Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Inescapable Pesticide - In Our Toothpaste, Soap, etc.

A report released by EWG last month, suggests levels of triclosan in almost everything in our home and our surrounding. Triclosan, a pesticide with antibacterial and antifungal properties, is classified by EPA as toxic with highest scores regarding risk to both human health and the environment. It is linked to cancer, developmental defects, liver and inhalation toxicity, and allergies in children.

Triclosan is used in commercial, institutional and industrial premises and equipment (conveyor belts, fire hoses, dye bath vats and ice making equipment), residential and public access premises (brooms, mulch, floors, shower curtains, awnings, tents, mattresses, toothbrushes, toilet bowls, urinals, garbage cans, refuse container liners, insulation, concrete mixtures, grouts, air filter materials, upholstery fabrics, and rugs/carpets), and as a material preservative (in adhesives, fabrics, vinyl, latex, plastics, polyethylene, polyurethane, synthetic polymers, styrene, floor wax emulsions, rope, textiles, caulking compounds, sealants, coatings, polypropylene, rubber, inks, cellulosic materials, slurries, films and latex paints). Triclosan is found in cord blood and breast milk, in rivers and streams.
*This picture is adapted from the EWG report.

The EWG advise to do the following to avoid the triclosan:
  • Forgo antibacterial soap. The American Medical Association says not to use it at home. Watch for triclosan (and triclocarban) in personal care products.
  • Read ingredient labels or use Skin Deep to find products free of triclosan and triclocarban, its chemical cousin. On the Skin Deep you can also find products that have triclosan and/or triclocarban in the ingredients.
  • Avoid “antibacterial” products. Triclosan is used in everyday products like toothbrushes, toys, and cutting boards that may be labeled “antibacterial,” or make claims such as “odor-fighting” or “keeps food fresher, longer. Several studies showed that antimicrobial soap does not work better than plain soap and water at preventing the spread of infections or reducing bacteria on the skin.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Amazon Green

It is not new, probably, for many of you but as a friend of mine suggested, I would like to mention about Amazon Green. I like Amazon a lot, especially for the good prices, and now with its Green line, I like it even more.

From their website:
"Amazon Green is a team of Amazonians dedicated to presenting the Greenest products available, sourcing new products and helping our customers better understand the myriad, and sometimes confusing, Green standards in the marketplace today.
Green Tech, Biodiesel, Hybrid autos, CFLs, LEDs, Certified Organic, ENERGY STAR compliant, water saving, Carbon Footprint reduction, Green Architecture and sustainable living for everyone".

It is a great place to start looking for green products. It is not very diverse though. It has a blog and a forum where people are sharing great green ideas. I like it a lot.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

California Rejected the PFOA and BPA Bills

California lawmakers rejected on Monday the two bills (Corbett’s bill and Migden’s Bill ) that would have banned the use of two harmful chemicals: PFOA from food packaging and BPA in products used for children under 3 years of age. It is clear that this was influenced by the FDA statements that BPA is safe that came out Friday, just in time for the votes. Both chemicals were identified as potential carcinogens. I wonder how long it takes until the safety of people will prevail over the lobby money of unscrupulous industries that care about the customers only after it kills a few with their products. And, probably the brains of our lawmakers are already damaged by some chemicals since they don't seem to care about our health.

Both bills were granted reconsideration; I hope the legislators will reconsider their votes despite lobbying efforts.

Monday, August 18, 2008

FDA Released New Draft: Says "Bishenol A is Safe"

It looks like we never learn. After asked to review its decisions about Bisphenol A, FDA came last Friday with a new draft stating that Bisphenol A is safe. Their review is funded by research made by the industry, and as expected it was acclaimed by the American Chemistry Council (a lobby group for chemical companies) which defended the chemical’s safety.

After National Toxicology Program came out with a study earlier this year, stating that BPA can lead to prostate and breast cancers, Canada made public its intention to ban the use of BPA in baby products. Wal-Mart and Toy’ R Us announced their intention to take out from their shelves bottles containing the chemical. Now, in the U.S., 12 states are considering bills to restrict use of BPA. California could become the first state in the nation to ban Bisphenol A in certain products. I hope their decision will not be influenced by the FDA report which, oddly, came out just now – before the California lawmakers are preparing to vote the proposal.

Despite FDA decisions (which were kind of shaken lately), I will continue to avoid any plastic that will contain BPA. My previous posts provide a more comprehensive review of BPA, tips on how to avoid it, and a review of baby bottles free of BPA. This latest decision reeks of lobby...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Cell Phones Radiation

We are bombarded lately by news saying that the cell phones are emitting radiation levels that could be linked with cancer. There is continuous debate about the issue as there is a need of data to make the cell phone-cancer correlation significant. It is hard to tell at this moment; although neurosurgeons firmly sustain that there is a link. On the CNET website it is a list with the phones and their radiation levels. Not all the models are tested, but the nice part is that you can request the SAR information from the manufacturer or your carrier. You'll need the model number and FCC ID number, which is usually but not always listed in your owner's manual or under your phone's battery (you must pop the battery out).

From the CNET website:

“According to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), specific absorption rate, or SAR, is "a way of measuring the quantity of radiofrequency (RF) energy that is absorbed by the body." For a phone to pass FCC certification, that phone's maximum SAR level must be less than 1.6W/kg (watts per kilogram). In Europe, the level is capped at 2W/kg while Canada allows a maximum of 1.6W/kg. The SAR level listed in our charts represents the highest SAR level with the phone next to the ear as tested by the FCC. Keep in mind that it is possible for the SAR level to vary between different transmission bands and that different testing bodies can obtain different results”.

For an exhausted list, you can go here.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Going Green: Product Review of the Week: Drain Treatments

After getting rid of all the nasty chemicals in my house, it was time for the drain remover too. I do not use it often, only if needed, and probably this happens about once or twice at every two years. However, the time to use it just came recently so I was looking for a greener alternative. I found various on the internet, but since I barely need it I decided to buy one that is not expensive, but not the cheapest either. I ended up getting the Citra Drain Natural Enzymatic, as I am a big fan of products made with enzymes. I used it and it worked very well! It uses powerful natural enzymes to rid drains and pipes of grease, clogs, and build-up. It is perfect for most organic blockages, including grease, oil, soap residue and more.

Natural enzymes, natural bacteria cultures, biodegradable cleaning agents, natural citrus extracts and trace preservative (.0005%).

It is available in 22 fl.oz, Valencia Orange fragrance.

I got it from MotherNature (where I found the best price) but you can find it in many places. For stores in your area you can look here.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Radon Found in Granite Countertops - Updates

I wrote earlier about this New York Times article; following the link provided in the article, I called the radon technologist in my area and asked for a quote of measuring radon on my granite countertop. He was a very nice guy, willing ang able to provide information, and I the details I got from him helped a lot. Here's a summary of what he told me:

There is no standard established for measuring the radon in the granite countertops as there is no technology for doing it. As read in the New York Times article, this is done only for scientific purposes. The thing the technicians do is to measure the radon in the kitchen using tests approved by EPA. Given that I had my house tested for radon already, he said that the test should have picked up the radon from the granite too. Well, by following the EPA recommendations, I had my house tested at the lowest level; so it would be wise to make another test in the kitchen (situated a level higher) and compare the results.

The quote I received was up to $400 to test the entire house (every room) and this was depending on location as well (I live pretty far from the closest certified technician).

In the winter, I used an EPA certified test which costs me about $20. The technician said that it is perfectly reliable to do this again for the kitchen, and after that if I still have doubts, I should go for testing the entire house. (As an aside: nice guy, he never tried to push for a sale, he was merely providing the information).

Before running out for your radiation physicist friend with a Geiger Counter or paying a lot, you can use a simple test and do it for yourself! If you suspect the granite countertop (or the cutting board :), place the test above it.

Going Green: Product Review of the Week - Clothes Washers

Clothes washers have come a long way here in the US to catch up with European counterparts, front-loading washers seem to be the norm nowadays. What has helped in the process was a bit of smart policy: utilities distribute rebates on new appliances, the more energy- and water-saving the appliance, the bigger the rebate.

What to look for in a clothes washer? First off it has to wash properly, without tearing apart the clothes or ruining them -- but you knew that already. Read reviews around, get a brand with good reputation, ask a friend that owns one you'd like; it really does make a difference, some of the cheap models will force you to update your wardrobe often. On the green front, look for the energy consumption and water usage.

#1 Energy: Energy star rates washers on both, and you can find a Energy Star Clothes Washer ratings and you can compare all models in gory details. Look for the "percent better" column and choose the one with the highest percentages for the biggest energy consumption (for example, some of the Bosch models rate more than 100% better). Then check the prices and choose one you can afford, as you can see, you can get a well reputed LG for half the price of a purist's dream Miele. Search for Energy Star partners that offer rebates here or check the list and offerings at your local Home Depot, Lowe's, Best Buy or other major appliance store. Call ahead the utility and ask whether they still have money for the rebates. Compute your final cost and shop around. (You're probably aware of this, all appliances carry a yellow label like the one you see in the picture: the arrow has to be more to the left for a better machine. The table I link in the beginning of the paragraph is a better tool (and for the really compulsive, the website has excel and CSV versions).

I'm not really focusing on the electrical versus gas choice because it's not a choice for many of us; you need to get what you have in your home. If you can choose, gas is generally a cheaper option -- unless your state or utility regulates the price or energy.

#2 Water: there's less difference here on the modern front loader designs, you see in the table that 3 cubic feet front loading washers consume about 5000 gallons of water per year. If you've chosen 10 models at #1, narrow it down to the ones with the best volume/yearly water use ratio. Here's where the quality of the wash comes into play, read reviews and compare as well, don't go for minimum water consumption if the reviews are bad.

Last but not least, choose based on the producer's experience. European manufacturers are doing this for at least 40 years (yes, that's how old front loading machines are :)). Miele and Bosch are 'royalty' in Europe, Japanese and Korean makers have good experience as well -- don't know much here. Color is not that important, the machine is hidden in the laundry room anyway.