The Seventh Generation Response to the 1,4 Dioxane Report

I have many reasons to trust and love Seventh Generation products. They are a Vermont company. They are active in environmental health and sustainability issues. They are committed to reducing the many environmental problems of harsh chemicals in our waterways with their thoughtful line of products. Did I mention they are a Vermont company?

So I was very surprised to learn that they had undisclosed amounts of a carcinogenic contaminant (say that 5 times fast) called 1,4 Dioxane in their dish soap. Dish soap I use everyday.

Now, I do have faith in this company, and I knew they would have a thoughtful response to this on their website somewhere. It just seemed fitting that they would discuss this issue openly with their customers. And they did. You’ll see in this link a statement from the company about the situation. No, it doesn’t make it okay that this ingredient was in their product, and that it took a third party test to discover it. But on the Seventh Generation blog you will read the science behind using a process to make plant oils into something that can scrub oil off your dishes, why using this process is better than using petroleum based ingredients, and what the rest of the industry is doing.

You can bet they will be (and have been) working tirelessly on ways to make sure 1,4 Dioxane is not in their dish soap or other products.

There was also a lively discussion in the comments about what other undisclosed ingredients are in cleaning products. Check this out:

“Finally, this issue needs to be put in perspective. What conventional cleaning product divulges what surfactants they use for cleaning? Perhaps NPEs? Or which solvent they use for their synthetic fragrances? Perhaps phthalates? Or which solvents they use to cut grease? Perhaps butoxyethanol?

When you look at the back of a Seventh Generation label you see each ingredient we use, expressed in consumer-friendly terms. And if you go to our website, you see them listed using their chemical name and CAS number. This is disclosure beyond that of any other company in the household products industry.

This is not a perfect world. If it were, there would be no need for change, no need for evolution. Seventh Generation products, and our communications, change over time because we are not perfect. We are evolving. And we will provide products that are as safe for you, your family, and the environment, and that are as effective as we can make them.”

Stay tuned. And for the record, buying green products is still the most environmentally responsible thing to do. Sure, there are these problems, but the chemicals in conventional cleaning products (and personal care products) are significantly more damaging to our water, and our bodies.

 

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BPA (bisphenol A) in Canned Goods (the horror, even Annie’s)

Today as I looked in my pantry, and saw the Annie’s Spaghettios and the soups, I wondered again how much BPA I am feeding my family. I picked up the phone, and called Annie’s, Inc., a company who I support endlessly by buying their macaroni and cheese, other pastas, and yes, canned foods. I try, I really do, but there are days with two kids, and not much of an affection for cooking (to say the least), where I just need to open a can. I think, at least it is organic.

So I called and a cheerful woman told me that their cans do have BPA, and that they do not exceed the FDA’s standards on BPA in cans. After some thought, this statement didn’t impress me too much. The FDA’s limits don’t take into account research about low doses of BPA that came out in the 1990s, which are discussed in this article on the Organic Consumers Association website, first printed in Terrain Magazine.

She did tell me, however, that they are working hard to find an alternative to BPA linings. Okay. So we wait. But something about the above referenced article really stuck with me. Here it is:

“In 1997, it was discovered that low levels of BPA produced harmful effects in male mice exposed in the womb, enlarging the prostate and lowering sperm count. What was most unexpected-and alarming-was that low-dose experiments produced worse effects in the mice than high-dose. Since then, nearly a hundred studies have shown BPA to be toxic in low doses on animals, producing such effects as insulin resistance, damaged DNA, miscarriage, decreased testosterone levels, early puberty, and the production of breast cancer and prostate cancer precursor cells.

Other tests suggest that some people, due to specific genetic makeup, may have a harder time ridding BPA from their bodies, which could make them more susceptible to BPA’s toxic effects. These effects are most dangerous to pregnant women, babies, and young children. For example, in one Japanese study, women who had frequent miscarriages were found to have higher levels of BPA in their bloodstream than women who could carry pregnancies to term. In general, the hormone-unbalancing effects of BPA are not diagnosable as BPA exposure; rather, they may show up as early onset of puberty, reduced fertility, type II diabetes, and an increased risk of cancer. The rise of cancer rates over the last few decades is correlated with the increased use of BPA in industry, although cause and effect is difficult to prove since BPA joins a long list of possible culprits.”

I added the bold, because I have never read an article about this (and I have read many) that said this so clearly. If there was ever a reason for us as a nation to prescribe to a precautionary principal when dealing with chemicals in our kids’ bodies, this is it.

So, Annie’s, and other organic food companies, please get to it. I want to support you, and feed my kids convenient, healthy food. I can’t cook from scratch all the time, I will go insane. My patience is thin and our kids’ bodies are at risk.

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The Chemical Feminization of Boys?

Hello Again!

I’m so sorry for my absence last week–we had a bit of a family crisis concerning my daughter’s health.  Fortunately, it appears that she’s on the mend, and after a lot of panic and stress, things seem to be returning to normal again.

Even though it’s the new black, I don’t usually check The Huffington Post with any kind of regularity.  I guess I’m just jealous that I don’t get any self-indulgent celebrity musings on my blog.  However, today, there’s an interesting post there about pthalates in infant toys.  If you recall, I’ve posted about the issue in the past–the short version is that there is evidence that pthalates, a plastic softener found in many, many things (including children’s toys) may affect the sexual development (especially the testosterone levels) of infant boys.

There is a growing activist movement against the use of pthalates in children’s toys, bottles, etc. (leading to a resurgence in glass baby bottles and other things advertised as free of the substances in question), although there is also certainly some comtroversy as to the extent of the possible damage (if any).  Honestly, given our country’s love for a good, old-fashioned health panic, I’m a little surprised that the possible dangers of pthalates has received so little attention in the US.  It certainly was deemed important enough as an issue in Europe to be banned in infant’s toys as a possible endocrine disruptor.  And with the possibility that it can cause deformities in the reproductive systems of young boys (one researcher even fearing that pthalates are contributing to, “the feminization of infant boys,” this is certainly worth at least a little bit of a health scare.

The only good news I can offer is that it isn’t completely off the radar of some politicians.  Apparently, the Governator (no disrespect intended–it’s just that my spell-checker exploded when faced with, “Schwarzenegger,”) has signed a bill banning sales of toys with pthalates in California (starting in 2009).  And California Senator Dianne Feinstein has introduced a similar measure in the US Senate via an amendment to the Consumer Product Safety Commission bill.  So, this would be a good time to look up your Senator and drop him or her a line, making it clear that this is an important issue for you that deserves a hearing and a vote.

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Some Jason, Citrus Magic and Alba Products Contain a Toxic Ingredient

Just when you thought that you were buying nice, happy, not chemically laden, better for the earth products, here comes this news.

Turns out that a study released by the Organic Consumers Association revealed a toxic carcinogenic contaminant called 1,4 Dioxane (no, I don’t know why there is a comma between the numbers) is in many popular brands of body washes, dish soap, and lotions that are labeled “natural” and “organic”. And up until now, the presence of this toxin in these products has been undisclosed.

So no matter how good you were about checking labels for ingredients, you would never have known this was in anything. Great.

Interestingly, products that were certified USDA organic did not contain this toxin, whereas many products that are not certified organic did contained it. Other studies of conventional mainstream products have shown the presence of 1,4 Dioxane before, but this is the first study to implicate brands that claim to be “natural” or “organic”.

According to the Organic Consumers Association:

Ethoxylation, a cheap short-cut companies use to provide mildness to harsh ingredients, requires the use of the cancer-causing petrochemical Ethylene Oxide, which generates 1,4-Dioxane as a by-product. 1,4-Dioxane is considered a chemical “known to the State of California to cause cancer” under proposition 65, and has no place in “natural” or “organic” branded personal care products. 1,4-dioxane is also suspected as a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant, among others, according to the California EPA, and is a leading groundwater contaminant. Although previous studies have revealed 1,4-Dioxane is often present in conventional personal care products, this new study indicates the toxin is also present in leading “natural” and “organic” branded products, none of which are certified under the USDA National Organic Program. The products/brands tested are listed on the attached page with the level of 1,4-Dioxane detected, if any, along with ethoxylated ingredients listed on the label.

Seems to me some serious green washing is occurring here. I guess the best way to avoid this phenomenon is to buy only certified organic products, and spend lots of cash in the process.

Click here to view the full product list with amounts of this cancer causing ingredient in each included.

Some of the worst offenders (several brands I have used before!): Citrus Magic 100 % Natural Dish Soap, Jason Fragrance Free Satin Soap, Healthy Times Baby’s Herbal Garden Pansy Flower Shampoo, Planet Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, Aura Cacia Natural Aromatherapy Bubble Bath, NutriBiotic Super Shower Gel Shampoo with GSE (fresh fruit), Alba Passion Fruit Body Wash, Method Dish Naturally Derived Ultra Concentrate and Earth Friendly Products Ultra Dishmate.

I was bummed to see Seventh Generation products on this list as containing this contaminant, even if the amount of 1,4 Dioxane found in their products was low.

Companies that seemed to have none of this contaminant present (in the products they tested) are: Burt’s Bees, Dr. Bronner’s, Clorox Green Works products, TerrEssential, Desert Essence, Aubrey Organics, and Avalon Organics, among others.

The Washington Post also published a short article on this study. You can read it here. I’m planning on learning more about this particular contaminant by doing some more research, but I wanted to get this article out to readers as soon as possible.

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Treating Your Child’s Croup or RSV Infection

Waking from a sound sleep, I hear the hoarse, crying voice of my four year old son.  He coughs several times, sounding just like the neighbor’s barking dog.   It’s nighttime and it’s the croup, or RSV.  I call our pediatrician and make a plan to help keep him comfortable through the night.

RSV, or croup, is often worse during the night and parents need a strategy to help their child breath more freely.  Here are some basic recommendations taken from medical references to help treat your child’s symptoms of croup or RSV.

Steam is a natural homeopathic remedy that can open nasal and bronchial passages for freer breathing.   For small babies, be sure to consult a medical professional before using this method of treatment.  Loosen your child’s clothing and take the child into the bathroom.   Run the shower on hot to create a steam air environment.   Place the child on your lap and encourage them to breath in the surrounding steam.  Be sure to keep the child safely away from the hot water.  Run the shower for about ten minutes, dry the child from any dampness, then  carry the child into the cooler air.    Often this hot/cool air treatment will cause a child’s croupy throat to clear; restoring a more normal breathing pattern.

A cool air humidifier is also a good weapon against the croup or RSV.  Position the humidifier near the child’s bed so that the cool mist will circulate within the child’s breathing range.  Use purified water and change it at least once a day to prevent bacterial growth.  Check the humidifier at least once during the night to be sure that it is properly working.

A mild, over the counter decongestant and expectorant is also helpful.  Avoid medications with antihistamine as this drug can make a croupy condition worse.  Be sure to follow proper dosing instructions for your child’s age and weight. A decongestant will loosen congestion in the upper respiratory tract, while an expectorant will help prevent severe chest congestion.

These home treatments are recommended by a medical professional in treating the initial stages of croup, or RSV.  As the severity of illness is different for each child, parents should consult a medical professional to determine which treatment option is best.  Should a child’s breathing pattern become highly irregular, parents should seek professional medical assistance immediately.

Having a child sick with the croup is a scary experience. Parents should be observant during the initial stages of croup and take measures to prevent it from becoming a more serious infection.

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Disadvantaged From Birth

Like many people, I’m fascinated by the conflict between myth and reality.  Yes, I’m the person who e-mails Snopes.com links back to people who forward messages about nefarious corporations, sappy inspirational stories involving children and dogs, and ridiculous claims regarding financial gain.  If you truly believe that Bill Gates is going to send you thousands of dollars for forwarding an e-mail message, then I have some money in a Nigerian bank that I would much need your help to be transferring.

More interesting are deeper cultural myths, and one of the classics is the stronger/weaker male/female dynamic.  It’s obvious where it comes from, when one considers things like average physical strength and size.  But what is interesting is noting where the notion that boys are stronger than girls tends to fall apart, at least when it comes to issues of health. We’ve already mentioned things like the higher suicide rates among boys and higher prevalence of learning and behavioral disorders.  Though, admittedly, one can theorize that some of those statistics are influenced by biases in diagnosis of boy behavior or lack of understanding of depression in men and boys.  But even when it comes down the strictest health issues, boys start at a disadvantaqge–consider the recent study from the University of Pennsylvania and USC that finds that–even in developed nations–male infants have a higher mortality rate than female infants.  Medical advances, like NICUs and c-sections have helped to close the gap, but boys remain at higher risk even from the first moments of life.

Just a little something to think on when people ask why boys and men deserve greater health and medical outreach.

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Kids and Shots: what matters to them

With the news this week that ProQuad seems cause an increase in fever-related seizures, many parents are now left wondering how to schedule their child care visits. Are more visits needed if they separate out the shots?

ProQuad is a combination vaccine of measles, mumps, rubella and Chicken pox. Clearly, any combo shot has a great advantage for the child if it preserves immunity. But, in this case, as reported by AP, a study showed a two fold increase in seizures in toddlers getting that shot. Clearly enough of a reason for us to pause and consider whether the reduction in that one shot for that visit is worth the risk of a seizure.

What is a child’s experience? Turns out kids remember more the amount of visits they have for shots than the amount of shots per visit. So, even though 4 or 5 shots in a visit is a big number, a child still just recalls the one visit. The overall anxiety of the child is minimized by consolidating those shots to that one visit, as opposed to having the child return for multiple visits where the child’s anxiety would be repeated for each of those visits.

I’m sure more studies will be done. In the mean time, good fever control is the key for parents opting to use ProQuad for their children. Your pediatrician will review that with you. Since that is the side-effect in question, eliminate that with anti-fever medications, and all should be fine. And, if you are still concerned, just give your kids the shots the old fashioned way – separately.

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Do you know what your kids are doing online?

Cybertime of tweens and teens has been the talk of the week. This is a real issue and deserves real attention. I’m always amazed how quickly kids adapt to knew technology, but worry that they will become so complacent they won’t recognize hidden dangers that accompany these cyberlives of theirs.

One type of danger that worries me is online predators. A friend circulated around an email last week that I posted over at A Dose of Dr. Gwenn. The email is thought to be a fictional story but so well illustrates the dangers of IM life that it keeps getting circulated around among parents. I hope you’ll share the vignette with your young internet users and use it as a starter for some important discussions. And, when you do, be sure to tell them that the police are busy trying to catch the bad guys, just not in the way described in the story.

Related to IM’ing is texting, a topic discussed today by Dr. Bryan blogged at Parenting Solved. Texting is really IM’ing but on a phone! I couldn’t agree more with everything Dr. B has to say, especially his point about parental involvement. Dr. B put it best in his post when he said:

“The onus is on us as parents to know what our kids our doing and, of course, to set an example of the priority technology should have in our lives.”

So, parents, check your kids computer logs and phone bills often! Know what they are doing online and over the air waves and with whom they are spending that time. And, if they come at you with the famous “your violating my privacy” line, just remind ‘em who is paying the bills.

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When To Medicate and How To Avoid Dangerous Mistakes

ome weeks the news falls into themes. This week it seems to be the theme of medications and part and parcel with that is safety. This week is National Poison Control Week. Do you know what to do for an accidental ingestion? Do you know how to safely store medications and home chemicals?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has some very useful information to help you answer these common questions as well as many others:

Each year, approximately 2.4 million people – more than half under age 6 – swallow or have contact with a poisonous substance. As poison prevention, and appropriate, immediate treatment to poison contact or ingestion, are critical to keeping your child safe, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some important tips.

To poison proof your home:

Most poisonings occur when parents or caregivers are home but not paying attention. The most dangerous potential poisons are medicines, cleaning products, antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, pesticides, furniture polish, gasoline, kerosene and lamp oil. Be especially vigilant when there is a change in routine. Holidays, visits to and from grandparents’ homes, and other special events may bring greater risk of poisoning if the usual safeguards are defeated or not in place.
* Store medicine, cleaners, paints/varnishes and pesticides in their original packaging in locked cabinets or containers, out of sight and reach of children.
* Install a safety latch – that locks when you close the door – on child-accessible cabinets containing harmful products.
* Purchase and keep all medicines in containers with safety caps. Discard unused medication.
* Never refer to medicine as “candy” or another appealing name.
* Check the label each time you give a child medicine to ensure proper dosage.
* Never place poisonous products in food or drink containers.
* Keep coal, wood or kerosene stoves in safe working order.
* Maintain working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Treatment

If your child is unconscious, not breathing, or having convulsions or seizures due to poison contact or ingestion, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. If your child has come in contact with poison, and has mild or no symptoms, call your poison control center at 1-800-222-1222

Different types and methods of poisoning require different, immediate treatment:

* Swallowed poison – Remove the item from the child, and have the child spit out any remaining substance. Do not make your child vomit. Do not use syrup of ipecac.
* Skin poison — Remove the child’s clothes and rinse the skin with lukewarm water for at least 15 minutes.
* Eye poison — Flush the child’s eye by holding the eyelid open and pouring a steady stream of room temperature water into the inner corner.
* Poisonous fumes – Take the child outside or into fresh air immediately. If the child has stopped breathing, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and do not stop until the child breathes on his or her own, or until someone can take over.

(© American Academy of Pediatrics, 2/08)

I moderate some website forums and I’m always amazed how many questions I get about ingestions and possible poisonings. If you are concerned about something your child may have swallowed, don’t post your concern on a website board, call your pediatrician ASAP, 911 or Poison Control at: 1-800-222-1222. And, as the information above states, if your child is having any scary symptoms, call 911. While for most substances time is on your side, sometimes it isn’t and that is when seconds start to matter most.

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Just Some Short Notes Today

There’s an interesting debate going on regarding the efficacy of single-sex education on the Wall Street Journal’s “The Juggle” (basically, a juggling-family-and-work blog).  The impetus for the discussion comes from the decision of Georgia’s Greene County School Board to introduce single-sex academies–a decision that has brought them some criticism, but which I defended in an earlier entry.  It is true that I believe that single-sex programs must be introduced with more in mind than simply separating the sexes and hoping that will solve all the problems.  A truly effective single-sex program must include an awareness of boys and girls learning and developmental differences.  But I do think that such a bold and inventive solution might do a lot to help struggling students in troubled schools.

As an aside, Boys and Schools is looking for a few good volunteers to help with some internet research and data collection.  We’re really working to create a resource database for parents in need and can use your help.  If you (or someone you know) is interested,

Ok, please forgive me for the short post , but it’s a bit of a zoo here today.  I do have some interesting stuff on board for tomorrow, so I’ll see y’all then.

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