Amazon icon Audible icon Autographed icon Book Bub icon Booksprout icon Buy Me a Coffee icon Email icon Facebook icon Goodreads icon Instagram icon Mastodon icon Patreon icon Periscope icon Pinterest icon RSS icon Search icon Snapchat icon TikTok icon Tumblr icon Twitter icon Vine icon Youtube icon LinkedIn icon

Tag: Environmental Working Group

Which Produce Should I Always Buy Organic

It feels like a good time to review the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of fruit and vegetables with the heaviest loads of pesticides.

Although I try to only buy organic produce whenever I can, sometimes it’s just not possible and I must settle for a conventionally-produced fruit or vegetable. It’s times like these that I want to look back at the list of the best and worst for your health when it comes to conventionally-farmed produce.

Just this morning I was in Whole Foods trying to remember how terrible it would be were I to get those conventionally-farmed-but-vibrant orange and yellow bell peppers, since there were not any organic peppers in the store. Not good, it turns out.

Go Organic
I think it will be easiest to remember the ones I want to ban from my cart first, so here are the twelve fruits and vegetables that we should buy organic whenever possible because they carry the highest toxic loads:

  1. Peaches
  2. Apples
  3. Bell Peppers
  4. Celery
  5. Nectarine
  6. Strawberries
  7. Cherries
  8. Kale
  9. Lettuce
  10. Grapes (imported)
  11. Carrots
  12. Pears

If you’re like me and KitchenStewardship, you might also include a few others on this list, like bananas, blueberries, and spinach.

Ok to Go Conventional
On the other side of the coin, it’s nice to know the safest conventional produce, too, for those times when organic items are not available or astronomically expensive. Here are the fifteen fruits and vegetables that have the least toxic load from conventional farming:

1. Onion
2. Avocado
3. Sweet corn
4. Pineapple
5. Mango
6. Asparagus
7. Sweet peas
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Papaya
12. Watermelon
13. Broccoli
14. Tomato
15. Sweet potato

It’s interesting to see sweet corn on this list, as it is something we insist must be organic before we bring it into our house. This list is only looking at the pesticide load, I believe, whereas we are more concerned with genetic modifications when it comes to corn. Thanks to Monsanto, most of the conventional corn available in this country is genetically modified to produce its own insect repellent when grown with their Round-Up pesticide.

But I digress. That is a topic for another post.

The Environmental Working Group’s pocket-sized printout of this list of safe produce is great to carry with you in your wallet. You can also get the iPhone app.

Have any others to add that you insist should always be organic at your house? Add them in the comments below!

Organic Cheater Brands: Watch Out for Toxic Skin Care Products

I don’t know about you, but I’m always personally disappointed when brands I thought I could trust turn out to contain ingredients that are hazardous to my health. It makes me feel disgusted with big companies and the way they play fast and loose with our health, especially when they know better.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has prepared a spreadsheet summarizing “Organic Cheater brand” products and their Hazard Rankings according to the Environmental Working Group’s “Skin Deep” Cosmetic Safety Database.

The tabs at the top of the spreadsheet list various brands horizontally: click each tab to view that brand’s product scores from the Skin Deep” database. By far the majority of fake organic products score in the “Moderate Hazard” category.

Conversely, Dr. Bronner’s Skin Deep product scores show that the vast majority of true NOP-certified (USDA’s National Organic Program) organic personal care score in the safest “Low Hazard” category.

A couple of brands, Jason “Pure, Natural & Organic” and Nature’s Gate “Organics”, even had some of their fake organic products score in the unsafest “High Hazard” category.

Perhaps even more disturbing, two of the “organic cheater” brands who are the subject of OCA’s Complaint to USDA NOP, have reneged on their signed promise to provide product and ingredient information to Skin Deep so that their products’ safety can be assessed. Those brands are Eminence “Organic” Skin Care and Head “Organics”.

Another two brands, while they have not reneged on any promises, have also decided to not submit product and ingredient information to Skin Deep: Ilike “Organic” Skin Care and Surya Sapien “Organic”.

As noted in the Complaint, all these brands utilize surfactants made in part or entirely from petrochemicals as primary cleansing ingredients, which contain no organic agricultural material whatsoever. Eminence in particular deceptively claims that Alpha Olefin Sulfonate, the primary cleanser in its “Organic Stone Crop Bodywash”, is from a “plant source,” when in fact this cleanser is commercially available only in pure petrochemical form.

Both Nature’s Gate and Eminence do produce a few true USDA NOP certified organic products under their respective brands. However, the vast majority of their product lines are not certified under the USDA’s National Organic Program, because their main cleansing and moisturizing ingredients are generally based on conventional or petrochemical, rather than organic agricultural, material.

As a general rule when shopping for organic personal care, check for the USDA seal to be sure you’re buying true organic personal care rather than fake organic products.


Natural Petroleum-free Mascara

I’ve been searching for a good mascara that wouldn’t coat my lashes with a film of petroleum. Recently, a salesclerk at Vitamin Cottage pointed me to No Miss Natural Mascara.

I have to say that I’ve been very pleased not only with how it goes on, but also with how it stays on and how easily it comes off with soap and water.

Other natural mascaras I’ve tried have left me with heavy black smudges below my eyes as the makeup sank off of my lashes. Some have gone on so gloppy that I’ve had to use several cotton swabs to mop up the mess when my upper lashes flicked wetly against my eyelid.

While I confess that I am not a mascara expert — my lashes used to be so long and thick that they would brush the lenses of my sunglasses so I never wore mascara until recently! Alas, they thinned after childbearing. Sigh. — I have tried the top pick by many beauty magazines (Maybelline) and many other brands both conventional and natural (including Prescriptives, Aveda, CoverGirl, EyesLipsFace, Clinique, Loreal, etc.).

The thing is, I have been concerned about conventional mascaras for a while. Why? Let’s take Almay’s Amazing Lush Lash mascara, as an example. Almay claims to be “hypoallergenic,” which I have often interpreted as “cleaner.” My mistake.

This Almay mascara garners a 7 (10 being the most dangerous) in the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Skin Deep database of cosmetics and includes this warning:

Ingredients in this product are linked to:
yes Cancer
yes Developmental/reproductive toxicity
yes Violations, restrictions & warnings
yes Allergies/immunotoxicity
yes Other concerns for ingredients used in this product:
Neurotoxicity, Endocrine disruption, Persistence and bioaccumulation, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Multiple, additive exposure sources, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Enhanced skin absorption, Contamination concerns, Occupational hazards, Biochemical or cellular level changes

Yep: I find those pretty frightening words for something I intend to paint onto my eyelashes and let soak in all day. Hence my search for a better mascara.

No Miss All Natural Mascara is as good a product or better then the conventional kind, and ever so much better for my body and the environment. Let me know if you’ve found some other great natural mascaras!

Does voting with your food dollars make a difference?

I love to remind people that each time we choose an organic item over it’s conventional counterpart, we are voting with our dollars. In a capitalist market-driven economy, where there is demand the supply will increase to meet that demand.

In her Huffington Post article, “Vote First, Eat Later,” Susanne Freidberg reminds us that the dollars we spend on food purchases don’t necessarily influence farm legislation, food safety inspections, or desperately needed corporate oversight of the mega food producers.

” But as foods labeled organic and local become more available,” she notes, “it’s worth remembering that these alternatives do not guarantee better working conditions for farm and packhouse workers. They do not touch the crop subsidies that fuel overproduction at home and hunger abroad. They do not fix the weak food safety laws that sent consumers searching for alternatives in the first place.”

I agree, Susanne. Thanks for bringing up a good point. It’s easy to focus on the trees and forget the forest around us.

Susanne points out that many groups are working to overhaul the USDA, strengthen farm workers’ rights, and counter the agribusiness lobby. “These activities deserve our support, yet tend to get overshadowed by shopping tips aimed at “changing the world with every bite.” Wouldn’t it be better if we did not feel obliged to do this? Informed consumer buying power is not trivial. It is also no substitute for political actions to empower everybody to worry less about their food, and enjoy it more.”

Here are some of my favorite groups to support in this mission. Share your favorites in the comments below!

– Environmental Working Group and their Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

– Organic Consumers Association

– Oceana

Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P.)

Slow Food

Is Your Sunscreen Safe?

Are you sure that your sunscreen works and is safe for your family’s skin?

The Environmental Working Group’s brand new review of 1,572 products found that 3 out of 5 sunscreens offer inadequate protection from the sun or contain ingredients with significant safety concerns. And for the first time, they also review sun-protective lip balms and lotions.

The EWG identified fewer than 100 products that offer very good sun protection with ingredients that present minimal health risks to users. Leading brands like Coppertone, Banana Boat and Neutrogena fared poorly.

Remember to look for safe sunscreens without oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor, and with sun blocking minerals like zinc and titanium.

I’m happy to see that my favorite sunscreen by California Babymade the top 10 for safety and effectiveness. 🙂

Check out your favorite sunscreen with this handy widget and see how it ranks!