web analytics
Oct 042010

From Green Right Now Reports

If you’ve been anywhere at all in the last few years, you’ve seen dozens of variations on t shirts promoting breast cancer awareness, research and solutions.

Uma Thurman Models Donna Karan breast cancer awareness T

The latest iteration, designed by Donna Karan and sold by Saks Fifth Avenue stores, is worth a fresh look. It’s not your midriff-creeping Saturday morning t crammed with local sponsor names. This little item from Donna Karan t shirt could go to lunch with jewelry, even dinner, and more importantly, 100 percent of the proceeds of its sale will go to benefit local charity partners of Saks’ Key to the Cure campaign.

The T, modeled here by Uma Thurman (don’t expect your abs to rival hers), is available now during Breast Cancer Awareness month. It retails for $35.

Uma Thurman, who was photographed by Fabrizio Ferri in the t shirt,  is taking over from Gywneth Paltrow as the face of the campaign.

“Everyone I know has been affected by breast cancer one way or the other,” Thurman said in a statement. “It is vital that we work toward a cure as well as develop more accurate and advance testing. I am proud to be a part of KEY TO THE CURE and look forward to the day we can say breast cancer is no longer a life threat to women.”

Breast cancer awareness is a health issue, and a green issue, because emerging evidence shows that eating a more plant-based diet, or at least one that’s lower in fat, may reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast and other cancers.

BPAs, which affect the body’s hormonal system, also have been implicated in breast and other cancers. This suggests that eating organic foods and limiting exposure to BPAs (found in the linings of canned food and in polycarbonate plastic) may help maintain human health.

Saks also will donate an additional $375,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and two percent of sales (up to $500,000) from everything sold during charity shopping weekend, Oct. 21-24.

Jun 212010

The Environmental Working Group helps sort out which sunscreens are safest.

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

If you want to save your skin from sun damage, you’ll have to do more than just slap on the sunscreen with the highest UVA/UVB number.

In fact, there’s a wealth to learn about on the fine print of your prospective skin cancer protectant, but unless you’ve got a master’s in bio-chemistry, you’ll need a little help. That’s where the non-profit chemical watchdog organization Environmental Working Group comes in.

Badger Sunscreen, protects without adding toxic chemicals

According to the EWG, the old method of just looking for the brand that promised the highest protection via the AVA/AVB number listed on its label is simply not good enough. There’s a better way to sort out the most effective and safest sunscreens — by looking for products that use zinc or titanium minerals to block out the sun’s harmful rays, but stay away from a lot of toxic additives.

The zinc and titanium minerals are what keep the sun’s harmful rays from damaging your precious epidermis, and thereby reduce your risk of skin cancer. They’re not perfect solutions, but they perform the work you need. It’s the many other ingredients that find their way into your sunscreen that you must watch out for.

The EWG has vetted sunscreens, culled those with unhealthful ingredients, to produce a list of  safer, non-toxic, sunscreens. None of its non-toxic selections contain harmful ingredients such as oxybenzone or vitamin A (which can increase sun sensitivity) or any other ingredient that’s been found to be a hormone disruptor. (When it comes to protection, kids and teens especially should really avoid hormone-affecting ingredients.)

Some of the brands that made the EWG recommended list (click to see the EWG assessment for each one) include:

Most of the sunscreens sold under these labels rate a low 1 or 2 on the 10-point toxicity scale (with 1 being the safest and 10 being the most toxic) developed by the EWG. A few variants might have a higher rating (meaning they contain one or more ingredients of moderate concern). But none rank in the red-alert zone.

These brands are commonly available at natural food markets and online.

Unfortunately, some of the most popular brands on the market today, sold at big retail outlets, receive some of the worst marks from EWG.

Soleo Organic's 30+ can be safer than toxic competitor's with 100 UVA/UBA ratings

Soleo Organic's 30+ sunscreen can be better for you than some sunscreens with a 100 UVA/UBA rating

Some of the big brands offer options, however, that fall into the low toxicity range. Coppertone, for instance, offers several variations for kids that rank a 3 on the 10-point scale. Coppertone Kids Pure and Simple ranks a 3 overall. It does contains some ingredients of concern, such as formaldehyde and methyl paraben. But on balance, it’s not as  problematic as other sunscreens that contain many additives of concern, including synthetic fragrances.

Many popular sunscreens rated in the “to avoid” range because of dangerous additives like oxybenzone, which has been linked to reproductive health problems and is considered to be an endocrine disruptor.

Banana Boat’s Kids Max Protect and Play Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, SPF 100, is one example of how a product that looks protective can be less effective and even contain harmful ingredients, according to the EWG rating system.

Kids Max Protect rates a 7 on the scale because it contains several dubious ingredients, including oxybenzone, one of the most harmful ingredients found in sunscreens.

So this summer, don’t get burned, check out your sunscreens with the help of EWG.

Copyright © 2010 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN NetworkI

Oct 132009

Green Right Now Reports

Just when we got clear of growth hormones in our milk, now comes news that estrogens and other hormones are floating around our waterways, interfering with the biological functions of fish and wildlife — and causing yet untallied health issues for humans.

These synthetic and natural hormones from plastics, pesticides and prescription drugs that have been flushed into sewer systems are “seeping into rivers and streams and having unintended consequences on wildlife, causing some male fish to become feminized and lay eggs,” according to a news release promoting a conference on the subject.

The Tenth International Symposium on Environment and Hormones will be held later this month at Tulane University, bringing together experts from around the world to consider the latest research in this field.

Some of those findings, according to a report in Aquatic Toxicology, are:

  • That almost all of the rivers and streams tested in the United States contained some hormonally active chemicals.
  • That nearly one-third of 111 US river basics sampled contained feminized male fish that scientists suspect have been altered by pollution from industrial byproducts, pesticides and other chemicals, possibly including antidepressants, contraceptives and other medications that end up in waste water and cannot be filtered by most city waste water treatment plants.

The conference will also look at how these ambient hormones affect humans, by disrupting the endocrine system and playing a role in diseases like breast cancer.

It will include sessions about DES (diethylstilbestrol), a synthetic form of estrogen linked to increased cancer risks and Bisphenol-A, a compound found in plastic food containers and the resin linings of food cans that has been implicated as a hormone disruptor.

Terry Collins, a chemistry expert and advocate running a campaign to get companies to anticipate how their products might act in the environment, will be a key speaker. He will discuss the potential human harm from these plastic byproducts and pharmaceuticals and explain why companies need to develop biodegradable forms.

“It is one of the hottest topics in environmental biology right now,” said John McLachlan, director of the Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research, in a new statement promoting the conference.

“The biological activity of these compounds both in terms of other species and, potentially, ourselves is something that scientists are becoming more and more aware of through research.”

“They all [the chemicals] end up in different places in the environment,” he says. “What do they do to the wildlife that absorb them and, more importantly, what do they do to our water sources?”

The conference will be Oct. 21-24 at the Pere Marquette Hotel in New Orleans and is open to the public and students.

May 222009

From Green Right Now Reports:

As toxicologists see it, our chemical world is neither as dangerous as portrayed by the mainstream media and environmental groups, nor as safe as the American Chemistry Council and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) would have us believe.

That’s according to a survey of 937 members of the Society of Toxicology in early 2009. The survey, released Thursday, was administered by Harris Interactive and conducted by the nonprofit Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) and Center for Health and Risk Communication at George Mason University.

“This survey suggests that the public doesn’t get a full and balanced picture of chemical risk,” said Dr. Robert Lichter, the survey director.

While the toxicologists surveyed believed that certain chemicals portrayed as dangerous in media stories actually pose little risk — such as those used in Teflon and the Bisphenol A used in plastic – more than half of them said they believed that pesticides pose a “significant health risk” and that chemicals cause hormonal disruptions in humans.

Distortions occur when the media pay too much attention to individual cases and also to the agenda set by environmental groups, according to the survey findings. More than 90 percent said they felt media coverage of chemical-related issues lacked balance and failed to distinguish good studies from bad studies and also to explain that “the dose makes the poison” (that chemicals that are dangerous in high doses can be safe in small doses).

They also said that WebMD and Wikipedia offered more balanced coverage than more established media outlets.

A majority of toxicologists felt that most government agencies do a better job than the media, environmental groups or trade associations of accurately portraying chemical risks, though they rated the Environmental Protection Agency (40 % ) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (47%) lower.

The findings:

When asked to agree or disagree with statements about chemical safety and regulation:

• 26% believe cosmetics pose a significant health risk
• 33% believe food additives pose a significant health risk
• 55% believe pesticides pose a significant health risk
• 53% believe chemicals cause endocrine disruption
• Only 10% believe organic or “natural” products are inherently safer
• Only 6% believe that any exposure to a harmful chemical is unacceptable
• 69% say chemicals do not need to be regulated according to the precautionary principle
• Only 23% say the U.S. regulatory system is inferior to Europe’s
• 54% say U.S. regulators are not doing a good job explaining chemical risks

Despite recent controversies in the news over the safety of commonly used chemicals, few toxicologists believe they pose a high health risk:

• 3% see Teflon as having a high degree of risk
• 3% see genetically modified organisms as high risk
• 9% see Bisphenol A, a component of many plastics, as high risk
• 11% see phthalates, which make vinyl flexible, as high risk
• 12% see high fructose corn syrup, used in soft drinks, as high risk

The toxicologists overwhelmingly say that environmental activist groups overstate the health risks of chemicals. But they also say industry groups underplay the risks:

• 96% say Greenpeace overstates the health risks of chemicals
• 80% say the Environmental Defense Fund overstates chemical risks
• 79% say the Environmental Working Group, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Center for Science in the Public Interest overstate the risks
• 57% say the American Chemistry Council understates chemical risks
• 60% say the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) understates chemical risks
• In contrast, majorities say that most U.S. governmental agencies accurately portray risk, with only the EPA (40%) and the CPSC (47%) falling below a majority

The study has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points, according to Harris Interactive, a survey research firm.