If Parents Don’t Protect Their Kids from Harmful Chemicals, Who Will?

Being a parent today seems to require a hyper-vigilance to make sure your child is protected from unhealthy — sometimes even toxic chemicals — in their toys, clothing, eating utensils, furniture, household items, and more. Between lead-based paint, PVC and phthalates in toys, bisphenol A (BPA) in water bottles, flame retardant in pajamas and recently cadmium — a carcinogen — in McDonald’s Shrek glasses, there’s a lot to keep moms and dads on their toes.

The question becomes: What is the best way to keep your child safe? How can a parent know that something they (or a friend or relative) buy for their little one isn’t going to cause them harm? Even if you make your own toys, buy them handmade by an artisan or buy supplies for your children to make their own simple toys, how can you know that the materials are all safe?

The fact is there is not enough being done in the United States to protect anyone, but especially children, from harmful chemicals.

According to the CNN article Toxic chemicals finding their way into the womb, “The EWG [Environmental Working Group] study found an average of 232 chemicals in the cord blood of 10 babies born late last year.”

They are chemicals found in a wide array of common household products — a list that is as long as it is familiar — shampoos and conditioners, cosmetics, plastics, shower curtains, mattresses, electronics like computers and cell phones, among others.

“For 80 percent of the common chemicals in everyday use in this country we know almost nothing about whether or not they can damage the brains of children, the immune system, the reproductive system, and the other developing organs,” said Dr. Phil Landrigan, a pediatrician and director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “It’s really a terrible mess we’ve gotten ourselves into.”

Environmental attorney and mother Patti Goldman believes, “When it comes to protecting our kids from toxic chemicals, parents need a system that meets us halfway. We need to shift the burden from families to the companies who are manufacturing and distributing the chemicals used in these products.”

The potentially good news is that new legislation called the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010 was recently introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) on April 15. This new act amends the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act and would “require manufacturers to prove the safety of chemicals before they are marketed. Of particular concern are carcinogens, to which the public remains dangerously exposed and uninformed.”

“America’s system for regulating industrial chemicals is broken,” said Senator Lautenberg. “Parents are afraid because hundreds of untested chemicals are found in their children’s bodies. EPA does not have the tools to act on dangerous chemicals and the chemical industry has asked for stronger laws so that their customers are assured their products are safe. My ‘Safe Chemicals Act’ will breathe new life into a long-dead statute by empowering EPA to get tough on toxic chemicals. Chemical safety reform is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it is a common-sense issue and I look forward to building bipartisan support for this measure.”

In the meantime, what is a parent to do?

  • You can start by checking out the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Toy Hazard Recalls list to see if any of your children’s toys have been recalled.
  • Vote with your dollars. Buy toys from manufacturers or artisans you feel you can trust.
  • Stay current on what’s going on in the movement to protect children from harmful chemicals by reading Healthy Child Healthy World
  • Check the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Database to find out what personal care products – shampoo, soap, lotion, sunscreen, toothpaste, diaper cream, etc. – are safest for children
  • Watch the EWG’s video “10 Americans
  • Visit Safer Chemicals Healthier Families – A nationwide effort to pass smart federal policies that protect us from toxic chemicals.
  • Take Action! by reading about the Safe Chemicals Act and send emails to your representatives and senators, email Congress, and don’t forget to tell your friends about the act and ask them to take action as well!

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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The big SIGG BPA letdown

Water bottle manufacturer SIGG has found themselves in the hot seat recently after they revealed that their bottles, which many environmentally-aware, health-conscious consumers and parents fell in love with, have actually contained bisphenol-A (BPA) all along. SIGG claims they never said their bottles were BPA-free, but only that they “did not leach BPA.”

Z Recommends was one of the first blogs to break the story with their very thorough and informative post:

“Swiss sports and children’s bottle maker SIGG has admitted what many consumer advocates have suspected for years, but never proven: That the epoxy lining used for years in SIGG bottles – which they secretly swapped out for a new liner last summer – contained the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A.”

How do you know if your SIGG bottle contains BPA? According to SIGG, “all SIGG bottles made since August 2008 contain our new BPA free EcoCare liner. SIGG bottles manufactured prior to August 2008 have the former water-based epoxy liner which contains trace amounts of BPA. These bottles have been thoroughly tested and showed 0% leaching of BPA.

The photo and information below (from SIGG) should help you determine which liner you have.

New SIGG EcoCare Liner Former SIGG Liner
* Dull pale yellow coating*Special powder-based co-polyester liner certified to be 100% BPA and Phthalate Free*Utilized in the manufacturing of SIGG bottles since August 2008 * Shiny copper bronze finish*Proprietary water-based epoxy liner thoroughly tested and showed absolutely no leaching of BPA*Found in SIGG bottles manufactured prior to August 2008

EcoCare Liner:

Former Liner:

In case you didn’t just do the math, SIGG is saying they have been manufacturing bottles with the new liners since August 2008. But wait, what year is it now? Oh yeah, 2009. Which means they’ve been sitting on this information for an entire year. Ouch.

Lynn from Babble discusses the problems with bisphenol-A in her post BPA: How Bad Is It? Get ready to clean out your cabinets.

It is a type of compound called an endocrine disruptor, which means it mimics or alters the effects of a particular hormone — in this case estrogen — in your body, throwing everything out of whack. It is bad for you, and your pregnancy, and your kids, and it is, almost literally, everywhere: in baby feeding items, water bottles, soda and soup cans, PVC pipes, carbon-paper-style sales receipts, dental fixtures, the water supply, even in the goddamn air. (And probably in your body: the CDC has detected BPA in 93 percent of people 6 years old and up.)

… BPA is thought to cause disorders of the neurological, cardiac, immune, and reproductive systems, with adults, children, and developing fetuses all exposed and at risk.

To say that people are upset about SIGG’s admission would be an understatement.

Alison from Green Me feels deceived and wrote an open letter to SIGG expressing her outrage.

While pregnant I drank from my SIGG bottle 4 days per week as I had a long commute to a college campus where I did not have easy access to water. When my son was born I breastfed him and carried my SIGG bottle around with me to have water on walks and at the store. Last year, when my son turned one we got him a big boy SIGG water bottle. I would not have made any of these purchases had I known your products were lined with BPA.

I am outraged…

Cool Mom Picks feels disheartened at the news. “It’s disheartening to support a brand like SIGG for making safer, BPA-free drinking bottles for kids and adults when it turns out that nope, that wasn’t the situation at all. Or as the old saying goes, ‘we was played.'”

Miriam from Tripletly Blessed said she will take the replacement bottles from SIGG and donate them because “I have no intention of supporting a company that would blatantly mislead their consumer base.” She also plans to tell others of SIGG’s betrayal. “Yes, SIGG technically did nothing wrong. They never stated that their bottles were BPA-free. However, the manner in which they marketed themselves left many people with that impression. I’m not a lawyer but I don’t see that there is really a case here, though some are suggesting it. What I am, though, is a mom and a blabbermouth. Would you like to guess what I’ll be talking about for the next few weeks and whenever I see someone with a SIGG bottle?”

Kellie from GreenHab: The Browns Go Green is feeling disappointed. “I’m feeling kind of like I did when I found out that John Edwards cheated on his wife. It isn’t the worst thing to ever happen in this world, but I still feel really disappointed because I thought SIGG to be a genuinely green company. They say ‘never trust a politician.’ I guess we shouldn’t trust companies that claim to sell green products either.”

Despite all of this, Sonja from Girl with Greencard says she will continue to use her SIGG from the early 90s. She said she has two old SIGGs, and she’s going to keep using both of them. Why? Because “test shows BPA doesn’t leak and SIGGs are pricey and I don’t use mine on a daily basis.” She said she also has no qualms about letting her 1-year-old son drink from her old SIGG bottles either.

Jeremiah from Z Recommends said:

Whether or not you are comfortable using a bottle that contains but does not leach BPA, for us the real story here is how a company using BPA that would have been absolutely sidelined by consumers seeking BPA-free alternatives managed to make itself a central player by carefully controlling information about its products, challenging consumer advocacy organizations when they made statements that were unproven but that the company knew to be true, and “coming clean” only when it suited its own purposes.

Alicia at The Soft Landing believes it’s an issue of proprietary versus transparency. She said, “It’s not about the ‘mere presence of BPA’ or that their studies didn’t show any leaching – it’s about the principle of trust. We as parents, consumers and advocates should demand transparency from companies who build their entire foundation on being healthy and green.”

While SIGG encourages dissatisfied customers to contact their customer service department (liners@mysigg.com) to trade in their old SIGG bottles for ones made with the BPA-free EcoCare liner, many bloggers would rather find more transparent companies to support. In case you are concerned about what will happen to the bottles that are turned in to SIGG, CEO Steve Wasik assured Lisa from Retro Housewife Goes Green that “All ‘retired’ SIGG bottles that we receive are always sent to recycling.”

Lisa from Condo Blues suggests four BPA-free water bottle alternatives.

Over at Mamanista, Candace recommends Stainless Steel BPA-free water bottles.

I also wrote a post earlier this year about several different reusable water bottles.

Lastly, Z Recommends has some additional information about possible problems with the new BPA-free SIGG liners that you should take a look at before you email to get your replacement bottle. Unfortunately, this information might turn off even more consumers.

What are your thoughts? Are you surprised? Upset? Fine with all of it? Will you trade in your old SIGG bottle for a new one or will you seek out an alternative?

I have to say the only reason I’m not fuming mad is that we never splurged to buy SIGG bottles until a few months ago when my husband Jody got one for Ava and one for himself. Thankfully, they both have the new liners. While I had been thinking about getting my own SIGG bottle in the near future, after learning all of this, I’ll stick with my BPA-free Camelbak for now, thankyouverymuch.

Related posts:
SIGG Controversy: Older SIGG Bottles Have Bisphenol A (BPA)
SIGG Bottles and BPA
Really? SIGG bottles contain BPA

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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Getting kids on the bottle – water bottle, that is

Just as it is important that we as adults drink our water from refillable, reusable water bottles, it is equally important that our children do as well. The habits and values we instill in them when they are young are the habits and values they are likely to carry with them throughout their lives and eventually pass on to their children.

If you are already drinking from a reusable water bottle yourself, you are on the right track towards teaching your children good habits by leading by example. Educating your kids about why you’ve chosen the reusable route is important too. I think children as young as 3 or 4 are already receptive to having simple conversations about why living green is a good choice for their family and the earth. Getting the kids involved and excited about using a reusable water bottle can be as easy as letting them help pick one out and giving them the “job” of remembering it (and reminding all other family members to bring theirs) whenever you go somewhere.

Just as there is a wide variety of water bottles on the market for adults, there are just as many water bottles and sippy cups marketed to children. What appeals to one child, may not appeal to the next (or to the parent), so it can be a wise and money-saving decision to research your bottles and cups before you buy.

An important thing to remember when looking for a water bottle for your child is that you want it to be BPA-free. Go Green Design writes about Bisphenol A in The Problem with Plastic.

During the first few years of life, when babies’ cells continue to undergo “programming,” exposure to certain toxic chemicals can disrupt the delicate process. Bisphenol A, a compound in hard, clear polycarbonate plastics that mimics the effects of estrogen, has raised particular concern because it interferes with hormone levels and cell signaling systems. Several dozen scientists issued a review of 700 studies on BPA warning that the levels most people are exposed to put them at elevated risk of uterine fibroids, endometriosis, breast cancer, decreased sperm counts, and prostate cancer. Infants, the report said, are most vulnerable to BPA.

While the above is specifically with regard to baby bottles, it certainly applies to toddlers and children as well.

Now onto a few different water bottle types.

Thermos makes both a straw bottle and sippy cup. Victoria from Vdog and Little Man commented to me that the “sippy has a lot of parts for the spout – membranes, etc., but it is LOVED by every kid I know.” And the straw cup “leaks horribly when turned on it’s side or upside down, so parental monitoring with that one is required (once ended up at home with a soaked tush and carseat!).”

Psychmamma also wrote about her experiences with the Thermos Foogo and the 16 oz. BPA-free Camelbak bottle.

Victoria also commented that she personally likes “the playtex straw cups because they have few parts, and the straw is covered when closed, and they are made out of polypropylene #5 (not #7 the ‘bad’ plastic).” However, she notes that the water can take on a plastic-y taste when left in the bottle overnight and says she changes the water very frequently in the #5 cups “to be on the safe side.”

A Little Greener Everyday wrote a review of the CynerGreen CGKidz 350ml Bottles.

Other popular children’s water bottles include the SIGG and KleanKanteen.

Beyond using your refillable water bottle at home and on outings, don’t forget about school lunches. For school-aged children, you can incorporate having a reusable water bottle with having an entire reusable lunch system. There are a lot of fun lunch kits available. Non-toxic Kids writes about the Kids Konserve waste-free lunch kits that includes a stainless steel water bottle. Really Natural writes about the BPA-free Laptop Lunch System that includes a BPA-free water bottle. There are many other waste-free lunch systems on the market as well.

Do your kids use reusable water bottles and/or sippy cups? What are their favorites?

Related links:

Cross-posted on BlogHer