Today’s Guest Writer is Megan Torrini- Writer, Mother, Employee and Owner of The Earth Friendly Shoppe
In Search of… Safe Products for the Family and the Environment- A Mom’s Journey
By Megan Torrini
I have no time. Zero. Zilch. Na Da.
It is my own doing, I know. It is my choice to be employed outside the home (PT and telecommute), I write for a local online mom’s magazine and I also own an online business offering earth friendly products. Oh, and did I forget to mention- I have 2 kids under 3, a hubby and 2 Siberian Huskies who seem to purposely taunt me all day long- let me in, let me out, let me in, let me out and on and on it goes. Believe me, the dogs own me, it’s not the other way around. Have you ever heard the howling and the woo woo of a husky when they don’t get their way? Yeah, it was cute once, when they were puppies. For like a minute.
As if Moms don’t have enough going on in their lives, now we have to constantly struggle with educating ourselves to find products that are not only safe for our children, but safe for Mama Earth as well. And being easy on the bank account would be an awesome bonus as well
Wouldn’t it be nice to go into any store and know that any product you pick up is safe? The amount of time it takes to research, gain the knowledge and retain that knowledge is overwhelming. It is the equivalent to obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Safe Product Studies. Health issues such as toys with lead paint, pesticide residue in our food, toxic chemicals from our container are enough to make an already stressful moms’ head spin. Then you have the socially conscious aspect of it all- of course loving mothers (and fathers) see the need to buy fair trade items and support local merchants, it’s the right thing to do. But then you also have to provide for the family- and all of this stuff gets expensive.
I believe, if you have information that can help others, even save them a little time, then by all means, share it.
Don’t always believe what you read. Greenwashing is a term that is used to describe the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. The term is generally used when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being green rather than spending resources on environmentally sound practices.
We hear a lot about “fair trade” and “fair trade organic” these days. But still, people aren’t quite sure what it is. Fair trade is an organized social movement that promotes the payment of a fair price as well as social and environmental standards in areas related to the production of a wide variety of goods.
It’s simple. No one human becomes obscenely rich by making another human disgracefully poor.
Fair trade advocates create opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers- they generate payment of a fair price, enforce gender equality where men and women are properly valued and rewarded, implement safe and healthy working environments for producers, and are required to follow environmental protection guidelines.
Unfortunately, the benefits of fair trade are not reaching all fair trade farmers because of insufficient demand for their crops. Producers sell an average of 20% of their crop at fair trade terms; the rest goes through the world market at much lower prices. That is why we need to build a market for fair trade in the U.S.
For an item to be considered fair trade certified in the U.S., a certification system was designed to allow consumers to easily identify goods that meet those standards. Products that bear the “Fair Trade Certified” label, guarantee that every step of the product’s production has followed the international fair trade criteria.
According to US Government regulations, to be certified as organic, the product must be manufactured or produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers, most pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, irradiation and gene modification. Foods labeled 100% organic must contain at least 95% organic materials and the remaining 5% of the ingredients must be on the approved list for use in organic food.
If you use plastic water bottles, plastic baby bottles, have dental sealants, consume canned soups, veggies, fruits, organic or not, you also may be swallowing residues of a controversial chemical called bisphenol A (BPA).
BPA was thrust into the spotlight by a laboratory mishap. In August 1998, geneticist Patricia Hunt, Ph.D., now at Washington State University in Pullman, noticed that chromosomal errors in the mouse cells she was studying had shot up—from 1 or 2 percent to 40 percent, as published in the April 2003 Current Biology. Hunt traced the effect to polycarbonate cages and water bottles that had been washed with a harsh detergent. When her team replaced all the caging materials with non-polycarbonate plastics, the cell division returned to normal.
Plastic bottles and containers that are used for packaging food should all be labeled with a recycle code. This is a number (between 1 and 7) that is surrounded by a small graphic of three arrows pointing at one another in a triangle. These numbers tell the recycle center what kind of plastic the container is made of and they also tell the consumer whether there is a known potential health hazard.
Bear in mind that simply because there is a known “potential” health hazard, it does not mean that you are going to be immediately ill if you find you have been using a product in that category. In fact, for some of the chemicals to leach out of these “dangerous” plastics, the container must have been heated with the food or liquid inside; sometimes the level of heat required is greater than the boiling point. However, we should all be aware of what we are using and what it may mean. Likewise, simply because there are no “known” health hazards does not mean that a plastic is always going to be completely safe under all conditions.
The point here is not to frighten, simply to remind us that when dealing with artificial chemical products we must always be open-minded and educated.
The following plastics have no known health hazards:
Code 1: Polyethylene Terephthalate, or PET / PETE
Code 2: High Density Polyethylene, or HDPE
Code 4: Low Density Polyethylene, or LDPE
Code 5: Polypropylene, or PP
The following plastics do have known potential health hazards:
Code 3: Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC / Vinyl.
This material, used often in flooring and shower curtains, as well as household water pipes (primarily for evacuation only – they should never be used to bring fresh water into the home), used to be used in cling wraps. The plastics industry is adamant that the type of PVC currently used in cling wraps does not contain the phthalates that are known endocrine disrupters. However, these phthalates may still be present in PVC bottles and toys. There was recent information that many baby teethers were also made from PVC, due to its soft flexibility. PVC or vinyl items should never be given to a baby or child who may put them in his or her mouth.
Code 6: Polystyrene, or PS / Styrofoam.
As well as being another endocrine disrupter, styrene is also believed to be a carcinogen. This plastic is used to make some types of disposable forks, spoons and knives and also the “foam” cups such as those sold under the name Styrofoam. Hot liquid can cause the styrene to leach out of these products, as can fatty oils or alcohol.
Code 7: Other “resins” and Polycarbonate, or PC.
This one has been hotly contested by the plastics industry because of the high heat required for the endocrine disruptor, Bisphenol – A (BPA), to be released. However, BPA is a primary component of PC plastics and is a verifiably dangerous compound. PC is largely used for water bottles of the type used for delivery services (multi-gallon containers) that fit on the “water cooler” at home or office.
Many clear baby bottles are made of PC and there is much in the news about the controversy of these bottles not being labeled with any code so that consumers cannot tell what type of plastic is used. With baby bottles, this is a real concern, as many people boil the bottles with formula or milk inside them. PC is also used in food cans with a plastic lining. Whenever possible, it is recommended that these plastics not be exposed to high temperatures. The plastics industry insists that they are completely stable under most conditions but some studies suggest that leaching still occurs.
Now these are just a few bits of information I’ve compiled, but there is so much more. As busy as I am, I try my best to make healthy and socially conscious choices and that is all I can do. Even during the times that I cannot be as green as I want to be, I don’t stress about it. At the end of the day I am comforted in the fact that I did the best I could.
****Note- Bottles labeled with #7 are for other plastics which may contain BPA and other controversial chemicals. To be safe, use bottles that are BPA free or opt for stainless steel bottles, like the Klean Kanteen.
Today’s Green Tip- Educate yourself, a healthier (greener) home starts with education!