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Tag: Environmental Working Group

Tips for a Healthy Holiday Kitchen

The Environmental Working Group recently posted guidelines on safeguarding your family’s environmental health during this season of feasts and celebrations.

The EWG boils it down to these three tips:

Buy organic whenever you can, cook with cast iron, stainless steel, or ovensafe glass, and skip the plastic storageware when possible to keep your family as safe and healthy as possible this holiday season!

Have you been eating genetically engineered food?

According to the Environmental Working Group, the truth is that when it comes to genetically engineered foods, there is no labeling requirement. These foods have been altered at the molecular level. They are appearing on supermarket shelves with increasing frequency – in fact, 94 percent of all U.S.-grown soybeans are genetically engineered!

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) thinks this is wrong. You have a right to know what you and your family are eating. That’s why they’ve joined forces with more than 300 organizations to launch the Just Label It campaign and tell the federal Food and Drug Administration that Americans have the right to know when they’re eating genetically engineered food. Their partners at the Just Label It campaign put together a video to spread the word about genetically engineered foods for us to watch, sign the petition, and pass it on.

The only way the FDA will act is if it hears from too many voices to ignore.

The EWG thinks consumers might choose to avoid some of these foods if they had all the information.

The issue is not just fresh produce. According to the Congressional Research Service, 60 to 70 percent of processed foods available in American grocery stores likely contain some genetically engineered ingredients. These ingredients are prevalent in many products you may buy every day, including breakfast cereals, cookies, chips, sweetened soda, frozen meals and more.

The scientific debate about the benefits and risks of genetically engineered crops will continue for a long time. Meanwhile, an entire generation will have grown up consuming them. We should all have the right to participate – or not – in this sweeping experiment with our bodies and our environment.

Several polls and surveys have found that the vast majority of Americans want genetically engineered foods to be labeled. Many other countries including Japan, Australia, the European Union and even China require labeling of genetically engineered foods. Let’s make sure the FDA gets the message that the U.S. shouldn’t be left behind. Join EWG and its 300-plus campaign partners in demanding that the FDA insist that genetically engineered foods be labeled. Click here to watch the video and sign the petition.

We all have the right to know what we are eating.

How safe is Teflon/nonstick cookware?

Teflon is not as slick as we’ve been led to believe.

The Environmental Working Group says that there is a risk of inhaling toxic particles if the pan gets a little too hot or if the nonstick coating has been compromised (scratched or overheated).

Click image to see larger graphic

Just two to five minutes of heating on a regular cooktop can release enough toxic fumes from that nonstick pan to kill a canary, and in fact, many pet birds have succumbed in kitchens from “Teflon flu” or “Teflon Toxicosis”.

What should you do?

Cook with stainless steel or cast iron to avoid the exposure to perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) used in nonstick cooking surfaces. Fortunately, Glorious One-Pot Meals cook in cast iron Dutch ovens, so we’re safe there!

How to cook more safely with nonstick cookware

Here’s the list of what the EWG suggests to keep you safe from PFCs if you must cook with nonstick cookware:

  • Never preheat nonstick cookware at high heat — empty pans can rapidly reach high temperatures. Heat at the lowest temperature possible to cook your food safely.
  • Don’t put nonstick cookware in an oven hotter than 500 degrees.
  • Use an exhaust fan over the stove.
  • Keep pet birds out of the kitchen — the fumes from an overheated pan can kill a bird in seconds. Learn more here.
  • Skip the self-cleaning function on your oven. It cleans by heating to high temperatures, which can release toxic fumes from non-stick interior oven parts.
  • Choose a safer alternative when buying new cookware.

Dangerous Chemicals in Your Perfumes

Fragrances are designed to make you smell good, but is that all they are doing? In a recently released study of 17 name-brand fragrances co-authored by the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, they found that they contain secret ingredients – chemicals not listed on the label – with troubling hazardous properties.

It looks like “natural fragrances” may mean as much as “natural flavors” do on a label in terms of the chemical load they bring to your body.

The study found 38 unlisted chemicals in the testing. The average fragrance tested contained 14 secret chemicals. Among them are chemicals associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions, and many substances that have not been assessed for safety in personal care products by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the industry’s own safety panel.

How many secret chemicals do such popular fragrances like Chanel Coco and Old Spice contain? Check out the full report on chemicals in fragrances and you’ll see that Coco has 18 distressing chemicals and Old Spice has 16 ingredients not reported on the label.

In 1973 Congress passed the federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. The law, which requires companies to list cosmetics ingredients on the product labels, specifically exempts fragrances. Since then, the vague word “fragrance” is all you’ll find on the label. If there’s anything to be grateful for in this, it’s that “fragrance” is a recognizable word that is easily avoided by label readers.

Personally, I avoid all synthetic “fragrances” whenever possible, including in laundry detergents, shampoos, body products, and non-organic-based candles. I believe most air fresheners are some of the worst toxins that you can add to your environment — and they’re designed to encourage you to smell deeply and carry all those chemicals deep into your lungs.

I think dryer sheets are bad, too, and I encourage you to stop using them as they infuse your clothes with these synthetic fragrances so that you can be continually exposed to these dangerous chemicals each and every day.

The FDA has not assessed the vast majority of these secret fragrance chemicals for safety when used in spray-on personal care products such as fragrances. Most have not even been evaluated by the safety review panel of the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) or any other publicly accountable institution.

Of the chemicals that have been tested, there isn’t a lot of good news. The vague term “fragrance” covers chemicals that can be linked to reproductive damage, hormone disruption, and can trigger allergic reactions.

Fragrances may be designed to make us smell better and feel good about ourselves, but as the EWG points out, “we don’t know how you can feel good when you don’t know what you are putting on your body.”

So what’s a girl to do when she wants to float in a sweet smelling cloud without taxing her body’s tolerance levels?

Chemical perfumes add to the air pollution we breathe in every day. Take steps to minimize your exposure when possible.

Be sure to check out my upcoming post on custom-blended pure aroma perfumes, look for soy or beeswax candles scented with natural tinctures, and consider practicing aromatherapy using only quality uncontaminated oils and tinctures.

Pesticides Linked to ADHD?

On Monday this week the American Academy of Pediatrics published a study linking high concentrations of pesticides in urine to ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

The contaminated children may have eaten food treated with pesticides, breathed it in the air, or swallowed it in their drinking water. The study didn’t determine how they were exposed. While all children had some quantity of pesticides in their bodies, the ones with ADHD had the highest levels.

It is well known that many commonly used pesticides contain immuno-modulators, endocrine disruptors, and carcinogenic compounds. We live in a world full of these kinds of man-made dangers to our health. It’s good to see that science is finally examining the effects of these toxins on our bodies in a meaningful way.

It all has to do with an individual’s tolerance levels. How much pesticide can this particular child’s body tolerate before the physical effects begin to show up as ADHD? Another child may not be able to tolerate nearly as much as the norm, while still another can tolerate much more without effect. Isn’t this yet another example of how food and chemical sensitivities can manifest differently in different people?

You can lower yours and your child’s pesticide consumption by nearly four-fifths by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and instead eating the least contaminated produce, according to the Environmental Working Group’s calculations.

When you eat the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables, you’ll be exposed to an average of 10 pesticides a day. When you choose fresh produce from the 15 least contaminated fruits and vegetables, you’ll consume fewer than 2 pesticides per day.

The Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides ranks pesticide contamination for 50 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of 96,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted from 2000 to 2008 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Food and Drug Administration.