The Dirty Dozen updated: Apples top the list for pesticide residues

Apples, strawberries, grapes and celery. All of these are healthy foods, but unfortunately they arrive at the grocery with the highest pesticide residues and top the latest “Dirty Dozen” list released by the Environmental Working Group. The other Dirty Dozen foods include some of the most delectable fruits and vegetables. You’ll just have to buy the organic versions if you want to avoid the trace pesticides that ride along.

Worried about toxic ingredients in cleaners? See our new improved list of the greenest products

When the Environmental Working Group released their scorecard on green cleaners last month, I sprang from my chair to check the label on the case of Ecover Limescale Remover that UPS had just delivered.

I don’t usually buy by the case, but this was the only way I could get this cleaner, which I adore because it transforms my shower door from an icky, opaque bacteria-generator into a sheet of glistening glass, without using toxic ingredients. Or so I believed.
Fortunately, my limescale remover skated by with a solid “B” on the EWG 2012 Guide to Healthy Cleaning. Whew!

But some of the other products I’m using did not make the grade, despite being sold as “green” or “natural” products.

That’s right. Amazingly, many green cleaners contain endocrine disrupters, suspected carcinogens, toxic ingredients with unknown effects and needlessly harsh ingredients, like sodium laurel sulfate, according to the EWG review of more than 2,000 cleaners .

The gift of cell phones may radiate more than love

ell phones and tablet computers may be coveted holiday gifts, but parents should consider the potential health effects of these devices before giving them to children, according to the Environmental Health Trust (EHT) and Healthy Child Healthy World (HCHW) , two educational groups focused on environmental health…. Manufacturer safety warnings, the groups note, are simply not sufficient to protect children because they were designed to meet a test for a “typical user” who never was typical:

To really save your skin this summer, use less toxic sunscreens


If you want to save your skin from the 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, and unless you’ve got a master’s in bio-chemistry, you’ll need a little help. That’s where the Environmental Working Group can help.

Green groups need your year-end donations

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Now that you’ve worn off the magnetic strip on the credit card buying presents for everyone, gotten the letter that your health insurance premiums are doubling and your job is being “redefined,” it’s time to think about those year-end donations. Sigh.

While environmental groups will likely have an easier time on Capitol Hill next year talking policy with a new Administration that sees global warming as a real threat, they paradoxically could be facing headwinds with donors.

Consider first that some of their large contributors may have been dragged down in the Bernard Madoff securities/Ponzi scheme, which savaged many charitable foundations. While the extent of that damage is being assessed, it’s safe to assume that even nonprofits that escaped that five-alarm fire, have been singed by the economic meltdown.

Consider natural beauty products and avoid hidden toxins

By Barbara Kessler

After the Environmental Working Group released research on toxins in beauty products showing that teen girls could be especially vulnerable (see our blog), we took a closer look at alternative beauty supplies. These products opt for botanicals and other natural and organic ingredients over the suspect synthetic chemicals — phthalates, parabens and made-made fragrances — that can lurk in your body butter and play games with your hormone or immune system.

The happy news: Natural products are gaining ground in stores. We found everything listed below at Main Street outlets like Target, Walgreens, Ulta, Drugstore.com, Amazon.com., and Whole Foods. And the labels are getting quite explicit, many note when they’re paraben- and phthalate-free. While we can’t scientifically endorse the samplings below, we can say we have used most of them and found them to be effective — and as pampering and great-smelling — as many of their conventional cousins.

For teens, this smells like trouble

My tweener daughter has often patiently explained to me that there are “girly girls” and “Tom Boys” and variations in between. I guess she figures that in the century when I grew up that wasn’t the case, or possibly that my girlhood is so far gone, it can’t even be imagined! I need to be brought up to speed.

As her tutorial goes, “girly girls” – like her – need to dress girlishly and primp with lip gloss, cologne and smell-nice body lotions. Tom Boys, not so much.

As her mom, I want her to be a Shiny Happy Female, but my green side ends up questioning all this girlish goop-la.

Scientists have been sounding alarms about suspicious ingredients in shampoo, lotions and cosmetics for many years and being an obsessive label reader, I’ve tended to agree that it might be worthwhile to deconstruct these labels with their gazillion unpronounceable preservatives, sudsing agents, flavorings and fragrances.

Can a product containing PPG-2 hydroxyethlcoco/isostearmide be completely safe? Not being a chemist, I really don’t know, and I imagine that’s where a lot of us land: wary of this onslaught of chemicals, but without sufficient knowledge to sort it out.

The Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based watchdog organization concerned with toxins in our everyday lives, can help. You can gather info on the products you use by consulting the EWG database Skin Deep. The online tool – which includes some 25,000 products — can show you whether your body lotion, mascara or hair conditioner is rated as low, medium or high toxicity. It identifies the chemicals that are noxious; tells how they are potentially dangerous (carcinogen vs. skin irritant, say) and shows the level of research that’s been done.

Bottled water: no better than tap

By Barbara Kessler

It’s no secret Americans are suckers for convenience. Consider how we’re losing the ability to make our own coffee. Or the fact that there are 2.8 cup holders per passenger in U.S.-made cars.

Of course what we’re putting in those cup holders may prove to be the most successful of convenience gambits, the plastic bottle of water. Once we got water from wells and then the tap; now we have factories bottle it up, package it, truck it around and then sell it to us. But you know that story.

Here’s a new one: That clear plastic marvel of modern marketing probably contains nothing much more than plain old tap water from somewhere that may or may not have been filtered as well as the water you could get from your own tap.

At the risk of sounding like Joe Biden, let’s say that again: It may or may not have been filtered as well as your own tap water.

That’s the gist of findings by the Environmental Working Group, which decided to look behind the “image of purity” promoted by bottled water sellers by lab testing water samples from ten common brands of bottled water.

Sugar and spice and toxins: teen girls exposed to chemicals in beauty products

By Barbara Kessler

Some not so pretty news out about cosmetics this week shows that teen girls tested for chemical exposure from beauty products had become human repositories of parabens, phthalates, triclosan and musks.

These chemicals, some of which are hormone disruptors or have been linked to cancer, turned up in the blood and urine of 20 teenage girls tested by the Environmental Working Group.

On average, the girls, ages 14-19, tested positive for 13 hormone-disrupting chemicals each. Parabens, commonly used as cosmetic preservatives, were detected in every girl tested.