Thanks in part to a certain famous firefighter, a lot of people have been exposed in the last year or two to the “plant-based diet.” Maybe some of you have tried it or thought about trying it. Maybe you even bought that red and yellow cookbook. But, you know, your friends looked at you funny when you mentioned it, your ever-helpful relatives sent along a box of steaks for the holidays, and it just kind of didn’t happen. Or maybe you’ve just seen all this new stuff at the grocery store and wondered, “Who eats that?” “Does it taste good?” “Is eating that way really healthier?”
Well, starting on March 1, you’ll have the opportunity to get all of your questions answered, your curiosity satisfied, and your efforts rewarded by more support and positive reinforcement than you know what to do with!
That’s because every March is also known as “No Meat March,” a whole month set aside to try out a plant-based diet for yourself. Originally a local initiative started by The Girls Gone Green, an organization based out of Jacksonville, Florida, dedicated to “exploring environmental, animal and health issues,” the effort has since spread far and wide, even to other countries!
3) Pledge to not eat meat for the entire month, or even add in dairy and eggs
4) If you’re on Facebook, “like” the No Meat March page (Trust us, this is key.)
That’s it; just a few mouse clicks…so easy!
And here’s what you’ll get out of signing up:
1) Daily emails full of info, tips, recipes, support, event announcements and more (“Daily” might sound like a lot, but you’ll quickly realize that you look forward to them, if for no other reason than that when you see the “No Meat March, Day X” title, you really feel great about sticking with something for that many days.)
2) A pledge card that entitles you to discounts (woo hoo!) at select No Meat March-area (Jacksonville, Daytona, Orlando and Tampa) restaurants
An old pledge card, but you get the idea.
3) Invitations to tons of different events throughout the month: speaking events where you’ll hear from experts, demos, fundraisers, potlucks, field trips, good old parties and more (Seriously, there are so many! Keeping track of all the invites is just one of the reasons connecting on Facebook is a good idea.)
4) A community of people ready, willing and able to support you (This is another great reason to connect on Facebook: share your successes and challenges, get answers to your questions, find support from like-minded people no matter what your reason for taking the challenge.)
5) Better health and healthier habits (If nothing else, really thinking about the food you’re eating for a month might provide the impetus for making some healthy changes. Maybe you’ll find you didn’t realize just how much you snack or how big today’s meat portions have gotten. You never know until you try. One thing’s for sure though: You will feel better by the end of the month. The first thing most people taking the challenge report is that they feel less sluggish and have more energy. Hey, that alone is worth 31 days, right?)
First up in this exciting challenge is the No Meat March kickoff event on February 28. This is really going to be a great time. There will be an animal product-free dinner at 6 p.m. at Latitude 30 in Jacksonville for those who purchase VIP tickets. That will be followed by a screening of Unsupersize Me (click to watch trailer), which will be followed by a Q&A with two experts in the fields of health and fitness. We’ve got the details below, but to purchase your ticket (either VIP or just movie/Q&A), go to the No Meat March event page.
Of course, there’s a lot more we could say about No Meat March, but there’s nothing like having the experience yourself.
And we here at TOA will be right there with you the whole time. We’ll be doing a series of No Meat March-related posts, answering reader and client questions, from now through the end of March, so comment with your questions, stories, suggestions, recommendations or whatever else you’ve got, or use the contact form to send your thoughts directly.
If you’re ready to take the challenge, we can help! Your custom consultation can include nutrition issues, eating-out guidance, meat-free cooking at home (How about a private lesson or a small-group demo with friends?), reading labels, shopping…we’ll even go to the store with you (in person if you’re local or via phone if you’re not); you don’t have to make that maiden meat-free shopping voyage alone!
Finally, whether you’re ready to ditch the animal products entirely or not, there’s a lot you can do for your health and the health of the planet. Use the contact page to schedule your consultation today. (Remember: We also do mini-, one-question consultations!)
Okay, Organic Adventurers, now that we’ve covered triclosan and BPA/bisphenols as endocrine disrupting chemicals, there’s one more EDC to discuss before we leave the topic. We’re talking about EDCs that we’re all exposed to on a continual basis – all day, every day – and phthalates (pronounced “THAL-ates”) certainly belong in that category. (Check out the EWG’s Dirty Dozen List of Endocrine Disruptors to see other EDCs.)
Phthalates are plasticizers formed when an acid, phthalic acid in this case, is condensed with any number of different alcohols. Depending on the chemicals used and the reaction created, any number of different end products, the phthalates, can be produced for an almost countless number of applications. The amazing number of compounds in the category of phthalates, the even more amazing quantity of stuff they’re used in and the fact that manufacturers don’t have to disclose the presence of phthalates in their products make this group of EDCs our nominee for “sneakiest endocrine disruptor.”
Since this is our last post on this topic for a while, here are some other chemicals to look out for.
Here are some examples of uses of phthalates that we all encounter in our daily lives: plastics, electronics, glues, perfumes (any kind of scented product, really), cleaners and detergents, cosmetics and toiletries, medicines and vitamins, food—the list goes on and on.
DBP is a phthalate commonly used in nail polish, among other products.
So if phthalates are in so much of what we use, they’re probably safe, right? Wrong! The FDA monitors phthalates (use, safety, etc.) and continues to conclude, basically, that humans aren’t exposed to as much of the stuff as it would take to sicken a lab animal and that, therefore, phthalates are safe. Yay.
We don’t know about you, but we don’t really want to be exposed to any amount of anything that makes any being sick at any level. There’s that…and the fact that the FDA isn’t really considering a lifetime (and a human lifetime is a lot longer than the lifetime of a laboratory animal) of multiple exposures. Oh, and then there’s the big chunk of data provided by an organization sponsored by the cosmetics industry, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel, that the FDA uses to reach its conclusions.
Plastics with the codes 3 and 7 are especially notorious for releasing phthalates.
Meanwhile, lab tests prove a link between phthalates and hormone changes and birth defects in animals. Phthalates have also been linked in humans to premature cell death, reproductive problems (low sperm count, decreased sperm motility, etc.), birth defects, allergic reactions, behavior changes and more, not to mention all the other endocrine system-related disorders that can occur when hormones are imbalanced or disrupted.
But the dangers of phthalates are even more common than in those effects. We bet you can remember a time when you or someone you know mysteriously experienced eye, skin, nose or throat irritation, headache, dizziness, an asthma attack or difficulty breathing, fatigue, or any number of other symptoms, especially after a new item or product was introduced into that person’s environment. It’s a mystery to us because we tend not to think much of it when the carpet at work gets replaced or we start using a new cologne, but it’s quite probable that that person was having a reaction to phthalate exposure.
Part of the problem is that phthalates are in so much of what we use and come into contact with every day, and part of the problem with phthalates is that they aren’t chemically bonded to whatever they’re used in, so it’s super easy for them to “escape” their physical bonds and take refuge in you. You know that smell your new chair has, the smell that had you leaving the windows open for days? That is, in part, phthalates “off-gassing,” or being released into the air. We breathe phthalates, eat them and absorb them through our skin.
PVC gloves are another commonly phthalate-laden product. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ freedigitalphotos.net
You’ve figured out by now that it would be really hard to eliminate phthalates from your life completely, but there are things you can do to reduce your exposure. While manufacturers aren’t required to disclose the use of phthalates in their products, they are required (kind of) to provide an ingredients list for things like toiletries. If you know what you’re looking for, like DEP, you can avoid some phthalates that way.
Manufacturers are not required, however, to disclose the specific ingredients used to produce their product’s scent. So go for unscented products and steer clear of products with “fragrance,” “parfum” or “perfume” listed on the label.
This one wins for “vague ingredients list.”
Better yet, choose products that specifically state “phthalate-free” on them. While you’re at it, forego air fresheners and room sprays; you don’t need to breathe the chemicals or spend the money—a clean, and occasionally aired-out, home smells plenty nice.
This widely available face wash specifies that it does not contain phthalates (or other common skin irritants). Even so, read the label and test products on a small area of skin for at least several days before using. Stop using the product immediately if your skin becomes itchy, red or flaky, if it burns, or if you experience any other type of reaction.
Speaking of a clean home, cut down on household dust as much as possible in order to avoid phthalate exposure. Get a vacuum with a good filter, use it regularly, and clean and maintain the filter. If possible, get rid of carpet and fabric drapes. Aside from the chemicals they’re often treated with, they trap, create, and release dust and other air contaminants.
Finally, avoid phthalate-contaminated plastics as much as possible, especially those marked with recycling numbers three or seven. Follow the tips in the BPA/bisphenols post and look here for alternatives.
Of course, there are a million other ways to say “thbpbpthpt” to phthalates, so please contact us if you’d like help evaluating and reducing your exposure to these and other EDCs or toxins.
And please leave us a comment in the comments section. Have you ever had a reaction like the ones described above? What do you do to avoid phthalates and other EDCs? Tell us your story!
Happy New Year! In our last topical post, we were talking about triclosan as an endocrine disrupting chemical, or EDC. (Click the link and read that post first for a primer on EDCs and their effects.) But there are over 800 such chemicals that can wreak havoc on our thyroid and adrenal glands, cause hormone-related cancers, affect fertility and more.
So, of course, triclosan isn’t the only EDC we encounter in our daily lives. (Check out the picture captions for a few things you can do right away to start getting EDCs out of your kitchen.) Bisphenol A, or BPA, is another big source of exposure, as well as… “Wait a minute!” you say, “The FDA banned BPA from baby bottles and kids’ cups in 2012!” Hang on, let me find my soapbox.
“Disposable” plastic water bottles are not only bad for your health, they’re terrible for the environment. Don’t leave them sitting in the sun and heat, like in your car, and don’t reuse them. Better to not use them at all! Image courtesy of foto76/ freedigitalphotos.net
Instead of paying for packaged water over and over, save yourself some money and save your health by buying one resusable sheathed-glass bottle. Click the image to see the details in TOA’s store!
This is another popular glass water bottle. Click on the image to get details from TOA’s store.
First, the FDA only decided to disallow the use of BPA in those products because manufacturers had already mostly stopped using it due to consumer demand. In fact, the FDA’s then-spokesman, Allen Curtis, said, “The agency continues to support the safety of BPA for use in products that hold food.” (Remember that; we’ll get back to it.) In other words, the FDA’s position was that they didn’t think BPA posed a danger, they just wanted to throw the industry a PR bone since they weren’t using BPA in kiddie stuff anyway. And it worked. Everybody kind of forgot about BPA since they didn’t have to worry about the kids anymore and their own reusable water bottles say “BPA-free” right there on the bottle. So groups such as the Environmental Working Group and the Natural Resources Defense Council that are trying to get the FDA to ban the use of BPA in other products aren’t having much luck. By the way, the EWG’s Dirty Dozen List of Endocrine Disruptors is a helpful resource.
Think of how much money you’ve spent on “temporary” food storage items that get thrown away when they crack, get discolored or have absorbed one too many odors. Don’t reheat food in these containers or put hot food in them and don’t use them if they are scratched or damaged in any way.
Clear out all of those plastic food storage and water bottle items, especially those that have the #7 symbol on the bottom, and replace them with more useful (i.e. you can cook, serve and store your food in them) and longer-lasting glass containers. Click the image for details in TOA’s store!
Second, not many people have stopped to wonder what manufacturers replaced BPA with in all those products in which they were no longer allowed to use it. Okay, quick science break. What is BPA? Basically, it’s a synthetic compound used since the 50s to harden plastics. So a manufacturer of plastics has to harden them with something. Thing is, BPA has relatives, one of which is bisphenol S. For all practical purposes, they’re the same thing, so manufacturers just subbed BPS for BPA. All good, right? Not even. BPS has all the same hormone-disrupting properties as BPA, except that it’s even more easily absorbed than BPA.
Skin used to be considered a barrier to the outside world. Now we know just how easily it can be penetrated by chemicals and toxins. Image courtesy of digitalart/ freedigitalphotos.net
And remember, manufacturers were only required to stop using BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. Your reusable water bottle only says “BPA-free” on it because savvy marketers figured out they could capitalize on the baby bottle hype and get people to buy a lot of stuff if they used that phrase. So here’s where we get back to the part about the FDA maintaining that BPA is safe for use in food containers. This is important because most of the BPA in our bodies got there because we ingested it. That’s right, BPA isn’t just in the plastic bottles beverages come in, it’s also in the vast majority of canned food. It’s used in a resin lining in food cans that’s supposed to help seal the can and prevent spoilage. But that BPA also leaches into the food inside the can.
Favor fresh, frozen or dried foods over canned. If you have to use canned food, use brands that explicitly do not use BPA in their cans.
Know that because of the acidity of tomatoes, there are very few brands that can them without BPA. If not using fresh tomatoes, buy those packaged in glass jars.
By the way, the category of “food and beverage containers” also includes soda cans. Again, though, ditching soda is one of those little changes that will do wonders for your health, your wallet and the planet.
Of course, there are other sources of exposure to bisphenol compounds. One in particular we’d like to mention is thermal paper (e.g. receipts, airline boarding passes, copy paper, recycled paper products, etc.). While not directly related to your kitchen, we are all exposed to it pretty much every day. Fortunately, you can reduce this type of exposure. First, request “no receipt” unless you absolutely have to have one. Some alternatives are to note the expense, date, amount, etc. for your records or to snap a picture of the gas pump or receipt. If you must take the paper receipt, make sure your hands are dry and free of grease (moisture and grease increase the absorption of BPA) and wash your hands within two hours (studies show that BPA can be washed off if done within that time). Remember how your elders used to tell you that money was dirty and you should wash your hands after handling it? Well, they were right. Because of its frequent contact with thermal paper, currency is also a source of exposure.
Try to avoid handling thermal paper and wash your hands after you do. Image courtesy of patpitchaya/ freedigitalphotos.net
A CDC study published in 2008 reported findings of BPA in the urine of 93 percent of the subjects tested. So while it may not be realistic to expect to eliminate these EDCs from our lives completely, the tips provided here are a good start. There are many, many other sources of exposure to bisphenol-type EDCs and many strategies for avoiding them that also happen to double as health-promoting and money-saving actions. Please contact us if you’d like help reducing your exposure to these and other EDCs.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to see a practical demonstration of how easily we absorb EDCs, Dateline did an interesting report. Check out the two videos below.
The big guy in the red suit comes down the chimney tomorrow night! It’s not too late to get a last-minute gift or stocking stuffer. Between e-payment and email, you could almost instantly stuff everyone’s stockings with Organic Adventurer gift certificates!
Image courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Maybe someone close to you has been talking about wanting to make some healthy changes like reducing exposure to toxic chemicals. Maybe your bestie wants to leave a cleaner planet for his or her kids but isn’t sure where to start. Or maybe YOU’RE the green elf in your circle and you want to encourage others to join in the adventure. A green living consultation would be just the ticket, and you can give one to all your friends and family with The Organic Adventurer’s gift certificates.
Gift certificates in any denomination are available. Your loved one can use them toward the full range of our consultation services. Contact us for more information and to order. Email delivery in time for Christmas is still available!
Your purchase will help support our environmental education efforts. And since we’re all about spreading the eco-love, $1 from the sale of every shirt will be donated to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that watches all of our backs when it comes to the toxins in our everyday lives. We have sizes M, L, XL and XXL available for $15 each. More info and ordering are available on our T-shirt page.
Finally, we’ve added many more items to our store. Any of them would make great gifts for your friends and family—or yourself!
With five categories to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect gift!
Get reusable straws for your friend who’s always throwing out the plastic ones. Mom could use a set of glass spray bottles to encourage her to mix up some non-toxic cleaners. And that book you’ve been telling your significant other about? It’s all at The Organic Adventurer’s store. And remember, your purchases will help support our efforts to make people and planet healthier.
We’re baaack! The Organic Adventurer has spent the last few months traveling the world on many an eco-adventure. We’ve also been helping and encouraging folks on both coasts of this fine nation to green up and answering a billion great questions from clients taking anywhere from the first to the 5 millionth step in their own Organic Adventures.
Things have been moving so fast that we hadn’t had a chance to share with our readers, but that’s going to change starting with a great question we received from a client quite a while ago that’s timely now because of the recent news coming out of the FDA. The client asked, “Are we not supposed to have triclosan in our soaps?”
Can you spot all the other hormone-disrupting chemicals?
The client was out shopping at the time and needed a quick answer: “No! Just sent you a link to read later, but the short story is: 1) hormone disruptor; 2) implicated in antibiotic resistance; 3) very bio- and eco-persistent…aka it is in you and the environment for a long time. Besides, soap with triclosan in it hasn’t been shown to work any better than regular soap.”
Since then, and especially in the last week or so, we’ve gotten a lot more questions about triclosan and hormone disruptors in general. It’s a really big topic that stretches into the cleaning supply closet, the kitchen and pantry, the bathroom, and even into the kids’ toy chest! Plus, after finding it in urine, blood, breast milk and umbilical cord blood, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 75 percent of the U.S. population has triclosan in their bodies. That’s worth taking a closer look at, right? So over the next few blog posts, we’re going to examine the issue of hormone disruptors in our daily lives.
Triclosan, of course, has been in the public consciousness a lot lately because of the news that the FDA may require manufacturers of antibacterial products containing triclosan to demonstrate that their products work as stated (i.e. that they’re more effective than regular soap and water at stemming the spread of germs) and that they don’t have any long-term ill effects for the user. Notice we said, “may require.” The big headlines that claim the FDA is going to “ban antibacterial soaps” are misleading, but that’s another story for another day.
First, let’s understand what triclosan is and why it is of concern. Triclosan is an antimicrobial chemical (used against bacteria, fungus, mildew, etc.). Because of its use in products intended for the individual consumer, such as soaps, deodorants and facial tissues, it is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. But it’s also important to note that because it has environmental applications and implications (pesticides that affect water quality and wildlife, wastewater contamination, etc.) it is also regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. Since we’re talking mostly about triclosan as a consumer antibacterial and the FDA’s involvement, though, let’s stick with that.
The concerns about triclosan are many. One stems from the fact that it is a hormone disruptor. Specifically, and this is another term you may have heard, it’s an endocrine (the body’s hormone system) disruptor or EDC (endocrine disrupting chemical). It’s important to understand, though, that it’s not the only one. In fact, there are over 800 EDCs that we know of so far! You may remember the controversy several years ago over another EDC, Bisphenol-A (BPA), and its use in baby bottles and, more recently, in reusable water bottles and plastic food storage items.
So what is an endocrine disruptor and what does it do? Our bodies’ hormonal system manufactures and delivers its chemicals to different parts of the body to tell those parts what to do, when to do it and how much of that task to do. For example, the hormones produced by the thyroid gland are whisked off to nearly every part of the body and every cell in those parts. They perform a host of very specific and important jobs, but think of them like regulators. Too fast, too slow or just right, they control metabolism, heart rate, temperature, digestion, bone growth, reproductive processes, fetal brain development and much, much more.
Developing tissues are especially sensitive to EDCs. Image courtesy of ddpavumba/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Hormone disruptors like triclosan and BPA interfere with the endocrine system in several different ways. They can be so much like a hormone that they trick the system and everything it affects into not doing their jobs correctly. Or they can bind to hormone receptors, blocking the hormone from performing its job. (Think of it like putting electrical tape over the openings of an outlet. If you can’t plug your lamp in, your lamp can’t do its job.) EDCs can also interfere with the proteins on which our hormones hitch rides to the far reaches of our bodies. All of this means that any of our functions controlled by hormones (which are just about every function) can be messed up by EDCs. Some of the fairly firmly established consequences in humans are reproductive effects like a sex-ratio imbalance (fewer males born), reduced thyroid hormone levels (linked to reduced IQ, ADHD, and autism in children and all the problems of hypothyroidism in adults), a link to the development of Type 2 diabetes, immune dysfunction (particularly hay fever) and more. Evidence in animal studies also suggests additional effects such as cancers and neurotoxic (brain and nervous system) effects to name just a few.
How many daily personal care products do you use? Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
One of the claims that manufacturers of products containing triclosan make regarding the direct health effects on humans is that the concentrations of triclosan are so low as to pose no danger to human health. Aside from the fact that this does not take into account repeated exposure (American women use about 12 personal care products each and every day; men use an average of 6), multiple exposures (many of those products contain the same chemicals) or the mixture of exposures (how those chemicals interact with each other and the environment), it leads directly to another concern about triclosan and other antimicrobials used in consumer products: their contribution to antibiotic resistance.
We’re all probably familiar with the scenario of a doctor who prescribes antibiotics and tells the patient that he or she must take all of the medicine or risk not killing the offending bacteria off completely and even strengthening it by allowing those bugs strong enough to survive the initial dosing to reproduce and pass along the genes that made them strong enough to survive. The same principle applies when it comes to dosing ourselves, our water supply and the environment with levels of an antimicrobial too low to kill many microbes, but high enough to toughen up the population of those that do survive. Then, when we really need to kill the “superbugs” we’ve created, we have to use stronger and stronger drugs, which eventually don’t work at all. In the U.S. alone, 23,000 people a year die as a direct result of infection by antibiotic-resistant germs.
Image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Other similar concerns include that antimicrobials like triclosan kill off “good” bacteria as well as the “bad.” Good bacteria would be that which is either beneficial by itself or is beneficial because it competes with the bad bacteria, keeping it in check. Additionally, there are bacteria that triclosan can’t kill because of the physiology of the bacteria. These are the kinds of facts that have led people to want the manufacturers of triclosan-containing consumer products to prove that they are, in fact, more effective than regular soap, water, and scrubbing and that they won’t, in the end, harm us.
Here are a few opinions from the experts:
The American Medical Association: “…it may be prudent to avoid the use of antimicrobial agents in consumer products.”
The World Health Organization: “Over the last 10 years, it has been established that endocrine disruptors can work together to produce additive effects, even when combined at low doses that individually do not produce observable effects.” … “Perhaps the answer is in making more use of the precautionary principle to ban or restrict chemicals in order to reduce exposure early, even when there are significant but incomplete data and before there is significant and long-lasting harm.”
The Royal Society: “While the issue of EDCs is confused by serious gaps in our knowledge, policies to deal with the current concerns must be developed,” … “hand in hand with ongoing research. Regulations cannot be ‘put on hold’ until all the evidence has been collected.”
The FDA: “I suspect there are a lot of consumers who assume that by using an anti-bacterial soap product, they are protecting themselves from illness, protecting their families,” said Sandra Kweder, deputy director in the FDA’s drug center. “But we don’t have any evidence that that is really the case over simple soap and water.”
There’s a lot more to the triclosan story, but if you want to impose your own personal triclosan ban, you can start by looking at all the products in your home that say “antibacterial,” “odor-fighting,” “germ-killing,” and so on. Look at the labels that indicate ingredients or what the product is made out of or includes. Get rid of anything that includes “triclosan” or “triclocarban.” Of course that’s just a start, so if you need help, contact us for a customized green living consultation. We can make reducing your exposure to EDCs easy!
Meanwhile, we’d love to hear from you in the comments! Have you found triclosan in your home or workplace? How many personal care products do you use on a daily basis? How many do your kids use?