Eco-Smart Tips from Our Friends at Environmental Working Group

Trick or Treat!

It’s October once again, which means if you have kids chances are they’re already chomping at the bit in anticipation of the big night. After all, what’s better than dressing up as your favorite superhero and coming home at the end of the night with a sack full of candy? But as parents we always worry about the health and safety of our little ones, and this season I’d like to pass along some smart tips from our friends at EWG on how to have a greener, less toxic Halloween. Great ideas, guys!

Pick Play Makeup Carefully.

Many children like to wear colorful cosmetics as part of their costumes. If they do, make sure they use safer products and apply them as directed.

Skip the (Colored) Hairspray.

Many hairsprays contain toxic chemicals and fragrance. Kids can easily breathe in sprays. Instead, find a great hat or wig at a second-hand store; or create a great hair-do with ribbons, barrettes and safer, non-spray hair products.

Burn More Eco-friendly Candles (if at all).

Candles can off-gas toxic compounds. Choose fragrance-free candles made from bee, palm or soy wax. Traditional paraffin-wax candles are made from petroleum byproducts.

Don’t Wear Synthetic Facemasks or Teeth.

Masks and fake teeth are made from a variety of synthetic materials that aren’t always labeled. Plastics may be softened with endocrine-disrupting phthalates. Rather than cover your head in unknown, possibly toxic materials, make your own mask from simple materials or try a half-face, masquerade-style mask instead.

Offer Treats with Fewer, More Natural Ingredients

Products to Avoid:

Face Paints can contain lead, which can impact brain development at extremely low doses, as well as nickel, cobalt and chromium, which cause skin sensitization and contact dermatitis.

Lipstick can contain hidden lead. Because little ones tend to eat almost as much as they put on their lips, it is best to avoid lipstick all together. Opt instead for a shiny beeswax-based lip balm.

Nail Polish often contains dibutyl phthalate and toluene, chemicals linked to hormone disruption and cancer.

Cosmetics in Powder Form can easily be inhaled. Depending on the particle size, the powder can lodge in children’s nasal passages and even lungs – where it may cause damage.

Fragrance Products Read ingredient labels and avoid products listing “fragrance”. EWG research found that fragrances may contain allergens or hormone-disrupting chemicals.

Create a Low-impact Costume.

Rather than buying a new costume, get creative with items you already own or can get used at a local resale shop or from friends. Consider a costume swap at school or among friends.

If You are Going to a Party.

Rather than buying a new costume, get creative with items you already own or can get used at a local resale shop or from friends. Consider a costume swap at school or among friends.

If You are Going to a Party.

If you are going to a party or planning a quick meal, skip the single-use dinnerware. Choose a more sustainable option.

Decorate Naturally.

Grab pumpkins, gourds and hay bales from a local farm to create a haunting scene and reuse decorations from year to year.

The New “Dirty Dozen” May Change Your Shopping List

Any food we consume these days, unless it’s organic, was almost certainly exposed to pesticides at some point. The use of pesticides on food crops has largely increased over the last century in America. In a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, pesticides were detected in 96 percent of blood and urine samples of more than 5,000 Americans age 6 and older. Pesticide prevalence in the US is higher than it’s ever been and the toxicity of pesticides is unquestionable. These harmful chemicals have been linked to various health problems, such as skin, eye and lung irritation, brain and nervous system toxicity and hormone disruption.

Buying organic is the healthiest choice but with limited supply and high prices, purchasing all organic produce may not be possible for the average shopper. Luckily we now have some perspective on the world’s most polluted produce with the annual “dirty dozen” list.

For the past 7 years the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit environmental health organization, has helped consumers who are concerned about pesticides on produce. Each year EWG scientists test conventionally grown (not organic) produce samples for pesticide residues and use data collected from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Analysts assemble a ranking of the fruits and vegetables that contain the greatest amount of pesticide residues called the “dirty dozen.” This inventory helps consumers decide which organic fruits and vegetables to splurge on when they’re shopping for produce. Similarly, a separate list is released of the non-organic produce with the least accumulation of potentially harmful pesticide residues called the “clean fifteen.”

Dirty Dozen 2011 (buy organic when possible)

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes (imported)
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries (domestic)
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/collard greens

Clean Fifteen 2011 (lowest amounts of pesticides)

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplants
  9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms 

You may be thinking that you’re in the clear because you wash all of your fruits and veggies. While it’s true that washing non-organic fruits and vegetables helps remove some chemical residues, washing produce only goes so far. Pesticides are also absorbed through the roots of plants so washing won’t remove all risk of pesticide exposure. Plus, before the EWG tests any fruit or vegetable for pesticides, samples are washed and peeled. Produce is evaluated just as it would be consumed, making the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” lists even more accurate.

But don’t let the dirty dozen scare you. The health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables far outweigh any pesticide exposure risk. It’s always best to choose organic when possible to limit your exposure to harmful levels of pesticides, but now you can choose your produce wisely and not break the bank in the process.

Since we’re all exposed to harmful chemicals like pesticides, remember to do a total-body cleanse 2-4 times each year to help keep your detoxification processes in tip-top shape.