Friday, September 27, 2013

What's the Phuss over Phthalates?

eScential Products are Phthalate free. So many aren't...why should you care? Phthalates act as fragrance extenders. They make scent last a long time, something we, as consumers, like. In Canada, you do not need to list phthalates on the label. But, as they are used as part of the fragrance cocktail, if the label says "fragrans," "fragrance' or "parfum", you can bet it has phthalates. Have you ever walked outside, and smelled someone's laundry...that whiff of dryer sheets so potent it drifts out into the great outdoors and can be smelled literally half a block away? Well...that's the persistence and power of synthetic scent. It is not a good thing.

If that's not bad enough, I recently watched a commercial for a new product that you add to your washer, along with your laundry detergent, to make the scent in the detergent extra long lasting. And let's not forget those pesky plug in fragrance products to make your room smell good.

There are many kinds of phthalates, but 2 commonly used ones (dibutyl phthalate and diethylhexyl phthalate) are rated a "10" by Skin Deep. They are considered an endocrine disruptor by the Environmental Working Group, as well as by Environmental Defence. They are toxic to the reproductive system, and normal development. They persist in the environment, and, show up in both blood and breast milk. They are linked with an increase in allergies and asthma in children. As children are so small, they are especially sensitive to the effects of phthalates.

Phthalates are found in anything scented. BUT...did you know, that they can even be lurking in products that are NOT scented? In Canada, if you add scent to a product not to make it smell pretty, but, strictly to mask the scent of the raw materials in the product, they do not have to list scent on the label. Even worse - if this is the case, they can label the product "Unscented"!!! No wonder it's hard to get a "clean" product!!

Phthalates are listed as one of Environmental Defence's Toxic Ten. Always read labels! Even the word "unscented" on a product is not a guarantee of being phthalate free. Search out cosmetic lines that actively promote "toxin free" products.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How "Clean" are your Cleaning Supplies?

Adria Vasil, the Goddess of Green, has reviewed some commonly used household cleaners that are advertised as being non toxic. But, "greenwashing" is a Big Problem. Greenwashing is when a product is promoted as being non-toxic, but, isn't. Sometimes ingredients aren't listed. Companies can use the escape hatch of saying their formulas are proprietary information, and may not be required to list all ingredients. Sometimes, even reading labels is not enough! 
I am always amazed by how smart packaging and expensive marketing campaigns promote products-cleaning, cosmetic, whatever - in such a fashion that consumers have no doubt that the product is both harmless to them, and to the environment. Sadly, this is most often not the case. With cosmetics, at least you have the opportunity to read the ingredient label and decide for yourself. Checking the ingredients against the "Toxic Ten" list is a quick and easy way to see if your cosmetics are following the old adage, "First, do no harm." But cleaners are a different story.
Of course, there are lots of other cleaners out there, in addition to the ones that Adria has reviewed. Be wary! Adria's pick (also my own) is to clean with baking soda and vinegar. You can pretty much do your entire house with castile soap, baking soda, and vinegar. A few drops of essential oil (your choice of fragrance, though lemon and orange are always popular) can provide a great fresh smell! I'm very fond of Dr. Bronner's Peppermint scented organic and fair trade liquid castile soap. Wonderful for hardwood floors! You only need a tiny bit....just a teaspoon in a small pail of water. Too much can leave a floor streaky.
Another hot tip is to add a tablespoon of vinegar to your automatic fabric softener dispenser in your washer, instead of any fabric softener. Fabric softeners are dreadful! They coat fabric with chemicals, they contain a ton of synthetic scent...that's why clothing comes out of the dryer and stays scented for weeks! In fact, I have been outside for a walk, and, can occasionally smell the air coming from someone's dryer vent because they are using dryer sheets. Ugh! You just know that cannot be a good thing. Vinegar prevents static cling, disinfects the clothes and washer. I have a front loader, and, I no longer have that "skunky smell" so common to front loaders. Towels dry fluffy. Save money...use your own cleaners.
Have a look at Adria's chart to see if what you are currently using meets her "clean and green" standard.