Termite Tenting? Read This First!

March 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Family



Many times, the choice to fumigate isn’t yours — it’s your landlord’s. Four steps to know about before you tent your home.

Chances are, at least one house in your ‘hood is being treated for termites right now. And despite the festive clown-and-circus themed tent, the chemicals that go into the fumigation process simply aren’t funny.

The process used to include chlorpyrifos, which can cause neurological damage and was phased out beginning in 2010, according to the EPA. (That didn’t stop farmers from applying 10 million pounds of the stuff annually to our crops, especially corn. But I digress.)

Methyl bromide was widely used as a fumigant until the EPA determined that it depleted the ozone layer and violated the Clean Air Act and began phasing it out in 2005.

Here are a few of the many chemicals that are still considered safe to fumigate with, despite growing concerns:

phosphine: “Extreme actute toxicity via inhalation “ –EPA 1,3-dichloropropene: “Reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogen”  -Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry methyl isocyanate “gas leak…resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 people” –EPA formaldehyde: “probable human carcinogen” –EPA lodoform: “acute toxicity in mice similar to that of methyl iodide” –CDC sulfuryl fluoride: “poses an inhalation hazard” –Cornell University

Granted, the studies that yield these findings involve far higher concentrations than what you would be subjected to after having your house fumigated.

But the safety assessments also don’t take into account the fact that when you’re tenting, several chemicals are typically used at one time — and their interactions have never been fully measured, especially when it comes to kids.

Finally, there are studies that show the dangerous effects of pesticides in general: A UC Berkeley study published in 2002 found that the children of families who used professional pest control services at any time from one year before birth to three years after were associated with a “significantly increased risk of childhood leukemia.”

If you’re considering termite tenting, here are a few additional steps you can take to make sure the fumigation goes as safely as possible.

1. Remember, even “eco fumigators” can use any of the chemicals on the list above; the word “eco” is marketing, not fact. 2. Ask the company for a written description of the chemicals that are used in their fumigation process and do your own research on what’s involved. If the company won’t provide the list, find another company that will. 3. Common sense — and industry guidelines — tell us that you must make sure your home is fully ventilated for several days after fumigation. You may want to add a few more open-window days to the company’s safety timeline before moving your family back home. 4. Don’t rush it! Termite infestation takes a long time; the problem can wait while you measure your options.


Originally published on Mommy Greenest.Com


Autism Rate Spikes Point to Environmental Factors

January 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Family

By Rachel Sarnoff

Photo: Rodale’s 10 Suspect Causes of Autism


What does autism have to do with the environment? Everything.

Autism is America’s fastest growing developmental disability. Autism rates have risen nearly 600% in 20 years, to the point that now one out of every 88 children—or one out of every 70 boys—is statistically destined for diagnosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Why the dramatic increase? Increased identification of the condition comes into play when looking at a data spike. But six hundred percent? More and more, doctors and scientists are pointing the finger at chemicals in the environment.

Last year, a study published in the journal Clinical Epigenetics looked a at how substances such as high fructose corn syrup can lead to mineral deficiencies, how deficiencies in minerals such as zinc can reduce the body’s ability to eliminate toxic substances such as mercury and pesticides, which have been linked to autism.

A group of autism experts published a list of chemicals and heavy metals believed to be behind the surge in autism and other neurological problems, Rodale reported. The list includes lead, mercury, PCBs, organochlorine and organophosphate pesticides, vehicular air pollution, flame retardants, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), BPA and the chemicals in nonstick cookware.

“We have very powerful, very sophisticated tools we can use to measure chemicals at very low levels,”said Phil Landrigan, Chair of Preventative Medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York and co-author of the list. “It’s now possible to connect early exposure to problems in childhood.”

“We live, breathe and start our families in the presence of toxic chemical mixtures and constant low-level toxic exposures, in stark contrast to the way chemicals are tested for safety,” said Donna Ferullo, Director of Program Research at The Autism Society said at a conference call organized by Safer Chemicals Healthy Families in 2011. “Lead, mercury, and other neurotoxic chemicals have a profound effect on the developing brain at levels that were once thought to be safe.”

Just to be clear: There is no clear data on why autism occurs. Most scientists agree that there are many factors—from genetic to environmental—which may increase risk for ASD. Environmental factors include chemicals, infectious agents, and various health problems in the parents.

Hundreds of genes have been associated with autism, some of which are inherited and some of which are found in people with autism but not in their parents. Through the study of epigenetics, many scientists are focusing on the non-genetic—i.e. environmental and developmental—factors that cause the genes to behave differently; changes that may be passed on through multiple generations.

As Dick Jackson, Chair of UCLA’s Environmental Health Sciences Department once told me, “The genes load the gun. The environment pulls the trigger.” Unfortunately, we don’t yet know what that trigger is. But I’m guessing it’s man made.


Originally posted on MommyGreenest.com


Doctors Fail to Warn Pregnant Patients About Toxic Exposures

January 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Healthy


A University of San Francisco study of more than 2,000 obstetricians and gynecologists nationwide found that most do not warn their patients about environmental hazards as related to pregnancy, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Although they routinely discuss smoking, alcohol, diet and weight gain, only 19 percent talk to their patients about pesticides, 12 percent discuss air pollution and only 11 percent talk about VOCs emitted from things like paint. A mere eight percent discuss phthalates, with five percent extending the discussion to BPA.

Yet studies link low levels of these chemicals in pregnancy to disruption of fetal brain and reproductive system development, as well as increased risks of birth defects, cancer, immune problems, asthma and other problems later in life.

Add this to the fact that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s nationwide monitoring program of pregnant women found 43 chemicals present in all subjects—including lead, mercury, toluene, perchlorate, bisphenol A, flame retardants, perfluorinated compounds, organochlorine pesticides and phthalates—and this shapes up to be a serious problem.

So why aren’t doctors talking to their patients about environmental factors? “Despite evidence that environmental factors contribute to many health problems, medical students report fewer than six hours of environmental health training, according to University of Texas School of Medicine researchers,” the Chronicle story reported.

A frightening example of this trend is mercury. According to the story, fetal exposure to mercury has been linked to lower IQs and other negative effects on developing brains, and an estimated 300,000 newborns each year—one out of every 14—are exposed to mercury levels that exceed those set by the EPA as safe in pregnancy.

Yet despite the fact that the dangers of mercury are well established—since 2004, the EPA and the FDA have warned pregnant women to avoid high-mercury fish like swordfish, shark and tuna; the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issues annual statements to members about the importance of avoiding these fish during pregnancy—only four out of 10 doctors discuss mercury with pregnant women, and a mere nine percent talk with their patients about PCBs, industrial compounds that are also found in fish.

What can you do? If you’re pregnant, or thinking about it, take a quick peek at this oldie-but-goodie slideshow, which presents some quick tips on how to create a safer pregnancy.


Originally posted on MommyGreenest.com


Three Tips to Check Toxic Toys Off Your List

December 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Healthy, Kids

By Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff

You’re making your list and checking it twice, but do you know what’s in the toys you’re stuffing in those stockings? Here are some quick tips to follow:

1. Avoid plastics made from or including BPA, PET, PVC and Styrofoam. 2. Look for toys made from natural materials like wood and cloth. 3. Choose gifts that are made locally.

That last tip is a quick and easy way to limit the levels of cadmium, lead and other toxic chemicals to which children are exposed.

In 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act was passed to regulate lead and phthalates in toys and infant products after a public scare related to the problem of tainted toys, imported mainly from China.

Some states are looking even closer at products marketed to kids, such as Washington’s Children’s Safe Products Act, Maine’s Kid’s Safe Products Act and California’s Green Chemistry Initiative.

How to tell which toys are naughty and which are nice? Before you shop, take a minute to check Parents magazine’s list of this year’s toy recalls.

And if you’re still set on plastic, try to assess what type you’re buying by looking for a “chasing arrow” symbol on the bottom of the toy. As with all plastic products, avoid the numbers 1 (PET), 3 (PVC) and 6 (Styrofoam), and seek out those marked “BPA-free.”

PET and PVC (also known as vinyl) are softened with phthalates. Even low levels of phthalates have been linked to birth defects, obesity and asthma.

Styrofoam takes 500 years to degrade, dissolves into tiny bits that end up in the ocean, is rarely recyclable, and last year it was assessed as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” by the government.

And BPA, used to harden plastics, is a hormone disruptor; it mimics estrogen in the body and has been linked to obesity, anxiety and a brain tumor called meningloma, among other problems.

That’s a list worth checking twice.

This post first appeared on my Huffington Post Parents blog. Check it out!

Update 12.10.12: Hasbro commits to eliminating PVC from toy and game packaging beginning in 2013, and has already started phasing out PVC from packaging; BPA was voluntarily eliminated from their products in 2011. I’d like to see PVC out of product, too, but looks like this company is on the right track! Read more in Hasbro’s corporate report, which I learned about from blogger Richard Liroff.

This post originally appeared on MommyGreenest.com


7 Steps to Reduce Lead Exposure

September 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Family

By Rachell Sarnoff / This article was originally posted on http://mommygreenest.com


When I was a kid, one of the things I never understood was why we had to fill the pasta pot with cold water. If I filled it with the hot water that we’d been using to wash dishes, for example, I’d have to run the tap until it was cold again before I filled up the pot to cook.

I’m not even sure if my dad knew why he did this, it’s just the way it was supposed to be done. But now I know that using cold water in cooking is important because of one thing: Lead.

Lead is a neurotoxin, which means that it affects the way your brain works, and it’s especially dangerous to kids. Unfortunately, it’s also invisible, tasteless, and odorless—so it’s virtually impossible to detect if it’s in your air or water, without testing.

In honor of September’s Child Safety Month, I thought I would take a minute to share a few things you can do to protect your family from lead:

•Take off your shoes outside to reduce 85% of dirt—including lead residue—from entering your home.

•Wet mop at least once a week, and use a HEPA filter when vacuuming. (Lead is transmitted through dust: less dust, less lead.)

•Encourage your family to wash their hands, especially when they enter the home. Lead is most often ingested through dust on hands going into mouths.

•Use cold water for eating or drinking, as hot water can dissolve lead from pipes into the water.

•Run the tap for one minute before drinking water in the morning to flush the pipes of standing water that can include lead.

•Filter your drinking water, with a carbon filter, if possible.

•Keep your children away from peeling paint, especially if the building was built before 1978, when lead-paint laws went into effect.

Living an unleaded life isn’t difficult, but it can take practice. And it may mean giving up a few things: And as much it makes for some treasured childhood memories, I no longer let my kids drink from plastic hoses, as most of them contain lead.

But nostalgia is a small price to pay for safety.


FDA Bans BPA, But Alternatives May Be Worse

July 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Eco, Modern, News

By: Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff


Could this be the source of serious hormone-disruptors?

Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, has been a rallying point for parents everywhere. Once we found out about problems associated with the industrial chemical, which is used to harden plastics used in food storage containers, water bottles, toys, and other consumer goods, we raised such a ruckus that the substance was banned for use in bottles and sippy cups in 11 states.

On Tuesday, the FDA announced a nation-wide ban on the substance in bottles and sippy cups. Huzzah!

But BPA is still a bad word for many parents who “vote with their dollars” by refusing to buy these products, so the chemical industry is looking for options.

study published this week found bisphenol S, a BPA alternative, on all cash register paper in the United States, Japan, Korea and Vietnam, as well as on 87% of paper currency and 52% of recycled paper in these countries.

The study’s authors reported that BPS has some of the same estrogen-mimicking effects of BPA, and that people may now be absorbing 19 times more BPS through their skin than when BPA was used to coat paper.

As parents, why should we be worried about these chemicals? Well, first off, as this new study proves, they’re everywhere —even on receipts and money, ubiquitous to daily life. Our kids are exposed to them through multiple sources practically 24/7.

But more specifically, they mimic estrogen in the body, thus tricking it into starting the process of puberty earlier than necessary.

As I wrote in a post about my moody pre-pubescent daughter last year, a study published in Pediatrics found that one in 10 girls has already begun developing breasts—the first sign of puberty—by the age of eight and that the cause might be exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals like BPA.

And recent studies have shown even more serious problems, like one recently published in the International Journal of Clinical Oncology, which showed a link between a common brain tumor called meningloma and BPA.

What can you do? In addition to limiting your use of plastic, which I shared some tips on last week, and washing your hands, which can not only limit BPA/BPS exposure but protect your family from flame retardants too, consider employing the “no, thanks” method of protection.

Try to use credit cards instead of cash, and in the same way you might politely decline a plastic bag, just ask the cashier to throw away your register receipt. You already have the transaction recorded online and on your statement —should you require a paper trail— do you really need it in your wallet, too?

You can find more on Rachel at Mommygreenest.  She also founded EcoStiletto.com, and appeared on Today and CNN to talk about a judgment-free, eco-conscious lifestyle. She is the former Executive Director of Healthy Child Healthy World and was editor-in-chief of Children magazine before she had kids. Rachel lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children, who range in age from preschooler to teen. You can follow her on twitter @rachellsarnoff