Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Lifefactory Bottles ~ Why I Can't Go Anywhere without Mine!

When they first started using Lifefactory water bottles at home, my mom and sister, Hannah, knew they had to share this safe and innovative product with others!  I soon started using Lifefactory bottles as well and easily saw why my mom and sister were so excited about letting others know about these bottles.  So I thought I’d also give my little “hoorah” and help spread the Lifefactory love myself….here’s my take on the Lifefactory bottles and why I can’t go anywhere without mine!
Lifefactory bottles are made of non-toxic materials giving them both personal and environmental health benefits.  The main component of the bottles is, well, the bottle itself, which is made from glass. When it comes to taste, I’ve noticed a much fresher and more pure flavor when drinking water from a glass bottle over one made from plastic (a bland…toxic…flavor) or stainless steel (more of a metallic taste that bothers some). In terms of non-toxic characteristics, glass is a great choice because it is free from chemicals—in particular BPA—which helps me keep my body healthy and chemical free.  As for the environment, glass is 100% recyclable and reusable, which helps me eliminate the amount of waste I create.  The second component of the glass bottle is the food-grade and non-toxic silicone sleeve used to help minimize the chance for breakage that can occur when glass is involved.  Finally, the Lifefactory bottle is sealed with a BPA-free plastic lid to help prevent leaking.
The Lifefactory bottles also have an aesthetic appeal that I love! The silicone sleeves and BPA free plastic caps come in a variety of playful colors—my favorite being sky blue.  I actually have a few of these water bottles in different colors and sizes at home, so I often like to switch around the caps to the bottles!  And in case you are wondering, yes, the caps for the 16oz and 22oz bottles are the same size, so switching around caps for a colorful bottle combination is super easy.
The only downside I can think to bring up about the Lifefactory bottle is the obvious chance for breakage (which I mentioned previously). But being the good company that they are, Lifefactory has a solution in addition to the silicone sleeve to help increase the warranty of your bottle: they will replace a broken bottle…for free!  
Lifefactory bottles, in my opinion, are worth getting.  I’m proud to carry them around because I know they are representing my non-toxic lifestyle.  They’re great conversation starters too!  Whenever I’m complimented on the bottle’s design, I mention that it’s made of glass.  Often times, I get a confused and surprised look which is the perfect opportunity for me to educate other and help spread the word about choosing non-toxic products for on-the-go!
I leave you with the thought that if you’re ready to make the switch to a more toxin-free lifestyle, try Lifefactory Glass Bottles when hydrating on-the-go! I honestly think you’ll love the fresh taste of your beverage, they style, and, of course, its warranty J. Show your body and the earth some love…switch to glass!
~ Ivana

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Study Finds that Component of Plastic is Associated with Pregnancy Loss

In a study released late last year, researchers from Denmark found a possible link between phthalates in plastics and pregnancy loss:
Women who were exposed to relatively common levels of a particular phthalate were more likely to experience early pregnancy loss than women exposed to lower levels of the phthalate.

Phthalates are compounds used in plastics to make them more flexible, transparent, and durable.  They are commonly used in food packaging, personal products such as perfume and cosmetics, and even children’s toys.  In the Denmark study, the particular phthalate in question is called monoethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP), which is created through metabolic processes as a result of phthalates present in our bodies. 

In the past, studies have examined the results of phthalate exposure in rats and found that such exposure resulted in higher rates of pregnancy loss as well as smaller litters.  This study, however, is the first to look at phthalate exposures in humans. The study began by collecting several urine samples from couples attempting to get pregnant for the first time.  These samples were collected during the women’s last cycle and 10 days after their last cycle before becoming pregnant.  The researchers then tested these samples for levels of different forms of phthalates and collected data on those who experienced pregnancy loss.

After data was collected, the researchers compared the number of women who were exposed to high levels of phthalates to the number of women who experienced pregnancy loss.  Of the 148 women in the study, 48 had experienced pregnancy loss, with 32 of those lost pregnancies were during the first week of pregnancy.  When this data was compared to levels of various phthalates in the urine samples, the researchers found that the women with high levels of MEHP in their urine during the time of conception were more likely to experience pregnancy loss than women with low levels of MEHP in their urine.  However, they found no connection between MEHP levels in urine during their previous cycles and pregnancy loss.  These results lead researchers to deduce that MEHP levels matter the most at the particular time of conception.

For more information on this study, see resources listed below.

While these results are very interesting, this is the first study of phthalates and pregnancy loss involving humans so there is a need for independent studies to test and corroborate these findings.

~ Jessica


Thursday, January 19, 2012

The National Children’s Study: Addressing the Debate over BPA

The debate over BPA began several years ago when scientific studies were suggesting that BPA present in our environment could have serious negative effects on our health.  Like any debate, there are at least two sides to a story, or in this case, a study.  In the case against BPA, preliminary research suggests that BPA may cause several health issues; however, most of these studies involve animal test subjects rather than humans, and for this reason some scientists do not believe that BPA could affect us to the same degree.

At ESP, we believe there may be a connection between BPA exposure and our health, which is why we are doing our best to educate consumers and give families a place where they can purchase non-toxic products based on their own beliefs and lifestyles. Our take on BPA can be categorized under the Precautionary Principle: “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.” In other words, we like to think it’s the “Better Safe than Sorry” principle where based on the research currently available, there are several proactive steps we as consumers can take to reduce our exposure to BPA. 

Currently, there is research underway to give us more insight into BPA under the National Children’s Study.  What makes this study different than one in the past is that it has an observational study that focuses on humans more so than animals.

The goal of this study, which began in 2000, is to “improve the health and well-being of children and contribute to understanding the role various factors have on health and disease.”  These factors include water, diet, environmental pollutants, and more.  The National Children’s Study will be the largest long-term of children’s health ever conducted in the United States.  Over the course of 21 years the study will follow 100,000 children, recording details about their environments and their habits.  The study will be conducted in a variety of locations across the country, including rural and urban populations and populations from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.  All in all, 105 different locations will be used.  With this information scientists will have a wealth of information to draw links between our environment and our health, including the effects of BPA.

After 7 years of planning, the piloting of their study design began in 2007.  Beginning this month the National Children’s Study is ready to begin the first year of their main study.  This is the first major step toward gaining observational data on BPA and our health…and we’ll be keeping our ears and eyes open for any new findings!

~ Jessica


Monday, January 16, 2012

The Link Between Chemicals and Obesity

Since 2008, about one-third of U.S. adults and almost one-fifth of children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 have been classified as obese—both staggering and shocking statistics.  But what if working out and watching what you eat isn’t paying off?  Is there anything else causing obesity out there besides overeating and genetics?  As it turns out, there may be more.  Harmful chemicals, called obesogens, are sneaking into our homes and diets…and ultimately changing the way our body controls weight.
            Obesogens are either natural or man-made chemicals that can alter the way one’s body controls weight, especially during fetal and early development.  Obesogens do this by causing an increase in the number of fat cells, a decrease in calories burned, a resistance to insulin in the liver, and a release of less leptin (responsible for telling your body you are full) from fat cells.  Luckily, the federal government has taken obesogens head on, funding $20 million for further studies on this topic.  But as we wait for updates and new findings, there’s no hurt in starting to avoid obesogens today—starting right at home!   Here is a list of obesogens to help you and your family on the path towards a healthier body and environment!
1.       BPA:  BPA (Bisphenol-A) is commonly found in hard plastics, cans, and, interestingly enough, cashier receipts.  A few simple ways to help reduce your exposure to BPA include choosing glass or stainless steel bottles over plastic, avoiding canned foods, and letting the cashier know you won’t be needing a receipt (which also helps reduce waste!).
2.       Pesticides: The chemicals found in pesticides used for farming are often linked to obesity and diabetes.  To reduce your intake of pesticides, start choosing organic foods!  Studies have shown that after just 5 days of eating organic, you can cleanse your body of almost all pesticide residues.
3.       Atrazine: Faucet water has been found carrying pesticides from the soil surrounding water sources.  The main obesogen pesticide found in tap water, atrazine, slows thyroid hormone metabolism.  Install a granular activated carbon filter on your faucet to filter out that unnecessary weight gain.
4.       High fructose corn syrup: High fructose corn syrup can cause your liver to resist insulin and lessens the amount of leptin released from your fat cells to alert you that you’re full.  Organic and natural sweeteners are better ingredients to be found on food labels.
5.       Polybrominated biphenyls (PCBs):  PCBs work through estrogen receptor pathways and affect the liver—not to mention PCBs have been shown to cause cancer.  Their release into the environment has caused them to bioaccumulate in fish and other animals, so eating lower on the food chain a bit more in your diet can protect you from harmful levels of exposure. Why not try the growing trend of Meatless Monday? This would be a great start!
6.       Soy: Despite its high levels of protein and other healthy attributes, soy promotes fat-cell growth because of its plant-based estrogenic properties.  High doses of this legume and its form of drink cause weight gain.  Babies and children are mostly affected, so it’s best to keep soy away from young children and to offer breast milk to babies over other supplemental drinks.
7.       Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA): If you use non-stick pans coated with PTFE, PFOA may be leaching into your foods.  Found even in microwaveable popcorn bags, PFOA can have a negative impact on your thyroid gland.  Stainless steel and/or cast iron pans are great alternatives to PTFE-coated pans.
8.       Phthalates: Phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals, are common in personal-care products, especially synthetically fragranced products.  Besides being linked to obesity, high levels of phthalates can affect the growth of children.  Take a quick look at the ingredients in your favorite personal care products for “fragrance” or “parfum” and toss them if you find those listed.  Air fresheners and scented candles are culprits too, so natural beeswax candles are a safer alternative.
9.       Organotins:  Harmful organotins can be found in vinyl (some flooring, purses, and shower curtains) and PVC plastics (pipes).  According to a recent study, mice that were exposed to organotin tributyltin bore mice that were predisposed to weight problems.  That said, try to avoid this obesogen by paying attention to what is in your household and cleaning your home on a regular basis, since PVC can hang around household dust.
10.   Nicotene: Babies born to mothers who smoke throughout pregnancy face an increased risk of being obese during their developmental years.  Second-hand smoke is just as important to avoid, and from third-hand-smoke, the toxins that linger in a cigarette after it has been put out still pose health risks, especially to babies and young children.  “There are no safe levels of this stuff,” says Jonathan Winickoff, MD, MPH, at the Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
          I hope this list helps because any step you can take to keep your body obesogen-free is progress towards a healthier and more successful diet.
~ Ivana

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Relax! Stress Could Increase Toxic Risks

Here at ESP we are dedicated to keeping you informed on any new chemical research that can help you make educated decisions when purchasing non-toxic products!  So, the most obvious means helping you avoid exposure to chemicals like BPA and PFCs in your food and drink is to purchase non-toxic products like stainless steel cookware, food safe containers, BPA free water bottles, and more kitchen and on-the-go type products.  But because of obvious environmental repercussions and a lifetime of inevitable exposure to some chemicals, we all have traces of toxins in our body.  Yes, it’s a harsh reality but not one that can’t be managed! So now, in addition to being more conscious about what we put into our bodies, we can also be conscious about what’s already in our system.

The answer to helping minimize the effects of toxins in our body is to simply RELAX. 

It is already widely known that stress has the potential to weaken our immune systems, thereby making us sick.  However, as Jane E. Clougherty of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Environmental and Occupational Health explains, “…stress is a nonspecific constellation of physiological effects.”  In other words, stress has the capacity to affect our health in a variety of different and unrelated ways…so stress may facilitate the potentially negative effects of chemicals in our bodies.  Recent research has found that stress can influence the way environmental pollutants and chemicals act in our bodies.  Clougherty and colleagues published research in June of 2010 showing that laboratory rats exposed to pollutants experienced greater respiratory effects when consequently exposed to stress as compared to rats not exposed to pollutants.  The stress made a difference.

While stress can negatively impact us all, children and pregnant women are most vulnerable.  As Dr. Rosalind J. Wright of Harvard Medical Schools explains, “both epidemiological and animal studies show that stress may impact key regulatory systems in the body, throwing them out of balance.  This can happen at any period in life, but if it occurs in a critical stage of development when rapid changes are already taking place—like pregnancy or adolescence—it might have particularly measurable as well as lasting effects.” 

The issue of stress is still largely unexplored in pregnant women and children’s health research.  In January of 2011 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave the field a shot in the arm, so to speak, by awarding seven Science to Achieve Results (STAR) research grants to scientists studying the interactions between stress and environmental exposures.  The grants totaled $7 million.

While we wait for the researchers to report back, we can start practicing smarter ways to deal with our stress.  Here are some of my favorite methods:

1.      Exercise – run around and burn off some steam!
2.      Breathe deep – it will give your body and mind time to relax
3.      Smile – you might feel silly, but I guarantee you will also feel happy J
4.      Take a walk – sometimes the best way to deal with a stressful situation is to take a break from it
5.      Cut back on the java – caffeine affects our quality of sleep, which in turn will lead to more stress

Good luck staying stress and chemical free!  And let us know if you have any good relaxation inducing tips!

~ Jessica


Thursday, January 5, 2012

What’s Green, Healthy, and Non-Toxic all over?

Your lunch! Or at least it can be with some tips on how to makeover your lunch bagging routine into a green, non-toxic, and healthy one.  The great thing about a green and healthy lunch bag is that you can simultaneously be good to the environment, be good to your body, and be good to your wallet!
Oh, okay, before I start, I do want to add that this is how I typically pack my lunch during the week. So any healthy foods you enjoy will work…I just may or may not be addicted to salads (guess that’s not such a bad thing!)
The Bag
Instead of reaching for a brown baggie, a leftover plastic grocery store bag, or an insulated lunch container (that often needs to be refrigerated if there isn’t enough inside to keep items cold), reach for a 100% Organic Cotton Lunch Bag! They are machine washable and made from natural, unbleached organic cotton.  Pack your lunch in one of these and pop it in the work refrigerator to keep contents cold and bacteria free.  As a little side note, did you know that compared to conventional cotton, the methods used to grow organic cotton have lower environmental impacts and are non-toxic (no pesticides used)? 
The Food
Swap out your plastic containers (yes, even those that hold pre-sliced deli meat) for non-toxic and reusable stainless steel food containers! I pack a salad in my larger stainless steel food container.  As for the dressings, I have a stainless steel snack set that comes with a compact container (here I often pack yogurt or fruit) and a small container that is just the right size for salad dressing.  For a healthier twist on salad dressing, I use fresh salsa!  It’s lower calories, is made from fresh vegetables, and doesn’t come in a plastic container like many grocery store brands do.  What I love about my stainless steel containers is that they are dishwasher safe and, most importantly, it won’t leach chemicals like BPA into food.  If I'm packing a sandwich, I have a more oval-shaped stainless steel container that is the perfect size!
To help you avoid plastics and wasting plastic baggies, try a reusable snack bag! The LunchSkins snack bags are the perfect size—plus they are water proof, grease proof, lead free, BPA free, and phthalate free.  I often pack raw nuts, trail mix, and even grapes!  

The Utensils
Reusable bamboo utensils are a great alternative to plastic utensils and are much lighter than bringing silverware in a lunch bag.  The RePEat bamboo utensils are made from renewable bamboo and are completely non-toxic!
The Drink
I know this sounds like old news, but try to stay away from plastic water bottles!  Instead, I used a BPA free glass water bottle or stainless steel water bottle. By using them, you produce less waste and won’t run the risk of BPA leaching into your drink!

I hope these tips help you pack healthier, greener, and more non-toxic lunches for you and your family!  And you don't have to stop at the lunchbag for going healthy, green, and non-toxic...Healthy Child Healthy World has a bunch of ideas to help you and your family live healthier lifestyles!

Is it bad that I look forward to packing lunch every day?  Not just for me...but I used to pack for my whole family...there are 8 of us!

Happy Packing,

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

National Drinking Straw Day!

Who would of thought a National Drinking Straw Day would exist?  Certainly not me, but since it does, why not celebrate!  Because new year's resolutions and drinking straws are on our minds (well, maybe not the drinking straw part for everyone) how about a drinking straw resolution? Tired of wasting plastic straws?  At ESP we have glass straws and stainless steel straws to help you reduce waste and keep your teeth from staining of course!

More straws: http://www.liveesp.com/entertaining/entertaining-utensils/

In case you were interested in the history behind National Drinking Straw Day, I thought I'd put together a little blurb to fill you in on this riveting holiday: Drinking straws were invented by Marvin Chester Stone in 1888.

Happy Sipping!

~ Hannah

Monday, January 2, 2012

BPA and the Risk of Heart Attack in Women

It seems like more often than not we are learning more about the potentially negative effects of BPA on our health, and a recent study has added to the list of potential causes linked to BPA exposure.  The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, suggests that BPA may send signals to female heart cells, causing those cells to beat erratically.  This condition is known as arrhythmia and it can result in cardiac death.

BPA, or bisphenol A, is a compound commonly used in a variety of household products, especially those made with plastic and canned foods.  By using products that have BPA in them, we can become exposed to the chemical, and once the BPA is in our systems it has the potential to mimic estrogen.  This is dangerous because the human body maintains a delicate balance of hormones to regulate all of its functions.  In this study, for example, estrogen has been show to alter contraction rates in heart cells.  When estrogen mimicking BPA is in our bodies, this effect is multiplied and becomes potentially harmful to a normally functioning heart.  BPA throws the balance of the hormone estrogen out of whack and the heart suffers as a result.
Laura Vandenberg of Tufts University explained that, “though not flashy, this study is excellent at revealing nuances of how cardiovascular tissue can respond differently than cells elsewhere in the body to estrogen – and to BPA.”  Furthermore, she explains that this effect is found even with very low doses of BPA, “the most effective dose was very close to – if not completely overlapping – what’s been reported in humans.”

Scientists have debated whether BPA levels are high enough in humans to cause the potential health risks associated with its exposure.  In this case, the level of BPA commonly found in females has the potential to cause heart problems.

To avoid this serious risk and any other lurking issues resulting from BPA, throw out your old and used plastics and buy BPA-free water bottles and food containers.  It’s a “whole-hearted” investment worth making!

~ Jessica

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