Are These Drugs In Your Drinking Water?

April 22, 2014 by  
Filed under Eco, Healthy, Modern

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 This is a great and easy-to-use tool, but because it was last updated in 2009, the information may be out of date.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. 


Stop Magazine Air Pollution!

October 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Eco, Modern

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.


Erase Sun Spots, Naturally

October 22, 2012 by  
Filed under Eco, Modern

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! 


Alysia Reiner Exclusive Interview

October 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Eco, Modern

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!


Alysia Reiner in Theia at the “Backwards” premiere. Photo: Radar Online

Natalie Portman’s Secret Weapon Against Stretch Marks

October 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Beauty, Eco, Modern

By: Rachel Sarnoff/Ecostilleto

Are expensive eco lotions and potions really worth it? When EcoStiletto, our source for sustainable fashion, beauty & lifestyle, heard about Natalie Portman’s secret — albeit expensive — weapon against stretch marks, they had to check it out.

According to Pai, their vegan Stretch Mark System—a cream to be used in the morning, and an oil at night—was Natalie’s go-to throughout her pregnancy.

No expense was spared in the formulation: Pai utilizes an omega-rich blend of seven oils, and eschews essential oils to make the duo suitable for all stages of pregnancy—including the stage where the scent of anyfragrance makes you want to throw up.

And no petrochemical crap’s in the mix either: Pai eschews synthetics, artificial fragrances, alcohol, parabens, phenoxyethanol, propylene glycol, formaldehyde and sodium lauryl sulfate, among other things.

But is the cost worth it? Natalie Portman is one gorgeous mama. You be the judge.

For more beauty bits check out Ecostilleto 

Swag alert! Week of 11.12.12 FOUR EcoStiletto Subscribers will each win a $25 jar of Farmaesthetics Deep Lavender Rub. Subscribing is free and that’s $100 in swag. Not a subscriber? Click through to sign up, already! 


Do You Know There’s Lead In Lipstick?

October 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Eco, Modern


Whether you’re going natural or rocking red lips this season, make sure to color your pout with a lead-free, lip-loving formula.

Lead in lipstick? Indeed. EcoStiletto, our source for sustainable fashion, beauty & lifestyle, uncovered a 2007 FDA study, the neurotoxin—in varying levels—showed up in more than 400 lipsticks tested.

And while the FDA claims the level of exposure is low enough to be deemed safe, given the fact that lead accumulates in our bodies over time, we’ll follow guidelines established by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics: Steer clear when you can.

Lead isn’t the only lipstick ingredient to eschew. Also commonly found in many conventional formulas are artificial fragrances, parabens, and retinyl palmitate, all of which have high risk—five to eight—ratings on EWG’s Cosmetics Database.

So what’s a girl looking for a little color to do? Opt for natural options with clean ingredients, such as Alicia Silverstone for Juice Beauty’s new Purely Kissable Lip Color. In a universally flattering pale pinky-mauve, it goes on smooth with great shine. And of course, as all things Alicia, it’s vegan.

Two other amazing (non-vegan) faves with nearly cult-like followings are Primitive MakeUp and Ilia, both with hues and wearability to rival any top-tier tube. We’re especially loving Primitive’s Juneau Lip Treatment, a sheer pearl that adds a beautiful shimmer over matte lip pencil or stick.

Pucker up.


Alicia Silverstone for Juice Beauty Purely Kissable Lip Color ($16)

Swag alert! Week of 12.18.12 SIX EcoStiletto Subscribers will each win a $16 tube of Alicia Silverstone for Juice Beauty’s new Purely Kissable Lip Color. But wait, there’s more: During the week of 12.24.12 THREE EcoStiletto Subscribers will each win a $100 gift set of Primitive Makeup Lip Treatment and Pencils in six different shades, including Juneau. Subscribing is free and that’s $400+ in swag. Not a subscriber? Click through to sign up, already! 


Safe Chemicals Headed To The Hill- 36 Years Late

August 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Eco, Entertainment, Modern, News

By: Rachel Sarnoff

Senator Lautenberg celebrates on Capitol Hill. Photo: Chicago Tribune

Ready for some big news? The Senate voted to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). This may sound like just more political posturing to some, but for those of us involved in children’s environmental health, it’s a ridiculously big deal.

What’s the big deal about TSCA? It was passed in 1976 and hasn’t been touched since. It’s the reason we have flame retardants in our kids’ mattresses andBPA in their baby bottles (until recently).

Senator Frank Lautenberg has sponsored the Safe Chemicals Act each year since 2005. If the bill becomes law, it will be the first time that manufacturers would have to submit health and safety data for the chemicals that they produce.

And the EPA would have the power to restrict chemicals that cannot be proven safe — under TSCA, the EPA can only require safety testing after a chemical has demonstrated hazardous toxicity. According to the Chicago Tribune, “the EPA acknowledges that it knows little, if anything, about the safety of most of the 84,000 industrial compounds in commercial use in the U.S.”

The Senate, which voted on party lines — all Democrats in favor of reform; all Republicans opposed — is still under pressure from lobbying groups like the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates and will need bipartisan support to proceed.

I think those that voted for reform should be supported and those who are against it should know better, don’t you? That’s why I spent yesterday tweeting their names. Care to join me?


Senator Lautenberg celebrates on Capitol Hill. (Photo: Chicago Tribune)

@FrankLautenberg, @EPWChairBoxer, @MaxBaucus, @SenatorCarper, @SenatorCardin, @SenSanders, @SenJeffMerkley, @SenGilligrand, @SenWhitehouse & @SenatorTomUdall all voted 4 the #SafeChemicalsAct.

Shame on @jiminhofe, @DavidVitter, @SenJohnBarrasso, @SenatorSessions, @MikeCrapo,  @SenAlexander, @Mike_Johanns & @JohnBoozman, who all voted against. (Twitter handles courtesy of @SaferChemicals.)

Feel like getting involved? Tweet this!

You can find more on Rachel at Mommygreenest.  She also founded, 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


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, 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



How to Save Money on Gas

April 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Eco, Modern Living

By: Karla Wheaton


With the current tensions in Libya and other countries in the Middle East, the price of gasoline keeps going up and up. Gas prices near where I live are around $3.50 to $3.60 a gallon. This also comes at a time when many families’ budgets are already stretched to the max.

I don’t know about you, but this situation has me thinking. What can you do to save money on gas while also using less fuel to help the environment?

What can you do to your vehicle?

  • Minimize the weight you are carrying around in your car by cleaning out the extra clothes, kids’ sports equipment, and bags of items to donate to charity from your trunk.
  • Be sure to check your tire pressure regularly. Under-inflated tires can increase your fuel cost up to thirteen percent.
  • Take care of your car by keeping up with regular maintenance and changing your spark-plugs.
  • Use regular gas instead of premium. There is little difference in energy content between the two, but the premium can cost twenty to forty cents more per gallon.
  • Don’t top off your gas tank at the pump and make sure your fuel tank cap is on tight and working right.
  • Keep your luggage inside your car if possible. Using a loaded roof rack increases fuel consumption.

What can you do while driving?

  • Drive as if you don’t have brakes and be gentle with the accelerator.
  • Avoid idling. If you are waiting for someone and you’ll be parked for ten seconds or longer, turn off your car’s engine. Turning off the engine and then restarting it uses less fuel than idling for any time more than ten seconds. For every two minutes a car is idling, it uses about the same amount of fuel it takes to go about one mile. Idling is also linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease, and cancer.
  • Go slower up hills and faster down them.
  • Park in the first spot you find rather than driving around for another one. Also park for easy and direct departure.
  • In a hybrid, pulse and glide. How does it work? Say you are on a road and want to go sixty miles per hour. Instead of driving along at a steady sixty, you accelerate to seventy (that’s the pulse), and then coast in neutral with the engine off down to fifty (that’s the glide.) This technique can save gas with a hybrid, because you are basically using no gas at all during the glide.
  • During the colder months, “warming up your car” really only needs to take thirty seconds rather than ten minutes.
  • Don’t drive too fast. One of the biggest gasoline wasters is excess speed. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly with speeds above fifty-five miles per hour.
  • Use the air conditioner less. It can increase fuel costs from thirteen percent up to twenty-one percent.

What sort of lifestyle changes can you make?

  • Limit your driving. Find more fun things to do closer to home. Use public transportation like the bus or a train when you can. Carpool, walk, or take your bike. Work at home if your boss will let you.
  • Find the best gas prices. The website will let you know what the prices are by town or city and then by gas station in your state. Fuel prices can vary ten percent within a few blocks.
  • If you have one close by, buy your gas from a discount store like Sam’s or Costco. It doesn’t make much sense to drive too far out of your way to get to one of these places, though.
  • Limit your purchases when prices are high. Only fill your tank up halfway when they are higher and completely fill your tank when they are lower.
  • Buy a different vehicle – a diesel, a hybrid, a smaller car, a motorcycle, a scooter, or alternative fuel cars such as those that run on biodiesel, compressed natural gas, electricity, or ethanol.
  • Instead of having two cars in your family, share one. My husband and I shared one car while we were saving up to buy our home. We saved money by paying less for insurance, car maintenance costs, taxes, and inspection fees.

Some of these tips may seem obvious, but let them serve as good reminders. Even if we can’t run out and buy a hybrid, at least there are some things that we all can do to save some money and help save the planet.

One last thought – in Europe they pay 5.64 Euro or about $7.85 per gallon for gas. Why so much? It is mostly because of taxes. Is that crazy or just really smart? Look how many more people walk, bike, or use public transportation in European countries than in the United States.



[Photo Credit: TahoeSunsets]


The Average Green Joe

April 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Eco

By: Susan Howard

  1. Bring your own bags to the grocery store.  Once you do it you’ll get over the hump, plus you can look down on everyone else in the check out line.  I heard about a woman that forgot her bags and got so mad at herself that she hand carried her purchases item by item to her car.
  2. Don’t get your receipts at the ATM.  You can view the transaction without getting a paper copy.  All you do is get them and then throw them out two seconds later.  (We got this one from Oprah.)
  3. Recycle.  If you aren’t doing this by now I mean really you are so 80’s.
  4. Don’t use the department store bag when shopping. Be sure to hang onto receipts so you don’t get busted Winona Ryder style.
  5. Go veggie mostly.  There’s a whole phenomenon about raising cattle and their poo, but I am not sure if you’ve had your breakfast yet, so let’s just say the poo can be lethal, but really.
  6. Use environmental cleaning products.  The one I know is Mrs. Meyers, but there are a ton out there.  It’s funny when you wash something down the drain you think “bye!”, but that water goes somewhere.  Full disclosure: I still use Comet sometimes.
  7. Take quicker showers.  What happens to you people in that shower?
  8. Re-insulate your house.  Although this is fairly expensive and we have not yet done it, supposedly you save a bunch on your heating bill, and use less energy.  Plus get the bragging right with your neighbors.
  9. Check on Craig’s List for something you might have wanted to purchase new- you know: re-use, re-cycle, re-purpose.

10.  Tell all your billing companies that you want your bills paperless.  I’ve got to get on this one; there are still a few that send bills to us.

And if you have trouble doing these things- read Annette’s article “It Ain’t Easy Being Green” and you will feel compelled to do SOMETHING.


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