FAIL! Neurotoxins, Our Brains and the Limitations of Scientific Testing

Neurotoxic Chemicals- Is Science Protecting Us?

Neurotoxic Chemicals- Is Scientific Testing Alone Protecting Us?

Below are 3 detailed reports on neurotoxic chemicals and their effects on our bodies. I’d argue that in light of the fact that we are polluted, the system as it is has failed us. I mean, the contributing products are already in our homes.

Please allow for more ranting and some questions.
1. I wonder while we look at the hardware (brains), what are these chemicals doing to our software? Our brain functions such as moods, learning, memory, language, etc? We use chemicals to alter our minds, why is it so hard for some to make the leap to environmental toxins may be changing our brains? I’ve been reading scientific studies this morning. The evidence is there and worth consideration. Or do they just alter our hormones and cause cancer?

2. Of the thousands of chemicals used to make them, only a fraction have been tested. Who seriously believes that someone, somewhere knows how much mercury is in my home? In total?

3. They are almost never tested in combination, only as single chemicals. What happens when they are mixed? Do the results change?

4. How perfect is testing when done on rats, in labs? I’d say that the real testing is going on…but not in labs. Look in a mirror. But what does it all mean? We don’t know for sure, but we do have signs. Perhaps it’s time for a new way of looking at things, other than “The dose makes the poison”.

5. What about the differences between developing brains and older brains?

6. What does the addition of another factor such as stress have on the effects of a chemical? Again, I’ve been looking at studies this morning. A stressed brain vs. a non-stressed one responds different to chemicals.

7. If we were to study for all the factors I’ve just raised, how long would it take? I studied math enough to have learned about the permutations. And I have to ask those who want definitive scientific testing and absolute proof before taking this seriously, “How long are you willing to wait for such testing to take place?”

*A single ingredient such as fragrance (undisclosed and a trade secret of a self-regulated industry) can contain thousands of ingredients. That’s ONE INGREDIENT in your body lotion or scented garbage bags. Let’s say it gets tested alone, in combination with other chemicals, in lab rats of varying stages of development, in stressed and non-stressed rats, etc. I think males and females have different bio-chemical make-up, too? How would each chemical affect each sex differently? See where I’m going with this? Are we going to pull every product around us and start again, with a new regulatory system for testing which reflects the variations that exist in reality? Or will we carry on with the status quo and stick to the “this dose of mercury is harmful….to all humans” method? And keep counting the people who are getting sick as what? Non-humans?

*It’s about more than health. Case in point? When was the last time you saw a list of toxic ingredients on a pack of cigarettes? (Cigarette smoke can contain over 4000 chemicals). How big of a package would it take to print such a list? Or is smoke exempt because it’s just a product of cigarettes, not the product itself? Still legal, still sold in stores, proven to cause cancer. Why hope for anything different for the other products under suspicion? Warn, sell, profit, repeat.

*In the case of pharmaceutical drugs, the cycle has been to bring the drug to market, note unsuspected deaths, then recall the product, followed by law suits. Or is that law suits, then recall? What about air fresheners, pesticides, dry cleaning fluid and other toxic products? Why is there no such regulation for them? And why is the onus on us instead of the manufacturer to prove their safety? I seriously think fragrance used in scent marketing should be regulated as a drug, due to its sedative effects on our brains. And let’s not even talk about the ethics of altering our brains in order to relax us, change our moods, all in the name of selling us products. It all seems to have gotten away from us.

So what’s an alternative? Reports such as these point to a new way of approaching the problem. It surrounds looking at evidence and prescribes the pre-cautionary principle.

1. Mind Disrupted A report put out by the Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative

Below is a list of the chemicals included in this study and some of the health outcomes that have been associated with exposure to them. This list serves as a quick reference and a shorthand introduction to the chemical fact sheets found in Appendix B. For many of these chemicals, it is not possible to prove that they are responsible for adverse health outcomes in humans. Information regarding the neurotoxicity or developmental neurotoxicity of these chemicals is often from laboratory experiments, typically with animal subjects. Conclusive human epidemiological studies are rare. The scientific community must rely on the weight of evidence that these chemicals can alter development or disrupt normal brain function. For some chemicals, the weight of evidence is strong enough for the scientific community to accept a causal relationship; for others this strong connection has yet to be established, and may never be. Regardless, precaution dictates that we take action to reduce and eliminate harmful exposures.

Learning and Developmental Disabilities and Toxic Chemical Exposures

2. Developmental Neurotoxicity of Industrial Chemicals
Grandjean, Landigan, 2007

Neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, attention deficit disorder, mental retardation, and cerebral palsy are common, costly, and can cause lifelong disability. Their causes are mostly unknown. A few industrial chemicals (eg, lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls [PCBs], arsenic, and toluene) are recognised causes of neuro-developmental disorders and subclinical brain dysfunction. Exposure to these chemicals during early fetal development can cause brain injury at doses much lower than those affecting adult brain function. Recognition of these risks has led to evidence-based programmes of prevention, such as elimination of lead additives in petrol. Although these prevention campaigns are highly successful, most were initiated only after substantial delays. Another 200 chemicals are known to cause clinical neurotoxic effects in adults. Despite an absence of systematic testing, many additional chemicals have been shown to be neurotoxic in laboratory models. The toxic effects of such chemicals in the developing human brain are not known and they are not regulated to protect children. The two main impediments to prevention of neurodevelopmental deficits of chemical origin are the great gaps in testing chemicals for developmental neurotoxicity and the high level of proof required for regulation. New, precautionary approaches that recognise the unique vulnerability of the developing brain are needed for testing and control of chemicals.

3. In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development Project
Facts of Concern

* FACT: According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17% of children under 18 in the U.S. have one or more developmental disabilities.
* FACT: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is considered a common syndrome that affects 3-6% of all school children. Ongoing studies suggest the incidence may be much higher.
* FACT: Some commonly used pesticides cause lifelong hyperactivity in rodents exposed to a single small amount on a critical day of brain development.
* FACT: Fetal mercury exposure may impair learning, memory, and attention in children as they grow older.
* FACT: IQ deficits in adolescent children are linked to fetal PCB exposure.

Go to In Harm’s Way– (You can download in parts)

As always, your thoughts are welcome.

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Lead and Cadmium in Jewelry and Handbags, Enough is Enough! Here is a Kick in the Pants if You Still Need One

Enough is ENOUGH!

Stop Putting Poison into our Consumer Products

Two more reports have come out recently showing high levels of toxic heavy metals in children’s jewelry and handbags. What are you doing about it?

Manufacturers have been barred from using lead in some children’s products. So what did they do? They substituted the more harmful cadmium in its place. Some people will stop at nothing to make a profit. I can’t tell you how disgusting this practice is to me. And to all you readers, I’m sure. If the plant or head office were in our town or city, there would be moms and dads and people in general coming out in droves to state clearly, “Enough is enough!” We are not being protected and this deceitful practice has to stop. It’s poisoned our pets and it’s poisoning us. With manufacturing going on overseas, I sometimes feel powerless and overwhelmed due to the vast distance and lack of understanding of standards and regulations. And a lot of days like today, I’m just pissed off. Period. Like you, I’m doing my best and that’s all I can do.

Whenever I shop now, I look at where a product is made. I can’t trust it’s safe just because it’s sold in a chain store or supermarket. I look for ingredients, a luxury sometimes, since many industries don’t have to list what is actually in their products. And when they do release information, it is sometimes a lie. Just this week, it was reported that fast foods actually contain more calories than was stated on the information given to consumers. And last year, Dr. Steinemann’s tests showed unlisted ingredients in the products she’d tested. VOC’s, more harmful ingredients.

I’ve had enough. Life is stressful enough without worrying if my new casserole dish is lowering my IQ or cans are disrupting my hormones. Without a clear plan and a clear head, we consumers can worry ourselves to death. Let’s take a breath and look at this through the lens of information. That is the very reason I began this blog and podcast. It’s a process of learning and taking action …and it takes time.

Fact: The handbags were made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride).
Lead is commonly found in PVC. I’ve written in the past about PVC-what numbers on plastics mean as well as about finding PVC-free school supplies. We’ve heard recently about toxic shower curtains made with PCV and concern over water bottles and PVC pipes that carry our drinking water. PVC is a soft plastic and what makes it soft are chemical additives such as phthalates, which mimic the human hormone estrogen. When we ingest these chemicals. it’s said we change our body’s natural hormone cycles. Do you know what plastic is made from? If not, that’s a good place to start your research. Then decide if you want to heat it in your microwave and eat off of it. And while you’re at it, check into PVC, a type of plastic.

I just visited an industry website which reassures me that the baby with the plastic PVC soother is safe. While the studies go on, and the conflicting messages continue, we’re left confused. Just perfect for people who want to prey on our lack of certainty and sell us products that we don’t need, that are poorly made and that may even harm us.

The antidote? INFORMATION! That’s all we can really do is keep sharing what we learn and shop consciously. I have faith that after there is a certain awareness, consumers will send the message: Enough is enough! We want safe, well-made products. We want correct information and integrity in manufacturing and advertising. And we’re willing to do our homework and buy differently, from companies who do differently. They are out there, the ones that are trying to do differently. Let’s support them.

Choose Health

The Star of Life

I can’t tell you what to buy. But I can suggest how to shop if you don’t want to be surprised by these types of news articles.

1. Don’t shop with your eyes or nose. The pretty package is designed to make you buy it without even know what’s in the stuff. I’ve noticed another disturbing trend: Great packaging for crappy products. Use your intellect. Use your conscience, your heart. Know yourself!

2. Read labels. Call companies and ask questions. If you don’t get satisfying answers, don’t buy from them. Find a company that is transparent in what and how they manufacture goods.

3. Sniff out the baseless marketing claims and greenwashing and think critically.

4. Remember: If you make good decisions, YOU already know what’s good for you and if you’re not sure, it’s probably not that good for you. Seriously! Confusion results in bad decisions. Remember what is healthful and life-giving to you and your family. And stick to it.

5. Talk about safer products with your friends and family. Share better, health-giving alternatives. Demand more from manufacturers. There are usually smaller, better choices out there!

6. Take time to buy. Slow down. This is probably the biggest mistake people make. They’re so busy, they don’t have time to shop consciously. They want to do their shopping in one trip, as quickly as possible. They don’t have time to their homework so they buy products that come back to bite them. Recently, this happened to me. I was so overwhelmed by my shopping trip, I bought some meat and eggs I didn’t want. I had shopped against my conscience and my better judgment. They had won. They had got my money one time but not my trust, nor loyalty.

4. Think materials, not just products. If you were going to make yourself a shower curtain, would it be ok to put in toxic chemicals? What about your food? Your pet’s food? NO! So why is it ok for some faceless company to do the same? Without impunity?

5. Wake up and smell the toxins. Get out of harmful habits and addictions. No more excuses. This simply is enough already! It takes 3-6 months to change a habit and do something differently. Find a supportive group and start with one small change. Do it for a day, then a week and soon, that becomes months and years and you’ll get the benefits of making smart choices.

Is your butt hurting yet? I don’t know about you but for me, I sometimes need to get angry and say ENOUGH before I take action. Please share your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.

And just FYI, another interview on Living in a Chemical Soup Podcast is on its way next month. I hope you’ll listen and if you can, join in the live recording to ask questions of my guest. The topic will be toxins in everyday products and health. Please send me a note if you’d like participate during recording and call in with a question or two. More to come.

Related report: Pretty But Poisonous: Lead in Handbags and Wallets A good link with pictures of faux leather handbags found to contain lead in paint. From April last year. Guess this isn’t the first time for this news, either.

Remember….Stop thinking products and think MATERIALS. Faux leather ain’t leather. Do you know what’s it’s made from? Maybe it’s time to find out.

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Disinfectant Overkill, Our Health and Alternatives

Non-Toxic Cleaning = Better Health for Us and the Planet

Non-Toxic Cleaning = Better Health for Us and the Planet

Women’s Voices for the Earth (a great organization with lots of resources on their website) has published a report “Disinfectant Overkill” about what disinfectants are linked to health problems. In it, they explain why hospital cleanliness standards for the average home are not healthy, despite what we constantly are shown on TV commercials. They give ways to safely clean the home, without spraying damaging chemicals. Did you know you can use your microwave for this?

Download the report (pdf)
Download the shorter fact sheet.

One ingredient their report doesn’t list is hydrogen peroxide. While I don’t spray with it every day, I do use it when I want to whiten or disinfect the dirtiest spots.

You can also read a post I’d written on this topic:
How to Sanitize and Disinfect without Chlorine

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Ten Tips to a Healthier, Chemical Hangover-Free Holiday

Healthier Holiday Tips

Healthier Holidays Tips

The season of merriment approaches. Here are some things to think about so you and your guests don’t wake up with the typical holiday hangover. And I don’t mean just from drinking alcohol. In addition, I’ve listed some ideas about preventing insect problems.

1. Christmas Trees- Personally, cutting down a living tree so I can use it for a couple of weeks goes against my conscience. If you buy a once-living tree, you can also be exposing yourself to the pesticides commonly used in the industry. Do not spray your tree once inside. There are organic tree farms in some areas.

The real vs. fake tree debate goes on amongst the greener people. I opt for no tree and light up everything that isn’t nailed down with colorful Christmas lights and play music to create ambiance. 🙂

2. Insects- Remember live trees can be home to insects. Here is an article with tips on how to prevent problems. A few years ago, acorns shipped from India were recalled because they were infested with beetles. That story has stuck with me and although natural ornaments is a nice idea, I’d rather leave the acorns to plant their seeds where their mother trees grew! It’s another way for invasive species to hitch a ride and something that we consumers shouldn’t encourage. Besides, taking the kiddies out to collect pine cones is a great teaching opportunity.

3. Fire- All candles emit soot. Scented candles are a documented source of indoor pollution. Avoid. Fire places, even gas ones, can cause headaches for sensitive individuals. Ventilate properly or keep off entirely. The asthmatics in the crowd will be grateful.

4. Scented Ornaments and Holiday Air Poisoners – Avoid. Even the “natural” scents in products can be lung irritants, allergens or migraine-inducers. Instead, bake something or boil spices in water on the stove. Or leave out some coffee grounds in a shallow dish. Seriously, I’d rather smell roasting turkey than fake cinnamon bathroom air poisoner. Spare the air and let people enjoy the delish smells of their meals without competition.

5. Presents- Check ingredients. Consumer Reports gives great tips here. Don’t be fooled by greenwashing.

6. Food- Check if your guests have any food allergies or sensitivities. Offer some alternatives that they can eat without ill effect. Instead of just sweets and baking, put out healthier options for guests to nibble on, too. The diabetics will love you. If a child has a peanut allergy, be extra careful reading ingredients so as not to serve anything with peanuts. His or her parents shouldn’t trust you 100%, as mistakes can be made, but they can relax a bit more knowing you’ve tried. And chances are, they have brought the child their own food. Don’t take offense.

7. Going Visiting? Come clean and unscented. Leave the perfume/cologne you got in its bottle. Other guests may be sensitive and require days to recover, ruining their holidays.

8. Smoker? Go outside to smoke. Yes, even in the frigid air.

9. Pets? Keep pets in another room so allergic individuals can have some relief.

10. Alcohol- Drink responsibly and don’t push alcohol on your guests. Provide alternatives to alcohol and shut down the bar long before the end of the evening.

Entertaining or being a guest these days is hard enough, due to busy schedules. It’s nice when people take the time to try to accommodate the health needs of guests. They live with their conditions every day and are required to change their lifestyles. Most don’t expect the world to accommodate them but some have such horrid reactions, they may require it in order to attend. Making a bit of effort to be inclusive and understanding is the best present one can give, isn’t it?

Do you have any tips on having healthier holidays? Feel free to add in comments. Thanks!

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Dr. Bronner’s Activism Campaign Against Fake Organic Brands

Whew! Why is it so hard for us to believe? It is very disappointing to hear about so much greenwashing going on. Consumers, we have to be on our toes!

Dr. Bronner’s press release:

Top-selling natural soap brand Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps applauds the final recommendation by the Certification, Accreditation, and Compliance Committee (CACC) of the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) on Solving the Problem of Mislabeled Organic Personal Care Products set forth this week. The recommendation urges the National Organic Program (NOP) to regulate personal care products and “ensure consumers and businesses alike that the products have an unquestioned home in the USDA National Organic
Program.” The current regulatory approach fails to protect consumers from misleading and deceptive organic labeling of personal care because compliance with the NOP is currently voluntary, not mandatory.

President of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, David Bronner said, “Dr. Bronner’s strongly believes that the best and most effective way to protect consumers of organic personal care products is for the USDA to make the National Organic Program (NOP) standards mandatory for personal care. We applaud this recommendation as a step forward in improving the current regulatory regime.” The Certification, Accreditation and Compliance Committee will present the recently released document to the NOSB at its public meeting in early November for a vote. Dr. Bronner’s full formal comments submitted to the NOSB can be found at the link below. In related news, Whole Foods is requiring that all supposedly “natural” and “organic” personal care products in their stores test below 10 parts per million for the probable carcinogen 1,4 Dioxane. 1,4 Dioxane is produced when the petrochemical Ethylene Oxide is attached to primary cleansing and moisturizing ingredients in a process called Ethoxylation. “We’re fed up with organic cheater brands who use high-foaming ethoxylated detergents in bodywashes and shampoos that produce 1,4 Dioxane contamination” says David Bronner. “Petrochemical compounds like Ethylene Oxide have no place in organic personal care ingredients. This is just
one of many violations of basic organic criteria by organic cheater brands, and demonstrates why federal NOP regulation is necessary.”

In July, Dr. Bronner’s filed its Second Amended Complaint against numerous personal care companies that use non-organic pesticide-intensive agricultural and/or petrochemical material to make the main cleansing and moisturizing ingredients of their mislabeled ‘Organic’ products. That Complaint charges defendants with false advertising in violation of the federal Lanham Act, based on the fact that the labeling and marketing of their products as “Organic” is misleading and confusing consumers. Defendants had the case transferred to federal district court in San Jose, CA and moved to dismiss the case on the grounds that USDA/NOP is considering
regulating personal care products even though these same defendants strongly oppose such regulation. Arguments on those motions will be held on Friday, September 25. The entire Second Amended Complaint along with background on the case is posted online at:

On their website, we’re urged to boycott these “fake” organic brands.
Amazon Organics, Avalon Organics, Desert Essence Organics, Earth’s Best Organic, Giovanni Organic Cosmetics, Head Organics, JASON Pure Natural and Organic, Nature’s Gate Organics, Organics by Noah’s Naturals

Dr. Bronners also urges us to buy these certified USDA organic brands.
Alteya Organics, Baby Bear Shop, Badger, Bubble and Bee Organic, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Indian Meadow Herbals, Intelligent Nutrients, Kimberly Parry Organics, Little Angel, Mercola, Miessence Certified Organics, Nature’s Paradise, OGmama and OGbaby, Organicare, Organic Essence, Origins Organics, Purely Shea, Rainwater Organic Lotion, Rose Tattoo Aftercare, SoCal Cleanse, Sensibility Soaps/Nourish, Terressentials, Trillium Organics, Vermont Soap

Do you look for the certification logo when you buy?

Maybe going with the word “Organic” on the label isn’t enough.

Read more about the campaign

Dr. Bronner’s video on the topic:

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Men and What They Think About Women Wearing Make-Up

Ok, my previous post was for the ladies. Do any men read Living in a Chemical Soup? 😉

What do you think about women wearing make-up? Do you prefer the natural look? Of course, it depends and it really is up to a woman what we want to wear, not a man, but I’d love to hear from the fellas.

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Women and Aging Chemicals: Opting out of Make-up and Redefining Normal

Why Does Normal=Ignorance and Apathy Surrounding Cosmetics?

Today I read this headline “The average British woman “hosts” 515 chemicals on her body every day, according to a new study.” In a poll of 2,016 women, it was determined that most of the products contain tens or even hundreds of “chemicals”. Fragrance alone can contain hundreds of synthetic chemicals.
Full article.

Let’s not quibble about the word “chemical”, as everything is made from chemicals. And let’s not look at the fact that a deodorant maker did the poll. Let’s look at some lifestyle choices and what is considered normal today. And why.

1. Do you know what is in the products you put on your skin? Most of us have to say, “No”.

More than a third of the women who took part in the study were unaware of the key ingredients in their toiletries, with only nine percent aware of most of the ingredients in the cosmetics they put on each day.

Is it a matter of trust? It’s on the shelves, therefore it must be safe?

2. Does the majority of women care about what’s in their cosmetics? No.

More than 70 percent of the women polled said they were not concerned about the number of chemicals they put on their skin and only one in 10 opted for chemical-free toiletries when shopping.

So normal= Being ignorant about what is in products and not caring.

Why? Many reasons. Marketing campaigns “teach” us how to use products without highlighting their harmful effects. Entire TV shows educate us on how to apply products but never tell us what’s in them. Another reason is we use what our mothers or friends use. Habit.

I was shopping for my MIL’s birthday yesterday. As I combed the cosmetics counter, I realized how free I felt no longer wearing the stuff. And I sympathized with how confusing the process now is, thanks to greenwashing. I grabbed a very expensive bar of soap from a shelf, thinking it would be a lovely gift. Because it said “Natural” on it. It wasn’t until I got it home that I realize I’d made a bad choice. Confusion is key in the public making bad choices. The only remedy is education-knowing what ingredients are in products, knowing their health effects and finding products that are truly non-toxic.

I now feel freed from the pressures to wear make-up, get my hair dyed and cover my skin with who the heck knows what. Free from the habit. If I want to, I will but I don’t feel I need to. In my teens and twenties, I loved putting on make-up. Now, I prefer healthy-looking skin and shiny hair instead of being covered up. Heck, a few days ago, I was asked to show my ID at the liquor store!! I couldn’t help but wonder something. In today’s obsessive search for youth and beauty, as prescribed by cosmetic companies and their so-called anti-aging remedies, is the real answer something much simpler?

What if instead of using more and more “anti-aging products”, we chose to go natural? What if we didn’t use anything but food-grade oils and pure, unscented soaps? Would our skin, hair, nails, eye-lashes, armpits, feet and hands look younger? Take it from someone who’s “gone naked” for ten years, it’s worth trying.

I realize my opting out is not the norm, nor would I try to impose my decision on other women. What I do hope is that the women who hate wearing make-up and want to go natural will not be bound by tradition or pressure to wear it.

What do you think? Do you like wearing all the products that are just considered “normal”? Would you like to cut down? Do you feel pressure to wear “too many” products?

And finally, do you ever wonder if the products that are supposed to be helping us look younger are really aging us? Perhaps putting nothing at all would be better than putting irritating synthetic chemicals on our skin and hair.

For more on what’s in cosmetics, go to my podcast interview with Stacy Malkan, author of “Not Just a Pretty Face.”

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