4 Easy, Healthy Cleaners That Should be in Every Home
Conventional cleaning products may seem like a great convenience, but here’s a little secret: common household staples are cheaper, easier to use and free of potentially harmful chemicals. Here are four housekeeping necessities that can clean almost anything:
As a cleaner, baking soda is a workhorse, and no home is complete without a box. It neutralizes odors and makes a good sink, tub, oven and countertop scourer. Sprinkle it on carpets before vacuuming.
To degrease and deodorize drains, pour in 1 cup of baking soda followed by 1 cup of vinegar; let bubble for 15 minutes and rinse with hot water. For a “soft scrub,” mix together baking soda and a dash of liquid soap in single-use amounts.
Lemon juice cuts grease, polishes metal and lightens stains. For a laundry brightener, add 1/2 cup of strained juice to the rinse cycle. To remove tarnish, rub sliced lemons sprinkled with baking soda on brass, copper, bronze and aluminum.
Washing soda is baking soda’s stronger cousin. It requires the use of gloves and more rinsing, so save this cleaner for extra-stubborn stains. To clean ovens, apply a paste of 1 cup baking soda, 1/4 cup of washing soda, plus water, and soak overnight. Add 1/2 cup washing soda to laundry as a detergent booster.
Distilled White Vinegar
White distilled vinegar is a great all-purpose cleaner that can reduce microbes, deodorizes, pulls dirt from wood, and dissolves hard water scale, gummy residues, and tarnish. It also works wonders on windows. Put 1/2 cup in your laundry rinse cycle to remove detergent completely from clothes and to eliminate that scratchy feel. What can’t it do?
Originally published on EWG’s Enviroblog
The fight for chemical safety is on!
Toxic chemicals affect all our lives and the health of our families – we come in contact with loosely regulated chemicals every day and through many different products.
The U.S. chemical safety law is broken, but some of the proposed “reforms” are no better. In fact, the American Chemistry Council, the leading trade organization and lobbying arm of the industry, is behind a bill that would be worse than current law.
The industry bill wouldn’t ensure that chemicals are safe and it would deny states the ability to enforce their own laws to protect public health and the environment.
It’s time for Congress to hear from you – that you’re fighting for real reform and your family’s health. Take a stand today and join EWG’s #FightForChemicalSafety campaign! All you have to do is post a photo on social media of you or someone or something in your life that you’re fighting for. Make sure you say who it is you’re fighting for – and why – and use the hashtag #FightForChemicalSafety in your post so we can find it and share it with our social media audience.
Please make sure your post is public and that you own the rights to the image.
Fast food chains urged to boycott genetically engineered produce
Originally published on The Hill
Consumer advocacy groups are asking Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts for commitments not to sell the genetically engineered apples and potatoes the Department of Agriculture approved for consumption last week.
The groups — Friends of the Earth, Consumers Union, Center for Food Safety, Environmental Working Group, Food Democracy Now, Food & Water Watch, Green America, GMO Inside, Healthy Child Healthy World, Organic Consumers Association, Pesticide Action Network and CREDO — sent letters to the fast food chains on Friday.
According to Friends of the Earth, McDonald’s and Gerber have said they have no plans to sell the genetically modified, or GMO, apples.
“We anticipate that other leading companies will follow suit — particularly those that market apples to children, who are most vulnerable to possible health risks,” Lisa Archer, Friends of the Earth’s food and technology program director, said in a news release.
The USDA said the genetically engineered apples, made by the Canada-based Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. and the potatoes from J.R. Simplot Co., based in Boise, Idaho, are as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts.
Read the full story here.
Take action here.
Toxic Cadmium In Jewelry: States Lead In Protecting Kids
Originally publishing on EWG Enviroblog
In the absence of adequate federal regulation of hazardous chemicals, the states have stepped up to protect public health and the environment.
The Toxic Substances Control Act requires that state chemical regulations must be at least as strong as those of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But the law, which hasn’t been updated since 1976, also gives states the right to take stronger action to protect their citizens when federal regulations fall short. The issue of cadmium in children’s jewelry shows how important it is that states retain their right to set their own limits on hazardous chemicals.
Cadmium is a carcinogen. Exposures can also damage the lungs and kidneys and weaken bones. Some animal studies suggest that kids may be more susceptible to bone damage from cadmium than adults. Children are especially vulnerable to cadmium because they are still developing, and since kids tend to put things in their mouths, jewelry can be a source of direct exposure.
Many parents were alarmed when, in 2010, a high profile study tested children’s jewelry made in China and sold throughout the U.S. The findings determined that some contained substantial amounts of cadmium, up to 90 percent in several cases. A subsequent study found some kids’ jewelry had more than 200,000 parts per million of cadmium, which some manufacturers began using instead of lead after the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 called for even tighter restrictions on the content of lead in children’s products. There were no immediate cases of illness linked to the cadmium jewelry, but even low exposures over time can cause serious health problems.
Read the full post here.
Healthy Child Healthy World and EWG Fight for a Better Environment for Children
The loss of a family member is devastating – even more so knowing that the death might have been preventable. Many of us have had to deal with cancer that could be linked to toxic chemical exposure, and many families have lost loved ones as a result.
James and Nancy Chuda founded Healthy Child Healthy World after their daughter’s life was cut short by Wilms’ Tumor, a rare form of cancer. My parents, too, lost their youngest daughter, my sister, to cancer when she was three. Now, as a mother of a three-year-old myself, their stories resonate with me more than ever. For this reason and many others, I am thrilled to be the new program director for HCHW, a new EWG program. My team will bring families cutting-edge research and guidance that empowers them to take action against harmful chemicals.
HCHW’s groundbreaking merger with EWG will fill a void in national leadership in children’s environmental health. We are poised to be the go-to authority to give parents the resources to take action and protect their children against harmful chemicals. And EWG’s science-based research will provide the parents, families and caregivers in the HCHW community with the knowledge they need in the form of easy-to-digest tips and other tools.
EWG has long been a powerful force in advocating for cleaner, healthier and safer products and holding government and business accountable. EWG works tirelessly to change the law where necessary, to move markets, and to hold government and business accountable. Right now, EWG is leading the fight against the recently proposed industry chemical regulation bill (S. 697), which in its current form it would fail to ensure that chemicals in consumer products are safe for children, for public health and for the environment. In some ways, this new bill would be worse than the existing Toxic Substances Control Act – a law so broken that EPA was unable even to ban asbestos, which kills thousands of Americans each year.
In this way and many others, EWG works constantly to ensure that chemicals in consumer products are proven safe for all of us, especially children. It is truly inspiring for us at HCHW to work with a team of passionate, dedicated staff who believe in keeping children safe from chemicals.
As a major program of EWG, HCHW now has access to a team of talented scientists, experts, lawyers, advocates, journalists and programmers as it works to promote children’s health. We will bring the latest science and news in environmental health to parents and caregivers so they can empower themselves to advocate for laws and business practices that protect children from exposure to hazardous chemicals and pollutants. Parents engaged with our content will also discover a wealth of healthy lifestyle resources for people of all ages at EWG.org. This merger allows us to reach more people, disseminate more information, influence more policies and promote solutions for a healthier, greener, safer world.
Together, we are a stronger organization with a unified voice for children’s health and environmental safety. More than ever, now is the time to fight for a healthy and safe environment for our children. I hope you join us as we embark on this momentous endeavor.
More Scientific Evidence That Organic Food Is More Nutritious
From our Parent Organization EWG
A new study led by a team of scientists at Newcastle University in England provides the most compelling and comprehensive evidence that organic crops are more nutritious than their conventional counterparts, Environmental Working Group said in a statement today.
“There should be no question now about whether organic agriculture is better for the environment and public health,” said Ken Cook, EWG’s cofounder and president. “This study breaks it down for consumers who want science-based evidence on the nutritional benefits of crops grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.”
Published in the British Journal of Nutrition, the analysis found that organic produce and grains have higher concentrations of antioxidants, lower levels of cadmium and nitrogen compounds and fewer pesticide residues. The scientists reached their conclusions after a review of 343 previously published, peer-reviewed studies comparing organic and conventionally grown crops.
Washington State University research professor Chuck Benbrook was the only American co-author of the study.
According to a WSU press release about the findings, “consumers who switch to organic fruits, vegetables, and cereals would get 20 to 40 percent more antioxidants. That’s the equivalent of about two extra portions of fruit and vegetables a day, with no increase in caloric intake.”
Antioxidants are thought to help prevent a variety of diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.
Conventional crops had twice the amount of cadmium and were three to four times more likely to have pesticide residues than the organic versions, the Newcastle study found. Cadmium is a highly toxic heavy metal contaminant that has been linked to kidney failure, bone softening liver failure and lung cancer.
EWG releases its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticide in Produce™ each year to highlight the fruits and vegetables with the highest amounts of pesticide residues. Millions of consumers rely on the guide to make smarter shopping decisions for themselves and their families. Pesticide exposure has been linked to cancer and neurological damage and impaired intelligence in children.
To read the full story click here.
Everything You Need To Know About GMOs
Originally published in MindBodyGreen
Consumers have the right to know if their food has been genetically engineered. However, the US government does not require labeling of such foods so that shoppers can make informed decisions.
More than 60 other nations—including France, Germany, Japan, Australia, Russia, China and the United Kingdom—require GE labeling. (GE stands for “genetically engineered,” a term interchangeable with “genetically modified organism,” or GMO.)
Scientists have not determined whether GE foods pose any risks to human health. Still, consumers have many good reasons to avoid eating genetically engineered ingredients.
Here are a few reasons to avoid GE foods:
- There are very few safety studies. The government does not require that GE food be tested for carcinogenicity, for harm to fetuses, or for risks over the long-term to animals or humans. Few such studies have been conducted by independent scientific institutions.
- They increase the use of toxic herbicides. Genetically modified, herbicide-tolerant crops have spurred so-called “superweeds,” pest plants that have mutated to survive herbicides. More than 61 million acres of American farmland are infested with Roundup-resistant weeds. A 2022 surveyfound that nearly half of American farmers reported finding superweeds in their fields. To control these hardy plants, many farmers have resorted to older, more toxic herbicides like dicamba, and 2,4-D. Both dicamba and 2,4-D are known to cause reproductive problems and birth defects and pose increased risks of cancer.
- Unintended GE contamination has become a major issue for organic growers hoping to sell their crops in places that strictly regulate or ban GE foods. According to an estimate by the Union of Concern Scientists, potential lost income for farmers growing organic corn may total $90 million annually.
The agricultural chemical industry developed genetically engineered crops and introduced them to the market with the promise of significantly higher crop yields. While crop yields may in fact be on the rise, the contribution of GE technology is a matter of considerable debate. Some groups attribute the increase in yields to improvements in conventional agriculture.
Any benefits provided by GE technology have been overshadowed by increased use of toxic pesticides and proliferation of herbicide-resistant weeds.
3 ways to avoid GE food:
Until Congress or state governments enact mandatory labeling of GE ingredients in food, American shoppers are left in the dark. So if they want to avoid food with GE ingredients, what are they to do?
- Buy organic. National and state organic certification rules do not allow genetically engineered foods to be labeled “organic.” When you buy organic, you buy food free not only of synthetic pesticides but also GE ingredients.
- Buy food certified as “Non-GMO Project Verified.” The non-profit organization Non-GMO Projectoperates a detailed, voluntary certification process so that food producers can test and verify that, to the best of their knowledge, they have avoided using GE ingredients in their products. The Non-GMO Project is the only organization offering independent verification for GMO products in the U.S. and Canada.
- Use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Avoiding GE Food. This can help you find foods made without ingredients likely to be genetically engineered. Eating only organic and certified GE-free food is not an option for some people. EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Avoiding GE Food helps consumers find products made without ingredients that are likely to be genetically engineered. As well, it aims to help shoppers decide which products are the most important to buy organic or certified GE-free.
The four most common GE foods and ingredients
Avoiding GE ingredients isn’t easy. In fact, some estimates indicate that more than 75% of the food in supermarkets is genetically engineered or contains GE ingredients. Consumers need to know what to look for to make informed purchasing decisions.
1. Field corn and corn-derived ingredients
The U.S. is the world’s largest corn producer. According to the USDA, last year, American farmers planted more corn than any other crop, covering 95 million acres. Some 90% of corn grown in the US is genetically engineered. Most of the crop is field corn cultivated for animal feed, but about 12% is processed to corn flour, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, masa, corn meal and corn oil that end up in foods consumed by people. Consumers should assume that ingredients in processed food are genetically engineered. (Less than 1% of the American corn crop is sweet corn, also known as table corn.)
2. Soybeans and soybean-derived ingredients.
Soybeans are the second most planted American crop, covering more than 76 million acres last year. Some 93% of soybeans grown in this country have been genetically engineered. Soybean-based products and soybean-derived ingredients are common on supermarket shelves. Consumers should assume that products whose labels disclose the presence of soy proteins, soybean oil, soy milk, soy flour, soy sauce, tofu or soy lecithin have been made with GE ingredients unless they are certified organic or GE-free.
About 55% of the sugar produced in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, 95% of which have been genetically engineered. If a product label does not specify that it has been made with “pure cane” sugar, chances are significant that it contains GE beet sugar.
4. Vegetable oils
Consumers should assume that vegetable oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil and corn oil are genetically engineered. About 90% of American oilseed production is soybeans, which are almost entirely genetically engineered. The remaining 10% of oilseed crops are cottonseed, sunflower seed, canola, rapeseed, and peanut. Canola and cottonseed oil primarily come from GE varieties. More than 90% of corn oil is derived from genetically engineered corn.
WATCH LIST: Foods that could be GE
According to the Hawaiian Papaya Industry Association, more than 75% of Hawaiian papaya is genetically engineered to resist the ringspot virus.
Zucchini and yellow summer squash
A few varieties of squash are genetically engineered. Without adequate labeling, concerned consumers can’t spot GE varieties. If you want to be sure, opt for organic varieties.
Most sweet corn sold in supermarkets and farm stands is not grown from genetically engineered seeds, but a few varieties are, so it’s best to buy organic sweet corn.
Read the full article here.
Another Reason To Eat Organic
Originally published on EWG
A study published last week (Feb. 5) has confirmed once again that a good way to eat fewer pesticides is to choose organically grown fruits and veggies whenever possible.
The analysis found that the more people ate organic produce instead of non-organic, the less likely they were to have a common type of pesticide in their bodies. The study also found that people who ate more organic tended to eat more fresh produce overall.
Combine this good news with the fact that organic food has been shown to be more nutritious and you may want to pile up more organic goodies in your grocery cart.
And if you find yourself scratching your head in the produce aisle figuring out which fresh fruits and veggies are best to buy organic, EWG can help with the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in ProduceTM. The guide provides both a Dirty Dozen PlusTM list of non-organic produce to avoid as well as a Clean FifteenTM of foods that have fewer pesticide residues.
To read the full story go here.
That Takeout Coffee Cup May Be Messing With Your Hormones
Originally published in Mother Jones
A new study suggests that whole classes of BPA-free plastics—including the kind in styrofoam—release estrogenic chemicals.
Most people know that some plastics additives, such as bisphenol A (BPA), may be harmful to their health. But an upcoming study in the journal Environmental Health finds that entire classes of plastics—including the type commonly referred to as styrofoam and a type used in many baby products—may wreak havoc on your hormones regardless of what additives are in them.
The study’s authors tested 14 different BPA-free plastic resins, the raw materials used to make plastic products, and found that four of them released chemicals that mimic the female hormone estrogen. That’s not surprising. As Mother Jones reportedearlier this year, many BPA-free plastic goods—from baby bottles and sippy cups to food-storage containers—leach potentially harmful estrogenlike chemicals. But until now, it wasn’t clear what role the resins played. The new study suggests that sometimes the resins themselves are part of the problem, though additives such as dyes and antioxidants can make it worse.
In the case of polystyrene, the resin used in styrofoam and similar products, the authors tested 11 samples and consistently found estrogen seepage after exposure to intense steam or ultraviolet rays.
Styrofoam is a registered trademark of Dow. The company stresses that its product is used for crafts and building insulation rather than food and beverage containers. (“There isn’t a coffee cup, cooler, or packaging material in the world made from actual Styrofoam,” according to Dow’s website.) But generic polystyrene foam, which most people call styrofoam anyway, is ubiquitous in the food services industry, where its found in everything from meat trays to takeout containers. Polystyrene resin—which the Environmental Protection Agency has labeled a suspected carcinogen—is also used to make hard plastic items, including utensils and toothbrushes.
The study also looked at three different types of Tritan—a novel plastic marketed as a safe, estrogen-free alternative to BPA-laden polycarbonate—and found that all of them leached estrogen-like chemicals.
That’s bad news for consumers, given that hundreds of household products are made from Tritan. Below are some examples, with the caveat that not all of these finished products have been specifically tested for estrogenic effects:
- CamelBak Eddy Kid’s BPA-free water bottle
- CamelBak Relay water filtering pitcher
- Foogo by Thermos sippy cups
- Hamilton Beach Multi-Blend blender
- Nalgene BPA-free water bottles (color matters; see the chart below)
- OXO Good Grips LockTop food-storage containers
- Rubbermaid Hydration Chug bottles
- Rubbermaid carafes
- Rubbermaid Premier food-storage containers
- Thermos Under Armour water bottles
- Weil Baby bottles
- Weil Baby sippy cups
- Whole Foods bulk bins
The new paper was authored by University of California-Davis toxicologist Michael Denison, who coinvented a common cell-based test for estrogen-mimicking compounds, and by scientists from CertiChem, a commercial lab in Austin, Texas. As part of the study, researchers soaked plastics resins in a variety of common solvents and tested the chemicals that seeped out using a line of breast cancer cells (MCF-7) that proliferate in the presence of estrogen and a line of ovarian cancer cells (BG-1) that light up when exposed to the female hormone.
The 200-plus samples of Tritan resins that were tested consistently leached estrogenlike chemicals after being exposed to a type of ultraviolet ray found in sunlight (UVA) and another kind that some parents use to sterilize baby bottles (UVC). In some cases, samples that hadn’t even been exposed to UV light also seeped estrogenic compounds.
While the authors didn’t identify the specific hormone-mimicking chemical (or chemicals) that leached from the resin, they tested one Tritan component—triphenyl phosphate (TPP)—and found it was estrogenic. These findings are consistent with data collected by Tritan’s manufacturer, Tennessee-based Eastman Chemical. In 2008, the company commissioned a study that used computer modeling to predict whether various Tritan ingredients could imitate estrogens, based on their chemical structures. It found that TPP was likely to be more estrogenic than BPA. As we previously reported:
Eastman, which never disclosed these findings to its customers, later commissioned another study, this one involving breast cancer cells. Again, the initial results appeared positive for estrogenic activity. In an email to colleagues, Eastman’s senior toxicologist, James Deyo, called this an “oh shit moment.”
The company now says that additional testing has determined that Tritan is not estrogenic, and insists that there is little risk of TPP leaching from Tritan containers because it breaks down during the manufacturing process. “We have no reason to expect TPP to be present in the product as supplied by Eastman,” says Maranda Demuth, an Eastman spokeswoman.
But confidential documents the company filed with the US Food and Drug Administration list TPP as one of the “substances that may be present in food after contact with Tritan.”
Read the full story here.
Chipotle Founder: McDonald’s Chicken Farm Was The ‘Most Absolutely Disgusting Thing’ I’ve Ever Seen
Originally published on https://thinkprogress.org
By the mid-2000s, McDonald’s had a 90 percent stake in Chipotle — but the two franchises couldn’t be any more different, especially when it came to food preparation, says Chipotle founder Steve Ells.
The entrepreneur recently recounted a visit to a McDonald’s-operated chicken farm, a facility he described to his family as “absolutely the most disgusting thing” he had “ever seen in his life.” That experience, in tandem with ongoing squabbles about Chipotle’s expansion and pressure from McDonald’s to add a drive-thru and breakfast menu, eventually compelled McDonald’s to divest its stake in the casual dining establishment in 2006.
“What we found at the end of the day was that culturally we’re very different,” Ells told the Bloomberg Business Insider. “There are two big things that we do differently. One is the way we approach food, and the other is the way we approach our people culture. It’s the combination of those things that I think make us successful.”
Chipotle, founded in 1993, had less than 20 locations in Colorado when the McDonald’s Corporation became a major investor in 1998. By the time McDonald’s divested, Chipotle had more than 500 locations across the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and France.
Read the full article here.