death by Rubber Duck doesn’t sound like a pleasurable read, but it is! Well, at least as much as could be given the subject matter of toxins that are slowly poisoning us and our environment.
The two Canadian authors, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, decide to experiment with phthalates, BPA, mercury, and PFC’s (non-stick chemicals) to see what their personal levels were and whether they could increase them via normal, daily activities (like using personal care products, eating canned foods, or eating lots of sushi). In addition to describing these mini-experiments (n=1), they elaborate on the history of these toxins, the science behind them, and why they are dangerous. Particularly interesting to me was the research showing that even infinitesimally small amounts of certain chemicals, like BPA, have measurable effects. Slow death indeed!
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As you can probably tell, I’ve been reading a lot lately. I just finally have the time to tackle some subjects I’ve always wanted to read more about. One of those topics I’m very passionate about is toxic chemicals in our environment and how to best avoid them. If that is interesting to you too, then I highly recommend you read The Body Toxic. The 230 page book was written by a journalist in 2008 and covers five major chemicals in a chapter each:
- Atrazine — most commonly sprayed agricultural pesticide/herbicide, commonly found in ground and stream water.
- Phthalates — a group of chemicals that make plastics like PVC flexible, also found in personal care products, detergents, soaps, food packaging, building materials, inflatable toys, and medical equipment like IV tubing.
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) — a family of flame retardants used since the 1970s that are chemically very similar to the now banned PCBs, found in upholstered furniture, mattresses, carpet padding, vehicle upholstery, and electronics.
- Bisphenol A (BPA) — a chemical building block for polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, found in canned foods, food and beverage containers, PC (usually #7 plastic), and even some dental sealants/composites.
- Perflourinated chemicals — chemicals that resist water, grease, and stains, found in products with names like Teflon, Scotchgard, Stainmaster, and GORE-TEX, and also found in nonstick cookware, stain resistance clothing/shoes/furniture, waterproof outerwear, some dental floss, microwave popcorn bags, and fast-food packaging. Continue reading »
Protecting my children from the chemicals and toxins in their environment is the passion that caused me to launch this blog 2.5 years ago. After researching BPA and phthalates and working hard to eliminate them from our home, I decided to start this blog to share what I had learned. Now that it is almost 2010, I feel like these subjects are much more common knowledge than they were when I stared looking (2005) and I’m even finding some well written books about the matter.
One of those books that I recently read is The Toxic Sandbox (2007). It is a quick read at only 175 pages. The format of the book is ideal for parents–highly organized with subject matter separated into chapters and sections and often easily ID’d by bold questions. The book is also based on solid research and written by a mom who has personal experience with toxins affecting her child (in her case, lead). You can skip to exactly what interests you and get the basic information you need to know about the dangers and how to protect your children. This book could easily be read or skimmed by a busy parent in a day or two.
The author, Libby McDonald, covers six toxins in six chapters: lead, mercury, plastics (including BPA and phthalates), PCBs and flame retardants (PBDE’s), air pollution, and pesticides. I found the PCB/PBDE chapter especially interesting, as it’s something I’m not as familiar with. Here are some of my favorite excerpts and facts from the book:
- Lead is so dangerous because it masquerades as calcium, allowing it to cross the blood brain barrier. Because babies’ and toddlers’ brains crave calcium in their effort to develop, until children are around six years old they can absorb three to four times more lead than an adult. Continue reading »
President Bush has signed the bill that I previously mentioned that would ban lead and phthalates from children’s toys. Yay!
The House voted 424-1 yesterday to ban lead and six phthalates from children’s products. The lead standards would be the toughest in the world, targeting products designed for children 12 and under. The bill would also double the budget of the Consumer Product Safety Commission by 2014 and give it new authority to monitor testing procedures and impose penalties on violators. The Senate is expected to pass the bill as early as this week.
A friend of a friend is a children’s health advocate in Maine and wrote this great article on toxins in children’s products. She was instrumental in helping a bill get passed that forces manufacturers to disclose whether or not their products contain ingredients like BPA or phthalates, and to try to replace them with safer alternatives.
A few highlights:
- Manufacturers overseas often make two versions of the same toy. The safer version goes to Europe, where standards are higher. The cheaper version comes here, because our government allows toxic chemicals in the products we purchase for our kids.
- Phthalates have been banned in children’s products in Europe and California because they’re so toxic.
- Most products with synthetic fragrance contain phthalates, which give the scent its staying power.
- The chemical industry says the levels are too small to do damage. Frankly, I find the low-dose argument silly, because even the EPA admits its standards for safe-exposure levels are based on outdated research. Plus, would you expose the person you love most in this world to a low level of poison? A low dose of cancer?
Are you still using traditional body care products and makeup? Face lotion, body lotion, mascara, eye liner, and lipstick usually contain some very unhealthy chemicals that we’re all better off avoiding. I’ve posted many websites that list these dangerous chemicals, from the Green Guide to the EWG’s Skin Deep website. For those of you that haven’t had a chance to check those out, I’m going to post two of the biggest offenders and what problems they pose. Next time you need to buy some lotion or makeup, try to purchase ones without these ingredients.
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