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How safe is your plastic water bottle?

Among the 827,000 plastic water bottles produced in the U.S. in 2006, over three-quarters were discarded as solid waste according to the Government Accountability Office. While continuously using disposable water bottles, long after first purchased, may sound like a harmless solution to steadily growing landfills, on your body it may be another matter.

Storage, cleanliness, along with the growing use of plastics and chemicals in manufactured products, all carry various answers to the question — how safe is it really to reuse your plastic water bottle?

BACTERIA:
In addition to smelling and tasting bad if not properly cleaned, your water bottle’s bacteria has the potential of making you sick.

A study published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health in 2002 revealed significant levels of coliform bacteria – a commonly used indicator of unsanitary food/water levels – multiplying inside plastic bottles (despite treated, chlorinated water) in as little as 8-24 hours. While the study determined that greater test samples were needed to determine the root cause – though some blame most bottle’s narrow opening, preventing adequate cleaning – it largely concluded that drinking water from a public fountain may be safer than from water bottles when both were compared.

BISPHENOL A (BPA):
Bottles not properly stored and/or rundown can also create trouble, health wise.

Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen used to harden plastic is commonly found in items like bottles, Tupperware, and even canned food. Because of BPA’s potential effects seen on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it may be safer to purchase a bottle that’s deemed BPA-free.

When scratched, worn down or heated (intentionally or in warm weather, including a hot car), these bottles show higher chances of exposing BPA into the water consumed.

While BPA is not a classified carcinogen (a substance that is known to lead or cause cancer) there have been studies weighing both scientists and doctors’ minds considerably on its health risks.

For instance, changes in human cells have been seen in laboratory tests when exposed to various plastic products and left to grow. BPA, again, as a synthetic estrogen, is cautioned by a substantial number in the scientific community to potentially cause breast cancer in women thanks to the elevated hormone levels. At the present time, however, the FDA declares that “the data are too uncertain at this time to draw any conclusions as to possible effects in humans at early developmental stages.”

What are the alternatives?

SIGG bottles:

SIGG bottles manufactured after 2008 (a prior snafu in their use of a BPA epoxy lining provoked an apology and voluntary product exchange), are assured to have minimal levels of BPA in their lining reasoning that it is “literally impossible to certify that something is 100% BPA free and to scientifically validate such a guarantee” according to their website.Learn how to clean your SIGG bottle

Aluminum bottles:
Made with an epoxy resin that may contain BPA, aluminum bottles – even lined ones – are not the more guaranteed choice of bottle material especially due to their susceptibility to corrosion.

Stainless-steel bottles:
Stainless steel bottles, without a plastic liner, are a safe choice. According to Nalgene they do not manufacture their stainless-steel bottles with these linings.

Nalgene bottles: 

While manufactured using polycarbonate material, the Nalgene bottles are a safer choice among others, promising a bare minimal level of BPA in their product. The company says they monitor reports of “some concern” and “potential heath risks” by the FDA but lean on the concluding scientific agreement that the overall health risk and data are uncertain.

PlastiPure bottles:
A new item, PlastiPure bottles is advertising itself as not only BPA-free, but also of other chemicals that can cause Estrogen Activity (EA).

A study published in July by the National Institute of Health Sciences found that in sampled commercially available plastics, there were some instances where BPA-free products leaked chemicals with more EA than products known to have BPA. Supported by grants from NIEHS, PlastiPure says their technology has finally reached an EA-free material for their products.

Sources:
http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d09610.pdf

http://www.enviroliteracy.org/article.php/63.php

http://hopewellaveps.ocdsb.ca/parent-information/WaterQualityInPersonalWaterBottles.pdf
http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm197739.htm#background

http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/GeneralInformationaboutCarcinogens/known-and-probable-human-carcinogens
http://www.npr.org/2011/03/04/134240436/plastics-new-frontier-no-estrogenic-activity
http://mysigg.com/about/health-safety/
http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.1003220

Photo credits:
http://mysigg.com/store/swiss-cross-red-touch.html
http://store.nalgene.com/PhotoGallery.asp?ProductCode=32+Ounce+Narrow+Mouth
http://plastipure.com/our-products

Houseplants: Nature’s Air Purifier

Constantly have itchy eyes, nose and throat? Is it hard to concentrate? Experience dizziness or nausea? You might be suffering from Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). The EPA defines SBS as “situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.” The main factors that contribute to SBS are impurities and toxins found in the air. These contaminants are mainly found within newer buildings that have better sealing and insulation. Although this professional sealing leads to a more energy-efficient home, it has the result of trapping pollutants within the circulating air of the homes ventilation system.
So how can you remove the contaminants from your home while remaining cost effective?

According to NASA research, having houseplants is a key way to filter the toxins found within the home. While plants go through the process of photosynthesis they pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to oxygen. In addition to the plants natural cycle, NASA found that houseplants were also able to eliminate large amounts of trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde. Trichloroethylene is commonly found in paints, adhesives, and varnishes. Benzene is a part of tobacco smoke, detergents, and gasoline. Formaldehyde is usually located within household cleaners, carpeting, and foam insulation. Since all of the items listed are very common to the home, it is vital to remove these toxins in the most efficient and environmentally safe way possible. NASA’s research of plants that removed the most toxins.

The research suggests that for every 100 square feet an indoor plant should be placed. Each plant should be potted in a 5-6 inch container to maximize the efficiency of air cleaning. On average, a single houseplant will show improvement in air quality within a 24 hour period.

Another benefit of having houseplants is the ability to improve mood. It has been shown that colors have a subliminal effect on human behavior. Green traditionally represents nature, good luck, and fertility. People find that the coolness of the green helps to promote tranquility and is believed to have healing abilities. The color green is also purported to relieve stress as well as being one of the most restful colors for the eye. Having the color green in a room, in the form of plants, serves the purpose of creating a comfortable ambiance as well as purifying the air that you breathe. Plants are the eco-friendly and budget friendly alternative to cleaning the air and changing the mood in a room.

 

Do You Know What’s Polluting Your Home?

You probably know quite a bit about outdoor air pollution. We hear air quality ratings on the news. We read about reducing CFCs. We know about problems with smog, ozone, and acid rain. We know it’s bad for our health to breathe bad air. But what about indoor pollution? The kind of air pollution that exists inside our own homes?

Indoor pollution is not a minor problem relegated to a few unlucky homeowners. In fact, unbeknownst to you, indoor pollution may be a real problem in your house. The EPA reports that indoor pollution levels are generally around 2-5 times — and often more than 100 times — higher than outdoor levels. Given that many of us spend as much as 90% of our time indoors, indoor pollution is a serious concern.

Your home is an active, enclosed system. What you bring into that system affects everything within it – including you and your family. Increases in the number of cases of asthma, allergies, and chemical sensitivity are only a few examples of the effects that indoor pollution has. Why has this problem mushroomed so rapidly? In is, in part, the result of companies constantly trying to reduce the cost of household products — which has, in turn, led to increased use of cheap synthetics and chemicals in the manufacture of those products. These goods are then marketed to unsuspecting consumers who bring those products into their homes. The combined output of these items creates what we refer to as a “chemical cocktail” — many toxins which, when mixed together, combine to create new, more toxic compounds.

There are many components to indoor pollution. Some pollutants are “intermittent pollutants,” such as malfunctioning stoves or personal care products. Others are “continuous pollutants,” such as building materials and plug-in air fresheners.

The toxins that pollute our homes come in all shapes and sizes, and they don’t necessarily smell bad or toxic. In fact, most of them don’t emit any smell at all. And that’s one thing that makes them so dangerous.

Common indoor pollutants include:

  • Carpeting and manufactured wood flooring
  • Household construction products (such as joint compound)
  • Paint
  • Household cleaners
  • Air fresheners
  • Dry cleaning
  • Wallpaper
  • Window coverings (plastic mini-blinds, or shutters made from chemically treated lumber)
  • Furniture containing press board or particle board
  • Salt-treated lumber
  • Plastics (including toys, dinnerware, etc)
  • Bedding/Mattresses (these are commonly treated with chemical flame retardant, formaldehyde, and a myriad of other chemicals)
  • Personal care products
  • Radon
  • Molds/mildew
  • Second hand smoke (this can come from smokers, fireplace, or candles)
  • Damaged chimney flues
  • Malfunctioning appliances
  • Hobby materials such as glue, solvents, etc.
  • Household pesticides
  • EMFs (Electro Magnetic Fields surround all live electric wires and appliances – this includes electric blankets)
  • Misused ozone generators (if not used properly, these can potentially have negative health consequences)
  • Carbon monoxide

So how do you know if your home is suffering from unhealthy levels of indoor pollution? You may think there’s no problem because you don’t feel like anything is affecting your system. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t, in fact, a problem. To help you figure out if you do have too much indoor pollution in your home, here’s a checklist of things to look out for:

  • Unusual and noticeable odors; stale or stuffy air
  • Noticeable lack of air movement
  • Dirty or faulty central heating and/or air conditioning equipment
  • Damaged chimney flues
  • If you have headaches or a feeling of nausea when home, but feel better when you leave the house
  • Unvented fossil fuel appliances
  • Excessive humidity (check for condensation on windows)
  • Moldy window frames, walls, floor boards
  • Tightly constructed or remodeled homes (typically use synthetic materials and not breathable)
  • Health reaction after a remodeling job or after moving into a newly-constructed home (eg, flu symptoms, persistent sore throat, cough, headache, cold symptoms)
  • Hobby materials stored inside the house such as glues, solvents, etc.
  • Weatherizing materials
  • New furniture (many contain formaldehyde, pressboard, and other chemicals that outgas)
  • Generally feeling healthier outside the home

Take extra care to notice if children have any symptoms. Their systems tend to be less resistant than those of adults, and they may be more susceptible to developing allergies or asthma. In fact, indoor pollution is a significant culprit when it comes to children with asthma, so removing inside pollutants may dramatically improve a child’s health.

 

Now that you have identified what can cause indoor pollution, what can you do to improve the air inside your house? Plenty! Check out our list of simple things you can do to clean up the air in your home — and clean up your health, too.

  1. Open windows whenever possible – even if it is just for a few hours. This allows toxins to escape and fresh air to circulate.
  2. Add houseplants – they help filter the air and add a sense of life to any home.
  3. Switch to natural household cleaners (click here). They tend to be better for those with asthma and are much safer for you and the environment.
  4. Purchase a bagless vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
  5. Only burn natural, soy or beeswax based candles with metal free wicks. Ones with essential oils are less likely to irritate lungs than those with fragrance oils.
  6. Opt for carpet-free floors such as solid wood, natural linoleum, or tiles. According to Debra Lynn Dadd, author of Home Safe Home (ISBN 0-87477-859-X) says that synthetic carpet is made from a complex blend of as many as 120 chemicals that can emit many hazardous chemicals. They include pesticides (act as antimicrobials), neurotoxic solvents (such as toluene and xylene) and the potent carcinogen benzene. Formaldehyde is also a commonly emitted from carpets according to reports by the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Symptoms of a reaction include burning eyes, memory problems, chills and fever, sore throats, joint pain, chest tightness and difficulty concentrating to name a few. Check with your local carpet dealer for natural wool or cotton carpets. If you have kids or pets, consider natural hardwood or natural linoleum.
  7. Consider using natural linens and mattresses when purchasing new bedding (click here). Some good materials to check out include organic cotton and natural, untreated wool. By buying natural bedding, you’ll avoid chemicals like formaldehyde, and you’ll sleep better, too. Wool helps wick moisture away from your body, prevents you from being too hot, and provides for deeper, more restful sleep.
  8. Buy clothing made from natural fibers. By this, we mean organic cotton. There are many styles available, and organic cotton is a much cleaner option than many other fabrics — including conventionally grown cotton (which accounts for 25% of the world’s pesticide use).
  9. Choose a safe, less toxic paint such as Safecoat�. Did you know that mercury was used as a fungicide in both paint and joint compound until as recently as 1989? Old paint may also contain lead, so beware if you are stripping older paint or if you’re dealing with peeling paint.
  10. Create an indoor fountain. While this doesn’t have a direct impact on removing toxins, it does help to create a calm space that is good for the soul. Place the fountain in a room that doesn’t have any electronics (no TV, stereo, or phone), and you’ll temporarily reduce your exposure to EMFs, while simultaneously increasing your sense of calm.
  11. Avoid scheduled pest treatments. Sometimes treating for pests in unavoidable, but try to treat your home as little as possible. And make sure you investigate exactly what is being used when you do need to spray.

These are just a few of the things that you can do to create a healthier home. Other easy changes you can make include using essential oil-based air fresheners, and doing your best to replace things with natural fibers and solid wood. Sometimes these items cost a bit more, but the savings in air quality is priceless.

Is The Water We Drink Pure?

What’s in The Water after Treatment?
In America, we enjoy one of the cleanest water drinking supplies in the world, supplied from our many water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Contrary to water’s pristine view, it can be contaminated by surrounding farms, manufacturers or urban areas. The water we use is passed through municipal water systems or private sources for purification for our human use. The quality of water is highly regulated and tested for contaminants, but some chemicals linger even after treatment.

Unregulated Chemicals
Many of the technological conveniences that we rely on to make our lives more comfortable contain various unregulated chemicals that end up in our water. We enjoy fragrances and artificial flavors that enrich our senses. Artificial coloring for looks and inexpensive plastic for its ease of use. All these products we use in our day to day lives are coated with and contain synthetic chemicals that are released in small amounts into our water systems. Neither large scale municipal water systems, septic systems, sewage treatment plants nor private water sources, such as wells or aquifers, remove all of these chemicals.

Researchers refer to these chemical compounds as either tentatively identified compounds (TICs) or pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs), many of which we wash down our drains daily. The list is endless, but includes antidepressants, caffeine, birth control pills, beauty products such as nail polish or deodorant and household cleaning products such as carpet cleaners and air fresheners.

High Levels Could Pose a Problem
Most contaminants found in water are probably not hazardous to our health but if they reach unsafe levels they can pose a threat. Studies have revealed that minute concentrations of chemicals are in many water supplies, some of which are not regulated because of the assumption that low levels pose no risks.

Although human health effects to these contaminants are unknown, many people agree on following a precautionary principle. If you have reasonable suspicions then take the necessary precautions to avoid any possible effects on the quality of your water. Solutions such as adding a filter system into your home are inexpensive and can further treat drinking water to remove most of these chemical compounds including things like chlorine.

Using Natural Cleaning Products

Using Natural Cleaning Products

We had A Hazardous Materials Stockpile in Our Home
I’ve been cleaning house since I was 18 years old and on my own. I spent all of my twenties as a bachelor, and kept a nice house so I wouldn’t scare off my guests. All those years I bought household cleaners from the supermarket; the regular commercial stuff like ammonia-based window cleaner, drain cleaner, aerosol polish, detergents—you name it. It all worked pretty well. Then I got married, had kids, and started moving around the country. During our last move, I gathered all our household cleaners together; we had over twenty containers of chemical substances. That’s when the thought occurred to me that we had amassed a small hazardous material stockpile in our own home! And where did most of it all go when I used it? You guessed it; down the drain.

Out with the Old, In with the New
When we moved into our new home, I cleaned the place with our old poisons to get rid of them (I didn’t want to dump them in the trash) and replaced them with toxin-free cleaners like natural soaps, citrus-based surface cleaners, and soda-based laundry and dishwasher agents. So far, I’ve found all the earth-friendly products to work as well as, or better than the hazardous stuff. For me they’re more efficient, fun to use, and I’m not worried about it going down the drain or poisoning my family.

Keep Your Home, and the World Healthier
I believe if more people start using non-toxic cleaners in their homes, it will benefit the environment and keep us healthier. That’s why when greenfeet.com approached me to write reviews about the natural cleaners they carry, I jumped at the opportunity to share my experiences with these products. I’m here to answer your questions about cleaning naturally, and how products from greenfeet.com can help.

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