Friday, January 21, 2011

Top Nontoxic Products: Cosmetics, Dish & Laundry Soaps, Chocolates, Plastics

The Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network has filed suit on behalf of endangered species threatened by pesticides worldwide. Endangered humpback and North American Right whales swim in the same waters we do, polluted by toxic pesticides after heavy rains. In addition to supporting non-profit groups like CBD, PAN, Oceana and Environmental Defense Fund, we can help keep toxic chemicals out of the environment and our bodies through simple attention to the products we choose.

Last week, as the author of Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices, I was on a panel discussing this topic at an “eco-salon” sponsored by Whole Living Magazine in the L.E.E.D.-certified green office of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in San Francisco. See the video here! With the help of a very engaged audience, who asked lots of questions and also gave suggestions, we brainstormed what we could do at personal, community and political levels.

1. Buy and Use Nontoxic Alternatives

From a personal health standpoint, all agreed, the fastest way to reduce our chemical “body burden” is to avoid products that contain known toxics, such as water bottles and food containers made with polycarbonate (PC #7) plastic, which releases toxic Bisphenol-A (BPA), and toys, shower curtains and other products made of polyvinyl (PVC #3) plastic, which releases phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to obesity in children as well as adults.

Choosing personal care products that are certified organic, or bear other third-party verified seals, per my truly green cosmetic labels list. Endangered Wildlife Lip Balm is USDA certified organic, and, the company donates 25% of its profits to the Center for Biological Diversity, which is working to protect endangered right whales, jaguars, polar bears, and other wildlife (WFLB also gave lip balms to our eco-salon attendees.

Choosing organically grown food, such as the delectable chocolates and teas that fairly traded Equal Exchange Cooperative donated to our event, keeps toxic pesticides and fertilizers out of the environment as well as our bodies.

Get a fresh start in 2011 with's Top Picks Shopping Guides. Click the links below for best green brands.

Food & Water Containers
Choose what's been proven safe–such as a stainless steel water bottle from this list (which also spells out safer plastics). For safer food containers, click here.

Top Green Dish Soaps

Top Green Lip Balms

Guilt-Free Green Chocolates

Top Green Laundry Detergents

2. Support Actions to Regulate

At the same time and in the long term, we need government regulation, a route pursued by EDF and fellow members of the I Am Not a Guinea Pig coalition , which seeks to ban toxic chemicals such as BPA through legislation. California has led the nation in banning the two most toxic flame retardants, as noted by one of my co-panelists, Debbie Raphael, toxics reduction/ green building program manager for the San Francisco Department of the Environment. And, following San Francisco’s and then California’s lead, Congress has banned phthalates in children's products.

3. Ask Companies to Stop Using Toxic Chemicals

Some companies seize the initiative to go green, such as Patagonia did in switching exclusively to certified organic cotton. In addition to using the power of our wallets by selecting green products, we can support the efforts of non-profit organizations such as EDF, which work with companies to stop putting toxic chemicals into products. Panelist Beth Trask, deputy director of EDF’s corporate partnerships program, spoke about working with Wal-mart to encourage its suppliers to eliminate known toxic chemicals. EDF’s successes in the business front include getting McDonald’s to stop using styrofoam, and getting Starbucks to use post-consumer-recycled paper in its cups.

Shoppers are used to asking ourselves if we really need something. Can we afford it? We can apply the same question to risks of toxic chemical exposures. As Debbie Raphael advised, we should ask ourselvesL Is it necessary? Just because a product is for sale doesn’t mean it’s safe, obviously–and up to 80% of the synthetic chemicals on the marketplace have not been tested for safety, Rafael said. For 5 specific steps for avoiding toxic–and often fattening-- chemicals in everyday products, see my recent Whole Living blog.

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Megan Dunphy said...

thanks for all the tips! love it, awesome site! keep it up

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