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Archive for the ‘The Bad’ Category

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I grabbed this from Facebook with the permission of my lovely ecofeminist friend, Dawn Dietrich.

Bees are responsible for pollinating more than 30 per cent of the food that we eat and 90 per cent of trees, flowers and other wild plants (Ontario Beekeeper’s Association). Powerful insecticides, called neonicotinoids, are considered to be the cause of massive honey bee deaths occurring all over Ontario (Ontario Association of Beekeepers; Ministry of Agriculture). These are not isolated incidences, however, as this insecticide has been wreaking havoc across the globe for years, with the EU even placing a moratorium on its use. In Ontario, as a Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs entomologist points out, “virtually all corn seed is treated with neonicotinoid”. Indeed, just a few weeks ago, over 30,000,000 (MILLON!) bees were found dead in Elmwood, Ontario and the cause appears to be acute neonicotinoid poisoning. Over fifty years ago Rachel Carson tried to demonstrate the fallacy of using synthetic chemical pesticides, but apparently we weren’t ready to listen, because not only are we still applying these poisonous chemicals, but (and this brings me to the sheer absurdity of it all) when this pesticide is banned another will just come along and replace it. Today, as I walked past a strip-mall lawn being sprayed with pesticides, I couldn’t help but think about the fate of honey bees, trees, and general human/nonhuman health. I couldn’t help wonder why we continue to allow this to happen? Is this the world you really want to live in, people? Are cheap, poisonous grains worth it? Are toxic lawns and rivers worth it? I know my answer – not a chance in hell!!! If you agree, do something about it! Say no to chemicals! Buy local, organic fruits and vegetables when possible. Contact your local MPP/MP and tell them you don’t want toxins in your food and cities/towns (see your municipal regulations – most cities allow for pesticide use on parks, golf courses and commercial properties). Join your neighbourhood association and start lobbying your local government as a collective. If you care, do something…anything. But please, whatever you do, don’t remain silent anymore.

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Clean Up the Kiddie Make-up

Published in the Summer 2013 edition of EcoParent Magazine.

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For most people, the word formaldehyde conjures up memories of grade 10 biology and the pungent scent of preserved frogs. It has a toxic reputation and lurks in some fairly dodgy places – smog, car fumes, tobacco smoke and embalming fluids. Formaldehyde is commercially produced from petroleum and used in the manufacturing of many items: crease-resistant fabrics, automobiles, plywood, carpet, sanitary paper products, paints, insulation, antiseptics, vaccines and medications. What was once used exclusively as an antiseptic or animal preservative has become a billion dollar industry finding uses in thousands of products. MORE…

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First of all, I would like to say that I have lost three people to cancer in the last month – my uncle, my friend and my stepfather’s sister. All of them far too young to be leaving their spouses and children behind.  With every death, I became more frustrated with the fact that they died and no one knows why. How do we not have any definitive answers to the cause of cancer? We know carcinogens exist but there seems to be such a political battle over what to be concerned about – especially in the cosmetic and skin care industry.

Case in point, parabens, the cosmetic preservative that is used rampantly by many of the large cosmetic companies.  On January 12 of this year, a report was published by the Journal of Applied Toxicology that measured the amount of parabens in different sections of the breast by testing tissue samples from the mastectomies of 40 different patients. Of the 160 tissue samples tested, 158 had parabens in them. That’s 99%. Also, the levels of parabens were found to be significantly higher in the region closest to the armpit which contributes to the suspicion that they are originating from antiperspirants (although 7 of the 40 patients had never used underarm products). This propelled a slew of media about the subject including an article by The Sun in the UK.  In response to this article, three breast cancer charities have published a letter rebutting this article and the study behind it. As they put it, “This research has serious flaws and provides no proof to suggest that women should be concerned about parabens”. I was puzzled by this letter. Why would the people that are paid to find the causes of breast cancer make statements of this nature … who are they protecting? I really got suspicious when I read this line, “Despite the fact that Professor Sharpe comments, ‘The study does not address whether parabens contribute to risk of breast cancer’, we feel by the nature of the rest of the article the damage to concerned women will already have been done.”  What damage? The only damage I can think of would be to the companies that still formulate with parabens. This got me digging and lo and behold I found what I suspected – a corporate sponsorship by Avon, the maker of cosmetics with parabens galore. See what I mean by politics?

I know that I’ve said this before, but until we get some answers about what is causing people to develop this life-threatening disease, everything is suspect – especially a chemical that is found in the breast tissue of mastectomy patients! These are people’s lives we are talking about and they are a lot more important than the profits of companies that don’t have the ethics to formulate responsibly.

If you are concerned about this chemical, look for the following on your cosmetic and skin care labels – butylparaben, isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben; methylparaben and propylparaben.

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Petroleum – love it or hate it? I’m guessing that most of you hate it. The sad fact is that as much as we resent this commodity, it is unavoidable unless you are living with wolves. The latest catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico has put many of us over the edge in our disdain for it and yet we still have to get in our cars and go to work or heat our houses in the dead of winter. At this point, some things can’t be controlled but fortunately some things can.

The beauty industry is absolutely littered with petroleum products – from the ugly plastic packaging to the petrochemicals you unknowingly spread all over your body. A huge health concern with petroleum products is that they can generate 1,4-dioxane. This is a substance that is known to cause cancer and is also a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant, and a respiratory toxicant not to mention a leading groundwater contaminant. The Environmental Working Group has found that an alarming 22% of all products contain unsafe levels of 1,4-dioxane.

I have compiled a list of what to look for in labels to determine whether an ingredient is petroleum-based.

Cosmetic Petrochemicals

  • Paraffin Wax
  • Mineral Oil
  • toluene
  • Benzene
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Anything with PEG (polyethylene glycol)
  • Anything ending in ‘eth’ indicates that it required ethylene oxide (a petrochemical) to produce e.g. myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth
  • Anything with DEA (diethanolamine) or MEA (ethanolamine)
  • Butanol and any word with ‘butyl’butyl alcohol, butylparaben, butylene glycol
  • Ethanol and word with ‘ethyl’ – ethyl alcohol, ethylene glycol, ethylene dichloride, EDTA (ethylene-diamine-tetracetatic acid), ethylhexylglycerin
  • Any word with “propyl” – isopropyl alcohol, propylene glycol, propyl alcohol, cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Methanol and any word with ‘methyl’ –  methyl alcohol, methylparaben, methylcellulose
  • Parfum or fragrance – 95% of chemicals used in fragrance are from petroleum

The best way to take petroleum out of your bathroom is to avoid any products containing these chemicals and to choose products that use glass rather than plastic.  Use soap or shampoo bars rather than body wash and shampoo in bottles. It may take a little extra effort on your part, but you are likely to have a far better experience in your bathroom with botanicals than icky oil.

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It seems like everywhere you look, there’s plastic. Plastic bottles, plastic toys, plastic bags – there’s even a garbage patch of plastic bottles twice the size of Texas floating in the north Pacific Ocean (if that’s not a sign that we suck, I don’t know what is). It lines the shelves of all of our grocery stores, pharmacies, and big box operations. We seem to be obsessed with it, which strikes me as odd in a world trying to go green. I see many companies claiming to be eco-friendly or environmental with plastic packaging. This claim is a little hard to swallow. How does something that sits in a landfill for eons get an eco-friendly label?

  • Plastic is a huge health concern. It leeches into products and exposes our bodies to hormone-disrupting chemicals like bisphenol-A (BPA) and pthalates, which may lead to breast cancer, prostate cancer and sexual development issues in babies.
  • Contrary to popular belief and the “feel goods” we get when we throw a plastic bottle in the ol’ blue box, plastic does not get recycled – it gets downcycled, meaning it gets turned into a different product such as fabric or flooring. The demand for these secondary products is lower than our use of plastics so the majority (76%) of these bottles end up in the landfill after all – for hundreds to thousands of years.
  • Plastic comes from petroleum, a dwindling non-renewable resource that has caused enormous amounts of conflict and environmental degradation all over the world.
  • Plastic is polluting our oceans and destroying marine life by choking and trapping them. It is estimated that 100 million marine mammals and turtles in the north Pacific Ocean are killed every year by plastic – not to mention the plastic bottle island from hell.
  • Plastic pollutes in every way imaginable, from depleting the ozone layer to changing DNA structure in cows. It’s evil.

The bottom line is that plastic is NOT eco-friendly – in fact it’s the opposite, it’s an eco-enemy (I just made that word up). Beware of greenwashers and the plastic industry convincing you otherwise. Do what you can to avoid it by toting reusable shopping bags, choosing products packaged in glass, drinking from stainless steel containers, and buying wooden toys (they look way better in your house anyway).  Also, if you catch anyone drinking bottled water, you should beat them.

Resources: sierraclub.org, greenpeace.org, ecologycenter.org, earth911.com

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Does the idea of slathering rendered animal fat all over your body sound appealing to you? If not, you may have done just that this morning in the shower without even knowing it. Sodium tallowate, a combination of lye and animal fat,  is a very common ingredient in soap. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a bar without it  in a conventional grocery store or pharmacy. All the major companies use it. According to the cosmetic database, there are about 215 soaps on the market containing this unsavory component.

The process of rendering animal fat consists of  taking carcasses of dead animals and boiling them in a cooking pot to create fatty byproducts. The decaying carcasses come  from every source imaginable – deadstock (animals that die before they reach the slaughterhouse), roadkill, euthanized shelter and zoo animals, expired meat from grocery stores, used cooking oil from restaurants, lab animals… grossed out yet? The worst part is that the majority of this fat goes into cosmetics – lipstick, eye shadow, soap. 

Thankfully, alternatives exist. Most natural/organic cosmetic companies wouldn’t think about putting these disgusting ingredients in their products. My favorite convenient choice is Kiss My Face Olive Oil Soap which you can find in most health food stores. Another great option is to buy handmade soap from crafters in your area – they are the most luxurious soaps around. My favorite soaper is  Sacred Circle Herbs in Guelph, Ontario. If you’re really ambitious, you can learn to make your own. Check for courses in your area.  

Bottom line is to read your labels. Rendered animal fat can also be listed as Tallow Acid, Tallow Amide, Tallow Amine, Talloweth-6, Tallow Glycerides, and  Tallow Imidazoline.

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