Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tips for Choosing Safe, Less Toxic Cosmetics

Since 2004, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has called for government regulation and voluntary transparency in the cosmetic and personal care products industry.  On one hand, many companies have incorrectly labeled their products as “pure”, “natural”, and “organic”, even though there have been no legal standards set for these terms with cosmetics.  Additionally, existing law doesn’t require companies to test for the safety of their products nor does the law have the power to issue mandatory recalls of products that have been proven to contain harmful chemicals.  Due to the flaws in current laws, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has made it a priority to find out what some of the most popular personal care products really have in them and the negative effects they may be causing.
Because everything seems so vague and inconclusive in the cosmetics industry, one of the best ways to stay protected from harmful chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products is to be educated on the toxic chemicals commonly found in these products.  To help you stay informed, I’ve put together a sort of “cliff notes” list for you!  Below you will find ten harmful chemicals found in many products in the cosmetics industry.  These chemicals can serve as a “red flag” if you may when looking at a product’s ingredients:

1.      Antibacterials:  Some antibacterials absorbed by the body may be toxic or carcinogenic.  They can also be killing both the “good” and harmful bacteria, increasing your susceptibility to infection.

2.      Coal tar: This human carcinogen is used to soften skin and soothe itchy skin.  Sometimes, it's even used as a colorant.

3.      1,4-dioxane: This chemical is known to cause cancer in animals and is suspected to do the same in humans.

4.      Diethanolamine:  This chemical can be absorbed into the body through the skin.  It is a hormone disruptor that acts as a carcinogen and robs the body of choline, an essential nutrient in fetal brain development.

5.      Formaldehyde:  Already banned in the European Union, it is associated with multiple health concerns including breathing issues, irritation problems, and immune system and genetic damage.  Unfortunately, formaldehyde is not always clearly mentioned on product labels, making it an even greater focal point for safe cosmetic activists.

6.      Fragrance:  This ingredient can encompass number of chemicals, most of which may be toxic.  The term “fragrance” is sometimes used in place of the term phthalate.  Phthalates are obesogens, can cause developmental defects and delays, and can disrupt normal endocrine function (including reproductive health).

7.      Lead:  Lead acetate, a neurotoxin, is an ingredient in some lipsticks and men’s hair dyes.

8.      Mercury: Although the FDA permits the use of a certain amount of mercury compounds in eye makeup, mercury has a record of causing harm to the body as it readily passes through the skin.

9.      Talc: A product used to provide an allusion of sparkle, talc acts as a human carcinogen and has been directly linked to ovarian cancer.  It can also lead to lung tumors if inhaled.

10.  Toluelene:  Used to add gloss, toluelene is a toxic chemical that can decrease a person’s fertility and can cause liver and kidney damage.

You may be asking, what products can we trust if not all are properly labeled? Since regulation for cosmetics and personal care products is currently weak, the best way to find trusted, harm-free brands is to use the companies named “champions and innovators” by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
Hope this helps you find safer cosmetics! If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment in this post. 

~ Ivana


Friday, February 17, 2012

New Study Finds Link between Component of Non-Stick Cookware and Lowered Immune Response to Vaccines in Children

A new study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health has found that perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), a common component of non-stick cookware with PTFE, are associated with lowered immune responses in children’s vaccines.  In the study, PFCs seemed to prevent the participants’ bodies from appropriately reacting to vaccines in order to become immunized.  This is the first study to explore the effects of PFCs on the effectiveness of vaccines.
Over the last few decades vaccines have revolutionized the way we are able to prevent diseases.  As Philippe Grandjean, the lead author of this study, explains, “Routine childhood immunizations are a mainstay of modern disease prevention.  The negative impact on childhood vaccinations from PFCs should be viewed as a potential threat to public health.”  This is all the more worrisome because PFCs are so widely used in a variety of products used on a daily basis.

PFCs are compounds with unique properties that make them stain, oil, and water resistant.  As a result, these compounds are used in thousands of products.  We are exposed to PFCs through our mothers before we are born through our environment the rest of our lives.  Due to its prevalence, most Americans have at least some levels of PFCs in their bodies.

The researchers determined the connection between PFCs and vaccines by first administering blood tests to women just before they gave birth and recording the levels of PFCs in their blood.  Then, once those children reached the ages of 5 to 7, the researchers tested their immune responses to tetanus and diphtheria and measured the levels of PFCs in their blood.  With this data, the researchers could then determine the correlation between immune responses to vaccines and levels of PFCs in children during the prenatal and postnatal stages.

The results showed that levels of PFCs during prenatal and postnatal stages were correlated to lower antibody responses to immunizations.  Without a sufficient number of antibodies, there is an increased risk that vaccines will not be able to provide the long-term protection they would otherwise be able to provide.  In some way, PFCs are preventing vaccines from doing their job.

There are several things you can do to avoid PFCs.

1.     Instead of using some non-stick cookware, which contains PFCs, opt for cast iron or stainless steel cookware.

2.     Fast food wrappers often contain PFCs, so avoiding fast food would be a good idea.

3.     Popping popcorn the old-fashioned way will help you avoid PFCs because microwave popcorn bags are often coated with them.

For more tips on avoiding PFCs check out the guide from the Environmental Working Group.

~ Jessica


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

10 Products Every Non-Toxic Kitchen Needs

            Cooking meals at home, where you know the ingredients, may be your preferred method of building a healthy eating lifestyle, but eating healthy doesn’t stop with the ingredients.  It’s more than just what you are eating—it’s how you prepare and cook your food too! So take a look at the type of cookware, kitchenware, and food storage products you are using at home because hazardous chemicals may leach into your food depending on the type of kitchenware you have.  Below is a list of 10 kitchenware products every non-toxic kitchen should have, but keep in mind that there are endless non-toxic kitchenware products to choose from depending on your lifestyle choices.

1.      Bamboo Cutting Boards:  A great alternative to plastic, bamboo is an eco-friendly, renewable resource that is antimicrobial by nature.
2.      Cast Iron Pans:  These pans are resistant to breakage, are known for having great heat retention, and can come pre-seasoned for flavorful cooking.
Lodge Cast Iron ~ Lodge Logic Cast Iron Skillet, 6.5"

3.     Bamboo Cooking Utensils:  Be sure to get bamboo cooking utensils made with formaldehyde-free glue and with no dyes or stains to be certain you’re choosing the best and safest alternatives for cooking. 

Bambu ~ Kitchen Basics 12" 3 piece Bamboo Utensil Set

4.      Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls:  Made of a material that is scratch-resistant and durable, stainless steel bowls last longer than plastic bowls, are usually dishwasher safe, and free from harmful chemicals like BPA. 
American Kitchen Bakeware ~ 3 piece Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl Set
5.      Glass Baking Dishes:  Unsafe products leach chemicals more quickly when exposed to extreme heat in the oven, so a material like glass is a safer choice since it is chemical free and oven-safe.  Plus, glass dishes can be used for food storage and can be safe for use in the microwave and dishwasher!
Anchor Hocking ~ Oven Basics 3 quart Bake Dish
6.      Stainless Steel Bakeware:  Bakeware made only of stainless steel is BPA free and PFOA free, making it a smart choice for a non-toxic kitchen.
American Kitchen Bakeware ~ 12" x 15" Stainless Steel Cookie Sheet
7.      100% Organic Cotton Oven Mitts: 100% organic cotton is grown without the use of chemicals and biologically-based fertilizers, a much safer method of producing cotton for the environment.  By using organic cotton textiles, you can still protect your hands from extreme heat with the added benefit of helping the environment.
Gourmet Classics ~ 100% Organic Cotton Terry Oven Mitt in Green
8.      Glass Dinner Plates: Using a glass plate at the dinner table, or even to heat up your food, you’ll be safe from BPA and lead, found in some plastic and painted plates.
Libbey ~ Moderno 10.6" Glass Dinner Plate
9.      Glass Food Storage Containers:  BPA free glass containers come in different shapes and sizes for easy storage of food in the fridge.  Many glass containers are freezer, microwave, and oven safe.  If the glass container has a plastic lid, verify that it is BPA free.
Anchor Hocking ~ TrueSeal Round Food Storage Containers Set
10.  Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products:  The safest and most environmentally friendly way to clean your kitchen is to use natural cleaning products and reusable cloths, like SKOY, that are 100% biodegradable, chlorine-free, and natural.
SKOY Cleaning Cloths in White (set of 4)

 ~ Ivana

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

We are going to the GRAMMYs!

Yes, we ARE going! Early December I received a wonderful, ESP-changing phone call from a lovely representative of the company Distinctive Assets.  For over 10 years, Distinctive Assets has been the official Grammy Awards Talent Gift Lounge enablers.  And after all these years, they have never had a non-toxic, eco-friendly company like ours in the mix.  That’s why they reached out to us.  This year, Distinctive Assets wanted to bring more than just products to the lounge…they wanted to bring a concept that could make a difference as well!  At ESP, we are proud to bring this to the GRAMMYs and the talent because we hope that through the power of the celebrity and media, we can reach people all over the world and introduce them to a healthier lifestyle.
So many people in this world have never even heard of toxic chemicals, let alone know what kind of negative health effects they can have on our bodies.  With this opportunity, we hope to shed light on the issue of toxins and help make a difference in the lives of others.  Maybe the next step can be more regulation!  I mean, the more people on board, the closer we can get to more stringent and safe regulations for chemicals. 
And maybe (fingers crossed) we can get some celeb backing!  I’m thinking Taylor Swift would look pretty good with some ESP in her life J…okay, I digress…
Now what’s in the gift bag you may be wondering? When figuring out which products we thought would be best to put in our gift bag, we had to take into consideration that fact that we were giving products to people who pretty much have access to everything. So, to make things a little different, applicable, and necessary for anyone, we came up with an on-the-go concept for a gift bag.  We all have on-the-go lifestyles and using non-toxic and eco-friendly products while on-the-go is a perfect combination. With the help of several brands featured on our site, we came up with this:

Reusable Produce Bag: Perfect for carrying produce at a farmer’s market or the produce section of the grocery store! It’s also made from 100% organic cotton—much more environmentally friendly than conventional cotton.

Lifefactory Water Bottle: LOVE these! They help keep water tasting fresh and completely toxin-free. Perfect for on-the-go and the gym.  Oh, and I swear they are a great conversation starter! Can’t go anywhere without mine.

ECOlunchbox ECOdipper: The stainless steel ECOdipper is great for salad dressings, snacks, hummus, and more! It fits neatly in a lunchbag or lunchbox for you and your kids…and even your purse when you’re out and about and need a quick, healthy snack.
ECOlunchbox ~ ECOdipper Stainless Steel Container
LunchSkins Snack Bag: This reusable snack bag is not only non-toxic but also dishwasher safe! It’s another great choice for taking on-the-go or packing in a lunchbox.  Plus, the designs are too cute!
LunchSkins ~ Green Dot Reusable Snack Bag
To-Go Ware REPeat Bamboo Utensils: These utensils are eco-friendly, non-toxic, and reusable.  Pack it with your lunch or keep it with you in your bag…it can come in handy anywhere and is a much better choice than those disposable plastic forks!
To-Go Ware ~ RePEat Bamboo Utensil Set with Agave Holder
We also included a www.LiveESP.com gift certificate so the recipients can pick and choose non-toxic products based on their own lifestyle changes!
So that’s that! For the next three days, my fiancĂ© and I will be meeting with the GRAMMYs talent, presenters, and media to spread the word about healthier lifestyles…wish us luck! And I will have many updates for everyone when we return…
~ Hannah

Friday, February 3, 2012

Essential Safe Products to Bring Non-Toxic, Food-Safe, and Eco-Friendly Lifestyle to the 54th Annual Grammy® Awards as the Official Featured Sponsor of the 54th Annual Grammy® Awards Talent Gift Lounge

Essential Safe Products (ESP) has announced that as the official featured sponsor of the 54th Annual Grammy® Awards Talent Gift Lounge it will be bringing a non-toxic, food-safe, and eco-friendly lifestyle to 54th Annual Grammy® Awards, which will be broadcast live on the CBS Television Network from 8 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on Sunday, February 12th at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.

As the featured sponsor of the 54th Annual Grammy® Awards Talent Gift Lounge, ESP hopes to spread the word about avoiding toxic chemicals in everyday kitchen and on-the-go products, promote a healthier and more chemical-free lifestyle, and encourage eco-friendly lifestyle choices to consumers. At the lounge, ESP will be showcasing non-toxic, food-safe, and eco-friendly kitchen and on-the-go products sold on their website www.LiveESP.com.  Visitors of their site can learn about toxic chemicals and purchase products for a safer, less toxic lifestyle in the kitchen and on-the-go.

“Through www.LiveESP.com our goal is to have a positive impact on consumers around the world who want to learn about potential hazards of toxic chemicals, get tips on how to avoid toxic chemicals, and have a resource for trustworthy, non-toxic products for their homes.  That’s why when given the opportunity to represent healthy and non-toxic lifestyles at the Grammy® Awards, we knew we had to get involved in order to really get the word out about avoiding toxins.” says Hannah Masimore, President of ESP.  “It’s a lifestyle my family and I have really benefited from and we hope others can benefit as well.”

Recently, the media has been reporting more and more on toxic chemicals in everyday products; however, ESP believes more media attention should be placed on this area of concern because there are many people all over the world who have still not heard about the potential effects of toxic chemicals nor know about ways to help avoid exposure.  With the power of the media and the grandeur surrounding the Grammy® Awards, ESP hopes to spread their message, have a positive influence in the lives of others, and help families lead healthier, less toxic lifestyles in the kitchen and on-the-go.

ESP will be the only company representing non-toxic, food-safe, and eco-friendly products for the kitchen and on-the-go at this year’s 54th Annual Grammy® Awards Talent Gift Lounge. The LiveESP.com gift bag is valued at over $250 and includes all non-toxic, food-safe, and eco-friendly products: a reusable produce bag; reusable glass drinking bottle; a reusable snack bag; a reusable stainless steel snack container; a reusable bamboo utensil set; and a gift certificate to www.LiveESP.com valued at $200.

About Essential Safe Products (ESP)
Susan Masimore, mother of 6 children, started ESP because she wanted to spread the word about toxins and give families a place where they can confidently purchase non-toxic products for the kitchen and on-the-go. Through ESP’s website www.LiveESP.com, families can learn about the toxic chemicals, find tips and tricks on how to avoid exposure to toxins in food and drink, and purchase kitchen and on-the-go products that are non-toxic and food safe. ESP is dedicated to promoting healthy and non-toxic lifestyles for families as well as a healthy environment.

New Study Finds Link between Lead Exposure and Pessimistic Outlook

Pessimism is a personality trait characterized by a tendency toward negative outcomes that is associated with higher instances of depression, heart disease, stroke, and reduced cancer survival as compared to optimists.  So what brings along this unattractive characteristic? From one perspective, it has been shown that the lower your socioeconomic status (SES), the more pessimistic you become, but could there be something else influencing this relationship?  It can’t just be SES, obviously! This was one of several questions asked by the VA Normative Aging Study, a longitudinal study of veterans in America.

Past research has suggested that lead could be linked to levels of pessimism; however, this research had limited conclusions because of insufficient information on SES in childhood and adulthood for the participants of the study.  As a result of this inconclusiveness, past research has been unable to confirm that independent of SES, lead helped increase pessimism.  But with new studies and analysis, researchers from the VA Normative Aging Study sought to find a clearer picture.

The VA Normative Study collected data from 412 men in the Boston area between 1991 and 2002 and measured their levels of pessimism using the Life Orientation Test.  Lead exposure levels for these 412 men were then recorded using x-ray fluorescence. 

Why measure lead? Exposure to lead will often result in damage to the nervous system, have negative impacts on memory, behavior, and intelligence, and may increase the risk of heart disease.  These factors are particularly detrimental to you children with developing brains.

With all of their data and research, the researchers were able to determine that lead exposure levels were associated with increased pessimism ratings independent of the participant’s SES.  In other words, even without considering SES, lead is related to levels of.  And on the other end of the spectrum, researched also found that SES had an impact on pessimism independent of lead.  Through these findings they concluded that it seems both lead exposure and SES have an impact on levels of pessimism, independent of one another.

There are several steps you can take to help you and your families avoid lead exposure.
1.       To help reduce lead exposure that may be present in water, run cold tap water for about three minutes in the morning to help clean your home’s plumbing system.  After flushing the pipes, fill a jug with water to use throughout the day for drinking and cooking.
2.       In older homes, lead based paint may be present.  If you are suspicious of your home having lead-based paint or if you have had it tested and lead is present in the paint, try adding a fresh coat of paint to the walls every couple of years and sweep regularly to pick up any paint chips. 
3.       Lead may also be present in ceramic pots and other types of cookware.  We suggest buying food safe cookware made from stainless steel or cast iron.
4.       Traces of lead may also be found in old, imported, or homemade ceramic dishware with a glaze.  To be safe, try using dishware without a glaze like glass or stainless steel.

~ Jessica


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Eczema Care: Why & How to Go Natural (Guest Post)

Before you read this, a small disclaimer. I am a mom and I am far from perfect. I try to make the best decisions for my family and myself. However, I know what it’s like to have a child in pain (my son had severe head to toe eczema). I was desperate and would do anything to relieve his suffering. So, we tried everything from cortisone to prescription moisturizers and various therapies. Then I discovered the world of natural products and soon realized most the skin care products were much more soothing  (no burning alcohol) on my son’s skin (most I say because some caused allergic reactions, like coconut and soy oil) and the laundry alternatives didn’t aggravate his skin. So, I am now a big believer in eco friendly, natural household products.

Eczema & Triggers

Eczema is a skin condition that affects 10-20% of children. It is characterized by red, itchy, weeping, crusting, and/or scaling skin. In most patients the skin barrier is weakened and therefore is extra sensitive to anything touching the skin, but especially topically applied and absorbed. Typical irritants include, but are not limited to:

·         Food allergies

·         Hot or cold temperatures

·         Stress

·         Colds & viruses

·         Household irritants (dust mites, pets)

·         Clothing and fabrics (wool, etc.)

·         Skincare products w/ certain chemicals

·         Detergents & drying soaps

·         Fragrances/perfumes

Ingredients to Avoid

The last three triggers above may contain very harmful ingredients that can cause eczema to flare and create overall dry skin. Read product labels carefully and watch out for:

Sodium Laurel/Laureth Sulphate (SLS)  Most commonly used to create lather in shampoo, but it’s used in many skincare products. It is a common skin irritant and should be avoided. AKA: Sodium Diethylene Glycol Lauryl Ether Sulfate, Alkyl Ether Sulfate, Sodium Dodecyl Polyoxyethylene Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Ethoxysulfate and Sodium Polyoxyethylene Lauryl Sulfate

Fragrance/Perfume – Very irritating to the skin and contains many harmful chemicals. It’s best to stay away from anything with added synthetic fran graces. Essential oils, however, are considered a natural fragrance and also provide beneficial healing properties. For eczema these tend to be the most recommended essential oils:  chamomile, geranium, rosemary, peppermint, tea tree, thyme, lavender, patchouli, rose, and bergamot oil.

Paraben – Highly allergenic preservative. Considered a carcinogenic.

Alcohol – Cream with any form of alcohol sends my son into a screaming rage. Imagine pouring alcohol on an open wound. Ouch. It is generally considered “safe” to use products containing alcohol on the skin, but what about the pain factor?

Mineral oil & Petroleum – May clog pores & does not allow skin to breathe properly. Atopic dermatitis (a type of eczema) is the body’s way of releasing toxins, so locking them in the body doesn’t seem like the best idea.

Polyethylene Glycol. Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) – Strips the natural moisture from your skin, not a desired quality in an eczema care product.

Imidazolidinyl Urea ( IU) and Diazolidinyl Urea (DU) - Known to cause eczema and allergies, as well as many other very negative conditions.

Why Avoidance is Important

Wait, you say. We’ve been told that products applied to our skin cannot be absorbed into our bodies, certainly not enough to enter the bloodstream. Well then, what about nicotine and contraceptive patches? Its possible only small amounts of these chemicals may be absorbed, but overtime this could cause toxic build up. Since eczema patients have a weaker skin barrier, many products can enter through their damaged skin layers much more effortlessly than they can in those with healthy skin. AND irritated, inflamed eczema skin should be treated gently with calming oils and creams, not further aggravated with drying agents and known allergens.

Take Precautions with Natural Ingredients

Well, gosh, this sounds contradictory. The point I want to make is that what works for one person may not work for another. So, certain natural products may really help your friend, but could harm your child. Take coconut oil for example, (virgin cold processed is best) – it may be the most effective eczema skin treatment for John, but it could cause an allergic skin reaction for Emma. ALWAYS do a small patch test on the skin before applying a new skin care product liberally. Watch for a reaction, usually immediate, but could occur up to a few ours later.

Eczema & Detergents

In addition to detergents containing harmful chemicals that can cause eczema to flare, some people may actually be allergic to detergents. Read about this mother’s struggle to determine the cause of her son’s eczema and her enlightening discovery.

Food allergies were a huge trigger for our son, but detergents also bothered his skin. We tried many detergents – fragrance free, eco-friendly, etc, but everything seemed too harsh for him. We finally happened across soap nuts and have been happily using them ever sense. Soap nuts are a great laundry alternative. They sound a bit extreme, but they really do work and are extremely gentle.

The Best Soaps/Cleansers for Eczema

The wrong soap can further dry out eczema skin by stripping it of its natural oils, something to avoid at all costs. Look for hydrating, moisturizing ingredients like olive, coconut, and jojoba oils, and essential oils as mentioned above. A good tip is to look for soap containing very few ingredients. Bar vs. liquid soap – that’s your choice. A quick note about “tear-free” products, these have chemicals added to numb the eyes. Natural products will not contain these chemicals and therefore could burn the eyes, so use caution.

Product Safety Database

Still have questions? Here is an AMAZING resource for skincare products. EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database has a thorough listing of common skin care ingredients and provides a detailed safety review of each. They give a value to each ingredient – 0 being the least toxic through 10 being the most toxic. They use the ingredient listings on products to provide an overall toxic score for over 69,000 products! It’s really an incredible resource. A word of caution – you will be tempted to review every single product in your house for it’s toxic score. The site will really suck you in. Be careful not to make yourself crazy over your findings (like I did initially), but do try to use less toxic products when possible. If not for yourself, do it for your family and the environment.
~ Jennifer

Bio: Jennifer is a work-at-home mother of two. One has eczema, food allergies, and asthma. One has mild eczema. She is the founder of The Eczema Company and blogs at It’s an Itchy Little World.
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