By Rachel Sarnoff
When I read about an EPA study released earlier this year that found trace residues of at least 25 different drugs in drinking water, I panicked. This was on the heels of a study that linked acetaminophen in pregnancy with ADHD in children. If occasional use of endocrine-disrupting drugs like acetaminophen could affect a baby, what could they do to the rest of us if we were ingesting drugs on a daily basis through drinking water?
Are there drugs in my drinking water? Yes, as well as contaminants linked to cancer. After a moment of panic, I took these steps—and you should, too.
After calming down a bit, I decided to take some steps to assess the situation. First was figuring out what exactly was in my drinking water. So I hopped on over to theEnvironmental Working Group’s National Drinking Water Database to find out. This is a great and easy-to-use tool, but because it was last updated in 2009, the information may be out of date. (For more updated info, I could also have contacted my local utility for a water-quality report or called the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.)
The database couldn’t tell me what drugs were in my drinking water, but it did show levels of contaminants such as trihalomethanes as over the legal limit several times during the five-year period of testing. Trihalomethanes are disinfectants that are applied to water in treatment plantsand have been linked to liver, kidney and central nervous system problems, plus an increased risk of cancer. Oh, joy.
On the plus side, no mercury showed up in our drinking water. So there’s that.
I briefly considered converting my entire drinking water supply to bottled, until I realized that it could actually be worse for our health, because:
1. A Natural Resources Defense Council report found that 25% of bottled drinking water is actually tap water.
2. Although they now must label bottled water from municipal sources, manufacturers aren’t required to regularly test their water—or disclose what they find in it—unlike tap water, which is tested weekly by the EPA.
3. Many plastic water bottles contain hormone disrupting chemicals like BPA, which can leach into water.
4. Bottled water is expensive—ringing up as much as $50 per month for a family of four. And we’ve got five.
Instead, I took a deeper look at our refrigerator filtration system, which I use for cooking and drinking water. Ours is carbon made from coconut shells, which filters for chlorine, lead, sediment, dirt and rust. And I know from reading up on the EPA study that charcoal does work to filter some pharmaceuticals. Phew!
In the meantime, I checked out additional filtration options at EWG’s Water Filter Buying Guide. I’m fantasizing about a whole house reverse osmosis filter, which addresses substances that carbon can’t, such as arsenic and chromium—also detected in my drinking water—as well as perchlorate, which wasn’t.
And I’m also trying not to obsess about the drugs in our drinking water—although the study findings were truly frightening. Scientists examined samples from 50 wastewater plants and tested for 56 different drugs; they found medication to treat high blood pressure was found in the highest quantities, but over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen and prescription drugs such as hydrocodone were also found.
It does make sense, considering a 2013 Mayo Clinic Study which found that 70 percent of Americans now take prescription drugs, compared to 48 percent just five years ago. The drugs get into our water when we excrete them or flush old drugs down the toilet.
But because the pharmaceuticals register in such small amounts—measured in parts per billion, in some cases—health officials aren’t worried about the risk to humans. However, some are concerned about their effect on plants and wildlife, especially fish.
In fact, last year the FDA denied a petition that would have required pharmaceutical companies to do a more thorough analysis of how drugs in wastewater will affect aquatic life.
In the meantime, scientists have been measuring pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supplyfor more than a decade, after fish were found to have both male and female characteristics linked to oral contraceptives.
Giving me even more reason to change my water filter.
To read more by Rachel Sarnoff, check out her blog.
By: Jenna Smith
Cooking is a big part of entertaining, but there are plenty of other aspects that need consideration when trying to enjoy the holidays. Did you have enough space for everyone you invited? (Does anyone? EVER?) Was the table large enough to accommodate your guests? Questions such as these can help you ensure that your next holiday goes exceptionally well, or at least that Auntie’s new boyfriend doesn’t have to sit on a bean bag chair during dinner.
By Jennifer Smith
Bringing the entire family together is easier said than done. This is especially true in these modern times where computers and the Internet have all but completely taken over the lives of teenagers and young adults (and let’s face it: us parents, too). And many family-time options are costly. But music is one perfect option for bringing family together, and it doesn’t have to cost you a dime.
Consider the following ways in which music brings us closer, all of which make a case for exploring music more with your friends and family:
Learn an Instrument Yourself. Many people feel as if they’re incapable of learning how to play music simply because they haven’t taken the time to do so yet in their lives. The fact is, however, learning to play an instrument doesn’t need to be difficult, and can be an extremely enriching and rewarding experience. You can often find big brand guitars for cheap prices by shopping the sales at your local music stores. Lessons don’t have to expensive either. You can pursua a new interest AND spend time with your family by teaching it to them as well.
Have a Weekly Jam Session. One of the most enjoyable aspects of learning how to play an instrument is having the opportunity to jam with other people. While family schedules can often get in the way of spending quality time at home, you can help to get your family more involved by holding a weekly jam session –every Monday night, for example. This way, you can teach your family what you’ve been learning about music, and can even invite friends over to take part in the jam. This is a fun and inexpensive way to have a truly exciting evening at home.
Encourage Your Family. As rewarding as learning how to play music can be, it can also be an extremely frustrating experience. Those who are trying to learn a new instrument can often get discouraged throughout the process, and many decide to stop playing as a result. You should do everything possible to encourage your family members to stick with music, especially if they begin to show signs of frustration. Explain that nothing worth seeking out is easily attainable, and that music is no exception to the rule; this can be a very encouraging statement.
There is no doubt that music – be it for celebration, expression, ambience, appreciation -has the power to bring people together. Remember to utilize music with your family time as often as possible.
By Jennifer Smith
When you were a kid you were probably encouraged to participate in creative activities ranging from drawing and painting classes in elementary school, to music and art classes in high school. However, as you’ve gotten older, you may have lost some of that creative spark simply because financial responsibilities and the need to take care of your family took over.
Making a little time in your life to do something creative is an excellent way to relieve stress and have a little fun in your downtime. Creative activities can also keep your brain active as you age, which may be an important part of preventing problems like Alzheimer’s disease, according to recent medical research.
Take Music Lessons
If you’re like most people, you would love to be able to play an instrument. Learning to play an instrument can be a great way to flex your creative muscles, and there are fortunately a lot of places to get help, like takelessons.com. It does not matter if you choose to play the piano, guitar, violin, or a brass instrument.
All these great instruments will help you take on a rewarding and challenging hobby. With the resources of the Internet, want ads, word of mouth, and more, music lesson tips and resources.
If you are pressed for time and always feel like you have somewhere to be, but want to work a creative activity into your day, drawing may be for you. Drawing is a simple activity since it doesn’t require a lot of setup time and materials. All you need to begin drawing is a pencil and a sketch pad – if you enjoy the activity, you can invest in higher-quality art materials like charcoal, colored pencils, and archival quality paper so you can keep your drawings.
If you don’t know what to draw, just draw something in your house or purchase a basic skill book. Such books provide exercises and scenes in which you can set up household items like fruit in a basket or a vase with flowers in it.
Watercolor painting is one of the best creative activities you can do if you are looking to relieve the stress of a busy day. Like drawing, watercolor painting is fairly simple and doesn’t require a lot of expensive materials or setup time. To start watercolor painting, all you really need is a book of watercolor paper or loose sheets of paper made specifically for watercolor painting, a set of watercolor paints, watercolor brushes, a mixing tin, and an easel. Many art supply stores even sell packages of watercolor items for low prices.
C’mon Rembrandt, we adults need our “choice time” too. Explore your creative side again – just like when you were a kid.
By Jennifer Smith
It’s that time of year again and you’ve probably been thinking about getting your holiday cards in the mail. Whether or not your family and friends admit it, they do enjoy receiving your card. Many look forward to checking the mailbox around the holidays because they often receive cards from all kinds of relatives with pictures and good wishes. This is a fun part of the holiday and it all starts with designing your card.
You don’t have to create the typical card with just a family picture and a message that says “Happy Holidays”. With the right online options, you can choose a custom template and make the card your own. The entire family can be involved and you can even include your pets in the card. Holiday cards by Invitation Box, for example, can help you create a fun and enjoyable card for everybody.
Designing the Perfect Holiday Card
Your family is very unique and you all have a personality you share. This should be a part of your card every year. The first step whenever you need to design a card is to choose the theme. This may be the most difficult part of the entire process. Most families already have a picture ready for the card, so choosing the theme is the part they struggle with, especially since there are so many choices.
The best way to choose a theme is to browse through and pick a handful that you really like. Get the kids involved and make it a family experience. This can be fun and the entire family should have some input. Narrow it down to three to five different choices and find out which one the whole family likes the most. Kids get excited when they get to help, especially the younger ones.
After you’ve chosen a theme, you can customize it a little with different colors, fonts, and the actual message of your card. All of these changes can reflect your family in personality and how you want your card to look. Just because your friends and other family members might choose a more basic theme, font, or colors, doesn’t mean you have to. Remember, this is your holiday card and you can make it look however, you want.
A few other things you may want to consider: the size of the card, whether you want to use both sides or just one, a card that folds or one of many other options. When Mom, Dad and all the kids get together and choose the card, it will be a fun experience. Making this a family tradition can also help make the card reflect your family and your family’s personality.
By: Rachel Sarnoff/Ecostiletto
Do you hate the way perfume samples in magazines make you sneeze–or worse? So do we. That’s why we were so proud of EcoStiletto’s founder, Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff, for launching an online petition to convince the CEOs of Condé Nast, Time Inc, Hearst Magazines and Fairchild Fashion Media to stop poisoning our air and ban fragrance samples from the magazines that they publish.
A 2010 study by the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that top-selling perfumes contain, on average, 14 different hazardous chemicals that aren’t listed on their labels.
Many of these perfumes contain toxic chemicals like diethyl phthalate, which has been linked to developmental, reproductive, endocrine and immune system problems, as well as allergies and hormone disruption. Typically, perfumes also include paraben preservatives, which have been linked to early onset of puberty in girls.
We can choose not to buy toxic perfumes, but we can’t do anything about the perfume samples that scent magazine pages.
Will you please sign the petition and share with your friends? Thanks!
P.S. Want a truly natural perfume that won’t make you sneeze? Rachel demo’s her DIY recipe, using ingredients from your kitchen cupboard, in this video.
Feeling lucky? During the week of 12.24.12 FOUR EcoStiletto Subscriber will each win a $25 shopping spree at Zosimos Botanicals, where they you can try a gorgeous, petrochemical-free, solid jasmine perfume for just $3. Really! All subscribers are entered to win.
By Shira Gill / Simply Sorted
Metro shelving can be used for pantries, garages or anywhere else you need sturdy shelving. I like the simple industrial look and they can be secured to the wall for added security.
By: Rachel Sarnoff
Got spots? A true friend won’t let you get away with calling them “freckles,” and we’re totally the real deal. Those dark patches are in fact hyperpigmentation, a sign of sun damage caused by an increase in melanin production, which happens when the skin is trying to protect itself from overexposure to UV rays.
So now that summer’s over, how do you get rid of the resulting spots?
Dermatologists and estheticians might prescribe hydroquinone, a lightening agent that’s super-effective because it suppresses melanin production. But hydroquinone is also a major Big List offender: It’s been linked to cancer and neurotoxicity; it’s toxic to the immune system, a known skin irritant and allergen, an endocrine disruptor, and classified as an air pollutant and pesticide by the EPA.
Oh, and if you stop using it for a minute the spots come back in triplicate.
So what’s a bespeckled gal to do?
Exfoliate. Removing surface layers of damaged skin will lighten dark spots over time, as new skin replaces damaged skin. Try an AHA product like REN’s Resurfacing AHA Concentrate. The potent, yet non-irritating blend of glycolic, lactic, tartaric and citric acids promotes skin-cell turnover, leaving skin looking brighter and smoother while working to lighten those dark spots.
Lighten up. Use a safe, natural lightening formula like Tatcha’s Deep Brightening Complex. Made without hydroquinone or a number of other nasties, it’s formulated with time-tested, Asian botanicals plus their patented HADASEI-3 Bioactive Complex brightens areas of darker pigmentation for more radiant skin.
Cover up. Wear a physical (not chemical) SPF every day, even on cloudy, cold, winter days. Yes, every minute counts: You can soak up necessary vitamin D by exposing the rest of your body to the sun, but not your face! COOLA makes fantastic, no-nano, titanium dioxide based sunscreens, with matte formulations available for oily girls, and hydrating for those with dry or sensitive skin. Both are available in a tinted version that we’re obsessed with: Just add a little mineral powder and you’re good to go.
Moral of the story? As tempting as a quick fix for sun spots it may be, do yourself a big favor and skip the hydroquinone in favor of safe-and-effective natural options.
Swag alert! Swag alert! Week of 12.10.12 FOUR EcoStiletto subscribers will each win a $36 COOLA mineral sunscreen of their choice. Tell a friend! Subscribing is free and that’s $100 in swag. Not a subscriber? Click through to sign up, already!
By: Rachel Sarnoff/ Eco Stilleto
Alysia Reiner stole scenes in “Sideways” and “Kissing Jessica Stein” but our biggest props go to her eco-commitment. Alysia, an award-winning actress and producer who green renovated a Harlem brownstone with her husband David Alan Basche in 2007, currently appears in “Backwards.” In this exclusive interview with EcoStiletto, our source for sustainable fashion, beauty & lifestyle, Alysia talks the walk.
EcoStiletto: So what are you up to these days?
Alysia Reiner: It’s been a crazy few days with the premieres of Backwards, which comes out September 21st. They just sent me the most beautiful dresses to wear. I need to find an eco-designer but meanwhile I love borrowing—it’s so much more green than buy-and-wear-once!
You just wrapped “Primrose Lane.” Is it true that you asked the makeup artist to use eco-friendly makeup on set?
Actually, it was the first film I ever worked on where I requested green makeup and they not only listened, they had it planned already! It’s nice to have a green rep.
Usually, I do what I can to green a set: bring my own coffee mug (love this corn plastic one), bring my own cutlery set (got this super-cute one on etsy), make sure there are recycling bags and bring a pen so people can label their water bottles and coffee cups.
But makeup is a hard one. Most makeup artists are not that into eco friendly choices. YET. Every makeup artist in the world now uses Joa instead of Purell, but that’s as green as they get. (P.S. I am MAD for their GOE body oil. OMG amazing!)
Who was the makeup artist? Was she a green beauty girl?
It was Nikki Williams. She was great because she wasn’t married to any brands and open to trying anything.
What brands did you use?
We used mostly Bare Essentials and Jane Iredale. I hadn’t used either a lot before and thought both were good. I’m now a Bare girl—love the powder. My director felt both were ideal for shooting HD.
I also brought a few secret weapons. I am a huge TARTE fan. No, they’re not organic but a lot of it is free of petrochemical crap, and they have an awesome Lip Tint/Stain that I love in Rose. It’s very wine colored—love love—and STAYS ON, which is so key for film.
I also love RMS Uncover—it’s so great for undereye and covering red—from Spirit Beauty Lounge. I love a ton of stuff from Spirit Beauty, but that’s another article!
Thanks Alysia! Hopefully we can talk again soon!
BEFORE: A large utility closet used to be a catch-all for the vacuum cleaner, kid stuff, and to-dos. We had to relocate everything to prepare for the new nursery!
AFTER: A cozy rug, new lighting, and some handmade curtains did the trick on a dime!
We added a few toys and dolls to make it a bit cozier.
Amazing what a carpet can do to warm up a space!
Any creative uses for your closets? Share, please!