New Study Shows Flame Retardants Still a Threat

Back in the 1970s, consumers were shocked to learn that a flame retardant called Tris had been contaminating children’s pajamas with toxic chemicals. Clothing manufacturers stopped using it when the risk became publicized, but it was never officially banned in the U.S.

Now a report from Duke University shows that in recent tests, eight out of 10 commonly-sold baby products contain high levels of the retardant, long suspected as a carcinogen and linked to brain damage in infants and young children. More than a third of the products – all of which contained polyurethane foam – also tested positive for penta-PBDEs, neurotoxins that were banned in 2004 when it was found that toddlers with high levels of them had lower IQs and reduced motor skills. (Chemical flame retardants are typically added directly into polyurethane-foam mixtures, rather than applied to finished products, to meet flammability requirements.)

Products tested in this case included car seats, changing pads, and baby carriers, but polyurethane foam is also used widely in the manufacture of both crib and adult-sized mattresses and bedding.

Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, called the Duke findings a “wake-up call” for parents and manufacturers – and we agree.

“I am concerned about not only cancer,” Birnbaum says, “but reproductive or neurological effects as well – the developing brain.” Could there be any more urgent issue for parents or anyone concerned with the well-being of children?

Chemical companies, of course, continue to claim that their products are safe, and manufacturers defend their use (“protecting children is Evenflo’s number one priority…[we use chemicals to] meet mandatory federal and state flammability requirements”). It’s the same old story, bringing to mind cigarette manufacturers’ claims that smoking wasn’t a health threat until forced by government agencies to admit the danger.

There’s a safer alternative, of course: mattresses and other products made from CERTIFIED ORGANIC MATERIALS. Lifekind uses Texas-grown certified-organic cotton, 100%-natural rubber latex made from USDA-certified organic sap, and wool grown in California for flammability protection, PERIOD. Anything less is putting your own safety and the safety of your family at risk.

As a result of the study, Duke lead researcher Heather Stapleton told reporters she’s ridding her home of products that contain polyurethane foam and replacing them with safer products. Shouldn’t we all be doing the same?

Drop Dead Gorgeous

Everyday people get up in the morning and proceed with their routines. Shower, get dressed, brush hair, moisturize, detangle, powder, pluck, the list is endless. And, everyday we use products to assist us in maintaining our bodies: lotions, rubs, gels, and cosmetics to name a few. We rely on products to improve our overall well being by nurturing, healing and preventing. But what if the things we thought were helping, are actually hindering us?

Drop Dead
Like most people who use cosmetics mostly everyday, I was in the dark about the toxic ingredients of commercial products until I stumbled upon a book in the Lifekind library. Drop Dead Gorgeous by Kim Erickson is an eye-opening book about protecting yourself from the hidden dangers of cosmetics.

Synthetic materials such as suspected carcinogens, hormone-disturbing parabens and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives linger in those lotions and soaps that leave your skin feeling dreamy and moisturized. In our beloved face powders and favorite blushes you are exposed to substances such as Aluminum Powder which is linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. So why does the public consumer not know about this??

Unfortunately these types of issues are no concern to the manufacturers and they skirt around the issue when it becomes public knowledge. But there are still ways of obtaining the knowledge. Kim Erickson’s book is a wealth of information with excellent references and even all natural recipes for your own lotions and beauty products. Here is a sample of one that you can try at home!

Chocolate-Mint Body Smoother
(Emollient-rich cocoa butter has a delicious chocolate scent)
2 ounces cocoa butter
¼ cup apricot kernel oil
1 teaspoon beeswax, grated
1 teaspoon liquid vitamin E
3 drops peppermint essential oil
Combine the cocoa butter, apricot oil, and beeswax in a small saucepan. Heat on low until the cocoa butter and beeswax have completely melted. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add the vitamin E and peppermint essential oil, stirring well to blend. Pour into clean container and allow to cool completely before capping.

So before you buy your next lotion from the local drug store remember Drop Dead Gorgeous by Kim Erickson. Maybe if enough people know and realize the dangers of everyday products we can start a change towards a cleaner, healthier living that is chemical free.

I Love My Dog

Dog Picture 2I love my dog; a sentiment felt by most pet owners, I’m sure. He stinks, snores and chews pillows if he’s left alone too long, but he’s also loyal, trusting, and a great running buddy. He’s always there to listen to my problems, and he never talks back. My dog makes me feel special just for coming home at the end of the day.

Because I love my dog, my world was rocked when I took him to the vet for what looked very much like a tumor. It turned out to be an allergic reaction to a vaccine, but it caused me to spend a good amount of time researching cancer in dogs. Rocky is a Boxer, and as I found out, Boxers are particularly susceptible to cancer and stomach diseases. Since I would prefer he didn’t get either of these unpleasant conditions, I need to be very careful about the products I give him.

It turns out that cancer is rapidly increasing in dogs, and is now responsible for 46% of disease-related deaths. Prevention seems pretty straightforward; good, wholesome food and natural products…much like for people.

Lifekind has wonderful pet beds that are made from the same organic materials that our “people” mattresses and bedding are made from. I hadn’t realized how important this is until I came home one day to a yard full of a substance I later titled “radioactive fluff.” Honestly, that’s the best way to describe the mystery material that had been inside the pet bed Rocky had decided that day was a chew toy. It was blue, had the consistency of fiberglass, and I’m pretty sure it could glow in the dark. Whatever the stuff was, it wasn’t healthy, and it put me in the market for an organic pet bed.

Dog Picture 3

I think I owe it to my dog to take the best care of him that I can. He trusts me, after all, to not knowingly have him eating chemicals and sleeping on radioactive fluff beds. It’s hard sifting through all the marketing claims and mystery ingredients put into modern pet food, toys, etc., but I think it’s worth it because, not to sound repetitive, I love my dog.

A Trip Through America’s Salad Bowl

I took a trip with a friend last month to the Central California towns of Monterey and Salinas to attend the 29th annual Steinbeck Festival. Afterward, we drove 100 miles down the Salinas Valley, mostly on old River Road – the original El Camino Real – to visit the Paso Robles wine country.

salad-bowl

Born in Salinas in 1902, John Steinbeck set some of his best-known stories along the fertile valley. During college breaks he lived and labored alongside migratory workers in the sugar-beet fields near Soledad, and their experiences inspired The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men – tales of fierce compassion for agricultural workers living on society’s margins, struggling to overcome exploitation and brutality. Steinbeck was accused of being a communist agitator and “un-American” in the 1930s for daring to suggest that the dispossessed be treated with dignity, and Grapes was burned in front of the Salinas public library. It wasn’t until the 1960s that public opinion began to catch up with his thinking. In 1969, the year after he died, the same library was renamed in his honor.

Steinbeck loved the rugged, undeveloped beauty of the Santa Lucia range and its valleys. He traveled the River Road countless times. As we drove, we talked about what he might think of his home turf today. Some things haven’t changed much: the green fields in neat rows sweeping up to the foothills, the looming mountains, the old barns and adobes and frame houses. He might be surprised to see winery tasting rooms springing up in former lettuce fields or hear Highway 101 buzzing in the distance, but for the most part we guessed he’d feel right at home.

Near the Soledad mission we were jarred from our thoughts by the sight of leafy greens growing along the highway, a bilingual skull-and-crossbones sign at the end of each row reading DANGER – POISON. According to the EPA, this particular sign is reserved for pesticides with “acute toxicity,” including some that can kill humans through skin contact or inhalation. Someone down the line is going to eat that kale or spinach or radicchio, I thought. The heaviest exposure would be experienced by the workers who applied the poisons, however. (When another sign came along later that read “Organic Farm — Do Not Spray,” it was comforting, though gale-force winds made me hope that neighbors weren’t applying anything with a skull and crossbones that day.)

As in Steinbeck’s time, those most affected by unethical agricultural practices are the men and women who work long hours for less-than-subsistence wages planting and tending and harvesting crops. While conditions may have improved overall since the Great Depression, we’re moving in the wrong direction when it comes to toxic exposure. Pesticides put workers’ lives at risk, and when exposure leads to illness, basic health benefits are often lacking.

Synthetic pesticides were just starting to be developed when Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath. Since then they’ve become big business, but their stranglehold can be broken. When consumers buy organic – including products containing cotton, the most heavily pesticide-treated crop – it reduces demand for the toxins that compromise the health of our land and its people.

When we as a society stop purchasing conventionally-grown products, the market for agricultural toxins will dry up and blow away like a tumbleweed along River Road.

What could be more American than that?

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To take a stand against agricultural poisons, visit panna.org. To learn more about farm working conditions, go to ufw.org.

-Sylvia, Sales Supervisor

What happens when babies are exposed to mainstream mattresses?

There is nothing more precious than an infant. So innocent and delicate, these tiny blessings should have the purest food, bedding, and care, and most parents are more than happy to spend a bit more for the best. Yet it is concerning that most baby products found in department stores contain chemicals, hormone disruptors, and flame retardants that are toxic to adults, let alone children. In fact, children are susceptible to absorbing toxins at a faster rate than adults because 1) children breathe faster, and 2) the skin of a child is thinner, so they can absorb chemicals more quickly.

Most people think that there are regulations in place to protect the safety of what we buy. We learned during Christmas ’08, however, that there were no regulations for toys that contained dangerous amounts of lead. The sad truth is that there are approximately 75,000 chemicals used in commercial products and applications in the US. Of those, approximately 3% have been evaluated for human toxicology!

Flame retardants in mattresses are among the most dangerous culprits, considering the fact that babies can sleep up to 16 hours a day. Studies have shown that antimony, a common flame retardant used in crib mattresses, may contribute to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) risk. Other flame retardants such as PBDEs can affect the physical and intellectual development of a baby.

Most conventional crib mattresses are made with synthetic foams and fibers. These materials contain toluene and other petrochemicals that offgas VOCs (volatile organic compounds). To top it off, they are often coated with PVC vinyl to make them waterproof. Not just chemical hazards to a baby, these types of mattresses do not “breathe,” causing children to overheat and sleep overly warm and “clammy.”

Why expose your child to these dangers when a pure alternative is available through Lifekind®?

Rowena, Product Specialist

Could there be a connection?

The other day I heard a colleague say something that made me think. She was talking with a customer and describing today’s “chemical” mattress market as being a lot like the tobacco industry of the fifties. People were told back then that cigarettes weren’t bad for them, the same way today’s consumers are told that chemical flame retardants and formaldehyde-containing memory foam in mattresses aren’t just safe, but can even be good for them — and it worked like a charm. Skyrocketing cancer rates were the result.

Growing up in the seventies, with the Surgeon General’s warning on every cigarette pack, I wondered how Americans of my parents’ generation could have been so naive. How could they not have known that smoking was dangerous? Sure, cigarette ads featured endorsements from beloved movie stars, cartoon characters, even the family physician (“More doctors smoke Camels than any other brand!”), but average people must have known intuitively that something was wrong. Right?

Maybe not.

I’m guessing that Americans back then, like us, wanted to believe that something they enjoyed was safe, and that the government would tell them if it wasn’t. Yesterday’s cigarette ads featuring leading physicians have become today’s two-page layouts for memory-foam mattresses in environmental magazines, targeting a health-oriented clientele that would run in the opposite direction if they knew what memory foam was actually made of.

Hazardous chemicals are a part of almost everything we use, including our mattresses, and cancer rates have never been higher. Could there be a connection? Many consumers don’t want to think so.

After all, the government would tell us if it were dangerous. Right?

(To see test results showing over 60 volatile chemicals emitting from a memory-foam mattress, see Walt Bader’s book Toxic Bedrooms: Your Guide to a Safe Night’s Sleep.)

Sylvia, Sales Supervisor