A Schleich Mommy Party & Giveaway

If you read this blog regularly, you will know that I rarely do reviews. But when I was asked if I wanted to participate in  Schleich mommy party by MomSelect, I said yes. I’ll explain why in a second, but before I do, I want to disclose that I participated through MomSelect and Schleich generously donated a Party Pack to the party, which included many figurines to the party, as well as coloring sheets, keyrings with tiny pig figurines, and a Shadow Rock playset.

Okay, so why did I agree even though pushing product is inconsistent with my green message? Because my kids love the Schleich figures and playsets, and I love the imaginative play that they engage in when playing with Schleich. I love that the products aren’t tied to a move or cartoon character. Simple as that.

The Schleich figures are plastic, so they aren’t as environmentally-friendly as some toys. But they are free of hormone-disrupting phthalates and have been since 2000. Also, they paints they use are free of lead, and of the 200 or so figures I have personally tested using XRF, I haven’t detected lead.

Schleich has figures to satisfy and please almost any child. My son loved the dinosaurs when he was younger. My horse crazy daughter of course loves the realistic horses.

So I agreed to host a Schleich mommy party. While I had though 10 kids were showing up, I ended up with 22, so I didn’t get a lot of pictures at the beginning as I tried to regroup and make sure I had enough for everybody.

My daughter’s friends (mostly 4, 5 and 6) loved the horses and farm and wild animals the most.  Schleich provided some horses, some wild animals and some domestic farm animals. They spent almost 2 hours happily playing a variety of games – from having the animals act like a family, to going to the vet, to having school lessons.

My son’s friends (mostly 7 and 8) gravitated towards the Bayala figures, and set up a very intricate “war” scene with my son’s soldiers on one side and the Bayala figures on the other. From what I could tell, it seem to be derived from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Since the party, my daughter has expressed quiet an interest in the gentler Bayala figures, particularly the unicorns and pink/purple fairies. We saw the Schleich display at Target, and she asked for every gentle Bayala figure for Christmas. And she wants the Elf boat and Floral Umbrella she saw in the Schleich catalog.

So, what can I say? With the Switch Witch coming on 10/31, and the holiday season fast approaching, the Schleich figures are a great option to encourage imaginative play. The Bayala figures allow for imaginative play that fits in with contemporary cartoons/movies but doesn’t box kids in to a set storyline. The farm animals and wild animals are great for any child. There are vehicles and people and almost anything you can imagine. The price point is consistent with how well the figures last and how detailed they are.

And, best of all, you can win a figure just by leaving a comment below. I’ll randomly pick from the coments left a winner on November 11. The contest is open until 11:59 pm on November 10, 2010 (Pacific time). The winner can pick from the category of a farm animal or wild animal or Bayala figure (just one figure – I select what it is from the category). Open to US and Canadian residents only.

Blog Book Tour – What Does It Mean To Be Present?

As a mom, I’m always on the hunt for good books to read with my kids – particularly books that have a message. As an author, I’m always happy to help promote fellow authors. As someone trying to live green, I’m always excited to connect with like minded greenies.

So, you can probably guess I was excited to be asked to review and promote the latest offering from Rana DiOrio of Little Pickle PressWhat Does It Mean To Be Pesent. Rana is a mom, a former attorney, a “greenie”, and an author. When I was asked to interview her to kick off her blog book tour byDani Greer of Blog Book Tours , I was thrilled.

Of course, given our similarities, from kids to law to green, our interview went more like two old friends chatting and laughing together than a formal interview. We talked about the difficulties of being female in law. We talked about some of our favorite “green” companies, including CleanWell. We talked about trying to write and raise kids.

Rana is a mom making it happen. Her warmth and passion shone through the phone. Rana is the founder and chief Pickle of Little Pickle Press. Little Pickle Press publishes high quality, high impact media for children. Little Pickle Press’ mission is to inspire children to protect the environment, celebrate diversity and live richly and fully.   

What Does It Mean To Be Present is the third in a series. The first book, What Does It Mean To Be Green, explores how children can help protect the earth’s natural resources. The second book, What Does It Mean To Be Global, helps educate children about the diversity of our world.

What Does It Mean To Be Present is a vibrant picture book authored by Rana and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. With its lush illustrations and rich language, the book demonstrates how a child can seize the moment. Rana believes that the message is important for kids (and parents!) today. Think about it. Our kids have busy, hectic days plugged into all sorts of media. Rana emphasizes that we teach our kids our bad habits of always looking towards the future and not enjoying the present. She commented that most parents are constantly saying “hurry up, we’ve got to go” or “we’re running late” or some iteration. And out kids learn always to look to the future.

In her comments, I saw myself reflected. As much as have wanted to live more in the moment, I can tell you most days I’m urging my kids to get going or hurry up because we are always running late to school, to karate practice, to soccer, and for dinner. We run from one activity or appointment to the next, without really stopping to enjoy any activity or appointment. 

Reviewing the book, I was struck not only how much I want my kids to live in the present and enjoy the richness of life but that I want that too. That I need to remember to be present. That life is lived in the moments. I asked Rana how busy parents can try to teach their kid be present when they are just trying to get on with life, and her advice was simple. She said, “Just take 15 minutes a day. Start by reading a book each evening.” She had other ideas – from unplugging completely one night a week to simply having a meal together.

So, we are definitely trying to be more present. Last night, at dinner, we ate together and spent the entire time talking about the food – where it came from, how it was grown, how it was cooked, what it tasted like, etc. It was a little odd, but we focused on dinner – not what was  happening the next day or at the end of the week.

I highly recommend What Does It Mean To Be Present as well as the other books in the series. The book is available from Amazon and other retailers. But, just for The Smart Mama readers, Little Pickle Press is offering 2 books plus one TerraSkin environmentally-friendly poster for the discounted price of $29.95. Just enter the code “SMARTMAMA” at check out.

Don’t forget to enter to win the Grand Prize Giveaway from Little Pickle Press- all three books in the series, all four of Little Pickle Press’  TerraSkin posters and a Dabba Walla backpack. Just go an enter here at the Little Pickle Press Blog.

And head over to the next blog in this book tour on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 at The Blood-Red Pencil. Wednesday is Be Well Together and EcoMom.com, Thursday is The Hippy Mom and Friday is Country Fried Mama.

Cadmium Prompts CPSC Recall of McDonald’s Shrek Forever After Promotional Glasses

You pull in to the drive through at McDonald’s and you place your order. And then you ask for some cadmium on the side.

What? You don’t want cadmium when you go to McDonald’s? Well, then don’t order the French fries (just so you know, fries generally have 0.06 parts per million or “ppm” cadmium). (For reference and before you panic, low levels of cadmium are found in many items we eat. But the most common source of cadmium exposure for Americans is cigarette smoke.)

And don’t buy the new promotional Shrek Forever After glasses at McDonald’s, because, well, the painted decorations have cadmium.

Yep, that’s right. Cadmium.

Not what you wanted or expected, is it?

But it is true. And today the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a voluntary recall of those promotional Shrek Forever After glasses. 12 million of those glasses.

I was one of the people to submit the information to the CPSC. I used my Thermo Fisher Scientific Niton XRF analyzer to test all of the current promotional Shrek Forever After glasses – Donkey, Shrek, Fiona and Puss in Boots. And I found cadmium. The cadmium levels varied with the paint color. Historically, cadmium has been used in paint to get yellow to deep red hues.

In the Fiona glass, I detected 1,049 ppm cadmium in the baby’s face. I detected no cadmium in Fiona’s dress (at the sleeve) but did find 10,900 ppm chromium.

In Puss in Boots, I detected cadmium at 1,378 ppm in the red pillow on which Puss rests, 1,048 ppm cadmium in the orange part of Puss, and 1,575 ppm cadmium in the yellow lion on which the Gingerbread Man sits. The Puss figure on the back (in the orange) was 1,707 ppm cadmium and 3,721 ppm chromium.

I detected 1,020 ppm in the green used on the Shrek glass. The yellow on that glass (at the Fiona Wanted sign) was 1,946  ppm cadmium.

Now, since the paint on the glasses is a thin film, it is possible that the cadmium levels are actually higher in the paint because the analyzer penetrates the glass, and the glass doesn’t have any cadmium. And, the XRF analyzer detects total and not soluble levels, which, as we know from the Zhu Zhu pets fiasco, is a big difference.

The real question is – does the cadmium matter? Cadmium is considered more toxic than lead and exposure is linked to a number of health problems. Cadmium is a carcinogen. Ingestion of low levels of cadmium can lead to kidney damage and fragile bones. The CPSC’s recall announcement states that “[c]onsumers should stop using recalled products immediately.”

But can you get exposed from cadmium in the painted decorations on the outside of these glasses? The painted decorations are unlikely to leach into liquids contained in the glasses – the decorations are on the outside. The decorations are also below what is known as the “lip and rim area” – or the area where you put your mouth to drink out of the glass – so you are not likely to actually put the painted decorations in your mouth.

However, you can get wear and transfer from the decorations to your hands. While dermal absorption of cadmium is very low, the exposure occurs as cadmium is transferred to your hands and then your mouth or your food. Think about it – drink out of the glass, eat a french fry or your chicken nuggets. Are you going to wash your hands in between? Nope.

Also, washing the glasses can result in contamination of other dishes. In an automatic dishwasher, the heat and intensity of the water hitting the glasses can cause the decorations to deteriorate. Unfortunately, the cadmium can contaminate other dinnerware placed in the dishwasher – although the rinse cycle may remove all or some of it.

Does it matter? Well, there isn’t an applicable regulatory standard (see below), but you may want to avoid the glasses.

Why is there even cadmium in a children’s product (and is this a children’s product?)? Earlier this year, there were several high profile recalls of cadmium in children’s jewelry. But, the thing is, there isn’t any comprehensive federal regulation addressing cadmium in children’s products.

The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) does NOT have a limit for total cadmium. It does implement a standard for soluble cadmium in paints and coatings used on children’s toys (because the CPSIA makes mandatory the ASTM F963 toy standard). That standard is 75 ppm cadmium (soluble). But the CPSIA doesn’t have a cadmium standard for all children’s products as the CPSIA does for lead.

The CPSC has recalled cadmium children’s products (including the previously mentioned children’s jewelry items) under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA). The FHSA allows the CPSC to find an item to be a “banned hazardous substance” if the level of cadmium is sufficient to cause substantial illness as a result of reasonably foreseeable handling or use, including reasonably foreseeable ingestion by children.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a standard for cadmium (and lead) in ceramic articles, flatware and hollowware used for food storage. The standard is based upon extractable or leachable cadmium (and lead) and not total cadmium as measured by the XRF.

In addition to this standard, there is a voluntary industry standard for lead and cadmium in the lip and rim area. These limits are not more than 4 ppm of lead and not more than 0.4 ppm for cadmium leachable from the lip and rim area. And, as discussed above, the Shrek decorations are outside the lip and rim area.

In California, there is Proposition 65, which requires a warning before exposing consumers to chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer or reproductive or other developmental harm. Cadmium is included on the Proposition 65 list. Proposition 65’s levels are based upon exposure, so various settlements (known as consent judgments) have established content levels in various articles. Under what is known as the Boelter settlement, decorations on glassware outside the lip and rim area can contain no more than 4,800 ppm cadmium (tested by a digestive test or a separate standard for wipe tests), which is higher than the results I got (for total cadmium, although caveat mentioned above about thin film).

Minnesota also has a law regulating cadmium in paints and the like. Specifically, Minnesota law bans the intentional introduction or incidental presence above 100 parts per million of lead, cadmium, mercury or hexavalent chromium into any pigment, paint, dye, ink or fungicides used or sold in the state after 1998.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier from California also made the CPSC aware of this issue.  It appears that Congresswoman Speier’s efforts were instrumental in the recall.  Given the lack of an applicable regulatory standard, whether the recall was necessary or not is open to debate.

(Please note – I updated this post to clarify the Boelter settlement levels. I inadvertently dropped part of a sentence, so I had a lip and rim area level confused with a non lip and rim area limit.)

(Please note further – While I am an attorney, my testing of these Shrek glasses had nothing to do with my legal practice. My use of the XRF for testing stems from being a former environmental engineer, a mom and a consultant that has access to the device & uses it. I am not involved in any lawsuit or claim against McDonald’s related to these glasses. I have received no monetary benefit from testing these glasses or the recall.)


CPSC Chair Warns Parents – Take Cheap Metal Jewelry Away From Kids

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Chairperson Inez Tenenbaum issued an unprecedented warning in On Safety, the CPSC’s blog – don’t give  children cheap metal jewelry. Just don’t. This warning follows the recently released investigation by the Associated Press that found high levels of cadmium in children’s jewelry.

In the blog, Tenenbaum writes:

I have a message for parents, grandparents and caregives: Do not allow young children to be given or to play with cheap metal jewelry, especially when they are unsupervised.

We have proof that lead in children’s jewelry is dangerous and was pervasive in the marketplace. To prevent young chidlren from possibly being exposed to lead, cadmium or any other hazardous metal, take the jewelry away.

This warning really is unprecedented. Even after Jarnell Brown, a 4 year old boy, died in March 2006 from ingesting a charm that was nearly pure lead, the CPSC didn’t issue such a warning. Since then it has recalled more than 180 million units of metal jewelry because of high levels of lead, but it never issued such a warning. It really highlights that this CPSC is a much different agency under President Obama, as I posted yesterday following my conversation with CPSC Spokesperson Scott Wolfson.

And Tenenbaum’s warning is right on if you are concerned about exposure to cadmium, which, like lead interferes with brain development. Cadmium also causes cancer.

Cadmium is shiny and cheap, especially since cadmium’s price continues to drop as we switch out of nickel-cadmium batteries. So if a manufacturer has a choice between using cadmium or zinc alloy, the usual substitute for lead, the manufacturer will select the less expensive cadmium. Cadmium is also malleable at lower temperatures than zinc. And since cadmium isn’t regulated under the CPSIA, manufacturers can use it. That being said, it looks likely that the CPSC will act to declare high levels of cadmium in children’s jewelry to constitute banned hazardous substances under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

TheSmartMama Investigates – Found Cadmium Jewelry at Target

After the Associated Press released the results of its investigation evaluating toxic cadmium in children’s jewelry on Sunday as a substitute for lead, I posted that using cadmium in jewelry pre-dated the lead content limits of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), but that I had seen an upswing in cadmium in jewelry and vinyl since the CPSIA. Cadmium in jewelry seems to have been more widely used since 2003, when cadmium prices dropped.  The thing about cadmium is that it is shiny, strong and malleable at low temperatures – lower temperatures than zinc, the usual substitute for lead in jewelry.

I also decided to use my Niton XRF analyzer to do some super sleuthing a la Nancy Drew.

target necklaceI purchased two necklaces from the girls’ section at Target on December 12, 2009. These necklaces are clearly intended for children – they are sold in the girl’s clothing department and the length is shorter than what would be common for an adult. So, I tested them. One tested fine, but the other tested high for cadmium. Using the Niton XRF analyzer, the heart shaped charm tested at 22,000 ppm cadmium and the star shaped charm tested at 64,000 ppm. Now, the “rhinestones” interfere a bit with the results, as does the shape of each charm, and since I didn’t want to damage the piece, I didn’t pry out the “rhinestones” or hammer the shape into something a bit easier to test. So, if Target was my client, then I would recommend wet testing to verify the results. But there is no doubt that both of these charms contain cadmium.

Charms are always problemmatic because kids have a tendency to stick them in their mouth. While these are intended for children old enough to know NOT to stick them in their mouths, I know that virtually every little girl I know mouths or sucks on their necklaces. Cadmium is a problem if swallowed, and can also result in low level exposures just from mouthing,

I know that since the Associated Press broke its story, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has reacted quickly to address the issues. CPSC Chairwoman Inez Tenenbaum has made remarks at an international toy fair in Hong Kong urging manufacturers not to substitute cadmium in place of lead.

I had a great conversation with Scott Wolfson, CPSC spokesperson. It was actually a pleasure to speak with him, and his comments emphasized the dramatic change at the CPSC under President Obama. He stated that the CPSC is aiming for true clarity in the Asian marketplace, which seems very consistent with Tenenbaum’s comments in Asia following the cadmium. Wolfson however did state that parents may want to steer clear of lower cost jewelry if they are concerned about exposure.

Cadmium in children’s jewelry isn’t regulated under the CPSIA. There is a standard for soluble cadmium in paints and coatings used on children’s toys, but this standard isn’t applicable to metal worked into children’s jewelry. However, the CPSC can address the issue under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA). The CPSC can find the jewelry items to be “banned hazardous substances” under the FHSA if it finds that the items contain quantities of cadmium sufficient to cause substantial illness as a result of reasonably foreseeable handling or use, including reasonably foreseeable ingestion by children.

And this seems like good advice in light of  comments from jewelry industry representatives like He Huihua, manager of the Suiyuan Jewelry Shop in Yiwu. As reported by the Associated Press, he stated, “We just make what our clients order. If they pay more, we use the better raw material, and vice-versa. From a few cents to a few dollars, we can make the same style of jewelry product with a different raw material.” In response to a question regarding the health risks associated with cadmium, he answered “I can’t be overly concerned about that.” The AP reports “interviews with more than a dozen manufacturers and sellers in Yiwu confirm that cadmium is a common ingredient in the earrings, bracelts, charms and other baubles being churned out by local factories.”

When it comes to jewelry, zinc alloys cost more than cadmium, so with everybody wanting lower prices, substituting cadmium seems to make financial sense. Unfortunately.

Countdown to Christmas: Green Gift Ideas

Majestic Lion

Majestic Lion

Despite Black Friday and even Cyber Monday, the first day of December can be eye-opening if you haven’t started getting ready for Christmas or any of the holidays celebrated at this time of year. If you haven’t bought or made a single present yet, you still have some time. Not much but some. And I’ve got some ideas for “greener” Christmas gifts, starting with books for everybody on your list. These are my picks based upon my library – virtually all books I purchased myself. However, full disclosure, the links to the books in Amazon are through my affiliate account, so I’ll get 0.04% back or something like that if you order.

Okay, one of my all time favorite green books for kids is The Lorax (Classic Seuss). The Lorax is a chilling tale warning of the dangers of clear-cutting and pollution, yet told in Dr. Seuss’ whimsical rhyming. The plight of the Truffula Tree tufts, chopped down to produce and mass market Thneeds, and the resulting devastation is a moral we should all heed. Encourage a budding environmentalist with this Dr. Seuss classic. Another option is When Santa Turned Green, which encourages each child to take steps to reduce climate change.

For the teen on  your gift list, try Jenn Savedge’s The Green Teen: The Eco-Friendly Teen’s Guide to Saving the Planet. A great gift for a teen concerned about going green, Jenn’s book is filled with tips, resources and advice.

For the foodie on your list, you might try Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It. Another favorite is Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (P.S.). If you have a foodie who is also a history buff, Swindled: The Dark History of Food Fraud, from Poisoned Candy to Counterfeit Coffee is a very interesting read.

For history buffs generally, or those that enjoy an interesting read, I loved Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution (California/Milbank Books on Health and the Public). Other favorites include The Secret History of the War on Cancer, When Smoke Ran Like Water: Tales Of Environmental Deception And The Battle Against Pollution, and Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health.

For the Martha Stewart wannabe on your list, Anna Getty’s I’m Dreaming of a Green Christmas: Gifts, Decorations, and Recipes that Use Less and Mean More is the perfect gift!

For those that appreciate majestic photography, I think Nick Brandt’s books are just amazing. If his majestic images don’t inspire you to protect this Earth, then I don’t know what will. Try On This Earth: Photographs from East Africa or A Shadow Falls. Or another favorite is Paul Niclen’s Polar Obsession.

Okay, I’ll have some more recommendations tomorrow!

Are your bath and beauty products causing dermatitis? Quaternium 15 & Formaldehyde

JohnsonsHeadtoToeBabyWashDid you know Johnson’s Head-to-Toe Baby Wash contains a preservative that releases formaldehyde – a carcinogen and a leading cause of dermatitis?

Yep, that’s right. That staple in many homes contains some not so nice chemicals. I’ve posted before about the problems with the ingredients in Johnson’s Head-to-Toe baby wash. The No More Toxic Tub report from the Campaing for Safe Cosmetics led to several posts about hysterical mommy bloggers.

A new peer-reviewed report published in the Journal of Dermatology Nurses’ Association revisits the problem. The report finds that Quaternium 15, a preservative found in Johnson’s Head to Toe Baby Wash and many other conventional bath and beauty products, may be responsible for dermatitis in many users (dermatitis can be misdiagnosed as eczema).

The report states that Quaternium 15 is “the most sensitizing formaldehyde-releasing preservative and has been repeatedly shown to be a strong allergen that can cause contact dermatitis.”

As quoted in the press release from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, “Quaternium 15 is present in an alarmingly high number of baby products, making exposure and sensitization at an early age increasingly common,” said Sharon Jacob, M.D., co-author of the paper and physician at the Department of Medicine and Pediatrics at Rady Children’s Hospital. “This is a concern because repeated exposures to sensitizing chemicals, especially in early life, can cause a person to develop allergic reactions over time. Therefore, we advise parents to choose products without quaternium 15 and other formaldehyde-releasing preservatives whenever possible.”

Okay, so say you want to skip products containing Quaternium 15 or any other formaldhyde donor preservatives. I understand that you don’t want to need a chemistry degree just to shop. So, my general advice is to use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic safety database and look for products with a score of 2 or lower, and with no ingredient about 4. Another general recommendation is to find a company you trust, and use those products.

For baby washes/shampoos,, one way to avoid preservatives is to avoid detergent shampoos as opposed to soap shampoos. Pure castile soap – a vegetable based soap – doesn’t require a preservative because the pH prevents the growth of mold and bacteria. It’s easy to be confused here because most “shampoo” and “body wash” products are actually detergents that require artificial surfactants, emulsifiers and preservatives. There are some safe detergents, but if you want the easiest and quickest way to buy safely, look for pure castile soap like Earth Mama Angel Baby and Dr. Bronners. (Disclosure – if you click on the Earth Mama Angel Baby link over on the left, I make a little money since I’m an affiliate. Also, in connection with my other company, 3 Green Angels, Earth Mama Angel Baby has retained the company to host several Twitter parties.)

5 Simple Steps for Summer Toy Safety

summer beach toysSchool is almost out and the lazy days of summer are here. Well, perhaps lazy isn’t accurate if you are a mom – summer can just mean listening to whines of “I’m so boooored” (drawn out as only a child can do) or schlepping from one activity to the next.

But summer should be about play. About discovering tadpoles turning into frogs in the local pond. About poking bugs, turning over rocks, or swinging from swings. Long afternoons perfecting a skateboard trick. Hosting outdoor tea parties for dolls. And, summer means bringing out the summer toys. Dump trucks, gardening spades, sand pails.


Outdoor play is great to keep kids healthy. But, before you turn the kids loose, review these easy steps to take to make summer play a littler safer from Malcolm Denniss, Technical Director for SGS Consumer Testing Services.
1)      Check the protective gear. My 6 year old can already do some wicked tricks on his skateboard, but he wears protective gear. Malcolm emphasizes that protective gear is most important for kids out on their bikes, skate boards and other riding toys. Of course, helmets must fit correctly. He reminds us to make sure that last year’s helmet still fits before using it. 

2)      Use the right protective gear. Malcolm urges parents to make sure that they use the right gear. Remember there are different types of helmet for different activities. 

3)      Teach kids to stay safe. Malcolm believes kids can always use a reminder to stay away from traffic areas such as roads parking lots and driveways. 

4)      Pool safety.  With summer comes pool fun. However, Malcolm advises that all pools should be properly protected with fences and self closing gates to ensure very young children cannot access the pool without adult supervision. 

5)      Check outdoor toys. Toys left outside weather. Before you let kids play with sand toys, dump trucks, gardening tools and other outdoor play items, just check them over carefully to make sure they haven’t deteriorated. A quick check can tell you whether a metal truck is rusty and has sharp edges. 

Invest in your Future by Living Green

green earthWhy live a green life?

I have a long explanation about how I’ve always been fairly green, but that it became personal when I had two miscarriages before carrying my son. About being pregnant and wanting to protect the life growing inside of me. About the ephiphany that everything I ate, breathed or put on my skin was being passed to my baby.

But why stay the course? Saving the planet for future generations sounds awfully altruistic. And that is part of it. I want my kids to have oceans full of fish, blue skies with songbirds, bees lazily buzzing on a lazy not too warm summer afternoon. I know I don’t want them to have to fight over scarce resources – I want them to have access to clean water, clean air, food.

I know that it is difficult to always do the green thing. The fundamental green step is to reduce, which is hard to do in a society focused on consuming. When you have to buy, choosing green may be hard to find, may be too expensive, may be difficult to figure out.

And I know that being green sometimes seems to take more time. Using disposable plates is much easier at a child’s birthday party than using re-usable plates. Single serve snacks are much easier than bulk.

But here’s my thought. We all know about saving for the future, for a rainy day. We aren’t always great at doing it, but we understand the concept. At that is what being green is for me. Making my own homemade cleaners is an investment in the future. Choosing re-usable over disposable is an investment in the future. Every green choice is an investment in my future and in my children’s future. It is an investment in the future of the only planet we have.

An investment that will reap large returns.

It also makes it easier to be green. My kids get the concept, my husband gets it. It isn’t tied to some difficult to conceptualize concept like global warming, or the loss of habitat we’ve never even seen. The kids and I even play a game – assigning value to our green actions – as in we saved a quarter today by using only re-usable bags. It makes it fun for them.

So, are you ready to invest in your future?

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Warning: These baby bottles and canned goods contain a chemical known to cause reproductive harm

canned food goodsWould you buy a can of beans with a warning on it that it may contain a chemical known to the state of California to cause reproductive harm?

What about a baby bottle?

If you live in California, you are probably familiar with Proposition 65’s standard warning. Even if you don’t realize it.

You’ve probably seenproposition 65 warning sign a warning at the gas station. Or perhaps on some adhesives or similar consmer products. Or for alcoholic beverages.

A Proposition 65 warning sign is placed on consumer products or posted in areas to give warnings to consumers that using the product or being in the area can expose them to a chemical or chemicals that cause cancer and/or birth defects or other reproductive harm.

Proposition 65 requires a warning – it doesn’t prohibit the sale of the items. Just a warning.

But would you buy canned goods with such a warning?

Why do I ask? Because the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) published notice that it will consider adding bisphenol A (BPA) to the list of chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. BPA is being proposed to be added as a development toxicant. The meeting to consider adoption is set for July 15, 2009. I don’t know whether it will be adopted or not, but I’m just wondering what will happen if it is.

You might not be very familiar with BPA, buy you probably have it in your body. Biomonitoring found that 93% of Americans have BPA in their systems.

BPA is a basic monomer of polycarbonate plastic, so it is found in polycarbonate plastic containers. Polycarbonate is used for baby bottles, many of the 5 gallon water bottles, and other similar hard plastic containers. It is also used for the lining of most canned foods and beverages.

Proposition 65 requires a warning unless the business can establish that there is no exposure from use of the product above the significant risk level (for carcinogens) or the no observable effects level (for chemicals that cause reproductive harm). However, Proposition 65 allows a business to place a warning on a product if the company based on its knowledge, or assumption, that a Proposition 65 listed chemical is present without attempting to evaluate the levels of exposure. Companies do this because it is less expensive than to undertake a risk assessment. So companies slap on labels on products based upon the presumption of listed chemicals being present in products, such as lead and phthalates in polyvinyl chloride plastic.

Putting a label on may not reduce product sales for product such as auto or hardware products, but I imagine it will give consumers pause on a canned food or baby bottle. But, if BPA is added, without the identification of a regulatory “no risk” level, then those canned goods will have to contain such a label. Otherwise, companies will be subject to Proposition 65 lawsuits. The thing about Prop 65 is that it contains a bounty hunter provision, which allows private enforcement, and allows plaintiff firms to recover attorneys’s fees. Proposition 65 also has a penalty provision of up to $2,500 per day for each violation. So, because of that, many firms just put labels on products that may contain listed chemicals that could result in exposure to protect themselves from suits.

But BPA is found in so many products. Now, a warning probably wouldn’t be required for a bike helmet, for example, made of polycarbonate plastic because there isn’t any exposure. But for food contact items, it is established that BPA leaches out of polycarbonate plastic and the linings of canned food. Which may mean that such companies are driven to found alternatives to avoid warnings.

In any event, it will be interesting to see what develops. Now, if you don’t want to be exposed to BPA, which is a hormone disruptor and is potentially harmful to fetuses and babies, you can skip polycarbonate plastic for food storage. For canned foods, go for fresh, frozen, dried or jarred instead of metal cans.

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